October 2019 Newsletter
October where I am means some days it reaches the 90s, some nights it dips into the 40s. Not what we’ll call consistent.
What we can call consistent, though, is the wealth of ideas and freebies (29 this month – powerfully prime!) that get shared in the Next Vista for Learning monthly newsletter, and we’ll start it off this month with our newest contest!
Creative Bridge ’19
Having students do projects that push them in cool and intriguing directions is something all strong teachers make happen. If you’re looking for something to try with your students this semester, I hope you’ll take an interest in Creative Bridge ’19, our current educational video contest.
How does it work? We ask teachers and/or students around the world to share a creative insight in a short video of 90 seconds or less. Entrants do have up to another 60 seconds to include their credits, as our contests require students to apply the skills of using legally available material from sites we specify, and to cite their sources, as well. That is to say, we want kiddos to learn some good digital citizenship as they do this!
Drop us a line if you’re interested in having your students get involved and want some help figuring how to do it without falling into some of the potholes larger projects can generate in your teaching road.
News from a Winner
We also want to give a shout-out to a student who was a winner in one of last year’s contests. Andria is a student in Taipei, and part of a language program the school does in cooperation with Banyan Global Learning. Andria wrote a guest post on BGL’s blog about her experience pushing herself to make a really strong video, even when some of her classmates were just going through the motions.
If you haven’t seen Andria and Justin’s video on “zentangle” drawings, give it a look here:
How to Draw a Zentangle Drawing
from our Creative Storm ’18 edu-video contest
Are you interested in creating an opportunity for one of your students to enter, and perhaps win, an international video contest? If so, we hope you’ll take an interest in Creative Bridge ’19, described above! If you need help getting going, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us, as well.
Speaking of Winners…
Each month we give away a caffeine card to one of our readers, and this month, it goes to Nate Doelling in Indiana, who also won in February – way to take advantage of your opportunities, Nate! If you’re interested in having your email address in our (often rather small) pool from which we draw the monthly winner, here’s how you can do it:
Watch the video mentioned above (How to Draw a Zentangle Drawing) or any of the winners (student, teacher, and collaboration) we’ve had from out contests, and tell us what you think of it. That’s right – watch a very short video, and perhaps get a free drink to sip and enjoy, all from the good hearts (and pocketbook) at Next Vista for Learning! Such nice folks, we are.
We’ll soon launch our annual Service via Video contest, in which we ask students to tell the stories of those who make life better for others. We’ve had some brilliant stories submitted before, and would love to highlight stories your students make in the coming months.
Here are the winners we’ve had over the last few years, and we encourage you to have students go to the page and pick two or three to watch. Then have students share with each other what they see, and whether there are people or organizations they know that they could highlight in a video. This may be the project that some student needs to realize how much he or she has to give to others!
Friends in China, I’ll be heading your way in November and December and would welcome connecting at either the Future of Education Now conference in Beijing in November, or the Advances in STEM Education conference in Hong Kong in December.
I’ll also be in Miami in January for the annual FETC shindig, which is a wonderful whirlwind of cool ideas and possibilities every January. There will be many teachers and school leaders from around the world attending, but particularly strong representation from the U.S. north and Canada. Could that have anything to do with the conference being in Florida in January? Hmm…
We’re celebrating the next ten years (if all goes well) of our newsletter by looking back at some of the things we’ve highlighted in years past. If you haven’t seen them before (and even if you have), take a look at these gems from 2011. Too much fun to pass up, we’re thinking.
The Author’s Purpose
by students at Plattsmouth Elementary School (Nebraska)
from Creative Compositions ’11
Bohr Model of the Atom
by Jeff Hager and students at Stone Valley Middle School (California)
from Creative Compositions ’11
As I always finish the newsletter before we climb the Mountain of Magnificent Freebies: 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.
* If you liked last month’s video called Tinkering with Intent, you’ll love this one called Purls of Wisdom. It’s another from Green Renaissance, and is a beautiful story of an 83-year-old woman who loves life and knitting. This will be one you’ll want to share. (6:45)
* Michelle Lee leads the Design for Play team at IDEO, which is to say, she’s an engineer who loves to create toys. This video about her story is one that might help inspire the girls in your classes to consider jobs they might not have before. The piece is one of a series put out by SheHeroes, a California-based organization that “empowers young girls of all backgrounds to dream big, explore their interests and passionately pursue non-traditional careers.” There are twenty more videos on their site about women in STEM careers, so those looking for good career discussion material might find that page a valuable one. (4:41)
* Singapore is a dynamic city that, like many other fascinating places, has limited land for new housing and other projects. In this video from CNA Insider, five innovative approaches to building there are explored, including using space above canals and freeways, putting prefabricated structures onto existing buildings, and even building new communities on the water. (7:12)
* This talk by Julie Lythcott-Haims was posted to the TED site almost four years ago, but it is still just as important and beautiful for coming to grips with a problem many of us see every day at our schools. Called How to raise successful kids — without over-parenting, it addresses the crippling mistakes so many parents make in raising their children according to a “tyrannical checklist,” as she puts it. (14:08)
* This video is either for the physics class or for anyone needing some extra motivation to overcome a challenge. It’s a Great Big Story piece about Brian Bushway, described in the title this way: The World’s Best Blind Mountain Biker. Brian uses echolocation, a term that also describes how bats interact with their environments without sight, to do all sorts of things his complete lack of vision might otherwise make impossible. (2:40)
* If you wanted to start a business, which companies might you avoid trying to compete with? My guess is that Google, Uber, Baidu, and Daimler might be among them. This company, though, is doing autonomous vehicle technology and will be taking on all four and several other majors. This story from Bloomberg is about Zoox, which as of the making of this video had already raised over $800M in funds, and your students interested in cars, engineering, robotics, economics, and/or entrepreneurship may find it audaciously cool. (9:00)
* The headline that ultimately got me to this video was, “The 20-cent paper toy that can help diagnose diseases.” It’s a paper centrifuge (a “paperfuge”), and is designed to be used in places where it’s impractical to power or have available (given the cost) a traditional centrifuge for separating plasma from blood in order to test for diseases. If you like the video, you might also watch this one about a paper microscope called “The Foldscope.” Very cool stuff by Manu Prakash and his team at Stanford University. (3:20, 2:38)
* This short video from Edutopia has five tips for How to Keep Your Elementary Students Focused. In the minute and a half, it also explores some of that which causes distraction, as well. One is typically a product of good intentions: too much on the classroom walls. The strategies seem sound for planning lessons for older students, as well. (1:32)
* This KQED piece from their Above the Noise series is called Is the Internet Making You Meaner? and is a collaboration with Common Sense Media. They do a good job of looking at why many people act differently online than they might otherwise, and could help you help your students understand some of the unintended consequences of their communication habits. (6:20)
* Last month we included a video about “Foley artists” – people who create audio effects for movies. This month, we include another video from Great Big Story about “The Apprehension Engine,” which is an instrument for creating audio specifically for horror movies. While it is fascinating, you may want to hold back sharing this with younger students. (3:06)
* If you are trying not to procrastinate or are looking for techniques to get something done, this one-minute message from the BBC CrowdScience program has five ways that writer Dan Pink says you can motivate yourself.
* This article from Smart Classroom Management is about the power of awareness for teaching well. It sounds trite when described in a sentence, but you’ll find great and highly practical suggestions in the short post about being effective in class.
* One of the best books on educational practice I’ve read in the last few years is Dive Into Inquiry by Trevor MacKenzie. His explanation of how to ease students into inquiry learning is one that can help even a skittish teacher see new possibilities. He summarizes the scaffolding that forms the basis of his work in this guest post at the KQED Mind/Shift blog. Definitely worth the read!
* This no-punches-held-back assessment of a common classroom management activity is called Why Narration Is a Bad Classroom Management Strategy. As one who has spent more time in secondary than elementary, I needed the quick refresher it provides on what the strategy is. What I like about it is how Michael Linsin, the author, identifies the dissonance between what is intended in the instructions and what is learned by the students.
* The article above apparently produced a number of critical responses from readers who love their narration strategy, and Linsin wrote another piece a week later getting more specific about the difference between false and worthy praise. Another excellent read, and made me sign up for announcement of his posts.
* Some stories leave you in awe of one’s ability to care for others. Specifically, this story about Canadian Cindy Stirling left me in awe. She has been a foster mom to more than 200 children in need. More than two hundred.
* One question I have heard a number of teachers ask is, “What are employers looking for?” One good answer is captured in this Fast Company article by Art Markman titled Every Interview Question is Really this Question. Interestingly Markman breaks up the answer into three characteristics you would want in your best friends.
* This Edutopia piece by Rebecca Alber is more typically a back-to-school article, but has good thoughts that can be implemented anytime on connecting with kids. Called Relationships Matter More Than Rules, it suggests some simple approaches to making you more than just the classroom authority figure. Thanks to Nate Gildart (@nathangildart) for Tweeting about the post.
* Is your school considering using facial recognition technology as part of a security system? This EdSurge article by Emily Tate explores its costs and benefits, and can inform larger discussions about how to keep a campus safe.
* See the three photos below? None of them is of a real person. A company called Generated Photos is using AI to create stock photos that, at least at the moment, can be accessed and used for free. Here’s the article from Fast Company, and here’s the site for the 100,000 Faces Project.
* Those interested in developing your search skills might look at this document with ten Google search tips created by Richard Byrne of FreeTech4Teachers. Most of the tips have a video tutorial linked in the doc, so if what he’s written doesn’t quite work for you, you can watch what he’s done. The last tip is a good one to keep in mind: “Remember that Google isn’t the only search engine.”
* Speaking of Richard, he has also recently released his 2019-2020 Practical Ed Tech Handbook. This is a wealth of useful tools and advice, with chapters on communication with students and parents, web search strategies, digital citizenship, video creation and flipped lessons, audio recording and publishing, backchannels & informal assessment, digital portfolios, augmented and virtual reality, and learning to program. Great stuff, Richard!
* I had to check out a tool with the name of The Most Dangerous Writing Prompt Generator. It’s an intriguing system, designed to force the user to keep typing in the time allotted. Stop typing for more than a few seconds, and the session ends! One way it is used is to help people interested in cranking out a book stay on target with getting a first draft together. For any good writing, revision is almost always a necessity, but as the biggest challenge for many people is getting started, this is an interesting tool to try.
* Quill is a free system to help students build their writing skills. It seems focused on discrete problems, such as not making homophone mistakes (“your” vs “you’re”, for example) or combining simple sentences into more complex ones. As for the business model, it appears to be a charitable effort to which one can donate, and their About page starts with, “Quill.org provides free online tools to help low-income students become sharp writers. Our mission is to help the 30 million low-income K-12 students in the United States who struggle with writing.” Worth a look!
* A new open educational resources initiative is focused on providing high-quality and active middle school science units aligned to the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). Called OpenSciEd, their goal is to have six units per grade level, adding one about every six months. Now available are Thermal Energy (6th grade), Metabolic Reactions (7th), and Sound Waves (8th).
* Those of you encouraging students interested in photography might take a look at PhotoPaths.com. Its focus (ha ha) is the experiences and insights of professional photographers, and has interviews with over two dozen people who do all sorts of photography and photo editing.
* If you’re curious how AI works with identifying gender in photographs, play with the tools in this article from Pew Research.
* CS teachers, you might find this site called Python Challenges an interesting source of activities for your classes. The founder of the site, James Abela, is a programming teacher in Kuala Lumpur who has designed these challenges to align with his IGCSE curriculum.
* This site is actually not worth going to. Donnie Piercey of the Partial Credit podcast ends each of their episodes with a completely worthless thing he finds online. This one is a site called Watching Grass Grow. Really. I’ll note that the podcast is often both interesting and funny, and is absolutely worth trying.
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I spent many years teaching Japanese language to thunderously hip students, and will share an image this month from one of those students. He has just started a stint on the JET Program, and will be working in a small town in Hokkaido in northern Japan for the coming year. Way to go, Josh!
by Josh Lee
used with permission
Thanks to any reader who made it all the way to the finish – you rock, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise!
See you next month. m(_ _)m