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.

Micro-Credentials: New Horizons for Professional Learning

There’s no two ways around it – the old “sit-and-get” method of professional development isn’t suited to the needs of today’s educators. Not only does that format tend to result in passive learning, but it also doesn’t offer teachers enough agency in their professional learning journey.

Fortunately, a new trend in professional learning is making it easier for teachers to hone their skills and meet their own personal goals at the same time. Micro-credentials have gained traction over the past several years, and they may become your go-to method for acquiring new professional skills in the near future.

But what exactly is a “micro-credential”? More importantly, how can a micro-credential help you master a new classroom-ready skill?

With micro-credentialing on the horizon for Illinois educators, now’s the right time to learn what this innovative professional learning method has to offer.

What is a Micro-credential?

At a basic level, a micro-credential is a condensed course of study that allows a participant to narrowly focus on a skill or set of skills within a chosen field. As their name suggests, a micro-credential typically allows a participant to attain a certifiable credential, often in the form of a badge or transcript notation.

However, there’s more to a micro-credential’s DNA than just a badge and a few hours of learning. Here are just a few factors that set micro-credentials apart from other methods of professional learning:

Focused on Specific, Observable Skills

“Sit-and-get” professional development typically focuses on sharing knowledge with participants. Rarely do they offer participants the opportunity to actually apply what they are learning in real time.

Micro-credentials, on the other hand, offer participants a chance to practice the skills they are learning almost immediately. Micro-credential stacks typically last for several weeks, allowing participants time to implement what they’ve learned in the classroom and ask questions of their instructor as they go along.

At the same time, micro-credentials tend to focus on a specific skill or set of skills. This allows them to dig deep and offer participants a chance to gain an adaptable understanding of the subject at hand. In turn, participants walk away with a greater capacity to apply what they’ve learned in the classroom without any delay.

Competency-Based 

Along the same lines, micro-credentials don’t take a participant’s understanding of the central topic as a given. Instead, a micro-credential provides participants an opportunity to demonstrate their mastery before walking out of the digital classroom door.

For example, a micro-credential instructor may ask a participant to supply artifacts of their skill implementation before the stack concludes. This ensures that the instructor is able to offer feedback and suggestions to the participant while they are still in the process of solidifying their competency.

Job-Embedded and Research-Based

Due to their focused nature, micro-credentials often offer an opportunity to master a skill that you can actually use on the job. Most micro-credential stacks offered by education organizations relate directly to classroom practices. So, you won’t be left guessing how you’ll use what you learned when it comes time to step back into the classroom.

Most micro-credentials are also focused on well-researched skills and concepts. As a result, they typically have a demonstrable impact in the classroom, based upon prior implementation by other educators. Your participation in a micro-credential will allow you to harness that research in the short-term, potentially leading to better outcomes for your students.

Personalized and Self-directed

One of the most marked trends in education right now centers around offering students agency and choice in the ways they learn. So, why shouldn’t educators be offered a similar level of agency when it comes time to hone their craft?

Micro-credentials do just that by providing educators clear choices about which knowledge and skills they attain. Participants are often encouraged to work through an entire stack, but they also have the option of participating in only the segments that pique their interest. Either way, educators will be engaging in a personalized professional learning experience like no other.

Along the same lines, micro-credentials offer participants more flexibility when it comes to actually sitting down and engaging with course content. That’s because many micro-credential stacks offer a mix of synchronous and asynchronous participation options. As a result, teachers are able to more effectively pursue professional learning on their own schedule.

What is a Micro-credential “Stack”?

On the surface, a micro-credential may look like an online course you’ve participated in before. However, there are several noteworthy differences that allow micro-credentials to be more flexible when it comes to their facilitation.

Generally speaking, a micro-credential is much shorter in length. Many education-related micro-credentials can be completed over the course of several weeks, rather than several months.

Also, micro-credentials are arranged into “stacks.” A stack is usually made up of three or more modules that are united by a common thread or goal. When a participant completes every module in a stack satisfactorily, they become eligible for the badge associated with that micro-credential.

This chart provides a closer look at how a micro-credential stack breaks down to its essential elements:

Who is using Micro-credentials?

Micro-credentials have become increasingly popular over the past several years, particularly in the education field. Numerous professional development providers have jumped on this trend and added micro-credentialing options to their catalogue of offerings.

Some of the most popular micro-credential providers currently include:

·  Digital Promise

·  BloomBoard

·  Future Learn

·  The Friday Institute

·  National Education Association

Micro-credentials and the LTC

Here at the LTC, we are constantly working to stay on the forefront of professional learning in the education field. That’s why we’re currently working on a micro-credentialing program of our own that can serve the needs of Illinois’ PK-12 educators.

Our first micro-credential stack is nearly complete, with an anticipated launch in Spring 2021. This first stack will focus on remote learning and will cover the following topics:

  • Understanding Remote Learning
  • Teaching Digital Citizenship & Internet Safety 
  • Importance of Social-Emotional Learning during Remote Learning 
  • Designing Remote Learning Experiences
  • Managing Remote Learning Experiences
  • Supporting Special Needs in Remote Learning
  • Remote Feedback and Assessment

This remote learning stack’s components will last roughly 6 hours each and will feature equal amounts of synchronous and asynchronous learning. All elements of this stack are aligned to ISTE and Learning Forward standards and will offer opportunities for virtual coaching and feedback.

Currently, we are recruiting educators who would like to participate in a pilot edition of this remote learning micro-credential stack. If you are interested in participating and receiving full credit for this micro-credential, let us know by filling out this form.

Further Readings on Micro-credentials

Interested in learning more about micro-credentials and the research supporting their efficacy? Be sure to check out these further readings and research:

·  How Microcredentials Help Educators Develop New Tech Skills

·  Who’s Completing Microcredentials?

·  Micro-Credentials and Education Policy in the United States

·  Developing a Student-Centered Workforce through Micro-Credentials

Coming Soon – An All-New LTC Community Experience

This past year of remote and hybrid learning has taught Illinois’ edtech community a lot, including the necessity of collaboration. Working together with in-district teachers and support staff was always a given before. Now, though, collaboration can and must cross district boundaries and extend to every corner of the Prairie State.

In 2021, the Learning Technology Center (LTC) remains committed to fostering this kind of collaboration, especially between like-minded educators around our broad state.

That’s why we’re proud to announce a new home for productive collaboration and effective networking in Illinois’ edtech community – our redesigned online Community.

Soon, this new Community will offer a unified space for asking questions and offering advice to your peers, no matter what region you live in. With a redesigned user interface, this new Community will be easier to navigate and will offer users more options for subscribing to noteworthy discussion threads.

At the same time, our new Community will retain many of the best functions of our current online community. This includes the ability to post and comment via email. Also, many of our current topic-based sub-groups will make the transition to our new platform.

Currently, our team is hard at work putting the finishing touches on the new Community. We’ll have more exciting news about our new Community soon, including its upcoming launch date.

You won’t want to miss these important updates. To keep tabs on the latest about our new Community, subscribe to our newsletter and follow the LTC on social media (@ltcillinois on Facebook and Twitter).

Questions about our new Community? Email us at marketing@ltcillinois.org.


Frequently Asked Questions

When will the new LTC Community launch?

Currently, our team is hard at work preparing the new LTC Community for public access. Once we are ready to launch, we’ll let you know.

To stay on top of new Community updates, we recommend joining our current Community and signing up for our newsletter. You can also follow us on social media (@ltcillinois on Facebook and Twitter).

What discussion groups will the new Community offer?

Our new Community will feature many of the same discussion sub-groups that you’ve come to appreciate. In particular, platform-specific groups for Apple, Microsoft, and Google products will return in the new Community. Topic-specific groups for E-Rate, Computer Science, and Instructional Technology will also make the transition to the new platform.

If the new Community is coming soon, should I still join the current Community?

Absolutely! We want educators, administrators, and edtech leaders like you to make full use of our existing Community while we put the finishing touches on the new Community.

Our current Community remains one of the best places to ask questions and share knowledge about edtech integration. When the time comes, we will help current Community members smoothly transition to our new platform. Current Community members should keep an eye out for future communications regarding this simple transition process.

LTC Joins Google Cloud Partner Program

CHAMPAIGN, DECEMBER 15, 2020 — 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. These benefits will be leveraged to support the 85% of Illinois school districts that utilize Google products to support student learning and district operations. 

“We’re very excited to join Google as a new partner” says Tim McIlvain, LTC Executive Director, “We believe that this partnership is a reflection of the needs of Illinois schools and our work to support their staff and students.”

Nearly 50% of the LTC’s professional learning opportunities in 2019 focused on Google applications and related services. “We anticipate a continuation of this high demand,” McIlvain indicated, “A strong connection with Google will allow us to better meet this growing need among Illinois schools and districts.” 

As this new partnership begins, the LTC continues to offer routine professional learning opportunities on Google-related topics. To learn more about the LTC’s upcoming Google events, check out our Events calendar.  

The LTC also offers in-district learning opportunities on Google-related topics through its network of Regional Educational Technology Coordinators (RETCs). To learn more or to schedule a consultation, contact your region’s RETC.

About Learning Technology Center

The Learning Technology Center is an Illinois State Board of Education program that supports all public K-12 districts, schools, and educators through technology initiatives, services, and professional learning opportunities. To learn more, visit http://ltcillinois.org or follow us on social media (@ltcillinois on Twitter and Facebook). 

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.

ENROLL TODAY

Achieving SOPPA Compliance with Reasonable Security Practices

The Student Online Personal Protection Act (SOPPA) requires all Illinois public school districts to provide additional guarantees to protect student data privacy, effective July 1, 2021 (105 ILCS 85/15). Among the requirements, the act directs schools to implement and maintain reasonable security procedures and practices that meet or exceed industry standards.

In preparation for SOPPA’s effective date, the Learning Technology Center selected 43 security best practices that all districts should implement to comply with this new legislation. The practices align with CIS Controls, a globally recognized cybersecurity standard, and are vetted by numerous Illinois school district technology leaders.

Although the Illinois State Board of Education will issue additional guidance throughout the coming year, these 43 security practices can form the foundation of a strong district-wide security program, starting today.

View Reasonable Security Practices

E-rate Support for Additional Bandwidth

The FCC and USAC opened a new 471 Window to specifically address requests for financial assistance towards immediate increases in bandwidth for the current school year,  July 1, 2020 – June 30, 2021. Districts that find themselves in an immediate need for additional bandwidth due to remote learning needs as a result of COVID-19 are encouraged to take advantage of this funding opportunity. This opportunity is limited to district internet access as we are still awaiting federal action on requests for relief as it pertains to student home access for remote learning.

New Form 471s can be filed until October 16, 2020 and will be considered retroactive to the beginning of this funding year (service back to July 1, 2020). Districts are asked to provide documentation as a new contract in the EPC system. This process is outside of the 471 form.

A previously recorded step-by-step is available on our LTC youtube channel HERE. Interested districts must then file a new 471 Form requesting the additional bandwidth. Only Category 1 requests are eligible for this new window, and are intended to amend existing service requests.

Interested districts MUST include the following in the narrative of their new Funding Request:

  • Provide 471 number and FRN number of EXISTING service
  • Provide a narrative stating that an increase in bandwidth is necessary due to the impacts of COVID-19. (Providing more specific rationale of demand ie. increased devices, hybrid learning environments, increased use of video services etc. is also encouraged.)
  • Provide NEW additional service starting date (the first day of the month for new service) in the contract detail and FRN detail screens and in the narrative
  • Provide calculations of cost per Mbp for both EXISTING and NEW service. (example: $1000/month for 500Mb= $2/Mb) 

Please contact Digital Access Coordinator/ IL State E-rate Coordinator, Melinda Fiscus (mfiscus@ltcillinois.org) for assistance with the program.

IETC Merges with LTC

IETC (Illinois Education and Technology Conference) has a long history dating back almost 30 years. Every year, hundreds of teachers, administrators, and IT staff join together in Springfield, Illinois, to share ideas, connect with colleagues, and learn for state and national experts. As the conference chair for several years, it’s been my pleasure to lead and grow the conference in partnership with a dedicated committee that consistently surprises me with their innovative ideas and willingness to take risks.

On behalf of the IETC Committee and myself, I am excited to share that the Learning Technology Center is now the umbrella organization for the conference. Previously a stand-alone conference without a single organizational lead, IETC will join the LTC as part of our diverse professional learning offerings. We facilitate several conferences throughout the year, as well as over 500 workshops, webinars, online courses, and other learning opportunities, and IETC will take a place as one of our most prominent events to positively impact digital-age teaching, learning, and leadership in Illinois.

This change is significant, yet its impact is minor. Much will stay the same — the IETC Committee will continue to create innovative learning opportunities to learn and cultivate community during the conference. With the fullness of the LTC’s support, IETC will have an even greater potential to impact our education and technology leaders, as well as our students.

We know that the conference is more than just a three-day event. It represents connections with life-long colleagues, opportunities to grow professionally and personally, pathways to promote homegrown talent, and meaningful ways to give back to our education community and support our students. I am confident that together, IETC and the LTC will grow the conference and help share its value with many more educators, leaders, and IT staff for years to come.

Here’s the bright future.

Week in Review

It’s been a week and our staff was busy! Here’s a brief recap of where we’ve been spending our time:

EdTech Office Hours
We held 12 EdTech Office Hours where over 1,000 educators, administrators, and IT staff joined our meetings to talk about resources, best practices, and strategies.

Based on the success of this week, we are hosting EdTech Office Hours again. From March 30 to April 3, we will hold 15 hours of online conversations on a variety of topics ranging from remote learning in the content areas, special education, and technology coordinator resources.

Online Learning Resources
The LTC created a searchable database of online learning resources. Our plan is to focus on Illinois-specific and distance learning best practices and strategies. 

Consulting with Districts
We spent hundreds of hours working closely with districts, admins, IT staff, and teachers on a variety of topics related to remote learning: best practices in creating distance learning lessons, privacy concerns, resource identification, home access issues, learning management systems, tools and apps, etc. Districts can contact us via support@ltcillinois.org or contact us directly.

Resource Development
LTC staff have created the following resources:

Documents

Videos

Blogs & Podcasts