May 2021 Newsletter
May is a time when North American schools get into the busy-ness of the school year homestretch. That means we’re dishing out extra special kudos to all who go to the trouble of spending time with our little newsletter!
We’ll start by talking about ideas you might want to discuss with your students before the semester ends. We’re hoping we’ll have the chance to work with you to set in motion something off-the-charts cool.
Off-the-charts coolness is a great thing to pursue, after all.
We just finished our spring contests, and will report to you in June on finalists and perhaps even the winners!
So, if you’ve ever thought it would be awesome to have your students take part in a video contest, we’ve got a big offer for you. What if you connect with us, and we run a contest specifically for your students? Cool thought, that?
It works this way. You have content you want students to explore in some creative way. We want to highlight great videos that follow strong rules about sources and citations. We’d be happy to work with you on it, at absolutely no cost to you, your students, or your school. Really.
If this possibility interests you, let us know.
Note the different time! On Wednesday, May 4th at 7p Eastern, 4p Pacific, Richard Byrne of Free Tech for Teachers and I will answer questions and share cool stuff. The show, as it turns out, is called Two EdTech Guys Take Questions and Share Cool Stuff. Not an especially imaginative title, but highly accurate in terms of content. If you have a question, please send it our way!
This fun webinar is free, but make sure to register here.
This month, we’re going to celebrate fun and cool talent that comes our way in the contests.
from Warroad Elementary School (Minnesota, USA)
Global Student Voice Film Festival ’18
from Dryden Elementary School (Illinois, USA)
Super Thoughts ’14 Video Contest
How to Spin a Basketball on Your Finger
from Tsai Hsing School (Taipei, Taiwan)
Creative Flight ’17 Video Contest
Pick one of these you particularly like, then tell us why! What is that about? See the next section for details.
It’s May, and one of the slowest months of the year for us in terms of attention to the newsletter, so we’ll put this out there for you: if at least five of the thousands of people who receive this newsletter respond to this month’s challenge, we’ll give away two prizes! Crazy good odds, that is.
This month’s challenge is to watch any of the three videos highlighted above, and let us know what you think of it via our Contact Us page. We’ll put your name in the hat, and at the end of the month draw one or two names and send electronic Starbucks gift cards your way. Give it a try!
We send out a special Woohoo! to Pat Hensley, who was the winner of our April drawing. Great job being lucky!
Rushton here! In April, I wrote a blog post about a student who started a project to help senior citizens isolated by the pandemic connect with friends and family. Read more about the student’s work here.
Over the next few months, we’d love to highlight some creative and innovative things your students have done to help the community. Can you share a story or two with us?
We hope to hear from you!
Also last month, I caught the streamed address of San Francisco’s new poet laureate, Tongo Eisen-Martin. He and other poets spoke passionately about all sorts of topics, and we’ll honor Tongo’s buddy Anthony Morales with this line from a powerful poem he shared:
When we look up at those stars,
The twinkle is in our hearts.
– Anthony Morales
Many of you are finishing your school year in the coming weeks. I hope in whatever time you have left with your students, you can share the needed word of kindness, help students see what they can accomplish when they push themselves, and let those who don’t push themselves know that you still believe in their possibilities.
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
* The Art Insider channel on YouTube has some real gems for understanding how artists work, and in this one, called Creating Fake Neon Signs With Spray Paint, you get the full explanation from the artist (Adam Fujita) on how he creates this cool visual effect with paint. (3:40)
* Also in the did-my-eyes-deceive-me, off-the-charts-cool art realm is another Art Insider piece on perceptual art. It’s art that requires standing in a particular place to appreciate what is there, and you’re likely to get some audible “Whoa!” reactions from students with this one. (4:38)
* Those looking for people to add to a hero list should consider Sadiman, an Indonesian villager who has planted over 600 acres of trees over the last 24 years. He was considered crazy until the community began to realize that his work made for improved irrigation for farms, where they can now harvest 2-3 times a year instead of just once. Sometimes patience in the face of ridicule is the path to making life better for everyone. (1:31)
* The pursuit of excellence emerges in all sorts of interesting spaces, which, in this case, is a vertical wind tunnel. How This Girl Takes Indoor Skydiving to the Next Level is a piece from Wired about Coloradoan Sydney Kennett, who was a national champion for three years in a row, starting at age 11. In this video, you’ll learn her story, as well as plenty about how vertical wind tunnels work. (7:38)
* The first line in the video called The Man Who Had Himself Taxidermied: Jeremy Bentham, is, “Today’s video contains images of a preserved dead body.” The guy who did the video is Tom Scott, who is a YouTube celebrity and pretty interesting character, from what I’ve seen of his work. This piece gives a good, if brief, introduction to Bentham, the thinker who formulated the modern theory of utilitarianism, which is a highly important piece of western philosophy. Cool and somewhat creepy story. (3:58)
* Speaking of the dead, the titan arum is better known by the name “corpse flower,” and is biologically fascinating. This short piece from KQED is the kind of thing that likely will capture a middle schooler’s attention and implant (haha) some good science concepts along the way. Hope that last joke didn’t leaf (hahaha) you groaning! (4:12)
* After that, it might make sense to focus on the ridiculously cute. This video from Black Bear Rescue Manitoba is the story of a rescued baby bear and how they got him back to nature. (3:21)
* And, let’s do one more from the natural world. Rome gets millions of bird (starling) visitors that dance in the sky and leave stunning amounts of poo for the human inhabitants to deal with. Check out this short piece from the BBC and see if your students have thoughts on what they learn! (5:32)
Worth the Listen
* The BBC did an interview with Greta Thunberg, and in it she demonstrates an amazing ability to stay focused in the face of questions that could distract from the climate questions that are the main issue for her. Your students might find it inspiring to hear someone so young (their age, perhaps!) speak so eloquently. (17:29)
* EdSurge has started a podcast series called “Bootstraps,” and it’s an in-depth exploration of equity and opportunity and how Americans think about it. The first of six episodes includes the interesting story of how we began using the “pull yourself up by the bootstraps” line. (14:57)
Worth the Read
* We’ll call this an unusual addition to our reads. The title is Cracking the Case of London’s Elusive, Acrobatic Rare-Book Thieves, and it’s a fairly long Vanity Fair piece about a Mission: Impossible-style European criminal gang, and how they managed to get caught. Add it to a list for older students looking for something a little different in the nonfiction realm.
* What do I like about this EdSurge article on project-based learning? First, it involves salsa, which I think is a gift from the heavens. Second, it takes a project we would all say is pretty cool, and then constructively talks about the many opportunities that could have made it notably cooler. (image credit: untitled photo by MonicaVolpin from Pixabay (license))
* This post from CalTech is called Using Submarine Cables to Detect Earthquakes, and is an example of a new use of existing technology. If students considering this breakthrough can imagine new possibilities with other existing infrastructure, what might they discover that could improve the world? A hat-tip to the Future Crunch folks for sharing this one.
* Some stories give you genuine hope that the world isn’t doomed. This piece in The Guardian, called ‘Our biggest challenge? Lack of imagination’: the scientists turning the desert green, is about the possibility of turning a massive stretch of the Sinai Peninsula back into a “green haven teeming with life: forests, wetlands, farming land, wild flora and fauna.” The story is fascinating in terms of its science, and also for the interesting people who make up those working to implement this bold idea.
* Are you suspicious that your students who spend lots of time on a skateboard might see the world differently? If so, check out this Substack piece that makes that very argument. It’s a good one for broadening one’s perspective.
Worth the Try
* While taking in a video by John Sowash recently, I learned about the visual thinking tool GitMind. It has free and paid plans, though it seems to me that the free version has loads of what a teacher wants for testing the tool for mind maps and project planning. For those interested in tools related to visual thinking generally, and particularly for Chromebooks, I recommend Sowash’s video, as well.
* Synth allows you to create an audio piece that others (with the code to join your channel) can hear. Additionally, if others have the requisite link, they can also join the channel and record replies to the audio that is there. A thanks goes out to Richard Byrne for highlighting this tool, and you can check out his tutorial for using Synth if you like.
* I love a good media resource site. My friend Steve McGriff suggested I look at Uppbeat, and it was excellent to find a broad, well-crafted library of content with licensing that fits student needs for video creation. This is also loaded with music that young people will like! I’ve now got this song stuck in my head. Great share, Steve!
* DeltaMath is a tool for creating math problem sets and tracking student progress with them. It’s a simple tool in terms of the website, though you need to create an account in order to see the extent of the free tool. Ordinarily that’s a flag for me, but talking to Myra, one teacher who has used it, made me think it’s worth the mention. I recommend watching the video on their overview page before moving forward with an account.
* At the intersection of the geography, development, and resource divides, a lot of great discussions are possible about how to go from discussion to action. In this series of hundreds of geo-timelapses, you can have students consider what follows from changes in infrastructure, mining, wildfires, megacity development, and more. Use the “themes” and “resources” drop-downs at the top to fine-tune what you consider using in lessons.
* From another Richard Byrne mailing, I learned about Analyze My Writing, a free tool for looking at word, space, and punctuation mark counts. It also purports to count syllables, which is interesting. There is a cloze test tool, which allows you to remove every Nth word, or a certain percentage of words, to help your students with their listening skills. If the text is smaller than 5000 characters, you can directly choose which words to remove.
* Ready to explore Russia? This site from photographers Ekaterina Vasyagina and Kirill Uyutnov is loaded with their beautiful work showing landscapes, architecture, and more across the world’s largest country. Great material for launching a discussion!
* Also in the images world is the online photo editor Photopea. It’s a free tool, and if you don’t want them selling data they pick up from your use, you need to click the button on the right and uncheck “Allow sharing your personal data,” which is how many sites handle such things. The tool has been around for almost a decade and developed a bit of a following for its sophisticated ability to handle Photoshop files and work in layers.
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While searching for another image, I ran across this gem. It’s an interesting use of filters, and I quite like the unusual feel of the setting it conveys. A good one for a guy who loves traveling and is ready to see new places again!
See you next month!