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

Intro

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. 

Navigating Copyright and Fair Use as an Educator

Copyright, fair use, public domain – these are all terms that may sound familiar to you as an educator. Even without a lot of training on the subject, most educators today know that these terms relate to how original works (including movies, music, books, and photos) are shared and distributed – or more specifically, who is allowed to share those works and in what context.

Along the same lines, it’s a common misconception that educators are broadly permitted to utilize copyrighted materials in the classroom, so long as their use is educational in nature. The truth, however, is more nuanced – especially as digital learning management systems (LMS) become more common in today’s schools.

As such, there’s never been a better time to brush up on key elements of US copyright law as it applies to educators and educational institutions. With this knowledge, you’ll be better able to ensure that you are staying within the letter of the law while also modeling legally-complainant practices for all of your students going forward.

Note: All information included in this guide is based upon publicly-available interpretations of current US copyright law. Examples and interpretations presented herein should not be taken as definitive or be construed as legal advice. Readers should always consult with their institution’s legal counsel when seeking further information on copyright issues.

Common Terms

Before getting too far in, it’s important to understand common terminology surrounding copyright and fair use. Here are just a few of the most important terms you, as an educator, need to know:

Copyright

Under US law, creators of all kinds are entitled to special protections when it comes to the distribution of their work. This is called “copyright” and in most cases, it extends throughout the life of the work’s creator plus an additional 70 years.

If the copyright is not renewed before that expiration date, the work enters what is called the “public domain” (see below). This includes works that are still regularly published. For example, on January 1, 2021, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s widely-taught classic The Great Gatsby entered the public domain.

Copyright does not apply to all published materials, however. Established facts, government documents, and some printed maps are not covered by copyright, for example. There are also some middle-ground cases where special care and attention should be paid. This includes newspaper reports, which are typically copyrighted by their publisher, even though facts presented in that story are not eligible for copyright protections.

Copyright Exceptions

At their core, copyrights exist to protect creators of original works while encouraging those same creators and others to similarly create more new works. These rights are not absolute, however, and several important exceptions exist. The most important, as it applies to schools and the educational process, is the educational exception.

In essence, US copyright law states that “teachers and students have certain rights to publicly display and perform copyrighted works in the classroom” (Section 110 of U.S. Copyright Law). These uses are considered “fair use” (see below), meaning that the participating students, teachers, or educational institution cannot be held liable for utilizing a copyrighted work in a manner that would ordinarily be illegal.

This educational exception also does not apply to all educational institutions. US copyright law specifically dictates that this exception applies only to nonprofit institutions (which is to say, most public schools).

Other Exceptions

Another noteworthy exception that may come into play in a school setting is the parody exception. This legal carveout allows individuals to substantively reuse key elements (such as the characters or plot) from a copyrighted work if they are parodying it. As a result, students may be allowed to utilize portions of copyrighted materials in their own work if they are analyzing that material in a comedic or critical manner.

In the US, this exception is also applied to certain kinds of transformative works. For example, fan-made fiction writing, or fanfiction for short, is legal in the US, even if it utilizes characters, plots, and other defining elements from a copyrighted work. Typically, though, this exception is only permissible if the fanfiction creator is not profiting off of their derivative work.

Fair Use

As stated in “Copyright Exceptions” above, US copyright law allows for several special cases in which a copyrighted work may be utilized or distributed for certain productive purposes (namely, education). As a whole, these exceptional uses are called “fair use.” This means that copyright permissions need not be sought in advance, so long as certain criteria for fair use are met.

Based upon established case law, here are the four factors that educators should take into account while striving to determine if their specific situation qualifies as “fair use”:

Fair use criteriaApplicable situation
1.Purpose and character of useCommercial purposes are rarely considered fair use, while educational uses are more likely to be viewed as fair use. All educational uses are not fair use by default, however.
2.Nature of the copyrighted workFactual works (such as a government report) are more likely to obtain fair use clearance compared to a creative or artistic work (such as a novel or piece of music).
3.Amount and significance of the portion used (in relation to the entire work)Smaller, purposely-selected portions of a copyrighted work are more likely to be considered fair use compared to larger, broader selections of the same work.
4.Effect of use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work Limiting physical distribution of a copyrighted work to a non-market audience (such as a class of students) is more likely to be treated as fair use compared to posting the same resource online.

Fair use standards are intentionally broad and flexible. As a result, both students and teachers should always err on the side of caution if they believe their use of a resource would not qualify as fair use.

Public Domain

Under US law, a work in the “public domain” is any work that is not covered by any legal means of intellectual property protection, including copyright, trademark, or patent laws. As a result, the general public is said to “own” these works, rather than a specific creator or author. In turn, the public is allowed to use, distribute, adapt, and transform these works without needing to ask explicit permission from the owner.

There are four common ways a work can enter the public domain:

  • Copyright expiration (see “Copyright” above)
  • Failure to renew copyright
  • Deliberate release into the public domain (or in other words, forgoing copyright)
  • Creating a work that is not eligible for copyright (or other intellectual property protection) from the onset

Well-known examples of current public domain works include:

  • All of William Shakespeare’s sonnets and plays
  • NASA photos (and all other documents produced by the US government and its constituent agencies)
  • The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  • Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe
  • The Bible
  • The Star-Spangled Banner (both the lyrics and the music)

Creative Commons

While searching through publicly-available education resources (particularly online), you may run into a fairly new term – Creative Commons. “Creative Commons” is an innovative type of licensing that allows an individual to specify how they’ll permit others to use their creative works. In the process, the creator does not give up their inherent copyright; instead, they refine it using a widely-recognized licensing system that is honored both professionally and legally.

Creative Commons licenses are readily available for free through the Creative Commons organization. When registering a Creative Commons license with them, individuals (including educators) can require any or all of the following criteria when others utilize or share their original work:

  • Attribution – Requires those who share or utilize the work to give explicit credit to the creator
  • ShareAlike – Requires those who share or utilize the work to apply the same licensing criteria to their derivative work
  • Non-Commercial – Prevents those utilizing or sharing a licensed work from doing so for commercial purposes. In other words, they cannot profit from any work that utilizes the licensed work in whole or part

Recommendations for Sharing with Students

Within the education sphere, educators are most likely to run into questions about copyright and fair use when it comes to sharing materials with their students. Though legal consequences for copyright infractions are not likely, it is still important for teachers to keep copyright best practices in mind, whether they are sharing a single copy or many, both online and in print.

Accordingly, here are a few recommendations that teachers of all grade levels and subject areas can use to keep them on the right track toward certifiable fair use:

When Making Multiple Copies

When making multiple print or digital copies of an article, book chapter, or other print segment for educational use, always ensure that there is a clear connection between the chosen text segment and your stated pedagogical purposes. This can often be done during the lesson-planning process.

Next, always ensure that your chosen text segment is only as long as necessary as your pedagogical goals require. In other words, make sure that your segment is tailored such that it focuses only on the parts you need to communicate your lesson goals.

When pertinent, include a full list of attributions on each copy of the copyrighted work. This list should, to a reasonable extent, be scholarly satisfactory for the level you are teaching.

Finally, when sharing a copyrighted resource online, always limit access to that online resource as much as possible. For example, you can either limit access only to classroom members or make the resource inaccessible to anyone after the conclusion of the relevant course. In either case, your institution’s LMS can provide system-level options for adhering to this particular recommendation.

Recommendations for Sharing with Peers and Colleagues

Within professional learning networks and in the education community at large, it is common and accepted that educators share resources with one another – often at no cost. However, even if a fellow educator isn’t requiring you to pay for the use of their lesson plans or teaching material, it is still a best practice to include attributions in your records. That way, if your lesson plan is shared with your peers, they’ll know where the original idea came from.

When Making a Single Copy

Teachers are generally permitted to make single copies of larger copyrighted works, so long as it is for their exclusive educational use. For example, chapters from a book, charts or diagrams from a periodical, and short stories and poems may be copied for fair use teaching purposes.

However, so-called “consumable” works – including workbooks and standardized tests – may not be copied in this manner. Instead, teachers who wish to reuse these resources must obtain new copies each time they wish to utilize them.

Utilizing Cooperative Resource Marketplaces and Platforms

Today, many teachers utilize education resource marketplaces, such as Teachers Pay Teachers. These platforms allow educators to exchange instructional materials and access ready-made digital tools for a reasonable price, both for buyers and sellers. As a result, these platforms are a great place for teachers to find innovative lesson materials that build on the work of their peers across the country and the world.

However, teachers should be fully aware that copyright laws still apply when buying and selling on this type of platform – despite the fact that it is set within the education sphere. In fact, because these platforms allow individuals to profit from what they share, users must take special care to only share materials which they have wholly created or to provide proper attribution to other creators whose work was referenced or derived in their own work.

Often, educators on these platforms utilize Creative Commons licensing, which encourages broader collaboration and dissemination of creative works. If you sell materials on these platforms that utilize a Creative Commons license, you must be sure to follow said license’s specific criteria (particularly if it forbids commercial use of the original work).

Along the same lines, educators who utilize resources from these online marketplaces should not claim the copyrighted material as their own – even if changes or modifications are made. Always ensure that the original creator’s name remains affixed to the resource, including all lesson plans or lesson materials. That way, if one of your peers in your department wishes to utilize those plans or materials, the original creator will still receive their due credit.

To learn more about how Teachers Pay Teachers handles copyright and trademark issues, visit their policies page.

New and Forthcoming Copyright Considerations

Even before the switch to wide-spread digital learning in early 2020, many schools were already laying the groundwork for online learning through the implementation of a learning management system (LMS). Now that LMS use is becoming commonplace, schools and educators must take into account current laws pertaining to digital distribution of copyrighted materials.

Namely, educators should familiarize themselves with the TEACH Act, a piece of federal legislation passed in 2002. This law makes special provisions for the limited use of copyrighted works during online and distance learning. However, fair use standards in this context differ from their traditional counterparts.

If you’re interested in learning more about the TEACH Act and its implications for sharing copyrighted materials on your institution’s LMS, check out this concise resource from the University of California.

The Bottom Line on Copyright and Fair Use

At the end of the day, copyright and fair use may not be a front-of-mind issue for all educators. Even so, it is important that you know and understand these laws to prevent you or your institution from being placed in legal peril.

At the same time, adhering to copyright law is the ethical thing to do, regardless of whether or not you think you will get caught. In many ways, your choice to actively follow copyright laws can help model similarly ethical behaviors for your students, especially when it comes to citing their work. In turn, these behaviors can help your students flourish into productive digital citizens who respect the rights of creators and seek out those same protections for their own original work.

Resources and Further Reading

There’s even more to learn about navigating copyright and fair use in the education sphere. Here are more resources to further your understanding of this important topic:

Common Sense Education – Creativity, Copyright and Fair Use

University of California – Copyright in the Classroom

Connect Safely – The Educator’s Guide to Creativity & Copyright

Edutopia – A Teacher’s Guide to Copyright and Fair Use

American Library Association Fair Use Evaluator

An Introduction to the Structure and Procedure of Creative Commons

Creative Commons – License Types, Purposes, and Provisions

A Special Thank You

A special “thank you” to Renee Bogacz (@mrsbogacz) of Channahon School District 17 for her contributions to this guide. Her insights ensured that this guide’s recommendations and terminology were well-aligned to the needs and views of today’s educators.

Prioritizing your Mental Health with Summer Self-Care

Pause for a moment. Take a breath. You’ve made it to the end of a school year unlike any before. You’ve dealt with new developments, mastered new technologies, and likely found your students to be more resilient than you’ve ever imagined. You deserve this summer to rest, recover, and find new ways to further your craft as a valued educator.

As you start down that path, take some time for a mental health check-in. Ask yourself: how am I doing? What do I need right now? Am I feeling more anxious, stressed, or depressed after this whirlwind school year?

No matter how you are feeling, as an educator and as a person, this summer is a perfect opportunity to establish new self-care routines that can help bolster your mental health. That way, as you move into the next school year, you can practice a variety of productive habits that can keep you feeling mentally balanced, both in the classroom and at home.

Self-Care Essentials

Self-care is often touted as the first step toward a healthier mental benchmark. But for all the press about “self-care” in general, many educators still struggle to find a form of self-care that helps them navigate their personal and professional life with confidence. Some may not even know what qualifies as “self-care” in the first place, especially on a busy educator’s schedule.

In essence, “self-care” is any habit or activity that allows you to take time for yourself and feel present in your own feelings. Self-care allows you to step aside from the cares and concerns of your busy life and turn inward, where you can reflect on the joys and hardships in your life.

As a result, self-care can take on many forms, depending on what you find relaxing and rejuvenating.  For some folks, that means exercising regularly. For others, that means meditating while listening to relaxing music. As long as you can point to it and say “this time is just for me,” then it qualifies as self-care.

Going Solo

That leads to another important aspect of certifiable self-care – it should ideally be done solo. That’s not to say that you can’t speak with or do activities with other people to help you rest and recharge; communal activities and therapy can be beneficial for mental health in their own way. But when it comes to effective self-care, practicing solo can help free you from distractions that might otherwise cloud your capacity to feel truly grateful or self-reflective.

The Benefits of Self-Care

Self-care comes with numerous benefits as well, especially if it is practiced routinely. Many folks report being able to manage anxiety, stress, and depression through self-care while also finding space to process their previously unrecognized positive emotions. The American Psychological Association has also noted the increased focus, stress reduction, and increased mental flexibility that can derive from mindfulness practices like self-care.

Though results may vary from person to person, self-care can play an important and reliable role in living a balanced, productive life – both personally and professionally.

Self-Care – Myth vs. Reality

When it comes to practicing self-care, there are some prevalent misconceptions that can prevent educators in particular from fully embracing this beneficial mental health exercise. Consider the following as you begin down your self-care journey:

Myth: I don’t have time for self-care! I’m too busy!

There’s no question that today’s educators are overburdened with responsibilities. But no matter how much you have on your plate, there’s always time for self-care. Even if it means waking up a little earlier to meditate or giving yourself a quick breather during your planning period, self-care can become accessible to everyone. In fact, if you feel that you are too busy from sun up to sun down, that might be a sign that you need some self-care time all the more.

Also, it’s important to remember that self-care cannot simply be added to an already full plate. You need to make space for self-care and value it like it is a priority in order to make it a muscle memory. That may mean re-prioritizing some other tasks or cutting out activities that don’t benefit your mental health. However you accomplish it, be sure to be intentional so that these new self-care activities can become active habits as soon as possible.

Myth: Self-care time is lazy. I need to be productive all day!

Many educators are well-trained towards persistent productivity. Some even think about breaks and rest as something that needs to be “earned” through continuous work.

But the truth is, we cannot be truly productive and happy if we do not make time to rest and recuperate. Self-care can provide that break in the day, even if it is only for a few minutes. In that way, rest and self-care can be catalysts for your productivity, rather than the other way around. 

Myth: I’ve tried self-care time before, but I don’t think it’s for me

Self-care is for everyone because everyone needs to value their mental health. Chances are, you’ve tried one form of self-care or another and found that it didn’t meet your needs or your schedule. That’s perfectly okay because you get to decide what “self-care” means in the context of your life. So, if meditation or daily journaling aren’t for you, then maybe meal preparation or writing thank-you notes will be. Always be willing to try new things as you chart out the self-care habits and routines that are right for you. 

A Summer to Recover

For many educators, summer is a time to relax and catch up on things missed in the hustle and bustle of the school year. Without question, that break is well-earned. But the summer is also an excellent opportunity for educators to take a step forward towards more positive mental health, starting with the creation of a new self-care routine.

A self-care routine, at its most basic level, is a collection of self-care habits or practices that can help maximize your ability to rest, recover, and reflect on your present emotions. For many people, a self-care routine can be an effective way to set aside time for themselves in a convenient manner, whether that’s in the morning, evening, or somewhere in between.

To that end, summer can be a great time to form a self-care routine because most educators have more unstructured time while school is not in session. This allows you to be more intentional with your habit-forming practices and less rushed when it comes to reflecting on your emotions. This, in turn, can help solidify that routine in your day-to-day schedule and ensure that your self-care foundation is solid going forward.

Here are a few self-care practices you can use to build a routine that works for you:

  • Daily journaling
  • Yoga or other purposeful exercise regimen
  • Meditation (on your own or with an app)
  • Drinking a healthy amount of water over the course of the day
  • Establish a skin care regime
  • Turn off or avoid electronics for X amount of time
  • Avoid checking work email or other work communication for X amount of time
  • Recite personal positive affirmations
  • Go for a walk or hike in a park or out in nature
  • Hand-write a few thank you notes
  • Participate in a round of Roses, Thorns, and Buds on your own
  • Buy and read a book that is NOT about teaching
  • Cook your favorite meal
  • Listen to your favorite music and dance
  • Declutter a space in your home
  • Stretch in the morning and before bed
  • Pick up a new hobby
  • Sleep in
  • Meal prep

Don’t forget – self-care looks different for everyone. When it comes to creating your own self-care routine, start out simple and build in components that help you feel nourished mentally while also feeling more self-aware. So long as you are setting aside time just for yourself, you are on the right path toward practicing effective self-care.

A New Habit for a New School Year

Over the course of the summer, you may find that your new self-care routine can really go a long way towards supporting and balancing your mental health. But once the new school year begins to creep up in August, you may be concerned that your self-care routine will fall by the wayside between lesson planning, grading, and other teacherly duties.

Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to carve out time for self-care, even on a structured teacher’s schedule. As before, you’ll need to evaluate your schedule and set aside time each day (or as often as possible) to enjoy at least one of your preferred self-care habits. That way, you’re still enjoying the benefits of self-care without needing to worry about daily time management. But remember – time spent on self-care is always worth it because you are worth it.

Along the way, you may find yourself hitting a few bumps in the road when it comes to making time for self-care. That’s okay, as long as you are committed to getting back on the path toward making self-care part of your every day. Always treat yourself with grace and know that your efforts toward caring for your own mental health are intrinsically beneficial to your overall well-being.

Also, it’s important to know that self-care is one great way to deal with and manage burnout. Each school year is long and can take a lot out of an educator, so it’s important to practice self-care to prevent your work life from becoming too overwhelming and impacting your mental health in turn. Even a bit of self-care can go a long way on this front, so consider making it a habit once the fall semester rolls around. 

Be Aware and Be Intentional

At the end of the day, self-care is all about you and making time for yourself to breath, reflect, and experience joy in your day-to-day life. For educators, self-care is critical because of the unique stresses surrounding the profession. As a result, self-care can be one way to keep an eye on your mental health as the months roll on, making it easier to identify both positive and negative emotions along the way.

Whether you’re starting this summer or looking to add new self-care habits for the next school year, always remember to be intentional and aware while you practice self-care. That way, you can always keep a close eye on one of your most valuable assets – your mental health – while striving to add even more purpose into your daily life. 

Mental Health Resources and Further Readings

As you begin to think more about the role self-care can play in your personal and professional life, consider checking out some of these resources for more valuable tips and tricks for making this practice a part of your daily routine:

Why It’s So Hard for Teachers to Take Care of Themsealves (and 4 Ways to Start)

5 Strategies for Teacher Self-Care

9 Self-Care Tips for Teachers

Mindfulness for Educators

Educating Mindfully

6 Ways to Easily Bring Mindfulness into the Classroom

LTC Receives State Achievement Award from SETDA

June 16, 2021 (Champaign, IL) – The Learning Technology Center of Illinois (LTC) is proud to announce that it has been awarded the State Achievement Award for Professional Learning by the State Educational Technology Directors Association (SETDA). This award recognizes the LTC’s ongoing efforts to serve all Illinois schools and educators as part of its Professional Learning Statewide System of Support.

SETDA’s State Achievement Awards, which were presented during the 2021 SETDA Emerging Trends Forum on June 15, 2021, celebrate and recognize the impact of significant edtech programs and projects while also offering proven frameworks that other leaders can utilize to effect positive change in their states.

“Our team continually seeks new opportunities to bring timely professional learning to educators, administrators, and IT leaders across our state,” says Tim McIlvain, LTC Executive Director. “This year, the LTC has facilitated 750+ events on relevant and high-need topics and supported over 24,000 participants through this work.”

The LTC’s professional learning support system includes numerous options designed to meet the evolving needs of today’s educators and educational institutions. Current event options include in-person and online networking meetings, regional and state workshops, webinars, online courses, in-district events, micro-credentials, administrator academies, and conferences.

To facilitate these programs, the LTC maintains a team of regional coordinators and statewide content experts that provide professional learning on a variety of topics – including remote education, digital learning, technology integration, leadership, and more. Together, they craft high-impact learning opportunities that address short and long-term needs while also advocating for effective instructional, assessment, and curricular practices.

“We’re grateful to SETDA for this recognition,” McIlvain added. “It reflects the vision, talent, and dedication of our staff and their drive to help Illinois students reach their full potential.”

About the 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 as they strive to maximize their use and access to educational technology. Through affordable technology initiatives, services, and professional learning opportunities, the LTC aims to grow Illinois’ edtech integration and improve educational opportunities for all Illinois students.

To learn more, visit us at our website or follow us on social media (@ltcillinois on Twitter and Facebook). 

About SETDA

The State Educational Technology Directors Association (SETDA) is the principal association representing U.S. state and territorial educational technology and digital learning leaders. Through a broad array of programs and advocacy, SETDA builds member capacity and engages partners to empower the education community in leveraging technology for learning, teaching, and school operations.

For more information about SETDA, visit their website or follow them on Twitter.

NOW OPEN – IETC 2021 Early Bird Registration!

The future of edtech is here. Now’s your chance to harness technology’s renewed classroom potential by learning from and networking with your peers at IETC 2021!

Registration for the 28th annual Illinois Education and Technology Conference (IETC) is now open, offering educators across the Midwest an opportunity to gather together and share their insights about the latest digital tools, trends, and integration practices. With a fresh, hybrid experience, this year’s conference promises to be among the most memorable and impactful yet.

As our community returns to in-person opportunities to learn and fellowship together, this is one edtech conference you won’t want to miss. Register for IETC 2021 today and get ready to learn, explore, and connect like never before!

Building the New Normal of EdTech

For nearly three decades, IETC has been at the center of conversations surrounding technology integration strategies, engaging instructional practices, digital tools and resources, and other emerging edtech trends. This year’s conference promises to maintain that tradition while also helping educators chart a course for the new normal of edtech integration.

IETC is also a rich environment for sharing diverse perspectives from across the education spectrum. As such, all educators – including teachers, administrators, technology coaches, and more – are encouraged to attend and join with their peers as they expand their professional horizons. 

A Hybrid Model to Serve All Educators

For the first time ever, this year’s IETC will be a hybrid experience, with both in-person and virtual components. Educators from around the state will be able to attend this acclaimed conference on site in Springfield or from home while still participating in the insightful sessions and workshops IETC is known for.

New Attendance Options

To coincide with this year’s hybrid model, IETC 2021 will also offer two different attendance options geared toward the needs of our expansive edtech community.

First, as in previous years, Midwest educators will have the option of attending IETC in-person at our conference home in Springfield, Illinois. There, attendees will have an opportunity to converse with peers, attend an assortment of special topic workshops, and take in the live conference atmosphere that many educators have missed.

At the same time, prospective IETC attendees can also choose to take part in this conference virtually. That means you’ll be able to tune into a wide assortment of sessions and panels on your own schedule – including this year’s exciting and enlightening key note sessions! Virtual attendees will also gain access to all of the presentations and slide decks from this year’s conference, making it easier than ever to maximize your professional learning potential at an affordable price.

Experience #IETC2021!

Without question, IETC is the best place in the Midwest to learn about both the present and future of educational technology. We want you to be a part of this formative edtech experience, too, so register for IETC 2021 today! Whether you attend virtually or in person, you’re sure to walk away with a new perspective on what edtech can do to enhance your educational capabilities.

Questions? Visit our conference website for more information on what it means to attend a hybrid conference. You can also email your questions to events@ltcillinois.org.

Keep Up with the Latest from IETC 2021

Stay up to date on everything IETC – both leading up to and during the conference. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram or sign up for our newsletter. That way, you can be the first to hear every IETC 2021 updates – including our upcoming schedule announcement!

What Teachers Need to Know about SOPPA

Author’s Note: The content for this post was adapted from “SOPPA for Teachers: How to Be a Partner in Protecting Student Data,” a webinar presented by the LTC’s Brian Bates on March 3, 2021. You can view the entire webinar for free on-demand here.

Even as the 20-21 school year comes to a close, data privacy and cybersecurity are on the minds of district administrators and IT leaders around Illinois. That’s because this summer, new amendments to the Student Online Privacy and Protection Act (SOPPA) will come into force. At that time, districts will be required to maintain a standards-based system for protecting student data when it is shared with or collected by outside service providers.

This effort has left some educators asking: what role do teachers play in supporting a district’s SOPPA compliance? As it turns out, teachers play an important role in identifying when and to what extent an app or piece of software collects student data.

This guide will help familiarize teachers of all grade levels and content areas with SOPPA, as well as a few actionable steps they can take to help their district attain SOPPA compliance.

What is SOPPA?

In short, the Student Online Privacy and Protection Act (SOPPA) is a set of legislative requirements instituted by the State of Illinois for the purpose of creating and maintaining statewide standards for the maintenance and collection of student data. To that end, SOPPA requires schools to only collect data for demonstrably educational purposes, and to disclose publicly when data breaches occur.

Recently, new amendments have been made to SOPPA, which go into effect on July 1, 2021. These amendments, among other things, require districts to create records whenever personally identifiable information (PII) is collected by an app or other piece of software – regardless of if that app is free, paid, or even intended for educational use.

Several examples of common PII collected by digital service providers include:

·  First and last name

·  Email address

·  Home Address

·  Phone number

·  Grades

·  Socioeconomic status

·  Test results

·  Photos

·  Medical records

Agreements and Service Providers

To ensure that all digital service providers are abiding by Illinois’ new standards, districts must enter into written, signed agreements attesting to the ways providers collect and maintain these types of data. In particular, these agreements must forbid service providers from utilizing student data for the following purposes:

·  Serving targeted ads

·  Profiling students (except for certifiable educational uses)

·  Selling or renting data

·  Disclosing data publicly (except in limited circumstances, including when complying with law enforcement)

These SOPPA-compliant student data privacy agreements must also compel service providers to do the following:

·  Utilize reasonable security practices in the maintenance of student PII

·  Delete data when requested

·  Publicly publish and display their terms of service and privacy policy

Finally, SOPPA requires districts to perform due diligence practices when it comes to their signed data privacy agreements and data breaches. To that end, all Illinois districts will be required by SOPPA to publicly list and display all data privacy agreements that they have entered into. They will also be required to publicly disclose any data breaches to parents and caregivers within 30 days of the breach’s detection. 

How does this affect me as a teacher?

As you can already tell, SOPPA primarily concerns school districts and the digital service providers they utilize. However, teachers are also impacted by SOPPA, most noticeably when it comes to the digital tools, apps, and platforms they utilize in the classroom on a daily basis. As a result, you may be asked to take part in your district’s SOPPA compliance procedures

For example, you may be asked to compile a list of digital tools, apps, and platforms you currently use to teach lessons and engage students. Moreover, you may be required to submit a similar list on a regular basis going forward to ensure that your district has a written agreement with that software’s publishers.

Along the same lines, you may be asked to participate in a new app and software vetting process set up by your district. These will vary from district to district, but such a process usually provides the district an opportunity to pre-clear certain apps and software in an expedient and efficient manner.

If an app does not clear that vetting process, however, you may not be able to use it in your classroom. Your district may, in turn, ask you to find an alternative that is willing to meet the state’s student data privacy requirements.

What can I do now?

When it comes to fulfilling your role in your district’s SOPPA compliance plan, your first action step should be to speak with your building or district administrators. They can provide you insights as to what you, as a teacher, need to do in the near-term. They can also point you to your district’s SOPPA compliance officer, who may help you further organize your personal plans for SOPPA compliance.

If you haven’t already, it is recommended that you create a list of all of the digital apps, software, and platforms you utilize in your classroom. That way, when you are asked to provide such a list to your administrators, your list is ready to go.

You may also consider familiarizing yourself with your specific district’s SOPPA plans. You may have other obligations or duties under your district’s plans, so it is best to defer to it when in doubt about what you can do to support SOPPA compliance.

SOPPA Resources for All Educators

If you’re looking to learn more about SOPPA and its requirements, the LTC has you covered. Check out these following resources for an in-depth look at what Illinois schools will be required to do come July 1, 2021:

·  Legislative Brief on SOPPA

·  SOPPA Introduction Video

·  Implementing SOPPA Frequently Asked Questions

·  Recommended Reasonable Security Practices

·  SOPPA Support through the Illinois Student Privacy Consortium (ISPA)

You can also check out the LTC’s Data Privacy hub for new and updated resources relating to SOPPA.

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

In March 2021, Congress passed the American Rescue Plan, which included a $7.1 billion appropriation geared toward closing the digital divide and helping school districts and libraries across the US upgrade their internet access capabilities. This initiative, termed the Emergency Connectivity Fund (ECF), can be utilized by eligible institutions to obtain (among other options) laptops, tablets, Wi-Fi hotspots, and broadband internet for students and staff that are unable to participate in remote learning.

In a May 11, 2021, press release, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announced a finalized rule set for the administration of the ECF. Within the next few months an application process and timeline will be released from USAC, the managing partner for this program. As such, districts may now begin planning how they will apply for these funds during the upcoming application window.

If your school or district is interested in taking advantage of the ECF’s available funds, then read on to learn about which institutions are eligible as well as how ECF funds may be spent. With this information in mind, you’ll be better prepared to apply for ECF funding in the near-term.

Note: All information and interpretations disseminated in this article are current as of mid-May 2021. ECF rules and limitations are subject to change at the FCC’s discretion. For the latest, always refer to the FCC website.

What is the Emergency Connectivity Fund?

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic starting in early 2020, the US federal government already identified a growing digital divide in schools and districts across the country. However, the pandemic greatly exasperated these issues, especially in districts with poor internet connectivity infrastructure and aging digital learning hardware.

In an effort to close that gap and help districts digitally prepare for the 21-22 school year and beyond, Congress appropriated $7.1 billion within the larger $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan stimulus package to the FCC for distribution to eligible schools and libraries across the US. The FCC, in turn, has decided to distribute these funds – termed the Emergency Connectivity Fund (ECF) – through a process similar to their  E-Rate application system, and to place the Universal Service Administration Company (USAC) in charge of administering this special round of funding.

Who is Eligible?

In general, entities that are eligible to apply for and receive E-Rate funding are also eligible to apply for and receive ECF funds. That being said, eligible schools and libraries do not need to be presently participating in the E-Rate program to apply for ECF funding.

Also, unique to this round of funding, ECF funds can be directed to some non-traditional institutions where education is being presently facilitated. This includes churches and community centers. Along the same lines, wireless services for school buses and “bookmobiles” may also be purchased through this program, particularly for communities that lack adequate access to wireless internet in homes and other community center institutions. These non-traditional entities and requests will need to work with school districts in order to request services.

Finally, students, staff, and library patrons who lack sufficient internet access or access to an internet-connected device are eligible under the ECF. In all cases, internet access obtained through this program must be used primarily for facilitating learning activities, such as through a school’s remote or hybrid learning plan.

How Do I Apply?

To lower the barrier for obtaining ECF funds, the FCC has opted to utilize a revised E-Rate application process for this special round of funding. As such, eligible institutions will be able to apply online using the E-Rate EPC Portal. These institutions will also utilize familiar E-Rate forms in the application process. 

The program will likely consist of at least two rounds of funding, with the first round covering forthcoming expenses covering July 1, 2021 through June 30, 2022. The second round of funding will cover reimbursement of expenses that districts made since the beginning of the pandemic, March 2020 through June of 2021.

A precise date for this application process will be announced by the FCC soon. The traditional E-Rate process requires a specific procurement process. However, no extra or supplemental competitive bidding requirements will be imposed on ECF applications, though state and local bidding requirements may still apply. Therefore districts can move forward with requesting bids through their own district process at this time.

Additional rules and regulations relating to applying for ECF funds have also been set forth by the FCC. The full details of those rules can be found in the full ECF order documentation

What Can These Funds be Applied to?

Under the FCC’s newly-released rules, ECF funds can only be applied to several different categories of hardware and services. These items must support home or community partner access to support remote learning. For example, ECF funds may be used to pay for or reimburse purchases of:

  • Laptops
  • Tablets
  • Wi-Fi hotspots
  • Internet modems
  • Internet routers
  • Any additional equipment (including cords and chargers) needed to operate and maintain the above hardware

ECF funds may also be applied toward obtaining and maintaining any of the following services (in most cases):

  • DSL internet
  • Cable internet
  • Leased lit fiber internet
  • Wireless internet (including mobile, satellite, microwave, and fixed wireless)

Additionally, any fees associated with the installation, activation, or configuration of the above devices and services (as well as taxes, shipping costs, and other reasonable fees) may be reimbursed through the ECF. As such, participants are encouraged to keep documentation of all costs associated with their digital hardware and service purchases during the eligibility period and maximize their utilization of available funds wherever possible.

Also, as it applies to the above hardware and services, anything purchased or reimbursed through the ECF must be used primarily for educational purchases. Moreover, schools and libraries looking to purchase new devices or services through the ECF are required to restrict access to those new devices and services to only students, school staff, and library patrons with a demonstrated educational need.

Limitations on the number of devices per student and the number of new internet hook-ups per location have also been set forth by the FCC. More details on these limitations – including relevant price caps – can be found in the FCC order documentation.

Supporting your Ongoing E-Rate Needs

The Learning Technology Center (LTC) is ready and willing to help your school district take advantage of all new and annual federal funding geared toward supporting home connectivity, digital learning, and more. Our annual E-Rate application tour, for example, can help schools obtain funds for supporting their digital education infrastructure – including both hardware and internet services.

Also, over the next several weeks, I’ll be hosting several webinars focused on both the ECF and the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program (EBB). Tune into these live sessions on May 20, May 26, and June 3 to learn more about how these programs can serve your district’s emergent remote learning needs.

Miss these webinars? No problem! Full recordings of each session can be found over on our ECF & EBB hub (coming soon). 

As the LTC’s Digital Access Coordinator, I can also answer your questions about the Emergency Connectivity Fund and any other state or federal funding program. Contact me, Mindy Fiscus, at mfiscus@ltcillinois.org to learn more about what the LTC can do to support your institution’s short- and long-term funding acquisition goals. 

Stay Connected to the Latest Federal Funding and Connectivity Updates

As more details about the ECF are released, the LTC will endeavor to share updates with Illinois schools and districts. To keep up with the latest, check out the LTC’s Connectivity and E-Rate hub or follow the LTC on Facebook and Twitter. You can also find detailed federal and state funding updates from me on the LTC Community.

Emergency Broadband Benefit Program – What You Need to Know

In an April 29, 2021 press release, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announced the start of a new program geared toward boosting at-home internet connectivity for thousands of households nationwide. This program – the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program – will accomplish this by providing funds to offset the monthly cost of obtaining broadband access through any of several approved providers.

Although this program is not dedicated specifically to educational purposes, it could dramatically assist districts with their efforts to increase student home connectivity. District leaders should take note of this program’s opportunity and make plans to take advantage of its available funds once it opens on May 12, 2021.

Emergency Broadband Benefit Program – What is It?

At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in early 2020, the US already faced a significant divide when it came to at-home internet connectivity. This divide became even more apparent as workplaces and schools became fully reliant on at-home internet connections to facilitate learning and labor alike.

Now a full year on, the FCC is taking steps to close that divide by opening the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program. This program will offer qualifying participants $50 off their monthly broadband internet bill. Participants will also have an opportunity to apply for other special benefits, including a one-time discount of up to $100 on a computer or tablet for household use.

As a general FCC program, these opportunities are not open exclusively to educational institutions or homes with students. However, educational institutions and their families may still choose to seek out support through this program in order to improve at-home remote and digital learning activities.

Who is Eligible?

Presently, the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program is open to households that qualify for benefits under other low-income and pandemic relief programs offered by the FCC and the federal government at large. This includes households with:

  • Lifeline participants
  • Medicaid beneficiaries
  • SNAP beneficiaries
  • Kids receiving or who are eligible for free and reduced-price lunch or school breakfast
  • Pell grant recipients
  • Individuals who have lost a job or experienced reduced income over the past year 

How do I Sign Up? When Can I Sign Up?

The FCC is opening registration for the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program on May 12, 2021. At that time, those interested in participating in the program should contact an internet service provider in their state and ask if they can directly enroll through the provider. A list of qualifying broadband service providers in Illinois can be found here.

Alternatively, those wishing to participate in this program can learn more about the application process at https://getemergencybroadband.org. There, you can find an online and paper application for submission without going through a service provider.

Ready to Support Your Funding Acquisition Goals 

The Learning Technology Center (LTC) is ready and willing to help your school district take advantage of any new federal funding geared toward supporting home connectivity, digital learning, and more. Our annual E-Rate application tour, for example, can help schools obtain funds for supporting their digital education infrastructure – including both hardware and internet services.

As the LTC’s Digital Access Coordinator, I can also answer your questions about the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program and any other state or federal funding program. Contact me, Mindy Fiscus, at (618) 544-2719 or mfiscus@ltcillinois.org to learn more about what the LTC can do to support your institution’s short- and long-term funding acquisition goals. 

Stay Connected to the Latest Federal Funding and Connectivity Updates

In the coming weeks, the FCC is also expected to announce application procedures for acquiring a new round of E-Rate funding that was included in the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (CARES 3). To keep up with the latest, check for regular updates on the LTC’s Connectivity and E-Rate hub or follow the LTC on Facebook and Twitter. You can also find detailed federal and state funding updates from me on the LTC Community.