December 2019 Newsletter
Yep, we’ve got cool contests. Yep, you’ll find a phenomenal frenzy of fantastic freebies, just like every month. Yep, you could win a Starbucks card for about sixty seconds worth of work. But what’s different this month?
It’s a question that we hope will generate some great ideas. Read on!
If you could shape a brand new school to be anything you like, what would you do? Would you change the calendar or bell schedule? The number of students in each class? The subjects students would study? The leadership structure? The setting of the school? The relationship to the community? The requirements for graduating? The tools everyone would use? The activities before and after school? Something completely different?
We’d like to gather as many ideas as you all are willing to give over the course of December. Doing so will also get your name in the hat for one of two caffeine cards, as well. See below for how to do that.
Creative Bridge ’19
Friday the 13th of December (end of day, US Pacific time) is the final deadline for our fall contest, Creative Bridge ’19. There have been a number of cool entries so far, and as we always try to do, we’ve provided feedback so the students and teachers who submitted them can make them better before our judging starts.
Here’s a part of some feedback we gave one of the entries that came in during November:
“You’ll need to add credits showing that you obtained the music from sources listed in the rules. Do that, add the proper credits, and we can judge this one.”
We’ve sent notes about citations, images, audio balance, misspellings, and more. The feedback is one of our participating teachers’ favorite things about our contests. If that sounds like something you’d like your students to experience but can’t fit it in this time, join in our spring contest! If you need help on how to guide students through video projects, just let us know.
And if you need to see a video or two to inspire you, take a look at some winners from California teachers and students:
Apollo 11 (student strand)
by students at Serra High School
The Five Finger Rule (teacher strand)
by Gail Desler
A Healthy Meal (collaboration strand)
by Catherine Petuya and students at Carroll Elementary School
December is a good time to have students keep an eye out for the people and organizations that work to make life better for others. Our annual Service via Video contest runs through March, and starting now can mean getting more feedback (from classmates, teachers, and us!), as well as having more time for revisions that make stronger entries.
For those looking into gory details, you can even get our mountain of advice on this contest.
The Krause Center for Innovation at Foothill College in Los Altos Hills, California, just posted applications for the 2020 cohort of the MERIT Program (Making Education Relevant through Innovative Teaching). It’s exceptional professional development, and while anyone can apply, California educators have the chance to earn $1000 for completing the program.
January brings one of the largest educational technology conferences of the year, FETC. For 2020, that means making your way to Miami for the gig running from the 14th to the 17th. Thousands of other dynamic teachers will be there waiting to share ideas with you!
If a smaller, summer gig is your thing, you might plan on DBC Pirate Con happening in San Diego from June 12th-14th. A bunch of fellow authors from Dave Burgess Books will be there for this “adventurous, uncommon PD experience.” High quality, fun, and boatloads of intriguing ideas. Give it a look!
If you want to enter our December caffeine giveaway (and if just one of you do, that will be one more than in November – d’oh!), see the request in the first section of this newsletter about sharing ideas for a different kind of school. We’d love to see some really wild ideas about what school can be, so we hope you’ll get involved by putting one or more ideas in our contact form.
You get an entry for the $5 Starbucks card for every idea you enter. Kind of like the American legislative arrangement, we’ll do one drawing per person who takes part (Senate), and one with all the entries to reward you folks with lots of school ideas (House of Representatives). Consider this both a civics thought and a meaningful shot (!) at the jitters.
December is loaded with special days for people all across the world. For us, it’s a chance to celebrate creative learning (the Creative Bridge contest), your ideas (Rethinking School), and a warm drink (two giveaways of coffee, tea, hot chocolate, etc.).
And if all that weren’t enough, there are some great freebies to follow. May what you find there generate all sorts of learning possibilities, and as always, 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.
Worth the Watch
* What if we strap electrodes to kids’ heads to monitor how focused they are, and share the data for all students in the class with all parents? Is this an Orwellian nightmare, or your deepest wish for classroom management heaven? This Wall Street Journal story looks at a program to use EEG technology with students at a primary school near Shanghai, China. Thought-provoking, to say the least! (5:43)
* The BBC put together a video called Why Smart People Do Stupid Things, and it’s a discussion with researcher David Robson about five ways that the decision making of intelligent people can go rather awry. Teachers tend to be pretty bright; do you do any of these things? (5:20)
* An engineer friend of mine recently joined a company called Rivian, which bills itself as the first maker of electric adventure vehicles. I include this almost-seven-minute video in the watches because it’s an interesting case study in pitching a story, and you might get some good conversations in your class about what they see in the piece, what they don’t, and what their next questions would be. (6:53)
* Piplantri is a village in rural India that is home to a special combination of valuing the environment and encouraging the value and self-dependence of girls. Called This Village in India Plants 111 Trees Every Time a Girl Is Born, this Great Big Story piece is a testament to a place that hopes to be a light to the rest of the world. (2:43)
* When a glacier melts, it doesn’t just happen drop by drop. There are moments when huge chunks separate from the glacier to become massive icebergs, and in this video, you see a terrifyingly large portion break away. This video is apparently taken by a tourist and is largely unedited, including the sounds of the wind as that person and several others witness a reminder of how nature sometimes deals with change. (1:53)
Worth the Read
* The American Bill of Rights is a powerful point of departure for all sorts of discussion, whether you are in or out of the United States. In this Edutopia article by Benjamin Barbour, the author looks at how dystopian novels can serve as a springboard for examining rights in different settings, and how governments might work to curtail or abolish these rights to protect their positions of power.
* Joe Feldman of Crescendo Education Group authored a post for the NAIS blog about “equitable grading,” which is a topic for which you can find a load of opinions and probably even conflicting research. Still, the questions at the heart of the discussions are good ones, and to what degree there should be consistency is something on which any educator should be able to express an opinion. The post does a nice job of summarizing some of the arguments, and would likely prove useful in such discussions at any school.
* The quality of teacher education programs is a subject of interest for me, partly because of my work on using short, focused videos as points of departure for discussions of teaching effectiveness. Those interested in how government policy is adapting to current discussions may enjoy this Stanford Graduate School of Education summary of an interview with Linda Darling-Hammond, the president of the California State Board of Education. The operative quote is, “If you don’t have a strong supply of well-prepared teachers, nothing else in education can work.”
* “Middle school can be a socially awkward time for students,” is the start to this Edutopia post, titled 4 Ways to Foster Positive Student Relationships. I think back to my rather limited time working with middle schoolers, and have no arguments! The author, Ashley Ingle, has some strong ideas for helping students (of any age) become more comfortable in a classroom, and for those students needing a reset on relationships at the beginning of next semester, one of these activities might be perfect.
* And then there’s this article from Vice. Russian farmers are putting VR headsets on cows to help them relax so that they produce more milk. Do I know this is true? No, but it could be. At the very least, it might be a good activity for students who finish other assignments early. As in, see if you can find any confirmation of this or anything like it.
Worth The Try
* We’ll start the tries with a set of videos. Specifically, they are the top five 2019 entries to Unsung, a project of the Center for Educational Excellence in Alternative Settings. Most participants are coming from incarcerated settings, and they were given the opportunity to create music that tells stories they feel are important to hear. With these, you can challenge students to draw from the lyrics (text evidence, this) generalizations about society they might defend or argue against. Or, your students can use what these students did as a framework for creating their own music.
* The University of Colorado at Boulder created what they call PhET Simulations. These are HTML5 science and math simulations (examples in the screenshot below) searched by subject, grade level, etc., and can be downloaded, embedded, or included in Google Classroom. They are working to make their simulations more accessible to a wider range of students, as well. Thanks to Jennifer Chance Cook for sharing this resource in the TCEA list.
* Speaking of science and math, Amazon has a scholarship called Amazon Future Engineer, which is open to high school seniors who are U.S. citizens and permanent residents (though its framework might be useful to those of you who teach younger students or who are looking to run your own projects anywhere in the world). The deadline is January 17th, 2020. There are some more qualifications, which can be found on their “Learn More” page.
* I’m always on the lookout for good, legally available image sources, and pxhere is one that was introduced to me quite recently. All of it content is public domain (CC0), so while it might be okay to use the images without citing the source, you certainly should cite them as a way of modeling/getting used to good image-related digital citizenship practices! The collections page is disappointing, as each collection seemed to have only one image in it. Hmm. Anyway, there is some good material, including this HDR-enhanced image of Mt Fuji, below. untitled by anonymous from pxhere (CC0)
* Those of you who use Chromebooks might like this Google blog post on Chromebook shortcuts. There are six, including ones on how to switch between accounts, how to switch between browser instances or tabs, and how to “dock” browser windows. Love me a good keyboard shortcut!
* Interested in podcasting? Another post from the Google blog on tips for getting started with podcasts might be just the thing to move you from interested to active. They also point to a whole playlist of “Podcasting 101” instructional videos. The tips are highly practical, including “write the way you talk.” Good advice for those looking for things to come across as natural.
* Creating a story using maps tools (zooming from one place to another and taking in text, images, and video) is something that Google Earth on the web allows, though recent improvements make the creation tools all the easier. Get an overview in this post, then head straight to Earth on the web (requires Chrome) to give it a go!
* Richard, one of the instructional technology team at Keystone Academy in Beijing, introduced me to a not wildly-new tool called Twinery (go straight to the web version here) that I am excited to explore more. It’s a create-your-own-adventure environment that also teaches simple coding as you go. For some serious help getting going, take a look at A Total Beginner’s Guide to Twine 2.1 from Adam Hammond of the University of Toronto. He recommends downloading the editor instead of using the web version, by the way.
Worth the Gawk
These two seemed to make their own category!
* The Society of the International Nature and Wildlife Photographers has an annual contest called Bird Photographer of the Year which results in some pretty amazing shots of, of course, birds. Take a look at this article from Digital Camera World to see some of the top entries. The second one down is a truly beautiful shot of a penguin family.
* And from Business Insider, find this piece called 27 Best Photos from the Space Station Show Earth’s Hidden Beauty. Most of the pictures are from NASA (like the one below taken way above New Zealand), and consequently are public domain and available for your projects.
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That last site with the NASA pictures was so cool, we thought we’d share another from an astronaut. Anyone up for a cool angle on Italy?
See you next month!