Embrace Enhanced Security & Accessibility with New Google Classroom & YouTube Updates

As we roll through the final months of 2021, Google continues to put out fresh updates that can help your classroom hit the ground running next semester. That includes recently announced upgrades to Google Classroom and YouTube, as well as security and accessibility improvements that can help your students engage with their digital learning tools with a greater level of stability and ease.

Here are just a few of the most important Google updates announced this past summer and fall. For more information on Google updates announced in the first half of the year, check out our previous Google update digests from March 2021 and July 2021. We also have Google update digest from early November, covering updates to Docs, Sheets, Drive, and more.

Keep Everything Safe and Up-to-Date with Classroom

Since the onset of widespread remote learning last year, Google has been continuously upgrading Classroom to help it meet the needs of today’s remote and hybrid learners.

This has included making necessary security updates to their core video meeting system. In particular, students will now be directed into a waiting room before joining a video call and those not appearing on the class roster will now need to be admitted by the class teacher before being allowed to participate in the video call.

On the teacher side, Google has made a couple noteworthy upgrades that are sure to save educators time while facilitating remote and hybrid learning.

The most noteworthy of these upgrades is the ability to automatically sync classroom rosters with an existing student information system (SIS) via Clever. In practice, this much-requested feature mitigates the need for manually creating new classes in Classroom, so long as information in the school’s SIS is kept up to date (Note: this feature is only available to Google Workspace for Education Plus users at this time).

Reach More Students with Improved Accessibility Features

In addition to larger, app-based upgrades, Google has also rolled out several smaller (though no less impactful) improvements geared towards helping all students more fruitfully engage with their digital learning.

The first of these upgrades is available now in Google Meet. In that app, users can now utilize the app’s live captioning system in five new languages: Spanish (Spain and Latin America), French, Portuguese, and German. While this feature remains in beta at this time, its core functionality can presently help improve information sharing, learning, and collaboration in multilingual classrooms and districts.

Meanwhile, over in Google Docs, Google has improved the way the platform delivers suggestions while in braille mode. To that end, users utilizing assistive technology, including screen readers and refreshable braille displays, can now receive detailed suggestion information in line with the rest of the text.

Finally, Google has rolled out a new font across all of Workspace that was developed with vision impaired users in mind. This font, Atkinson Hyperlegible, is now available across all of Google’s core apps, including Docs, Slides, and Sheets.

Enhanced Privacy and Control Options

As part of a larger initiative to improve privacy and security for all users, Google is currently rolling out a number of upgrades to Google Workspace for Education designed to keep students in particular from accessing unsafe or unsuitable content while working through their school’s domain.

Several of these changes have already rolled out, including the introduction of new age-based settings on September 1, 2021. These settings require primary and secondary institutions to indicate the age for all users, including if those users are under 18. Those who are under 18 will receive a different user experience when utilizing Google apps and services going forward.

The most notable of these UX changes can be seen over on YouTube, where K-12 users marked as under 18 will no longer be able to post videos, comment, or live stream using their school Google account. These students will still be able to view videos sent to them by their teacher, however.

You can read more about these privacy and security upgrades – including the new default K-12 Chrome user experience – over on the Google for Education blog.

Stay Up-to-Date on the Latest from Google

No matter which Google apps or services your classroom or district uses, the LTC is here to help you make the most of your digital teaching capabilities. That’s why we offer a variety of Google-focused professional development opportunities, as well as free, online courses designed to help you grow your Google knowledge on your own time.

As a Google Cloud Partner, we can also help you find the resources you need to make full utilization of Google’s latest updates a reality in your district. A great place to start is over on the LTC Community, where you can problem-solve and share resources with other educators in our topical Google Network.

Collaborate Efficiently with Updates for Google Docs, Sheets, and Drive

Month after month, Google continues to roll out updates and improvements designed to enhance their users’ experience – including those of students and teachers in the education sphere. In fact, several tools in the Google Workspace for Education suite have received noteworthy updates since our previous update digest in July.

The LTC is committed to keeping schools, districts, and classroom educators updated on the powerful learning tools at their disposal. That’s why we’ve taken the time to highlight some of the most important updates that you can utilize in your classroom as soon as tomorrow.

Do More in Docs and Sheets

Across the board, Google has begun implementing new functionality known as “smart canvas” into many of its most popular apps. For example, in Google Docs, users can now type in an “@” sign to pull up a specialized drop-down menu that suggests content relevant to their current project. This can include recent documents, contact cards, and other media that a user can then select and insert into the document with a single click.

In addition to universal insertion, Google Docs users will soon be able to more easily create and insert qualified citations into their work. Specifically, users will be able to select and automatically fill several key citation fields based on a new database of archived sources. This function is presently rolling out and should be accessible to all users by November 29, 2021.

Starting soon, Docs users will also be able to easily and succinctly submit their documents for review and approval without needing to leave the app. Teachers, in turn, will receive notifications when their students request a review, which also locks the document in question and prevents further editing until approval is given. 

Meanwhile, over in Google Sheets, users can now more easily navigate between a series of comments using a set of inline arrow keys. Users are also now able to execute several basic operations (including moving, deleting, duplicating, and copying) on multiple tabs at once.

Also, if you’re looking for commonly-used functions in Sheets, you may have noticed some recent changes. That’s because Google has updated the Sheets interface to provide more user-friendly menus. This reorganization was designed to make Sheets more broadly intuitive, especially on devices with smaller screens.

Collaborate More Efficiently with Drive

Google Drive remains at the beating heart of Google’s collection of business and educational apps. As a result, they’re currently making efforts to make this core app more accessible in more situations, including when internet access is weak or unavailable. Users (including those on ChromeOS) can now select certain types of important files in their Drive and access them offline without needing to pre-download said files.

Finding any files, online or offline, is getting easier in Drive as well. Using the existing search bar at the top of the Drive interface, desktop and mobile users can now search for files within a specific folder.

On the back end of Drive, several other important upgrades have been announced in recent months. First, new trust rules have been rolled out, allowing system admins to better control and manage who has access to which files on a more individualized and categorical basis.

Also, via updates implemented at the end of July 2021, users can now more efficiently stamp out bad actors in their domain by blocking them from sharing with them on Drive. This can be particularly useful on a case-by-case basis to negate the effects of spamming and abusive behavior on individual users.

Utilize Templates in Sites

Over the past year, more schools have begun using Google Sites as a teaching tool, providing students an opportunity to develop webpages in a succinct, user-friendly environment.

Now, students can fine tune their Sites to meet their personal style thanks to a new set of customization options. In particular, these new options allow users to customize their website’s font, colors, imagery, navigation components, button styles, and more.

These customizations can also be incorporated into another Sites update, namely the ability to make and distribute templates within an individual Google domain. Through this, schools and educators can easily distribute pre-made templates to students without needing to spend time formatting and structuring new projects.

Along the way, students may find the need to revert one of their Site pages to a previous version. Previously, this function was only available to an entire Site at once. After an update rolled out in September, users can now roll back individual pages on their Site and restore previously deleted or modified content with relative ease. 

Here to Meet your Google Needs

Through updates large and small, you can count on the LTC to provide you with timely information that can help your classroom or institution make the most of their Google tools. Keep an eye on the LTC blog for another upcoming digest covering recent improvements made to privacy and accessibility in Google Classroom, YouTube, and more.

As a Google Cloud Partner, we can also help you find the resources you need to make full utilization of Google’s latest updates a reality in your district.

For more information on LTC-facilitated Google professional development (including our popular “Hey Google! What’s New?” training), contact the Regional Educational Technology Coordinator (RETC) for your area. You can also grow your Gmail, Drive, and Classroom knowledge on your own schedule by taking part in one of our free, self-paced online courses.

For more information on Google updates announced in the first half of the year, check out some of our previous update digests from March 2021 and July 2021.

Harness EdTech’s Renewed Potential at IETC 2021!

In just under a month, educators and technology leaders from across Illinois will gather together to learn and explore while forming the connections that allow our statewide edtech community to flourish year after year.

It’s all happening at IETC 2021 – and you’re invited!

With a new look and renewed commitment to leading conversations about today’s edtech innovations, IETC 2021 is set to offer educators and tech leaders an unparalleled opportunity to expand their professional horizons. 

At the same time, this year’s conference is still committed to fostering the kinds of connections past attendees know and love, a factor LTC Executive Director Tim McIlvain believes helps IETC stand out from the crowd.

“IETC has a rich history and offers an intimate experience for attendees,” he says. “No other edtech conference creates a sense of community and belonging like IETC.”

“Best of all, most of our sessions are facilitated by home-grown practitioners,” he adds, referencing this year’s slate of 60+ speakers and presenters. “Illinois is full of excellent educators and leaders, and we love to highlight practices and strategies that are working to transform the educational experience right here at home.”

Two Unforgettable Keynotes from Nationally-Recognized Voices

In addition to a schedule packed with informative workshops and roundtable discussions, IETC 2021 is proud to welcome two nationally-recognized voices to the center stage. Both bring with them insights on the future of teaching through technology, making these a pair of engaging keynotes you won’t want to miss.

Manuel Herrera

Drawing as a Thinking Process

Join Manuel as he shares how using simple sketches can help students and teachers think openly about their ideas. Learn strategies to support your students as they quickly generate designs, and then share them for perspective and constructive feedback.

As you step into the sketch arena, you’ll begin to shift your mindset from seeing drawing as an artistic process to seeing it as a thinking process and beyond.

Dwayne Reed

Being the Educator Your Scholars Need

Filled with tons of SEL, restorative justice practices, and trauma-informed talking points, Reed will help educators re-discover their “WHY” of teaching, and will emphasize the importance of building and maintaining positive relationships with scholars.

Each participant will leave with dozens of practical, relationship-building strategies which can immediately be implemented in their classroom or school environment.

Three Days Packed with Insights and Resources

As hosts for this year’s conference, the LTC staff is also sharing their wisdom over all three days of IETC 2021. Check out what our team has to offer and mark your calendars so that you can snag a front row seat!

Empower Student Voice and Choice in Your Classroom!

Presented by Ben Sondgeroth

In a traditional classroom setting, students are often given only one way to respond to content from their teacher. With technology, we can empower students to demonstrate their understanding in ways that best fit their learning styles! By giving students voice and choice in their learning, we provide students with an opportunity to take ownership of their education and empower them to become better learners.

Join us as we explore the many amazing ways technology can give students voice and choice in their learning!

3D Printing FUNdamentals

Presented by Joe Cipfl

Are you wondering what’s next in your technology integration? Do you want to take your tech integration to the next level?

Join us for an informative session on the basics of 3D printing and 3D printers. We will explore the fundamentals of 3D printing, the software and apps needed for successful printing, the best printers for education, how to plan for a 3D printing space, and some curriculum integration essentials.

3D printing has SO many real-world, practical applications and can be easily integrated at any grade level across the curriculum. Come see how!

Get Certified by MicrosoftEDU

Presented by Colleen Kaplan and Holly Kelly

Interested in becoming part of MicrosoftEDU’s elite Showcase School Program? Want to learn the difference between MIE, MIEE, and MCE?  Heard about Minecraft Global Mentors but don’t know what they actually do?

Join this session to learn about Microsoft EDU’s paths to certification and recognition for both you and your school or district!  We will cover what the various processes entail, from laying the groundwork in your school community, to the application process, to the benefits and perks of being accepted into each of the programs.  

Learn, Explore, and Connect Like Never Before

For nearly three decades, IETC has offered educators, administrators, and IT leaders the chance to gather together annually and engage with the latest trends in educational technology. This year’s conference will continue that time-honored tradition and reinvigorate our community as we set our sights on building edtech’s brighter future.

Now’s the time to grab your ticket for the most engaging edtech conference in Illinois. Register for IETC 2021 today and make plans to harness today’s technology to enhance student learning.

5 Keys to Cooking Up Collaboration in the Classroom

Let’s face it – I’m no gourmet, not by any stretch of the imagination. I can cook enough to get by but I’d rather bring a store-bought dish to a school event than spend hours baking my own any day.

As a result, I was fully certain that I hadn’t passed any special “cooking” gene on to my daughter. But to my surprise, a few weeks back, I overheard her talking with a friend and coaching him through the process of preparing a stir fry (over a group video call from a hundred miles away, of course, because we live in the age of video conferencing).

Needless to say, I was curious. So, I listened in for a few minutes. Their motley cooking lesson went a little something like this:

Friend 1 (the would-be cook): “So it can be pink?”

Friend 2: “No, it can’t be pink at all. This is chicken, not beef.”

Daughter: “Right, no pink. Well, maybe a little pink. You don’t want to dry it out entirely.”

Friend 1: So should there be pink or not?!”

At this point, all six college-age friends (yes, there were six cooks in the virtual kitchen…) started talking over one another, interjecting bits of wisdom about chicken preparation that would have made Julia Child light-headed. After a particular back-and-forth between two of them over what constituted “doneness” for chicken, one friend broke in with perhaps the sagest advice yet.

“I’m just going to go ask my mom.”

The Meat of the Story

I didn’t hang around long enough to learn if that friend’s mom was able to steer them away from getting salmonella. But I did walk away with a question of my own in mind – why all this chatter over chicken? In all likelihood, this friend could have Googled the precise temperature he needed to cook chicken to balance its flavor and safety. Instead, he called up a whole gaggle of his friends and allowed them to collaboratively judge whether his newly acquired ability to cook for himself was up to snuff.

Why go through all of that trouble? After thinking about it for a while, I have an educated guess – all of his friends wanted him to succeed. After hearing that he was trying to assemble a dish of his own, they all came together to ensure he had the technical knowledge needed to make the final concoction turn out half-decent (whether they truly succeeded on that front, I’m still not sure. I’m still waiting for the New York Times recipe reviews to arrive.)

That’s not all, though. Without even trying, my daughter and her friends actually demonstrated several invaluable keys to collaboration that all learners – in the kitchen and otherwise – can benefit from. With that in mind, consider the following keys to collaboration next time you plan out a group-based classroom activity or assignment. They might just help your students discover that collaboration can be just as fulfilling as going at it alone.

Keys to Cooking Up Collaboration in your Classroom

1. Share Knowledge to Build a Collective Understanding

All collaboration is borne out of a need to achieve beyond what an individual can accomplish alone, and that’s fully apparent when it comes to individual knowledge. In the case of my daughter and her friend, he (as a college student recently pushed from the nest) lacked prior experience cooking proper food for himself, let alone a specific understanding of how much “pink” was suitable when cooking chicken.

To remedy this shortcoming, my daughter’s friends shared what they knew, both technically (from cookbooks and online recipes) and from their own prior experiences in the kitchen. This ensured that the greenhorn chef in their midst was able to avoid several beginner mistakes and get his stir fry prepared without too much extra fuss or fire.

In the classroom, this same mentality of amassing knowledge and wisdom can form the bedrock of any successful collaboration. Such efforts can get everyone on the same page and offer benefits to everyone involved from the get-go, rather than waiting for the final result to come to fruition.

2. Challenge the Norm through Questions and Discussions

Of course, any given collaborative group doesn’t know it all. This is as true of a group of hungry college students as it is a panel of their doctorate-bearing professors. As such, it is essential for any collaborative group to appraise what they don’t know and initiate discussions to fill in those blanks.

Questioning the norm can also help iron out misunderstandings or conflicting knowledge that could slow down or inhibit the final product’s completion. With my daughter’s friends, this kind of road bump could be seen in their back-and-forth over the nature of what qualified as “done” chicken. Though they ended up consulting an outside source to resolve that misunderstanding, my daughter’s group was able to identify that gap in their knowledge in the first place by questioning one another in a respectful (and slightly haphazard) manner.

3. Offer Feedback to Benchmark Progress

Feedback is essential for keeping any collaboration on track, whether it’s a quick chat about stir fry preparation or a long-term professional project. Information feedback can often be the best for informal collaboration, as seen when my daughter’s friend pointed his camera at a piece of cooked chicken and asked “is it done?” At that point, the several friends could give their seal of approval and the cook could move onto the next step with confidence.

Formalized feedback can also be necessary, especially in more structured learning environments and in long-term projects. While this formal feedback can take several forms, it should always offer all participants a chance to get up to speed and share their thoughts about the project’s overall trajectory. That way, more serious issues can be addressed in a timely manner before they get out of hand and cause a serious break in the collaborative efforts.

4. Know When to Ask for External Help

As mentioned before, we can’t know it all – even if we are combining our knowledge and experience in a collaborative setting. That’s why it is essential for collaborating individuals to recognize where hard-and-fast understanding wears thin. At that juncture, participants can step back, check the scene again, and make a concerted effort to reach out to an external source before proceeding further.

My daughter’s group nailed this step without any prompting when one of her friends decided that they were going to “ask their mom” for her input. In this particular scenario, that was a very logical move on their part. After all, they recognized that their mom was not only an accessible external source of help, but also one with many more years of experience in this domain. As such, they felt confident that their mom’s word on what constituted “done” chicken could be trusted.

5. Celebrate Shared Success

When all is said and done and the beginner chef has a steaming hot plate of flavorful veggies and chicken before him, then it’s time to celebrate. My daughter’s group did this in the way any friend group meeting virtually would – with a quick fist bump and a few words of congratulations to the hungry cook. Sometimes, that’s all it takes to make the effort feel worth it, including in situations where the final product differs from the original vision.

Beyond the kitchen, celebrating successes can help individuals feel fulfilled at a project’s conclusion. Whether the task at hand was big or small, a noted celebration of its success can help cap off the collaborative efforts and set a positive tenor for any future collaborations. Every group has a different way of celebrating, but what’s important is that you set aside time for it. That way, everyone can feel that their contributions were valued in the process of reaching their shared goal – even if that goal was only to prevent a friend from getting food poisoning.

Resources to Spice Up your Collaboration

Without a pinch of salt, a dash of pepper, and maybe a little garlic here and there, many dishes prepared with the best intentions would come out bland. The same goes for many types of collaboration, which is why you need tools at your disposal to streamline the process. The following resources can all be used to make collaboration more accessible in numerous education environments, including among students and your fellow educators.

Resources for Students

Doing More with Jamboard

Jamboard’s usefulness in facilitating in-classroom collaboration is no secret. But there’s a lot more you can do with this handy Google tool, including building activities that get the whole class thinking as a single unit. This resource collection Ditch That Textbook can teach you how, starting with the basics and working its way up through advanced uses.

Best Student Collaboration Tools

This curated collection from Common Sense Education offers a succinct list of which digital tools have been proven to make in-classroom collaboration engaging and enriching. Included here are favorites like Minecraft: Education Edition and Breakout EDU as well as some up-and-coming options like Makers Empire and Spiral.

Resources for Educators

LTC Community

No matter what part you play in the education equation, you deserve the opportunity to connect with and ask questions of your peers all across Illinois. The LTC Community offers you the chance to do that as well as access a growing library of resources on a single, user-friendly platform. The Community is fully free, too, so becoming a contributor is a snap.

Google Classroom Online Course

Did you know that Google Classroom features built-in collaboration tools? They’re just a few of the new functions added into Google Classroom over the past year. Even if your classroom has shifted back to in-person instruction, check out this free online course all about Google Classroom. You’ll walk away with a better understanding of this keystone app and 2 PD credit hours to boot.

Working Together to Make Education a Success

Here at the LTC, we strive to be a resource you can reach out to when you’re interested in collaborating. Our statewide team of regional educational technology coordinators is always ready to help your district grow its professional acumen, including through in-district and year-long professional development experiences.

Each year, the LTC also offers numerous opportunities for educators to gather together and share their wisdom. This includes our regular slate of local networking events as well as our virtual and in-person conferences, such as the upcoming Computer Science Symposium and the Illinois Education and Technology Conference.

Return to the Classroom with New LTC Online Courses

Autumn is just around the corner and in schools across Illinois, students are already busy learning a wealth of new skills and knowledge. Their educators are busy, too, often so busy that they don’t have much time to sit down and do some professional learning of their own.

Here at the Learning Technology Center (LTC), we recognize the challenge that comes with squeezing PD into an already-packed teaching schedule. That’s why we’re getting into the swing of the new school year by launching a handful of new, standards-aligned online courses.

At the same time, we’re also relaunching new sections of our already-popular online courses. Whether you’re interested in learning how to harness Google Classroom’s full potential or you’re curious about what Microsoft Teams can do to enhance your digital learning environment, our refreshed online course catalogue has you covered.

As always, our online courses are entirely FREE, making it easy to expand your professional toolbox and earn certified PD credit without breaking the bank.

Interested in learning more? Check out what’s new in our online course catalogue and enroll today over on our Online Courses hub!

New Courses for a New School Year

Google Classroom: Organize Learning Online


Over the past year-and-a-half, thousands of teachers around the world became familiar with Google Classroom and its remarkable capacity for facilitating streamlined digital learning. But familiarity alone won’t suffice as digital learning continues to evolve. Now’s a great time to dive into Google Classroom and learn what it is truly capable of.

This course is designed to provide learners with a platform-wide overview, including Google Classroom’s numerous customizable features and settings. This course will also guide learners through the process of integrating Google Classroom into their literal classroom, including for in-person, remote, and hybrid learning environments.

Microsoft OneNote: Create and Share Interactive Notebooks


Microsoft OneNote is not only a useful note-taking app, but also a versatile support tool for a variety of interactive classroom activities. OneNote can help your students curate information from a variety of sources and organize that information through a simple, notebook-style interface. OneNote can even be used to create entire “virtual textbooks” that can be utilized across an entire unit or course.

This course will help you learn to make the most of OneNote, starting with the basics and continuing on through a few advanced use cases. Along the way, you’ll learn how to harness OneNote’s organizational functionalities to both maximize your planning time and simplify your lesson delivery in digital and in-person learning environments.

Microsoft Teams: Your Digital Classroom Solution


For some time, Microsoft Teams has been a go-to collaboration and communication tool in the business world. Now, Microsoft for Education has begun pushing Teams as a hub for classroom communication and information sharing.

This app can do all that and more, starting with its capacity to connect students and teachers in a seamless digital learning environment. This course will cover the basics of getting Teams up and running before jumping into collaborative use cases for enhancing any remote learning situation.

Fresh Insights from Returning Favorites

Gmail: Effective Email Communication


Google’s Gmail is widely-used by schools and individuals alike. It’s ease of use, flexibility, and cross-platform functionality make it a great choice to help manage daily communications. But does Gmail have a place in the classroom? If its use in schools across the world is any indicator, then the answer is a resounding “yes”.

This course will take you on a Gmail journey, starting with fundamentals and set-up and continuing on through individual scenario customization. After completion, you’ll walk away with a new appreciation for Gmail and its capacity for facilitating effective communication day after day.

Google Calendar: Simple Online Organization


Both in and out of Google schools, Google Calendar remains a go-to tool for organizing critical time-and-date information, at both an individual and an institutional level. This course will offer an overview of Google Calendar’s most productive features and demonstrate how they might be used in a classroom or school setting.

Google Drive: Create, Organize, and Collaborate


If Google Workspace for Education is a living, breathing, education-facilitating machine, then Google Drive is the machine’s beating heart. Nearly every Google tool and app integrates with Drive, offering you a single, unified place to store every Doc, Sheet, Slide deck, and more.

But just like your classroom desk drawers, Google Drive requires careful planning and execution in order to keep it organized and useful on a day-to-day basis. This course will take you through the basics of using Google Drive as well as offer useful guidance on making Drive a seamless hub for sharing and collaborating in a digital learning environment.

Supporting your Professional Learning Journey

Whether you’re looking to learn a new app or brush up on some old skills, the LTC is here to support you. In addition to 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 – even during the busy school year. The LTC’s highly-trained team is also available for in-district and year-round training, which can be customized to fit the evolving needs of your school or district.

Welcome Our New LTC Team Members!

A new school year is upon us and Illinois schools aren’t the only ones welcoming team members into their fold. The Learning Technology Center (LTC) has also grown over the summer, to the tune of 10 new team members and counting. Each of our new team members brings with them an unmatched level of experience in the education and technology fields, allowing them to further our ongoing mission of improving educational outcomes through edtech services and professional learning opportunities.

Take some time to meet our new team members, including an assortment of new Instructional Technology Coaches and a new Regional Educational Technology Coordinator. Together, they possess 150+ years of experience in the education field – an impressive total that speaks to their exceptional capacity to work with and support today’s educators. In time, these new team members will become the familiar, friendly faces that play a key role in helping schools in their region better utilize edtech, both this coming school year and for many productive school years to come.

Interested in joining the LTC team? We are always searching for new professionals to help us expand our reach to every corner of the Prairie State. Right now, we are interested in hiring a new Marketing & Communications Director, Graphic Design & Web Specialist, and Cybersecurity Specialist, respectively. You can learn more about all three positions, as well as future openings, over on our Careers page.

Anne Kasa

Anne Kasa (she/her) is a new Instructional Technology Coach serving the south Cook County region. Anne believes strongly in supporting educators through hands-on practice and embedded SEL learning, both for their students and for themselves.

A 17-year veteran of the education field, Anne has previously served as a PK-4 instructional coach, a literacy coach & reading specialist, and a classroom teacher at multiple grade levels. Anne is also a proud graduate of both University of St. Francis in Joliet, IL (BA in Education) and Benedictine University in Lisle, IL (Masters in Reading and Literacy).

“I’m excited about helping teachers feel comfortable with tech integration again after such a wild year,” Anne says. “So many teachers tell me that just looking at their device triggers feelings of inadequacy and fear. Now’s a real chance to shift that paradigm and I can’t wait to help lead that positive change.”

Brian Krause

Brian Krause (he/him) is a new Instructional Technology Coach serving the Winnebago County region. Brian believes in instilling all educators with a love for modern educational tools, especially as more and more teachers strive to create learning opportunities that embrace technology’s full potential.

During his career in education, Brian has continuously grown and supplemented his professional skill set, including through a grade 1-6 professional educator license, a Google for Education Certified Coach credential, and micro-credentials from BrainPop, Flocabulary, and EVERFI. Brian is also a proud graduate of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (BFA in Acting) and the University of Chicago (Master of Arts in Elementary and Middle School Education).

“After a year and a half of virtual learning, our educational community has a real opportunity to take the next step towards a more robust and engaging classroom learning experience,” Brian says. “I’m really looking forward to sharing my love of classroom technology and making that new normal become a reality.”

Emily Pool

Emily Pool (she/her) is a new LTC Instructional Technology Coach serving the Adams and Pike County regions. In this role, Emily strives to help teachers get excited about, engaged with, and enriched by educational technology – especially when it comes to bridging the gap between potential and implementation.

While serving as a 3rd grade teacher in the Quincy Public School system, Emily was recognized as a 2015 Golden Apple recipient for her outstanding commitment to education. Emily, a Seesaw Ambassador, also holds degrees from Illinois College in Jacksonville, IL (BA in Elementary Education & Spanish) and Williams Woods University in Fulton, MO (Masters in Education Administration).

When asked about what she’s most excited for in her new role, Emily didn’t hold back her desire to lend a helping hand. “I just want to be a helper! I am happy to help and want to help teachers with things that may be getting in their way! I’ve always cherished those breakthrough moments in my career so far and I can’t wait to help even more teachers achieve them for themselves.”

Eric Santos

Eric Santos (he/him) is a new Regional Educational Technology Coordinator for the Learning Technology Center, serving the greater Chicagoland region. Eric believes in advocating for greater equity in educational opportunities as well as engaging, inspiring, and empowering all educators through effective edtech utilization practices.

A National Board Certified Educator with 15 years of experience in public education, Eric has spent over a decade as a leader in his field, including as both a Google for Education Certified Trainer and Coach. He also holds a pair of Master’s degrees, from Dominican University (Educational Technology) and from National Louis University (Curriculum and Instruction).

“Technology has empowered me to become a more effective educator,” Eric says, highlighting one of the ways edtech has impacted his professional journey. “I’m more productive, I have more resources at my disposal, and I can better engage students with technology in hand. I’m really looking forward to leveraging all of that and more while working alongside teachers in Chicagoland.”

As the RETC for the Chicagoland region, Eric will also be replacing Nicole Zumpano, who has stayed with the LTC and now serves as the organization’s first Director of Instructional Coaching.

Jen Leban

Jennifer Leban (she/her) is a new LTC Instructional Technology Coach serving the south Cook County region. Jen is passionate about empowering educators every step of the way, helping them not only utilize the educational technology tools available to them, but also harness their full potential to both expand and enhance student engagement.

In her nearly two decades as a library media specialist and National Board Certified teacher (K-8 and fine arts), Jen has earned a variety of outstanding accolades, including 2020 Illinois State Teacher of the Year finalist, Teach Plus IL Fellow, and 2020 Presidential Award for Excellence in Math and Science Teaching finalist. Jen, a Google Certified Trainer and Innovator, has also spoken at a variety of national education and technology conferences, including ISTE, AMLE, IDEAcon, and CPS Googlepalooza.

Outside of the classroom, Jen is a retired roller derby skater who coaches her local junior derby league. Jen earned her BA in Arts Education with honors from Elmhurst University in Elmhurst, IL and completed her MA in Educational Leadership through St. Xavier University in Chicago, IL.

“Helping teachers integrate technology in meaningful ways and empowering educators to improve their craft is what I truly love doing,” Jen says, while noting that this career change is one that she’s looked forward to for some time. “I used to do this work on top of working a full-time teaching job, so I’m excited to finally be doing it as my primary responsibility in my full-time job.”

Kevin Schouten

Kevin Schouten (he/him) is a new LTC Instructional Technology Coach serving the south Cook County region. Kevin loves working with both students and teachers and believes strongly in not only offering the best-available edtech tools, but also instilling educators with the confidence needed to harness those tools’ full potential.

Over his nearly three decades in the education field as an assistant principal, adjunct professor, and instructional technology specialist, Kevin has earned a variety of specialized credentials and certifications that support his ability to find edtech solutions that meet contemporary curricular goals. Kevin is also a proud graduate of Eastern Illinois University in Charleston, IL (BA in English Language Arts Education) and Aurora University in Aurora, IL (Masters in Educational Leadership and Administration).

“I’ve always loved seeing the way students get excited to use a new tech tool or app,” Kevin says of his years as a classroom educator. “I’ve seen numerous teachers express that same excitement and I’m looking forward to working alongside them as they turn that excitement into fulfilling educational opportunities for their students.”

Patricia Ferris

Patricia Ferris (she/her) is a new LTC Instructional Technology Coach serving special education institutions in the south Cook County region. Patricia is a firm advocate for educational equity and believes in promoting edtech access and collaboration as an interconnected means of achieving that ultimate goal.

Patricia has worked in the education field for nearly two decades, most recently as a Learning Partner and Instructional Coach for the Kankakee School District, and has earned recognition for her ongoing commitment to professional learning, including as a Google Certified Educator Level 2 and as an EdPuzzle Coach. Patricia is also a two-time graduate of Olivet Nazarene University in Bourbonnais, IL, where she earned both a BS in Elementary Education and Teaching and an MA in Reading.

Patricia says that she’s already looking forward to meeting and working with educators at her area institutions, especially now that the school year is starting in earnest. “Meeting new people has always been one of my favorite parts of my work. Stepping into this new role will give me a chance to meet so many new faces and help them all create the personalized learning opportunities their students deserve.”

Sarah Phelps

Sarah Phelps (she/her) is a new LTC Instructional Technology Coach serving the south St. Clair County region. Sarah takes great joy in seeing students learn expansively through technology as well as working with the educators who strive to make those “eureka” moments happen every day.

While serving as an instructional coach and elementary computer teacher for over a decade, Sarah has been recognized by the Illinois State Board of Education for her ongoing commitment to CS and STEM education via both the Emerson Excellence in Education Award and the Those Who Excel Award of Merit. Sarah also holds a variety of degrees and certifications, most notably a BS in Elementary Education and Teaching from Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, a Masters in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of Scranton in Pennsylvania, and an Education Specialist degree in Educational Administration.

Sarah says that among other aspects of her new role, she’s especially excited to help teachers find new ways to incorporate coding and computer science into the classroom. “There are so many exciting ways to incorporate technology into today’s classrooms and to me, coding and other computer science topics are a great way for students to get hands-on with the tech that powers their education and our world.”

Stacie Tefft

Stacie Tefft (she/her) is a new LTC Instructional Technology Coach serving Franklin, Johnson, Massac, and Williamson counties in southern Illinois. Stacie is passionate about engaging students through differentiated instruction and believes that today’s educational technology holds the key to unlocking an even higher level of engaged instruction with today’s learners.

During her nearly two decades working as a history and personal finance teacher in the Murphysboro school district, Stacie has always been eager to try out the latest technology. Additionally, she has spoken about edtech integration on the national stage at the 2018, 2019, and 2020 National Council for Social Studies conferences. Stacie is also a proud graduate of Southern Illinois University Carbondale, where she earned both her bachelor’s in Secondary Education Social Studies and her Master’s in Curriculum and Instruction.

“For many years, I’ve felt this burst of satisfaction every time a student learns something new through well-calibrated, purposefully differentiated instruction,” Stacie says of her many years working in the classroom. “This position gives me to the opportunity to do that on a much broader scale while also working directly with teachers to meet their individual technology needs.”

A Warm Welcome

To all of our new LTC team members – welcome aboard! We are so excited to have you on the team and we are looking forward to all of the good you can accomplish in Illinois’ edtech community.

Start the New School Year in the LTC Community

There’s something special about the start of a new school year. A fresh opportunity to interact with students, the renewed convenience of planning and problem solving alongside your fellow faculty members – for these reasons and more, plenty of Illinois educators are eager to start the new semester.

But what do you do when an edtech issue arises and your district lacks the expertise needed to resolve it? What if you could ask your fellow edtech leaders around the state for input, all on a single, free-to-use platform?

Now you can by becoming a member of the new LTC Community!

The new LTC Community has so much to offer edtech professionals like you, starting from the minute you join its growing list of 1,100+ members. If you’re looking to grow your professional network, share a useful resource, or even ask a question to other individuals in your field, the LTC Community will help you do it from a single, user-friendly interface.

Best of all, membership in the LTC Community remains FREE. That way, you can always keep in touch with all of your peers and access an ever-growing library of resources, no matter where your professional journey in the edtech field leads you.

Interested in joining? Head over to our Community homepage for more information on becoming a member of Illinois newest hub for collaboration and problem-solving.

Timely Answers for your Edtech Inquiries

Over the past year and a half, the wider edtech community has learned the importance of asking questions and receiving answers in a timely manner. On the new LTC Community, you’ll be able to do that and more through an intuitive digital interface. You’ll even be able to find the kind of responses you’re looking for efficiently by posting into one of the Community’s several special topic sub-groups.

Through the Community, you’ll also be able to keep up on the latest news from the LTC, including new program announcements, upcoming event listings, statewide surveys, and more. LTC Community members may also receive early access to new LTC resources and services, allowing your district to do more when it comes to edtech integration.

Your Hub for Collaboration and Networking

Even as more educational professionals return to hosting and attending in-person events, the need for online networking remains strong. That’s why we’ve designed our new Community to make it easy to connect with your peers, both in your region and in your position.

Our 1,100+ member directory even allows you to look up other members, including those you meet at in-person events. Built-in privacy settings also allow you to dictate how much information about you is publicly available – including your professional contact information.

Sharing and Learning at your Own Pace

No one likes a crowded inbox – especially when it comes to receiving emails you didn’t ask for. The new LTC Community keeps this in mind by providing you even greater control over which emails you receive and how often you receive them. Members are even able to customize a daily digest of posts, ensuring that you can always stay on top of the latest edtech conversations.

As an LTC Community member, you’ll also have options when it comes to replying to existing conversation threads. Besides posting through the Community’s web interface, you can also reply directly via email without needing to open a separate website. That way, you can keep up with the conversation offer your insights in a timely manner – all from your preferred email app.

Join the New LTC Community

Altogether, the LTC Community was made for people like you, one of the countless professionals who make learning through technology possible in Illinois schools every day. We want you to be a part of this Community, so don’t miss this chance to change the way you digitally network, collaborate, and share knowledge with your edtech peers.

Questions about the new LTC Community? Drop us a line at community@ltcillinois.org.

Catch Up on the LTC’s Top Resources and Services

July 1 marked the beginning of the 21-22 fiscal year and the push toward the new school year in districts across Illinois. Here at the LTC, we’re also looking forward to the upcoming semester and all the fresh potential it holds for student learning and enrichment.

Whether you’re in the classroom, supporting educators, or striving to keep your district’s IT infrastructure humming, the LTC wants to help you start out the new year with as much access to high quality professional learning as possible. That’s why we’ve taken the time to collect some of our most popular resources from the past fiscal year and package them together for easy navigation.

Take a little time and see what the LTC has shared over the past year. You’re sure to find some new insights or resources that’ll help you hone your craft and bring learning to life through technology this coming school year!

Top Blogs

How to Become a Google Certified Educator

Google Educator certifications are among the most popular educator credentials today. But how exactly do you become “Google Educator Certified”? What sort of tests do you need to take and how can you prepare for the certification process? You’ll find those answers and more in this handy guide to becoming Google Educator Certified.

Resources and Reminders for 2021 License Renewal

The Illinois State Board of Education opened the window for this year’s teacher license renewal cycle on April 1, 2021. Check out our guide full of important reminders and resources geared toward helping you renew your teaching license without half the hassle.

Data Privacy Resources for 2021 and Beyond

To help your district stay out in front of emergent cybersecurity threats, the LTC team has gathered some of our most popular data privacy and cybersecurity resources into one place. Check out each of these overviews, online classes, and more if you’re in the process of upgrading your district’s data protection policies to comply with SOPPA.

Choosing the Right Chromebook for Schools and Districts

Many schools in Illinois and around the US are interested in purchasing new Chromebooks. But which Chromebook model is best? Which model offers the best value? You’ll find those answers and more in this guide to choosing the right Chromebook for your school or district.

Start your Professional Learning Journey with the LTC’s New Education Certification Collection

Certifications have become an increasingly popular option for professional learning in the education field. The LTC has scoured the internet for the best certifications and collected them here, in our new Educator Certification Collection. Be sure to check back regularly for updates on the latest education certification opportunities!

LTC Joins Google Cloud Partner Program

The Learning Technology Center of Illinois (LTC) is proud to announce its recent acceptance into the Google Cloud Partner Program. Through this program, the LTC will receive access to early-adopter information, priority access to new services, staff training, and further partnership opportunities. 

E-Rate Emergency Connectivity Fund – What You Need to Know

On May 11, 2021, the FCC announced a finalized rule set for the administration of the Emergency Connectivity Fund (ECF), a $7.1 billion appropriation derived from the larger $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan stimulus package passed by Congress in March 2021. Learn more about the ECF, its eligibility requirements, and its E-Rate application process in this detailed program brief.

New and Improved Resources

Data Privacy and SOPPA

As the new school year approaches, now’s a great time to evaluate your district’s data privacy regimen to ensure it complies with Illinois’ SOPPA mandates. The LTC is here to support those efforts through virtual PD, one-on-one consultations, and free resources for managing workflows.

As a member of the nationwide Student Data Privacy Consortium (SDPC), the LTC also offers free access to a variety of tools that can make managing data privacy agreements a sure thing. Be sure to check out our Illinois Student Privacy Alliance (ISPA) homepage to learn more, including how to login in to and utilize the ISPA/SDPC database.

Connectivity and E-Rate

Each year, the LTC provides a variety of in-person and virtual services to assist schools as they seek out and apply for state and federal grant funding, including E-Rate. Keep an eye on the Connectivity and E-Rate homepage for the latest program updates and workshop opportunities, including for both the Emergency Broadband Benefit (EBB) and Emergency Connectivity Fund (ECF) programs.

Google Certified Coach Mentor Program

The LTC Instructional Technology Coach Program is a year-long program through which participating schools gain access to a highly qualified Instructional Technology Coach by utilizing a specialized cost-sharing model. Coaches hired through this program work 1:1 and in small groups with teachers to tackle classroom goals and challenges with technology-based strategies. Districts interested in participating can learn more on the program homepage.

Fresh Ways to Learn and Connect

New LTC Community

Edtech collaboration, networking, and peer-lead problem solving now have a new online home in the Prairie State. This past spring, the LTC launched our new online platform – the LTC Community. Designed with educators, administrators, tech coaches, IT professionals, and library media specialists in mind, the new LTC Community will make it easier than ever to seek insights and share knowledge with your in-state peers.

The new LTC Community has so much to offer edtech professionals like you, starting from the minute you join its growing list of 1,100+ members. If you’re looking to grow your professional network, share a useful resource, or even ask a question to other individuals in your field, the LTC Community will help you do it from a single, user-friendly interface.

Best of all, membership in the LTC Community remains entirely FREE.

Free, On-Demand Online Courses

Whether you’re looking to learn how to use Google Classroom or grow your understanding of Gmail, OneNote, or Google Drive, the LTC has a variety of on-demand online courses available for free over on our Online Courses hub. Keep your eyes on this page, as well – the LTC will launch a fresh slate of classes this fall to help educators get back into the teaching groove.

Learn Safer and Easier with Updates for Google Classroom, Workspace & Chrome OS

Back on June 22, Google revealed a roadmap of its upcoming product and software updates during its The Anywhere School online event. That roadmap featured a cornucopia of exciting developments, including useful enhancements for Google Classroom, Google Workspace for Education, Chrome OS, and more.

Taken together, these updates are geared toward helping educators and school leaders continue their efforts toward making virtual learning easy, accessible, and adaptable to the changing needs of today’s classrooms.

Chances are, your school or classroom can take advantage of these updates starting as soon as the fall 2021 semester. Take a look and see what Google has in store when it comes to making their already-popular apps and tools even more productive and safe.

Greater Ease and Adaptability with Google Classroom

Over the past year and a half, Google Classroom has become a mainstay in schools large and small across the world. Millions of teachers and student participated in remote learning through the platform, with many schools utilizing Google Classroom as their primary learning management system (LMS).

Now, Google is positioning Classroom to meet the education community’s evolving needs, starting with small, quality-of-life improvements like streamlined roster import. This update for Google for Education Plus users will allow teachers to automatically set up class rosters and sync them with their student information system (SIS) using Clever (which requires a separate subscription).

Another small update coming later this year will allow teachers to schedule assignments across multiple classes. This will make it easier to uniformly assign projects and tests across multiple sections of the same course without spending extra time initiating assignment each individually.

Google Meet will also see some upgrades in the near future, including the ability to add co-presenters to any video conference. At the same time, those moderators will have more breakout room options, including the ability to force call participants into and out of said breakout rooms.

On the larger side, teachers in districts with the Teaching and Learning Upgrade or Education Plus can look forward to add-ons directly within their Classroom interface. These add-ons will provide immediate access to an assortment of popular digital education tools and apps – all without needing to navigate to a separate third-party website or app.

Google plans to launch the add-on beta with modules from nine popular providers, including Edpuzzle, Kahoot!, Nearpod, Newsela, Adobe Spark for Education, BookWidgets, and more. Admins will be able to pre-install these add-ons for teachers and students, too, making it easy to get up and running with new integrated add-ons.

For more on new Google Classroom features coming this year, check out Google’s blog post on the topic.

Quicker Collaboration with Google Workspace for Education

Google Workspace for Education (formerly known as G Suite for Education) is also receiving a bevy of upgrades in the coming months, many of which will make its core apps and tools even more interconnected and practical for collaborative digital learning.

One such feature involves the introduction of so-called “smart chips” into Docs, Sheets, and Slides. These “chips” are able to detect certain types of inputs and intelligently connect them to other resources within the user’s Drive or contact book. For example, a user who types in the name of a document in their Drive or an individual in their contact book will be given the option to immediately link that resource using an interactive, inline tile.

Google Docs, meanwhile, will soon receive an upgrade to its existing grammar suggestion engine. Education Plus customers will notice this upgrade as their documents automatically scan for and highlight offensive or stylistically tricky words and phrases. The engine will then offer suggestions to the user, though both elements can be easily turned off by admins.

At the same time, Google Workspace for Education is introducing a handy way to quickly jump from a doc or slide presentation into a Google Meet video conference. With just a click of the Google Meet icon up in the right-hand corner of an open resource, teachers will be able to join a call and open their current resource at the same time, saving valuable classroom time along the way.

Finally, Google is doubling down on its commitment to keeping Workspace a safe space for students and teachers to interact and participate in the learning process. To do that, they’ll soon launch new admin-level security options that make it easier to detect and address potential internal threats, including accidental malware sharing. New Drive trust rules will also roll out in beta for Education Standard and Education Plus customers in the coming months, allowing those admins to more precisely determine how files are shared within their institution.

For more information on upcoming Google Workspace for Education features, check out Google’s blog post on the topic.

Manage a Safer Chromebook Fleet

As the number one device in K-12 classrooms around the world, it’s no wonder that Google is keeping their Chromebooks front of mind in their next round of updates. That means that users can expect optional software upgrades for Chrome OS in the near future, as well as new options for admin-level access and management.

Following in line with updates announced earlier this year, network administrators will soon find new options for managing an institution’s Chromebook fleet within the Google Admin Console. This includes a devoted page for the new Chrome Insights Reports, which list which devices in the fleet are reaching their AUE and how admins should plan for new hardware purchases, accordingly.

Google is also taking cues from smart phones when it comes to another new Chromebook feature. At an administrator’s discretion, teachers and students (especially young learners) will soon be able to log into their device using a six-digit PIN. New users will be prompted to set up these PINs on their own, and future devices will come standard with this feature enabled.

Inclusivity and accessibility have also been notable imperatives for the Chromebook development team lately. That’s why, in the coming months, users will be able to utilize Google’s new Live Caption system on their Chromebooks, as well as a full-panning mode in the operating system’s existing full-screen magnifier. Switch Access will also receive an upgrade in August, making it easier for users to utilize alternative USB and Bluetooth devices to control their cursor.

To see what else Google has in store for new Chromebook and Chrome OS software, check out Google’s blog post on the topic.

Keeping You in the Loop about the Latest Google Updates

All in all, educators have a lot to look forward to this summer and throughout the rest of 2021 when it comes to Google app and tool upgrades. The Learning Technology Center (LTC) is here to help you understand all of these updates and plan for their immediate implementation into your current digital learning environments.

As a Google Cloud Partner, we can also help you find the resources you need to make full utilization of Google’s latest updates a reality for your district.

If you have questions about any of Google’s newly announced improvements, contact the Regional Educational Technology Coordinator (RETC) for your area. You can also learn more about using Google’s current education apps over in our free online courses collection or about Google Workspace for Education updates announced during spring 2021 on our blog.

ISPA/SDPC Update – July 1, 2021

Happy New (Fiscal) Year! Today, July 1, is compliance day for Illinois’ new Student Online Personal Protection Act (SOPPA). In turn, all Illinois schools should now have in place new policies and procedures that meet this legislation’s revitalized data privacy mandates.

However, numerous schools throughout the state are still in the process of getting these new data privacy frameworks up and running. As such, the Illinois Student Privacy Alliance (ISPA) wants you to know that we are still here and willing to support your institution as you strive to enhance your data privacy standards and practices.

As we move forward to the 2021-2022 school year, let us know what we can do to help your district succeed on this front – especially when it comes to managing data privacy agreements (DPA). The ISPA/SDPC database remains the most robust tool for accomplishing this task and we encourage all district’s to make use of it – not least because it is entirely free to use, regardless of district size.

There are even more resources available right now for free on the ISPA homepage. There, you’ll find videos and certified documents – such as the latest  IL-NDPA – that can help your district adhere to current data privacy standards without as much hassle.

Step-by-Step with Managing Data Privacy Agreements

Currently, there are 744 Illinois districts and 16,392 agreements in the Illinois portion of the ISPA/SDPC database. As such, it couldn’t be easier to join into an agreement and streamline your district’s legislative compliance process.

Even so, everyone could use a little extra help when it comes to managing data privacy agreements (DPAs). Here are a few steps that can help you getting started or get back on the right track as the 2021-2022 school year approaches:

  • Review the free resources available on the ISPA homepage.
  • Attend the next All Things SOPPA session on Tuesday, July 13 at 2 PM. This session will include a short presentation followed by an audience Q&A. Not able to make it? There’ll be more All Things SOPPA on July 20 and July 27, as well as every Tuesday going forward at 2PM. Recordings of every week’s session are also available in a YouTube playlist on the ISPA homepage
  • Check out the LTC’s YouTube playlist full of videos about using the ISPA/SDPC database. In particular, check out the videos Using the IL-NDPA, Managing Agreements for SOPPA, and Using the Auto Exhibit E Creator – all of which can be watched at 1.5x or 2x speed to save time.
  • Review your district’s Custom Resource Listing. To do this, login to the ISPA/SDPC database and navigate to the “Tools” section. There, you’ll find an entry for your district’s “Customized Resource Listing”. 
  • Speak with your district’s legal counsel and review IL-NDPA. With their approval, you’ll then be able to use this pre-created document as the basis for future agreements. The same can be done to pre-approve the use of newly-created Exhibit Hs.

Need Extra Support?

As always, If you need additional assistance when it comes to using the ISPA/SDPC database or any other LTC data privacy resource, reach out to me, Chris Wherley, and we can discuss a solution that works for you and your district. To do that, grab a time on my calendar using Calendly and we can set up a time to chat.