Outdoor Education in an Age of Technology
Here at COGO, we are entirely focused on adventure and outdoor education and if we’re honest, you couldn’t describe us as technology experts.
However, with the increase of technology in today’s society, its use is undoubtedly increasing in schools and the lives of young people. There are of course both positive and negative impacts of this, so it would be extremely amiss to ignore this trend that has such a large impact on the way that children learn, that teachers teach and that parents engage with their children.
This topic of technology in education is one that has been and will continue to be widely covered on the news and one in which we are sure you have read and pondered your own thoughts on already. Therefore, we want to acknowledge this trend by exploring some of the views, impacts and purpose of education in technology and how this compares to something we are experts in; outdoor learning. On the surface, two completely different concepts, yet after delving a little deeper, we have identified some similarities in their approach to learning
Similarities between Technology and Outdoor Education
It is widely accepted that technology has the potential to make learning more enjoyable for children and has the ability to engage their attention. This theory is particularly focused around educational games used through technology that children can play on a PC or tablet. Doesn’t a similar principle exist with outdoor education? Outdoor education often involves free and unstructured play or enjoyable games that encourage problem-solving skills, self-awareness and focus. They may not even realise they are learning new skills, but they are.
Technology in education also requires strong student and teacher buy-in. In order to be effective, technology in the classroom needs teacher commitment and belief. With enough on teachers’ and schools’ plates as it is, taking time to investigate, consider and implement new technologies can become burdensome. Yet if given time, focus and faith, there’s every chance it will make a real difference to the learning and lives of some, if not all.
Another big draw of technology in education is the ability for learners to gain access anywhere and technology’s ability to open up further opportunities for learning to children and adolescents alike. Again, we cannot ignore the fact that many children have tablets or phones and are totally engrossed. However what this technology can do is to enable children to learn wherever they are, so long as they have the technology available.
We believe this is the same for outdoor education, it’s not just for residential trips, it’s for weekends, afternoons and holidays, the outdoors can be enjoyed and provide educational benefits everywhere!
The Unique Benefits of Outdoor Education
However, whilst there are similarities, there are also differences. There are of course benefits of technology that outdoor education cannot compete with and the same goes for there being benefits of outdoor education that technology simply cannot rival. Being the experts in outdoors education and always trying to promote it, we want to also explore the benefits of outdoor education that technology simply cannot bring!
Outdoor education is important for adventure and it allows children to gain the opportunity to develop their own perceptions of the world and the freedom to explore in reality, not virtual reality. It provides them with opportunities to explore new places and gain a broader understanding of the environment, their role in it and to learn to be more inquisitive. It gets them outside in the fresh air, improving their fitness, expelling some energy, putting colour in their cheeks and creating an awareness of risk and their own safety. This can be an important aspect in broadening children’s horizons, as we have previously discussed in one of our blogs on the benefits of outdoor education.
We also need to make sure that we protect our natural world now and for the future. If children spend too much time viewing the world through technology and abstract concepts, they will struggle to appreciate the natural world and the importance of protecting it. Therefore, we believe it is vitally important to balance the use of technology with time outdoors, allowing children to understand nature and how they should nurture and protect it now and through their adult lives.
Technology when overused or abused can be disruptive and damage children’s communication and interpersonal skills. It is often said that the art of conversation is dying even in adults at the moment, so who knows what it will be like for adults of the future. We’ve all experienced trying to have a conversation with someone, only to realise that they aren’t listening at all as they are fixated on their phone and laptop. However, we must recognise how important it is for to children to grow up and talk about experiences, beliefs and concepts, not just about what they saw on the Internet! A great way to ensure that they have the ability to do this, is to provide them with as many diverse experiences as possible and the great outdoors is a very rich source.
We Need to Remain a Balance
The power and ability to enhance learning through technology simply cannot be ignored. However, what should be remembered is that it should be in moderation. The positives of technology should be harnessed without compromising other successful education methods. There is value in all types of education and whilst types of education sometimes may look like polar opposites, they can come from a similar place and can have similar benefits. Equally, each method will have their own unique benefits.
At COGO we keep this in mind on our school residential trips, because we think no matter what the advantages are in outdoor education, we’re ready to recognise the benefits and advances of technology and just hope that whilst this continues to grow, the benefits of school residential trips are not forgotten!