July 2019 Newsletter
July, for many readers of this newsletter, is when we take time to explore cool stuff we feel we haven’t had time to mess with over the last eleven months. I’ve put plenty of promising and/or poignant pieces for perusal into this issue, and encourage you to read, click, and have some fun as you imagine new possibilities.
Kids Win Contests
Or, more to the point, kids and those who know kids see the world in cool ways. Our spring contest student finalists were announced last month, and we now reveal our winners (humor me with an “ooh” and an “ah”)!
The World Is Vastly Connected
Student Strand Winner
San Mateo, California, USA
¿Qué Es Eso?
Teacher Strand Winner
San Francisco, California, USA
Collaboration Strand Winner
Arlington Heights, Illinois, USA
Congratulations to all our entrants – we are happy to share your good work with the world, and look forward to seeing what you do next!
We are on a major push to get new schools to join in this free contest thing we do for this fall, so if this is of interest to you, please let us know, and we’ll be happy to help you make it happen with your students.
Teachers Win Coffee
Or, more to the point, teachers win something nice to sip from Starbucks. We give away $5 cards every month, and this summer we’re looking to thank those who still read this newsletter in June, July, and August by giving away three each month instead of one. Do I hear you say, “Wow, that’s triple the chance of winning?” Indeed it is, and nice job with the quick math.
Our winners from last month are Laura Bartel, Amanda Faulkner, and Cindy Harris. Congratulations to you all!
If you want to enter for July (and trust me, if history is any indication, your odds are fantastic in the month of July), take a look at this doc I created to help kids create better videos. Watch any of the 24 videos in the list and tell us what you think of it. Do so by filling out the prompts on our contact page. Enjoy, and good luck!
Those in southeast Asia might look ahead to September 5th-8th and the Asian Festival of Children’s Content put on by the Singapore Book Council. There are tracks for writers and illustrators, parents and educators, cross-platform (multiplatform storytelling, etc.), and country-specific (this year for Myanmar).
A friend is looking at building a much better way to raise money for school programs, and wants to talk to teachers about things that need to be part of the system he’s putting together. (Music folks, PTA people, and coaches, you’re at the top of the list!) He would love some of your time to talk if you’re in the U.S. or Canada, and will certainly not try and sell you anything. I have seen him create amazing things for schools, and encourage you to take some time for what I know will be an interesting conversation. If that sounds interesting, let me know, and I’ll connect you to him.
A bit short, this one, but July is like that. As always, enjoy the ideas above and the great freebies below, and may what you find prompt how I finish this part of every newsletter: 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.
* As this is a month many people travel (or think about traveling), we’ll start with this piece from Great Big Story about traditionally-made Venetian gondolas. There’s also an interesting math and physics point or two within the story of family, culture, and history. (3:18)
* Staying with Europe for the moment, there is a new video series from Google Arts & Culture in which musicians talk about great works of art. This one is the singer Maggie Rogers sharing thoughts about Van Gogh’s famous work, Starry Night. I hadn’t realized that Van Gogh left pieces of the canvas exposed as part of the work. Cool stuff! (3:18)
* The summer is a good time for teachers to think about service projects, and one way to do that is to reach out to local service clubs, such as Rotary. This video is one designed to be a promo for Rotary International, and might be good for helping you frame your conversation with a local club (find Rotary clubs here). We hope, of course, you’ll reach out to service clubs of any description to facilitate having your students enter our Service via Video contest each year! (1:11)
* Media literacy has naturally become a major topic for educators interested in giving students skills to see past the simplistic, misleading, and/or downright false claims that get slung our way all the time. This TED-Ed talk about health headlines designed to capture attention is a nice starter for getting students to ask deeper questions about what they read in the news. (5:00)
* Those who know my past as a Japanese language teacher would guess I’d be curious about a TED talk that focuses on Chinese characters, which are the basis for Japanese writing, though the languages are completely different. This talk by ShaoLan Hsueh is a nice introduction to the written language, and a fun, short talk for anyone who has ever thought it would be cool to know what the characters mean. (6:07)
* This gem from Great Big Story was shared in one of the meetings of my Rotary club. It’s about a guy who decided to thank everyone involved in making his morning coffee. Two people? Ten? He ended up personally thanking over a thousand. Cool story, and a nice reminder that focusing on what goes wrong in a day can ignore the “hundreds of things that go right.” (2:54)
* Nick Sutton (@DrNickSutton) and Matt Jacobson (@YodaMatt68), two Illinois district leaders, have launched a new podcast called Learning Through Leading. They interview a fairly sketchy guy (me) in the first episode, but even if you have no interest in what I have to say, their intro is a great discussion of how we can strive to take our work to a new level. As part of the intro, Nick starts a discussion between the two of them about how to fix a fridge, and how that relates to teaching and learning. It’s a great thought to chew on for the summer, and I hope you’ll give it a listen! (36:55)
* Keven Rinaman does a podcast called MAGIC Potion EDU, and if you want to learn what he’s like while listening to me talk about improving schools, feel free to catch this episode we recorded at NCEA ’19.
* Are your students too focused on grades? Whether they are doing well or poorly, the likely answer is yes, and that may be the barrier that they never overcome. They may end up on paths that keep them from something much more important to them, something that may have meant their contributions would make a difference in the lives of millions of others. Maybe. How we think about it, though, in the context of our work, can lead us onto interesting paths as educators. Les McBeth (@lesmcbeth) of the organization Future Design School wrote a blog post about this called The Courage To Fail, and I’d recommend it to those looking to make their work more meaningful.
* At a conference in June I got to talking with a really dynamic school leader named Nick Zefeldt. We traded ideas about (and philosophy of) juggling, and that’s a topic I don’t get to explore enough. He also has a blog titled Joyful Classroom Collective. This piece from last year about an esoteric playground game, called “The Greatest (Hidden) Perk of Teaching,” was one that strikes me as a good make-a-teacher-smile piece for the summer. Give his blog a look!
* A Public School Makes the Case for ‘Montessori for All’ is a post in Edutopia about a public elementary school in rural South Carolina that switched from a traditional model to offering Montessori education to all interested families. The work of bringing parents to an understanding of the benefits is one of the challenges described in the piece, and the pieces of the story make a strong case for a full-on approach to getting a staff prepared to help students be successful in a very different academic setting. There is also a summary video (just over five minutes) about this story.
* Teaching is stressful, though very few teachers have identified and practice techniques designed to help themselves reduce that stress. This post from Kaiser Permanente gives six ideas for helping yourself relax when you know that particularly combative parent is coming in for a conference.
* Any teacher covering slavery and the U.S. civil war of the 1860’s might look at how historians in Virginia are using Street View to document the at times unexpected places where slaves lived before (and sometimes after) emancipation. This post includes images of a couple of places to explore in 360º, as well as a powerful video about one historian’s part in the effort.
* Laura Lee is the author of a nice Edutopia post about more effective discipline approaches with high schoolers. Called Managing Your High School Classroom with Compassion, it’s a very quick read and one worth every high school teacher’s time.
* A new exhibit in the web version of Google Earth was released for World Oceans Day on June 8th. The World’s Ocean offers underwater views from around the world in stunning detail. A nice complement to the read, above, from Lorna Parry. You can learn more about this ongoing effort at Underwater Earth.
* Tufts University makes a free course on 3D Design using Blender available via iTunes. I learned about this from a post by Christine Tiday to an ISTE discussion, and include it here for those planning to pick up some animation skills during the summer break.
* This is a read and a try. The Area 120 (experimental projects) folks at Google have been looking at this question: “What if creating games could be as easy and fun as playing them?” (The link is to a post about this idea.) Their answer is Game Builder, designed to allow anyone to use a freely available system to build a game, even if that person doesn’t know how to code.
* Gapminder is an organization dedicated to fighting misconceptions about development. They have a resource called Dollar Street, where you can see pictures of the homes of over two hundred families in 50 countries, sorted by monthly income. This is an amazing resource for a discussion of poverty and community. Thanks to buddy (and new teacher) Steve Jensen for sharing this site!
* Tony Bonner of Lubbock, Texas, introduced me to the AWW Online Whiteboard tool. It’s a collaboration space with text, drawing and shape tools, and stickies. The free version has almost all the tools of the paid, but there are ads, you can’t save a board, and what you create only lasts for two hours. It seems a pretty nice resource for quick, visual collaboration. Thanks, Tony!
* Somebody who may be part of a group (there is a plural pronoun on the about page) has created a whole heap of cool videos largely focused on geography themes. I watched Continents We Thought Existed and another on the largest cities over time, and decided that these could be good points of departure for teaching kids to research information they want to validate. One video I watched had some changes in audio, suggesting that there is at least enough review to want to get their facts right. For the curious, here’s the channel page. (8:13 for the continents video)
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See you next month!