Reflecting on a Year of Digital Learning on Digital Learning Day 2021

Around this time last year, the education landscape across the US and around the world was on the precipice of a major change. For the first time ever, the majority of education instruction was provided online to keep students and teachers safe during an unprecedented health crisis.

Since then, educators, administrators, IT professionals, and technology coaches have worked hard, day in and day out, to make remote and hybrid learning accessible and productive for all students. This has led to numerous successes that may foreshadow new opportunities for digital learning once the current pandemic has passed.

To put it simply, the nature of digital learning has changed markedly over the past year. However, those changes have looked different for every stakeholder in the education equation. Now, as schools begin the shift back toward in-person instruction, there’s a real chance to reflect on those changes and see if they can inform digital learning planning and implementation in the future.

In celebration of Digital Learning Day 2021, the Learning Technology Center (LTC) team has spoken with education stakeholders from across Illinois to learn about their current views on digital learning. Their insights are a thoughtful peak into the lived experience of working in education over the past year, and the many ways digital learning continues to adapt to evolving student needs.

The Many Sides of Digital Learning

As folks in the education field have learned over the past year, “digital learning” isn’t any one app, piece of hardware, or lesson type. Instead, digital learning can take on numerous forms, each geared toward making educational content more accessible, engaging, and relevant to students of all ages.

To learn more about these many interpretations of digital learning, we asked educational stakeholders around Illinois what digital learning meant to them personally. Their responses were diverse and varied, giving further credence to the idea that digital learning, as a concept, is more than just using electronic devices to carry out instruction.

“Digital learning…is about promoting creation, collaboration, and critical thinking,” said Mia Gutsell, an Instructional Technology Specialist at Bensenville School District #2, “not simply the consumption of ideas.”

Carol L. Kilver, Superintendent for Pikeland CUSD #10, agreed with this perspective and emphasized the kinds of soft skills students can learn while engaging with digital learning resources.

“For me, it is about creating ‘self-directed’ learners,” Kilver explained, “Learners who can determine which tools help them gain what they need to understand.”

“Adaptability would also be key to my definition,” Kilver added, echoing the belief that digital learning must always be flexible, both in terms of how it is implemented and how it fulfils individual student’s learning needs.

Renee Bogacz, an Instructional Technology Resource Teacher with Channahon School District #17, also points out that educators cannot always count on traditional teaching methods when it comes time for digital instruction.

“It is not possible to create an engaging learning experience if you just ‘transfer’ school from the classroom to an online meeting,” Bogacz emphasized while discussing remote learning environments, “Teachers need to discover new ways to engage students, and students need to be shown how to take charge of their own learning.”

Digital Learning in Flux

Since spring 2020, students and parents have become accustomed to change. For many, a temporary shift to remote instruction became more permanent over time, while other schools moved between in-person and hybrid instruction as local health and safety standards changed.

Educators and support staff have similarly felt this flux over the past year, with many emphasizing the challenges of rolling with each week’s new punches. But even so, several Illinois administrators were quick to point out that these swift changes made it possible to unlock new avenues for engaging students.

“As difficult as the last year has been, one of the positives is that we have used technology in ways that we only dreamed about before,” Steve Wilder, Superintendent of Sycamore CUSD #427, praised, “’necessity is the mother of invention’ and the pandemic has given us the opportunity to try things we’ve never done before. Educators have always been creative problem-solvers, but the last year has accelerated the process [of integrating edtech] exponentially.”

Meanwhile, edtech professionals across Illinois have seen their roles grow and adapt to the changing needs of their faculty and students. For example, Sean Mullins, Instructional Technology Director for Olympia CUSD #16, noticed his responsibilities shift from maintaining backend systems to creating professional training materials as remote learning became the overnight norm. Mullins also noted that the changing learning environment required him to dig deeper into the internet connectivity needs of his district’s families – many of whom live in rural areas of central Illinois.

Social Justice and Digital Learning

Not only has the COVID-19 pandemic changed the ways students learn, but also, this moment in history has been shaped by a renewed emphasis on social justice. Digital Learning Day 2021 has recognized this shift in discourse and placed the need to close inequities and personalize instructional opportunities at the center of this year’s annual awareness campaign.

In turn, we asked numerous educators and administrators how they planned to incorporate social justice into their digital learning plans going forward. Responses were more varied on this front, with several administrators recognizing the present need to redouble their efforts toward achieving more equitable learning access.

“I feel like the inequities of socio-economically different students have probably widened as opposed to narrowed,” explained Jeff Whitsitt, Superintendent for United CUSD #304. He went on to point out that some of the traditional differentiating factors for student success – including support from parents at home – were brought into more stark contrast once the majority of learning shifted to the home front.

On the other hand, some schools and districts have had a chance to take a step forward when it comes to closing educational gaps during remote learning. Natalie Almasi, a principal in Oak Grove School District #68, was emphatic in highlighting how school-issued personal learning devices helped keep her school’s students on track during remote learning.

“We were able to ensure that all students had a personal device to engage with and because of that, our staff were able to not only provide instruction, but personalize it for students as the year progressed. The device was the portal, and software, websites, and apps allowed us to share and individualize learning opportunities for students.”

Planning for a Digital Future

Even as educators around Illinois profess different views on how digital learning has performed over the past year, there’s one point that nearly everyone can agree on – digital learning is here to stay, in one form or another. That means that students and educators can expect some components of digital learning to remain in place, even as safe, in-person instruction returns to the forefront.

For example, several administrators, including Jeff Whitsitt, foresee a future in which students that would have traditionally missed long stretches of instruction due to illness or injury will be able to keep pace via digital learning tools. Meanwhile, several Illinois tech coaches and directors agree that this year’s experience with long-term remote learning will make one-off remote learning days in lieu of snow days more feasible.

At the same time, this past year’s emphasis on technological integration has reignited some district’s efforts to bring more computer science curriculum into their classrooms. Natalie Almasi’s school is among those with plans to implement age-appropriate technology skills material into grades all the way down through kindergarten.

There’s also enough hope for the future of digital learning to go around. In fact, many folks in Illinois’ education community sound genuinely excited for what the future holds when it comes to digital learning.

“My hope is that we can take everything we learned about creating asynchronous learning, student centered activities, and differentiated instruction and continue to build on it,” Julie Powell, an Instructional Technology Coach with Park Ridge-Niles School District #64, affirmed, “I hope we will also continue to learn from instruction setup in student-paced and student-directed paths.”

David Lerch, a Distance Learning Teacher with Marissa Community Unity School District #40, echoed a similar sentiment with a notable air of optimism toward future student outcomes.

“My hope is that we take something that has had such a negative impact and learn something positive.  From a teacher’s perspective, digital learning allows us to connect across the globe.  We can use this to broaden our horizons and teach our students to become better global citizens and be more aware of their place in this amazing world!” 

Digital Learning Support for All Illinois Schools

On Digital Learning Day and beyond, the LTC is committed to supporting all educational stakeholders as they strive to increase technology access. This includes through the Illinois Learning Technology Purchasing Program (ILTPP), which is free to join and can help districts obtain affordable prices on edtech hardware and software through pre-negotiated contracts.

The LTC can also help your school or district find an edtech integration solution that meets your long-term digital learning needs. We offer a variety of professional learning opportunities, including through online courses, webinars, and more. We also facilitate an Instructional Technology Coaching Program that can help districts obtain embedded instructional technology support at an affordable price.

Thank You to Our Contributors

We want to thank the 15+ educators, administrators, technology coaches, and technology support staff who contributed their views to this piece. While we couldn’t include everyone’s thoughtful responses, your insights make it possible to reflect on this past year and chart a course for digital learning’s bright future.

New Updates for Microsoft for Education and Google Chrome Management Licensing

As we all look forward to warmer days ahead, the Illinois Learning Technology Purchasing Program (ILTPP) has announced several updates to two of their most popular contracts. These updates will help your school or district blossom into new learning opportunities this spring and budget more effectively for the 21-22 school year.

Imagine Academy Included in Microsoft for Education Contract

First, ILTPP is excited to announce an upgrade to their current Enrollment for Education Solutions (EES) Microsoft contract. Specifically, participants in these contracts can now look forward to accessing top-quality technology teaching and professional learning materials through Microsoft’s Imagine Academy program.

That’s because, going forward, all ILTPP ESS contract participants will receive access to Imagine Academy for FREE.

Through Imagine Academy, teachers can find lesson plans and other curricular materials that cover a wide range of subjects, from computer and data science to IT infrastructure and productivity. These materials are all aligned to current, in-demand tech industry certifications, ensuring that students walk away with career-ready skills.

Imagine Academy also provides educators access to Microsoft-specific certifications and other professional development resources that can help them stay at the top of their game. This includes the ability to add certification exam vouchers to an existing licensing agreement, thus reducing the cost of certification for both individuals and teams.

Interested in learning more about how you can utilize Imagine Academy through a new or existing ESS Microsoft contract? Check out ILTPP’s new blog post for more information.

Upcoming Price Increase for Google Chrome Management Licenses

Last year, Google announced that it would be increasing the price of its Chrome Management license. Though this price hike has been delayed until March 9, 2021, ILTPP wants to remind districts to plan ahead when it comes to edtech budgeting for the 21-22 school year.

As before, ILTPP members will continue to receive a discount on these licenses. However, this price increase will result in a noticeable change in per license costs, even with the discount.

New licenses may be purchased prior to this increase, but they must be invoiced before March 9. To learn more about this fee increase, visit ILTPP’s website.

Always Prepared to Meet Your EdTech Purchasing Needs

Whether you’re looking for great pricing on edtech hardware or software, ILTPP has you covered with its vast catalogue of pre-negotiated contracts. Schools and districts across Illinois can save time and money by utilizing ILTPP’s competitive pricing options on everything from Chromebooks and wi-fi hotspots to cybersecurity and LMS software.

Most importantly, ILTPP is FREE to join. To learn more about ILTPP and the benefits of membership, visit their website or contact the ILTPP team at learnmore@iltpp.org

About ILTPP

The Illinois Learning Technology Purchase Program (ILTPP) is a statewide cooperative of Illinois educational entities that aggregate buying power and expertise to procure technology products and services from quality vendor partners while providing valued communication and collaboration.

ILTPP is an initiative of the Learning Technology Center (LTC) and contributes to the LTC’s mission of building statewide capacity for educational change through technology-related professional learning, programs, initiatives, and support.

Now Accepting Proposals for the Digital Literacy Conference

This summer, the Learning Technology Center (LTC) is proud to host a timely conference centered on one of today’s most relevant edtech topics – digital literacy. At the Digital Literacy Conference, educators from across Illinois will gather together to share their experiences with teaching news literacy, media literacy, digital citizenship, and so much more.

We want you to be part of this conference’s team of presenters! If you have experience working with or teaching digital literacy, then we want you to submit a presentation proposal today. Together with your peers in K-12 education, we can collectively chart a course for teaching this critical new literacy.

What is the Digital Literacy Conference?

The LTC is leading a brand-new conference which strives to make digital literacy front of mind for educators of all domains and grade levels. Today’s students need these new literacy skills to succeed in school and beyond, so we’ve created the Digital Literacy Conference to serve as a spark for innovative digital literacy education across Illinois.

Over the course of this one-day virtual event, the Digital Literacy Conference will offer an assortment of presentations focused on practical digital literacy pedagogy. These presentations will be separated into nine strands, ranging from computer literacy to digital resource ethics. Together, these strands will offer educators an opportunity to engage with the most important aspects of digital literacy in a single, content-rich gathering.

At its core, the Digital Literacy Conference is focused on reaching individuals with a stake in teaching digital literacy or guiding curricular decisions relating to digital literacy. With that in mind, we are inviting teachers, administrators, technology coaches, and library media specialists to take part in this conference, both as speakers and as participants.

What type of proposals are being accepted?

The Digital Literacy Conference is accepting proposals across its several core strands, including the following:

Computer Literacy

Presenters under this strand will offer their understanding of computer language and digital networks in general. This includes discussions on cybersecurity and privacy, as well as best practices for collecting and utilizing data at an individual or institutional level. 

Digital Communication

This strand will primarily focus on the impact digital channels have on contemporary communication. This includes the influence of modern communication channels utilized both in and out of the classroom, including texts, emails, social media, and more. Sessions in this strand may also branch out to larger issues relating to digital communications, including the rights of users and societal norms for online engagement.

Digital Tattoos

Like a “digital footprint”, a “digital tattoo” describes the body of information and data left behind by someone as they interact online. These two words are not synonyms, however. Unlike a “digital footprint,” which can be scrubbed away over time, a “digital tattoo” is both permanent and personal.

As a result, today’s students must build an understanding of how their words, pictures, and actions online can follow them – for better and for worse – well into adulthood. This strand will focus on these kinds of discussions, and center around the best ways students can foster mindful curation of their own “digital tattoo.”

Other Strands

The Digital Literacy Conference is also interested in proposals on a variety of other relevant topics, including:

·   Information & News Literacy

·   Visual Literacy

·   Media Literacy

·   Ethical Uses of Digital Resources

·   Digital Citizenship

You can find full descriptions for each of these strands over on the conference homepage.

When is the deadline for proposal submissions?

Proposals for the Digital Literacy Conference are due on March 26, 2021. Applicants will receive notification of their acceptance soon after the deadline.

Where can I submit a proposal?

If you are interested in submitting a proposal, visit our conference homepage and click the yellow button labeled “Submit a Proposal”.

Stay Tuned for More Updates on #DigLitCon

In the coming weeks, we’ll have more exciting updates about the Digital Literacy Conference, including an announcement about participant registration.’

To keep up with the latest on the Digital Literacy Conference, follow the LTC on social media (@ltcillinois on Twitter and Facebook) or subscribe to our monthly newsletter. More information on the conference, including descriptions of every conference strand, can also be found on the #DigLitCon homepage.

Jump Start your Professional Learning with a FREE LTC Online Course

No matter how you look at it, today’s educators are busy people. Planning new lessons, assessing student performance, communicating with parents – and that’s not to mention managing a remote or hybrid classroom. With so many tasks on their plate, even the most organized teachers can find it hard to fit professional learning into their schedule outside of regular in-service days.

Here at the Learning Technology Center (LTC), we understand this dilemma. As part of our mission to support Illinois schools through technology initiatives and professional learning opportunities, we want to make learning new classroom-ready skills easy and intuitive.

That’s why we offer a variety of online courses covering topics from Google Forms and Google Drive to Microsoft Teams and Keynote for Mac. Many of these courses are free to join and are entirely self-paced, meaning that you can engage with the coursework on your own schedule. Plus, when you’re finished, you’ll earn PD hours that can count toward your annual licensure renewal!

Interested in learning more? Check out some of our most popular online courses and enroll today over on our “Online Courses” page!

Our Most Popular Courses

Already, hundreds of educators from across Illinois have taken part in one of our numerous self-guided online courses. Here are some of their favorites – many of which can help educators at any grade level enhance their remote or hybrid classroom:

Create Digital Assessments with Google Forms

Self-Paced / 1.5 PD Hours / Free

Most people know Google Forms as an information gathering app. However, this free app can also be used to assess student performance, both during in-person and remote instruction. In this course, participants will learn everything K-12 educators need to know about building forms specifically for formative and summative assessments. Participants will also learn how to distribute these assessments via an LMS (such as Google Classroom) as well as how to analyze student data generated by their assessment forms.

Move Your Class Online with Google Classroom

Self-Paced / 1.5 PD Hours / Free

When it comes to shifting a classroom online, many educators face a learning curve related to digital documents organization. For those utilizing G Suite for Education, Google Classroom is the solution. In this course, participants will learn how to create an organized workflow using this platform as well as how to:

  • Create and manage a class of students
  • Create and share digital files with students
  • Provide feedback to students
  • Understand the ways Google Classroom connects with 3rd party applications

Google Drive Basics

Self-Paced / 1.5 PD Hours / Free

Is your Google Drive a mess? Do you struggle to find your files in a timely manner? This course will help you get your Google Drive in shape in no time. In this course, participants will learn to effectively navigate Google Drive and organize their files in a system that makes sense to them. Participants will also learn about Google Drive’s special features, including ownership permissions, editing privileges, sharing settings, and more!

Up-and-Coming Favorites

The LTC also offers a variety of online courses on new and emerging topics. Here are just a few courses that educators across the spectrum utilize to stay up-to-date on the latest edtech software:

Meet the New Google Meet

Self-Paced / 1 PD Hour / Free

In this course, participants will become acquainted with Google Meet, a popular solution for facilitating remote and hybrid classrooms. In particular, participants will walk away from this course with the ability to:

  • Join and host Google Meet online video conferences
  • Manage participants in a Google Meet conference
  • Improve the quality of Google Meet conferences and associated presentation tools
  • Use Google Meet in a variety of classroom and remote learning activities

Get to Know Microsoft Teams

Self-Paced / 1.5 PD Hours / Free

While businesses around the world have already embraced the powerful connectivity potential of Microsoft Teams, many schools and districts are still learning precisely how this app can be used as a hub for educational communication. This course will teach participants how to leverage this platform in an educational setting by introducing them to each of the app’s most useful, education-centered features.

Keep It All Together with OneNote

Self-Paced / 2 PD Hours / Free

Microsoft’s free OneNote platform provides a versatile set of tools for student note-taking. It can also be an outstanding platform for creating student-centered texts that support in-person and remote learning activities. In this course, participants will learn how to get started with OneNote as well as some practical ways to apply their command of OneNote in the classroom.

Opportunities for Administrators

While many of the LTC’s online courses are geared toward teachers and instructors, we also offer professional learning options for administrators. Here’s one of our most popular online courses among current school and district administrators:

Cybersecurity for Administrators

Self-Paced / 2 PD Hours / Free (for IPA Members)

Cybersecurity threats are everywhere today, making it imperative for school districts to stay up-to-date on the latest prevention and response techniques. This course will help school and district administrators understand the nature of these contemporary threats, as well as what they can do to prevent their institutional networks from falling victim to an unauthorized intrusion or data breach.

This course was created in partnership with the Ed Leaders Network, the Illinois Department of Innovation & Technology, and the Illinois Principals Association. Principals who are IPA members may take the course for free. Meanwhile, educators at Ed Leadership Network schools can participate in a similar, teacher-focused course for free.

Learning for Parents and Caregivers

During this time of remote and hybrid learning, many parents and caregivers have had to step up to support their children’s day-to-day educational needs. The LTC has created the following online course to fill this need, ensuring that parents and caregivers have the knowledge they need to keep their child on the right track:

Parenting in a Pandemic: Brain-Based SEL for Caregivers

Self-Paced / 0 PD Hours / Free

Supporting your remote or hybrid learning student can be a challenge. But one of the best ways to facilitate at-home virtual learning is by establishing a learning space in your home. In this course, parents and caregivers will learn how to do that as well as incorporate social-emotional learning skills, like self-regulation, into their child’s daily learning routines.

Micro-credentials – A New Horizon for Professional Learning

Online courses aren’t your online option for acquiring new professional skills remotely. Micro-credentials are also becoming increasingly popular, with many participants prizing their ability to offer customized feedback and research-based content – all in a self-directed and personalized format.

The LTC is currently piloting its own micro-credentialing program, which is open to the public. Any and all interested educators are welcome to join the remaining sessions, all of which focus on different aspects of remote learning:

  • Managing Remote Learning Experiences – Begins February 22, 2021
  • Designing Remote Learning Experiences – Begins March 1, 2021
  • Supporting Students with Special Needs during Remote Learning – Begins March 8, 2021
  • Feedback and Assessment during Remote Learning – Begins March 15, 2021

To learn more about the research behind micro-credentials and to sign up for our pilot program, check out this recent blog post.

Supporting your Professional Learning Journey

Whatever direction your professional learning journey takes, the LTC is here to support you. Besides our catalogue of free online courses, the LTC also offers an assortment of webinars and regional workshops geared toward keeping educators at the top of their game. The LTC’s highly-trained team is also available for in-district training, which can be customized to fit the needs of your school or district’s faculty.

How to Become a Google Certified Educator

Today, educators at all grade levels and across all subject areas have a wide variety of options when it comes to growing their professional skill set. In-person workshops, online courses, micro-credentials, and more are all great ways to acquire fresh, classroom-ready skills in the near term.

However, certifications remain a reliable standard for most teachers. With just a bit of time and effort, a qualified certification can help an educator gain distinction in their career and demonstrate that they are continuously focused on enhancing their capacity to teach effectively.

Without a doubt, Google’s several Educator certifications are among the most popular today, particularly in this era of remote and hybrid learning. These certifications focus on building mastery within Google’s suite of education-centered apps, including Google Classroom, Google Forms, and Google Drive.

But how exactly do you become “Google Educator Certified”? And why should you strive for Google Educator certification in the first place? You’ll find answers to these and other common questions in this handy guide to becoming Google Educator Certified.

Why Earn Google Educator Certifications?

There are plenty of great reasons to seek out Google Educator certifications. First and foremost, there’s inherent value in sharpening your craft. New and veteran teachers alike need to continuously learn to stay at the top of their game, and Google Educator certifications are one way to make that learning both streamlined and productive.

Along the same lines, nearly all educators today incorporate digital technologies into their standard curriculum (even outside the context of remote and hybrid learning). Some platforms, like Google’s suite of education-centered apps, come with a learning curve that must be overcome before full integration can occur. Google Educator certifications help lower that learning curve noticeably by focusing on precisely the skills and knowledge you need to succeed in a Google-connected classroom.

Of course, there are also some more concrete reasons for choosing Google Educator certifications. As with most credentials, successful participants earn a special, level-appropriate badge and the right to call themselves a “Google Certified Educator.” Successful participants also gain a bonafide credential that can help them achieve upward mobility on their career path.

Google Educator certifications aren’t just appealing to individual educators, though. Administrators and department heads can also encourage their faculty to earn these certifications to facilitate more consistent utilization of Google’s apps and services. This, in turn, can help schools and districts achieve their primary tech integration goals – especially if those goals center on fully integrating Google hardware and software.

How to Become a Google Certified Educator

Believe it or not, becoming a Google Certified Educator is a very achievable goal that educators at any grade level and in any subject area can achieve. All it takes is an appetite for learning – not to mention a couple classes and exams.

To start, you’ll want to generally familiarize yourself with each of Google’s education-centered applications. After doing that, you’ll be ready to take a Google Educator Level 1 certification class, which helps you solidify skills for using Google Drive, Google Forms, Google Classroom, and more.

With that course completed, you’ll be prepared to take the Google Educator Level 1 certification exam. This exam is designed to test your broad proficiency with Google’s apps and services in a concise, digital format. This test can be taken as many times as necessary and does not require participants to have taken part in a Google Educator Level 1 certification class prior to completion.

Once you pass that exam, you’ll officially earn the title of “Google Certified Educator,” along with its associated credential and badge. However, your learning journey need not end there. Though optional, educators can choose to deepen their understanding of Google’s apps and services through a Google Educator Level 2 certification.

Like the Level 1 certification, a Level 2 certification involves taking part in a multi-hour class before participating in a proctored online exam. However, the Level 2 certification focuses on more specific use cases for Google’s most popular apps. By participating in and passing the Level 2 certification process, educators can double their level of understanding when it comes to the Google for Education suite.

If you do complete your Level 2 certification, you’ll still be considered a “Google Certified Educator,” without any new title. However, you will receive a second credential and badge that can act as evidence of your ongoing professional development.

What Google Educator Courses Do I Need to Take to Earn Certification?

In order to earn certification, an educator is not required to take any content-specific courses relating to Google’s apps or services. Currently, educators only need to participate in and pass the exam correlated to their level of certification.

That being said, the vast majority of educators do choose to take a relevant certification course prior to sitting for a certification exam. Accordingly, intermediate users tend to take part in a Google Educator Level 1 course while more advanced users opt for a Google Educator Level 2 course.

Who Teaches Google Educator Certification Courses?

In most cases, Google Educator Certification courses are taught by Google Certified Trainers. These are individuals who have taken their own training through Google and learned what it takes to support teachers through the certification process. Often, these Certified Trainers will teach small-to-medium sized groups – either in a workshop or in-service format – to maximize a school or district’s ability to widely implement Google’s platform.

Do I Need to Complete Level 1 Certification to Participate in Level 2 Certification?

No, you do not. Despite their names, Google Educator Level 1 and Level 2 certifications are not designed as a ladder for you to climb. Rather, you can participate in either level of certification at your discretion without prerequisites. However, most participants still seek out Level 1 certification before Level 2 certification because the skills in each build off of one another.

How Long Does a Google Educator Certification Last?

Both the Google Educator Level 1 and Level 2 certifications last for 36 months (3 years). After that time, certified educators will need to retake the appropriate test to maintain their title.

Will I need to Take any Tests to Earn Google Educator Certification?

Yes, each level of Google Educator certification requires participants to take and pass an exam. Each of these exams evaluate participant’s competency in different skills related to the utilization of Google’s assorted apps and services.

What is the Format for Google Educator Certification Exams?

As far as format is concerned, both the Level 1 and Level 2 exams respectively consist of 20 multiple choice/drag-and-drop questions and 10 “scenario” questions. Scenario questions require participants to demonstrate their ability to complete a certain task satisfactorily using one or more Google apps. All test questions must be completed within a set time limit, which stands at 180 minutes for both the Level 1 and Level 2 exams.

To pass either the Level 1 or Level 2 exam, a participant must earn an 80%. However, if this threshold is not achieved, a participant may retake the exam after waiting 14 days. Meanwhile, a third attempt will require a 60 day wait, and a fourth attempt requires participants to wait a full year.

What Content should I Expect on the Google Educator Certification Exam?

Both the Google Educator Level 1 and Level 2 certification exams cover different content, requiring participants to study and practice different material before sitting for each. The specific content on each exam varies as well, with Google requiring all participants to sign an NDA concerning each test’s questions and answers.

However, past test-takers have noticed some trends in what content is covered on each exam. The Google Educator Level 1 certification exam, for example, tends to include more questions about Google Classroom, Google Forms, Google Sheets, and YouTube. However, any and all apps in the G Suite for Education may be covered on the exam, so participants should study as broadly as possible. 

Do I Have to Pay to take the Google Educator Certification Exam?

Yes, Google requires those seeking Google Educator certifications to pay a fee to take the associated exams. Currently, those fees are set at $10 for the Level 1 certification exam and $25 for the Level 2 certification exam.

However, some certification prep classes offer vouchers to participants that can waive these fees. As such, those seeking certification are encouraged to take these classes both to sharpen their skills and save a bit of cash.

What are some Tips or Tricks for taking the Google Educator Certification Exam?

While studying and practicing are the two best ways to prepare for the Google Educator certification exams, we also recommend checking out these tips and tricks for passing your exam on the first try.

Google Educator Certification and the LTC

Regardless of whether you are brand new to the education field or have spent your entire career in the classroom, Google Educator certifications can help you improve the way you teach. The certification process is very manageable as well, as long as you prepare properly and persevere while learning about all of Google’s education-centered apps and services.

However, you don’t need to go it alone when it comes time to seek out Google Educator certifications. The LTC offers schools and districts across Illinois the opportunity to learn the skills and knowledge needed to achieve certification through a variety of regional workshops. Those looking for customized in-district professional development centered on Google Educator certification can also find support from the LTC’s team of highly-trained staff.

5 Things Students Should Do to Stay Safe and Secure Online

Note: This article was originally published by the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) on February 5, 2021. It has been republished here with their permission, and the permission of the author. You can read the original here.

Today is Safer Internet Day, an occasion to recommit to best practices for protecting digital identity. In the spirit of this important celebration, we’re proud to feature an article by the LTC’s Nicole Zumpano, originally published by ISTE. Each of its timely resources and recommendation will help you make digital literacy and internet safety a cornerstone of your classroom year-round.


As adults, we do everything possible to keep our computers, bank accounts and families safe. Our list of to-dos continues to grow as our use of digital technologies increases. While these tasks are rote to most adults, we can’t expect that our students will follow our lead.  

It is our responsibility as educators to make sure learners know how to do more than surf the web and consume media. All educators — from classroom teachers to technology coaches and school administrators — should lead the discussion on digital literacy. Here are some ways to make sure our students stay safe and secure online:

Teach students to conduct data mines (on themselves)

Students should do this every 3-6 months. While many will Google their names, we need to teach them to dig deeper. Here are some general guidelines to follow:

  • Log out of internet browsers before searching (staying logged in can affect the results).
  • Search (using quotation marks) full legal names, nicknames and usernames.
  • Search Google Images with names/usernames.
  • Use multiple browsers, such as Chrome, Bing, Yahoo, Safari and Firefox.
  • Look beyond the first page of results. Go at least five pages deep until the name/username no longer appears. Take note of what kind of results appear (presentations/social media/images/etc.).

Here’s an exercise I give to graduate students, but it can easily be replicated for high school students.

Check privacy settings on social media accounts

Because many sites may be blocked during school hours, allow students to check privacy settings on those that are not. At a minimum, show students how to access privacy settings (perhaps through a screencast or screenshot). On each social media site, students should:

  • Check privacy settings to see who can view posts.
  • Go through “friends” lists and remove people who should not be there.
  • Search posts and remove any that they wouldn’t want a parent, teacher, employer or college official to see.
  • Look at tagged images that others have posted.  

Watch the video below to seen how Katrina Traylor Rice taught students about digital privacy while teaching a unit on the Bill of Rights.

Teach digital literacies

Digital literacy is a term that has many moving parts. Students need guidance on varying types of literacy, including media (how to “read” media), social (how to interact in an online environment), and information (the ability to locate, evaluate and properly use information).

Safety falls into this category as well. Students need to know, understand and apply password algorithms as well as recognize scams and understand how their data is being tracked and used by companies.

Stress the importance of digital maintenance

This is the spelling list or cursive practice of the digital world. It’s not glamorous to teach but essential for students to know:

  • Teach students how to download Google Drive files to an external drive.
  • Remind them to backup Drive files, important emails, smartphone photos/apps/etc. at least once a month.
  • Make sure parents have access to account passwords in the event of emergencies. Have them write the accounts/passwords on a piece of paper and place it in an envelope in a safe yet visible place.
  • Reiterate the importance of logging out of accounts, not simply closing the browser window.

Start early

Teaching digital responsibility is not just for middle school teachers or library media specialists. It’s everyone’s duty, and we must start with kindergartners. Consider developing a digital media scope-and-sequence to address what should be taught at each grade.

This is something that can be developed by teachers, students and parents alike. At a minimum, make a commitment with grade-level colleagues that you’ll help teach students how to be safe and secure digital citizens. A good place to begin is by reviewing the ISTE Standards for Students.

Being alert — being aware of online actions, and knowing how to be safe and create safe spaces for others online — is one of the five competencies of the #DigCitCommit campaign. Watch the video below to learn how you can get involved in the movement.

Data Privacy Resources for 2021 and Beyond

Over the past year, classrooms in Illinois and around the world have become more and more reliant on digital resources to safely and successfully facilitate instruction. While remote and hybrid learning continues for many students, one important issue relating to digital learning deserves more attention – data privacy.

In short, data privacy describes the practice of prioritizing the secure maintenance and transfer of personally identifiable information within a digital network. When it comes to today’s students, this can include everything from their name and age to their grades and discipline record. Many educational apps and websites are able to collect this kind of information with minimal notice, making it essential for schools to know where their students’ data is being stored and when it is being accessed.

Current federal laws require schools to safeguard this type of information and prevent its unauthorized disclosure. In Illinois, new legislation known as the Student Online Personal Protection Act (SOPPA) will strengthen these requirements and establish new standards for maintaining student data privacy in the digital realm.

On July 1, 2021, all Illinois schools will be required to comply with SOPPA’s data maintenance standards. As this date approaches, the Learning Technology Center (LTC) is committed to supporting schools while they upgrade their student data privacy policies. This includes providing your district with timely, actionable information that can support your efforts toward full SOPPA compliance.

In recognition of Data Privacy Day, we want to highlight a few of the data privacy resources we already offer. As the year goes on, we’ll be adding even more useful resources, as well. So, don’t forget to check our data privacy and cybersecurity homepages on a regular basis! 

Data Privacy Resources

Student Data Privacy Laws Overview

This legislation brief outlines many of the most important student data privacy laws currently on the books, both at the state and federal level. This is a great place to start if you want an idea of the current state of legally-mandated student data protection.

Student Online Personal Protection Act (SOPPA) Overview

This legislation brief focuses on the details of Illinois’ latest amendments to the Student Online Personal Protection Act (SOPPA). This brief includes information on data types covered by SOPPA as well as its larger impact on school districts.

Implementing SOPPA FAQ

Based upon feedback from Illinois school districts, this FAQ covers many of the most pressing components of SOPPA. In particular, this FAQ outlines the role teachers, vendors, and management all play in maintaining SOPPA compliance, as well as the ways in which existing privacy agreements are impacted by SOPPA.

43 Reasonable Security Practices Aligned to SOPPA

This list of action items is a great starting point for schools that want to upgrade their current student data privacy regimen. Using these practices – all of which have been vetted by data security professionals – Illinois schools can ease their way into SOPPA compliance during 2021 and beyond.

Cybersecurity for Administrators and Educators

This pair of online courses offer administrators and educators a focused look at today’s best practices for securing student data and more. These courses are free and self-guided, so participants can enroll at any time and complete course material at their own pace.

All Things SOPPA

Starting February 9, the LTC’s Chris Wherley will host a weekly online chat focused entirely on helping tech leaders and administrators achieve SOPPA compliance. These weekly discussions are open to anyone with a stake in student data policy and will provide participants with a chance to obtain answers to their situation-specific questions.

Illinois Student Privacy Alliance

The Illinois Student Privacy Alliance (ISPA) is a free consortium that allows school districts to access management tools and resources for data privacy agreements. When used in conjunction with clear policies and procedures, ISPA allows districts to comply with Illinois’ new Student Online Personal Protection Act (SOPPA). Membership in ISPA is free to Illinois school districts.

Learn More about Student Data Privacy

Interested in learning more about student data privacy? The LTC’s knowledgeable team is here to support you as you strive to create lasting, impactful policy decisions. Contact the LTC’s Chris Wherley at cwherley@ltcillinois.org to learn more. 

“A New Outlook” – Takeaways from the Remote Learning Conference

Back on Friday, January 15, the Learning Technology Center wrapped up a first-of-its-kind conference centered on education’s most recent evolution. The Remote Learning Conference marked a major leap forward for collaboration in Illinois’ edtech community, with educators from around the Prairie State gathering to share their hard-earned knowledge from the past year of distance learning.

In fitting with the conference’s theme, all sessions and workshops during the Remote Learning Conference were held virtually. That didn’t slow down the pace of conversation at all, though. 

In fact, hundreds of educators poured into virtual classrooms to learn about the best practices, pedagogy, apps, and tools for remote and hybrid instruction. The conference even reached an international audience, with attendees from Canada, Mexico, Nigeria, and Saudi Arabia joining the conversation.

“I appreciated the diverse range of offerings,” praised one conference attendee, “As a teacher and an instructional coach, it was refreshing to see sessions that I could both use for myself and use for building improvement.”

Numerous topics of interest were covered over the course of this two-day event. Digital citizenship, blended learning, videoconferencing, and more were just a few of the most popular subjects. Attendees also had a chance to learn about new innovations in professional development delivery, including through micro-credentials and other digital learning environments.

Meanwhile, some of the best discussions and knowledge were shared on the digital main stage. There, the Remote Learning Conference welcomed three speakers from the national education community – Dr. Monica Burns (classtechtips.com), Dr. Catlin Tucker (catlintucker.com), and Shelly Sanchez Terrell (shellyterrell.com). All three featured speakers offered outstanding insights, including on how to optimize workflow, build teaching capacity, and care for students in a virtual environment.

Throughout these workshops and feature presentations, conference attendees were buzzing with conversation about their aspirations and concerns for remote learning. In fact, over the two-day event, conference attendees exchanged nearly 20,000 messages in total! Plenty of these messages were exchanged with presenters as well, many of whom were praised by attendees for their thoughtful, responsive attitudes.

The LTC’s Brian Bates felt that these interactions were one of the conference’s highlights. “The interactions among attendees and presenters were inspirational,” Bates affirmed, “they prove that educators will do anything to help not just their students, but their peers as well.”

In many ways, the Remote Learning Conference offered more unique and engaging sessions than most attendees could fit into their schedule. Thankfully, all attendees now have the opportunity to rewatch every conference session through the Remote Learning Conference’s digital resource library. To learn more about how to access this video collection, check your email for a conference communication dated “January 26”.

Although the Remote Learning Conference has now come and passed, the astute conversations held throughout this virtual event need not end. The LTC’s online community is a great place to connect with new friends and peers from the conference, as well as the best place to share remote learning and edtech insights year-round.

Without a doubt, the Remote Learning Conference was a success. That wouldn’t be possible without the nearly 2,000 attendees and speakers that supported this ground-breaking venture. To everyone who participated in the Remote Learning Conference – thank you for sharing your time and wisdom. We look forward to hearing from you more as you continue to design, engage, and enhance remote learning for all Illinois students!

Looking for more opportunities to expand your remote teaching capacity? The LTC routinely offers workshops and virtual sessions on a variety of remote learning-related topics. Our online courses and upcoming micro-credential program can also help support your mastery of classroom-ready skills. Districts can even obtain customized professional learning through the LTC’s highly-skilled team of edtech experts.

“A Big Year Ahead” – Takeaways from SecurED Schools 2021

The 4th annual SecurED Schools conference concluded back on Thursday, January 14. Though this year’s gathering was held virtually, technology leaders from around Illinois still participated in plenty of insightful conversations about the future of cybersecurity and data privacy.

In particular, this year’s conference focused on one of the largest upcoming challenges for Illinois’ edtech community – attaining compliance with the new Student Online Personal Protection Act (SOPPA). Many aspects of compliance were covered over the course of the two-day conference, including how districts must handle edtech contracting and the new standards for app vetting going forward.

“[It] was great to have someone to start walking me through using these tools and this process,” praised one conference attendee, “I have been totally lost on where to start and this helps tremendously.”

This year’s conference kicked off on January 13 with a cybersecurity presentation by Rod Russeau, Director of Technology and Information Services at Community High School District 99. From there, technology leaders and IT professionals from every corner of the state jumped into sessions led by their peers from across the nation. That included Libbi Garrett, Resource Program Specialist with CITE, who offered insights on SOPPA based upon similar legislation in California.

Beyond SOPPA, attendees also had opportunities to learn about current best practices for a variety of cybersecurity tools and resources. Fortinet, OpenSource SIEM, and CIS Controls were all covered in separate sessions, with their respective presenters all offering real-world use cases for their tools.

“The virtual format worked great,” explained the LTC’s Eric Muckensturm, “Because we went virtual, I think we had more attendees than we might have with an in-person only conference.”

In total, around 300 technology leaders attended SecurED Schools, with districts from Chicagoland all the way down to Little Egypt represented. Though it goes without saying, many of those same attendees walked away with valuable information that will help them keep their home districts safe from the latest cybersecurity threats.

Even though this year’s SecurED Schools has now passed, the statewide conversation around cybersecurity, student data privacy, and SOPPA doesn’t have to end. The LTC Community is a great place to network with your fellow edtech professionals and share insights year-round.

Also, if you missed any sessions during SecurED Schools, you’re now able to go back and watch them at any time. Every session from the conference is available for viewing on demand by registered attendees. For more information about accessing this video library, check your email for a communication from the LTC’s Chris Wherley dated “January 20”.

Thank you again to all of this year’s SecurED Schools attendees and speakers! We hope to see you again next year as we return to our traditional in-person format.

Achieve your 2021 Edtech Goals with an Instructional Technology Coach

Now more than ever, technology has become an essential part of nearly every classroom. From teaching 21st century skills to teaching remotely, today’s edtech empowers educators to meet their students’ needs and guide them to deeper levels of engagement on a daily basis.

But before a teacher can implement a new piece of educational technology, they must first feel confident in their own mastery of a device or platform. In many cases, educators at any grade level can reach that summit by working with an instructional technology coach.

This year, the Learning Technology Center (LTC) is expanding its popular Instructional Technology Coaching Program. We believe that many districts across Illinois can benefit from embedded instructional technology support, and that our program can make that resource both accessible and affordable.

Already, one of the LTC’s instructional technology coaches has made a marked difference for three districts in northern Illinois. Learn more about our current program below to see if it is a good fit for meeting your district’s ongoing edtech needs.

What is an Instructional Technology Coach?

At their core, an instructional technology coach serves as a partner to a district’s teachers by offering them personalized support with their edtech integration. After identifying a classroom challenge, instructional technology coaches and teachers collaborate to brainstorm solutions, implement strategies, and reflect on progress afterward.

In a larger sense, instructional technology coaching is an ongoing, job-embedded form of professional learning that is grounded in day-to-day teaching and learning practices. Over the long-term, instructional technology coaching is designed to enhance teachers’ utilization of educational technology, with the further goal of improving student learning outcomes.

What does an Instructional Technology Coach Do?

As part of your district’s support team, an instructional technology coach can play a critical role in keeping teachers on the right track toward continuous professional learning. To do this, an instructional technology coach can take on a wide variety of responsibilities, based entirely on your district’s needs.

Some of the most common instructional technology coaching responsibilities include:

·  Facilitating coaching cycles

·  Co-planning

·  Co-teaching and modeling

·  Offering observational feedback

·  Resource creation

·  Data analysis

·  Group instruction

·  Device or platform-specific training

·  One-on-one meeting

Our instructional technology coaches are not limited to a certain set of tasks, however. The district retains a high level of control over daily responsibilities and overall goals. As a result, our instructional technology coach’s work within your district or even a specific building can be modified to meet the faculty’s evolving needs.

For example, one of our current instructional technology coaches, Elizabeth Byam, was working with several districts in northern Illinois during the first half of 2020. As a result, she played a critical role in helping her districts transition to fully remote learning. Even now, as those same schools begin to transition back into the classroom, Elizabeth has helped teachers in all of her districts learn to use platforms like Google Classroom, Seesaw, Screencastify, and more in their standard instruction regiment.

How can an Instructional Technology Coach Benefit my District?

At a basic level, most every district in Illinois can benefit from hiring an instructional technology coach. Between their day-to-day support and their high level of professional competence, an instructional technology coach can quickly make themselves a valuable member of any district’s support team.

Short- and long-term benefits can differ from district to district, based upon their priorities and goals for professional development. Even so, each coach’s consistent goal is to help educators improve their teaching practices and enhance their technology integration – all while improving student learning opportunities.

Instructional technology coaching programs can also provide administrators and other decision-makers with an up-to-date understanding of their faculty’s technology competence and confidence. To that end, an instructional technology coach can help take the pulse within an educational team and offer insights to key stakeholders when it comes time to evaluate progress.

As an added bonus, working with an LTC instructional technology coach will also put you in direct connection with the LTC’s skilled team of edtech experts. This includes access to the LTC’s online community, as well as the ability to seek further edtech support through our network of regional educational technology coordinators (RETCs).

Simply put, an instructional technology coach can make the difference when it comes to reaching your district’s edtech utilization or integration goals. Whether they are initiating one-on-one coaching cycles, facilitating grade-level team discussions, or leading large-group professional learning opportunities, they will help make long-term technology integration a reality in your district.

What’s the Cost of Hiring an Instructional Technology Coach?

Hiring an instructional coach on your own can be challenging when it comes to cost. However, the LTC utilizes a cost-sharing model that makes instructional technology coaching accessible to more districts in a geographic region.

In essence, this shared-service model identifies several schools or districts in a region that are seeking instructional technology support. Then, we work to find coach candidates who can split their time between those several facilities. Each district has an opportunity to contract their coach for between 10 and 180 days a year, too, so costs can be controlled accordingly.

Through a shared-service model, small- and medium-sized school districts that do not need a full-time instructional technology coach can access the benefits of coaching without adding staff or committing to a full-time employee.

Supporting your Instructional Technology Coaching Needs in 2021

This spring, the LTC plans to work with districts across the state to identify their instructional technology coaching needs. From there, we will begin hiring LTC-employed instructional coaches and pairing those coaches with districts in shared geographic areas.

If you are interested in joining our Instructional Technology Coaching Program, then we want to hear from you. Contact Tim McIlvain at tmcilvain@ltcillinois.org so that we can begin to access your district’s needs.

You can also learn more about the Instructional Technology Coaching Program on the program’s homepage.