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.

Snow predicted for Manhattan, Kansas, on Tuesday

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.

Snow in Edmond, Oklahoma

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.

Wintery Mix in Gainesville, Texas

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?

Rain predicted for Shanghai two days 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.

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3 Responses to Numeracy and Reading Development with the iPhone Weather App

  1. Tammy Parks says:


    Loved your post! You inspired me to invite our young Howe students to be guest forecasters on CLE Live!, our student-produced paw’dcast! (We are the Lions!) Many of our staff have iPhones, the screen shot could serve as their news graphic and they can record their forecast on their MacBook cameras! I’m always looking for show ideas to include our student body on the show. Maybe Rachel would be willing to serve as our first guest newscaster, and create a tutorial for our budding weather casters at Howe?? Your kids are so blessed to have parents who are actively involved with their education and who promote learning opportunities in everyday life! Tell Rachel she has a job opportunity at Howe! FYI, Scott and Lance spent 4 hours stuck on I-40 near Henryetta, pulling the Mobile Commander! They are now moving again, but headed back to the warmth of their respective home! UGH! Stay warm!!

  2. Wesley Fryer says:

    Tammy: We certainly might be able to arrange for Rachel to be a guest on CLE Live! That would be awesome! Let’s talk at OTA!

    I’m thinking that Scott and Lance may not be at OU Midwinter tomorrow then… bummer. The big thing is everyone being safe. Weather is fun this time of year in Oklahoma! Thankfully we stocked up on some firewood just before the ice hit! Tomorrow is the kids’ third snow day in a row. The flexible flyer sled has been put to good use the past two days!

  3. […] Numeracy and Reading Development with the iPhone Weather App » Moving at the Speed of Creativity […]

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