October 2020 Newsletter
And then, all of a sudden, October arrived! With as much craziness as we’ve experienced in 2020, I for one am quite looking forward to 2021. Before we get there, though, you may well want to take in what we have for you this month: you’ll find the uplifting, the intriguing, the useful, and the free.
And there’s plenty of that free part, as always.
I’m encouraged by the number of educators reaching out to learn about our Service via Video contest, which is our annual attempt to shake loose video stories created by students celebrating the good people and organizations in your community do for others.
Here are two winners from past years, both from a school that really takes service seriously!
Palo Alto Humane Society 2015
by students at Junipero Serra High School
Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano Counties
by students at Junipero Serra High School
Note the strong organization of info in the first, and in the second, be impressed at how the students created a video without having anyone be visually identifiable. While the second is exceptionally strong for its editing, what counts most in our contest is the story. Well done on that front to both!
The Coolest of Costumes
Last month we started a series on amazing nonprofits as part of our celebration of service, introducing you to The Memory Project, a beautiful effort to help high school artists give a very special gift to orphans in different parts of the world.
This month, we look at another of my favorite examples of the goodness in us. Magic Wheelchair is an organization I learned about via this video from Great Big Story, which is one of my favorite videos, period.
The founder, Ryan Weimer (one of my heroes), tells the story of how he wanted his wheelchair-bound son to have a good costume for Halloween. The story gets epically wonderful from there. Learn about Magic Wheelchair on their site, and perhaps buy one of their cool t-shirts for someone you love. The shirt I have is one of my favorites!
If all goes as planned, this newsletter gets announced in the early hours of Thursday, October 1st. Thursday is also the day we broadcast our two webinars, and we hope you’ll join in! They’re free, but you do need to register. If you can’t make that time, register anyway, as we send a link to the recording and resources to everyone who does.
At 4p Eastern / 1p Pacific, Richard Byrne (@rmbyrne) of Free Tech for Teachers and I will do another in our weekly episodes of Two EdTech Guys Take Questions and Share Cool Stuff. If you have a vexing edtech question, hurry over to the Next Vista Contact Us page and let us know, and we’ll try and get to it on air.
At 6:30p Eastern / 3:30p Pacific, Susan Stewart (@TechCoachSusan) and I will do another episode of Activities Across Grade Levels, with ideas on effective in-person and online lessons. This week’s theme is Sharing a Message, and we’ll look at some graphic design, short videos, and more for getting folks to take notice.
This month, an organization based in Hong Kong, ACAMIS, will hold its annual conference on Saturday the 17th. If you’re in the U.S., you’ll be able to catch the offerings starting that Friday night at 5:00 Pacific / 8:00 Eastern. Virtual attendees can register to participate beyond the keynote, which is free to all (see their info for group discounts). The theme is “Building Connections,” and they’ve got a good lineup of sessions for educators.
From the ACAMIS page for the conference: “The annual ACAMIS Technology Conference has been a gateway for educators in our network to not only get introduced to transformative classroom technologies, but training and use cases to ensure they can reliably introduce those technologies into their classroom.”
I’ll be their opening keynote, and I hope to see you there!
Another good gig just started this week, and that’s the Emergency Home Learning Summit. It’s an online gathering of presentations by a bevy of names you might know, and it will go on for 60 days total.
Here’s the point of departure from their page. “We asked our speakers this question: ‘What do you know about learning that could dramatically help or change the lives of students, parents, teachers, librarians, or others at this moment?'”
You can attend everything for free, though there are two paid levels for those wanting more ability to access the content. A big thanks to Steve Hargadon of Learning Revolution for making this happen.
Like last month, we’ll concentrate on the service videos, above, for your chance to win a $5 Starbucks card. We figure this is a time to concentrate on the good people do for others, given the other news that’s out there.
Pick either (or both!) of the videos highlighted in the Service via Video section that led this newsletter, and let us know what you think of it. We’ll put your email address in the hat for our drawing.
Speaking of, let’s celebrate Pat Hensley, the winner from the September drawing! If you entered and didn’t win, then (a) maybe this is your month, (b) I’m sure you are excited for Pat, and (c) you probably feel like a winner anyway, if you watched the video about Magic Wheelchair. I love that story.
How do we change the world? One random act of kindness at a time.
– Morgan Freeman
In the midst of climate disasters, pandemic, racial reckoning, and political upheaval, I’ll choose to focus this finish on my buddy Todd. He has made the technical end of NextVista.org work since it began fifteen years ago, and his advice and friendship have helped me all along the way. This weekend is his birthday, so we finish with two things:
1. Happy birthday to Todd! and
2. May you inspire, and be inspired, each and every day!
Rushton and the Next Vista team
Worth the Watch
* I initially saw this video with an extra couple of minutes’ worth of interviews, but in poking around, realized the singer himself has also posted it. Watch Tony Dee’s Yes I Can, which was a promo for the 2016 Paralympics, and if interested in more, see this piece with the interviews, as well. It certainly can launch a great discussion with your students. (3:12)
* What inspires a child? What gives confidence, builds community, and even allows some cool learning along the way? For some children in Afghanistan, South Africa, and Cambodia, it’s skateboarding. This short documentary, Land of Skate, is about the work of an organization called Skateistan. In addition to the compelling story it conveys, it’s beautifully shot and edited. Enjoy! (13:28)
* This Surgeon Has Restored Sight to 130,000 Blind People is the title of this Great Big Story video about a doctor in Nepal, and how he has made an incredible difference in the lives of so many. When we look at the reality of haves and have-nots, we see that this covers much more than money – it covers being able to see, or to even live. (3:07)
* Eric Cross is a wildly talented middle school science teacher in San Diego, who decided to study Twitch and YouTube personalities to learn more about ways to up his game with videos he makes for students. In this one about microbiomes, you can see what he is doing. Don’t be intimidated, though – with Google Slides and Screencastify, you can mimic most of what he’s doing. Remember to smile, of course! (Though that might be a little more difficult knowing that each of us carries in the range of one hundred trillion microorganisms around with us all the time. Wild!) (5:21)
* Coach Steve Stokes shared this animation that explores what it means to see the world as one who has been watched – one about whom assumptions are quickly made by the dominant culture. Called I Have Been a Ninja, it’s a strong discussion prompt for students in late elementary and across secondary school (at least!). (3:22)
* This video is a screencast of a museum tour for the Museum of Natural History in Pisa, Italy. I assume that would be the name in English, anyway. It’s an interesting piece not simply for what they show in terms of the museum’s offerings, but also how you think about which audiences would react well to what they see, and which audiences might not. Thanks to Angelica Marotta for the share! (5:00)
* We all need moments that help us get past our own hang-ups. In this animated video about a boy and a dog called The Present, you (or one of your students) may see something of yourself. (4:18)
* The guy who posted this video about a sea slug named it (the slug) Shaun the Sheep. If you doubted sea slugs could be cute, you may not after watching this short piece. It’s also a good prompt for a class. (0:49)
* Or, if cute sea slugs aren’t your thing, you can become a mech pilot. Really. A Canadian company called Furrion Exo-Bionics will set you up. No, really.
* What if cars never need to stop to refuel or recharge? This is the vision of a company called Electreon, which is testing easy-to-install systems in several parts of the world. What questions do your students have for whether this could be viable? (2:22)
Worth the Read
* This article from The Verge is about how students are cheating the grading algorithms in the Edgenuity platform. In terms of checking for understanding, it’s hard to believe anything can replace a coherent conversation. That also implies more depth and less breadth, as well as not overloading teachers with too many students. Rocket science, this is not.
* How To Limit Your Students’ Screen Time is a post from Michael Linsin about the importance, particularly during distance learning, of helping students develop their ability to work independently. Quoting Linsin, the key is, “weaning students off the scourge of learned helplessness, poor work habits, weak motivation, short attention spans, and low levels of pride and self-worth through a greater push toward independence.” Sounds good to me!
* While in the space of Linsin’s posts, this one on building rapport through short, personalized notes is one of the strongest I’ve seen from him. It gives specifics in the space of uniqueness, specificity, and honesty, and is good fodder for team meetings focused on rapport.
* Many of us who live in the Greater San Francisco Cultural Sphere take an interest in the stories of those who choose to live differently. In this piece published thirteen years ago, writer Richard Whittaker describes A Man Impossible to Classify. It makes me think of the many homeless people I’ve seen, and the hope that there is some possibility for their futures.
* I like stories of innovation with social benefits. This piece from the Google blog about how a regional newspaper in Japan created an app to help senior citizens isn’t just a nice story about kindness to others, it’s about a successful business venture that is helpful to the company. Win-win.
Worth the Try
* If you are looking for a way to get students to help each other move their academic and passion projects forward, take a look at the new tool Unrulr. This app is built with a social media frame to allow teachers and peers to give feedback and tie their feedback to learning goals. For programs with strong visual elements (project-based learning, makerspace programs, visual and performing arts, etc.) this might particularly help your students learn to more effectively give and get feedback. They have made scholarship funds available to teachers whose schools can’t afford the $150; just check the requisite box when creating an account.
* Talented elementary teacher Lena Sugihara put together these instructions for helping students create their own mazes. In addition to using the video to have students create mazes, ask your students what activity they could teach others with a video like Lena’s.
* Those interested in speech contests can take a look at Light of Mercy – Using Words to Empower from the GiveLight Foundation. The guidelines say that the deadline was September 25th, but the deadline has been moved to October 9th. The contest covers how students see and speak to social disparities, and is sponsored by an organization that has built orphanages in some of the hardest-hit parts of the planet.
* Lori Gracey of TCEA shared Challenging Math Problems Worth Solving in a recent posting. It’s a site with interesting math stuff organized by grade levels (K-12), with calculus and computer science included in the high school section. You might be surprised by the site’s name (“Open Middle”), but note that “middle” has to do with having problems with multiple possible approaches between the start and finish, and not a message that this is only for middle school.
* My buddy Richard Byrne (@rmbyrne) recently showed me the site iNaturalist. This is an app and social network that allows you to learn about life as it appears in all sorts of environments around the world. Explore by zooming in on part of the world or use the app to identify the species of an animal you take a picture of. There are teacher guides and video tutorials for using the tools, as well.
* Also in the Richard Byrne space is this post with fifteen tips for working with images, audio, and video in Google Slides. Great info for anyone looking to up their Slides game!
* Making good-looking videos keeps getting easier. Prezi, the presentation tool with clever (and occasionally stomach-influencing) turns and zooms, has added tools for creating videos directly from their page. Here is a page of examples from teachers, along with one on the carbon cycle from an educator in Hawaii.
* If your students have a passion for environmental issues, and you want them to try developing resources for their community, you could show them this page from the Austin Environmental Directory. It’s a set of PDFs about food and the environment, electric vehicles, clean energy, watershed protection and more. Helping students learn that they can work with the same info that governments and activities use can be empowering for them.
* Want ideas for helping students write proper email messages? The good folks at TCEA have a blog post with a load of help, divided by age group.
* I consider Duolingo to be one of the most important technology breakthroughs for education so far this century. Sounds hyperbolic, but I’m ready to make that case to anyone interested. They’ve also started something new for young learners of English called Duolingo ABC. The idea is to give a student the most fundamental pieces of English in a format that appeals to little ones.
* Bob Dillon is an educator who thinks about space. How do you use it well? What can you do with a variety of spaces to tell the stories of your school? What messages might you be unintentionally giving your families? He has a free ebook on learning and design that requires sharing your name and email, but if you’re good with that, head this way for his ten-page gift of cool ideas!
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My good buddy Bill learned in the last week that the aggressive form of cancer he fought off early this year hasn’t come back, and that makes it likely that it won’t! Bill loves elephants, so in his honor, here’s an image from the good folks at Unsplash.
See you next month!