December 2020 Newsletter
There are lots of adjectives one might use to describe 2020. The likelihood is strong that the description would also correspond to a desire to see the year come to an end, which it will soon do.
Before that happens, though, let’s celebrate some of the good that goes on under the radar and away from the more depressing news that a global pandemic has generated.
I think I know just how to start, so read on, and many thanks to you for being part of Next Vista’s little community!
Cake for a Kiddo
We’ve been featuring innovative charities for the last few months. Why? Because cool ways to approach service to others can inspire those kiddos in our care to solve problems which have vexed ours and previous generations.
In this case, we celebrate the powerful way Cake4Kids has managed to bring hope to foster children, who are often among the neediest and most easily overlooked in our society.
The idea is a simple one: give a kid a personalized cake. Those who make the cakes don’t meet those who will receive them, and that’s the kind of selflessness that can help our students better understand the joy and meaning that come from serving others. Enjoy this story about their work, and share it with others needing a smile.
In January, we’ll launch Service via Video 2021 (and announce the winner of the 2020 contest), along with our newest 90-second edu-video contest. If you’d like to launch an associated video contest in your community with our help, just let us know!
In the meantime, those looking for some great videos to launch discussions about creative ways of explaining things, your help is here! You can find the winners of our service video contests here, and the winners of our edu-video contests here. Here’s a ready-made assignment for you: have students follow the link and pick any three that intrigue them, and then explain what they find in each that is strong or in need of improvement. That’s not a bad way to get kids thinking more clearly about variety and quality in their work, we think.
Each Thursday, Richard Byrne (Free Tech for Teachers) and I do a webinar called Two EdTech Guys Take Questions and Share Cool Stuff. We’ve found that there’s plenty to be helpful with regarding the questions you send us (here’s a form to send one), and plenty of fun to have as we explore options, as well.
Join us at 4p Eastern, 1p Pacific by registering here for the free webinar. If you can’t make it at that time, feel free to register so you can receive word when the recording is posted along with the slides and links we cover.
And later the same afternoon, Susan Stewart (#K2CanToo) and I will welcome Lisa Highfill to Activities Across Grade Levels. This will be the last episode of this show for 2020, so we’re excited to have one of the founders of the Hyperdocs movement to tell how this simple tool can ignite all sorts of wonder and fascination with learning activities. Register here (also free) for this webinar.
You can find past episodes of these shows at the same links, above. We hope they take some of the stress from teaching in 2020!
We’d like to congratulate Ashley Brown for having her email address selected from those who entered in November. We’re sending a $5 Starbucks card her way, and would be happy to send one your way, if your name and email is drawn in December!
How might this happen?
Take a look at our Hey, You! advice project. A little down the page, you’ll find links to a variety of short videos from good folks who have told us a little about their story, why they do their work, and what advice they would have for their 16-year-old selves.
In looking for a single line that captures as much of 2020 as possible, I struggled with the recognition of loss, the wrenching changes in the teaching profession, and the hope that we will use what we have learned for a better tomorrow. This line from Winston Churchill seems to best capture that:
Never let a good crisis go to waste.
As always, we hope that what we’ve gathered will inspire you and your students to see possibilities you haven’t before.
For finishing 2020 and looking ahead to a much more hopeful 2021, we send your way the standard monthly wish: 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
* If a part of your heart sings at the thought of Ireland, this video of English poet David Whyte reading his poem, “Blessings,” will be a gift both literary and scenic for you. If you find you like his work, you might also take in his 2017 TED talk, A lyrical bridge between past, present and future. (4:08) (20:08)
* For years I’ve been a major fan of Mutual Rescue, and was introduced last month to this story, called Keema & Her Pack. It’s a great story of a young woman who learned from dogs what real love is. (9:45)
* There is a place in Bangladesh dedicated to possibilities for those with disabilities called Anandaloy. Designed by architect, Anna Heringer, this video is of her talking about how the community took part in building it, and what it represents for those who visit and work there. There are plenty of good ideas and beautiful images in the story to share and discuss. (8:15)
* Another one for those who love travel: the trailer for the SIENA International Photo Awards. It’s a mesmerizing piece, with stunning drone photography of this beautiful city. (3:54)
* It’s hard not to enjoy a good Rube Goldberg video. This one, called The Lemonade Machine, is by a group calling themselves Sprice Machines. Seriously fun, and several tricks I hadn’t seen before in this kind of video. (9:01)
* The intersection of sound and art might also make you appreciate this Facebook posting of artist Kanazawa Kenichi from Contemporary Art Japan. It’s a video of what happens to salt or sand or sugar (whatever it is) responding to the vibrations he creates with tools he’s made. I wish the person with the camera had held it in landscape mode! (3:25)
* There is something quite fascinating about timelapse video of art. In this video, Artology shows us a highly detailed piece called Drawing Detective Pikachu. (3:20)
* Glass artists navigate a variety of challenges, and this video from Derek Klein shows Claire Kelly and team using old Venetian techniques in concert with her modern, creative approach. If you’re my age-ish, listen for Take On Me by 80s band a-ha in the background. (5:40)
* Helping students understand overarching movements of society, power, and technology is no easy effort. In this short video from Professor Carlota Perez, though, she explains five technological revolutions with a set of simple animations. Use it to talk about change, or to talk about how we talk about change. (3:29)
* I don’t know much about Brendan Kavanagh, the guy in the foreground in the picture below. I assume he’s a talented piano guy with a flair for social media possibilities, and he calls this YouTube post Senior Citizen Plays Piano…Then Magic Occurs. It is indeed cool to watch. (7:07)
* From the speed of boogie woogie piano to the relaxed pace of a sloth. This clip from the BBC Earth series is a great one for any student interested in learning about animals. Fun fact: sloths defecate only once per week. The reason why will help teach about adaptation and survival. (2:54)
* And, because it’s December, a beluga whale that seems to be dancing to the music the saxophonist is playing. (0:56)
Worth the Listen
* Do you know the name Sirimavo Bandaranaike? According to the BBC, she was Sri Lankan pathbreaker who was the first woman in the world to become a prime minister. This radio recording is a ~9-minute interview with her daughter about what her work meant for her family, her country, and the world.
* Those interested in the art of audio might know about Audium. It’s a place in San Francisco designed to share performances and more related to experiments with sound. Over the last year or so, they have launched a series of podcasts that deal with all sorts of topics, and so those looking for the intersection of art and society might take a listen. In this just-under-20-minute episode from November, jazz drummer Cairo McCockran talks about performance, ancestry, racism, and Zoom gigs.
Worth the Read
* As we head toward the end of the fall term, some teaching at a distance may need an overview of assessment strategies. This Edutopia piece by Kyleen Gray, “4 Assessment Strategies for Distance and Hybrid Learning,” contains some ideas worth building on.
* Is it better for kids to play in the dirt? You’ve probably heard some variation on that question before, but it turns out that some researchers in Finland went to some trouble to test their ideas about such things. This article from Wired may make you rethink your playground. (image below: Boy under a leaf blanket by Annie Spratt from Unsplash (license))
* Imagine a group of young women in their 20s building their country’s first space program, or at least first as an independent state. This article introduces the six women of the Kyrgyz Space Programme, and it’s likely to ignite a spark of inspirational possibility with some of your students.
* Also in the realm of space, a New Zealand company completed a successful recovery of a rocket used to launch a set of satellites, a student project from the University of Auckland, and a garden gnome. The gnome was actually a clever combination of charitable work and promoting the company, and it’s a good example of ways to do well by doing good.
* The Teaching Tolerance program gives voice to those working to help others understand the range of perspectives within our community. In this post, Katherine Watkins, an educator who is Native American, shares ideas in response to a simplified view of Thanksgiving (admittedly, my favorite holiday). It’s a good piece for exploring complexity and remembering that rarely are things as simple as they are presented to us.
* Michael Linsin is a classroom management guru who posts weekly about topics of interest to teachers. In this post, titled, “How To Handle Parent Complaints About Grades,” he gives straightforward advice about how to communicate effectively with parents. A good review for those dealing with plenty of parent emails!
Worth the Try
* It’s December, and for many of course, the focus is Christmas. If you’ve wondered about the origins of the Christmas holiday, you might look at this Google Earth story by Nate Gildart, which explores the various influences in ways that might be good fodder for a middle or high school discussion. Nate also has a Christmas-themed Jeopardy-style game made in Flippity, and there is more coolness at his Social Studies Samurai site.
* KG Education, based in Manitoba, is running a project in which students and teachers can create greetings to share on a Padlet board. It’s called Holly Jolly Holiday Connection, and you’re welcome to join in! There’s no deadline, but you do need to register (it’s free) to take part.
* The Google Arts & Culture blog posted a piece in mid-November about virtual tours, and as I’m one who loves travel, I gave it a look. This particular tour is of Mount Haguro in Japan, and along the path you’ll find a beautiful gate and old temple. While it can be viewed on any device in Street View, this might be better on a smartphone so you can move the phone to look around.
* Those looking to (a) create a poster generator, and (b) seriously up their Google Spreadsheets game, should take a look at this tutorial site for a poster generator made by Michael Kim-Stevens. It’s a clever approach to organizing data, and could be applied to all sorts of different categories of information. While there, take a look at the other things he’s organized on his Stevens Tech Time pages. Very cool, Michael!
* Great images are a wonderful tool for learning, and the winners and finalists of the Close Up Photography of the Year contest offer a treasure of cool shots. Thanks to the folks at FutureCrunch for sharing this one!
* This article from Forbes is called, “The Best Photos Of Wildlife From Above: Stunning Winners Of Drone Awards 2020,” and the images are truly stunning. Use them as a way of prompting connections to what you teach. The lack of an obvious answer might produce some wonderfully creative responses.
* Also in the inspiring images realm, I’m a supporter of Magic Wheelchair and the work they do to create epic costumes that incorporate a child’s wheelchair. If you’ve never taken a look at the Magic Wheelchair Instagram account, it might be a great tool for seeding a conversation about innovative ways to help others.
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As the sun sets on 2020, let’s share a nice sunset shared on Wikimedia Commons. Have a 2021 filled with beauty and inspiration!
See you in January!