170 The Concord-Carlisle High School / Oklahoma University Forecasting Group - An experiment in teaching through social media

Monday, 7 January 2013
Exhibit Hall 3 (Austin Convention Center)
Jeffrey A. Yuhas, Morristown-Beard School, Morristown, NJ; and W. G. Blumberg, K. T. Halbert, C. Balboni, L. Wallis, and E. Mushlitz

The Concord-Carlisle High School (CCHS) / Oklahoma University (OU) Forecasting Group represents a unique University-High School collaboration. High school students are trained in forecasting from one of the top meteorology programs in the country and graduate student mentors learn how to communicate their interests and skills. All of this is accomplished through social media platforms, primarily Facebook. The purpose of this poster is to show how the group was formed, discuss the benefits for the students, and evaluate some of the pros and cons of using social media to teach this subject.

Born out of relationships built at the American Meteorological Society Annual Meeting in New Orleans, this group evolved during the Spring of 2012. At the end of the Student Conference poster session the students from CCHS and OU connected and began talking about ways they could work together. It was instrumental that the students, high school and graduate, all had an equal voice in setting expectations for the group and developing a working model.

After the conference, the students reconnected through email and expressed an interest in setting up the Forecasting Group. It quickly became apparent that a medium was needed to facilitate communication amongst the group, and Facebook was chosen.

There are three primary objectives for the group:

Teach high school students forecasting

Engage graduate students in mentoring students

Use and evaluate the effectiveness of social media in instruction

Meteorology, and specifically forecasting, are not typically part of the public high school curriculum, and it is a very complex subject. Teaching them requires a highly skilled mentor. While there may be high school teachers who have the passion and knowledge of the subject, they rarely have the time to dedicate to such a specialized topic. Connecting the CCHS students with the graduate students allow them to pursue this interest. This creates a wonderful learning opportunity.

A possibly more important secondary goal is growing the relationship between the CCHS and OU students.

Communication in the group is primarily accomplished through a Facebook Group. This model has plenty of pros and cons that have come to light. Facebook was chosen because it met several of our immediate needs: it's free, all group members have familiarity with Facebook, it allows for sharing of information, and it allows for instant messaging. All of this can take place at any time of the day, conforming to all of the students individual schedules.

One difficulty that arose was getting the group off of the ground by solely using emails and Facebook. It's difficult to assess background knowledge over the Internet, partially because we do not have any face to face contact. The group is looking forward to meeting for the first time at the AMS Annual Meeting. Skype sessions have helped get the group to know each other better.

Early success of the group clearly shows that Facebook is a viable teaching platform. Students are engaged (as evidenced by the length of some of the comment strings!), timely information is being discussed, and instructor feedback is timely.

One issue that arrises is that Facebook is often blocked by public high schools. The emergence of large numbers of laptops, tablets, and smartphones has challenged the bandwidth of the schools WiFi.

Activities of the group include the following:

“Real-time” development of lessons and discussion about current weather events.

Temperature forecasting challenge - a contest amongst the high school and graduate students

Map sharing - both maps from the internet and scans of hand analyzed maps are shared

Picture sharing - many a long discussion is prompted by a member's picture of an atmospheric phenomena they observed

Web resource sharing - all of the students are constantly scanning the internet for new sites to use

Future weekly blog posts - the CCHS members of the forecasting group will be responsible for weekly blogs on the Concord-Carlisle Weather Services Facebook page.

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