June 2018 Newsletter
For this last month of the first half of 2018, I have a promise to keep, freebies to share, and plenty of folks from Colombia, Chile, and Texas to welcome to the list! A sincere thanks for signing up to all of you who are new, and added gratitude to all who have been reading this missive for months or years.
I’ll start this one, though, with an invitation to something fun. Those who aren’t interested in fun ways to get better at what you do, feel free to skip the next section. 8^)
Way Easy Book Study
How does “the easiest book study ever” sound to you? What if it were also a chance to become a better teacher through some great ideas and techniques? What if the book you buy also helped a small and honorable nonprofit that sends you free resources each month? More smiles go here.
Starting in mid-July, I’ll be partnering with Illinois Computing Educators (ICE) to offer a book study of Making Your Teaching Something Special, a collection of 50 short chapters, each with an idea that can make you a better teacher now.
Please join in! You can find info on the activities at the book study page on Participate, and you can find the book on Amazon. We’ll be meeting promoting this at ISTE, so if you’ll be there and have questions about this, please drop by the ICE area!
Student Voices, Shared!
Last month, we promised to share some amazing videos from this year’s Global Student Voice Film Festival, and this month, we deliver. Both of these entries are ones in which the students put genuine love for life into the stories. I’m sure you’ll want to share these links with friends and colleagues!
In My Shoes by Galen
Soquel High School (Soquel, California, USA)
As Cool As You Are
Colegio Americano De Puebla (Puebla, Mexico)
Find all the GSVFF videos we’ve posted so far at our page for exceptional entries.
A big thank you to all of you who helped us select the winner from our most recent Service via Video contest! This year’s winner was one that spoke to how a community in North Carolina works to help some of its most vulnerable members. Enjoy!
Interested in taking part in our next service contest? Drop us a line letting us know, and we’ll get info your way (along with some helpful resources) when we announce its launch.
In our EL Project library (now over 400 videos strong!), we’ve added a bunch of new ones in the hobbies set, which has over fifty videos for those learning English. Check out the whole set here, and as an example, give this one about Japanese paper-folding a look:
Next Vista English Language Project
As with all our EL Project videos, you can find there are two for each term: the subtitled version, and the one with no subtitles. The idea is to help your students build confidence seeing the words, and then handle them without the help.
At the end of the month, join 15,000 or so of your colleagues from near and far at ISTE 2018 in Chicago. This is North America’s largest educational technology event, and a phenomenal opportunity to connect with interesting teachers from around the world. Throw in that you’ll be in one of the coolest cities in the country, and this is definitely one to catch if you’re able!
This month, we reach back over two and a half millennia for some wisdom from Lao Tzu, the semi-mythical teacher whose ideas are the basis of Taoism from China:
“When you are content to be simply yourself and don’t compare or compete, everyone will respect you.”
– Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching
Good advice for teachers, that.
If you need some more jitters in your life, we’d be happy to help you out. Those interested in a $5 Starbucks card are invited to write us at email@example.com and let us know what you think of the two GSVFF videos we highlighted above. Put “Creativity rocks!” in the subject line to get your name in the hat twice instead of just once. Good deal, no?
We also send a congratulations to David Tomeo of Alaska Geographic for winning the May giveaway. His organization is dedicated to “Connecting people to Alaska’s wild lands,” which sounds to us like a hip and honorable way to spend one’s time! Give the AKGeo site a look to learn more.
So what does the just-started or upcoming break mean to you? For me, it’s taking traveling to another gear, both for fun and for work. I’ll try and post pics to my Instagram account for all those who enjoy travel photography. If you take time to give what’s there a look, please let me know what you think – as with everything else in our lives, there’s nothing better than honest feedback for getting better.
Throughout June and going forward, 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 Listen
* The BBC recently posted an audio piece about cartographer Marie Tharp, who in 1957, put together a map of the floor of the Atlantic Ocean. That map included what is now called the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, and she showed with its presence how the theory of continental drift was accurate, to the consternation of most of her colleagues at the time. In an all-too-familiar refrain, it was some time before she was recognized and celebrated for her work.
* Ever thought about how doctors are trained to break bad news? It turns out that not too many decades ago, doctors were actually encouraged to lie to patients with life-ending illnesses. That all changed when Rob Buckman, a doctor-in-training, a semi-professional comedian, and (one I’d call) a hero decided there could be another way. This episode of 99% Invisible with Roman Mars explores some great questions and stories.
* My friend Greg Dhuyvetter (@GDhuyvetter) recommended Welcome to Night Vale to me, and after listening to the initial episode, I began to wonder if I were the only person with an email address who hadn’t heard of it. This wildly quirky, considerably spooky, and very cool twice-a-month podcast covers the (literally) extraordinary (pause between the ‘a’ and the ‘o’ to get what I mean) events in a small desert town. If the rest of the series is as good as the first one, I’ll be listening to this for a long time to come.
Worth the Watch
* Can you distill some of the top challenges for putting a helicopter on Mars into a less-than-90-second video? Here’s a piece from NASA on just that topic, complete with cool music and a control center.
* Here’s another video about fascinating science. This time, it’s about a boy who discovered new possibilities in himself through a love of music. Called Daniel and the Sea of Sound, it tells about a young man who did an internship with the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI) in California and worked with an AI system to track whales through their songs.
* May included Mother’s Day, a day we celebrate perhaps the most profound of personal connections. Some children have limited connection with their mothers due to the women being incarcerated, though, and what that means for how they see their connections makes for a powerful story. This video is titled Love Letters from Incarcerated Mothers & Their Children, and may be too raw for your class, but is certainly valuable for reminding us the circumstances in which some of these children find themselves.
* School leaders: when changes are being implemented, how do you convey your rationale to a population that may prefer that the change not be made? This video about a calendar change for a high school in Illinois is a masterful example, making it clear to the viewer that students’ interests are at the core of the change.
* A popular video years ago among language teachers was One Semester Spanish Love Song (now almost 10M views), which was funny for its over-the-top use of very simple vocabulary and sentences. I was recently introduced to a similar video from the ending credits of the TV show Community, which features two characters rapping with items that they are preparing to be tested upon. Fun stuff!
* Imagine a town with no roads. What kind of time and place might you come up with? If you’ve ever travelled in the Netherlands, you may have run across the village of Giethoorn, which you can learn about in this cool Great Big Story video.
* What might glass technologies provide us in a normal day in the year 2020? The folks at Corning put out a couple of videos looking at these possibilities about six-seven years ago, but this video appears to have been one that may have been part of that set but never posted by Corning. Regardless, it was interesting stuff that was a decade away when they filmed it, and some of the envisioned technology is part of what we have and use now.
* Here’s a nice TED-Ed video about the history of London’s underground railway/subway system. Cool info, cool art as visuals, and short – something any fan of NextVista.org would certainly appreciate!
Worth the Read
* This Edutopia piece, titled, “Why Students Cheat—and What to Do About It,” addresses the various reasons young people might feel that it is an acceptable risk, or simply okay, to cheat on their assignments and tests. The reasons range from social pressure, to a lack of understanding, to a sense of the value of the work they are being asked to do.
* I couldn’t pass up an article that takes a good look at what we can expect out of technologies of the near future, and this one by physics student Ella Anderson in Medium did not disappoint. The minimal comments about education, however, were all things we in the connected-educator world already know and are doing. Still, it’s good fun to read about what your wallpaper and toilet might help you with.
* Another strong and personal piece from a recent Edutopia mailing was written by a teacher who identified the moments his teachers helped him understand something important about himself. What My Teachers Taught Me About Teaching is a nice, quick read about how we communicate effectively with our students.
* Do you know how to say, “No,” when asked to take on a responsibility that you feel isn’t right for you? Here are some strong pieces of advice about how to think about what you are asked to do and approaches to declining the offer to add it to your plate.
* Here’s an interesting piece in EdSurge on how Elon University is making changes to its thinking about transcripts, and changes to its programs and activities based on what it learns as part of that exploration. The private university (founded in 1889 and no relation to Mr Musk) is all about “engaged and experiential learning,” and based in North Carolina in the United States.
* A University of Florida research director named Annie Neimand published a post for the Stanford Social Innovation Review called, “How to Tell Stories About Complex Issues.” It provides concrete advice on how to communicate through language that connects and is easily understood, as opposed to the complex and abstract ideas that underlie many of the arguments made in the public sphere. You can learn more about research done on storytelling at this Medium page.
* In the realm of both the complex and the cool, here’s an article about saildrones that is recommended for anyone who likes innovative and fascinating science. The company is doing cutting-edge work ocean with drones on oceans, and my favorite line from the piece is this one: “How cool would it be, he thought, to replicate Magellan’s 16th century globe-spanning voyage with a modern twist and less death?” The page opens with a video summary of the article, which is also a good way to take in the story.
* School health folks may want to read this piece from NAIS about vaping and Juuling – the latter I hadn’t heard of before reading the article. A single nicotine cartridge (a “Juul pod”) used in one of these devices contains as much nicotine as one would find in an entire pack of cigarettes, apparently. Nasty stuff! The article includes concrete suggestions for schools in dealing with this challenge to young people’s health.
* Speaking of health, what if your blood had a property that made it intensely valuable to the health of thousands and perhaps millions of people? One man in Australia developed such a quality after having a procedure as a teen that required almost two gallons of donated blood. This may be an interesting prompt for any biology or philosophy class.
* Continuing this topic to a really impressive level, here’s a WIRED article about Nir Barzilai and his research on metformin, which may end up allowing many people to live longer and notably healthier. This piece could be a great prompt for discussions of health, quality of life, income levels, medical research, and scientific skepticism.
Worth the Try
* If you want students to try and navigate the kinds of situations those with very little money face without becoming destitute themselves, you might have them try playing Spent, an online scenario game. In it, you’ll make decisions on how to spend what funds you have, trying to make it to the end of the month without running out. Great discussion prompt, this. Thanks to Mary Dowden for sharing this one!
* What does it cost to buy a McDonald’s combo meal, a gallon of milk, or a pair of jeans in different cities? Why do you think the monthly rental of a 3-bedroom apartment in the city center of Lima (Peru) would average less than $1,000, while one in Monaco would average over $18,000? To find out and compare what all sorts of standards costs might be for people in different spots around the world, take a look at the Numbeo Cost of Living tool. This crowd-sourced database could prompt some interesting discussions among your students.
* At first glance, this looks like a read instead of a try. It’s an article about innovative approaches to building schools, and I make it a try because having students use the ideas in this Edutopia post to come up with ideas for your school may be a fascinating creativity exercise.
* There are a number of options for polling students using online tools, and one that was recently introduced to me is DirectPoll. This multiple-choice tool doesn’t require creating an account, but you provide your email address to receive the link to the dashboard for the specific poll you’ve created. One potentially confusing piece is the “question type” option for the question. “Single choice” means that the user can choose only one answer, and “multiple choice” means that one can choose all answers that apply.
* The folks at Duolingo, the company that has built a free language-learning system based on using mountains of translation information, announced that one can now zero in on specific topics one wants. I went to check it out, but didn’t see where that piece of the system is. I’ll assume I was looking right past it, and take the opportunity to say that this system, while far from perfect, is a strong resource for a self-motivated language learner.
* If you have a story to share, you might check out the current contest from the nonprofit Story Shares, with submissions due July 27th. Entries should be between 1000 and 15000 words, and should be written for audiences aged 10 and up. The nonprofit is working to crowdsource a collection of books for those who struggle with reading. You can find the books that have been published through this effort at this Amazon page, where it notes that “100% of the proceeds from the sale of these books will go directly towards crowd-sourcing and distributing new Relevant Reads.”
* The development folks at EdTechTeam created a Chrome extension called ScreenShade that might be of interest. In Chrome, it allows you to create a rectangle over a portion of your screen you may not want people to see while projecting. It isn’t movable like an object in a drawing or slide, but you can simply re-size it from the edges for the same effect. Also note that if you are covering part of a web page and then scroll, the shade won’t move with what you were hiding.
Kimberly’s Free App
Build your own retro-style video games using the app Bloxels Builder by Pixel Press Technology. Your students will be the artists, game designers, storytellers, programmers, publishers and players. By drawing with colorful cubes in a 13 x 13 game board, you can create pixel-like game screens with rooms, characters, art and more.
When designing game rooms, each color represents different elements. For example, green is terrain, blue is water, and red is a hazard. Users create animated characters, power-ups, obstacles, and coins. The game can be shared with other gamers for play and content remixing. Purchase the physical manipulatives in the Bloxels Video Game Builder Starter Kit for hands-on creations and advanced features. Then use your device’s camera to digitize your work and import directly to the Bloxels app and begin the editing and building process. Look for the online video tutorials and teaching materials from the Bloxels website, and see your game come to life!
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I poked around for a good summer shot, as many of you are entering that part of the year, and came across this shot taken at Canon Beach in Oregon in the northwest United States.
See you next month!