Short iPad film of car window inspires learning in Tamar 4 Mar 2013

Last week – on a particularly cold morning – I left my car running for 5 minutes to defrost the windows before leaving for work. It was then I noticed water vapour rising off my heated back window. There’s some good science there, I thought, so I took a short video on my iPad to show my class in their science lesson on Friday.

So how much learning can you get out of a 15 second clip of water vapour rising off a filthy car window? Well, in Tamar class, the answer is: a great deal indeed.

I started the lesson by showing the video and asking: where’s the science in this film? The obvious answers followed of course: evaporation, condensation, melting, water turning to gas, changing states of matter…

More interesting however were the less expected ideas. One child talked about the wire heating strips in the rear window, so we talked about heat conductivity. “Is copper an alloy,” asked another child. “No it’s an element, remember the periodic table I showed you on the iPad a couple of weeks ago,” I replied. “I watched a film about underwater telegram cables being made out of copper wire, and they corroded because of the saltater,” said Ben. “Telegram cables? What are they?” asked someone. Well, a quick look on the iPad soon had some amazing Victorian images of ships laying cable across the Atlantic to connect Cornwall to America with communication cables. We talked about Marconi and about the cable station at Pothcurno (bit of local history)… “Hang on a minute – let’s look on the iPad at an atlas and have a look at just where Porthcurno is compared to America…”
“Just imagine the logistics of laying such a vast amount of cable under on the ocean floor,” I suggested. “What about all the submarine mountains and deep sea trenches they would have had to contend with?” (another quick look at the iPad atlas revealed the changing sea depths). “Well, how did the Victorians do it?” asked a child. “I mean, that would be hard to achieve today, and I bet it was really expensive,” he added. How did they afford it? The answer lay in the vast wealth of the Victorian British Empire and the resources they could draw on from the colonies to provide such riches.
“We’re not dependent on undersea cables to communicate with countries overseas, so how do we communicate nowadays?” I asked. Lovely discussions about telephones and old fashioned telephone operators ensued. We even began to discuss how a network of satellites orbiting the Earth can beam phone signals around the globe in the blink of an eye.

So, just how much learning can a 15 second video clip generate? I’ll leave that for you to decide.