Education and learning

Peter Medlin

What’s the vision you have in your head of P.E. class? Hoping not to get picked last in dodgeball? Are you climbing a rope?


That’s what physical education was for a lot of people. But now, in many schools, technology is crafting the next generation of gym class while teachers focus more on mental health than getting fit. 



Northern Almanac Ep. 3 - 'The Northern Illinois'

Feb 17, 2020

Welcome to the Northern Almanac, the WNIJ living history project coinciding with NIU’s 125th anniversary. I’m Clint Cargile.

Before the first classes started at Northern Illinois State Normal school in 1899, a faculty committee headed by professor Fred Charles organized the first student publication. A monthly magazine called, appropriately, ‘The Northern Illinois’. They produced 1,500 copies of the inaugural issue for the school’s September opening. 

Spencer Tritt

Postcards for the 2020 Census go out next month. But schools are already using past census data to illustrate trends and teach students the importance of an accurate count.

The census dictates billions of dollars in federal funding. That includes education funding for special ed, after-school and a plethora of other programs.

The Sound of Science - 'Mae Jemison'

Feb 14, 2020

Gaylen: Welcome to The Sound of Science on WNIJ. I’m Joe from NIU Center for Black Studies. Joe will accompany me today as we dive deep into history. 

Joe: Mae Jemison might not be a household name, but she has been a powerhouse of science for the past 3 decades. She was the first black female astronaut, inspired by Lieutenant Uhura from Star Trek and Sally Ride, the first American woman in space. 

The Northern Almanac Ep. 2 - 'John Williston Cook'

Feb 10, 2020

Welcome to the Northern Almanac, a living WNIJ history project coinciding with NIU’s 125thanniversary, I’m Clint Cargile. When it opened on September 11th, 1899, Northern Illinois State Normal school had 173 students made up of 146 women and 27 men, and as long as they committed to teaching for a time in Illinois schools they paid no tuition.

Sound of Science - 'Neil DeGrasse Tyson'

Feb 7, 2020

Joe: Welcome to The Sound of Science on WNIJ. We’re Joe and Gaylen from NIU Center for Black Studies. 

Gaylen: Today, Joe and I will explore black history beyond the stars. 

Joe:  The name Neil DeGrasse Tyson might sound familiar; he was a topic of discussion in the science community and public for a long time. His interest in the stars took off when he visited the Hayden Planetarium as a child, and from there a star was born. 

Maggie Kasicki

On this week’s podcast: Maggie Kasicki talks to host Peter Medlin. She teaches English as a Second Language at Rockford University. She also volunteers at schools across Rockford teaching cross-cultural education. They also talked a lot about her traveling, but specifically about how she travels culturally. There's no Holiday Inn, no continental breakfast. Maggie gets straight-up embedded.


A high score on the SAT or ACT is no longer required for admission to more than a dozen four-year colleges and universities in Illinois. As of last week, that includes Northern Illinois University, which will now accept a high school GPA of 3.0 for admission.


Southern Illinois University-Carbondale, Western Illinois University, and many private colleges had already adopted similar policies. They’re all part of a growing movement.

Peter Medlin

Students are taping drywall they hung a few weeks ago. The sound of hammers and saws echo from another room. 


“This house here was built last year at Guilford. You were in that class, right?” said Jack Turner. He’s the construction manager at Rockford Area Habitat for Humanity. “Yeah, so they built the house last year.”


The student he just spoke to is in a construction class at Guilford High School. The class works both semesters and builds one house per year. 


Bruno/Germany / Pixabay

So you want to build a home studio. You can do it! Two important factors are what you want to use it for and how much you'd like to spend.

But let's start basic.


1) A computer

2) Audio interface (this gets audio into your computer. In a pinch, you could use a portable recorder)

3) DAW software

4) Headphones

5) A good mic or two

Oh, and piles of pillows or blankets to deaden the sound.

The Northern Almanac Ep. 1 - 'The Barbed-Wire Barons'

Feb 3, 2020

Welcome to The Northern Almanac, a WNIJ living history project coinciding with NIU's 125th anniversary. I'm Clint Cargile.  

NIU No Longer Looking At SAT & ACT Scores

Jan 30, 2020
Susan Stephens

Students applying to Northern Illinois University with a 3.0 grade point average or higher will soon be automatically admitted.

Other universities, including Western Illinois University, have already adopted test-optional policies.

NIU is the first public university in the state to go completely test blind starting fall 2021.

The university will no longer look at SAT and ACT scores for admission as well as merit scholarships.

Wikipedia Commons

A recently proposed plan would add sexting to the list of topics covered in Illinois sex education courses.

Middle and high schools in the state would be required to discuss with students the social, academic and legal consequences of sending or receiving sexually explicit images.

It was introduced by State Representative Maurice West of Rockford. He says a constituent reached out with the idea to expand a law passed last year about teaching consent.

Erik Czerwin

Erik Czerwin, language arts & literature teacher at Rockford's Guilford High School, sits down with host Peter Medlin for a wide-ranging discussion of the top education issues of 2019 and what they'll be looking at in 2020. 

They talk about everything from local stories like:

Peter Medlin

A group of teachers hold their phone in front of their faces. Using the camera they’re looking at the classroom they’re standing in...when suddenly a zombie appears. It warns they need to reach a safe house or they’ll be eaten alive.



 With that they face a series of locked doors. To open them and escape the undead’s grasp, they need to answer a series of vocabulary questions. Wait, what?


Guy Stephens

A Northern Illinois University professor is looking at ways to reduce incarceration rates for those dealing with mental illness. Professor of Sociology Fred Markowitz will continue his research in Finland thanks to a Fulbright research grant.

Markowitz said both Finland and the U.S have seen an increase in the number of mentally ill in jail as they cut back local treatment programs. He said in the U.S., it’s difficult to get good information on the impact of those cuts, or programs that might prevent jail time for those grappling with mental illness.

Northern Illinois University

A Northern Illinois University professor has tips on how being frugal can help in business.

Professor Tim Michaelis admits he lives quite frugally, and traces his habits back to his grandparents. This was especially evident when his grandfather examined the family earnings. 

“Working, he did the math and realized if he was just going to save 5-10% of his salary, he would not retire. Which was what they were telling people to do at the time. Just kind of through my childhood, I learned to be cautious and careful with resources," he said.

The Sound of Science - 'Tire Particles'

Jan 17, 2020

Jeremy: Welcome to the Sound of Science on WNIJ. I’m Jeremy from NIU STEM Outreach, and I’m here with my colleague Sam.

Sam: We have a question from a long-time STEM supporter, Gary.

Gary: Hi, I'm Gary and I live in Sycamore. I would like to know: what happens to all the rubber that wears off tires? Where does it go? I don't see it laying along the side of the road.

Spencer Tritt

The impeachment trial of President Trump is expected to begin soon in the U.S. Senate. Coverage of the hearings has dominated headlines for months and the conversation has seeped into Illinois high schools. 


Pete Piccone has learned from over 20 years in the classroom that when it comes to rare events like impeachment, it’s not difficult to make the material relevant. But it can be tough to get students to express their own opinion.


The Sound of Science - 'The Uncanny Valley'

Jan 10, 2020

Sam: Welcome to The Sound of Science on WNIJ. I’m Sam from NIU STEM Outreach. And with me is Jeremy. Today we’re going to venture into the Uncanny Valley. 

Jeremy: The Uncanny Valley is the curve of a graph that describes people’s appreciation of a creation that mimics humanity. At a certain point, the mimicry isn’t quite good enough and it causes a negative gut reaction. Something that is clearly a cutesy cartoon is fine, so is a movie about a clone, but a rubbery-faced robot with cold dead eyes is just too weird.

Peter Medlin

Rockford's West Middle School principal Maurice Davis sits down with host Peter Medlin on a new episode of Teachers’ Lounge!

Maurice is from Rockford. In fact, his parents still live literally a few blocks from his school. He’s taught at pretty much every level of education except maybe preschool. Peter and Maurice talked about coming back to his hometown to teach, making history class relevant, how to improve teaching into 2020 and beyond and so much more.

Failure Bites - 'So Right, It's Wrong'

Jan 9, 2020

Coaching For Geeks Overlord Robin Bates shares his hard-earned wisdom on this episode of Failure Bites.  

Failure Bites - 'Walking Away from Success'

Jan 9, 2020

Tanya Kiefer has experienced success. A lot of it, in fact. But sometimes, success isn't all it's cracked up to be.

Peter Medlin


Every year, the DeKalb/Sycamore Bookcase Project makes 50 bookcases for 50 children, each case complete with a metal plate engraved with the child’s name. 



The project is now in its ninth year. Former DeKalb Mayor John Rey started the effort. And if you ask him where he got the idea? He says he read about it. 


The Sound of Science - 'The Future of A.I.'

Jan 3, 2020

Sam: Welcome to the Sound of Science on WNIJ, I’m Sam from NIU STEM Outreach

Fred: And I’m Fred Williams from NIU Division of Information Technology. I’m not an expert in Artificial Intelligence, and I don’t think anyone can truly predict the speed and breadth of AI development. However, I have some ideas as to where AI is going.

The Sound of Science - 'Hacking Humans'

Dec 30, 2019

Sam: Welcome to the Sound of Science. I’m Sam from NIU STEM Outreach

Fred: And I’m Fred Williams from NIU Division of Information Technology. In the last few episodes we’ve discussed some of the ways cyber criminals infiltrate networks to gain information and how you can try to keep that from happening. But there are ways criminals attack you directly, and you’re probably constantly targeted.

Sam: The most common are forms of phishing. That’s fishing with a p h. These are messages designed to get you to login to fake services with your common usernames and passwords.

The Sound of Science - 'Cyber Attacks'

Dec 27, 2019

Sam: Welcome to The Sound of Science. I’m Sam from STEM Outreach. 

Jessica: And I’m Jessica from NIU Division of Information Technology. We’ve already talked about databases storing your information as hashes to make it more secure. Today we’ll talk about how an attacker can get ahold of those hashes in the first place.

Spencer Tritt


Illinois is struggling to attract and hire new teachers. A new program hopes to borrow a few tricks from the medical field to address the issue.

The Sound of Science - 'Password Math'

Dec 18, 2019

Sam: Welcome to The Sound of Science. I’m Sam from STEM Outreach. 

Peter Medlin

Middle schoolers from Loves Park were chosen to create the ornament representing Illinois for the National Christmas Tree Celebration in Washington D.C.

The two dozen Harlem Middle School art students worked on 24 ornaments for more than a month in secret. The National Parks Service didn’t let the kids say anything about their project until the official announcement.