Lessons Learned in the Field

By: Angie Hunter

Lessons Learned in the FieldEvery summer when I hear the “ch-ch-ch” of an irrigation handline turning out water that glistens brilliantly in the sun, I am reminded of my youth. I grew up on a farm which meant that there was always a built-in summer job. It may not have always been a paying one, unless you count my food and lodging, but I could never put a price tag on the perspectives I gained from those experiences. 

My dad would wake us up early to move irrigation hand-lines in fields of alfalfa and barley. I recall searching frantically for the right pair of matching boots as I had several siblings to contend with, all with varying sizes of feet. It was not uncommon to wear a pair that was either too small or too large, or even one of each, but if you didn’t want to get left, you made them work. Socks were equally important as a pair that slipped would surely result in an ugly blister.

At times it would be so chilly that there were tiny glass icicles poised perfectly upon plants the sprinkler pipes had been watering throughout the night. Other times my dad would let us sleep in a little longer which we usually regretted because then the heat would set in quicker, forming droplets of sweat that would run into my eyes and down my cheeks, as I did not have a free hand to wipe them until I had carried my pipe to its proper destination. The inability to use my hands became even more dire when there were mosquitoes present, which was pretty much always. This could result in a dropped pipe and some sort of psychotic slapping episode that may or may not end in a smeared red mark on my skin.

Despite the mosquito, boot, and climate woes, I learned priceless life-lessons in our field of dreams. In fact, in number I am up to around 25 lessons, but I will spare you the overwatering and share just a few. As you consider your summer courses or life in general, see if you can apply the following:

Be aware of your vantage point

When moving an irrigation line, it is critical that you get the line as straight as possible so that the field gets watered evenly. In order to achieve this, we would put a make-shift sign, perhaps an old raggedy red t-shirt wrapped around a fence post, or when being fancy, a painted piece of wood on a welded piece of metal that could be pushed into the ground. This sign gave us something to aim at. We would pride ourselves on making the line of pipe as straight as possible, and if someone’s pipe veered off in the wrong direction, you certainly heard about it.

Oddly enough when starting a new line, instead of aiming directly at the sign, my dad would find a landmark up on a distant hill and would have us line up with that instead. As we got some sprinkler pipe in place and had our line going in the direction of that landmark, then we would transition to aiming for the sign. My dad explained to us that when we were a long way from the end of the line, we had a different vantage point and needed to aim at something farther away. Otherwise, we would end up “way off” when we came to the end. In our attempts at aiming well, it was not uncommon for us to sing the chorus of the then catchy song “The Sign”, by Ace of Base as we made our way throughout the field. “I saw the sign, and it opened up my eyes, I saw the sign. Life is demanding without understanding…”

In our lives, we often create goals from off in the distance. We need to be able to shift our perspective along the way and particularly when the end is in sight. Are we on target, or do we need to shift to the left or right? We need to consider our vantage point.  If we want the field to be watered evenly, we have to focus on consistency. Daily watering and even watering are important components. Do you do a little work daily in the summer on your courses or other chores? Do you balance your time so that each aspect of your life gets quenched? Do you overlap as needed to make sure that those thirsty areas get saturated? Or, do you just set out haphazardly lining up pipe only to discover a meandering snaking line that could have arrived at its destination much quicker if only there would have been a clear target?

Drain the line first, and team-up as necessary

When you first walk up to a pipe that has had water running through it all day and all night, you can usually tell by the lay of the land whether to expect an empty pipe that has drained properly or a pipe full of water that will be impossible to lift. The worst thing you can do for your back and the pipe is to try to lift it from the middle when it is full. This can result in a bent pipe or a back injury. It is always best practice to walk to the end that is most uphill and slowly pick up the pipe allowing it to drain completely. Sometimes the pipe can even fill up with mud or debris if the source is ditch water. Mud in a pipe makes it extremely awkward to carry and very lopsided. When you have a lot of pipe full of water or mud, it is wise to team-up and each take an end. One person drains, and when done, the other person picks up his or her end and the two carry the pipe together balanced and breathing easier.

Is your pipe full of water? Is there sludge and debris that need to be cleared out?  When the weight of the world seems to fall upon our backs, don’t try to hoist it up all at once, or it just might come crashing back down on you. Instead, go to an end. Start small. Lift a little at a time. As the strain starts to drain, the load will lighten and your confidence will return. Reach out to a family member, a friend, a teacher, a mentor to get some support and help you balance the weight. Work smarter not harder.

Be mindful in the moment

As I reflect on those days in the field with my siblings and my dad, I never remember feeling anxiety, overwhelm, stress, fear, sadness, etc. (okay one time when my brothers were chasing me with a snake, I felt all of the above). Truly, though. We did not usually have a strict deadline. We just needed to work until the job was done. Sometimes we took it a little slower, enjoyed some conversation, savored the morning. Other times, we were wildly energetic and competitive and loved the challenge of pushing ourselves to get done as quickly as possible, or we would work to “beat someone” on another line of pipe to the finish. We took in all of the senses. The cold water seeping through our pants onto our thighs as the pipe naturally hit there as we walked, the squish of our boots in the mud sometimes getting so stuck we would literally walk right out of them, the mosquito buzzing in your ear bringing you almost to the brink of insanity, the green of the field and white spray of the water against a rising sun over the mountains in the east, the grunting and breathing that resulted as we did hard physical labor, the feeling of accomplishment when we had completed our work, and the sensation of that hot shower rinsing off the mud and grime of the morning.

We live in a world where the destination has become the focus. We are always looking ahead to the next “thing”. We think, “Once I get there, I will be happy.” We forget to enjoy the journey along the way. We lack presence in the moment. The goal should not just be “to get it done” but to get the most out of it while “the doing” is taking place. I’ve heard it said, “Be where your feet are”. Don’t let your mind wander to future unknowns and rob you of that moment’s joy.  Find the joy in the study, the progress, even the failures that cause us to grow.

You better believe that I will be looking for “fields of opportunity” where my children can learn life lessons that will stick with them as these lessons have so profoundly impacted me.

Serving Rural Students in Idaho

Idaho has always been classified as a rural state, 479 miles long and 305 miles wide.  Idaho fits snugly between economic urban powerhouse states Washington and Oregon and more rural neighbors Montana and Wyoming. The geographic placement of Idaho creates a unique situation when providing equal education access and opportunity to all students throughout the state. Idaho’s population is comprised of 44 counties – seven urban and 37 rural – as classified by the Idaho Department of Labor. Idaho is anything but a ‘one size fits all’ state.

As time passes more people are leaving rural areas out of economic necessity such as seeking better job opportunities, education access and health care amenities. Migration out-flow data shows that rural counties have rates of out-migration – up to 17 percent annually. Though these changes mimic national trends, rural communities throughout Idaho are still active and pushing to thrive. One of the assets Idaho Rural Schools are able to access is the Idaho Digital Learning which currently is supporting 100% of the Idaho Public Schools by providing access and opportunity for students to take engaging and rigorous classes regardless of where they live or the schools that they go to. Approximately three quarters of districts in Idaho are considered rural as defined in Idaho statute. These districts, and the schools within them, struggle to retain teachers and address technology needs in order to deliver effective instruction. To support rural districts and schools, Idaho Digital Learning is able to offer solutions to the challenges rural districts face. During the 2017-2018 school year, Idaho Digital Learning served 31,106 student enrollments and offered 256 unique semester courses.

For many rural students, opportunities such as Advanced Placement (AP) and Dual Credit (Concurrent Credit) courses are not available at their local school. Through Idaho Digital Learning, students currently have access to 24 Advanced Placement courses and 79 dual credit courses, each of which have been aligned and approved for college credit through an in-state higher ed institution. By leveraging these course opportunities, students can accelerate their education and lower the cost of their college degrees.

Idaho Digital Learning is also a proud partner with Idaho Career and Technical Education to provide CTE Digital that leverages online learning to provide access to CTE programs for all students across the state.Students who complete a full CTE program can test for a technical certificate and exit high school ready to enter their chosen career field. Students can also enter a college or technical program and work toward the next level of certification in their career field.

Rural school districts often are not able to hire local teachers in a particular content area either due to funding constraints or lack of available certified instructors in their region. A critical growth area for Idaho Digital Learning has been a custom solution designed to provide an instructor for classes to address this lack of rural capacity.The custom solution is a joint partnership between an individual school and Idaho Digital Learning where online classes are taken during the school day inside a proctored lab at the local school. For example, many of the small rural Idaho school districts are not able to find certified computer science and math instructors, therefore, Idaho Digital Learning is able to provide the online instructor, curriculum, and student support for their students. The content is also serving as classes taken in part, to the students experience in learning online and to prepare them for success in college and career.

Idaho Digital Learning also recently concluded a three year Rural Utility Services (RUS) grant through the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The focus of this grant was to provide technology carts to sixteen schools throughout the state to enhance technology integration and utilization. The carts are being leveraged to provide access to direct instruction in STEM-based courses.  Schools and districts receiving the technology carts can also leverage the technology to help meet a variety of student and teacher needs.

In addition to the technology carts, Idaho Digital Learning has also purchased and installed a NetLab. This technology allows students remote access to a server to complete hands-on activities needed to complete CISCO Academy courses, Cybersecurity courses, and other networking courses. Access to this technology will again provide students with equity and access to opportunities, regardless of their zip code.

Detailed steps on how to set up Youtube Strict Restricted mode on your school’s network using DNS

By William Dembi

  1. As the replacement for Youtube for Schools, Youtube Strict Restricted mode blocks potentially objectionable content and advertisements your students may not want to see. Google provides steps on how to do that here, but those instructions are only viewable with G Suite administrator privileges and are partially incorrect. This blog post will give step by step instructions on how to set up Youtube Strict Restricted leveraging DNS for a Microsoft Domain Controller.
  2. RDP into your Microsoft Domain Controller that handles internal DNS. If your domain controller doesn’t handle internal DNS, you can click here for a guide on how to set it up.
  3. Once connected, open up DNS Manager. Please note that for the following examples any sensitive information will be hidden by black boxes. You should see a screen that looks similar to this:
  4. You’ll want to repeat steps 5-10 for each of the following Youtube Zones:
    1. www.youtube.com
    2. m.youtube.com
    3. youtubei.googleapis.com
    4. youtube.googleapis.com
    5. www.youtube-nocookie.com
  5. Right click on any white space and select the option for New Zone. The New Zone Wizard will pop up. Click Next. 
  6. Leave the default options and click Next. 
  7. Leave the default options and click Next. 
  8. Input the Zone mentioned in step 4 of this guide and click Next. www.youtube.com was used for the following screenshot. 
  9. Ensure Do not allow dynamic updates is selected and then click Next.
  10. Click Finish.
  11. Ensure steps 5-10 are completed for each Zone mentioned in step 4. Your DNS Manager should look like this. 
  12. For each zone listed in step 4 create an A record pointing the parent domain of the zone to the IP address Alternatively for less strict filtering, the IP address can be used. A records can be created by selecting the zone on the left hand side and selecting New Host(A or AAAA).
  13. After entering the A record for every zone your internal DNS will force Youtube Strict Restricted Mode. Questionable videos, searches, and advertisements will be blocked on Youtube.

Thank you for reading. If you have any questions please email william.dembi@idla.k12.id.us or tweet @TheDembiDude.

Keeping kids engaged and learning during the summer

As the school year is coming to a close, now is the time to start looking into options to keep your kids engaged during the summer. Here are some options throughout Idaho that offer summer learning programs.



Idaho Digital Learning Summer Courses

Idaho Digital Learning Academy courses are online classes for all Idaho students. Idaho Digital Learning courses create flexibility in scheduling and access to dual credit or Advanced Placement courses for college credit, opportunity to graduate early, and recover credits. All courses align to Idaho Core Content Standards and are facilitated by an Idaho Certified, Highly Qualified Teacher.


Idaho Commission for Libraries Summer Reading Programs

Summer Reading programs are designed to help children maintain or improve their reading readiness when they go back to school. Idaho Commission for Libraries (ICfL) Summer Reading coordinators strive to provide libraries with summer program resources based on sound research and best practices.


Idaho State University Summer Reading Programs

Summer is the key opportunity to develop reading and study skills for the upcoming school year.
In this fun summer program, your son or daughter will double reading speed and become a stronger reader and better student.


University of Idaho Extension 4-H Youth Development

4-H prepares young people for challenges in their community and the world. Using research-based programs with positive youth development, 4-H youth get the hands-on, real world experience they need to become leaders.





Northern Idaho


Education Information Center of Coeur d’Alene Summer Programs

A list of summer camps and resources in the Coeur d’Alene area.


LCSC Kids’ College

LCSC Kids’ College is a short-format summer program for youth ages 6 through 15. Kids’ College strives to offer the highest quality educational courses for youth in the Lewis-Clark Valley. Classes are scheduled Monday through Thursday.



Southern Idaho


Treasure Valley YMCA Summer Camps & Programs

YMCA programs and camps nurture and celebrate the social,-emotional, cognitive, and physical development of all youth, resulting in the BEST SUMMER EVER! So join us on a summer journey at your favorite Y location. We’ll see you here!


Boise State University River Site Field Trips

The Intermountain Bird Observatory is embarking on a new project along the Boise River, near the Barber Pool Conservation Area. Since the spring of 2015 IBO has been using 20 acres of riverside habitat to provide research and education opportunities to students and families throughout the Treasure Valley.


Boise State University eCamp Summer Programs

Students who are currently in 8th or 9th grade can use hands-on activities and projects involving self discovery, cooperative learning, critical thinking, and problem solving while living on campus in a college dormitory.


Discovery Center of Idaho Summer Camps

We host a variety of events here at the Discovery Center of Idaho: Young Discoverers, Adult Nights, and friendly challenges among members and frequent visitors. No matter the age or activity, we have a lot of fun and are certain we have something on our calendar sure to entertain and create lasting memories.


College of Southern Idaho Summer Camps

College for Kids opportunities.


College of Southern Idaho Summer Career Camp

The CSI Summer Career Camp will introduce up to 200 middle and high school students to different career pathways through hands-on leadership activities. Students will spend time on the CSI Ropes Course, and in the manufacturing, Coding and Culinary Arts departments on CSIs Campus.


Eastern Idaho


Idaho Falls Zoo Education Programs

Explore the wonderful world of animals in depth and challenge your understanding of the sciences.


Idaho State University College of Arts & Letters Summer Programs

The 2018 CAMP will take place on June 11 and 12. CAMP (Communication, Art, Media, and Persuasion) is a two-day college experience for high school students. Students stay in on-campus housing, participate in workshops in ISU’s state-of-the-art facilities, tour and experience the ISU campus, and develop relationships with ISU faculty.


Idaho State Summer Camps

A list of summer camps available through Idaho State University.


Making Computer Science Accessible to All

The Virtual Learning Leadership Alliance is continuing to post a weekly blog on online and blended learning topics. The Virtual Learning Leadership Alliance (VLLA) is an association of the chiefs of some of the most innovative virtual programs in the US. Consisting largely of leading state virtual schools, and several outstanding consortia (http://www.virtuallearningalliance.org/about/). The member organizations serve well over a quarter of a million online course enrollments annually. Idaho Digital Learning has been a member since its inception and takes the lead in many of the organization work groups.

The latest blog is “Making Computer Science Accessible to All,” from Idaho Digital Learning. If you are interested in following along as all partner states share their knowledge of elearning, subscribe by provide your name and email.

Here is an excerpt from the post…

The U.S. Department of Labor predicts that computer science-related jobs will be among the fastest growing and highest paying over the next decade. A large majority of parents (84%), teachers (71%), principals (66%) and superintendents (65%) agree that offering Computer Science is more important or just as important as required core courses like math, science, history and English. A majority of educators feel that students should be required to take Computer Science in schools when it is available (60% of teachers, 62% of principals and 56% of superintendents agree).[1] Yet a recent analysis of national data shows that 22 percent of 12th graders say they’ve never taken a computer science course and more than half of all high school seniors do not have access to computer science in their school.[2]

Online learning programs, such as Idaho Digital Learning, are tackling the problem of providing access to computer science for all students in Idaho. In 2014 the Idaho State Board of Education and House Education Committee approved a rule change that allows students to take dual credit or AP computer science as core math or science credit versus as an elective credit – providing an incentive for students to explore the field of Computer Science. In addition, there are other innovative virtual school statewide online learning programs throughout the nation that are providing students with opportunities. For example, as part of a statewide initiative to make computer science available throughout every high school, the Arkansas Governor requested that Virtual Arkansas make online Computer Science available, free, to all schools throughout the state.

To find out more of what Idaho Digital learning is doing to provide Computer Science education, continue reading the complete blog post at http://www.virtuallearningalliance.org/blog/

Idaho Digital Learning Middle and High School Health Curriculum

The health courses offered by Idaho Digital Learning for both Middle and High School are based on the foundational concept of health and wellness that is illustrated by the Health Triangle: Physical, Mental/Emotional, and Social Health. This concept reveals the interwoven relationship of these three aspects of a person’s health; and emphasizes that what happens in each area, impacts all others.

Our courses provide instruction relating to mental/emotional health, social health, and physical health. Units target nutrition, fitness, hygiene, and how lifestyle choices in these areas have a direct and profound impact on a person’s health. Other units target how to build and maintain good relationships, communication skills, conflict resolution, and decision making.

Mental health, stress, and coping strategies are covered in the curriculum; and risk taking behaviors identified, as well as ways to lower risks that impact aspects of health and wellness. Basic First Aid Skills, and facts about infectious disease, STD’s, and non-infectious disease are included in the curriculum. Finally, facts regarding substance abuse as it relates to alcohol, illegal drugs, prescription drugs, and tobacco products are presented.

The main difference between high school and middle school health courses are these: Middle School Health includes one lesson in every unit that covers one body system; like cardiovascular, respiratory, and the immune system. There is a greater emphasis given to direct instruction on risk taking and types of risks in middle school. The thought behind this is that if students can learn to identify risks early in their development, they will have the skills and information they need to make better choices and avoid unnecessary risks.

Middle School Health has an emphasis on puberty, while High School Health emphasizes refusal skills, contraceptives, and pregnancy. Both have some content on STD’s, with a greater emphasis in the High School Health course. Content is presented in age appropriate ways in each course.

Cool Tools: Content & Interactivities

Cool Tools logoIdaho Digital Learning’s Cool Tools Blog Series wraps up with content and interactivity resources for all subjects. As an added bonus we have included resources specific to Social Studies, Humanities, Math and Science. We hope you have found this useful and informative. Be looking for future resource series.

Social Studies & Humanities



  • BiomodelChemistry and Biology Interactives.  Can be run on a tablet if “Jsmol” option is selected.
  • The Physics AviaryA free collection of games, tools and virtual labs for physics.
  • Code.orgUse free curriculum to teach students to problem solve, code,  and apply creative thinking within the context of science or math.  For further PD using code.org curriculum visit the Idaho Digital Learning PD Portal.
  • NASASearchable database of lesson content and activities.
  • ChemCollective Murder MysteryStudents play an Flash based free “murder mystery” game using their chemistry skills.  Complete with teacher resources and Interactive movies and clues to guide students along.
  • Kinetic CityInteractive Science simulations and games (good for Grades 1-6)  Check out the Nastro Virus!
  • Seer Training ModulesAnatomy/Physiology training modules from the National Cancer Institute.  Complete with graphics and quizzes.

Cool Tools: Assessment & Collaboration

Cool Tools logoIdaho Digital Learning’s Cool Tools Blog Series continues. This month we’ll be focusing on assessment and collaboration tools for any and all subjects.

  • Jeopardy Rocks – With this tool you are able to create a jeopardy game. Example
  • EdPuzzle – Add videos that give the ability to pause to insert teacher questions.
  • Blabberize – This is a fun tool that adds audio to images, making them speak.
  • Poll Everywhere – This is an instant polling tool. Smart phones or devices are required.
  • Answer Garden – Create a live poll where answers are returned in Wordle format. Example
  • MathEqualsLove Blog – Free Exit Ticket templates. Good for K-12.
  • Fakebook – This tool creates fake Facebook feeds. An unusual format for allow students to “show what they know”. Example
  • GoFormative – This site provides assignments so you can see what students are doing in real-time and provide feedback. Demo
  • Tozzl – This tool is similar to a shared Pinterest board for safe collaboration. No registration required. Only students with link and a password (provided by the teacher) can use.
  • Padlet – A content creation and collaboration space.
  • Google Apps – Share with emails on version and allow people to contribute instead of creating multiple variations of the same item.

Cool Tools: Study & Tech Tools

Cool Tools logoIdaho Digital Learning’s Cool Tools Blog is the beginning of what we hope will be a valuable set of digital tools. These resources cover a wide variety of information on assessment, collaboration and content, and focus on specific content areas, which include Math, Science, Social Studies and Humanities. First up, Study & Tech Tools!

Study Tools

  • Video Notes – All notes you type are synced with the video and time tag. Here is a demo of a Final Product.
  • Ninja Words – Ninja Words offers fast dictionary look up that guesses what you probably wanted if you accidentally spell the word wrong.
  • Creative Commons Attribution Examples – This site has examples of how to correctly attribute OER Resources.
  • Photos for Class – Photos for Class has an OER photo search that appends the attribution to the image when you download it.
  • Bibme – Bibme is a free online citation builder. Students can use this to help build their annotated bibliographies.
  • Google News Lab – Google News Lab is a Google tool specifically designed for journalists.
  • instaGrok – instaGrok is an interactive search engine that presents students with information by topic in multiple media formats. Students can take notes, journal, and even take a quiz on the content.
  • Wolfram Alpha – Part search engine, part calculator.

Tech Tools

Stay tuned for our next Cool Tools Blog: Content Tools