Educator of the Month: Josh Nichols

November 7, 2016 / By

Josh Nichols is a 4th-7th Grade STEM teacher in Stockbridge, Michigan.  He has taught his entire 20 year career in a Project Based Learning Environment. Along with two other teachers he created a school within a school that focused on Project Based Learning.
He found out quickly there were fellow teachers across the U.S. interested in teaching in a Project Based Learning environment but there were not a lot of engaging lessons. Most teachers didn’t know how to get started. He first started using a GoPro camera to document all of the projects that their classrooms were doing, so he could share them with other teachers. Then he decided to have his students  actually document their learning process on video.  That was when CrossBraining was born.  The students would capture their learning on video, then edit their footage down to a 45 second video. They would also narrate the video using key terms from the standards which allowed the students to “show” their proficiency.
In 2014, he started an education business called CrossBraining.  It was time to show the world what he had learned especially when students’ scores shot through the roof.  Josh created a GoPro STEM/PBL Kit with engaging  and proven lessons. In addition to 10 Hero Session cameras in a charging case, the kit also includes a teacher’s manual for step-by-step instructions to get started. Josh has given parents and administrators a window into the classroom to spark meaningful conversation. Students now have an opportunity to have authentic audiences.

First Project

For years I have had my students document their learning with video and pictures.  Last year our school purchased 60 Chromebooks so it gave me a chance to get all my students making videos more often.  Our school just recently went 1:1 so my first project was to require all my students to turn in 30-45 second videos of all their projects.  They are snapshots of the learning that takes place during a project and great for formative assessment. The parents love the videos because they give them a window into their child’s learning.  The only real snag was that I needed a video editing app that had narration and that was on the cloud. That’s when I found out about WeVideo at a MACUL conference.I literally returned to my class on a Monday with no training and the students and I figured it out.  I have been a huge fan ever since.  I met some great people at WeVideo who have answered any question that I had and to be honest, I have not had to ask many because the students figure it out.  In the first two weeks, the students submitted over 120 videos that were  30-45 seconds, capturing their learning.  Obviously, the editing software was kid friendly and CrossBraining loves it.

Favorite Feature

Narration, narration narration.  OK, I also like slow motion and the ability for students to upload other music and mp3 files.  The ability to collaborate is just as important.  Creating, collaborating and communicating are the pillars of CrossBraining. WeVideo’s features bring it all together.  Narration is so important  because it gives students the opportunity to write out their script, practice their fluency and then read it aloud or read it with a partner that they collaborated with.  We get to hear their storytelling about their learning.  How cool would it be if every student could tell their story of their learning?  Now they can!


This past summer, GoPro, Inc. joined CrossBraining at the ISTE conference in Denver and WeVideo was down the aisle. Even though I was a huge fan of WeVideo, I was a little nervous to go down there and talk to them because they were a big deal to me.  I ended up meeting John Kline. If anyone knows John they would agree that he is kind and passionate guy who wants to help change education.  John went out of his way to help my students and school district to get access to more gigabits and a free trial.  Our whole school is starting to use WeVideo!  My favorite thing about WeVideo is that their staff is constantly finding teachers who use their editing software in unique ways.  These guys are on Twitter, at EdTech conferences and speak the teacher’s language.  Great folks!

This video was created by a 4th grader last year and is a good example of how important student narration is.  This young lady went through CrossBraining’s Fetch Curriculum where she had to detail the first day of school from a dog’s point of view. She organized all the GoPro clips, wrote out her script and fluently told the story:

Learn more about CrossBraining and their creative projects here.
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