Podcast: Transitioning to Remote Learning with Mike Lubelfeld

Mike Lubelfeld discusses his district’s transition from in-person learning to e-learning and then to remote learning. In this candid interview, Mike talks about the things that went well, the things they could have done better, and the phenomenal work that his staff is doing to support learners wherever they are.

Contact Mike Lubelfeld
Twitter: @mikelubelfeld
Podcast: Lighthouse 112 on Anchor
Blog: https://mikelubelfeld.edublogs.org/
School Website: www.nssd112.org

Podcast: Adapting E-Learning to Remote Learning

This podcast episode focuses on how two school districts, one suburban and one rural, are adjusting their existing e-learning plans to a longer-term remote learning situation. Shannon Duling is the superintendent of Princeville Community Unit School District 326 in rural central Illinois. John Connolly is the Chief Technology Officer in suburban Consolidated Community High School District 230. Together we discuss the surprising commonalities in their approaches to adapting their existing e-learning plans to our current reality of longer-term remote learning. 

This episode was recorded just before the State of Illinois had released their guidelines supporting remote learning. The approaches taken by each of these very different school districts aligns nicely to the state guidelines and provides valuable insight into the process of adapting e-learning plans, which were designed for just a day or two of instructional support, into longer-term remote learning plans.  

Contact Info
Shannon Duling: District Website Contact Info | Twitter: @sduling
John Connolly: District Website Contact Info | Twitter: @JohnEConnolly

5 Tips for Leading Professional Learning Virtually

If you are a professional development provider like I am, you get into the profession to make a personal connection with people. There is nothing I enjoy more about my job than getting into a room with a group of educators and getting to know them in the often too short time that we are together. With the current reality of the situation we are living in, the prospect of getting back into a room with people seems a long way off. This means that many of us will have to shift toward delivering our content virtually via a platform like Zoom or Google Meet.

Leading professional development in this manner can be a challenge. It is much different than having everyone’s attention in one room. Teachers are probably at home, distracted by kids, pets, or spouses. As the presenter, it is up to us to make sure our delivery methods are enough to keep our audience engaged and learning with us. 

To that end, I have my five tips for leading professional learning online. I have had vast experience leading groups of educators through online training, and with that comes quite a few ups and downs. While the process is never as smooth as in-person delivery, these five tips can assist in making the experience better for you and your audience!

Outline of Tips in the Video

  1. Be prepared
    • Have your presentation ready and well prepared.
    • Have questions and discussion prompts available to start conversation with your audience.
    • Be prepared for silence, you might have to talk the whole time
    • If you are using Zoom and want discussion to occur, use the breakout room feature.
  2. Have your system set up for delivering quality content
    • Have your camera placed on an elevated surface or use a webcam that is eye level.
    • Have a quality microphone, this might not mean headphones, some of those mics are worse that the one on your computer! Test your audio quality with someone ahead of your presentation.
    • Be in a room with good lighting so people can see you better.
    • Turn off your notifications on your computer and phone. These can be distracting to you and your audience.
    • If possible use two monitors, or at least a second device like an iPad. This can be helpful in looking up information while your presentation is on the screen.
  3. If possible, have a co-host
    • They are great for assisting in moderating the chat for you.
    • They can listen more closely to discussions for things you might have missed.
    • They are helpful to talk to in times of silence.
    • When the session is over they are someone to debrief with.
  4. Know Your Platform
    • Whether it is Zoom, Google Meet, or something else understand it’s basic features
    • Know how to share joining information with audience members that are attempting to join late
    • Know how to start and moderate the chat
    • Sharing your screen is of utmost importance. You will most likely have a presentation, make sure people can see it.
    • Know how to mute your rouge audience microphones. It might not be their fault but mics turn on sometimes, know how to shut them off.
  5. Have empathy for your participants
    • Don’t force them to sit and listen for long periods of time, keep sessions reasonably short and give breaks if needed.
    • This is a new experience for many, if they leave their mic on don’t be mad about it, understand they didn’t mean to interrupt you.
    • Silence from the group doesn’t mean they don’t understand, sometimes silence is just how video instruction goes.

Week in Review

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

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

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

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

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

Resource Development
LTC staff have created the following resources:



Blogs & Podcasts

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


  • 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.

Learning Online with Ben Sondgeroth

Ben Sondgeroth, a Regional Educational Technology Coordinator for the LTC, joins the Learning through Leading hosts at a critical time in Illinois’ history to speak about leveraging video in online learning. He shares tips for teachers and administrators on how to find your tool, find your content, have fun, be visible. Ben also discusses the importance of educator self-care during these times of change.

Some of the tools Ben mentions:

You may also want to check out the webinar that Ben recently conducted for Nick’s teachers on these and other topics to help them prepare for e-learning. View the webinar on demand.

Remote Learning Tools

We are in a period of time where school closings due to Covid-19 are severely disrupting our academic calendar. Districts are scrambling to find useful resources for teachers to use in developing e-learning plans to continue education for an extended time away from school. 

While this is a difficult task to put together in short order, the edtech community has come together to support one another. This includes many edtech companies offering their premium services for no cost to affected schools (here is a comprehensive list of many of those companies). While many companies are offering these features, it is essential to understand the key elements of a tool that will help in a remote situation. In my opinion, a quality remote learning tool is one that allows teachers to both interact and be visible to their students. Many times this includes adding video to work so students can both see and hear the teacher explain the activity. Below I have created five how-to videos on tools that I believe can help the learning continue for our students. 

Nicole Zumpano of the LTC has also put together a terrific Planning to Close Guide; it is worth your time to check it out. 

If you have any questions, do not hesitate to contact the LTC for assistance!

Tools for Remote Learning

Bring the power of Hangouts Meet and Google Classroom together to give your students a place to come together and talk during a period of remote learning. I’ll walk you through how to set it up!

Take your PDFs and make them accessible for all your students during a remote learning experience by utilizing Kami! Check out some quick tips to get started in this video!

Bring the power of Google Slides closed captions and Screencastify’s screen recording together to help make your student’s learning as accessible as possible!

Curate YouTube videos and share them efficiently with your students. YouTube has an incredible amount of learning resources available to us but managing it can be a problem. Leveraging playlists, subscribing to channels (you could subscribe to mine, that’d be cool), and sharing videos effectively can help your kids!

If you haven’t used Flipgrid before it is the perfect tool for sharing and receiving information with your students and having them share it back to you using video. The best part, it has a mobile app that works just as well as the web browser. It has so many purposes they are hard to count! And .. its 100% free!

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.  

Learn Online On Your Own Time

You’re at school all day long, and at the end of the day you just want to go home and relax. However, you know you have to earn all those PD Credits (the credits formerly known as CPDUs) and you can’t find an affordable conference nearby that interests you or fits into your busy schedule.


The Learning Technology Center (LTC) is happy to announce its Fall 2019 Online Course Catalog! You’ll find lots of great ideas that you can pursue on your own time to help meet all your professional learning needs. They’re more affordable than most college courses, and the best part is: You can finish them all from the comfort of your own home! Courses include: 

  • Save Time with an Organized Google Drive (2 PD Credits) 
  • Maximize the Power of Google Classroom (2 PD Credits) 
  • Understanding the Power of Google Docs (2 PD Credits) 
  • Google Forms Essentials: Creating Digital Assessments (2 PD Credits) 

Looking for more of a challenge? Try… 

  • Transforming Education with Digital Tools (14 PD Credits!) 

Maybe something in-between (and just in time!) How about…

  • Book Study: Classroom Management in the Digital Age (5 PD Credits) 

Need an Administrator Academy this year? 

  • Growing a Culture for Effective Technology Coaching: The Principal-Coach Partnership (AA Course # 1841)

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

Is it a Snow Day or an eLearning Day?

It’s no secret that eLearning is a hot topic in Illinois these days. Given the change in the legislative language in Public Act 100-465 —that removed the previous statutory 5-hour requirement to define a school day— mixed with the snow and sub-zero temperatures of January, eLearning has come front and center.  Do our students need to be in front of us in order to learn, or can learning take place “anywhere” and “anytime” students have an Internet-connected device? This can be debated by both sides.

Regardless, we need to consider what is being done around eLearning, both by districts in our state as well as those in other states. The following is a list of school districts that have implemented eLearning days recently. Thank you to those that responded to the prompt on our LTC Statewide Technology group sharing these resources. If you haven’t joined yet, please do! It’s free, and there are educators that generously share their knowledge!

Gurnee District 56 in Lake County in is part of the state pilot program for eLearning. Their website includes an FYI eLearning section, a demonstration video, and tech support. Recently, they were featured on the news as well! Check it out here: https://youtu.be/xXJIgi59LKc

Also in Lake County, Libertyville District 70 offers a choice board of online and offline activities its students can participate in on eLearning days. Check out their middle school page (which includes FAQs as well as a parent feedback form) and their elementary school initiative.

McLean County, home to Tri-Valley CUSD 3, offers resources related to eLearning on its website for the elementary, middle, and high school.
These three districts are prime examples of how learning can take place even when the building is closed. To view more resources, check out our eLearning doc. If you have content to add to it, please email Nicole at nmzumpano@ltcillinois.org. Let us continue to learn from each other!