July 2020 Newsletter
A jammin’ July to all of you! I hope you are dealing with the world’s crazy circumstances as best as you can, and might just be ready for some cool videos, intriguing ideas, and fabulous freebies, ’cause I’ve got ’em lined up for you.
Creative Strength ’20
For obvious reasons, there were complications getting our spring contest finished. However, we are ready to share both the winner and the other three finalists so you can get some ideas for video projects for the coming school year. Such a good idea, that is!
How to Set Off a Sky Lantern
by students at Tsai Hsing School
by students at Aliso Viejo Middle School
Aliso Viejo, California, USA
Line Up the Decimal When Adding and Subtracting
by a student at Washtenaw International Middle Academy
Ypsilanti, Michigan, USA
How to Top Up Your EasyCard in Taipei
by students at Tsai Hsing School
Remember that students with the confidence to explain what they’re learning are in a much better position to tackle the next round of ideas. We hope you’ll have your kids develop that confidence with us in our upcoming contests! Watch our front page and this newsletter for details, and let us know if you want to do a special project with your students making videos we highlight. We can do that for free, but would need to connect with you on the parameters.
A School’s Story
Last week I attended the virtual open house of an innovative school in San Francisco called Brightworks. The founder, Gever Tully, started the school in 2005 on the belief that “kids can build anything, and through building, learn anything.”
If you’re curious what a really different school can look like, I encourage you to watch the recording of the open house. While the full piece runs about 90 minutes, just watching the first half hour can prompt strong questions. What makes the school where you work distinctive? What is its history of great learning? What are the passions of the people who work there?
Anyone interested in the question of what makes a school distinctive is welcome to contact me, as well. I love learning the stories of schools that have done something amazing, or that are working to build it.
As most readers of the newsletter will know, we have been hard at work since schools closed creating webinar content to help teachers and school leaders with the switch to online learning. It began on March 13th with a half-hour recording called Guidance for Switching to Online Instruction, and we’re now at almost three dozen pieces you are welcome to watch.
Find the program Activities Across Grade Levels at this page. In it, Susan Stewart and I work to take an idea, tool, or resource in lots of creative directions for the young learners (grades K-2), upper elementary, middle school, and high school levels. This Thursday at 2p Pacific, we’ll do one called Returning to School on how to prepare yourself for that set of question marks. Register here.
You’ll also find strong ideas alongside plenty of fun at the page for Two EdTech Guys Take Questions and Share Cool Stuff.
After Thursday, both Activities Across Grade Levels and Two EdTech Guys will take a break until the end of the month, but you are certainly welcome to binge watch what’s on the site if you find what we share fun and helpful.
Each month during the summer, we give away a $5 Starbucks card to two folks from among our readers. For June, though, we only got one entry – craziness. Congratulations go to Cecelia Babkirk for winning! Enjoy the drink, and huge style points for not holding back from entering because you think you won’t win.
We’ll deal with the minimal response from June by giving away three cards in July. Just think, if it takes five minutes to do this, that’s like earning a dollar a minute if you win, which equates to an annual salary of $120K USD. Even if you don’t win, you can run across a good resource for your work with kiddos. Such a good deal.
So, if you’d like to be in the drawing for July, let us know what video on NextVista.org is your favorite from among those you’ve seen, and why. Use our Contact Us page to send that thought our way.
Later this month from the 20th-24th, you might well want to save time for Indiana Connected Educators LIVE, which (a) is free and (b) may have the most impressive range of fun and interesting ed-tech folks of any free conference I’ve seen. Register here, and take a look at the set of scheduled speakers here.
This is a month for recharging your batteries, and also taking some time to add to your toolbox for what will be a very different opening of the school year.
These two things are not mutually exclusive.
Find stuff that fascinates you, connect with colleagues willing to take a few minutes to toss ideas back and forth, and have fun along the way. You will thank yourself for it when the next term starts.
And while you’re at it, 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
* My friend Kas recently introduced me to a video of a spoken word project called To This Day. It is a reflection on depression and bullying, with the work of talented animators for the visuals. The poet, Shane Koyczan, is a Canadian with some powerful things to say about what happens at schools in the hearts and minds of kids with weight problems. (7:36)
* This talk from Australian student Viney Kumar as part of Chicago Ideas week tells of his work to help emergency vehicles better make their way through traffic. It’s called The Power of One: A 14 Year Old’s Life Saving Technology, and is a visual summary of a design thinking process. It’s also an encouragement to any young person who wants to address a problem and learn to code along the way. Thanks to Nick Zefeldt for pointing me to this video. (8:11)
* In this video, a BBC Sports commentator does the play-by-play for the nightly trip of a horde of waddling penguins heading to the beach. Great fun. (1:12)
* While we’re on the subject of cute animals, you might take in this gem from the Oregon Zoo. It’s about baby goats, otters, and curiosity. A nice break from the tragedy in our world, but can be a strong prompt for younger students, as well. (3:51)
* If the physics of music seems like a good topic for prompting discussion, this Great Big Story piece about a guy in Hungary who creates unusual pianos might be a good resource. (4:32)
* This video is a Google promo for what businesses can do with YouTube. I like it because the story is about revival, and that there are ripples of hope that happen from one person stepping forward to do something interesting. Enjoy Jenny Doan: Quilting a community together, and know that one of your students may start something that inspires possibility and hope. (2:29)
* Can you draw? If you think, “Nope!”, or any variation on that rather negative theme, then you should watch this TEDx talk by Graham Shaw called “Why people believe they can’t draw – and how to prove they can.” His message is a nice reminder we can address our personal barriers more easily than we think. Thanks to Joe Ayala for sharing this one with me! (15:03)
* If you’re thinking about science experiment possibilities with online or hybrid classes, you might take a look at Jag Singh’s 14 Store Bought Vegetables & Herbs You Can Regrow. You’ll get some great gardening tips along the way, as well. (6:47)
Worth the Read
* This Edutopia post, called Distance Learning Strategies to Bring Back to the Classroom, is a nice reflection from a teacher who has truly had the chance to learn from her work over the last few months. It’s loaded with practical ideas for you to explore, too.
* As to what the opening of the next school year might look like, you can get an idea from the stories of teachers around the world in another Edutopia piece, this one called Teachers Around the World Tell Us Reopening Is Tough, but Joyful.
* While on a roll with Edutopia articles, let’s also highlight this one, called “One Word to Drop From Your Teacher Vocabulary.” It may be that you find it easy to guess, but I’ll note that what I like about this post is that there are concrete suggestions for how to avoid the problematic situations that word can set in motion.
* Here’s a story from CNN with some attached videos about a New York project for pairing young volunteers with seniors, and how one pair has adjusted during the pandemic. It’s a great reminder of the goodness that is out there.
* For leaders and those who are on their way to becoming leaders, a nice read that is well worth your time is How To Handle Overbearing Teacher Colleagues, a June post from Michael Linsin. His weekly messages are often ones I really like, and this one about how to communicate effectively was especially well-crafted.
* Another strong post from Michael Linsin is one called Why You Must Never Confuse Fun And Hard Work. It includes this thought as part of his frame: “Fun provides an effortless way to build rapport and capture interest. It awakens the mind and soothes the soul. It motivates and inspires…but fun is merely a tool.”
* Teachers sometimes are asked by parents about whether a child should have a smartphone. No small question, this. You might point them, though, to this Devorah Heitner post, called Hold The Phone: 8 Signs Your Kid Isn’t Ready For a Phone. Great insights for how you think about what you model, as well. Thanks to Nate Gildart (@nathangildart) for pointing me to this one!
Worth the Listen
* A friend recently recommended the “Hope, Through History” podcast from historian Jon Meacham. I listened to Episode 5, The 1918 Influenza Pandemic, posted in May, and was impressed with the weaving of the story of that pandemic with the American response to World War I. So you know, the piece is interrupted by ads only once, though that interruption goes for over three minutes (from 18:30 to 21:44). (29:22)
Worth the Try
* A nonprofit called CommonLit has created a library of lessons for teachers to build a literacy program for grades 3-12 with commonly-used books. With its system you can choose lessons, share with students, and track their progress with the fiction and nonfiction readings. There are resources for parents, as well.
* If you’ve ever watched a YouTube video by a teacher, noticed that she or he blurred out the faces of students of the kids in order to post it, and wondered, “How did they do that?”, then your moment has come. For this try, first watch Richard Byrne’s tutorial on using YouTube itself to blur faces, then upload anything, and give it a go!
* At a recent online conference, the very cool Cutia Blunt (“Cutia” is pronounced “ka-TEE-uh”) did a demo slam on the online image editing tool LunaPic. There are so many cool options on this one, you’ll need to set aside a chunk of time to explore it, but it seems well worth the effort to me. As always with this kind of tool, be careful not to click on an ad inadvertently. In this particular screenshot below, the ad is the part at the top and on the right with the green “Start” button; you may see something different, but probably in the same place, at least to start with.
* I’m a big fan of sites like Unsplash that collect high-quality photography and share it for free (you should still cite your source to model doing so). I recently learned about Pikwizard, which is a fairly new arrival in this space. The pro here is that they have plenty of good content, and I was impressed with what I found via the searches. The con is that they have “Premium” content interspersed in the results, so if you are looking for free, you have to look past that. Once I went back to the home page and it was all Premium results, so they may still be working on their algorithms. I’d cite the image below: untitled by unknown from Pikwizard (CC0)
* Yet another image resource! This is a collection within Unsplash posted by Morning Brew, a company that puts out newsletters on tech, retail, and marketing.
* Technically, this is more of a watch than a try, but if it doesn’t inspire some teacher to show it to students, who in turn try creating an even larger paper airplane (spoiler – it isn’t paper), I’ll be disappointed. I should note that as a Texan, I fully support the interest underlying such a project.
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In our pandemic-oppressed world, it can feel like the questions for how to do what you do as a teacher just seem to circle you without giving the central idea for how to move forward.
We hope Thursday’s webinar (whether you watch it live or as a recording) will help with some calm and clarity!
See you next month!