May 2020 Newsletter
Something totally new! This coming Saturday (May 9th), at 1p Eastern and 10a Pacific, we’ll do a webinar for parents on how to think about what is happening with the switch to online learning, and you and they can register here. In this program, we’ll focus on parents of young learners and elementary. Please share with families in your community!
We also have the usual news on video contests, great freebies, and ideas for learning! If you have any suggestions for us, please don’t hesitate to let us know.
If you are interested in having kids wind down the semester with a video project that can help others and highlight what your kids can do, now’s the time! Both our Creative Strength ’20 contest and our Service via Video ’20 contest have final deadlines of Friday, May 22nd, end of day, U.S. Pacific time. For more details, click the links above, and if you have questions, please let us know.
Sometimes, it helps to watch some cool, teacher- and student-created videos to get the ideas flowing. Here are three you might share with your kiddos:
Emailing Your Teacher, with Captain Communicator
an entry in one of our 90-second video contests
from Patricia Balbuena
Mixing Primary Colors to Get Secondary Colors
an entry in one of our 90-second video contests
from a student at Arrowhead High School
Silverado Memory Care
an entry in our Service via Video contest
from a student at Lake Travis Middle School
For almost two months now, colleagues and I have been putting together half-hour webinars on all sorts of topics, including the Activities Across Grade Levels series (the last three have been about finding and preparing engaging guest speakers, learning language, and exploring the world), the Two EdTech Guys Take Questions and Share Cool Stuff series (a fun and useful way to spend some time on Fridays), and other special programs (such as a recent one focused on careers projects with students).
All of these recordings, along with slides and pages with links, can be found on the Next Vista webinars page. The page begins with descriptions and registration links for all the upcoming ones, and then shows those we’ve already done (along with slides and links), such as the ones mentioned above.
That page also has the registration link for Saturday’s webinar for parents, mentioned in the opening of this note. Like all our webinars, it’s free! We hope we’ll be able to help some of your more anxious parents get a better sense of how to manage their concerns about what this crazy time means for their children.
“How might I win a $5 Starbucks card?” you ask. This month, you can do that by either watching any of the three videos highlighted above, or by watching one of the winners from our Service via Video contest. In either case, contact us here and let us know which one you chose and what you thought of it to get your name in the hat.
And for those of you who kept reading past the last paragraph, do both of the above and get your name in the hat twice! Wow.
Many have quite naturally found this to be a time of incredible stress about what we’re doing and what the future holds. Here are two thoughts that may provide some encouragement:
What lies behind us and what lies ahead of us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.
– Ralph Waldo Emerson
The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience but where he stands in times of challenge and controversy.
– Martin Luther King Jr.
Take a deep breath, send an encouraging note to one of your students who may not be expecting it, and know that things will get better.
We’re trying something new, which is to send an extra, much shorter note mid-month. If you have any thoughts for us on how to make that as useful as possible for you, please let me know.
As I say at this point every month: 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
* You may not be an opera fan. You may not be religious. At such a frightening time, though, you may still find the Easter concert by Andrea Bocelli from the Duomo in Milan, Italy, something emotionally powerful to experience. The final few minutes when he sings “Amazing Grace” and the view switches to drones flying through mostly-empty streets in Paris, London, and New York, are especially moving. Hopefully you’ll encounter no music-interrupting ads! (24:56)
* Denise Pope is a senior lecturer from the Graduate School of Education and co-founder of the education non-profit Challenge Success. On March 25th, she recorded a Q&A session with the title Learning at Home with Your K-12 Students, which I feel is one of the most practical and helpful things I’ve seen anyone do since the COVID-19 crisis began. This is a must-see for parents trying to figure out how to think about guiding their students’ learning while schools are closed. Here’s a document with follow-up questions and answers, as well. (48:37)
* This video is almost twenty minutes long and may not match the attention span of the average teen, but it is a thing of beauty. Ancient Monuments of Egypt in 4K Ultra HD is part of a series called Amazing Places on Our Planet, with footage shot using very high definition cameras. The series also includes videos from China, Iceland, Indonesia, South Africa, and other places. (19:55)
* If your students are interested in penguins (or family structure among them), you might watch this clip from Penguins: Spy in the Huddle, from the program Nature on PBS in the U.S. They used a penguin-shaped camera to get very close to the action, so film students might find this interesting from a technical perspective (2:31)
* Also in the animal world is this video showing the process of painting a royal portrait of a friend’s guinea pig. There’s some art value in terms of technique, some music exposure with the Mozart for the audio, and cuteness with the guinea pig. Thanks to a CNN mailing for bringing this fun piece to my attention.
* Singer John Prine passed away this year, and recently I was pointed to one of his most recent songs. It’s called “Summer’s End,” and is about the effect of the opioid crisis on a family. It’s moving, beautiful, and a good reminder that we may not know what our students are dealing with. (3:41)
* Here’s a bold combination of interests: Reporters Without Borders has opened The Uncensored Library…in Minecraft. This video trailer describes it, and the link in the previous sentence will take you to “the digital home of press freedom.” Interesting resource for a government or political science class, among others. (1:57)
* For those needing something that makes no reference at all to a certain virus, here’s a pretty amazing three-minute timelapse of a guy who spent almost a year doing a 42,000-piece jigsaw puzzle. Serious style points for persistence. (2:34)
* Speaking of cool timelapse videos, here’s one that looks at the growth of radish plants over 68 days. The camera has to change a couple of times to accommodate the expanding plants, and toward the finish there is a soil cross-section that is pretty cool, too. Clearly a good science moment, but getting students to look at these as metaphors for fake news or anything else might also be interesting. (2:35)
* Francisco Martinez in the Dominican Republic has put together a number of free video offerings on his YouTube channel, including several to help Spanish speakers with learning English. I like the simplicity of this one on kitchen terms and the repetition toward the finish. Good job, Francisco! What video might you make to help your students? (2:33)
* And just in case the words Rube and Goldberg haven’t passed your way recently, there’s this opportunity to pass the salt and enjoy an episode of Joseph’s Machines. (4:26)
* Open Culture has a page with hundreds of documentaries you can watch for free. The films range from early 20th century to the last few years, and the breadth is tremendous.
Worth the Read
* Some students are doing very well under distance learning. Others, less so. This Edutopia article explores some of the reasons, and contains plenty of useful thoughts for teachers working to make this as useful a time as possible.
* What is the future of theater? That’s the title of a piece from Microsoft looking at a production (we might call it) of The Raven, an immersive experience exploring the life of Edgar Allan Poe. It’s a combination of performance, augmented reality, and imagination, and good fodder for a discussion of literature and performing arts.
* Part of the Google News Initiative, this post is called The teen fact-checkers fighting misinformation. It includes a nice video by the two girls on whom the story focuses looking into whether you might get the coronavirus from a package sent to you.
* Lindsey Daly last year posted a piece on We Are Teachers on Choice Boards. These are grids with activities, each of which has a point value. The student’s job is to assemble the number of points required for a given time period (perhaps a given week, in our distance learning world). The choice is something students welcome, and you’ve got plenty of room to adapt for a given student’s needs. Thanks to Keven Rinaman (@kevenrinaman) for sharing this during his NCEA presentation on all sorts of tools for distance learning.
* Depending on how many articles you’ve read from Medium this month, this article may be behind a paywall, but if not, those of you who like a good exploration of communication issues will enjoy 11 Things Socially Aware People Don’t Say. It covers problems with phrases like, “I know how you feel,” “It’s all in your head,” “Everything happens for a reason,” and more. An excellent and focused set of thoughts on verbal ticks many don’t know they have.
* Why wouldn’t you want a llama to attend your next Zoom meeting? This animal sanctuary in San Jose, California, started a program called – wait for it – “Goat 2 Meeting” to raise funds and awareness at a time when no one can visit their farm. Off-the-charts cool. Quick read and great fodder for a discussion with students.
Worth the Try
* WideOpenSchool is a site that, in its words, “inspires kids, supports teachers, relieves families, and restores community.” I was especially interested in the Field Trip section for grades 6-12, which included a 360-degree video from The Met in New York, a live jellyfish cam from Monterey Bay Aquarium, an opportunity to design your own Disneyland-style ride, and more.
* Also in the virtual travel space is AirPano, a site loaded with 360-degree images and information for a number of famous places around the globe. This one of the Great Wall of China has 19 spots along or above the wall from which you can see this amazing piece of history in its current surroundings.
* Want students and parents to be able to leave you voice messages on your website? In this how-to video from Richard Byrne, he’ll show you how to embed a SpeakPipe widget in a Google Site, and the messages left for you will show up in a free SpeakPipe account. Great stuff!
* Holly Clark of Infused Learning created a video course on how to use Book Creator that is freely available to everyone. If you’ve never seen Holly present, you’re in for a treat, as she brings a level of energy that can get one past hang-ups about something being new, and into the excitement of being ready to try something.
* While on the subject of Book Creator possibilities, Monica Burns of Class Tech Tips created a resource called 15 ways to use Book Creator for Reading Responses, and it’s loaded with clever ways to develop reading possibilities for students. The examples in the digital book are developed well, and I like the variety offered. Note the titles in the screen grab, below.
* And while on the subject of reading, Rivet is a new app and web resource that offers over two thousand books at eight different reading levels. The content is divided into subjects to choose from, and the system tracks how many books you read each day.
* Have kids at your school who speak languages which may be uncommon in your community, and you need to get info to them about COVID-19? Translators Without Borders put together a glossary for the pandemic which may prove helpful. Find terms in English, Vietnamese, simplified Chinese, Tagalog, Burmese, Kurmanji, Arabic, Swahili, Kibaku, Waha, Bura Pabir, and Mandara.
* Library lovers! The San Jose Public Library system has made available hi-res photos of all of its twenty-five branches you can use for your Zoom backgrounds. Cool marketing on their part, I’m thinking.
* If you prefer pop culture backgrounds, Jesse Lubinsky of ReadyLearner.one collected a bunch and made them available. Central Perk? It’s there. Top Gun cockpit? Yup. Simpsons? Monsters Inc.? Trek? Wakanda? You bet. Impress your students with one of these.
* In an effort to help students better understand the many positive possibilities that come from shared content, the Internet Education Foundation launched an initiative called Copyright & Creativity. It avoids approaching copyright from the perspective of what is forbidden, and works to help students at different levels understand the issues from a more engaging tackling of what is possible with public domain and Creative Commons-licensed material. Thanks to John Merris-Coots for sharing this resource!
This is a site which is free for parents for 30 days and free for teachers through June 30th. Epic! is a digital library for kids 12 and younger with plenty of books, including lots of audio books. I noticed Goodnight Moon, which was a favorite when I was much shorter, and saw that it is listed as an audio book, too. Thanks to Susan Stewart (@TechCoachSusan) for recommending this one.
If your interest is less for books and more for exercises for developing one’s skills with reading, you might take a look at The Free Reading Program, which should get an award for clarity in name. The online program uses a game-based approach to phonics and more with content from Essential Skills Advantage.
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It’s cool to see neighborhoods rally around ideas for children, and in ours (as with many), people have put teddy bears in their windows for kids to spot while on walks with families.
A Family for Families
by Rushton Hurley
(CC by 4.0)
See you next month!