“A New Outlook” – Takeaways from the Remote Learning Conference

Back on Friday, January 15, the Learning Technology Center wrapped up a first-of-its-kind conference centered on education’s most recent evolution. The Remote Learning Conference marked a major leap forward for collaboration in Illinois’ edtech community, with educators from around the Prairie State gathering to share their hard-earned knowledge from the past year of distance learning.

In fitting with the conference’s theme, all sessions and workshops during the Remote Learning Conference were held virtually. That didn’t slow down the pace of conversation at all, though. 

In fact, hundreds of educators poured into virtual classrooms to learn about the best practices, pedagogy, apps, and tools for remote and hybrid instruction. The conference even reached an international audience, with attendees from Canada, Mexico, Nigeria, and Saudi Arabia joining the conversation.

“I appreciated the diverse range of offerings,” praised one conference attendee, “As a teacher and an instructional coach, it was refreshing to see sessions that I could both use for myself and use for building improvement.”

Numerous topics of interest were covered over the course of this two-day event. Digital citizenship, blended learning, videoconferencing, and more were just a few of the most popular subjects. Attendees also had a chance to learn about new innovations in professional development delivery, including through micro-credentials and other digital learning environments.

Meanwhile, some of the best discussions and knowledge were shared on the digital main stage. There, the Remote Learning Conference welcomed three speakers from the national education community – Dr. Monica Burns (classtechtips.com), Dr. Catlin Tucker (catlintucker.com), and Shelly Sanchez Terrell (shellyterrell.com). All three featured speakers offered outstanding insights, including on how to optimize workflow, build teaching capacity, and care for students in a virtual environment.

Throughout these workshops and feature presentations, conference attendees were buzzing with conversation about their aspirations and concerns for remote learning. In fact, over the two-day event, conference attendees exchanged nearly 20,000 messages in total! Plenty of these messages were exchanged with presenters as well, many of whom were praised by attendees for their thoughtful, responsive attitudes.

The LTC’s Brian Bates felt that these interactions were one of the conference’s highlights. “The interactions among attendees and presenters were inspirational,” Bates affirmed, “they prove that educators will do anything to help not just their students, but their peers as well.”

In many ways, the Remote Learning Conference offered more unique and engaging sessions than most attendees could fit into their schedule. Thankfully, all attendees now have the opportunity to rewatch every conference session through the Remote Learning Conference’s digital resource library. To learn more about how to access this video collection, check your email for a conference communication dated “January 26”.

Although the Remote Learning Conference has now come and passed, the astute conversations held throughout this virtual event need not end. The LTC’s online community is a great place to connect with new friends and peers from the conference, as well as the best place to share remote learning and edtech insights year-round.

Without a doubt, the Remote Learning Conference was a success. That wouldn’t be possible without the nearly 2,000 attendees and speakers that supported this ground-breaking venture. To everyone who participated in the Remote Learning Conference – thank you for sharing your time and wisdom. We look forward to hearing from you more as you continue to design, engage, and enhance remote learning for all Illinois students!

Looking for more opportunities to expand your remote teaching capacity? The LTC routinely offers workshops and virtual sessions on a variety of remote learning-related topics. Our online courses and upcoming micro-credential program can also help support your mastery of classroom-ready skills. Districts can even obtain customized professional learning through the LTC’s highly-skilled team of edtech experts.

“A Big Year Ahead” – Takeaways from SecurED Schools 2021

The 4th annual SecurED Schools conference concluded back on Thursday, January 14. Though this year’s gathering was held virtually, technology leaders from around Illinois still participated in plenty of insightful conversations about the future of cybersecurity and data privacy.

In particular, this year’s conference focused on one of the largest upcoming challenges for Illinois’ edtech community – attaining compliance with the new Student Online Personal Protection Act (SOPPA). Many aspects of compliance were covered over the course of the two-day conference, including how districts must handle edtech contracting and the new standards for app vetting going forward.

“[It] was great to have someone to start walking me through using these tools and this process,” praised one conference attendee, “I have been totally lost on where to start and this helps tremendously.”

This year’s conference kicked off on January 13 with a cybersecurity presentation by Rod Russeau, Director of Technology and Information Services at Community High School District 99. From there, technology leaders and IT professionals from every corner of the state jumped into sessions led by their peers from across the nation. That included Libbi Garrett, Resource Program Specialist with CITE, who offered insights on SOPPA based upon similar legislation in California.

Beyond SOPPA, attendees also had opportunities to learn about current best practices for a variety of cybersecurity tools and resources. Fortinet, OpenSource SIEM, and CIS Controls were all covered in separate sessions, with their respective presenters all offering real-world use cases for their tools.

“The virtual format worked great,” explained the LTC’s Eric Muckensturm, “Because we went virtual, I think we had more attendees than we might have with an in-person only conference.”

In total, around 300 technology leaders attended SecurED Schools, with districts from Chicagoland all the way down to Little Egypt represented. Though it goes without saying, many of those same attendees walked away with valuable information that will help them keep their home districts safe from the latest cybersecurity threats.

Even though this year’s SecurED Schools has now passed, the statewide conversation around cybersecurity, student data privacy, and SOPPA doesn’t have to end. The LTC Community is a great place to network with your fellow edtech professionals and share insights year-round.

Also, if you missed any sessions during SecurED Schools, you’re now able to go back and watch them at any time. Every session from the conference is available for viewing on demand by registered attendees. For more information about accessing this video library, check your email for a communication from the LTC’s Chris Wherley dated “January 20”.

Thank you again to all of this year’s SecurED Schools attendees and speakers! We hope to see you again next year as we return to our traditional in-person format.