It is important for students to be enthusiastic about learning. Motivation can be tied to many things, and one of the most important elements is background knowledge or schema. For the past several months, my five year old has enthusiastically continued developing her emerging numeracy and reading skills using the weather application on my iPhone. I have about eight different locations around the United States and in the world setup as “bookmarks” on my iPhone weather program, which she can quickly access with a finger swipe.
This week, as we’ve had snow and ice in parts of the Midwest, the weather has been a little more visually exciting to follow on my iPhone. The other morning, Rachel asked to see my iPhone during breakfast so she could check the weather. She was SO excited to report:
Dad! It’s snowing in Manhattan! It’s going to snow in Manhattan three days this week!
I didn’t snap an iPhone screenshot of that moment, but I did take a snap later of the weather in Manhattan, Kansas. This location is significant to Rachel because one set of her grandparents (my folks) live there, and she has traveled there for holiday visits several times in the past. She has personal experiences and schema attached to this location, therefore the incidence of SNOW and cold temperatures there has special meaning and significance for her.
If you have an iPhone or iPod Touch, you can create screenshaps of any application or webapp by simultaneously pressing the home and sleep/wake button. This saves the image to your Photo roll, where you can sync it with your computer, email it or directly upload it to a photo sharing website like Flickr.
Rachel lives in Edmond, so the weather in our city is usually the first one she likes to check. When she checks the weather on the iPhone and becomes our family forecaster, my wife and I ask her to share the temperature as well as the predicted temperatures for today.
As she flicks through different cities, we ask her to share the name of the city she’s viewing along with weather details. Sometimes we’ll ask her a specific question, “Hey, what’s the temperature right now in Lubbock?” (Where her other set of grandparents live and she’s just visited recently.) As a young five year old, this provides great, real-world practice for reading two digit numbers as well as recognizing different city names. Rachel will start public kindergarten next year, but that hasn’t stopped us from starting her numeracy and reading literacy development early. Opportunities to have conversations like this provide countless learning signs throughout the week. My wife and I believe that even though our children attend public school, we still have vital roles to play as homeschooling parents. Essentially we recognize that we’re all learning constantly, and whether we’re in formal or informal learning contexts we need to take time to have conversations and share our perceptions and ideas together.
The iPhone weather image below from Gainsville, Texas, shows a wintery mix of snow and rain. This was very exciting to Rachel to report on this week. She loves to be the announcer of REAL news to others in our family. This not only develops her numeracy and reading literacy skills, but also her self-esteem as her ideas and announcements earn the attention and focus of others in our family. As she learns to accurately read numbers and words aloud, she experiences supported success in these activities which further builds her motivation to continue reading and sharing. Weather often is interesting and relevant, so being the “news reporter” for the weather can have a real value in family conversations. This is important for a five year old.
This use of the iPhone weather application a very basic use, but it’s worth mentioning because I know many primary age classroom teachers discuss the weather with students as a part of their morning circle time. If a teacher or teacher-aide has an iPhone or iPod Touch, it could be great to teach and allow students to use and access the weather application to report on current as well as upcoming conditions in different places.
A great deal of learning takes place in conversations. In conversations we learn about individual perceptions, knowledge and skills. The iPhone weather application allows us to talk about “greater than” and “less than” comparisons of weather, read the days of the week, and engage in a basic process of gathering and reporting on real-world data outside the home and classroom.
Is it colder today in Edmond or Manhattan?
How warm is it going to be on Wednesday in Edmond?
How many days is it going to rain in Shanghai this week?
Are these skills on which we test students in our classrooms, reading and interpreting data in tables? Of course. It can be even more fun and engaging, however, to analyze real-time data which has personal meaning and significance for students, than the often irrelevant data which we find on tests and worksheets.
Students in all of our classrooms need to be engaged in ongoing collaborative projects with students in other parts of the world. It is critical that we help our young people develop into global citizens with global awareness, which extends far beyond simplistic memorization of goegraphic place locations or country names and capitals. We need to help our students build friendships with others from diverse countries and cultural perspectives. When we have a friend in another country, whether or not we’ve met that person face-to-face we never look at that country or the people from that country the same. Helping students develop their own senses of and dispositions toward cultural respect, understanding, and tolerance is VERY important. Children often learn intolerance and disrespect in the school hallways and on the playground. The world isn’t fair, but we need to strive to bring values like fairness, respect, and understanding into our relationships, conversations and lives.
If we want students to CARE and really learn about a topic, we have to take the importance of schema and motivation seriously. Your students may not care about the weather in Shanghai today if they don’t live there, and if they don’t know anyone who lives there. If you engage in a sustained collaborative project with students and teachers in Shanghai, however, exchanging email letters, VoiceThread comments, and even live videoconference conversations, levels of background knowledge and motivation to know and learn about Shanghai would be quite different in your classroom.
Make it a priority to facilitate global connections with your students. Start small. Connect with other teachers in educational networking environments like the Global Education Collaborative, Classroom 2.0, and the K-12 Online Conference. Find an ongoing project already registered via ePals, the CILC’s Collaboration Center, or GlobalSchoolNet. Foster international connections and collaboration for your students. Make personal connections with teachers in other places, and via those “virtual rails of communication” bring your students along to share and learn together.
Those types of connections can make learning about the weather in another location take on entirely new levels of significance and meaning.
Remember to follow Wesley Fryer on Twitter (@wfryer), Facebook and Google+. Also "like" Wesley's Facebook pages for "Speed of Creativity Learning" and his eBook, "Playing with Media." Don't miss Wesley's latest technology integration project, "Mapping Media to the Common Core / Curriculum."
On this day..
- A Saturday Filled with Media Creation and #playingwithmedia - 2012
- Audio Podcasts Online for Technology Leadership: PLNs, Vision & PD - 2011
- Screencasts about finding copyright friendly media and using VoiceThread - 2010
- Latest Facebook Situation in Nashville Highlights Need for Social Media Guidelines in Schools - 2010
- Google Docs is NOT "clunky old PC software" - 2010
- Creativity, Interruptions, Boundaries and Leadership - 2009
- Reflections on EduCon 2.1 via an EdTechTalk Webcast - 2009
- Digital Citizenship Q&A Round #2 - 2008
- Two Million Minutes: A call for educational change - 2008
- WikiPedia at your fingertips - 2007