February 2021 Newsletter
It’s a month celebrating Black history, love, and in our space, cool video possibilities! Admittedly, that last item is a monthly occurrence in the Next Vista realm.
The first item, though, is one built around something I hope your school is thinking about: what our work should be after the pandemic is behind us. Read on, enjoy, and please share what you find with others!
I hope your school has a team of people who are working on how things should be once we can fill up our classrooms again. It’s a much more complex issue than many understand, largely because the world of education at that time, whenever it is, will not be like what it was in 2019 and before.
That’s largely a good thing.
The various issues are more involved than we’ll try to fit in this newsletter, but you are welcome to register to join a free half-hour webinar this Friday at 4p Eastern, 1p Pacific time, in which I’ll share plenty of detail. If interested, register even if you can’t make it, as we’ll get you a link to the recording after we’ve posted it.
Celebrating our 90-second educational video contest, Creative Recovery ’21, we offer up these videos from past contests to inspire you:
Photosynthesis From Stop Motion
from Creative Bridge ’19
by students at Holy Trinity School
The Change in Momentum Equation
from Creative Storm ’18
by students at Mililani High School
from Creative Fire ’17
by students at Monta Vista High School
To learn more about the contest, visit our contest pages. You can also take a look at the many student, teacher, and collaboration entries that made it to the finalist round. You’re of course welcome to contact us with any questions.
We also have in motion at the moment our annual effort to get stories of those who help others: Service via Video ’21. Here are a couple of past entries that won donations to the charities they highlighted:
Shining Hope Farms
from Service via Video ’17
by students at Lake Norman Charter High School
Mobile Loaves & Fishes
from Service via Video ’16
by students at Lake Travis Middle School
For the record, there is no specific advantage in this contest to having the word “Lake” in your school’s name.
We hope you’ll get your students involved, and that they’ll learn that they have the power to use storytelling to make a difference in the lives of others. Learn more at the contest pages, see all the finalists we’ve had in the years we’ve done this contest, and don’t hesitate to reach out with any questions.
Every month we give away a little caffeine goodness in the form of an electronic $5 Starbucks card. The January winner was Peace Corps Volunteer Cecelia Babkirk, so a big congratulations goes out to her!
We frequently can count the number of entries on one hand, so if you think having Next Vista pay for your latte is a good idea, then here’s how to enter this month: watch any of the five contest example videos towards the top of the newsletter, and let us know which, along with what you thought of it. Do that by the end of day (US Pacific time) on February 3rd, and we’ll enter your name twice. What a deal!
This is not, strictly speaking, “free,” but is so good that I had to share it. Those with access to Amazon Prime should watch the first episode of the show Make It Work. It’s the story of a bunch of elementary students who learn they have the power to change their community. Huge shout-out to Jen Ellison, the teacher highlighted, who presented in January at the Learning Innovation Summit. Shelve regular TV for a few minutes tonight to watch this; you’ll be glad you did. (20:43)
One of my colleagues at Serra High School recently told me his father’s response to the question, “How old are you?”
Old enough to know better, young enough to learn.
– Oscar Peralta
Wise words spoken.
We hope we’ll see you Friday at our webinar about post-COVID schooling, or if not, that you’ll register and we’ll ping you after so you can catch the important ideas being shared. We’ll finish the first part of the newsletter with our usual encouragement:
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
* Jungle Jordan is a zookeeper and wildlife educator who answers kids’ questions. He has a great demeanor and communication style for younger students, and you can see it in this video, called What Does a Zookeeper Do? (8:54)
* Staying with the theme of cool jobs, here’s a Great Big Story piece about a guy whose job is to make mazes. It’s interesting for what you see, as well as the message about devoting yourself to what fascinates you. (2:16)
* My friend Eric pointed me to this video from Edutopia called Using Hand Signals for More Equitable Discussions. It’s a suggestion that is especially useful for teachers trying to improve how students exchange ideas while connected via Zoom or other video conferencing tools. I’d suggest discussing it with your grade-level or department colleagues to explore what you like about the approach. (1:54)
* This video is a product demonstration from Omron and other companies in a group creating what they call the AI Suitcase, a tool for those who are visually impaired. It’s in Japanese, though if you turn on the captions and then use settings options to choose automatic translation to English (or your language), you can follow what is being said. (4:14)
* This is both fascinating and a creepy precursor to the world of Terminator. The short video called Realistic and Interactive Robot Gaze is from Disney’s animatronic research team, and gives you a glimpse of several factors that are important for making a robot more like a human. (1:00)
* Complex processes for creating beautiful art can make for a prompt that not only fires a student’s creative imagination, but also serves to encourage explorations across subjects, breaking us free from our silos. This video is about a distinctive form of glass art, and the complexities (and dangers) it involves. (3:21)
* Let’s stay with glass. Did you know that there is a musical instrument called the glass armonica (no ‘h’)? If you happen to be one of the few humans aware of that, did you know it was invented by Benjamin Franklin? This Great Big Story video, The Lost Art of Playing Glass, will help you out if you answered “No” to either of the previous questions. (4:09)
Worth the Read
* An obvious key to pursuing the future you want is to have control over your financial resources. More generally, having knowledge of and access to education about personal finances is a prime tool for escaping poverty as a community. For Black women, a new resource is the Prosp(a)rity Project, an effort both to help individuals with educational debt, and also to help the larger community through advocating for systemic support. In this first blog post from them, Eberechukwu Etike writes How to Improve the Financial Literacy of Black Women.
* I enjoy good discussions of the complexity of everyday sayings. Michael Thompson’s Medium post, “The 7 Phrases You Should Never Say to Anyone,” is a gem for looking at the difference between what one says and what others hear. Every teacher should be aware of the disconnect in communication that makes our work harder, and this is a useful introduction.
* My friend Ken suggested the Teaching Tolerance post When Schools Cause Trauma to me back in 2019, and a recent conversation with MERIT20 participant Shawn brought the article back into focus for me. Understanding that the pandemic has exacerbated trauma in a wide range of circumstances for so many students, finding ways to build our patience and ideas seems a rather immediate issue.
* Michael Linsin (a classroom management guru) shared a post in January about how to make an online lesson less boring. He actually describes an idea with much bolder hopes than just overcoming boredom, and while it may or may not align with how you see yourself as a teacher, it’s a good professional read.
* When do you think the U.S government made its last payment of a Civil War pension? 1940? 1960? Turns out it was only a handful of months ago in 2020. How could that be? Find out in this very short post from Jason Kottke’s blog from June of last year. Not a bad piece for discussing connections in history and prompting questions of how, why, and the ways we uncover them.
* This BBC article about the history of and current work with spaceplanes might be a great one for your kiddo fascinated by the stars. It’s rather long, but a strong look at what has happened in the U.S., Europe, Russia, and China over the last few decades.
* EdSurge posted a piece in January about taking advantage of current awareness in our society of the importance of early childhood education to build momentum for offering strong, new programs for those working with the littles. From apprenticeships to new degree possibilities to a new university to make this happen, let’s hope 2021 is a year for major progress!
* This Edutopia article, Diverse Students Find a Home in Esports, describes the many ways that students who might not fit in to other school activities can find connection and teambuilding (along with college scholarships!) through esports. (image credit: Overwatch by Florian Olivo from Unsplash (license))
* History and science folks, read this BBC story about the man who invented the “black box” that helps airplane crash investigators determine the cause. It’s an inspiring look at perseverance and the incredible good that can come from a great idea.
Worth the Try
* Those looking for cool, tech-enabled activities for Black History Month might consider the dozens of topics that are available on Flipgrid under “Celebrating Black History.” As with any resource made available as an open resource, take a good look through the prompts to see if their wording and ideas match your students’ level.
* I’m told California is home to the oldest student media festival in the world. The California Student Media Festival is open to students in “all K-12 California Schools [and] Extracurricular Programs,” and can earn your school cash prizes and more. Folks outside California, you’re certainly welcome to channel that energy into a Next Vista contest. 8^)
* The International Space Station just started its third decade of service. Google Arts & Culture has an extensive exhibit on the ISS, and this page has pictures and succinct answers for some of the most common questions. You might have students work together to guess at some of these answers before sharing the page.
* This Mashable story is called NASA’s new Hubble images will blow your mind, and if you need very cool astronomy visuals, it’s a great resource. You’ll find hi-res items to wow your space-interested students. These images from Hubble are part of a new set of 50 released in December.
* Free Math is a tool to help students turn in digital assignments and show their work along the way. There’s a photo-and-crop tool, as well as a system for showing each step in math notation quite efficiently. Read their FAQ page and then give it a try. Thanks to fellow North Bay CUE/NapaLearns Learning Innovation Summit presenter Jason for pointing me toward this one.
* BeFunky is a free image-editing tool that allows you to do such things as create a collage. Here’s one I put together with the search term “Kyoto” using its search feature of free sites such as Unsplash. The shortcut is collage.new.
* In the self-care space, a team from the University of California system that goes by the name GritX has created the Self-Care Toolkit, available in both English and Spanish. Like the Norwalk-La Mirada resource, below, there are a variety of offerings. Thanks to Justin Cottrell of MERIT ’20 for the share.
* We all have moments when things are a bit more intense than is ideal. The “wellness team” in the Norwalk-La Mirada Unified School District in Los Angeles County created what they call the Virtual Calming Room, with loads of resources for relaxation, exercise, creativity, and healthy eating, along with some games, animal cams, and even hotlines for getting help when needed. Another nice share from Justin, this!
* Need to monitor multiple Zoom breakout rooms at once? Here’s a hack for those willing to put in a little time navigating how to have multiple instances of yourself to help keep less-than-perfectly focused students on track.
* Need a brain break? Another Google Arts & Culture exhibit on animals, called Fantastic Beasts (there’s a tie-in to the film series) includes some digital jigsaw puzzles.
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As we move into some level of comfort with everything we learned in 2020 about teaching in new ways, let’s remember that how we build confidence in our students’ sense of their futures is a frame by which we can measure all our effort.
See you next month!