August 2019 Newsletter
Are you getting ready for a new school year, or at least a new semester? The vast majority of you who read this missive are, and you should know this: we’ve assembled cool ideas to help you come up with great projects, cool resources to inspire you, and a cool opportunity to win a little caffeine, if you’re into such things.
“Wow!” you say. “Do you do this every month?”
Yup. You work hard to help kiddos see new possibilities for themselves, and we’re happy to add this little gift to your inbox each month. If someone sent you the link and you want in on this action, just say so at this page.
Let’s get to it!
Is the coming semester one in which you launch something really cool to visually inspire your students and colleagues? Here are several ideas we are happy to help with if you wish:
- Get students to create minute-long videos that help their classmates review something important for some learning that’s on the way. (Here’s an example for elementary math.)
- Have students begin learning about local charities both to inspire a sense of service and to prep them for our annual Service via Video contest. (Here’s an example about a community food bank.)
- Work with colleagues to tell the stories of success that happen at your school and allow us to share that with schools around the world. (Here’s an example about a program to inspire more fathers to be involved at their school.)
- Encourage students to make short videos telling about cool careers to help them get a sense of what’s possible for their futures. (Here’s an example in Spanish about a video editor.)
- Group students to make videos that tell about what in your community you are all proud of, and share them with a school in another country. (Here’s an example from a small town in Michigan.)
If any of that sounds intriguing, just let us know. Like other teachers who have walked the video project path, you could end up with something that may inspire your students for years to come.
A Nod to Noir
Just for fun, I’m including this video from a contest from several years ago. It’s called Film Noir, and not only tells a little bit about the genre, it includes a nice explanation of the word “ambiguous.”
Greg Cox and students from Ellis Elementary School
submitted as part of the Next Vista Cool Designs video contest
They also had fun making it, which is often a quality I find in the best videos submitted to our site.
Imagine spending each of five days working with other teachers in your department or grade level to explore ways to make great things happen in the classroom. Wouldn’t it be cool if someone had created a free resource for doing that?
It turns out there is exactly such a thang, and I created it myself two years ago. Called the Five-Day Teacher Challenge, it sounds like some sort of a cleanse, but it’s really an opportunity to try something that is both fun and capable of making you a better teacher. Give it a look via the link above, and if you have questions about it, feel free to let me know.
My friend Mari Venturino asked a bunch of us to contribute a chapter each to Fueled by Coffee & Love, a collection of real stories by real teachers. The Kindle version is only $3.99 (at the time I ordered my paperback), and it’s full of stories to remind you why we do what we do.
I wrote one of the chapters, called “Being Worthy,” and it’s about my time working with amazing teachers in The Philippines. This May I went back to that country to work with another group, and some of the teachers from the original group (2013) worked as assistants this time around. What a blessing to know them, learn from them, explore new things with them, and be inspired by them. I hope you like the story!
A friend is looking at building a much better way to raise money for school programs, and wants to talk to teachers about things that need to be part of the system. (Music folks, PTA people, and coaches, you’re at the top of the list!) As I understand it, the prototype is almost ready.
He would love some of your time to talk if you’re in the U.S. or Canada, and will certainly not try and sell you anything. I have seen him create amazing things for schools, and encourage you to take some time for what I know will be an interesting conversation. If that sounds interesting, let me know, and I’ll connect you to him.
That is, we like to help teachers win something nice to sip from Starbucks. We give away $5 cards every month, and this summer we’re looking to thank those who still read this newsletter in June, July, and August by giving away three each month instead of one. Yup, that’s a tripled chance of winning. If you don’t enter, we may end up with a card that doesn’t get claimed. It’s happened before!
Our winners from July are Tami Myers, Mary Jude Doerpinghaus, and Steve Kirk. Congratulations to you all!
If you want to enter for August (and trust me, if history is any indication, your odds are fantastic in August), you can do what we asked folks last month to do. Take a look at this doc I created to help kids create better videos. Watch any of the 24 videos in the list and tell us what you think of it. Do so by filling out the prompts on our contact page. Enjoy, and good luck!
Most of you are only weeks (or days!) from starting the next school term. You may have already begun! Regardless, I hope you set aside a few minutes to think of the coolest possible thing you might try as school kicks into gear. Some kiddo in one of your classes needs something a little different, and the brainstorming you do now might deliver just the right thing.
As I finish every newsletter: May you inspire, and be inspired, each and every day!
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.
* The Akshar School in Assam, India, focuses on low-income students, and their fees have to be paid in used plastic bottles. The enforced recycling is also good for the students’ health, as burning old plastics for warmth apparently is a regular occurrence. This story is a nice combination or helping students learn, repurposing old plastics, and even preparing students for job possibilities. (4:55)
* One of the many dedicated teachers I worked with in The Philippines in May is JC Gonzaga, who recently shared this video, A Farmer’s Son, with our group. It is a message about poverty and possibility, and the power of dedication to a sense of hope. It’s a beautiful story, and one that speaks to all of us who are familiar with places where resources are few and challenges are substantial. (4:34)
* In the June newsletter, we highlighted a video from Edutopia’s 60-Second Strategy series about participation cards. This month, we look at another from that set, called SLANT Listening, which helps students learn to respectfully and effectively listen to others. This seems to be focused on middle grades, but it’s a good strategy for students of all ages. (1:01)
* How do people come up with ideas for inventions? An IBM employee in Nairobi, with over a hundred patent applications, describes an unfortunate moment that led to his developing a phone designed to help people in dangerous situations. (3:16)
* In a recent discussion in a TED group, I was introduced to Arvind Gupta’s 2010 presentation on trash becoming toys of learning. There is something about his energetic leap from one idea to the next, showing ever-more-sophisticated math and science knowledge, that is really charming. And if his story about the blind children doesn’t touch your heart, you aren’t paying attention. (15:23)
* This Google Science Fair video is about Jonah Kohn, a 14-year-old who developed a system to allow people with hearing loss to better enjoy music. Like most of the science fair finalist and winner stories, it shows the connection between a person’s passion for something, and the interest in exploring new possibilities with that passion. May all our students have the chance to develop something meaningful for others through what makes them happy! (2:32)
* My buddy Hadar Dohn, a principal in New York City, suggested I watch this video called “Why 2 is Greater than 4: A Proof by Induction.” It is one of the more straightforward explanations of the power of getting away from too much focus on right answers that I’ve seen. The speaker, Max Ray-Riek (find more from him at @maxrayriek), is presenting at a National Council of Teachers of Mathematics conference, and I was charmed by the enthusiasm the math teachers brought to his message. (5:10)
* Katherine Goyette does an interview series with educational leaders called Site Leaders Connect, and in this episode, she interviews principal Brett Coley about how he communicates with his staff and community. You can learn more about Katherine’s community for school site leaders at this page. (17:38)
* This Edutopia post from Pete Barnes called Why I Stay in Teaching is a nice, quick read about growing as a professional. He includes a number of strong pieces of advice for anyone wanting to improve his or her work, as well.
* Coverage of school challenges in many news outlets follows a predictable pattern. Tell a story that includes the issue, describe the challenge, mention something someone is trying to do, explicitly say this isn’t the silver bullet to all educational problems, then almost (but not quite) get into the complexity of the issue. This article from NPR on kids and screen time is a welcome departure, looking at the issue from a far more nuanced perspective, and including some strong suggestions for parents. Thanks to Nate Gildart (@nathangildart) for sharing this one.
* Why would someone use over 100,000 mirrors to create a tribute to Margaret Hamilton? She was one of the pioneers in the field of software engineering, and this larger-than-New-York’s-Central-Park display honors all she did to help make the Apollo 11 mission a success. While on this page at Google’s blog, make sure to cycle through pictures of the mirror array, by the way!
* For any given subject, there is the possibility that some story captures the interest of the subject such that a student gets excited about it. The student leaves the shackles of mere grades and steps into the realm of excitement for real learning. This Atlas Obscura article about Florence Nightingale and her ability to convert statistics to infographics may hold that possibility for those learning history, biology, nursing, or one of several branches of mathematics. A big thanks to John Dickerson of the Slate Political Gabfest for sharing this gem.
* One way to get a student interested in science is to introduce stories of endangered animals. In this article from The Independent, the author explores how one of the largest nature reserves in Africa (Nissa Reserve in Mozambique) managed to eliminate poaching (illegal killing) of elephants for a year. One major strength of this piece is how it explores other reasons that the number of killings has decreased. An entire unit on conservation and/or statistics could probably be built on this one post.
* For those interested in building some learning activities around the 50th anniversary of the moon landing, this post from Google’s blog has a wealth of info, including historical pieces and a new tool in Google Earth Studio (a keyframe tool for geo-content) to allow one to create animations of the moon and Mars.
* I have for some time been a major fan of Unsplash, a site with incredible images (photos, art) that are completely free to use. While legally one need not even cite the source, as an educator trying to model what’s right, I always do. (They even note that doing so is appreciated.) They now have Unsplash for Education, which includes collections for student projects in art, current events, geography, math and science, health, history, space, and tech. The one below is Go out into space by Soviet Artefacts from Unsplash (license). (That’s how I cite them; click on the title to go to the page with the image.)
* ShowMe is a tutorial creation tool some teachers are using to create review material for their students. There are apps and a web tool for Chromebooks, as well. The result looks a lot like slides that have been screencast, and asking students which approach is easier, and why one tool is more useful than the other might make for a good discussion early in the semester to get them thinking about how they present their ideas. As with any tool like this, check the pricing page first. Does the free version look like it will give you enough to properly evaluate the tool? If not, don’t waste your time.
* The California Career Center has put out an app to help middle school and high school students create a plan for life after graduation. Called Career Action, it’s available for both iOS and Android devices. Kudos to the folks at the San Joaquin County Office of Education for making this available!
* Flat Connections is a group that designs and encourages international classroom collaborations, and they are getting ready to launch their projects for September to December. Give the info a look in their August newsletter. Here are the titles of the upcoming three projects for students in grades 3-12: Endangered Animals, Windows to the World, and Global Youth Debates. Good stuff!
* You’re going to think this one is my idea of a joke. Nope. It’s an article about a guy mystified to find an intact (“pristine,” as he puts it) In-N-Out hamburger (double-double) on a street in Queens, New York. There are no In-N-Out restaurants there; the writer is a “superfan” living there and would know. The article is about his investigation into this intriguing mystery. So why is this in the Worth Trying section? Because as a writing prompt, you might find students quite enjoy reading a mystery about a hamburger. A beefy thanks to the incomparable Francine Hardaway (@hardaway) for this gem.
* I have mentioned the cool tool Flippity before as a way to quickly draw a name at random, put students in pairs or teams, and more. I mention it again because Mikayla Schott, a proud member of the KCI MERIT program this year, created a nice little tutorial for teachers that is about two and a half minutes long and makes it clear why this is something you’d want to try. Way to go, Mikayla!
* Finally, feel free to play a quick game of Mystery Animal. This is a twenty questions-type arrangement, with you or your students asking the computer yes/no questions about the animal it has in its machine-learning head. Questions like, “Are you a mammal?” and, “Do you have claws?” are the kinds of things you ask to learn what it is. Do this with your voice, by the way, not the keyboard!
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During a frequent-flyer-miles-made-possible trip this summer, I had the chance to visit the city of Amsterdam for the first time. One morning I got up very early to see what the canals and the buildings look like before lots of people show up, and got this picture out of the effort.
I hope your break was a good one, and that you bring all sorts of good memories and ideas to your students as a result!
See you next month!