As a science teacher and mom, I am always looking for ways to marry technology and the real world, for both my own children and my students. Because if given the opportunity, most kids would choose to play games on a digital device, watch television, or peruse the internet over reading a book or pursuing a hobby. In other words, most would choose what I call “screen time.” And I don’t blame them, the internet can lure me in just as easily and I have certainly been caught watching past seasons of my favorite shows late at night via Netflix. And there are a million great educational websites and shows out there, so why not?
Technology is a great educational tool and absolutely should, when applicable, be a part of any classroom. Technology, however, should not be the focus (unless in a technology classroom) nor the only tool in which children learn. Using technology to supplement the content, where it makes learning easier and retention greater, should be the outcome. And one night, my family and I found where the real world and technology came together in a most amazing way.
Last fall, my children and I went outside, right before bed, to find the moon. The stars were beginning to awake and one by one, we watched them peek out of the night sky. We sat on our deck, our neighbor’s trees encircling us, allowing us to see only what was directly above. We felt protected and as if we were the only ones watching the starry show.
“There’s another one!” squealed my four-year-old.
“What’s that?” asked my seven-year-old.
My husband then pulled out his phone and holding it up to the sky while using the Skyview app, our kids could see the locations of stars, the outline of constellations, each planet in its orbit, and even the space station as it revolved around Earth. They were amazed and what began as a quick trip outside to view the moon, quickly became an hour’s worth of star-gazing, punctuated by squeals, and “Ahhhs,” and “Wow.”
The focus wasn’t the phone, the stars were the stage. The technology allowed us to see what we couldn’t due to distance and brought items in our solar system, located light years away, right down into our hands. We could have talked about the stars and planets we saw and imagined the little dipper as so many have through history, without using the technology, but being able to show my kids the little dipper, knowing they truly could see its image, showing them the space station, looking at the craters on the moon and the rings of Saturn, made the learning so much more powerful.
Teaching, for me, is exposing someone to something new – an idea, a piece of music, a problem, a painting, and then asking questions.
Learning is exploring, thinking, researching, and discussing to answer those questions and add to already existing ideas. When technology does this in such a powerful way, exponential learning can happen.
As a parent and teacher, I cannot ignore technology and its huge presence in our lives. So if I can find a way to use it to expose my kids to something beyond our world, to open their imaginations and allow them to explore, I am all for it. And the best part? The Skyview app is free.
Steffany Cartellone blogs at www.a-snails-pace.com
My passion for nature began when I was a small kid and our family took fishing trips to Minnesota every summer. Smelling a charcoal grill or the scent of pine needles on a breeze takes me right back to those woods and the wonderful weeks we spent living in them. I love spending time outdoors, a good book, a great glass of wine, and time with my family. You can find me at www.a-snails- pace.com or on Facebook.