Sunday, July 5, 2015

How Technology Can Help Beat the Heat in Unairconditioned Classrooms

I work in one richest cities in America, though you might not know it if you stepped into one of our schools at the end of the school year. That’s because we still haven’t figured out air conditioning for all our public school students. This recent NYTimes article  addresses the long-time issue which was also covered 16 years prior in this NYTimes article.  Back then Randi Weingarten who served as the president for the United Federation of Teachers said, “It's inhuman to subject kids and adults to schooling in this kind of heat. If this doesn't convince people that we need to air-condition schools, then I don't know what will.''


Weingarten is right when it comes to summer school, and today, the education department says they are committed to ensuring all summer school classes have air conditioning. However, during the regular school year, when temps are on the rise, it might just be a good time for students to rise up and out of their seats and learn in a city with some of the most amazing resources available to humankind.


As Elliot Washor suggests in his book, “Leaving to Learn” is a good thing. Get out of the school and into one of the most vibrant cities in the world.

Explore. Live. Learn.  

Fire hydrant fun: Children welcomed sweltering weather in 1954 because it gave them a chance to frolic under the spray of fire hydrants; pictured, near New York City's Columbus Circle
When I was teaching, that’s what I did with students. Leaving to learn was one of my favorite activities to engage in with students and their families. We are in a city rich with history and culture. We went on historical scavenger hunts through neighborhoods like Chinatown and Little Italy. We enjoyed nature walks in the park. There is so much that we can enjoy and learn about for free, and institutions are eager to donate space and resources to public school children. Ask and you’ll be surprised what you can receive.


Today, technology can be integrated into the learning outside school. Maybe you aren’t ready to invite students to use their own devices for learning inside school, but if you Invite students to use their phone on field trips, not only is it useful for not getting lost, there are so many great ways to use cell phones for learning. Capture what you are learning about through pictures and video. Make movies on Animoto. Use a hashtag for your trip and capture images on Instagram and short videos on Vine. Find out what QR code field trips you can go on.  For example, Central Park was turned into an interactive museum via QR codes all available free of charge.

Check out the video below to get an idea of the possibilities.  


Another idea is to have your students create their own QR code booklet about a place you are visiting.  Maybe even your own neighborhood.  Each student can create learning information on one particular space. Then go check it out with your phone and booklet so students are the ones leading the tour for your class or anyone in the community.  


Another way I used technology for learning outside was to go to one of the many free wifi spots in New York City with students. The class grabbed their devices, and we connect to the internet in the park to do our work.  Here’s a list of places. Today, there is another bonus. Charging stations at the park.


So, next school year, when the heat is on, it might just be a good idea for you and your students to take off and learn outside.  

What do you think?
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