January 2018 Newsletter
A new year, it is! For many years, I’ve been putting this newsletter out as a long email message, and we’re shifting gears with the shifted year to do this a little differently.
What isn’t changing is the focus on contests and projects to give kids new confidence in themselves, nor the heaps of cool freebies that are part of the monthly missive, nor even the opportunity to win a little caffeine. Peruse what’s below for perks-a-plenty!
final days of Creative Fire ’17
The current challenge to share a creative explanation of something one might encounter in school in a short video is in its final days, so get us your submission by Friday of next week (19th), and make sure you’ve followed all the rules – details here.
Here are the winners from the last contest to inspire you!
getting into gear with Service via Video ’18
We encourage students each year to get to know and tell us about folks and organizations in their communities who make life better for others. This year’s contest on that front, Service via Video ’18, is into gear, and we hope you’ll take part.
Need help getting students to give this a shot? Let us know and we’ll share as much advice as we can.
launching the Global Student Voice Film Festival
What is this festival? Experienced Next Vista contest folks will recognize elements, such as the laser-focus on helping students become better digital citizens through using appropriate sources and citing them effectively. The prompt, though, is new for us.
The theme for this festival is “In Another’s Shoes,” and you can approach it in one of two ways. One possibility is telling an original story that helps the viewer better understand someone different. The second possibility is a biographical sketch along the lines of My Name is Michael, one of the most popular videos in our library.
You’ll find the details on the festival site (studentvoice.org), but among the rules, you’ll note that the video can be up to 2 minutes long (with up to another 60 seconds for credits).
On January 16th (Tuesday), January 29th (Monday), and February 1st (Thursday), we’ll have webinars to answer questions of any interested in teachers. Watch the festival site for how and what time to take part – we’d love to have lots of Next Vista-experienced folks involved!
help a (nonprofit) brother out
ISTE invited attendees to submit sessions that crowds could vote on, and I put in one called The Fun and Cool of Getting Better as a Teacher. Could you take a moment and give it a vote? Here’s the link to the description and voting button.
helping out schools and teacher teams
Does your school need someone to help inspire your team? The work Rushton does as a speaker and trainer is what generates the revenue that runs this little nonprofit. If you are looking for someone to speak to your team or do workshops related to technology and improvement, let us help! Contact us on this page, and we can begin exploring the possibility.
helping you stay awake
We offer up an opportunity to win an electronic $5 Starbucks card each month. This month, how can you get your name on the always-short list of those who go to the trouble of entering? Just write us at firstname.lastname@example.org and let us know which video in our library is your favorite among those you’ve seen and why. We hope to hear from you!
good (and free) gig
On January 30th, I’m doing a free webinar with NCEA called The Power of Simple Video, focusing on using video with students and having them see possibilities in themselves via the stories they create. Click on this page for all their webinars, and scroll down to find mine (they are in chronological order). You can choose either 4p Eastern or 7p Eastern to register and take part. See you then!
In addition to the wonderfully cool stuff above for contest and project possibilities, we have some great new stuff on the way! Watch in February for, among other things, news of our “Hey, You!” project with advice for teens.
May 2018 be a year of all sorts of good possibilities for you, your colleagues, and your students. 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.
worth the listen
- I’ve written before about Jennifer Cronk’s (@jenniferacronk) #AssistLearning podcast, which focuses on the intersection of instructional technology and learning disabilities. She interviewed me in early December, and we had a cool conversation about ways teachers can improve how they work with students with added challenges. Jennifer does a great job of exploring the personal and professional sides of teaching, and her podcast is certainly worth a listen.
- Duolingo is a free and powerful tool to help one learn another language. It’s built on the idea that a gamified approach to analyzing what millions of people do with language can continually improve as a tool and help the learner make plenty of progress. The Duolingo team recently launched a podcast for those learning Spanish, and I listened to a wonderful piece about an Argentine veteran of the 1982 Falklands war (linked below), shifting between Spanish and English in a compelling way for intermediate speakers. Hopefully they’ll have these podcasts for more and more languages!
- BBC does one-minute stories, and this one packed so many cool ideas of environmental, educational, and poverty-alleviation service together that I’m way jazzed to share it! It’s about “ecobricks,” which are plastic bottles filled with unrecyclable plastic and brought together to serve as building materials for things like schools in communities that need them. Major cool in this one!
worth the watch
- Ten minutes of reconnecting us to what’s important – that’s one way to describe this piece, called BikeAround. It’s about ways of stimulating memory for those who are suffering from dementia or Alzheimer’s, and it’s a truly powerful story. Keep the tissues close.
- Google’s Year in Search video is a fascinating look at the events, controversies, and personalities that stood out each year, and the 2017 one does not disappoint.
- This Upstanders video is about a restaurant in Dallas, Texas, where young people coming out of jail have the chance to learn to cook and be part of a team. At one point in the video, it shows several of these kids smiling, one face after another, and you can’t help but want them to succeed and succeed beautifully. It’s a great story about finding what matters and finding hope for the future.
- English teacher Julie Bastedo in New York shared this story of a creative approach to using an Amazon account to help homeless people. It’s a great conversation starter for students.
- I regularly include videos from the Great Big Story folks, because they, to put it simply, are very cool. This one is about hidden giants in Denmark, and is a wonderful piece about art moving out of museums and into the wild. I often recommend videos that are more appropriate for teen audiences, but this one is a gem for elementary kiddos!
- Another great one from Great Big Story is about some students at a school in Boca Raton, Florida. They decided that a good way to overcome divisions was to create a We Dine Together Club, and I’d imagine that every school would benefit from having a group like this one. Thanks to Mitty Chang (@mittychang) for sharing this one.
- And another from Great Big Story. This one is about a homeless man in a community near Houston, and how the people there learned his story and then found ways to connect with him, and through him, each other.
- “Vertical farms” – is this a term you’ve heard? If not, you’ll likely hear it soon enough. This under-four-minute video tells about the work of a company in New Jersey bringing several technologies together to grow food in warehouses in faster cycles than on land. Get your students to identify the claims, and come up with the questions for how to validate them! Thanks to Dustin Sallings (@dlsspy) for sharing this one.
worth the read
- Bruce Dixon (@bruceadixon) recently posted a piece at the Educating Modern Learners site called “The Testing Emperor Finally Has No Clothes.” It’s an impassioned attack on the testing industry, and highlights the counter-productive elements of standardized testing practices. If you are part of a discussion at your school about how much standardized testing, if any, is appropriate, you might use this article and its links to other sites as part of your set of resources to explore the question.
- Google puts out all sorts of cool and/or quirky stuff, and this post is about a project called Quick, Draw! that gave people the chance to doodle up a number of images. The post is called, “A look at one billion drawings from around the world,” and examines patterns in drawings, including breaking them down differently based on the country in which they were drawn. It’s a technique used for improving machine learning, and reading this may generate an activity or a discussion with your students.
- Edutopia published a post by Laura McKenna (@laura11D) early this month called “Will Letter Grades Survive?” and it poses some great questions about the mechanics of competency-based grading system and how schools and colleges work to share information. Do you think students would learn better if letter grades disappeared? Thanks to Ken Shelton (@k_shelton) for sharing this one.
- “Who Gets to Live in Fremont, Nebraska?” is an article from Slate exploring the complexities of a town getting ready to open a major poultry facility for Costco. There are issues of immigration, environmental threats, community growth and decline, and more, and can be a strong piece for helping students see past the simplistic politics that consume so much of modern (American) culture. There was precious little attention given to school issues in the article, but your students might generate some good hypotheses about the effects of similar situation in their own communities.
- How to Criticize with Kindness – that’s the opening part of the title of the post linked below, designed to give readers thoughts on effectively connecting with, learning from, and perhaps giving constructive criticism to those with whom they engage in argument. The bulk of the ideas come from philosopher Daniel Dennett and his book Intuition Pumps and Other Tools for Thinking.
- Meg Conley (@_megconley) is a mom who wrote this piece about the three questions her family discusses every evening. She and her husband ask their daughters about being brave, being kind, and learning from failure; they also answer those questions, themselves. It’s a good piece about how to set a tone with children, and thanks go to Tracy Poelzer (@TracyPoelzer) for sharing it.
- Much of what I include in this part of the newsletter involves material students might read. This one is a bit more personal. It’s a New York Times article called “My Year of No Shopping,” and while I don’t know that I have tons in common demographically with the author, the basic idea of exploring wants and needs and shopping in a society like the one I live in is intriguing. The link is to the PrintFriendly.com version, which is itself a tool to explore if you don’t already know it.
- Here’s a two-pager from a guy who runs a service that helps students who are applying to college. It’s called, “Top 10 College Essay Mistakes,” and is good advice, and also a good discussion prompt for talking with high schoolers about writing and college.
worth the try
- If you want to devote some time to getting better at using spreadsheets so as to earn the cosmos’ way-geeky style points badge, take a look at this free online course. It was put together by Ben Collins (@benlcollins), a DC-based apps scripts developer and data analyst. Haven’t tried it myself, but it looks cool, and I thank writetrev on the Google Certified Innovator list for spotting and sharing this.
- There are at least seven different screencasting tools that will work with Chrome, whether on a Chromebook or on a Mac or PC using Chrome. Richard Byrne (@rmbyrne) created an overview of the strengths of each with links to get the extension needed. The doc linked below covers Nimbus Screenshot, Screencast-o-Matic, Loom, Soapbox, ViewedIt, CaptureCast, and Screencastify.
- My buddy Ed Taylor suggested Jeopardy Labs as a user-friendly tool for quickly putting together a Jeopardy-like game for your students. There are quite a few pre-made ones you can search through if you don’t want to make one from scratch, too.
- OpenStax is a Rice University nonprofit effort to offer free high-quality, college-level textbooks online. They offer almost forty texts you can read in a web page or download as a PDF, including six for AP courses: Biology, Physics, Microeconomics, Microeconomics 2e, Macroeconomics, and Macroeconomics 2e. There’s even at least one offered in Polish, though the rest seem to be in English.
- Google Docs users who want to add a text box like one does in Word can do so by using Insert → Drawing. It turns out that there are lots of things Drawings makes possible in Docs, if you know how to go about it. This post from Eric Curts (@ericcurts) describes in detail how to add a textbox, caption a picture, include video (sort of), add a graphic organizer, incorporate a manipulative activity, include a whiteboard, add a watermark, and take a snapshot. This is a great post for getting a better feel for what Drawings can do for Docs.
- Last year, I ran a project called The 5-Day Teacher Challenge, and lots of teachers (2000 signed up) got some cool ideas from taking part. A company called Presto! Plans has launched a 30 Day Happy Teacher Challenge, and they have quite a few cool ideas in the short 1- or 2-sentence challenges on the schedule. Give it a look!
- Would you like to have your class Skype with a scientist? An organization designed to do just that, called (appropriately) “Skype a Scientist” allows you to fill out a form requesting someone with a given specialty, including cartographer, psychologist, geneticist, climate scientist, and many more. Go to the page below, click “For Teachers,” and then (after reading their info) fill out the form using the “Sign Up!” button.
- Looking for fascinating photos of monuments around the world? Give the page for the annual photo contest “Wiki Loves Monuments” some time. The page showing winners from 2017 has some breathtaking gems.
Friday Prayer at Baital Mukarram Mosque 03 by Azim Khan Ronnie from Wikimedia Commons (CC by-sa 4.0)
- Teachers who use Pinterest will find this list from Kasey Bell (@shakeuplearning) a nice one for people to follow. This is the third part in a series from Bell, and there are links to the first two on what Pinterest is and how to follow your interests there.
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In the 1990s, I became a high school teacher of Japanese language in California, and several years into it, began taking groups of students to Japan. Watching them try out their language skills, make new friends, and take in the wonder of that amazing country was an annual joy for me.
Last month, I visited Japan again for the first time in a while, and posted a number of shots on Instagram along with my stories of the places. Click on this link if you’re willing to put more of my writing in front of your eyes!
Yasaka Pagoda and Rickshaw (2017-12) by @rushtonwastaken on Instagram (CC by 4.0)
If you enjoyed the newsletter, please let us know – see you next month!