I have been going through some of my old December posts, as well as curating new resources from others, to put together into a Winter Holiday Wakelet. I apologize, since I know that one hemisphere is currently experiencing summer, but I could not think of a good way to describe all of the included activities that wasn’t super long! Please comment below if you have a more inclusive (but not more than 5 word) title!
This Wakelet includes a link to Advent My Friend ( an editable countdown calendar that some teachers are customizing for their classes), a Lego Ornament Challenge from Aaron Maurer, Holiday Choice Boards shared by Shannon McClintock Miller, and much more. I will be adding to the Wakelet throughout December, so please click on the “Follow” button if you want to stay up to date. I am virtually attending ISTE20 this weeks, so I hope to have many more things to share in the upcoming days!
For this week’s anti-racist post, I want to share a Tweet from @HollyClarkEdu. It contains a TikTok video from @forwardlight, and explains not only the reasons that she prefers the term “Indigenous” to “Indian” or “Native American,” but also why she rejects the “Navajo” name for her tribe. I did a bit of research on the web regarding the meaning of “Navajo,” and there seems to be some disagreement. This site defines it as an adaptation of a Pueblo word that means, “farm fields in the valley” while other sites declare that the term referred to “knife” or “thief.” Regardless, I think that it is important to use the language that people prefer, so this short video is a valuable lesson.
In the United States we will be celebrating Thanksgiving tomorrow. One of the traditional desserts served is pie. Of course that means I will be making an oreo cheesecake. Because that’s how I roll. Also because I saw this article in My Modern Met and realized that I had been doing pies all wrong. I wish I could post the pictures of these pies on here, but even the rebellious part of me likes to observe copyright laws. If you just want to skip the article and go straight to the pictures, here is Liz Joy’s pie portfolio. I would love to have students look at these pictures, and have them design their own pie decor. I can’t imagine eating any of Joy’s masterpieces, but people generally say that the same thing about what I prepare – minus the “masterpiece” part, and for a different reason.
My blog stats usually go down during holiday weeks, which is wonderful, in my opinion. It’s great that many educators are taking time for themselves, for family, for friends. Some people continue to read, though. In this case, some readers may be from other countries so it’s not a holiday week for them. Or, maybe you are like me, and you just have a hard time shutting off that continuous search for something to spark student interest – the Holy Grail of teaching.
Regardless of your reasons for clicking on today’s link, I decided to depart from my usual passionate description of an amazing resource, and sprinkle today’s post with some of the funny tweets I’ve been collecting over the past few weeks. I keep a Wakelet of these that I turn to whenever I’m feeling a bit low. (I would share the link with you, but some of them are a bit inappropriate.) It’s possible that they are not as funny to you as they are to me, but I hope at least a few of them elicit a smile and take you away from your troubles for a bit.
Follow @gerrydee if you like this one (H/T to @courosa for sharing):
The dumbest way I ever hurt myself was when I tried to take a bathroom mirror (half the wall) out by myself as a surprise for my husband, and ended up breaking the mirror in half with one half stabbing me in the hand. The “surprise” he got was me calling him at work to take me to the ER. Read this thread for even more ridiculous ways people have injured themselves. I had tears rolling down my face.
What’s the dumbest way you accidentally hurt yourself?
I love national parks, but I’ve got to admit these are pretty funny.
This morning, I’m on a dive into the fantastic instagram of @subparparks, who paired 1-star Yelp reviews of National Parks with their gorgeous park poster art. If you needed to realize that humans are just…like this sometimes? “Didn’t even get to touch lava.” pic.twitter.com/wNOJ6wc7hh
UPDATE 11/19/2020: Exciting news! InSpace is offering two free trials for Engage Their Minds readers. If you are interested in entering a virtual raffle to receive a trial, please fill out this short form by 12:01 am on 11/22/2020. Winners will be announced on this blog and on Twitter on 11/23/2020.
When distance learning suddenly expanded from tiny pockets of academia into nearly every school around the world this year, technology companies scrambled to accommodate the new demands on their services. Zoom, Google Meet, Microsoft Teams, and other videoconferencing tools suddenly became lifelines for educators and their students. But these platforms were not originally designed for this type of use in education. Although they have attempted to evolve to meet the needs of their new clients, there are still significant hurdles that educators must overcome to conduct meaningful virtual classes. One company, however, has been designing a platform that is specifically targeted for education. They recently completed their beta testing, and are ready to sign up schools from Kindergarten to Higher Education. That company is InSpace.
I recently contacted InSpace because I had seen their promotional video and I am considering using it with future online classes. A member of their team immediately reached out to me and offered to schedule a demonstration.
When our appointment time arrived, I clicked on a link in the email and signed in with my Google credentials. (I was told later that this is not a requirement, so don’t worry if you are not a Google district.) There was no software to download. I was instantly on the conferencing page on my browser.
Note the background can be changed to whatever you like. Each participant is live in their circle, and those circles can be moved around. (The promotional video shows a warm and inviting study/conference space.) According to my demonstration host, the moveable circles are a deliberate design choice because, “Freedom of movement has been shown to be psychologically important to students.” Participants can also zoom in and out on the entire room. If participants have a question, they can click on an icon at the bottom, and a little raised hand appears on their circle.
One of the revolutionary features of InSpace is how sound is based on proximity. If you move your circle far away from someone, you can no longer hear each other. Want to do a Think/Pair/Share? Your students can pair up virtually on the screen and speak to each other without everyone else hearing it. You can see if people are speaking when a grayish circle appears around their circle.
How about Breakout Rooms? No problem. The host clicks a button and chooses the number of rooms, assigns students a room (or allows them to choose), and students just move their circles to the appropriate boxes on screen. Once in a box, they can only hear the people in their room. The host can see them all at the same time, pop in and out of the rooms, and broadcast to all of them if needed. “Time to start finishing up, everyone!”
Whiteboard and screen sharing can be done in Presentation mode. (They are working to include this in Breakout Rooms as well.)
There is a chat that all participants can use, but the company uses Artificial Intelligence to screen for inappropriate comments. I imagine unsavory language can slip through – but it can also be shouted in a physical classroom.
Privacy is very important to the founders of InSpace, so no personal information is stored, and they also claim that no “Zoom Bombing” will happen.
I was very impressed with the quick onboarding and intuitive design of InSpace. The most notable feature of this product and its company, though, is its commitment to teachers. InSpace was developed to be used in classrooms, and was initially beta tested with college students. There may need to be tweaks for it to be used with younger grade levels, but the company definitely seems open to feedback. Throughout our conversation, my host spoke about what is best for children and learning. That is a significant departure from other, more business-oriented videoconferencing tools.
Each InSpace chat can accommodate up to 50 participants. To find out more about InSpace, including their pricing tiers, you can contact them here: firstname.lastname@example.org