Summer Online Courses Start May 11

We are excited to announce our Spring 2020 Online Learning Courses for education professionals! These free courses can be taken on your own schedule in the comfort of your home. These learning opportunities will support your professional growth in the areas of classroom technology integration throughout your career. Plus, we can also provide you with Illinois Professional Development Credits to help you renew your Professional Educator’s License.   

Summer 2020 Online Learning Courses

Join us for these FREE Online Courses:

  • Save Time with an Organized Google Drive (1.5 PD credits) 
  • Maximize the Power of Google Classroom (1.5 PD credits) 
  • Understanding the Power of Google Docs (1.5 PD credits) 
  • Google Forms Essentials: Creating Digital Assessments (1.5 PD credits) 
  • Google Slides: More Than Presenting Content (1.5 PD credits) 
  • Getting Started with Google Hangouts (1.0 PD credit)
  • Pages for Mac and iPad (1.0 PD credit) 
  • Keynote for Mac (2.0 PD credits) 

You can start on these free self-paced courses when you’re ready, take breaks and complete what you want when you have a few minutes, and come back to finish them whenever you’d like. When you’re done you can register for another course and complete that one at any time during the summer. Registration for any of these courses opens May 11, and all courses will close August 14, 2020. 

Get all the details and register at ltcillinois.org/online. We’re looking forward to learning with you!

3 STE(A)M Activities to Do with Your Kids During Remote Learning

In a remote learning environment, it is critical that learning is kept light and fun, and it can be challenging to find light and fun lessons or activities that promote STEM skills with your students. With this in mind, I compiled three of my favorite STEM activities that your kids can do at home with their parents or siblings. 

All of these activities simply require regular household items, and if you don’t have a particular item, don’t worry! Every activity material list is adjustable and customizable for whatever materials you have available. I’d encourage you to get creative and add or remove some of the supplies to keep your kids on their toes. These activities can be for more than just the students as they are super fun to do with the whole family! Families can have nightly competitions to see who can achieve the best results. We also don’t want to forget about art. All of these activities can include an art component to create a STE(A)M activity. Kids can decorate or add color to any of the materials they can use in the activities. Let’s dive in!

Puff Mobile 

This activity is one of my favorites to do with teachers, who then bring it back to their students. During the activity, kids are to design a vehicle that can travel six feet in the fewest “puffs” possible. That means getting down on the ground and using your breath to propel the vehicle forward. The key to this activity is building the vehicle. Your son/daughter/student is provided a specific and limited amount of materials to create it. Having a limited amount of materials will encourage them to use design and engineering principals in the build process and be creative with their use. Below I have a sample material list, but you can substitute or remove any of the materials to make it your own! Here are the instructions.

Challenge: Using at least one of all these materials, design, and build a vehicle that moves only by blowing on it. For added fun, put a timer on the first build, have your kids see how many puffs it takes to move puff mobile the first time. Then give them 5 minutes to make adjustments to their design to see if they can improve their results! 

Materials

  • 3 Plastic drinking straws 
  • 4 Lifesavers
  • 1 Piece of heavy paper
  • 2 Paper clips
  • Tape
  • Scissors

Marble Track

The marble track activity requires less space than the puff mobile but offers the same amount of fun! For this challenge, your kids will be tasked with constructing a track for a marble to roll on. The marble must use the track to roll forward and come to a stop on/in an 8×8 landing area. Given that there are no rulers in the materials list, your kids will have to determine how big 8×8 is. For added fun, put in a rule that the track must meet a specific length requirement, or if you have multiple kids completing the challenge, the longest successful track wins! Like the puff mobile challenge, the materials list can be adapted to any household materials you have available.

Materials

  • 3 Plastic drinking straws 
  • 3 Name labels
  • 1 Piece of paper
  • 2 Pencils
  • 4 Paper clips
  • 1 Marble
  • 3 Rubber bands
  • 3 Toothpicks

3 Little Pigs

This activity I find to be particularly fun and would be an excellent addition for an elementary teacher to pair with a reading activity involving the Three Little Pigs. Keeping in line with the story, kids will construct a house with various materials and then attempt to blow it down as if they were the big bad wolf! If you have multiple kids at home, try having them each construct a house with a different base material, the same way the pigs in the story did! This activity is truly open-ended when it comes to materials, but I’ve listed some ideas below.

Materials

  • Straws
  • Paper
  • Paper Clips
  • Play Doh
  • Modeling Clay
  • Toothpicks
  • Tongue Depressors

These three activities are not only fun for the kids to engage in STE(A)M skills, but could be fun for the whole family! In times of remote learning, experiential activities like this can be a welcome learning experience for kids and families alike! 

Leadership in the Face of Inequities

When I first became an administrator, I was overrun with new experiences and challenges each day. Everything was new, and I had just not lived through enough past experiences to assist myself with basing future decisions. This was a challenge, but as time went on, and about ten years of administrative experience passed by, I had reached a point of comfort with the various issues that also arise at any other given district. In other words, nothing surprised anymore. I had lived through enough various human resource, financial, and professional development related issues, that although very challenging at times, were aspects of educational leadership that I had come to expect.

Unprecedented. This is a term with a definition that accounts for an extreme assessment of a situation. It has now become a term that has also lost some of its emphasis and impact because it is a term that has been used so much to describe the reality of our world and education system right now. This is a truly unprecedented situation.

The best educational leaders, and the ones I look up to and try to learn from the most, are the ones that take on any situation with confidence and a plan. Confidence and a plan are the most important thing a leader can offer right now. This does not mean you need to predict the future, or hide that you are also scared. Rather, confidence and a plan show that you are willing to lead in a crisis because you understand that you are far from perfect yet know also that you must help others.

In light of our current situation, virtually all school districts in our nation are navigating to online learning for students. While it is inspiring to see educators embrace this, despite their different levels of readiness and varying degrees of preparedness, it has also put a spotlight on an issue that we as a collective educational society need to address. The discrepancy between technology and internet access for students equates to nothing less than unequal access to educational opportunities. In places where school buildings are closed, as in Illinois, there is not a single teacher that does not miss and want to help their students. The difference for so many students on whether learning is occurring, or the quality of engagement and instruction, is not based upon desire, but a lack of access.

Technological resources and internet access needs to be ubiquitous for all, and this need has come to the forefront right now. If all schools are being tasked to prepare students for 21st century skills, then 21st century access for all is a must. I am not going to pretend that I have the universal answer and solution on how to make this happen, but I do know this: the first step to solving any problem is identifying that the problem exists.

I have seen firsthand lately that being a leader has nothing to do with a title. Being a leader has everything to do with action. I am witnessing kitchen workers, bus drivers, and educators working tirelessly to positively impact students in the face of severe challenges. These are the true leaders in a crisis, and they deserve our recognition. Leadership is about actually doing something. Based upon this realization, I would now task our society to lead through action, as well. We need to ensure no student lacks access to learning due to a lack of resources. We need to do better, and the unequal technological state of our education system right now proves it.

Connecting a Smartphone Hotspot to a Chromebook

In a remote learning situation, many students may not have a reliable internet connection at their home to complete their school work, and many of these students may turn to using their smartphone, or parent’s smartphone, as a hotspot. The hotspot feature allows the smartphone to broadcast a wireless signal that the Chromebook or other wifi capable device can connect to. When the device is connected to the hotspot, the student will be able to access the internet.

How do you enable the hotspot on both Android and iPhones and then connect a Chromebook? These short videos below will assist in demonstrating how this is done. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to reach out to us for support! 

How to Enable Your Android Hotspot

Connect to a Hotspot on Chromebook

Enable an iPhone Hotspot and Connecting to a Chromebook

Find Your Tribe: Connecting with Others During COVID-19

Who do you call when you have news to share? Your parents? Spouse? Friends? Often, when something ‘big’ happens we have a core group to turn to for support.

This is incredibly important during these uncertain times with the COVID-19 outbreak. While we no doubt are talking to those close to us (probably more than we should be) there are times when we need to talk to others who understand us in a different context.

Educators around the world have been catapulted into online learning. Some are prepared and welcoming the opportunity while others are going in kicking and screaming. Although I am no longer school-based I am in the “thick of things” just like educators- only in my role, I’m supporting multiple counties, districts, and coaches. Who do I turn to for support?

The following is a list of groups I’ve leaned on during these chaotic times. All are free and welcoming of new arrivals. Perhaps they will work for you too.

Social Media

Colleagues

  • The Daily Connect with Lucy Gray: Educators from around the world have the opportunity to jump on a Zoom call daily to connect and share information.
  • LTC “Office Hours”: The Learning Technology Center is holding open Zoom meetings daily as an opportunity for educators to connect and share.
  • “Women Leader Exchange”: A colleague started a “chain mail” opportunity in which we have the chance to send an uplifting quote or email to a female colleague we admire. I was grateful to be added to the list.

How are you connecting with supports to get through COVID-19? Let me know on Twitter so we can support each other.

E-Learning in Illinois

Public Act 101-0012 opened the door for E-Learning in Illinois, allowing instruction to be delivered electronically when students cannot be physically in attendance at school. Illinois School Code requires that certain elements must be in place, however, to ensure the quality of e-learning plans and activities. E-Learning Plans must include ways to: 

  • Ensure and verify at least 5 clock hours of  instruction or school work for each student participating in an e-learning day; 
  • Ensure access from home or another appropriate remote facility for all students participating, including computers, the Internet, and other forms of electronic communication that must be utilized in the proposed program;
  • Ensure appropriate learning opportunities for students with special needs;
  • monitor and verify each student’s electronic participation;
  • Address the extent to which student participation is within the student’s control as to the time, pace, and means of learning; 
  • Provide effective notice to students and their parents or guardians of the use of particular days for e-learning;
  • Provide staff and students with adequate training for e-learning days’ participation; 
  • Ensure an opportunity for any collective bargaining negotiations with representatives of the school district’s employees that would be legally required; and 
  • Review and revise the program as implemented to address difficulties confronted.

Additionally, a local school board must hold a public hearing before approving the E-Learning Plan, and the items noted above must then be verified by Regional Offices of Education before an E-Learning Day is implemented. Schools may only use as many E-Learning Days as they have built into their approved calendar for “emergency days.” 

Illinois is one of a dozen states having specific policies in place to support quality E-Learning activities. The Indiana Department of Education’s Office of E-Learning provides a number of useful resources, especially their E-Learning Day Program page.    

Following the lessons learned from Illinois’ three pilot school districts, Leyden #212, West Chicago #94, and Gurnee #56, several Illinois schools have successfully implemented E-Learning Day plans and activities. Oak Lawn #229, Evanston #202, Minooka #201, and Gower #62 are among many districts that are implementing E-Learning activities in various ways.

The Learning Technology Center of Illinois is happy to provide guidance and training through Regional Offices of Education on E-Learning Day Plans and Designing E-Learning Day Activities for classrooms. Please contact Matt Jacobson, Online Learning Specialist, at (309) 575-3240 or mjacobson@ltcillinois.org for more information.  

Digital Citizenship Resources for Every Classroom

Digital Citzenship Image

What is Digital Citizenship?

Digital Citizenship is more than just teaching students how to be safe online. Good digital citizens know how to use technology to foster better online communities with both local and global relationships. They can identify the validity of information and use technology to communicate responsibly and respectfully, even with individuals who don’t share their views. Good digital citizens use technology in a positive way to share ideas and participate both locally and globally.   

Why is Digital Citizenship Important?

Data (2019) from Cyberbullying Research Center shows that 37% of students – more than 1 of every 3 – have experienced some form of unwanted harassment or mistreatment with technology. This represents an increase of 35% over studies from 2016. Research done by the Pew Research Center suggests this number may be much higher among teens, perhaps up to 59% of this age group has been affected. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, those affected by bullying have increased risk of depression, anxiety, academic problems, and a number of other factors that lead to decreased quality of life.

According to the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE), teaching digital citizenship can “help create thoughtful, empathetic digital citizens who can wrestle with the important ethical questions at the intersection of technology and humanity.” Helping our students develop into good citizens, digital or otherwise, empowers our communities to become more positive places in the future. 

Digital Citizenship Teaching Resources

A number of resources are available to support educators and parents as they work together to improve students’ digital citizenship skills.  

  • Common Sense Education has developed a free, comprehensive digital citizenship curriculum for all grade levels.  Resources include both online and offline activities, and parent engagement ideas are also available. Make sure you check out LTC’s webinar discussing these resources!
  • Google’s Be Internet Awesome curriculum is also free and is supported by a series of fun and challenging interactive games called Interland.  
  • Edutopia has curated an extensive listing of resources that can be used by educators and community groups to support digital citizenship. 
  • ISTE had developed a variety of resources supporting digital citizenship in schools, including classroom resources, professional publications, and an online course on teaching digital citizenship.

Closing

Teaching digital citizenship has never been more important to building a positive, collaborative, and safe online community. In addition to the resources noted above, follow the hashtags #DigCit and #DigCitCommit on social media to stay up-to-date on the latest developments and trends in digital citizenship instruction. 


Bibliography

Today’s students have access to more information than ever before. Many students enter the data-rich world with few skills to manage the myriad of opportunities and pitfalls they might encounter. This is when the concept of Digital Citizenship becomes relevant and evermore important. 

October is Cybersecurity Awareness Month

National Cybersecurity Awareness Month

Own IT. Secure IT. Protect IT.

National Cybersecurity Awareness Month (NCSAM) started in October 2004, and from 2009 until 2018, the theme was “Our Shared Responsibility”. This means ensuring security is a collective responsibility between corporations, governments, and citizens. This year the theme is “Own IT. Secure IT. Protect IT.” Below are 5 ways we can all take collective responsibility and protect ourselves.

Password vs. PassPhrase

Sites like useapassphrase.com demonstrate the value of longer passwords versus short complex ones.  A password like “Wave1234%” can be cracked in about 1 minute, but “wave ocean sun%” will take 18 centuries to crack! In fact, using a longer password in the form of a passphrase with the required uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers and punctuation makes it more secure and easier to remember.

Use Different Passwords

Do yourself a favor and don’t repeat the same password across applications or store them in your Notes app. How can you have a different password for the hundreds of applications and sites you use? Password managers such as LastPass and 1Password are examples of a better solution. To login to the manager, the user will choose one master password. When logging into applications, your device or the program’s browser extension will supply the specific username and password. For extra security, the manager will generate long and complex passwords.

2 Locks are Better than 1

You may have heard the terms, “Two-Factor Authentication”, “Two-Step Verification” or “Multi-Factor Authentication”. At its basic level, this is an additional password in the form of a code generated through a text message, an application, or a physical device in your possession. In addition to your password phrase, you have this second layer of protection to prove your identity. Sites such as G Suite for Education, Microsoft Office 365, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram have this capability. For more information, visit https://twofactorauth.org.

Compromised?

If you suspect foul play, visit these sites to learn about security breaches:

Have I Been Pwned – https://haveibeenpwned.com/
Firefox Monitor – https://monitor.firefox.com/

You can also use these sites to monitor and protect yourself from future incidents. If your email or password are listed, change your password on the affected site(s) and anywhere else you may have used it.

Don’t Get Hooked by a Phishing Attempt

Phishing is generally an attempt through email to get you to click on an attachment or a link to gain access to your device or login credentials. This could also be attempted through social media, texting, or even a phone call. Take Google’s phishing quiz/tutorial and click through the Show Me prompts to learn what to look for. In case of any phishing-like attempt, notify your technical support team so that they can notify others and help protect you.

More Resources

Here are some additional NCSAM resources
National Initiative for Cybersecurity Careers and Studies and Homeland Security
NCSAM 2019 Toolkit

Checking the Checkboxes: NIST Cybersecurity Framework

Checklists are widely recognized as important tools for many professions. Atal Gawande, a surgeon and the author of The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right, writes about checklists used in medicine and aviation to achieve better and safer results by ensuring that all necessary steps in a process, no matter how small, are completed. The checklist principle can by applied technology in K-12 schools and specifically to the area of cybersecurity.

Cybersecurity issues are regularly in the news, as illustrated by the number of incidents (681 at the time of this post) reported on the K12 Cyber Incident Map. The quantity of incidents increases each year, and it is the responsibility of the school district technology leader to ensure that either these incidents do not happen in the first place, or that the impact on people, time, and money is lessened. For many of the same reasons that medicine and aviation professionals adopted checklists, technology leaders should consider adopting a checklist like the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Cybersecurity Framework (CSF), which provides the functions, categories, and subcategories to form a high-level checklist of cybersecurity measures needed at an organizational level. The 5 major functions of the framework are Identify, Protect, Detect, Respond, and Recover and there are 23 categories and 108 sub-categories. This is the ultimate checklist for cybersecurity.

See the full NIST CSF
Google Sheet Format – http://bit.ly/webinarNISTchecklist 

The checklist is complex, and several organizations provide free resources to help technology leaders to understand and apply the framework. The Center for Internet Security (CIS) has a set of tools, controls, and benchmarks that can be used to help identify, protect, detect, respond and recover. CIS SecureSuite provides free membership to schools that include tools, resources, and webinars. The Multi-State Information Sharing & Analysis Center (MS-ISAC) is also available through CIS, and it provides advisories and notifications, webcasts, malicious domains/ip reports, and awareness/education materials.

Additional ways to learn about ways to begin checking the checkboxes of the NIST CSF are to attend workshops and conferences that are offered by organizations such as the Learning Technology Center (LTC), Illinois Education Technology Leaders (IETL, State Chapter of COSN), and Illinois Digital Educators Association (IDEA, formerly ICE and is the State Chapter of ISTE). In addition to learning about ideas and discovering resources, another reason to attend professional learning events is to build a network of people who are encountering and sharing many of the same experiences.

To give you a headstart, here is a checklist of items that you can use to begin the process of learning more about the NIST Cybersecurity Framework, so you can start checking the checkboxes and make an impact on your school environment.

Build Your Network

Research and Learn

Sign Up for Memberships

Attend Professional Learning Events

Tech Check: Get Your Digital Life Organized

May is a great time of year, isn’t it? The weather is changing, spring flowers appear, and many educators are excited about another school year coming to a close. There’s much to do, lots of spring cleaning, packing up, and getting things in order before summer break.

We focus on our physical environment when we think of organization, but how about digital organization? Have you done any “spring cleaning” or tidying up of your digital life? As our existence incorporates more technology it’s important to keep up with what is out there and how organized it is! I’ve developed a checklist detailing what I do each month to stay digitally organized. Below are a few of my favorites that I would recommend.

  1. Run Who has Access– This website scans your Google Drive and shows you who has access to your Drive contents.  If you see folks that no longer need access, they can be removed directly in the report. The service deletes its own access to your Drive along with your Drive data from its servers 24 hours after running your report. This tool is especially useful for school administrators who may have a change in personnel each school year. https://www.whohasaccess.com
  2. Check your Social Media Settings– we visit these sites daily, often popping in and out several times to catch glimpses into what is happening around our world. When was the last time you took the time to go through your privacy settings? How about your followers? Go a step further and do a self-audit of your social media posts. Look at the last 15 things you posted. Was your overall message positive? Do they represent the image you want others to have of you? Here are some resources to get you started on your self-social media audit.

https://identity.utexas.edu/everyone/how-to-manage-your-social-media-privacy-settings

https://sites.google.com/site/mydigitalrep/social-media

  1. Password Protection– Generate a list of passwords for the family. (This may sound morbid but social media and email platforms require extensive documentation to shut down accounts without passwords due to the death of a user). Have everyone in the family write down all known passwords. If some are reluctant to share, have them create the list and place it in a sealed envelope (don’t open it) and keep it someplace it can be easily accessed if something happens to you or a family member.  I keep it in our safe.  Get a list of passwords for everyone in the family but be sure to have clear conversations AND FOLLOW THEM if there is a privacy concern.  

These are just a few of the many ways I try to keep my digital-self organized. If you’d like to see the full list, it is available here: http://bit.ly/Tech-Check

What would you recommend?