ISPA Weekly Updates

The SPARK Parent Podcast connects parents and caregivers with the knowledge and resources they need to survive and thrive during remote and hybrid learning.

Hosted by the LTC’s Colleen Kaplan, each episode strives to provide families with up-to-date knowledge on topics ranging from social-emotional learning to the importance of reading.

Many episodes will also feature a guest speaker, whose expert insights can help listeners unlock their full potential as remote learning facilitators.

The SPARK Parent Podcast is produced by the Learning Technology Center of Illinois. The LTC is an Illinois State Board of Education program that supports all public K-12 districts, schools, and educators through technology initiatives, services, and professional learning opportunities.

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Episode 7: Talking Toddlers with Susie Allison

In this episode, host Colleen Kaplan sits down with Susie Allison, creator of the popular Busy Toddler Instagram account, to talk about all things toddlers and preschool. Susie, an early childhood education expert and advocate, focuses on bringing hands-on, play-based learning back to families and classrooms using simple activities.


Episode 6: Exploring “Sharenthood” with Leah Plunket

In this episode, host Colleen Kaplan sits down to discuss the intersection of parenting and social media with Leah Plunkett, law professor and author of “Sharenthood: Why we should think before we talk about our kids online”.


Episode 5: The Principles of Well-Being during Remote and Hybrid Learning

Well-being can take time and practice to foster for parents and children alike. In this episode, host Colleen Kaplan and special guest Sara Bates discuss how to prioritize well-being in the home, even during remote learning.


Episode 4: The Importance of Reading During Remote Learning

In this episode, host Colleen Kaplan digs into the second chapter of “The Distance Learning Playbook for Parents”. Special guest Holly Kelly also joins this week’s discussion to highlight the continued importance of reading during remote learning, as well as several free online reading resources available to families.


Episode 3: “The Basics” of Remote and Hybrid Learning

In this episode, host Colleen Kaplan tackles the first chapter of “The Distance Learning Playbook for Parents”. Along with Jillian Pettenuzzo, the pair endeavor to answer some of the most pressing remote learning questions posed by today’s parents and caregivers.


Episode 2: Social-Emotional Learning: What is it and why is it important?

Now more than ever, a student’s SEL skills are crucial for participating in a changing world. In this episode, SEL Coach Abby Lyons leads a a discussion on SEL development and highlights several ways parents can model SEL skills in an at-home learning environment.


Episode 1: The Impact of COVID-19: Patterns of Stress and Brain

As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, you may be feeling a little different from day to day. This episode of the SPARK Parent Podcast will help you and your student learn to recognize and adapt to those new stresses, including those related to remote learning.


Meet the Host

Colleen Kaplan
Colleen Kaplan is the Remote Learning Outreach Specialist for the Learning Technology Center of Illinois (LTC). In this role, Colleen leads the SPARK Program (Supporting Parents and Remote Kids), which aims to provide support and resources created specifically for parents and caregivers during remote and hybrid learning. Additionally, Colleen is a self-proclaimed Microsoft evangelist and covers many of the Microsoft trainings the LTC offers. Prior to joining the LTC in August 2020, Colleen spent 10 years in various roles, including a high school technology integration specialist, CTE, and English teacher. She is a Microsoft Innovative Educator Expert and Fellow, a Microsoft Certified Educator, and an ISTE Certified Educator. She holds a bachelor’s degree in secondary education from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, and a master’s degree in Educational Leadership. Colleen works with schools across the state but is located in the northwest suburbs of Chicago.