[This will be the one of several subjects we examined. Look for future posts which will deal with History, Science and Math, PE, and more]
Look around you. Who is on their smart phone, iPad, or other electronic device? How many of those are young kids or young adults? Facebook and social networks connected to the World Wide Web have launched society into hyper-speed. Anyone born after 2004 has a completely different set of tools and expectations in life. Literally anything they want to know is at their finger tips. I've seen posts on Facebook of this exact idea. It went something like "Things people born after 2000 will never know about".
They go on to list stuff like key tones on your phone, antennae cellphones, analog vs digital, renting movies from the video store, and so on. Most adolescents would think our "old ways" are very silly and laugh at the modes of communication we used. However, when I stop and look at the differences between now and then, I see a major change in human interaction. There is no longer a need for manners or phone etiquette because shooting someone a text is so much easier and informal.
You don't have to use full words or proper grammar because that would just take too long. Even proper emails have gone by the wayside. I remember being taught the correct way to send an email was just like you write a letter to someone. You have a greeting, a body, a closing, and a signature. Now I get one or two word responses from people. Personally I think it makes that person or business look tacky and snobby, but it stems from the way society is teaching us to be. The quicker the better, the shorter the better, and the less the better.
Even though I see a majority of negatives that come from over use of technology, I do not believe it is all evil. I love technology and use it every day. I have a smart phone, an iPad, an iPod, and a laptop. I know how to use all the latest gadgets because I think they can be used in a productive manner.
When I travel these devices allow me to continue working and writing even in the most remote places. They also aid me in learning before I travel and while I'm traveling. I think that there are several great devices and apps that have improved the way we gain knowledge and develop ourselves. Like all generations before, however, we have to learn how to use these new tools for a positive outcome. It's a slippery slope for adults to misuse technology, so imagine how slippery it is for children.
We have to guide them in the same way previous generations had to guide, curb, and teach the use of telegrams, telephones, and so on.
Smart technology is here to stay. We are all hooked and future generations will be connected to it one way or another. The access to these tools will be a part of every day life for most young kids. As a means to bridge the gap I will take 5 important subjects from school and show how travel combined with these new modern day tools can lead to a positive education and growth for kids and adults alike.
In American education the primary focuses in this subject are the English Language, Grammar, Reading, and Writing. It's an important subject because it gives the platform of American culture. Our language is a melting pot of words which our ancestors brought over with them from Europe along with other immigrants who continued to take refuge in our free country. Our reading and writing then ties in very closely with our history. The founding fathers set a solid precedence when they wrote our Declaration of Independence. The way it was worded was selected very carefully, an art form that is being forgotten. Never the less, it inspired many great poets, authors, and song writers in America around that time.
The best thing about language arts, however, is the way it transcends the world. Books are written all over the world, and by people from very different cultures. They may be American born, they may be American immigrants, or they may be neither. Either way most notable writings make it into American culture. When traveling it's like reading these books in a new light. Maybe you go visit Scotland and see the Highlands Railway which inspired JK Rowlings in her Harry Potter books. Or tour the setting of Edinburgh where you get the real life Hogwarts. Being in these places transforms the story into real life and creates a deeper understanding from Rowling's perspective.
Travel allows for a hands-on education. Shakespeare is another staple in Language Arts. Whether you were part of a play in school or were simply forced to read him in class, everyone got a little Shakespeare. Most of his stuff is dense, but when you visit the remodeled Globe Theatre in London, Shakespeare seems exquisite. The way they packed in crowds of people so that everyone could have a perfect view of the stage was impressive. The extensive detail they paid in creating the props and set shows how beyond his times he was. Being there in person creates a sense of wonderment, and when I visited all I wanted was to see a real show in the times of Shakespeare.
Another major part of this subject is language. In American schools most of us learn English first. When traveling the world English is prominent, but not total. (see BT's other post on language) What I mean by this is there will be English spoken in nearly every country you visit. However, that doesn't mean communication will be any easier, nor does it mean other languages are unimportant. Thanks to the diversity of America we are exposed to all kinds of languages. It's in films, commercials, and other forms of media. We pick and chose some of the fun words from each language and use them like synonyms in our own. It's fun to explore where words came from, and when you travel you have the best opportunity to do so. Maybe one day you are trying to buy something at the local market in Germany and you hear them say something that sounds similar to an English word, but you are not certain. Later when you look it up, you find that the words are the exact same. One of my favorite examples is the word alphabet. It is pronounced nearly the same in most languages. (Try it in google translate) When you look up the etymology of the word it actually comes from the Greek. So you heard it from a German, translated it into English and found that it comes from Greece. Now we are traveling the world!
Travel gives the opportunity for endless exploration in this subject matter. Reading books starts the curiosity of places far away. Writing and speaking a language connects us to new cultures. The experience of learning this subject in first person is a world away from sitting in a desk at school. I'm thankful for my English teacher who opened my eyes to the reality of this subject when she showed us pictures from her travels. She visited the places of famous authors, poets, and linguistics, and gave us a tangible understanding. Language Arts doesn't have to be your children's least favorite subject if you give them the means to touch it.
Let's get connected! There is some great technology out there that makes learning this subject a little less dry. Even as you travel these devices and apps can gear you and your kids up for great exploration.
1.) Kindle- This device is awesome for the traveling reader. It's a small library. You can download tons of books for free and pay a small price for others. It's like going to the library wherever you are, but you don't have to carry around a bulky paperback. Before a trip you can put books that relate to the area you are exploring. This not only creates excitement for travel, but gives the ground work for learning about the particular place.
2.) Duolingo- This is a language app. I think it is the best free language learner out there. You can download it for free on any smart device. It teaches you the basics all the way up to proficiency. The app is designed to not only teach you to read a new language, but helps with speaking it and hearing it also. The fun interactive set up makes it more of a game for kids as well, and they can even do competitions. The company continues to add new languages to the list, but all of the major ones are already on there.
3.) FlashCards- There is also a flashcard app out there that helps learn new languages. This is more of a basic program, but they can all be downloaded before hand which will help if you can not be connected to the internet on your trip.
4.) Translator- Downloading a translator app may be another option for you while traveling. If you really want to learn a language quickly, looking up words immediately when you hear them is important. Instead of pulling out a hard copy dictionary which highlights you as a tourist, simply download the app on one of your small devices like an IPod or smart phone. Kids love being the dictionary! These devices can also be great note takes along the journey as well.
5.) Podcasts- This app program is great for long road trips. When the music gets boring, put on an educational podcast that talks about language or books or authors or adventurers. The podcast world has everything you can imagine.