To unplug or plug in: adopting the right mobile digital technologies to enhance environmental education

350 210 Stroud Water Research Center

Hougham, J., and S. Kerlin. 2016. Green Teacher 111:3–6.

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“Turn that thing off and go outside!” might be a common refrain regarding our pervasive mobile digital devices — but not so fast. These technologies are bringing more potential to our outdoor experiences, when used appropriately. For example, in a 2014 survey of 160 nature centers and similar organizations in Wisconsin, almost all responded that technology should (45 percent) or should sometimes (54 percent) be integrated into outdoor education programming. While this particular study was done in one state, we know that technology, and technology culture, are not bound to state or national boundaries — in this age of technology ubiquity, educators in all places have to consider how education and society are changing. These responses indicate a paradigm shift from the past when many educators and organizations may have felt that technology should be left at home and separated from outdoor education. A fear that technology would distract from outdoor experiences was widespread. But now educators are interested in including technology in ways that enhance or expand the outdoor education experience. Many are also realizing that technology has become an integral part of everyday life. In particular, children are now growing up with constant exposure, use, and interest in technology, to the extent that they are referred to as digital natives.