April 2021 Newsletter
We’ll start with some philosophy.
The extra step is often what distinguishes the successful. When others find it easy to assume an opportunity has passed, the successful person often finds and makes that next move.
During the pandemic, lots of students might not bother to do what is needed to enter a video contest. Those who do, though, are rewarded with much better odds for making it to the finalist round, as there are likely to be notably fewer entries.
Just a thought. So, what shall we talk about first?
Both our edu-video and service video contests have April 30th as the final deadline. There is still time to create and submit something cool, and we hope you’ll encourage students to give both contests a look.
The edu-video contest, Creative Recovery ’21, asks students and/or teachers to explain something one might encounter in school in some creative way, and to do so in 90 seconds or less, while following specific rules about sources and citations.
The service video contest, Service via Video ’21, challenges students to tell the stories of those who make life better for others, and to do so in 2 minutes or less while following specific rules about sources and citations.
If the students want a major advantage, tell them to take seriously the rules about sources and citations. It’s stunning how often we get submissions in which images come from sites not listed in the rules, or music is added but not credited. We provide feedback for all entries that we get if there is time to do so, but students can certainly make things easier on themselves by double-checking the rules.
Check the links above for the details. We hope we’ll be celebrating what you and your students have put together in the near future!
Several years ago we began building a library of very short (under one-minute) videos to help those learning English as another language. Each video is built around a word that is part of the vocabulary of a specific high-frequency topic. The video has a subtitled version and a non-subtitled version; the idea is that someone getting used to the words could get help seeing the words, and then get used to hearing them without help.
We are preparing to launch an accompanying project with folks reading short stories for children who are learning English.
If you are someone who helps children learn English, what would you suggest we keep in mind as we begin developing the project? We’d welcome any thoughts you can share (contact us on this page), and will enter you in the month’s caffeine card drawing for your trouble!
I really enjoy the webinar I do with Richard Byrne of Free Tech for Teachers. It’s called Two EdTech Guys Take Questions and Share Cool Stuff, and you can catch our April 1st episode this Thursday afternoon at 4p Eastern / 1p Pacific. It’s free, but you’ll need to register here.
We always have fun sharing cool stuff, but will try to take that up a notch, given Thursday’s date.
There are two strong, free, edtech conferences being offered in April, so join in if time and interest allow.
The eLearning Consortium of Colorado and two other organizations have collaborated to offer up the 2021 Virtual Conference, a free gig happening April 7th-9th. I’ll be presenting on what schools can do to prepare for the post-COVID world. Hint: it’s a more complex situation than many think!
On April 18th and 19th, South Dakota offers up the Virtual TIE Conference. No word on whether they’ll be able to include Kory & the Fireflies, who performed for the teachers the last time I spoke there. Here’s to hoping! My session is called What Leaders at Great Schools Do Better: Tech and Inspiring One’s Team, and I hope you’ll join in.
If you’d like to enter the April drawing, you have options. Choose any of the following videos, and let us know what you think of it on our Contact page. If you watch all three and share thoughts on all three, we’ll enter your name twice.
April 2nd is World Autism Day, and you can celebrate it by watching one of the most popular videos in our library: My Name is Michael. It’s a personal and powerful story told by a courageous young man, and will be one you’ll be thinking about for a long time to come.
Like my students, yours may be preparing presentations as they wind down the school year. If so, having them watch How to Fail a Speech might be a useful (and fun) way to remind them what not to do.
You may be looking for an example of a service video, and if so, Sibu Wildlife Sanctuary is a finalist from a few years ago you can share. If you need more examples, try this page, which has the winners from the nine-year history of Next Vista’s Service via Video contest.
It turns out that April 1st is celebrated in some places with Edible Book Day. While I’ve never taken part in any events associated with such an occasion, I like both food and reading, so maybe this will inspire me to learn about it.
As for learning about great things generally, we hope you’ll find plenty of gems in this newsletter. As happens every month, we finish the first part of the newsletter with our perpetual hope for everyone: May you inspire and be inspired, each and every day!
Rushton and the Next Vista team
We love sharing cool free stuff, and invite you to help us out. You can find the best of what we’ve gathered over the years on the Next Vista Resources pages, but if there is something free and powerful you love that you don’t find there, let us know about it using our resources submission form.
Images in the freebies section are screenshots from videos or web pages unless otherwise noted.
Worth the Watch
* This short film is about the intertwining stories of a young man (composer Kris Bowers), and his grandfather who grew up in Florida in the 1930s and 1940s. A Concerto is a Conversation touches the heart in many ways, from hope for what can be, to the love between a grandson and a grandfather. (13:32)
* The Future Crunch people shared the story of 11-year-old Anthony Mmesoma Madu, a Nigerian boy learning ballet at a free school. The person who started the Leap of Dance school, Daniel Owoseni Ajala, wanted students who can’t afford traditional lessons to have the opportunity to learn to dance. After Daniel posted a video of Anthony dancing in the rain, it went viral, and now Anthony has a scholarship to the American Ballet Theatre school in New York. Here is the BBC summary of this wonderful story. (2:32)
* The Australian Broadcasting Corporation posted this piece about a guy who does timelapses of fungi. That description may sound rather bland, but in fact, the cool photography of the wildly-colored and even luminescent fungi are sure to pique some interests in your class. (6:08)
* I really enjoyed this TED talk by Jia Jiang called What I Learned from 100 Days of Rejection. It’s insightful and personal, and might inspire you to try that which you’ve always wanted to try! My friend Karim Semler recommended it, and notes that Jiang’s YouTube channel is full of his interesting rejection experiments. (15:23)
* Another gem from TED that struck me for its insights and personal story is Online Learning Could Change Academia — for Good by Tyler DeWitt. This young man, who has helped millions of chemistry students around the world (here’s his channel), talks about the conversations with his father, a beloved biology professor, and weaves in challenging ideas about what, why, and how teaching happens. (13:48)
* If deep thoughts and getting beneath the surface of an idea is your thing, you might find plenty of metaphors in this Great Big Story compilation of clips about fascinating things underground (or under water). (11:06)
* For some of you, this will play to your sense of nostalgia. How ‘I Spy’ Books Are Made is from Art Insider, and looks at the decidedly non-digital beginnings of these fascinating books. (4:18)
* There is something simultaneously tragic and profoundly beautiful about this story. If this video about Sakae Kato, a man who stayed behind in the Fukushima disaster area to care for abandoned cats doesn’t touch your heart, you should check to see that you still have one. (2:35)
* We’ll finish the watches this month with some sports. If superhuman reaction time is something that fascinates you, this badminton point may be the high point of your day. A good video for underscoring the power of dedication and training, this. (0:41)
* And one that combines bowling and what I assume to be a drone. The planning and editing of this one is masterful. (1:27)
Worth the Listen
* Jeff Young recently interviewed Todd Rose on the EdSurge Podcast. Todd Rose is the author of The End of Average, and this talk is titled, “There Is No ‘Average Student.’ So How Should Educators Measure Learning?” Rose has a fascinating personal story that couples with extensive research to argue for what our schooling can evolve to be, particularly as we think about changes that have come via the pandemic. (24:33)
Worth the Read
* This CNN story is about ten photographs from the 19th century taken around the world. Called The stories behind 10 of the world’s earliest known photographs, there is plenty of art, history, and culture to explore in these images.
* Another CNN story worth a few minutes to bring a lot of warmth to your heart is this one about a beloved substitute teacher. The substitute treated the students he worked with well, and when one of the students later learned that the sub had been living out of his car to save money to support a family in another country, it was time to make something happen.
* This EdSurge post summarizes recent advice from the CDC for schools and covers lots of topics, from physical distance to ventilation to equity. It’s a great resource for your team discussions.
* In this Edutopia post, Hoa Nguyen suggests possibilities exploring the thinking of Sojourner Truth, bell hooks (she does not capitalize her name), Alain LeRoy Locke, and Frantz Fanon. The title of the piece is 4 Black Philosophers to Teach Year-Round, and a good one for ideas that launch discussions of sexism, colonialism, and much more.
* If you’re heading back to the classroom and are thinking about ways to build rapport with students while wearing a mask, I’d recommend this post from Michael Linsin.
* I’m not entirely sure how I’d use this, but it is cool. An astronomer named J-P Metsavainio built a composite image of our galaxy over twelve years, and perhaps we should name a planet after him. The article is from a photography blog, so you’ll get a ton of camera content alongside the interesting astronomical ideas. Thanks to my buddy Cal Mann for sharing this one!
* If you were one of the folks who dealt with the time change last month and just didn’t get enough of its crazy fun, you might check out this article on fun facts about time zones from EF Education, the tours folks. A quick and fun read, and perhaps quite interesting for students beginning to find the fun in geography. (image credit and Canada shout-out: untitled photo by Vince Veras from Unsplash (license))
* In this EdSurge post, Laura McKenna explores the question, “Are We Facing a Mental Health Crisis for Boys?” In addition to some sobering statistics about violence and suicide, there are in this article many suggestions about approaches that may be more effective for boys.
* Larry Ferlazzo posted a great piece in January about the ritual of dedicating one’s teaching and learning on a given day to someone who has inspired that person. You can do it, your students can do it, and in doing so, you can set a nice tone. Great idea, and great share, Larry!
Worth the Try
* We’re all into finding videos of great teachers sharing intriguing and inspiring ideas. A new addition in that space is SOLCademy, which is building a repository of creative teacher-created content. The idea is that the videos front-load information to accelerate learning or provide a library of lessons for remediation. You might even check with Beau (the founder, @solcademy) and the SOLcademy team to see if strong videos you create might find a home there, too.
* Social Studies Samurai is Nate Gildart of Nagoya International School in Japan, and he has created a number of interesting Google Earth (web version) tours around different holidays. His newest is about April Fools Day, and comes with a Kahoot for those who want to expand the activity. Get into it, and you’ll find an older video from the BBC about spaghetti being harvested from trees. Pure awesomeness.
* I learned about “pineapple charts” from a Lori Gracey posting on the TCEA blog. It’s a system for teachers to use to invite colleagues to drop by their classes when they have something share-worthy going on. Great ideas built from the work of Mark Barnes and Jennifer Gonzalez, who wrote Hacking Education: 10 Quick Fixes for Every School.
* If you are looking for SEL activity templates (checking in, gratitude jar, kindness challenges), this post at the TCEA blog shows ways of using Jamboard for exploring a variety of possibilities.
* John Sowash of The Chromebook Classroom put out a strong post about the new screen recording feature for Chromebooks. He has insights and tips in addition to the how-to, and notes important limitations, such as the recorder capturing only external, and not system audio (i.e., you can’t screen record a video).
* For those of you using Meet, Google has posted a guide for parents and guardians that covers what it is, how to join one, what the privacy issues are, and how it helps students with learning and engagement.
* This isn’t new, but it was new to me. It’s called the Blob Opera, and it is better tried than described.
* And just in case you need to create a blob, there’s the Generate Blobs web app. Who knew? My friend Steve (McGriff), who shared it with me, that’s who. Thanks, Steve!
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April and flowers go together in my mind, though I know that’s not how the old rhyme works. Still, here’s a beautiful Unsplash find of a photo taken here in California for you to enjoy.
The Flower Fields, Carlsbad, United States by Renee Fisher
from Unsplash (license)
See you next month!