January 2020 Newsletter
This week at the school where I spend a lot of my time, we had an a cappella group from Yale visit and work with the students. Watching college kids give our students great advice and some off-the-charts cool music was a nice reminder to me of something I love to say: what matters is not the number of minutes we have, but the number of great minutes we craft.
We hope the minutes you’ll spend with all the ideas and freebies below will lead to a great moment for one or more of your students – enjoy!
As long-time readers of this newsletter know, January means we’re launching our new 90-second edu-video contest, Creative Strength ’20! Big woohoo for all the hyphens that got to participate in that last sentence.
Like in the past, we invite teachers and students to submit short videos that creatively describe something one might encounter in school. As an activity, this can be a powerful moment when a student learns he or she can teach others, or when a teacher finds that other teachers need the insights shared.
A high school student examines an interesting term.
narrated digital art (student)
Spam: Don’t Do It! (teacher)
A teacher helps us avoid accidentally spamming others.
puppets and screenshots
Theme Dream (collaboration)
A teacher and her elementary students explain theme.
We hope to see your work as part of Creative Strength ’20!
We are now posting all the videos that came in from the fall contest, and will announce on our home page the finalists in the coming days. If you were one of the ones who submitted something, good luck!
Service via Video ’20
Many classes also use the spring semester to launch cool service projects. This year, we encourage teachers to have students record the story of their project, or perhaps the work of a nonprofit where they volunteer, as a way to inspire others.
Learn more about Service via Video ’20 on the contest page, and be inspired by these past finalists:
Sibu Wildlife Sanctuary
Middle school students describe an animal sanctuary in Costa Rica.
from Service via Video 2018
Loaves and Fishes – Serving Those in Need
High school students introduce a special California soup kitchen.
from Service via Video 2016
A Cup of Caffeine
How do they do it?
If you’re interested in entering to win $5 worth of Starbucks sippable goodness this month, then watch any of the five videos highlighted above and write us to tell how that video might be useful to your students.
Are you interested in spending two weeks in California in July learning how to use technology to become a more innovative teacher? MERIT at Foothill College’s Krause Center for Innovation is designed to inspire teachers to see new possibilities for themselves and their students, but you have to apply and get accepted to take part!
Learn more at the KCI MERIT page (that page includes a link to this Friday afternoon’s online info session), or reach out to Rushton via the Next Vista Contact Us page, as he will lead the program this year.
Consider the #2020tipchallenge as a cool way to start the year by surprising someone at a restaurant, in an Uber, or at a coffee spot with a big tip. You can read how a former New Kids on the Block singer started this, or check out the shares on Instagram of people tossing out an extra $20.20 like this guy at his barbershop.
Brand New Book
Titled Technology, Teamwork, & Excellence, the chapters cover sharing what’s distinctive about your school, technology’s potential when hiring, building vibrant discussions among members of your team, dealing with major change, teacher resilience, fostering loyalty, and much more.
Please share the link, too. What he earns from selling the books goes to support Next Vista for Learning, so it’s a good cause!
In addition to the MERIT program described above, here are several gatherings you might join:
This month serves up one of the largest educational technology conferences of the year, FETC. For 2020, that means making your way to Miami from the 14th to the 17th (that’s next week!). They haven’t quite sold out, so please give it a look.
In February, Idaho holds the annual and superfun IETA in Boise from the 3rd to the 5th. The first day is focused on IT staff, with the next two more about instruction. It’s a great gig in a great town!
For those who prefer a smaller, summer gathering, 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 make this one to attend.
Is this the first year of the ’20s, or the last of the ’10s? Can’t say it matters much to me, though I certainly understand those who focus on the change of the numbers. Regardless, it’s your time to add something cool to your teaching, and we hope the wealth of freebies, below, will help make that happen.
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
* The best messages I’ve heard are those that challenge me to see into myself in new ways. This one, recommended to me by the amazing Esther Kwaku, is from the Oprah Winfrey Network, and is a life lesson from Maya Angelou. Of course, Maya Angelou could read a grocery list and I’d be inspired. (3:05)
* The annual Google Year in Search video is typically a powerful one to watch, as it captures so many moments of magnitude. The 2019 Year in Search video may be the best I’ve seen in years, and its focus on a theme of heroes fits well. (2:05)
* For those who see the new year as a time of hope for something better, you’ll be encouraged by the work of Joe Hatchiban, an Irish guy who has set in motion in Berlin something beautiful called Bearpit Karaoke. If you’re on your way to Berlin, plan on spending Sunday afternoon (April to October in Mauer Park) with the folks who gather there. (2:42)
* I love seeing a strong video that a school has made to promote something it does. In this one, The Bullis School of Washington DC touts its spring “Discovery Days”; it’s a time when students get to explore something of their choosing. What happens at your school that should be shared to inspire other schools? (0:58)
* This video is one woodworker’s approach to thinking outside the box. It’s all about the box, or getting in from the outside, anyway. Thanks to the CNN daily mailing for sharing this one. (6:10)
* Brandon Dennison is a guy who decided that the challenges faced by communities in his state (West Virginia) needed some commitment and creative thinking. He put that in motion, starting the nonprofit Coalfield Development Corporation to help communities start new businesses and create jobs for those who are out of work due to the collapse of the coal industry. The story is part of the Starbucks Upstander series, and an inspiration to all of us who come from small towns. (7:29)
* Torrey Trust of ISTE’s Teacher Education Network shared some video projects her students have done related to inspiring action on climate change. This one, Save the Geese, is a clever response to that assignment, and pretty strong on the sources and citations front (see the description on the YouTube page), which I’m always jazzed to see! (2:40)
* Sometimes it’s just incredibly cool to watch a master at work. (3:36)
Worth the Read
* This post’s title, High School’s Troubled Relationship with Happiness, caught my eye, and the article did not disappoint. It rises above a general concern with social relationships and emotional stability, and provides a well-crafted and nuanced look at interrelationships of components of the work of educators. How we structure evaluation is at the root of it: “The traditional classroom measurement device – the exam – is specifically designed to separate the few who have mastered the material from the many who have merely acquired the basics.” Yep.
* If a little bit of good news is a great thing, then a mountain of great news has to be stellar! The Future Crunch guys put out their list of the top 99 Good News Stories You Probably Didn’t Hear About in 2019 a few weeks ago, and there are links to wonderful pieces about the environment, health, living standards, peace and human rights, and energy and sustainability. This is a list to turn to when you get tired of politicians or newscasters shouting at you.
* Michael Linsin has a blog called Smart Classroom Management, and posts weekly about ways to keep learning, and not behavioral issues, at the forefront of your and your students’ experience. In mid-December, he posted an interesting one called How to Handle Brazen Behavior that anyone who deals with it might take a moment to read.
* The MIT Technology Review ran an essay contest for teens asking what adults misunderstand about teens’ use of tech. The winner is by a student from Utah named Taylor Fang, and it’s a strong piece for exploring both the power of technology and how teens see themselves.
* I’ve mentioned before a Texas company called ICON that is working to address housing issues through 3D-printed homes for those battling poverty. Their year-end post is a nice way to acquaint yourself with this very interesting effort, as well as acquaint your students with people who work to make a difference for others.
* Kristine Napper posted a piece on Edutopia’s site called The Necessity of Having High Expectations, and it is one of the better articles I’ve read on the connection between caring and excellence. There is an especially poignant quote from one of Kristine’s students that follows her patient but firm insistence that the boy follow through with something challenging: “The other teachers don’t! They know I’m dumb!”
* Another strong one from Edutopia is Gina DiTullio’s Helping Students Develop Executive Function Skills. DiTullio describes a range of strategies, from metacognitive and time management skills, to timing of reviews, to how to arrange things in the classroom.
* Finally (for the reads; plenty of tries and looks below), there is this post on Seven Tips to International Friendship by Jeremi Snook of Friendship Force, shared on Billy Lee’s Friendshipology website. It’s a good tool for talking with students about how they come across to others, and may help them think more broadly than they have before. And a very good one for anyone who travels, as well!
Worth the Try
* Richard Byrne of Free Technology for Teachers mentioned VidReader in a recent note, and I’m thankful for it! This crazy cool tool allows you to put a YouTube URL in its search field, and it comes back with a pretty good shot at converting the speech in the video to a transcript. You can even click on specific sentences, and it’ll advance the video to that point. You can create an account and add a Chrome extension if you like, as well. Awesome.
* Another cool one I learned about from Richard is Glide, which allows you to make an app for free from a Google Sheet. The free version has some limitations (Glide branding, a limit of 500 rows of data in the spreadsheet), but their documentation suggests that this works for both iOS and Android phones. This might be a great way to get students who can handle spreadsheets to experiment with making mobile apps.
* This video from KQED on climate change and the carbon tax as a way to address it is in the try section because it models a critical look at both supportive and critical views of the issue. One great way to get students to up their intellectual game is to have them explore a topic of interest in which they genuinely portray both sides of an argument, and avoid giving in to a passive-aggressive suggestion that one is actually better than the other. Some stories are designed to persuade, but this one is designed to inform. That’s a good thing to be able to do!
* I have used SpeakPipe Voice Recorder for years as a browser tool for quickly creating MP3 audio files to use with digital media projects and the like. Another good tool for such things is one of the offerings from 123apps called Online Voice Recorder. Unlike SpeakPipe, you can’t save it online and immediately send a link to someone else. However, this one does allow you to trim from the beginning and end before downloading it as an MP3. Both tools are useful for work with younger students, as you don’t need to create an account/log in to use them.
* While we’re on the subject of audio, Google Slides rolled out an option for including audio as part of presentations in November. You’ll find it in the Insert menu, but if you’re curious about the details of how to use it, check out the Google Blog entry on it, or watch this short tutorial from the always helpful Richard Byrne. Adding audio requires uploading a file; hopefully they’ll add a tool to record directly into slides sometime in the near future.
* While we’re on the subject of Google Slides, Cynthia Nixon of Teaching Technix created an Instagram template for Slides. This is something you can use as a frame for a social media lesson activity, or to frame another activity with connections to social media. Cool stuff, Cynthia!
* While we’re on the subject of templates for Drive activities, here is a doc called Creating Stop Motion Videos you can copy. It has links to example videos (the Lego Shark Attack one has almost 7M views!), a story-board like organizer, and links to more resources and tutorials. I’d credit the person who made it, but I don’t know who it was. If any of you know, please tell me!
Worth the Look
* The Best Science Images of 2019 from the Royal Society Publishing Photography Competition includes a clownfish, a massive twister descending from the sky, a lunar halo, and more. Read the descriptions before deciding whether to show them to your students. The volcano one is a reminder of what nature can do.
* Seeing the work of a master photographer reveals the artistry possible with a camera, and the work of Lisa Kristine is a fine example. She has been recognized by world leaders for her work, and we can see many of her photographs at her website, including this set called “Intimate Expanse,” which shows people living in extraordinarily beautiful places. Use these as prompts for discussion at the beginning of class.
* While thinking about the contest above, I decided to look up some of the Wikimedia Commons photo competition entrants, and found this page with the three winners of the Special Awards for European Year of Cultural Heritage. First prize, below, is The Cloisters at Gloucester Cathedral by Christopher JT Cherrington from Wikimedia Commons (CC by-sa 4.0). Added that to the group that appears on my desktop background, I did.
* I’ve offered very little to those interested in geology over the decade+ I’ve been doing this newsletter, but this month, we’ll address that dearth! This article from PetaPixel (a site about photography and cameras) is about crazy-high-resolution photography of minerals, and the samples are beautiful. Those with crazy-high-level interest in photography might find this fascinating, as well.
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You might think the shot below is from New Year’s Eve. While it has the look, this lasers, lights, and music shindig happens in Hong Kong every night at 8:00. I was on that side of the Pacific for a conference in December, and despite all the complexities there in recent months, I was able to enjoy my time tremendously in what is truly one of the magical cities of the world.
Hong Kong’s Nightly Shindig
by Rushton Hurley
(CC by 4.0)
See you next month!