August 2020 Newsletter
The coming term will certainly be one we don’t forget. As I see it, there are plenty of teachers working their posteriors off to use this moment to help kids see new possibilities for themselves, and to reshape their professional pursuits in ways that could make us substantially stronger in the post-pandemic future.
Yes, there are challenges, and many are downright terrifying. Still, it’s within your power for this to be an amazing semester, despite the challenges. Let’s make it happen!
Make a Difference
There’s little better to make, than making a difference in the lives of others. This is a time when kids can learn to contact organizations working to help those in need, and gather the information and visuals needed to tell their story in a short video.
It’s a project that teaches communication skills, builds appreciation for the power of feedback and revision, and provides the chance to do something meaningful now. The main information for taking part is on the Service via Video project pages, but also on our site you can get detailed advice to think about how you might approach it as the teacher.
Telling Your Stories
This video from Parklands College, a PK-12th grade school in Cape Town, South Africa, is designed to introduce families to the school’s community and learning atmosphere. At just over thirteen minutes, it’s not short, but if it holds your attention, it’s probably the right length.
What would be the stories in a video designed to highlight the opportunities for learning at your school? Would everyone have something to contribute to those stories?
We at Next Vista for Learning love helping schools tell the stories of their successes! Please let us know if that’s something you’d like some help with.
Two EdTech Guys Take Questions and Share Cool Stuff returns at 1p Pacific / 4p Eastern. Always good to work with Richard Byrne (Free Tech for Teachers) on this show, it is.
At 3:30p Pacific / 6:30p Eastern, Susan Stewart (K2CanToo – see below!) and I will do an Activities Across Grade Levels with the First Day of School as the topic. You can also check that link for all the other recordings on online teaching we’ve added this summer (Building Rapport, Performance Assessment, and Guest Speakers, just to name three of the seventeen).
On Friday at 1p Pacific / 4p Eastern, I’ll also do a focused half-hour-ish program on Zoom’s Breakout Rooms. This is an especially powerful tool for building community and keeping learning active, so I hope you’ll join in!
These are so very free for you. Register at the links above, or go straight to the webinars page, here.
K-2 Teachers, your (virtual) conference is on the way! On August 15th and 16th, the K2CanToo Summit will run sessions from 11:00a-4:15p Eastern (8:00a-1:15p Pacific), and you can join in for $75 Canadian (about US $56). You can hear from Ben Cogswell of Kindrockets and Susan Stewart of Activities Across Grade Levels. Way to take the lead for the littles, Canada!
We’ll give away more cards this month, because for many of you, the start of school is a time when a little extra caffeine can be helpful.
This week I’m working with sixty teachers in the Philippines on ways to ramp up their online teaching skills ahead of the coming semester. Just like my other trips to that amazing country, these teachers inspire me with their drive to learn what they can to help their students.
A special shout-out to the team helping me: Carl, Melody, Alma, Mark Lee, JC, Mari Ann, Julius, Mark Anthony, Marilyn, and Marianne! And a big thank-you to Gertrude, the big heart who has made this happen.
May we all catch that spark in what we do!
Found this gem from Canadian blogger James Nicoll about the English language while chasing ideas on Quora:
We don’t just borrow words; on occasion, English has pursued other languages down alleyways to beat them unconscious and rifle their pockets for new vocabulary.
Intriguing way to look at what makes a language thrive, that is.
Whatever words you’re using to describe the coming semester, know that you are not alone with how you feel about it. If you’re crazy stressed, there are a lot of folks out there that feel the same way, and a lot of people (like us!) creating content to help you. If you’re excited for the possibilities, good on you for making lemonade out of the lemons the universe has thrown at our planet!
As always, you’re welcome to reach out to us if we can point you to anything that will help you prepare for what’s to come, or just for ways to reach that next kid.
And as we always say at this point in the newsletter: May you inspire, and be inspired, each and every day!
Rushton and the Next Vista team
Worth the Watch
* Below, I open the Worth the Read section with a post from Lex Gillette, a blind track and field athlete. His story about why he volunteers for a nonprofit that works to inspire kids was inspiring itself. Here, I open the Worth the Watch section with Lex’ TEDx talk about the difference between sight and vision. Thanks to Janet Perez for pointing me to this story! (11:55)
* My buddy Janet Perez in North Carolina suggested I watch this trailer for a movie called Crip Camp. It’s a documentary about the fight for rights for the disabled, and in January won the Audience Award at the Sundance Film Festival. At a time when so many barriers are being examined by so many, the trailer and film may make for an especially powerful moment of learning for students ready to tackle some complex themes. (2:40)
* For the 4th of July (Independence Day for the U.S.A., for my non-U.S. readers), National Public Radio posted a piece with a speech from 1852 by Frederick Douglass, read by five of his ancestors, called “What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?“, and is a powerful reminder of both the power of history and the power of language. As a history major who taught language, I was enthralled. (6:59)
* A company called Festo makes an artificial bird called the Bionic Swift. This is the kind of video I show to my Creative Solutions for the Global Good students to get them thinking about challenges, opportunities, and concerns with new technologies. (1:45)
* Reimagining Independent Schools is a project of the National Association of Independent Schools to highlight models and approaches that have proven effective in a variety of settings. At this link, you’ll find four videos (all between four and five minutes) about Synapse School (California), Washington School for Girls (DC), Winchendon School-Brooklyn Campus (New York), and Sonoma Country Day School (California).
* Vivaldi’s Four Seasons is one of the most famous pieces of music ever written. This is Movement 3 (Presto) from Summer, and seems a fitting feel for what many teachers feel as they prepare for the coming and very different semester. (2:28)
* Staying with music, what does a choir of over 17,000 people from 129 countries sound like? Well, this video, Virtual Choir 6: Sing Gently, will show you. The first third is the choral piece, with the last two-thirds the credits. Get the story of the effort along with the video at the link above, or (as always,) click on the image below. (10:32)
* The power of music isn’t just for those with the ability to hear. This piece from Great Big Story is about a project of the Mahler Chamber Orchestra in Germany to give students with hearing impairments the chance to enjoy classical music. (2:30)
Worth the Read
* A colleague recommended that I learn more about Lex Gillette, a Paralympic athlete who volunteers with an organization called Classroom Champions. Read Lex’ take on why the organization is important to him in the linked post on his site, and come away with what a blind track and field athlete can teach kids about the power of difference. I hope the combo of the video above and the post here will be a powerful leap into your coming school year.
* Rachel Banke authored a piece on the NAIS website called Facilitating Politically Sensitive Discussions, and it contains strong suggestions for how to help students become better at engaging each other constructively in all kinds of dialogue. Those thinking about helping students in an online setting begin to explore complex topics may find these strategies especially helpful.
* Those interested in helping students become more aware of their language might look at the ideas and examples in Todd Finley’s A Look at Implicit Bias and Microaggressions at Edutopia. I particularly liked the line, “commit to learning, not debating.” I’m not opposed to debate, but when it doesn’t lead to learning, isn’t debate merely competitive grandstanding?
* Those who like fascinating science questions (or who teach biology) may enjoy During Coronavirus Lockdowns, Some Doctors Wondered: Where Are the Preemies?, an article by Elizabeth Preston in the New York Times. It seems that in many places during lockdown/shelter in place, there has been a major drop-off in premature births. It’s also just nice to read some good news related to the pandemic. (You may need a New York Times account to read this story.)
* This article from Great Schools is called 5 things not to say to kids with learning and attention issues about going back to school. In addition to it being good advice, it’s a good reminder that what we say is not always what the child hears, despite our best intentions.
* This article is from 2017, but still might provide inspiration to young inventors. Called 6 Inventions by Young Indian Geniuses This Year, it’s from an Indian website celebrating successes with that country’s students. Thanks to Sandhya Raman of #MERIT20 for sharing this one.
Worth the Listen
* Would you kick a chicken? That is to say, how would you react to a different kind of final exam? In this EdSurge podcast, Should Colleges Rethink Final Exams in the COVID Era? Some Profs Try ‘Epic Finales’, a couple of college professors are interviewed about very different ends to a course, including explaining physics concepts to residents of an assisted living center, working with an unexplained monolith, and encountering a robot trash can. (29:23)
Worth the Try
* I’ve started making my way through Modern Classroom Essentials, a free offering from The Modern Classroom project. It’s a model built on blended learning, self-paced curricula, and mastery-based grading. Anyone interested in how nontraditional school structures can encourage engaged and high-level learning might give it a look. You can see a promo video of it here, and there is plenty within the video to spark strong conversations.
* Diana Benner of TCEA in Austin put together a nice collection called Digital Icebreakers That Shatter. The nine icebreakers can give you a way to start building rapport with and among your students, even if you’re connecting via video chat. Nice work, Diana!
* The very fun Mike Tholfsen has created a just-under-four-minute video highlighting the new Flipgrid Camera features, which include a clever split screen control and a screencasting tool. For those teaching the younger kids, the filters will add some serious fun, too! These are definitely some cool bits to try ahead of the start of school.
* Imagine a person who works in a financial office doing not particularly creative things all day. Then let’s say she starts creating slides templates that allow her to express her creative impulses. Educators on Twitter start to notice, and now there’s this resource called SlidesMania stocked with free templates for Google Slides or PowerPoint. Beware the many ads strewn around the page, and enjoy the cool resources offered. Thanks to Barb Luis (@BarbGLuis) for sharing this one with #MERIT20!
* You might be teaching a unit on Egyptian history this coming year, and if so, Unravel the symbols of ancient Egypt, a new offering from Google Arts & Culture, could be a help. You can learn about hieroglyphics and the Rosetta Stone, King Tutankhamun, the Pyramids of Giza, the Book of the Dead, and more. They also have material ready for integration into Google Classroom.
* Brent Warner, a professor in California, introduced several of us in a recent web gathering to the How to Pronounce tool now in Google. Here’s what you find when you search on “how to pronounce contribute.” Note that you can slow the speech down, or switch between American and British pronunciations. There’s even a practice tool that gives feedback to what you record!
* World languages teachers might explore the many resources collected on the National Foreign Language Center’s site. This set of pages from the University of Maryland has planning documents, model curricula, and assessment tools, along with links to podcasts and over 15,000 language learning items. Bored, you won’t be. Thanks to my CUE HELN buddy Jing for pointing me to this site.
* Latitude and Longitude Finder is a site with a variety of geographic tools, including giving you (of course) the latitude and longitude to six decimals of any place or address. This can be a good tool for understanding mapping concepts or coordinate planes. Thanks to Tim Costello of #MERIT20 for sharing this one.
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If you haven’t heard of NGC 2899, or what some call the “space butterfly,” we figure this is a nice way to finish this month’s newsletter. This image comes from the Very Large Telescope (that’s really its name), which is run by the European Space Observatory in Chile. Here’s the article where I found the picture. And at the ESO website, you can see a 50-second video showing how they zoom in on where this planetary nebula is.
See you next month!