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.

2020 Words That Will Never Be The Same

2020 has brought a lot of unexpected changes, from the way we learn to the way we speak. Words like “meet,” “synchronous,” and even “zoom” have taken on new meanings this year, making it hard to remember a time before we used sentences like “We are meeting for a synchronous class over Zoom” on a regular basis.

To help you look back on this “unprecedented” year, our team has rounded up some of the words used most by remote learners and educators alike.

Click through the slide deck below to see what words have become commonplace in the education community during 2020:

This collection was created by the LTC’s Colleen Kaplan and Holly Kelly.

Colleen Kaplan (@cmostyn) is the Remote Learning Outreach Specialist at the Learning Technology Center. She can be reached at ckaplan@ltcillinois.org.

Holly Kelly is a Regional Educational Technology Coordinator with the Learning Technology Center. She can be reached at hkelly@ltcillinois.org.

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

Over the past several years, certifications have become an increasingly popular option for professional learning in the education field. Everyone from teachers and administrators to tech coaches and support staff can acquire new knowledge and expertise through certifications – often without even needing to leave home or sit through an in-service day.

For many educators, certifications also serve as a great motivator when it comes to perfecting their craft. Many certifications offer a badge or other micro-credential that can be proudly displayed upon completion. Just like a shiny gold star for a student, these small, but noteworthy awards can help provide recognition for professionals that continuously strive for success.

The LTC wants to make the best credentials available to Illinois’ education community. To accomplish that goal, our team has scoured the internet and created this list of certifications, badges, and micro-credentials geared towards educators, administrators, support staff, and more.

To make it easy to find a certification that interests you, we’ve divided this list into several broad categories. Each certification includes a description with links to further information so that you can start your self-paced professional learning journey without any hassle.

Here are just a few of the most popular certifications you can choose from:

To check out our new certifications collection, click here.

You can also access the Education Certification Collection at any time. Simply check the “Resources” dropdown menu above and click on “Education Certifications.”

You can also share the above graphic with your peers on social media. Click here for the full image.

Know a certification that we missed?  Email hkelly@ltcillinois.org and let us know!

“That’s a wrap!” – Highlights from IETC 2020

The 27th annual Illinois Education and Technology Conference (IETC) wrapped up on Saturday, November 21. This year marked the conference’s first venture into the virtual realm, with all sessions, workshops, and networking held online through HopIn, a virtual conference platform designed for online events. Despite this new format, many of the conference’s attendees agreed that this IETC was one to remember.

“This conference was very well organized, thought out, and executed,” one conference attendee praised, “I love how much thought was put into offering opportunities and experiences that maintained that ‘in-person’ feel.’”

In true IETC fashion, this year’s 500 attendees found innovative ways to learn collaboratively and explore new possibilities for edtech integration. Much of this learning took place across the conference’s 93 workshop sessions as well as in the virtual Exhibit Hall, where 32 exhibitors (including our own tech purchasing program, ILTPP) talked with conference guests about what the latest edtech solutions had to offer.

Of course, it wouldn’t be IETC without some fun and games. That’s why this year’s leap to online delivery came with plenty of room for peer-to-peer socialization, including daily networking opportunities. Fan-favorite activities, including IETC Bingo, were also offered, both on Friday and during Sunday’s kick-off event.

Already, several IETC attendees have taken advantage of the virtual format’s greatest advantage – the ability to record every workshop session. Those looking to review the sessions they attended or take a peek at a few sessions they couldn’t make it to can do so now for no additional cost. Simply check the email you registered for the conference with, and you should find a communication dated “November 23” with instructions and links.

As always, the entire IETC committee is thankful for its attendees, who have again fostered one of the most enriching, engaging, and meaningful learning communities in the Midwest.  The IETC committee is also grateful to its sponsors, who have helped support this conference as it adapted to the changing needs of this state’s edtech community.

“IETC has always been about cultivating a community of innovators,” LTC Executive Director Tim McIlvain explained in reflection, “In the absence of an in-person conference, we were still able to create a dynamic space where educators could connect and learn from their colleagues across the state.”

In all, IETC 2020 was an outstanding experience, filled with laughter and learning all the way through. Everyone on the IETC committee is looking forward to 2021 and the opportunities it brings for a revitalized in-person experience.

We hope to see you there!

Promoting #CSforSocialJustice During Computer Science Education Week 2020

2020 has been a year of change across the world, particularly when it comes to social change. Individuals and organizations across the US have refocused their attention on the needs of marginalized communities, helping those people seek justice and improve their standing in society.

The folks over at Computer Science Education Week have recognized these important societal shifts and centered them in this year’s celebration of computer science learning and advocacy. This year’s theme, #CSforSocialJustice, has been designed to inspire students to learn new computer science skills and put what they’ve learned into practice while advocating for a more just society.

As a Regional Partner for Code.Org, the Learning Technology Center of Illinois is committed to furthering their goals of advancing computer science education, both now and in the future. To help educators participate in Computer Science Education Week (December 7-13), we’ve compiled the following teaching resources geared toward new learners.

Computer Science as a Catalyst for Change

There’s a lot in store for Computer Science Education Week 2020, including the CodeByte mini-lesson series presented each day of the week by Code.Org. Though these video lessons will be available for viewing after their completion, you can also check out these free resources for opportunities to engage social justice topics while also teaching key CS skills:

Build a Website with BSD Education

BSD Education has put together an interactive coding project that will help students learn the basics of HTML and CSS while also thinking about people who inspire them. As part of their “Code is: Your Voice” series, this project can help students research important social justice figures and present their findings through a self-created webpage.

Remote and distance learners can work through this project’s steps with ease as well, thanks to its informative video tutorials and step-by-step organization.

Learn to Pitch Your Passion with Google CS First

As part of their ongoing efforts to promote accessible computer science education, Google has created the CS First curriculum. This free resource collection includes material for all learning levels, with a focus on making the CS learning experience fun and intuitive.

One particular lesson from the CS First curriculum – Pitch Your Passion – can help students identify a social cause that is close to their heart and communicate it to their peers. During this lesson, students will use Scratch to create a public service announcement that brings attention to an issue they feel strongly about. This lesson can be facilitated remotely as well, making it ideal for starting a class-wide discussion among remote learners.

Through CS First, remote learners without reliable computer access can also learn in-step with their classmates. Their new CS First Unplugged activity booklet, for example, uses analog learning materials to get students thinking like computer engineers.

Promoting Social Justice and Computer Science Education Year-Round

Promoting social justice and teaching computer science skills should be a year-round pursuit, beyond Computer Science Education Week. These following resources can make that happen for your class:

Teaching Social Justice in the Primary Classroom

Attitudes toward social justice form early in life, making it all the more important to instill young learners with a firm sense of right and wrong. These teaching strategies from instructional coach Monica Washington can help K-5 students understand social justice ideas in the context of their own life, including what is fair and unfair. This guide also includes useful links to further lessons on the topic, from Edutopia, Teaching Tolerance, and more.

Teaching Social Justice in High School

As they grow toward adulthood, many high school students begin to make their voice heard on issues that matter to them. This resource guide from Anthony Salciccioli can help foster that voice by teaching students to listen critically, with a spirit of openness and generosity. In addition to a curated reading list, this guide’s lessons also offer students an opportunity to understand the roots of injustice, and the role protests play in resolving societal grievances.

Hour of Code Resource Library (Grades K-9+)

To facilitate engaging CS learning year-round, Code.Org hosts a massive library of coding activities for pre-readers all the way through grade 9+ students. These activities are available in 45+ languages and allow students to learn CS skills while engaging with some of their favorite entertainment properties, such as Minecraft, Disney, and more. Each activity is designed to take about an hour to complete, making them ideal for use during an Hour of Code.

Programs and Workshops for Encouraging Diverse CS Learning

There are also numerous programs and workshops designed to engage diverse learner groups in the joys of computer science learning. Be sure to check out these groups to help your students advance their CS learning beyond just one week:

Girls Who Code

Girls Who Code is an organization that has made it their mission to close the gender gap in technology fields. To do that, they offer a variety of programs, including coding clubs and at-home activities, to help girls and young women learn the skills needed to succeed in one of the fastest growing economic sectors. Girls Who Code also helps their participants hone their bravery so that they can be resilient, persistent, and ambitious when advocating for their place in the coding community.

Black Girls Code

Black Girls Code was founded to help reach one of the most underserved communities when it comes to computer science education – black and brown girls. Through their programs and their advocacy efforts, this organization continues to support its target audience as they build their skills, confidence, and experience in the computer science field.

Doing Our Part to Promote Computer Science Education

During Computer Science Education Week and beyond, the LTC is committed to developing the expertise and capacity of computer science educators across Illinois. That’s why, in partnership with Code.Org, we are again offering our Code.Org “Discoveries” and “Principles” program to interested educators, regardless of grade level or subject area.

This full-year program is designed to jump start each participating school’s ability to offer coding instruction that aligns with Code.Org’s curriculum. During the summer, participating teachers will attend nine professional development workshops aligned with the courses they intend to teach. After that, participants will receive follow-up support as they begin to implement their new knowledge and skills.

To learn more about this program, contact the LTC’s Director of Professional Learning, Brian Bates (bbates@ltcillinois.org).

12 Days of Resources for Parents and Caregivers

As the holiday season approaches, many families are looking forward to the completion of a semester of remote and hybrid learning. 2021 will be here before you know it, though, and for many families, that means returning to a remote classroom environment.

A new year means new opportunities, so the LTC SPARK program wants to help you and your children start the next semester off on the right foot. That’s why, for the next 12 days, we’ll be highlighting some of our most popular resources for supporting remote and hybrid learning. Consider it a gift from us to you, the hard-working parents and caregivers who continue to make distance learning possible.


Day 12 – Winter Break Activities

Our final day of resources is all about getting you through your winter break!  Your days will fly by with these great activities from around the web:


Day 11 – SPARK Parent Podcast Episode 7: Talking Toddlers with Susie Allison of “Busy Toddler

Feeling stuck with what to do with your toddlers?  Wondering if keeping your child home from preschool this year was the right choice?  Trying to stay afloat while both working from home full time and parenting full time?  You are not alone!

In episode 7 of the SPARK Parent Podcast, host Colleen Kaplan talks with education advocate Susie Allison (@busytoddler on Instagram) about all things toddlers, preschoolers, and working from home.  The episode’s companion resources are packed full of great ideas to get your little ones learning and playing while giving you a few minutes to yourself.


Listen to the episode here and check out the resource list here.


Day 10 – SPARK Parent Podcast Episode 6: Exploring Sharenthood with Leah Plunkett

An interesting phenomenon is happening online.  As more and more millennials are becoming parents, they are sharing pictures and videos of their children on social media almost as often as they are sharing pictures of their lunch.  What does this mean for these children, though?  How might that child’s future job and education prospects be impacted by their parents’ premature creation of a digital footprint?

In episode 6 of the SPARK Parent Podcast, host Colleen Kaplan and law professor Leah Plunkett dig into all of these questions at the intersection of parenting and social media.  Leah, the author of Sharenthood:  Why we should think before we talk about our kids online, discusses the fine line parents have to walk in terms of sharing on social media and protecting their children’s privacy, as well as what parents can do to be proactive guardians of their children’s digital data.


To listen to the episode, click here.

Throughout the episode, Leah and Colleen mention many different resources for further reading and learning.  An infographic of these resources (with audio timestamps) can be found here.


Day 9 – Parent Video Library

Interested in watching a parent-specific webinar, but don’t have time in your busy work and home life schedule?  The SPARK Parent Video Library was built with you in mind.  This video library, which grows larger and larger each week, houses all of our parent webinar recordings, covering a wide range of topics. 

Interested in learning more about parenting or teaching students in the current generation?  Check out “Growing Up in a Digital Age: Understanding Gen Z Students”! 

Want to learn more about social-emotional learning?  Watch our two recordings with SEL coach Abby Lyons, titled “Social Emotional Learning: What Is It and Why Is It Important?” and “The Impact of COVID-19: Patterns of Stress and Brain.”

Still feeling lost navigating your student’s learning management system (LMS)?  Check out our “Get to Know Your LMS” series where we walk parents through everything that they need to know about Google Classroom, SeeSaw, Microsoft Teams, and Canvas!


Click here to visit the SPARK Parent Video Library.


Day 8 – Interactive Schedule Maker

Still feeling bogged down and scattered when it comes to remote or hybrid learning?  Are you forgetting Zoom calls or dropping the ball when it comes to synchronous or asynchronous learning days?  Many folks know that making a schedule could help immensely on this front. But even so, adding that to your weekly to-do list can feel daunting.

The SPARK Interactive Schedule Maker is here to help!  This schedule maker gives you all the tools you need to easily drag and drop items and create a schedule customized to your student’s specific needs.  The schedule maker can be used over and over again for multiple children or multiple daily schedules. Each schedule can be printed out as well, allowing for visible posting in an at-home learning environment.


Try out the Interactive Schedule Maker here (both word and picture-only schedules available).


Day 7 – Email Etiquette Infographic

While remote or hybrid learning may not be ideal, it is providing one unique opportunity for our students – the chance to advocate for themselves when it comes to their education. Some students, of course, have hit a stumbling block here, especially when it comes to communicating with their teachers via email.

The SPARK Email Etiquette infographic can help with that by providing students simple and clear instructions on how to craft an email message. This chart includes helpful reminders, including pointers on the use of a greeting and the utilization of a short, informative subject line.  While these elements may feel like common sense to parents and teachers, many students are never explicitly been taught how to craft these types of communications. 

Whether you print this infographic to hang in your school or home-based classroom or just post it on your class webpage, we hope your students are able to take its keys to heart as the need to digitally communicate with their teachers continues.


Find the infographic here, sized for Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.


Day 6 – District Check-in Forms

SPARK resources aren’t just for parents. We also create resources for schools and districts to implement and better support their families.  The SPARK District Check-In form can make that happen for schools and districts across Illinois.

Available in both English and Spanish, these forms are designed to support schools and districts as they collect data on how the pandemic and remote/hybrid learning is impacting the families that they serve. 

Two forms are available, with two different end goals.  The first is a shorter form designed for administration on a weekly/biweekly basis.  This form focuses on family well-being and acts as a regular check-in, in hopes of preventing any students from falling through the cracks. 

The second form is longer and more in-depth, with an intended quarterly/semesterly administration.  This longer form aims to give school and district more overarching information about how their families are viewing the school year and learning in general.  This can be helpful in tracking trends in parent and caregiver sentiments on important topics, ideally giving the administration the information that they need to make informed decisions.  

Google Forms: Check out the forms here in English or in Spanish.

Microsoft Forms: Check out this multilingual form available in Arabic, Chinese (Traditional and Simplified), French, Polish, Spanish, and Urdu.


Day 5 – Parenting in a Pandemic Self-Paced Online Course

After listening to Abby Lyons’ podcast episodes on social-emotional learning yesterday, are you fired up and ready to dig in for some more?  We have you covered with the “Parenting in a Pandemic” self-paced course!

This course, with all content designed by Abby herself, focuses on equipping parents with the skills needed to be their children’s best mental health advocate. In this course, you’ll learn how to develop learning spaces at home, support student engagement and self-regulation, and manage both parent and student social and emotional well-being.  Once you finish the course, parents will even receive a certificate of completion.


To enroll in this course, click here. Then, scroll down to find “Parenting in a Pandemic” and click “enroll now”.


Day 4 – Webinars and Podcasts with Abby Lyons

If 2020 has taught us anything, it is the importance of teaching social-emotional learning and well-being skills to our children – not to mention how important it is to learn those skills ourselves, as parents and caretakers.  With this in mind, the SPARK program created a webinar series on these much-needed topics, featuring social emotional learning educator and coach Abby Lyons.

Whether you watch the videos or download the podcast, Abby clearly and passionately lays out how parents, caregivers, and educators can work to make social-emotional learning a part of their daily routines.  Whether you are doing school in the classroom or in your living room, Abby has tips to help you make your learning environment a calmer, more focused part of your child’s daily schedule.

Watch the videos (part one and part two) or listen to the podcasts (part one and part two).


Day 3 – SPARK Parent Podcast Episode 3: “The Basics of Remote and Hybrid Learning”

Are you still struggling with your family’s remote learning routine?  Did your school recently make a switch to remote/hybrid learning and you’re finding it hard to settle into a groove?  SPARK has you covered with episode 3 of the SPARK Parent Podcast, which focuses on the basics your family needs to know as you begin (or continue) remote learning this winter.

In this episode, host Colleen Kaplan, along with guest Jillian Pettenuzzo, a guidance counselor at St. Francis High School, focus on how parents and caregivers can “control the controllables” for their families during remote and hybrid learning.  The episode gives many practical and realistic strategies and resources, all of which can be quickly referenced in the episode’s companion resources (list or infographic).


Day 2 – SPARK Parent Podcast Episode 4: “The Importance of Reading During Remote Learning”

Are you already starting to worry about what your family’s winter break will look like?  Two weeks of no school and nowhere to go has some parents shaking in their snow boots. 

To help pass the time, consider starting a reading challenge with your family!  Who can read the most books or most words?  How many different kinds of books can you read?  Can you read a book about a different culture every day?  For more ideas and resources to help your family dig in and get reading this winter, check out episode 4 of the SPARK Parent Podcast.

In this episode, host Colleen Kaplan, along with special guest Holly Kelly, highlights the importance of reading with your children, as well as the best ways to talk to your children about what they are reading. Holly also spotlights several free, high-quality reading resources for use at home while providing a few pointers for choosing the right books for your children.

Check out the episode’s companion resource as well, either in list or infographic form.


Day 1 – SPARK Parent Resource Hub

The mother of all resources is waiting for you!

The SPARK Parent Resource Hub is here to answer many of your parent- and caregiver-related questions, including those involving tech your student uses to learn remotely.  Through this interactive interface, you’ll be able to efficiently search SPARK’s catalogue of videos and how-to guides on topics from Google to Zoom. To start, simply choose the platform you’re using from the left-hand menu and then tap the orange boxes in the hub’s main interface that match your inquiry.

The SPARK Parent Resource Hub has been designed with schools and districts in mind, as well. As such, teachers, administrators, and technology leaders can embed this hub into their website and direct families there when they have questions about facilitating their student’s at-home learning environment. Multilingual households can even make the most of this hub, with some materials now available in Spanish.

To try out the SPARK Parent Resource Hub, click here. If you’re interested in embedding the SPARK Parent Resource Hub on your website, you can find the code for the hub here.

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

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

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

Facing the Challenges

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

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

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

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

Embracing New Technologies

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

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

Celebrating Success

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

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

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

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

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

Looking to the Future

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

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

Learn More about Special Education and Remote Learning

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


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

Building on Digital Citizenship Week 2020

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

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

What is Digital Citizenship?

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

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

Resources for Year-Round Digital Citizenship

Be Internet Awesome

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

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

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

Common Sense Education

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

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

New for 2020

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

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

Tools for Supporting Digital Citizenship

Securly Auditor

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

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

Impero Back:drop

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

Purchasing Opportunities through ILTPP

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

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

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