Samsung Solve for Tomorrow – Timeline Extended

On Tuesday I published a blog post about Samsung’s Solve for Tomorrow contest that is now open for entries. This afternoon it was brought to my attention that Samsung has extended the judging period for initial entries. Initial entries are still due by November 8th (it only takes a few minutes to enter) but the state winners will now be selected in early December instead of on November 18th as I wrote yesterday. 

I should point out that everything else that I wrote about Samsung’s Solve for Tomorrow contest is still correct. State winners will receive one Samsung Video Kit (approximate retail value $2,600) and a $6,500 prize package to be redeemed through DonorsChoose. National finalists win $50,000 in classroom technology prizes and the overall winner receives $100,000 in classroom technology prizes.

The contest is open to sixth through twelfth grade public school students and teachers in the United States. You can learn more and enter here.

Disclosure: Samsung Solve for Tomorrow is an advertiser on my blog.

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1 in 3 working families is struggling to find the child care they desperately need

Natalie Saldana would love to put her 1.5-year-old daughter in a quality child care program while she works and goes to school, but the $700 monthly price tag makes it impossible.

“Seven-hundred dollars is almost my rent,” Saldana said.

Saldana, 22, is a full-time student, single mom and health insurance agent in South Carolina. She’s one of the many parents struggling to find child care, even as many child care centers have reopened. According to a new poll conducted by NPR, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, 34% of families with young children are facing serious problems finding child care when adults need to work.

The poll also found that in the last few months, 44% of households with children under age 18 have been facing serious financial problems. That figure jumps to 63% for Black families and 59% for Latino households.

As Congress continues to debate a spending package that would expand child care and provide universal pre-K, parents across the U.S. are struggling to find ways to pay for the child care they desperately need right now.

How a lack of child care is affecting families

Safe child care for young children is inherently expensive. Among other reasons, one caregiver can’t safely watch more than three or four infants or toddlers at a time. And the U.S. spends less public money on early childhood education and care than most other wealthy nations, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.

During the coronavirus pandemic, many existing child care centers had to shut down completely or reduce their enrollment numbers for safety reasons. As the economy has opened back up, child care centers, like a lot of businesses, are struggling to find workers. But many cannot provide the same employee incentives, like hiring bonuses, that bigger businesses can.

Joe Lopez, a father of three living in Sacramento, Calif., currently pays $1,000 a month to send his youngest to day care, but that high price tag doesn’t guarantee reliability. Coronavirus policies at the day care center mean that sometimes, after Lopez drops his son off in the morning, he has to turn around and pick his son right back up again.

“I wake up, log in to my computer to start work from home and then I randomly get a text from the day care that they’re shut down for two or three days,” Lopez said.

In NPR’s poll, 36% of adults in households with children say they experienced serious problems meeting both their work and family responsibilities in the past few months.

Saldana takes online classes in civil engineering and works from home. She said she’d rather work from an office and take in-person classes, but she needs to stay at home to watch her daughter.

“Hopefully I’ll be able to make enough money to pay for child care in the future,” Saldana said, as her daughter called for her in the background, “which would be so much better, because it’s hard when she wants me to do stuff with her or feed her while I’m working.”

While there are subsidized child care options in her area, Saldana is concerned about quality.

“I’ve seen facilities that teach children how to be self-sufficient, and I thought that was very nice,” Saldana said. “But then you look at the day cares for low-income families, and, yeah, there’s toys, but there’s no interactions with the child to facilitate mental growth.”

How the federal government could help

These child care struggles persist despite 73% of poll respondents with children reporting that they have received financial assistance from the government. Sasha Eugene, a mother of three living in Houston, has been heavily relying on the federal government’s expanded child tax credit after losing her job this month. But the money isn’t enough to cover the cost of a day care center or an after-school program for her children.

“[The child tax credit] either goes to them or my bills so that we can keep a roof over our head,” Eugene said. “That check is the only income I get.”

As part of his Build Back Better Agenda, President Biden has proposed expanding access to child care and providing universal pre-K. There’s no guarantee he’ll get those measures through, but Biden has made it clear that he wants expanded child care to remain a part of any bill the Senate passes.

“How can we compete in [the] world if millions of America’s parents, especially moms, can’t be part of the workforce because they can’t afford the cost of child care or elder care?” Biden said at an event on Friday.

Quality early education has lasting benefits, especially for children whose families are struggling economically. But without significant financial support, there isn’t a lot of hope that parents or their children will be able to reap these benefits.

“Anything would be better than balancing being a full-time mom, student and working,” Saldana said. “Except paying so much for child care that I’m struggling to pay my rent and bills.”

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit

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I’m Feeling Lucky – A Google Earth Lesson

From voyages to games to simple measuring tools, the web version of Google Earth has a lot of neat features that can help students learn about the world. One of those neat features is the “I’m Feeling Lucky” button that is found on the left hand toolbar in Google Earth. Clicking that button will take students to a randomly-selected place in the world. 

On its own the “I’m Feeling Lucky” button provides a good way for students to discover new places. That said, students learn more through the “I’m Feeling Lucky” button  if you give them a little more direction than just “click the button and look around.” That’s why I created a little question sheet to prompt students to do a little research about the places they discover in Google Earth via “I’m Feeling Lucky.” My question sheet can be found here as a Google Doc. 

This short video demonstrates how students can explore Google Earth in more detail after clicking “I’m Feeling Lucky.”

To learn more about using Google Earth in your classroom, take a look at my Crash Course in Google Earth & Maps for Social Studies.
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Five Ways to Use Wakelet in Your Classroom

Yesterday’s blog post about using Wakelet to create instructional videos got me thinking about other ways that Wakelet can be used in classrooms. Here’s an overview of five ways to think about using Wakelet in your classroom. 

Create an Instructional Video

Prompt of the Day.
If you’re not using a learning management system that contains an easy way to post daily prompts for your students to reply to, consider using Wakelet. You can post a prompt in the form of text, picture, or video and then have your students reply by writing a reply, recording a video, or by uploading an image. Just make sure you’ve enabled collaboration on your Wakelet collections.
Video collections.
Want to do more than just make a playlist in YouTube? Consider making a collection of videos in Wakelet. You can include videos from many sources besides YouTube and organize collections by theme or topic.

Organize Research
With Wakelet’s browser extension it’s easy to save links and files to then organize into collections for a research project. Here’s a video on how to use Wakelet’s browser extensions.

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Samsung Solve for Tomorrow – A Great STEM Contest for Students!

Disclosure: this is a sponsored post about a topic I’ve covered in the past. 

The 12th annual Samsung Solve for Tomorrow contest is now open for submissions until November 8th. This year the contest asks students to consider how science, technology, engineering, and mathematics can be used to create change in their communities. The overall contest winners will receive a prize package that includes $100,000 in classroom technology and materials for their school. National finalists will receive $50,000 in classroom technology prizes. And state finalists receive $6,500 in prizes for their schools.

This year’s Samsung Solve for Tomorrow contest requires students and teachers to think about how STEM can be used to create change in their communities. Samsung provides an example of STEM impacting a community in the article Starving Out Hunger: Students Use STEM to Fight Food Insecurity. As you’ll see in that example as well as others, for the purpose of this contest community can refer to the area immediately around your school or it can refer to the global community. Furthermore, when you register for the contest you’ll see that it is seeking submissions that can align with U.N. Sustainable Development Goals.

Benefits of Contest Entry
There are other benefits to entering the contest besides the chance to win $100,000 in classroom technology. One of those is that it can help your students identify and propose solutions to problems that affect their local communities. But, as you can see from past contest finalists, the problems and solutions that students identify often have global applications. Furthermore, creating Solve for Tomorrow projects can help your students see the importance of integrating skills from science, technology, engineering, arts, and math into meaningful solutions to real world problems.

Another benefit of participating in Samsung’s Solve for Tomorrow contest is that it can be used to help students learn how to propose solutions, plan a project, and measure the impact of the project. You’ll see that after filling out the initial application information, the second page includes the following question, “What assessments will you put in place to measure the impact of your solution (pre, during and post project) that can be presented by Spring 2022?”

Take a look at some videos of previous winners to get ideas and inspiration for this year’s Samsung Solve for Tomorrow contest.

Contest Timeline
As in previous years, Samsung’s Solve for Tomorrow contest has an initial entry deadline. This year that deadline is November 8th! State winners are chosen just ten days later!

After the initial entry deadline submissions will be judged and state winners will be announced on November 18th. State winners will receive one (1) Samsung Video Kit (approximate retail value $2,600) and a $6,500 prize package to be redeemed through DonorsChoose.

The state winners will then create three minute videos to demonstrate how STEM can be applied to help improve their community. The videos should show the application of a specific STEM activity/topic used to address the issue submitted in their initial entry into the Samsung Solve for Tomorrow contest. Ten national finalists will be selected from submissions of the state winners. Judging of national finalists’ submissions will begin in February and run through April of 2022.

Initial entries are due by November 8th. It only takes a few minutes to enter today!

How to Enter!
Entry into the Samsung Solve for Tomorrow contest must be made by a teacher on behalf of their students. Samsung provides a comprehensive set of resources and an FAQ page for teachers to consult as they prepare to enter the contest with their students. Those resources include a sample entry form and a sheet of tips for bringing PBL (project based learning) into virtual classrooms as well as in-person classrooms.

To enter Samsung’s Solve for Tomorrow contest you do need to register for a free account on the contest homepage. When you register you’ll answer a few short questions about your school and the project that your students envision. Once you’ve done that you’ll unlock the full project plan sheet and the scoring rubric for the contest.

Register here to enter Samsung’s Solve for Tomorrow contest, it only takes a few minutes to complete the initial entry.
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How to Record an Instructional Video in Wakelet

Wakelet is an excellent tool for creating collections of bookmarks, notes, and files to share with your students. It has has a built-in video creation tool in the form of a Flipgrid integration. That integration allows you to create videos with your webcam, by recording your screen, by recording on a virtual whiteboard, or a combination of those options. You can record short instructional videos by recording with your webcam and the virtual whiteboard within Wakelet. In this short video I demonstrate how to do that. 

Applications for Education
You can use Wakelet’s Flipgrid integration to create short instructional videos that you add to a collection of resources in Wakelet. Consider creating collections based on topics or units of instruction to make it easier for students to quickly find the help resources that they need when working on a homework or other assignment.

Students can also use Wakelet’s Flipgrid integration to create instructional videos. I’d consider having students make short instructional videos to demonstrate their understanding of a problem solving process. I’d also consider having students make instructional videos to talk about and teach a lesson on topics their passionate about outside of school.

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An Easy Way to Make an Animated Video in Canva

Last week Canva launched a new online video editing studio. I gave it a try last week and recorded a short overview of the basics of how it works. Yesterday, I spent more time diving into all of the features within Canva’s video editor and found some gems. One of those gems is the ability to edit and combine stock animation clips within the frames of a larger video project. 

Canva has always had a large collection of free animated GIFs and animated video clips to add to graphics. Now you can trim those clips, combine them, and duplicate them in Canva’s video editor. Doing that provides an easy way to make an animated video. The video editor will also let you add audio to accompany the animations that you combine in Canva. Watch this short demonstration to see how I made a short animated video with Canva’s new video editor studio. 

Applications for Education
Creating an animated video with stock footage from Canva’s gallery could be a good way for students to bring their writing to life. Another way to think about using this is to have students create animations to illustrate science concepts in a manner similar to PhET simulations. Canva is designed for online collaboration and so students can work in pairs to edit their videos together. 

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How student-led vision statements for can nurture school community

For teachers, the first weeks of school can feel like a blur, between setting the tone of your classroom and trying to remember a whole set of new names. And when it comes to setting expectations and rules, teachers are usually the ones who determine those before students set foot in the door. While such rules are hard to enforce during the best of times, they’re proving to be especially difficult this year. 

Caregivers and educators alike are seeing social regression in children who have missed out on formative time with their peers – not to mention disruptions created by the pandemic – which has given way to an increase in tantrums and outbursts, including the TikTok trend of vandalizing school property.  

In recent years, fifth grade teacher Jess Lifshitz has used the co-creation of vision statements with her students to set expectations and get ahead of behavior, while creating the kind of school community they want. This has meant letting go of some of her power by including students in the process of setting expectations.

“The statement itself is a statement of the type of classroom that we want to work towards every day,” says Lifshitz, who teaches at Meadowbrook Elementary School in Illinois. “We might not all contribute to that vision in the same way, but we’re heading in the same direction.”

Co-creating a class vision with her students also gave Lifshitz the opportunity to build relationships and get to know her learners in a way that’s easy to overlook at the start of the school year. ”So much of what we do is giving the kids procedures that they’ll follow and dealing with supplies,” she says. “We spend a lot of those first days talking at kids, unless we very deliberately carve out time and space to invite them into the conversation.”

Critical Thinking About Rules

Lifshitz started the process by discussing the ways behavior impacts one’s community. By focusing on the community, the onus is on the classroom as a collective, instead of individual compliance with the teacher’s demands. “One is really asking a child to fall in line, to follow my rules [and] to give up who you are because I said this is the way you should be, versus ‘I need you to make a shift or your community needs you to make a shift so we can all figure out how to coexist together so we can be successful.’”

There is a fear that given the agency to set classroom guidelines, students won’t take them seriously, like demanding everyday to be ice cream day or asking to install a classroom water slide. However, according to Lifshitz, students come up with thoughtful ways to coexist in the classroom alongside their classmates with the right scaffolding.

It took a while for her class vision activity to evolve into what it is today. When she first started doing the activity, she didn’t do a lot leading up to it. “On the first day, I just asked the kids what did they want from their classmates and what did they want from their teacher?” says Lifshitz. She was surprised to see that her students’ voices still seemed missing from the final product. “I often still ended up with that same list of rules that I would have written on my own,” she says. “It wasn’t doing what I needed it to do, what I wanted it to do or what kids deserved for it to do.” Her attempt at encouraging student agency felt “hokey,” like she was just going through the motions of collaboration without actually getting to the core of what they needed from her or what they needed from each other.

To make more room for authentic collaboration, Lifshitz began to start the school year with a conversation about rules. She wanted learners to think critically about how rules work in the world outside of their school, where rules come from and why we might choose to follow them or not follow them. 

She gives students prompts to think through as a class while she takes notes of the questions and comments that come up during the discussion. First, students are asked to define a rule. Next, she’ll ask students if they should follow rules. Then, she’ll ask why students need to follow rules. She says at this point, most students feel as if they can predict where the line of questioning is going, which is why some collaborative rule setting activities, like the ones she initially tried out, didn’t work. 

When they deliberate on the next question, she says there’s a shift in the room: Are there other rules that treat people unfairly? In response, students bring up the Civil Rights Movement and specific moments in history where rules were used to treat groups of people unfairly. Together they talk through the distinction between injustice from unequal access and things that just seem unfair like an older sibling having a later bedtime. 

Sometimes she’ll read “The Wedding Portrait” by Innosanto Nagara or “The Library Lion” by Michelle Knudsen with her class to provide more examples of when and why one should break rules. The class eventually arrives at a collective decision that rules are not the best way to express what kind of classroom they are hoping to build together.

“From there, we then shift to this idea that maybe what we need is a vision that allows us all to thrive. That shifts us to this conversation around creating a class vision statement.”

Core Questions For Visioning

Lifshitz and her students use four core questions to help them think about how their class environment enables everyone to be their full self and learn in the best way possible. The core questions are:

  • What do you need from this physical space?
  • What do you need from yourself?
  • What do you need from the people learning around you?
  • What do you need from the people teaching you? 

“I didn’t want to use words like ‘classmates’ and ‘teachers,’” says Lifshiftz. “I really wanted to reinforce that idea that depending on what moment it is we are all learners and we are all teachers in different ways.”

Lifshitz uses a multimodal approach to invite kids to think through the questions and make sure she has engagement from all of her students. She starts with Jamboard so kids can individually consider and record their answers to each question.  

“I have found that when we do these activities and solely rely on verbal conversation, that tends to privilege certain students.” she says, referring to students that are more extroverted. “I wanted to make sure that there was space for my more quiet students, more introverted students, [and] students who maybe verbal processing isn’t a strength of theirs.”

For students who benefit from thinking things over with peers, Lifshitz also makes room for them to work together in small groups to discuss each question. She’ll circle the classroom while taking notes and then engage the whole class in a discussion.  

Using a big piece of chart paper divided into four sections and labeled with the four core questions, she writes down their themes and ideas, leaving space for students to verbally add anything they didn’t surface in their groups.

Each section forms the basis of the class vision statement, which Lifshitz types up and shares with students to review. “I show them our draft of the vision statement and allow them to leave notes on paper copies of what they think we’re missing.” When students are done with their revisions, she uploads the finalized vision to Google classroom so her entire class has access to it. 

Addressing Challenges 

In a time where many students are transitioning back to learning in school buildings, having authentic input from her students to co-create a class vision has helped Lifshitz understand students’ needs. 

“It’s really important to me that I adjust my teaching in those first few days to meet my kids where they are,” she says. “Making sure this process is collaborative and hearing from my kids what they need in this moment really allows me to do that in a way that I couldn’t if it wasn’t collaborative.” 

For example, this year, Lifshitz’s learners talked about needing a calm environment more than they had in past years. Kids also expressed desires regarding the classroom that she couldn’t meet such as wanting more flexibility in the physical space.

“A lot of that had to be taken away last year as social distancing became so very important in keeping our kids healthy and alive and well” says Lifshitz. “They missed having the flexibility of working in a spot that felt comfortable to them or moving around the room when they needed to.”

Co-creating a classroom vision has also given her students the opportunity to grow in a way that a strict set of rules might not have. She says students in one of her classes used to push and shove each other as they raced into the room to pick out the seats they wanted. Lifshitz was worried they were going to hurt each other and was also concerned that certain kids were feeling left out if other students did not want to sit next to them. Her first thought was to take away the ability for students to choose their own seats. Instead, she took time with her class to revisit their vision.

“The issue [was that] our actions weren’t making everyone feel included,” says Lifshitz. As they looked through their class vision, they assessed whether they were living into their expectations. They were able to have conversations about their intention and impact: even though students were just wanting to sit next to their friends, the impact was that other students were feeling excluded. When they recognized that they were straying from their class vision, several students noticeably changed their behavior. 

“It doesn’t work that way every time. There are still times where I can see that kids are being harmed and I need to step in in a more structured way. But at that moment, the kids showed me, ‘Look, we’ve got this. We can do this.’”

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An Overview of Google Forms Quiz Settings

Back in July I published a series of videos and blog posts detailing what you need to know to get started using Google Classroom, Drive, Docs, Slides, and Forms in your classroom (those are linked below). Of course, Google had to make some updates to Google Forms right at the start of the new school year and in doing so added some more functionality to Google Forms while also moving the location of some settings menus. That’s why I recorded a new overview of Google Forms quiz settings. 

In my new video, An Overview of Google Forms Quiz Settings, you’ll learn:

  • How to access the settings. 
  • What each setting does. 
  • Why you may or may not want to use some settings. 

More Helpful Google Forms Tutorials:

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How to Share Google Arts & Culture Experiences in Google Classroom

Last week Google Arts & Culture published a great online exhibit titled Walk the Great Wall. It’s a fantastic colleciton of Street View imagery and multimedia stories about the Great Wall of China. As I wrote last week, Walk the Great Wall includes detailed imagery of the bricks of the wall, short lessons about the construction of the Great Wall, stories of myths and legends of the Great Wall, and lots of imagery of the Great Wall from end to end in all four seasons of the year.  

The only “problem” with the Walk the Great Wall Google Arts & Culture exhibit is that it is so large that if you want all your students to look at a specific section of it all at once, you have to share individual sections with your students instead of the whole exhibit. Fortunately, Google does make it relatively easy to share just a section of a Google Arts & Culture exhibit with your students. In this new video I demonstrate exactly how to do that. 

Applications for Education
Sharing a specific section of a Google Arts & Culture exhibit is a good way to get all of your students looking at and discussing an element of an exhibit at the same time. Alternatively, you could assign different sections of an exhibit to groups of students then have them share observations with the whole class. 

The method that I demonstrated in the video can also be used with other learning management systems. Simply get the sharing link from the section of the exhibit that you want to share and then manually paste it into an assignment in your LMS instead of using the Google Classroom button.

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