June 2019 Newsletter
Dedication time! I spent half of May in The Philippines working with a wonderful group of impressively dedicated teachers, and this month’s newsletter is dedicated to them.
We didn’t always have air conditioning, and it was brutally hot. We didn’t always have wifi, and the online tools we were teaching rather needed that. When the team of assistants and my team from the U.S. worked together the first day, the power came and went like the moods of a middle schooler. The teachers took it all in stride and made things happen however they needed.
That is to say, these teachers are professionals who figure out what they need when they need it, and it was inspiring to be with them. More on these great folks at the end of this month’s missive.
We are proud to dribble our way into the newsletter and share a slam-dunk of a great video with you to celebrate this year’s Service via Video contest! Let’s move forward and point out the center of attention, our winner:
Charlotte Rollin’ Hornets
Huntersville, North Carolina, USA
We send a “Great job!” to all our finalists and entrants, and hope your students will start thinking of possibilities for telling inspiring stories for next year’s contest.
The Creative Wave ’19 finalists are chosen and being judged, and we’ll celebrate the winners in the July issue of the Next Vista newsletter. The three student finalist videos, however, are below, and we’re excited to share them!
The World is Vastly Connected
student in San Mateo, California
Balance Your Time
students in Tiburon, California
How To Take Public Transportation In Taipei
students in Taipei, Taiwan
The next contest will be this fall, and we want you and your students to get involved. Send us a note letting us know you’re interested, and we’ll be happy to give you some suggestions. The advice, like the contest, is free.
Just a quick reminder that this summer we are inviting college students to make short videos with advice for high schoolers on how to get to college as well as how to succeed once you’re there. Find the info on the contest at this page, and please encourage as many college folks as you know to take part!
An Exploratory Culture
This year, I had the opportunity to work with several schools and districts on long-term improvement projects. For me, the intersecting themes of this work are getting a staff to work together in new ways, focusing leaders on possibilities for communicating strengths to the community, and speaking to students about their creative potential. Technology plays a role, of course, though more interesting than the tools is how they can allow us to see ourselves in new ways.
I share this because in connecting regularly with schools, I learn loads of stories about what good teachers and leaders can do to make the atmosphere on their campuses one that is inviting to both students and adults. If you have a story about creative leadership or teamwork you’d be willing to share, I’d love to connect with you about it as part of the writing I do. You can use our contact form to let me know, and I hope we’ll get a chance to talk!
The American rock musician Huey Lewis once said this to an interviewer:
I may be the most recognizable name in the cast, but I can guarantee that I am not the most talented.
I don’t know what cast they were discussing, but I do know I like the inclusion of the “may” (and, as times and celebrities change, it becomes all the more accurate), as well as the guarantee. On any day we keep squarely in mind that there are always others in the room who can understand and do things we can’t, we optimize our chances of learning something cool.
Some portion of those who read this newsletter continue taking in the goodness we share during June, July, and August, and for that group, we’re giving away not one but three Starbucks cards! Amazing, this. All you need to do is find and watch any video on our site, let us know which one it is and what you thought of it, and your name (email address, more specifically) goes in the hat for our monthly drawing. And with triple the chance to win, why wouldn’t you?
Our May winner was Brandon O’Neill, who may have set a record in winning twice in the same school year! How does he do it? He goes to the trouble of entering, that’s how. Congrats, Brandon!
For the seven to eight thousand of you on this list for whom a school year just ended, I hope the break proves to be a time of creative reflection and possibility. Look for what will allow you to reach students with challenges – those used to being with adults who see those students as failures. An idea you have now may spark a moment that one of those students will remember the rest of his or her life.
And as I finish each month: 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.
* Edutopia has a video series called “60-Second Strategy,” and the short pieces contain both ideas and discussion prompts for teacher study sessions. This one, called Participation Cards, shows how a teacher is having students use simple cards to develop more sophisticated discussion techniques. There are times when I’ve wished colleagues had been wielding these! (1:00)
* Imagine that the rules of several hundred sports were fed into a computer, and then an AI system created a new game. Well, some computer scientists did, and the computer spit back out a game they are calling “Speedgate.” Here’s a short video explaining the game, and you can learn more about this thing that couldn’t have happened until quite recently here. (1:26)
* One of my favorite tools from the last few years is Adobe Spark Video. The free version is powerful for making simple but good-looking video pieces, and quite easy to learn. Richard Byrne of FreeTech4Teachers put together a strong tutorial showing the various features and even if you’ve never seen the tool, you’ll figure out quickly this is a good one to learn. (6:28)
* Last month we shared an abbreviated version of the interview on CBS This Morning with Rodney Robinson, the U.S. 2019 Teacher of the Year. I mentioned in that write-up that I couldn’t find the full interview, and was hoping someone could help. Elizabeth Stacy in Virginia did find it, and so those who want to hear more from Mr Robinson can see the longer story here. Thanks, Elizabeth! (6:54)
* This video of a somewhat dystopian setting looks like a movie trailer, and for all I know, it is. The info on the YouTube page makes it sound like a piece highlighting the technology of the company that put it together, saying that its system, Rebirth, “represents a new way of crafting computer graphics.” Whatever it is, the idea that the talents of computer graphics artists have reached a level that they could create this is pretty fascinating. Here’s another piece from the company about their team, I’d guess you could say, and clearly they’re not lacking people who tap into their creativity. (2:24)
* As any long-time reader of this newsletter will know, I’m a major fan of travelling. This video from Great Big Story is about street food in Delhi, and it’s cool not simply for the seriously tasty-looking treats, but for the many views of people in places in this huge city. (4:22)
* And for a bonus, a dog playing jenga. (0:16)
* New views of beauty and fragility in underwater Street View is a post to the Google blog about new visual offerings of the world’s oceans (find the link to explore them in the Worth Trying section, below). I include the blog post as a read, because your students interested in oceanography and/or environmental science may enjoy how the author, Lorna Parry, writes passionately about the delicacy of our oceans.
* My buddy Billy Lee recently introduced me to 6 Seconds, a group focused on “working toward one billion people practicing emotional intelligence.” Think big! It houses a set of articles that are clearly good reads for teachers, and the first one I tried, “9 Ways to Teach a Growth Mindset to Kids,” was full of good ideas and suggestions.
* Ken Shelton (@k_shelton), an international speaker on equity and technology’s potential for education, posted a piece on his Mindful Musings blog last October called Understanding Cultural Appreciation v. Cultural Appropriation. It explores subtleties that can inform strong conversations about race, and I add this now for those working to prepare to make the coming school year one in which their community takes meaningful steps forward to combat racism.
* This Medium post is called The Most Powerful Lessons People Learn Much Too Late in Life, and it’s helpful in thinking about what matters to you. I’d add that as teachers, there are similar questions we can ask ourselves, regarding how hard we try with given students, whether there was something memorable in our lesson plans this year, and what we’ve done to make our schools and communities better places.
* Along the life lessons thread, there is this post from a guy named David called 88 Important Truths I’ve Learned About Life. It’s in the Worth Trying section because it’s a cool list to have students examine and pick out ones they most like, or that they most disagree with, followed of course, with a careful explanation of why. Thanks to Future Crunch for sharing.
* Another post from Medium you might explore is The Smartest Questions to Ask Your Doctor, by Rae Nudson. It’s interesting both because it’s really good information for health visits. Also, it’s cool because a good discussion with colleagues might be what questions they think would be smart for parents to ask when connecting with the school. Such a list would not a bad thing to have on the parent and community outreach section of your school’s site, I’m thinking.
* Edutopia’s newsletter is a goldmine of ideas, and the post by Rosie Read titled 9 Strategies for Getting More Students to Talk is one of the most immediately useful I’ve read from them. Most of them were new ideas to me, and I was particularly impressed with the simple strategy in the first one, which I’ll be using in upcoming sessions I do.
* Those interested in exploring the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) with their students can check out The World’s Largest Lesson. The lessons for each goal include all sorts of resources, such as this one on gender equality, which includes an encouraging message from Hermione (aka Emma Watson). Those needing some background on the SDGs should check out this from the UN site.
* When a company puts out a resource for how teachers can use its product, I’m normally underwhelmed by the approach and simplistic view of the authors. The digital book 50 Ways to Use Book Creator in Your Classroom, however, is a trove of cool ideas from actual teachers for getting students more engaged in their learning and focused on producing higher-quality work. Additionally, Book Creator is a product that I’ve watched teachers embrace with enthusiasm everywhere I’ve shown it. Definitely worth a click, whether for the uses of the product, or the great ideas for your classroom no matter what tech you use.
* Why is this NASA.gov article in the tries instead of the reads? That’s because it’s a good page for those working to help students develop their critical thinking. The piece is about research published in 2010 suggesting the discovery of a different form of life (“able to thrive and reproduce using the toxic chemical arsenic”), and as it’s on a NASA page, it’s true, right? Well, there is a disclaimer at the top of the page, so I started looking around a bit and read that the claims had been refuted by research published in the same journal that published the original article. Is one true? Is the other “alternative facts?”
* There is a place in Tokyo that opened in 2018 called Mori Building Digital Art Museum: teamLab Borderless. For those interested in digital art, this place has quickly become an international draw. The main page is itself a wealth of the compelling, with short videos showing the displays and evolving artwork. For those wanting to read more about it, here’s a link to an article (in English) from The Mainichi Shimbun with good info.
* The Singapore Book Council sponsors a wide variety of activities for young readers and writers, and they recently posted the results of their ten-word story contest. This page has the look that content may change over time, and if so, go straight to the Issuu page where the report with results is shared.
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As I mentioned in the opening, I worked with some truly amazing folks during my time in The Philippines last month. To my colleagues Jeff, Mark, and Steve, and to our assistants Renato, Marianne, Merilyn, Melody, Mark, Carl, Chris, Julius, Alma, and Mari Ann, thank you for making the training something special for our group of teachers from Regions 1, 6, and 7. I look forward to taking what our work to more educators!
The training was an exhausting ten-day romp through collaborative tools, creative digital media, compelling portfolios, and constant reminders why we do what we do. Often for me, the one stretch of time each day I had for quiet reflection was the several hours of the morning starting with a jet-lagged-induced early wake-up to departure for Holy Rosary Academy, the school that hosted us.
On a walk one morning around 5:00, I caught sight of this fisherman in the river along Iloilo’s beautiful esplanade. I hope this image is one that captures for you some of the beauty of the moment I felt.
See you in July!