At the website for Next Vista for Learning, anyone can view Bill Cheney, a teacher from Santa Clara Unified School District, briefly teach about how to find the area of a triangle. Also on the website is a short video from Jose Ruiz, a district student at the time the video was made, showing how to multiply by nines. Designed to highlight creative approaches to learning, Next Vista’s website contains over 1,300 videos, sent from all around the world. The video library launched in 2007.
“About 10 years ago, I was thinking about the challenges that students face in high school,” says Rushton Hurley, executive director of the non-profit Next Vista for Learning. “What struck me as the core issue is their confidence in their learning. Kids get into a mode where they say things like, ‘I’m no good at math,’ or fill [another subject] in the blank.’ The tragic thing is that is inaccurate. We’ve had the experience of someone saying ‘look at it from this angle,’ and at that point, you say, ‘oh I get it!’ So what a student should say is not that they’re not good at math, but ‘if someone explained this to me differently, I’d get it.’ So the library’s short videos are designed to do that for students, to help them say, ‘oh, I get it.’ In the last five years, we’ve had over 340,000 unique visitors [from around the world] come to Next Vista’s website.”
The website’s video library is separated into three categories. “Light Bulbs” offers content on academic topics and careers. “Global Views” gives insights about communities around the world. “Seeing Service” shares the joy that comes from helping others.
Hurley receives many videos through contests where teachers and students are challenged to creatively explain a topic. Most people who submit content receive feedback on how to improve their videos. Once problems have been corrected, the videos are posted. Winners of the contests receive cash prizes and certificates.
“One of the big contests we are running is a service video contest, and we ask students to get to know charities in their community, and to tell their stories in short videos,” Hurley says. “We give $200 donations to the charities highlighted in the top videos. The video contest’s deadline is next year in early spring. If teachers want to get their students involved, go to NextVista.org and click on ‘Contact Us’ to ask for more information.”
A Santa Clara resident, Hurley once taught Japanese at Wilcox High School and digital video at Don Callejon School to seventh and eighth graders. He promotes use of technology in learning and has given keynote speeches at educational conferences in Asia, Africa, Europe and all over North America. The revenue from Hurley’s public speaking and training work covers the expense of running the organization.