Personalized Weather Watching

Apr 19, 2006 by

In my infinite brilliance naivity, I had my students chart the current weather conditions at a certain time each day since we got back from Spring Break, thinking I could get them engaged by tracking a multitude of weather data they hadn’t been exposed to before. Everday at a given time they were to go to the site for a local weather station and collect a few pieces of data, then go to Weather.com and collect some more data, only to visit Accuweather.com to collect the final pieces of data. I thought that by using a number of different sites they would grow more accustomed to collecting data and information from multiple sources. While they did get used to using multiple sources of information (something that I hope to parlay into general internet research before the end of the year) I found that many of them treated the task as a chore, looking up weather data that had no connection to them sitting in the classroom staring at a computer screen.

So I decided this last weekend to scrap the weather charts they had been making and start fresh. Using the same resources I had them create a new chart following just the weather conditions that they thought would affect them the most. First we talked about how the weather could aversely affect their plans and activities if they didn’t carefully watch the forecast. I was glad to see they were pretty excited about sharing their stories of trips to the beach and picnics gone bad due to rain or poor weather that they might have otherwise avoided. Once they realized that they had friends who had made the same mistakes they seemed more open to accepting the fact that maybe following weather forecasts might not be such a bad idea.

Using Excel, I let them create their new chart by following three aspects of the weather that they personally wanted to follow. Everything from wind speed (for those that sailed) to chance of precipitation (no more rainy picnics) was far came, including temperature, air pressure, humidity, and cloud cover. Once they had set up their chart and picked their three conditions to follow I let them choose one of three different sites that report weather conditions and provide forecasts. Now, instead of having everyone do the same thing at the same time on the computers, they’re free to look up information for their own personalized weather chart, from the website they “trust” or like the most. So far this week they’ve been much more enthusiastic about recording the weather data. My next goal is to get them to start blending forecasts from the different websites in order to form a more perfect idea of what the weather will actually be like for the day. At least I know they’ll be much more receptive to do it, than before.

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