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Technology & the Outdoors, Merging Pathways to an Educational Destination

August 24, 2013

I was at a great conference this past week, “Teaching & Learning in a Digital World” which was hosted by my own Board and over 500 delegates attended.

More than one person mentioned that they were surprised to see me, “the Outdoors Guy” at such a conference never mind presenting because I often extol the fact that screen time is discouraging free play and experience.

However – I am excited by the Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) stance my own Board has taken and have see the debate in place before.

Technology in education and the outdoors in education have a very similar background. I am always telling educators in workshops and conferences that I believe the outdoors should be used and it should be used frequently. Yet I do not believe it should be used 100 % of the time. The days of Socrates teaching under Olive trees passed millennia ago.

No, instead, the outdoors should be used frequently but under certain circumstances. It is the right tool in the right atmosphere with the right students at the right time. A well prepared, enthusiatic and creative teacher can make this happen with more and more frequency and with more and more meaning which is outstanding.  But the outdoors is a  pathway to reach the destination which is education.

Technology is being debated across the globe in education the same way. And again, very much the same as the arguments I use for fresh air teaching, it is a tool to be used under the proper circumstances – and when teachers are more comfortable in its use – just like with the outdoors they can do it with more frequency, with more flair and most vital – with more impact.

Through the environmental education I explore I see value in bringing your own device but just as its use within the school – the use outdoors would be similar in that there is a time and place for it. It is used to enhance experience and create connections – not distract.

An iPhone, iPad or smartphone can be an excellent tool. To prove this, I spent my lunch hour on Friday in a small permaculture garden at one of the Centres. I did not move much yet as you can see, using my Blackberry’s camera I took what I think are some pretty great photos.

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I put a number of these on Twitter and others began commenting and I was quite happy to be sharing my outdoor experience with others.

So, I think bringing my phone with me allowed me to focus on specifics. Very much like a pair of binoculars I could zoom in and witness things I may have missed otherwise. However the phone allowed me to go a step further in allowing me to share and discuss what I saw in my reflective spot which made my connection with nature into a connection with others.

There is one more photo I’d like to share with you though and this is the last one I took after my lunch was finished and I was walking back to my room.

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This is a photo of the gardens I was sitting in. I just shared some of the best photos I took above. I saw much more including hummingbirds, Tiger Swallowtail butterflies and some outstanding flowers and more while I sat. It was truly a sensory oasis.

Just like those binoculars I mentioned before, BYOD can be an excellent tool for allowing you to zoom in and focus on what you may not have before – but just like the binoculars, it can also very easily limit your peripheral view and the greater picture is just as important.


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  1. Agree 100%, it annoys me that people think if you are promoting outdoor learning you are anti ICT.

    • Indeed Kierna, Luckily I’m finding more & more folk are seeing the intrinsic value though! Especially with lead up, follow up or to continue the lesson.

  2. Debbie Axiak permalink

    Your post and pics are a great model to use with students and storytelling! Start with the wide-shot to set the scene and then zoom in on the details. Love it! Thanks for sharing and giving me a great idea that will incorporate our outdoor nearscapes, tech, LA and science.

  3. Glad it inspired Debbie – it’s why we blog! Let me know if I can be of any assistance and keep up the great work yourself.

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