2021 Remote Learning Conference – Registration Now Open

It’s time to design, engage, and enhance remote and hybrid learning in Illinois!

Registration is now open for the 2021 Remote Learning Conference, taking place virtually January 14-15.

The Remote Learning Conference will showcase the best practices, pedagogy, apps, and tools for leveraging remote and hybrid learning, based upon the lived experiences of Illinois’ K-12 educators. We’re excited to spotlight our state’s educational pioneers as well as welcome three featured speakers from the national edtech community:

  • Educator and trainer Dr. Monica Burns (Host of Easy EdTech, creator of classtechtips.com)
  • Trainer and speaker Dr. Caitlin Tucker (author of Blended Learning in Action and Balance with Blended Learning)
  • Speaker and digital innovator Shelly Sanchez Terrell (author of Hacking Digital Learning Strategies and Learning to Go)

Now’s the time to reserve your digital seat at this exciting new conference. At only $25 for both days, you’re sure to walk away from this professional learning experience with an abundance of ideas for elevating your craft.

For more information (including a session schedule) and to register, visit the Remote Learning Conference’s homepage – https://ltcillinois.org/events/remotelearningconference/

New Online Course: Keep It All Together with OneNote

Are you looking for an innovative way to enhance student note-taking capabilities? If you’re like many educators, remote and hybrid learning has revealed your classroom’s need to change up this important learning activity.

OneNote from Microsoft might be the versatile tool you’ve been searching for. This platform, which is already available to many educators, can create classroom notebooks and student-centered texts that help keep all learners on the right track.

Keep It All Together with OneNote (2.0 PD Credits)

OneNote has a lot to offer, which is why the LTC has created a brand new online course designed to help educators make the most of its potential. In this free, self-paced course, participants will learn how to get started with OneNote, as well as how to apply the program’s built-in tools to a variety of classroom environments.

You can register for “Keep It All Together with OneNote” over on the LTC’s Online Courses page. Participants who complete all of the coursework on time are eligible to receive 2 PD hours. Sign up today so that you’re ready to learn when this course opens on November 23, 2020.


Special Education During Remote Learning – Insights from Today’s Educators

Many educators in the field today can attest to the challenges of facilitating remote learning. However, special education teachers in particular have faced a steep learning curve when it comes to planning and carrying out instruction that meets the individualized needs of their students.

Facing the Challenges

In some cases, these unique challenges derive from the shift toward an at-home learning environment. In these settings, parents and caregivers are expected to play a more primary role in their child’s education, from ensuring that they join synchronous classes on time to keeping them on-task while completing an assignment. These adjustments, current special educators say, have been smooth for some parents and rocky for others.

Melissa Wolski, a Behavior Specialist in Algonquin, IL, noted that “one of the hardest challenges is trying to teach parents about the different behavioral strategies that may be needed to help their child be more independent.” Wolski also explained that these growing pains can be even greater for single parents, who may not be able to physically manage some of their child’s negative behaviors on their own.

When it comes to synchronous learning, Katrina Evans also noticed parents endeavoring to balance their work obligations and their child’s educational needs.  

“It can be a challenge for them to match their schedules to the hours we are providing live instruction and individual sessions,” Evans, a teacher at an Illinois-based therapeutic day school, acknowledged, “I try to overcome this by sending materials home preemptively… in the hopes that parents can still work with students on their own schedules.”

Embracing New Technologies

Technology has also taken on an outsized role in facilitating special education services remotely. While some special education classrooms already made regular use of technology such as AAC (Augmented and Alternative Communication) devices prior to the pandemic, all special educators have now found it necessary to lean on digital resources and apps like never before.

For example, both Wolski and Evans voiced their support for “Boom Cards”, an online interactive lesson creation platform. Evans, who works primarily with younger students, also utilizes “Reading A-Z”, which allows her to remotely read with and to her students. As expected, “Zoom” and “Google Classroom” have also become mainstays for Illinois’ special educators, for both full class and one-to-one instruction.

Celebrating Success

Along with these challenges, Illinois’ special educators have also found unexpected successes while teaching remotely. Some students, for example, have grown in their functional autonomy over the course of this school year.

“I’ve been impressed at how independent the students can be,” Wolski praised while highlighting changes in her school’s students since moving away from a physical classroom setting. In some cases, she emphasized, their students were actually making progress toward behavioral goals that had not previously materialized during face-to-face instruction.

Evans, meanwhile, found her students growing more amicable to their regular remote learning sessions. While the adjustment period varied from student to student, Evans still sees this progress toward more sustained attention as encouraging.

As Thanksgiving approaches, Illinois’ special educators have also expressed their gratitude for the work put in by parents to make remote learning work for their students. As Wolski pointed out, “It’s not easy doing this day after day after day,” so she is relieved that the parents she works with routinely exceed her expectations for engagement.

Some parents have even deepened their bond with their child as a result of their at-home learning environment, Wolski said. In turn, that closer relationship between caregiver and child has helped reinforce behavior-based goals, while also providing parents with a richer understanding of the work put in by their child’s teacher – even beyond the context of distance learning.

Looking to the Future

In all, most of Illinois special educators have maintained a positive outlook as the prospect of distance learning continues. Many have even stressed the need for patience at this time, as students, parents, and peers adjust to the new normal.

“It is a stressful time for everyone right now,” Wolski concluded, “be kind to yourself, your students and their families, and your coworkers.”

Learn More about Special Education and Remote Learning

Over the course of the 20-21 School Year, the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) has published new guidance on facilitating remote learning, including for students with special needs.

To read the latest on this topic, be sure to check ISBE’s website, where you can find links to up-to-date guidance and resources.

Building on Digital Citizenship Week 2020

Digital Citizenship Week 2020 (October 19-23) has come and passed, but that doesn’t mean your students have missed out on an opportunity to grow their 21st century skillset. Many leading EdTech companies and organizations offer resources and tools for year-round digital citizenship education.

If you’re still looking for ways to include digital citizenship essentials in your class’ curriculum, be sure to check out the following resources and tools while drawing up your lesson plans.

What is Digital Citizenship?

In essence, “digital citizenship” is a collection of thoughts and actions that promote positive, honest, and critical discussions among digital community members. Often, digital citizenship takes the form of adaptable routines that allow an individual to safely and securely navigate digital content – both in and out of the classroom.

Without a doubt, digital citizenship is important for students to learn year-round. Even a lesson or two on the core principles of digital citizenship can help students implement it in their daily lives. Building awareness for these principles starts in the classroom, though, which is why educators across the spectrum should consider utilizing the following digital citizenship tools and resources.

Resources for Year-Round Digital Citizenship

Be Internet Awesome

Be Internet Awesome is a recent Google-led initiative to empower students to make educated decisions online.

This initiative’s curricular materials focus on teaching students both the knowledge and practical skills needed to be smart, alert, strong, kind, and brave online. Each lesson has also been designed to stand on its own. As a result, educators who want to make the most of their classroom time can drop a lesson into their pre-existing curriculum.

Google has also produced a high-quality, interactive adventure – Interland – that students of numerous grade levels can enjoy. Each Be Internet Awesome curriculum lesson is capped with an Interland experience, so students will be able to immediately put what they’ve learned into practice.

Common Sense Education

Common Sense Education has recognized an ongoing need to build flexible, contemporary skillsets for navigating the open internet. That’s why they’ve created a variety of curricular resources for grades 5-18 – each of which include age-appropriate activities that will help students take ownership of their digital lives.

Common Sense Education’s digital citizenship content is also designed with simplified incorporation in mind. That’s why they’ve also put out this useful Implementation Guide for free. In it, you’ll find planning guides, case studies, and classroom posters that can help your department form a unified approach to teaching digital citizenship.

New for 2020

This year, Common Sense Education again added to their Digital Citizenship Week catalogue of free resources. In particular, their Digital Citizenship Week 2020 collection includes new ways to engage grade, middle, and high school students. This includes short and long lessons centered around open-ended questions, such as “how am I being a digital citizen today?” and “how can I think critically about the things I see, create, and share?”

All of these new resources can be implemented efficiently, as well. Each set of lessons comes with a customizable planning calendar and student activity sheets that align with each lesson’s goals.

Tools for Supporting Digital Citizenship

Securly Auditor

One key aspect of digital citizenship revolves around the prevention and elimination of cyberbullying, as well as other negative online behavior patterns. While that can take some practice over time, Securly’s Auditor engine can support an educator’s efforts to spot violence and graphic content in student-related communications before they become a problem.

At the same time, Auditor can help identify at-risk students early on. In particular, Auditor’s interface allows educators to continuously scan emails, attachments, and documents – all within Google Suite. Any tagged material is then brought immediately to an admin’s attention via a responsive alert system.

Impero Back:drop

Impero’s back:drop is another well-regarded digital classroom management platform that digital citizenship-focused educators should take note of. This free-forever platform is FERPA-, COPPA-, and HIPAA- compliant, making it ideal for use in schools where student data security is a top priority.

Purchasing Opportunities through ILTPP

Several of the companies mentioned above – including Impero and Securly – are vendor partners of the Illinois Learning Technology Purchase Program (ILTPP). ILTPP is an LTC cooperative program that aggregates buying power and expertise to procure technology products and services for educational institutions across the state.

Through ILTPP, your school or district may be able to obtain a discount when purchasing several of the digital citizenship-building resources and tools outlined above. Check out their website to learn more about ILTPP’s current purchasing opportunities.

The LTC also provides additional support and resources for educators who are looking to enhance their curricular offerings. Be sure to check our website often for new online courses, PD opportunities, and more.