Does technology have a role in outdoor learning?

Sam Flatman

Sam Flatman is Sales & Marketing Director for Pentagon Sport. Pentagon have worked with over 5000 settings to create innovative playgrounds and learning environments for young students. Sam has been designing playgrounds for the past 10 years and has a passion for outdoor education. He believes that outdoor learning is an essential part of child development, which can be integrated into the school curriculum. Sam is currently based in Bristol with his two sons.

Follow @samflatman

Follow @PentagonSportUK

Website: Email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

We can all agree that when technology is used correctly in the classroom it can both support and enhance learning. However, when we consider outdoor learning, should we be utilising new technological innovations? Or is it vital that outdoor learning spaces continue to provide a tech-free zone for today’s digital children?

"Children being able to interact with the natural world, getting creative with photography and later being able to share their discoveries with their class are things that I think educators should be encouraging."

Edtech has come a long way since the interactive whiteboard was introduced to the classroom in 1991. New technologies are emerging all the time, from PECS programmes which are designed for non-verbal symbolic communication, to iPads and tablets which provide a wealth of educational and cross-curricular apps to support learning. Edtech has innovated our classrooms, making lessons more visually engaging and advancing the skills of today’s learners.

When I read Juliet Robinson’s excellent article on using iPads and the Photo Booth app in outdoor education, I have to admit, I thought the idea was exciting. Children being able to interact with the natural world, getting creative with photography and later being able to share their discoveries with their class and even their families at home are all things that I think educators should be encouraging. Not to mention the fact that it’s a great way to get children up and moving around outdoors!

Another great outdoor technology experience that has sparked my interest is geocaching. This trailblazing activity requires children to use GPS to track down treasure boxes. Teachers and parents alike are able to download coordinates for local geocaches from the Geocaching website. The National Trust explains and hosts geocaching events too. Not only is discovering hidden treasure an exciting prospect for children, but it also develops navigational and problem-solving skills.

Even though the benefits of outdoor edtech are apparent, the extent to which edtech is being properly utilised for learning and the degree to which it should be incorporated into schools is still up for debate. In a time when parents are contemplating digital detoxes for their children, I can’t help but question whether we really want to be bringing technology any further into our children’s outdoor world than it already is.

"Twenty years ago, who would have ever thought our children could be capturing virtual creatures in the real world through augmented-reality video games"

2008 saw the introduction of Britain’s first hi-tech playground, which uses magnetic swipe cards to set children tasks. Earlier this year, a playground which offers interactive mobile apps via QR codes was constructed. But is this technology really necessary to encourage kids to play outside? By removing the need for invention and imagination, does technology hinder the development of creativity in the playground? Or could it be argued that technology in the playground serves as a springboard for imaginative leaps?

Outdoor technological innovations are changing our children’s worlds more than any of us could ever have imagined. Twenty years ago, who would have ever thought our children could be capturing virtual creatures in the real world through augmented-reality video games like Invizimals, or learning about animal behaviour on the playground through mobile games such as Savannah?

I can’t argue that technologies like these aren’t highly engaging learning experiences that can work wonders to support children’s understanding of abstract concepts, when properly integrated into the curriculum or otherwise monitored by parents. However, research has shown that we still face challenges when using mobile technologies to augment learning, including information overload, children being too distracted by their mobile device, and designing an experience which emphasises teamwork and interaction with peers.

It is important for us to ask questions about the role of technology in outdoor learning to ensure that we reach a position where it enhances our children’s development, rather than stifles it. We want technology to compliment outside learning, but never replace it. As parents and teachers we have a responsibility to our children to find a balance which preserves natural outdoor play, but doesn’t completely shy away from edtech innovations that can help our children progress and extend their learning experience.

Where do you stand on technology in outdoor learning? Let us know in the comments.

Register for free to continue reading
Registration is a free and easy way to support us.
When you register, you'll join a grassroots community where you can:
• Enjoy unlimited access to articles
• Get recommendations tailored to your interests
• Attend virtual events with our leading contributors
Register Now

Latest stories

  • How to handle stress while teaching in a foreign country
    How to handle stress while teaching in a foreign country

    Teaching English in a foreign country is likely to be one of the most demanding experiences you'll ever have. It entails relocating to a new country, relocating to a new home, and beginning a new career, all of which are stressful in and of themselves, but now you're doing it all at once. And you'll have to converse in a strange language you may not understand.

  • Is Learning Fun for You, Teacher?
    Is Learning Fun for You, Teacher?

    Over the weekend, my family of five went to an Orlando theme park, and I decided we should really enjoy ourselves by purchasing an Unlimited Quick Queue pass. It was so worth the money! We rode every ride in the park at least twice, but one ride required us to ride down a rapidly flowing river, which quenched us with water. It was incredible that my two-year-old was laughing as well. We rode the Infinity Falls ride four times in one day—BEST DAY EVER for FAMILY FUN in the Sun! The entire experience was epic, full of energizing emotions and, most importantly, lots of smiles. What made this ride so cool was that the whole family could experience it together, the motions were on point, and the water was the icing on the cake. It had been a while since I had that type of fun, and I will never forget it.

  • Free recycling-themed resources for KS1 and KS2
    Free recycling-themed resources for KS1 and KS2

    The Action Pack is back for the start of the brand new school year, just in time for Recycle Week 2021 on 20 - 26 September, to empower pupils to make the world a better and more sustainable place. The free recycling-themed resources are designed for KS1 and KS2 and cover the topics of Art, English, PSHE, Science and Maths and have been created to easily fit into day-to-day lesson planning.

  • Inspire your pupils with Emma Raducanu
    Inspire your pupils with Emma Raducanu

    Following the exceptional performance from British breakthrough star Emma Raducanu, who captured her first Grand Slam at the US Open recently, Emmamania is already inspiring pupils aged 4 - 11 to get more involved in tennis - and LTA Youth, the flagship
    programme from The LTA, the governing body of tennis in Britain, has teachers across the country covered.

  • 5 ways to boost your school's eSafety
    5 ways to boost your school's eSafety

    eSafety is a term that constantly comes up in school communities, and with good reason. Students across the world are engaging with technology in ways that have never been seen before. This article addresses 5 beginning tips to help you boost your school’s eSafety. 

  • Tackling inequality in EdTech
    Tackling inequality in EdTech

    We have all been devastated by this pandemic that has swept the world in a matter of weeks. Schools have rapidly had to change the way they operate and be available for key workers' children. The inequalities that have long existed in communities and schools are now being amplified by the virus.

  • EdTech review & The Curriculum Lab
    EdTech review & The Curriculum Lab

    The world is catching up with a truth that we’ve championed at Learning Ladders for the last 5 years - that children’s learning outcomes are greatly improved by teachers, parents and learners working in partnership. 

  • Reducing primary to secondary transition stress
    Reducing primary to secondary transition stress

    As school leaders grapple with the near impossible mission to start bringing more students into schools from 1st June, there are hundreds of thousands of Year 6 pupils thinking anxiously about their move to secondary school.

  • Generation Z and online tutoring: natural bedfellows?
    Generation Z and online tutoring: natural bedfellows?

    The K-12 online tutoring market is booming around the world, with recent research estimating it to grow by 12% per year over the next five years, a USD $60bn increase. By breaking down geographic barriers and moving beyond the limits of local teaching expertise, online tutoring platforms are an especially valuable tool for those looking to supplement their studies in the developing world, and students globally are increasingly signing up to online tuition early on in their secondary education schooling. 

  • Employable young people or human robots?
    Employable young people or human robots?

    STEM skills have been a major focus in education for over a decade and more young people are taking science, technology, engineering, and maths subjects at university than ever before, according to statistics published by UCAS. The downside of this is that the UK is now facing a soft skills crisis and the modern world will also require children to develop strong social skills as the workplaces are transformed by technology. 

In order to make our website better for you, we use cookies!

Some firefox users may experience missing content, to fix this, click the shield in the top left and "disable tracking protection"