WEBINAR on DIGITAL TECHNOLOGY and OUTDOOR EDUCATION - September 2021 Full Version
Let me introduce to you our main speakers. So, we have three speakers and a bonus speaker. Start off with Imre van Kraalingen, who is doing her PhD on the role and impact of mobile technology and technological mediation in higher education in Norway Imre is based in Oslo. Jack Reed's PhD is on the influences of networked spaces on experiences of residential outdoor education at the Outward Bound Trust in the UK Jack is based in Edinburgh. And Dave Hills is based at the University of Sunshine Coast in Australia.
His PhD is on optimising the management of digital technology in outdoor education. I am super excited by having these three PhD students here, precisely, not only because they are lovely people and smart people, and have a lot to offer. But I always think that it is the PhD students out there who are most on top of the literature. They are the ones most immersed in it, day after day, week after week, year after year. Hopefully not too many years.
So, it's wonderful to be able to bring up this really current knowledge of the field. We've also asked Brendon Munge from Australia to join us as what I would call an 'offsider'. So he's going to join us in the plenary. Brendon has a lot of experience with working with outdoor technology at the tertiary level especially.
We have asked him a long to challenge some of the points being made by the presenters and maybe act as a sort of... we want him along with some of you others, to feel like you can be critical. You don't have to believe everything that is being presented to you. and we want to be asking the difficult questions of sure, but how would that work in the real-world practice? Brendon will take on an additional role there. Right, just a couple of more bits of introduction and then we will be off to the races. Our working definition today for digital technologies is: 'electronic tools, systems and devices that can record, store, process and present information.'
Electronic tools, systems and devices that can record, store, process and present information. We mean this to include all parts of the experience: before, going into the field, during and after the experience. It could be on expeditions, residential experiences, local learning outside the classroom, and so on... I'll also say that there has always been technology in outdoor education. And, Bob Henderson, years ago, said to me: 'Oh, there always has been technology in outdoor education, just look at the canoe. Its design was so good that it hasn't changed in a thousand years.' With the advent of digital technology, however, and the rapid rise and ubiquity of digital technology in our outdoor education practices, seemed to have raised all kinds of questions, dillema's, conflicts, and so on, that occur here at the intersection between mobile technology use and working with people outdoors.
And it is the believe of the people who are presenting today and the organising group of this webinar, that there is a disproportionately low amount of rigorous research that has been done on these kinds of practices. So that is the rational for this webinar, that's why we're here. We are here to generate some discussion around this intersection of outdoor learning and digital technology. We want to hear from you as well. I think I've said all that I should. It's eleven minutes past the hour, and let's get started.
Any burning questions before we continue? I can't see everybody's hands, but maybe put it in the chat if you think: 'hang on, I have a burning question, you can't begin yet.' Right, you've had your opportunity to ask a burning question. Okay! Let's kick this off! So jazzed that you're all here. We've got 68 people joining us live. This is our first statement that the three panellists are going to respond to. The use of digital technology in outdoor education is fundamentally contrary to all its key value.
Hmm... Okay. Jack, you're on! Alright. Thank you very much, Simon. Good morning, good afternoon, good evening everybody. Nice to see lots of familiar names and also some new names. Hi from Edinburgh! I should probably get started here, by asking: what are the key values in British outdoor education? That's the context I'm in here.
I don't intend to spend too much time on this, but the values which underpin British outdoor and specifically adventurous education can at least be traced back to the romantic period. But I think can also be traced back to the post Second World War area. And concentrates on adventure as a kind of medium for personal development and also personal growth. This is something that a colleague and I recently discussed in a small scale paper on fear in outdoor learning. But I think there's also value placed on accessing natural places which disconnect us from what are faced-paced, and I think also technological lives. And we see this emphasized in writings such as Brian Wattchow's for instance ‘pedagogy of production’ and Payne and Wattchow's ‘slow pedagogy for post-traditional outdoor education’.
So, I think these five minutes are going to focus on this disconnection, and in some ways kind of focus on experiential purity. Yeah, I think in the next sort of 5 minutes or so. When thinking about the kind of removal of phones and subsequently social media in in formal outdoor education at least, I think we could run into a problem when we think about just how connected young people are in contemporary society. So, we know that young people, or at least the kind of generation Zs and generation Alphas of global North societies, so that's those born from late the 1990s through to the present day or so, know nothing different than a world that is both technologically sustained and critically also technologically reliant. I think, whether it be Snapchat and TikTok or text messaging or WhatsApp, the young people who take part in outdoor education, are kind of part of a networked environment which facilitates and sustains aspects of young people's lives, particularly aspects such as community, friendship and also, critically, identity.
And of course we also see relationship and community development as core program outcomes in outdoor education. So, it's the position of networked spaces that they naturally become an integral part of learning outdoors. So, whilst young people might not necessarily be on their phones during formal activities, such as caving or maybe rock climbing, they will undoubtedly be parts of these networked back channels - before and after these formal learning experiences.
And I think crucially here, network spaces also offer opportunity for outdoor learning to continue long after the initial experience. So things such as sharing images, new friends, maybe even social media posts themselves can kind of provide a living archive which will be revisited by young people for years to come after their initial experience. This kind of creates a new arena I think in outdoor education for young people to make sense of these forms of experience.
So me being onto my third and final point from a networked and connectivity perspective, which, of course, naturally includes mobile technology and social media, I, personally, I'm unconvinced that these forms of mobile technology are fundamentally contrary for outdoor education, and I believe that leveraging these spaces can potentially at least further the impact of meaningful and long-lived outcomes when taking learning beyond the classroom. So, in light of that, I think I would like to at least conclude with my own positionality statement, and that is that network spaces and connectivity play a critical role in and beyond outdoor education. So, as practitioners, we of course have a choice about whether we include technology in practice or not, but it's absolutely important that we recognize that all of our participants will arrive, take part, and leave these outdoor learning contexts as part of numerous online networks, which of course facilitates interpersonal connection, friendship, and critically, I think memories. So, with that in mind, I'd like to pass back to Simon, who I think will pass on to Imre. Thank you very much. Thanks, Jack. Right on time. Let's see.
There we go over to Imre. Thank you, and thank you Jack for kicking this off. As you can see on the slide, I'll be giving a perspective from the Norwegian context and I also would like to start with sharing some of the key values from the Norwegian context, as internationally there is no clear statement of what exactly the key values are in outdoor education. So, similar to the context of the UK, outdoor education in Norway has its roots in a tradition, the Norwegian tradition of outdoor life, which is called ‘friluftsliv’ in Norwegian, and this also dates back to the romantic period and the back-to-nature movement where the friluftsliv tradition aimed to offer a break from the distresses from everyday urban life and to help reconnect the urban population to nature. So, these ideals continued to develop from exploring kind of what at that time was still considered ‘wild nature’ or ‘free nature’ and also relying on one's own personal skills to manage oneself in the outdoors with limited equipment and simple means. And until today, the traditional friluftsliv is still intertwined with also this idea that spending time out in nature is good for people's overall wellbeing. So physical,
mental and emotional wellbeing, and that holds a very strong position in Norway's public policy, but also in the educational policy. So, for a long time, outdoor education in Norway has kind of reflected these original values of skill development and also personal development and the direct experience of nature. And I added an extra key value here that I think is important, which is the environmental awareness, which, as I understand it, developed a little bit later on, when the Norwegian eco-philosophical traditions emerged that argued that experience of nature helps us develop a connection to nature and raise environmental awareness. So, these are the key values in the Norwegian tradition of outdoor life and outdoor education in Norway. However, if we look at the practice today, we see more and more use of advanced equipment, and people recording and sharing their outdoor pursuits with various digital and mobile technologies.
And, increasingly, we see also that these technologies are used in the planning and the enactment of outdoor education curricula. So, as I understand it, these key values, when we look at them from a perspective of using digital technologies, it really depends on our approach whether we say that these technologies either hinder or can support the key values of outdoor education. For example, if we look at the first two, the skill development and social and personal development, one can say that from the traditional approach, managing oneself in the outdoors with simple means and limited equipment, the use of digital technologies would not fit in in that picture of developing the basic skills. However, if we look from a pedagogical approach, there's a clear example of using, for example, ‘how to’ videos that are very popular nowadays that can help and support independent learning. For example, when students or participants are preparing for a trip. And the same with social and personal development, we can look at the use of video or photographic journals, in terms of reflecting on an experience and having a creative tool to process a learning experience, which is kind of the modern or digital approach to a field diary.
However, when we look at the third point, I think this is perhaps the most challenging value. The development of a connection to nature and the direct experience of nature. Because when we use digital technologies in the outdoors, we have a relation that shifts from a human-nature connection to a human-technology-nature interface, where technology becomes a mediator of human experience. And we can for example think about how we read online maps or GPS, rather than learning to read the features of the landscape by using a map and by learning to recognize certain aspects of the landscape. So, I too would like to share my personal statement, which is that I think that it's unrealistic to state that we can or must avoid using digital technology in outdoor educational practices, but I think instead we should focus on learning about and gaining a deeper understanding of the impact of digital means, how we can use their potential and how we can mitigate the disadvantages, and that we should continuously reflect on this, rather than avoiding to talk about it or denying that digital technologies in any way influence the field. And we need to learn about it and understand it, so that we can make better informed decisions about when, where, how to use it, or not use it for that matter.
I think that was it for now, so I'll hand the word to Simon, and I think he will pass it on to Dave. Thanks, Imre. Over to you, Dave Hills. Thanks, Simon. Thanks for everyone for coming. It’s great to see you, a great representation of countries in the chat. It is fantastic to
be here and I really enjoyed working with Jack and Imre for the past few months, and thanks very much for hosting, Simon. At this stage, I just want to recognize the contribution of my supervisor, Glyn Thomas as well in my work. I know he's also in the feed and he's currently camped out in the field, so it's a good effort that he could dial in. So, my response to this question. ‘The use of digital technology is fundamentally contrary to its values’. The way my research would contribute to this, and I've been doing my PhD now for the last four, four and a half years, and I've just finished writing up my data. I surveyed over 150 outdoor educators from over 20 countries, and completed in-depth interviews with over 30 participants in over 8 countries.
And, my research is suggesting three things that really would possibly mediate how an outdoor educator would respond to that statement, or what mediates responses to that statement. I represented them on my slide, they’re the pedagogical considerations, the five points on the left, the application of outdoor education. And really I found that its people's response to the statement below, which tends to invoke people's response to that statement and their opinion on technology. So, I found that the optimal management of technology in outdoor education, whether that's including it or excluding it, is really critically considering and responding effectively to those five pedagogical considerations. So, thinking about the facilitators, the students, and the learning outcomes, whether they're formalized or not, whether they’re agreed or not, but really making that management of technology bespoke to those three top things I found, or my research has suggested, is really key. Those two key things at the bottom and the application of outdoor education and the organizational values, to link into Jack and Imre's slides, in Australia, outdoor education in Australia articulates three applications of outdoor education on the website: a standard in subject approach or camp and a teaching methodology.
And my research has shown that really that tends to vary the management of technology. If you're applying outdoor education in the context of like any other subject, then often technology has been just as relevant, whereas if you were perhaps applying outdoor education in its purest form as a methodology or pedagogy, then my research has shown that at times it's less relevant. The other thing I found in collecting my data, is that each organization has their own values and every educator has their own values of what our education is.
And sometimes it's that conflict of values which just causes that conflict between the inclusion and exclusion of technology. So, I found it fairly effective to simply ask people the question at the bottom, that to what extent is your application of outdoor education, in your session, a break from the norm of education? For some outdoor educators that I've spoken to, it's not, it's another field of education that's led into the rest of the curriculum, and technology is normal, and it's laid in like everything else. For others, their delivery education has something different. You know, a complete break from the norm, a disconnection, and for them that statement is correct, the use of technology in outdoor education is fundamentally contrary to its values.
So, I think that I'd like to point out that I'm not advocating for or against technology in outdoor education. I think I'm just advocating frameworks for outdoor educators to make evidence-based, critical decisions about how it's managed, and if you would like to read a bit more about that, me and Glyn published a framework upon this work about a year ago, and I'll put the link in the chat if people would like to read more about this construct. Thanks, Simon. Thank you, Dave, and thanks all three of you for getting us off to a great start.
There are a couple of comments / questions in the chat already, from Glyn and Jim. And I’m hoping that also Brendon might have something up his sleeve. Right, why don't you kick things off Brendon? By the way, we don't know where this is going. We don't know what Brendon's got in store for us. No really, really. I think, fantastic so far, and I'm really just, I'm looking at the group of people that we've got here and I think there's so much to offer, and picking up on some of those threads there, I guess I'm interested in that filtered and unfiltered aspect of technology. What does that technology that we bring into what is often an unfiltered experience in the outdoors, so sort of ready for a new challenge and a new environment, and then we bring a filtering impact of technology into that space, and that changes the view or the engagement and those sort of things from that.
And then also the preconceptions that we have by making a choice to bring in, intentionally or unintentionally, that technology, and the implications for someone that is set, or prepared to, engage in the outdoors and the environment, and the weather, and all those things. And yet, all of a sudden we bring in a filtering aspect of technology that is existed elsewhere. That notion that Jack brought up around the around the networking also creates possibly some dilemmas about those that are inside and those that are outside those networks, and whether outdoor education, and Glyn has made some comments there about the notion of challenging some of the global truths about outdoor education, whether by bringing in technology without the critical thought pattern of it, that we do create another set of standards where there's some that are inside the basket and some that are outside the basket.
Well, I think there's so much there to talk about, but I'll let some others, and maybe from directed to respond to that from the chat as well. I am muted. One, just picking up on some of the comments in the thread seem to be that, like from TA, Pat, Glyn, and Jim, that at what point does technology stop and nature start? Do we need to drop this, get rid of this binary that kind of has these two, compatible or incompatible or, we don't know how compatible technology and education outdoors is. There just seems to be this huge amount of space that is really tricky terrain, and I know that some of this will be discussed directly in the second presentations by Jack, David and Imre. Would one of our three panellists like to talk a little bit about how we work with this binary or this perceived binary? I can briefly comment on that. I think, since I started on this on this project,
and I especially when I started reading more upon it, one of the things that stood out to me is that whatever was written was either quite pro-technology or quite anti-technology, and it became immediately clear to me that there were very different positions on this, and it made me think about when we structure any type of educational activity and when we draft a curriculum, or the simplest thing like a reading list, when we have a book we consider: how does this book serve the pedagogical objective of this lecture, or of this class, or of this activity? And I think, when it comes to technology, we don't think of it that simply. We don't simply ask the question, can this serve this particular activity or can this serve this particular assignment? And I think that's a much more neutral way to deal with it rather than thinking of outdoor education, kind of vaguely, these broad key values that are also very different across contexts and across nations, across institutes, across individuals, and outdoor education is now in a different context. We are today in a world where even outside the classroom, like outdoor education particularly the field is influence in other ways. The participants are influenced. We are influenced as educators. And I think these are all things we have to learn to accept and that is why I said that digital technology shouldn't just be simply labelled as ‘good’ or ‘bad’ because there's this in-between space and, in order to make these decisions of can this book or can this digital tool serve the pedagogical incentive of this activity, we need to be informed and learn more about it.
What is the impact? What role can it play? What benefits are there? What pitfalls are there? And then we can make that informed decision. Thanks, Imre. There's some comments coming up that certainly resonate with me in terms of when or when not to bring in the technology. And in terms of surely we need to privilege or hold up the educational aims of the program as the most important starting point for that.
And it made me think of Robbie Nicol, years ago, when he, I think he wrote something with, well he's written lots of things with Pete Higgins, but there's one thing that he wrote with Pete, and he asked challenged educators to be able to explain to their audiences: ‘why are you teaching this subject matter, this topic in this place with these people, right at this moment? And I wonder, if to that we need to also add: and with this particular piece of equipment, or this technology. We need to be able to justify that in relation to our educational aims. So yeah, and Pat talks about being a tech fluid, so we need to be just really careful and deliberate about the time and the place and so on. I cut somebody off. Sorry Simon, can I just pick up on a question from Ian, Simon? Yeah, go for it.
Yeah. So, a great question in the chat from Ian Neville. Just asking and about, surely it just comes down to the objectives and learning outcomes of the program, and perhaps flexibility is the key. It's a really great question, Ian. And that's one of the questions that I really probed with my interview participants. And what I found was that a large proportion of our sector which who perhaps don't have formalized and agreed learning outcomes for good reason, you know, so they can have the flexibility to respond to the environment, their signature pedagogy, and the conditions and the group, in fact. And what I found is that a lot of arguments amongst practitioners are, they just have a different idea of what they're trying to achieve that day, you know.
For some it is about disconnection, for some it isn't. And what I've found successful is just sitting down with teams of educators from centers and really just unpacking what the formalized and unformalized and agreed and non a-reed parts are, and communicating that to students. But you're absolutely right in your question, flexibility is the key, and I've spoken to practitioners who start off using no technology at all, and then effectively lower into the session and it serves as a pedagogical hook for some students and vice versa as well. So, it's a great point. Thanks. So here I think we're in danger of being able to almost end the conversation with, ‘well, it depends.’
End of webinar. So what do we do with this? How do we get to a point where we're able to make judgments regarding it depends. That's a question to… and I know Dave, you in particular have done some work on this step by step. Yeah, so the the link I just shared in the chat does exactly that. I tried to give a framework for people to answer that question ‘it depends’. And what does it depend upon? Well, it depends upon our five key pedagogical considerations, and we're working towards a series of questions or prompts which you can answer, and at the end of those prompts, it will tell you about the optimal management, so we're hoping to publish a final version of that next year. ‘cause otherwise, you actually can come back to that statement of it depends on it at every stage, so we're hoping that as that framework is refined and published and tested next year, it helps to answer that, because we know that that it-depends question is the strength of our sector, because it's all about flexibility in responding to changing conditions, changing groups, changing plans in the dynamic environment that we will teach in.
Certainly, something that I've been working on a little bit is kind of asking three questions that are kind of stolen from risk management. Kind of basic risk management strategies, and the three questions for me are, as I kind of wade through all of this, are: What are the affordances of the mobile technological device? What are the pitfalls of using this device? And then, to what degree do the affordances outweigh the pitfalls? So, do we still want to go ahead with using this? Wow, there are just so many… I'm almost overwhelmed. There's so many excellent, excellent comments, that I feel like… If you're not in the chat, I really encourage you to read the chat, because we may not be able to directly respond to everything that's in there, but I really encourage everyone to see what's being written there. There was a question, I'm just kind of scrolling, there's a question from Sarah Burton. I wonder if this might go to with you Imre.
Imre’s paper, which will be out in a few days, I would have thought, Imre did a systematized review of all of the literature out there, which is just so helpful for us, I think, in terms of getting an idea of the literature, the landscape, what's been published in the peer-reviewed world, and there's a question from Sarah Burton about the anti-digital tech papers, were the anti-digital tech papers aware of the tech, of all materials used to enable them to be there? And so, this idea of being more conscious of this technology has helped break the nature-tech divide, I think. Can you maybe comment a little bit on what you saw, 'cause you said there didn't seem to be much in between these papers. No, well, first and foremost the systematized review I did, the articles I selected for the review were articles that did use digital technology, or mobile technology specifically, in outdoor learning programs.
But, of course, I've come across, especially more theoretica, articles on not using digital technology or mobile technology in the outdoors. And, I mean the most prevalent argument is that it mediates and impacts our direct experience of nature. And I'm not sure, I mean, I can't judge to what extent people are aware of the extent to which it's used.
I think I also don't want to give away too much of what is to come in the second discussion, but one of the things that's important to keep in mind is: which phase of outdoor education are we talking about? Outdoor education is not just being on the trip, like outdoor education is the complete package: preparing for the trip, going on the trip, like getting to the location, being on the location, being in the outdoors, and then post-trip reflection or evaluation, or whatever comes afterwards. And, as I've spoken off the record, so not part of the of the field work yet, to some people, there's quite some people that say, like, 'oh, you know I've used this or this.’ Or, ‘I use this in this way’, but there's also people that say 1I or we don't use any technology’.
And I think honestly that that there's people out there that are not yet aware of the different ways of how unconscious just the simple use of a mobile phone is. How automatically it already goes and how much it's already a part of our habits. That when we're on the trip and we check the weather forecast, or we just communicate with one of the students that has gotten lost, that all of that is already part of the outdoor education experience. Thanks, Imre.
Greg, just wondering about… well if we all, if we have to be… I'm sort of paraphrasing your question, if I may, if educators need to be in a position where they are constantly weighing up affordances and pitfalls of using tech, and I mean arguably, educators are doing this as weighing up affordances and pitfalls during all aspects of their work, all the time. So, what, from a practitioner sense, and maybe Brendon you could jump in here, what are the problems with this? In practice we say, OK, that's great. Yeah, well it depends on what our learning outcomes are and we just want to cater this to our students, and the landscape and so on… Where does that fall down in practice? Well, I guess from my experience working with university students, it's some of those preconceptions of what I expect them to be learning or taking from this, I get imbued with this idea, that yeah it’s great I've got this new piece of technology, and now I’ve got to learn these things… Jakob got something to say as well… I think it's about not having those earlier discussions with yourself about what's going to be its role and you’re becoming imbued with the benefits of it, and you forget something, and don't see the blind siding of the taking away from an experience that might have existed without that piece of technology being there.
And some students I found coming away with a sense of, well, I missed something here because we got caught up in this news of technology or an app, and I've had those things elsewhere, I was coming here for a different experience. From other experiences it's also been this amazing propagation, you know, university students don't always do all of their work prior, but all of a sudden I've got this resource here that I can enable them to go: you know what right in this moment, just in time learning enables us to actually upskill ourselves right here and now, and that's been a really benefit, specially on longer expeditions, you know, we can. We can leverage that. We're no longer carrying around 20 field guides. We've now got it all in one place
and they can, you know, leverage to learn and extend their learning, but I think it comes back to that filter in a non-filtering, for me sometimes not being sure of the filter that it applies to what that experience is going to be. But yeah, there's lots of other, Bob and others, probably got lots of ideas, and Jakob had an idea there that he was about to share. There's a point, I think we'll just respond to one more point. And then we'll keep going,
'cause I suspect that some of these comments and questions will be addressed in round two. And that is what Ulrich said 'hey well, what's the difference between using kind of an older school equipment mapping compass versus the smartphone?’ I mean, that kind of gets back to my original point about Bob's thousand year old canoe. So, surely, maybe we're not as far away from each other as we think. Maybe this whole idea, maybe this is really just a continuing debate about the right equipment to be matched with the right educational tool.
Does anyone on the panel wanted to jump in, to just comment on my comment? Yeah, I can jump in on that. Imre do you wanna go? OK yeah. No, I think that this is a really interesting point, isn't it? But I think what already we are discussing here is that if I've got a map and compass in my hand that map and compass serves one purpose. However, if I've got my mobile phone in my hand, all of a sudden I have access to a whole lots of different apps, tools, Facebook, Instagram, so on and so forth.
And so this little device. I think kind of offers this kind of level of connection that hasn't been possible before. Now, I'm not saying that that's a good or bad thing, however, what it does mean, I think at least, and this might be a little bit provocative, is that this little device has kind of collapsed the binary around whether we are using technology or whether we are in nature. To me I think this binary doesn't necessarily exist anymore, especially when we think about the young people that are coming along to our residential outdoor education here in the UK, especially post COVID, I'll discuss this a little bit in my next 5 minutes, is that young people have never been so connected. And so, this binary, this kind of for or against argument, or as Cuthbertson et al. in 2004 said that kind of ‘double-edged sword’, I'm unconvinced that that argument stands up anymore.
And like I say that's reasonably well purposely provocative, but I do think that this little device here absolutely changes kind of the nature of experience. Whether that be a, like I say, a map or compass or a phone. I think that this really is a significant kind of game changer.
So yeah, I'm not sure if that’s a response, but anyway, there we are. If I may briefly complement to that. Jack, I'm happy you were saying largely what I was going to say as well, but added to this whole distraction aspect of how easy it is to open an application and be like, ‘oh, I got a message, oh I’ll answers this, oh, an email’ and then you kind of the cycle keeps on going. I think another aspect is how, especially through social media, our adventure pursuits become a part of this digital narrative, and a digital identity, for which it is used as well. And that's perhaps a conversation that's slightly outside the educational setting, but it is an important aspect that I think especially in mobile phones and their applications bring to outdoor experiences. Thanks everybody. Alright, can I just say I'm loving this?
It's just wonderful. I'm loving all the input from the presenters, and this chat is so rich. Heidi bringing up there the whole notion around access, like we're making assumptions here that everybody has access to the mobile technology. Sorry, at the end, so, do people have access to the equipment? Do they have 4G? Can they afford, I guess what I'm saying, to have this equipment? Good.
Sorry, Simon, can I just pick up on the access point? So, I spoke to, there is in America an education group is using a new technology for people with disabilities to access the environment, and it’s amazing what they're achieving. They're using excess skeletons for people that otherwise can't walk very far, can now walk into remote environments and access the outdoors like never before. And it's just… but from their perspective that technology has been a game changer with what they can operate. Fantastic, OK, we’ll keep the chat going on the side, and let's see. It's time for, take a deep breath, We're going to move on to part two.
So now we're going to hear from our three presenters again, 5 minutes each, and then we'll have discussion time afterwards. Right. Oh, that was that was the slide I should have used for plenary one. Well, have a good look at it. It's a picture of Dave with some stuff outdoors. So, now this is the discussion for part two here. So, if we can accept, so that is an if,
if we can accept that digital technology is embedded in outdoor education, what do we know about its potential and what are key areas to explore more deeply? And I think that's just to kind of bring people back to the rationale behind this webinar, is we're suggesting that there's, I mean, just as we're seeing in the chat here, there's a huge amount of experience, critical thinking and so on, in the world of outdoor education and using digital technology. But there is still a pretty limited, that literature is limited in terms of what's been done empirically, and has been published in reliable outlets. So, let's kick things off. Part two.
Dave. Fantastic, thanks Simon. And a great comment there from Greg in the chat, it's just led nicely into my slide. He was asking about when we’re going to talk about VR and AR, and that's exactly what I'm going to talk about now. I'm also going to pick up on affordance theory that we've been speaking about, and again, highlight some of the literature which is coming out, to read a bit more about this topic. So, basically I haven't come across it, affordance theory or technological affordance theory that we've been mentioning, there’s some fantastic research coming out which articulates this balance or imbalance with technology in society.
Basically, affordance theory is all about the bands between technological determinism on the one hand, and social constructivism on the other, and we see this throughout the discussion that we've had today. We see it politically, we see it socially and it's only going to play out more, I think, in the coming years. So, my research has identified five affordances of technology in the outdoor education, all of which have an equal and opposing side to including and excluding tech, and they are: safety, learning and engagement, place, environmental connection, and teamwork and collaboration. And from what I've seen from interviewing 30 people and 150 survey responses from those twelve different countries is that every time you include or exclude technology, you always gain something, but then you always lose it as well. So, in some ways technology we know makes our operations safer, but they also make them less safe as well.
We know that they engage people and turn the task, but they also distract them at the same time. So, affordance theory really prompts us to look critically at both sides of the affordance in making that decision, and trying to think, ‘OK, if I remove everybody's phones, remove everyone’s iPads, or if I give them a digital device, what am I going to gain and what am I going to lose?’ So, what I found in my data is regardless of your position on technology and outdoor education, you're always going to gain something and you lose something. And that's quite a nice balanced way to look at it. To answer the second part of the question on the slide, where to next and what do we need to explore more deeply? As Greg mentioned, we can't have this discussion without talking about Apple Glass. We know Apple are really good at disrupting sectors, and I believe that it's coming next year and actually going to disrupt a lot of our world for the better and the worse. Apple glass, the augmented reality version of what they're bringing out, is tipped to replace computers and phones. Screen companies are going out of business with these
revelations, and they think that's all you'll need in the outdoors, which clearly has a huge issue for our sector in terms of disconnecting people, or in terms of getting people to unplug and unfiltered experience to nature. But looking at it from an affordance theory standpoint, it might create a greater need to disconnect and take off those glasses and engage in the outdoors. And outdoor education might become one of those one true places where you can completely switch off and take that filter off, but I think as a as a profession we really need to be proactive, and not reactive to Apple’. next
big disruption. Use it to our advantage, take all the opportunities it gives us and manage it effectively before students start turning up on our sessions with these devices. So, I'm hoping to address a lot of these things in the future, and really continue this work. I wanted to highlight a book chapter that I've got coming out next year.
I'll put the link in the thread. It's a chapter in Glynn, Janet and Heather's book, and hopefully, if you want to read more about affordance theory and these topics, please check it out. Thanks, Simon. Thank you, Dave. OK. Over to you Imre. Thank you. Well, some of the points that I want to discuss have already briefly come up, which I hope I can just elaborate a little bit more on, and I’ll also build a little bit more on Dave’s affordance theory.
So, my focus, as mentioned earlier, is on mobile technology specifically, and I think this topic has become especially interesting and even more relevant than it was before, during the pandemic where digital mobile technologies have facilitated the concept of learning anytime, anywhere, perhaps more than ever before. And so, when we look at the potential of mobile technology, I think there's two obvious main characteristics which are mobility and portability. Together they refer, of course to that users can communicate at anytime, anywhere and with anyone, and the fact that they're wireless make it able for us to bring them along wherever we go and connect to any network, which of course depending on the context or on the place, I know that in Norway the 4G and 5G is expanding to almost anywhere, even further in the mountains. So, this mobility and portability have some obvious benefits for facilitating learning out-of-doors, so Dave already introduced the affordances, but some of the benefits are: the access to information, so I think what we use very often is checking the weather info, checking information about the local environment, planning transportation, perhaps on winter trips, checking avalanche warnings or having specific applications for avalanches. Of course, we can communicate with our colleagues or students or participants, or in case of emergency, and it enables us to document and share information, and these are only some of the benefits. But of course there's also pitfalls that we should consider in terms of, what already has been mentioned, issues of equity in terms of availability, costs, and access to the devices and also of course access to networks, also the use of mobile digital technologies in terms of how they can distract from a specific learning activity, and that they may hinder direct experience of nature, but also that they can increase risk in terms of providing a technology-driven sense of false safety, where participants or students may go into areas for which they don't have the actual skills to roam those areas, and if something happens, or if the technology fails, they are left on their own and have to rely on their own skills.
So, these are important considerations. Based on the systematized review I did, which hopefully will be, it is accepted, it will be hopefully online available very soon, but I frame these affordances under three considerations for employing mobile technology, which are listed here on the on the PowerPoint slide. And I think regardless of all the potential of digital technology, it's very important that we don't use digital mobile technologies uncritically, because they may indeed hinder the teaching and learning objectives, so we should minimize usage and critically reflect on if we need to use them and why we need to use them.
So, that relates to the second point, the intentionality, so that we set very clear pedagogical intentions, not just for ourselves, but also reflect on how do we convey these intentions to the participants, or to students. How do we convey these messages of why do we use this device? Or why do we use this application exactly in this moment? What are the risks that are involved and what are the benefits? And then the adaptation, based on the suggestions that I've read, some of the most important points are to use interactive, informative and creative tasks that are also based on teamwork collaboration, but that definitely don't make the device or the application to focus points, So, that the destructive kind of effect is mitigated in that way. And I think through all of that, continuously reflecting is very important, that any use, but also any non-use of digital technology requires critical examination.
And as I already mentioned in one of the comments in the discussion around that we have to consider the different stages. So, the planning, the enactment or during an activity, and the post-activity or reflection and evaluation phases. And that is something I also hope, throughout my research, to learn more about. And then finally, I think, one thing that maybe hasn't been mentioned yet is that some people that may be hesitant, or maybe feel very strongly against using technology, I think it is so important that when we adopt digital or mobile technologies in one aspect or one activity, it doesn't mean that it takes place in every aspect of our teaching or our practice, so we can make well-informed decisions of having one activity, for example, a photo-elicitation assignment, and then having an activity where we don't use technology at all, and also not to be afraid to talk with our participants or our students about these challenges. Do they notice a difference? How do they experience that? And ask them the same critical questions and the same discussion points that we discuss now together. We shouldn't be hesitant to discuss that with our students as well.
So, what's next? I think some of the key areas come to explore more deeply, I mean, I think I could come up with like 20 points, but I think we should gain a deeper insight in mapping or exploring really all the different ways in which we already use it, and to explore more practical and creative ways of using digital learning tools in ways that they can serve the objectives of outdoor education or of a specific activity. I think the more we learn about this, the more we can give actual this practical advices to each other as well. I mean, we're now three PhD students, as far as we know, working on this topic, and each of us aims to get to know more about all these challenges in our own projects. But there's really too much to explore for just the three of us, and I think one of the challenges we've discussed together is that technology advances probably much quicker than we will be able to finish our PhDs, so we're just trying to keep up here.
And I'm finally, I think one critical aspect is to better understand the mediating impact of digital technologies on the actual nature experience. So, I'm currently writing, or exploring a postphenomenological perspective on nature experience. And, yeah, I hope that that may help us better understand this final question. I think that's it for now.
Thanks so much, Imre. And now to close off the presentations, we have Jack Reed. Great. Welcome to those who have just joined us, I should also say, we've got a few new faces in here. Thanks for coming. Over to you, Jack. Great, thanks Simon. And yeah, as the chat was going on in the last plenary, I was thinking ‘my goodness this is fantastic’, 'cause a lot of this stuff that's coming up I'm hoping to discuss in these next 5 minutes.
So, what do we already know? Well, it's important to say that there is a significant amount of literature outside the outdoor education field now, that focuses on young people's uses and relationships with both networked spaces, which of course include social media, and something that I found really helpful here is the term the ‘postdigital’, and so I wouldn't mind briefly discussing this, and I did write a brief paper in Pathways just recently about this as well, if you're looking to have a plan to look at this little bit further. The postdigital recognizes that, especially in a kind of global North context, that this binary that we've already discussed between the digital and the non-digital essentially no longer exists. And we don't need to look very far to see this. Now this little device that I have here is my alarm, it's my diary, it's my camera. It also offers access to my friends,
to work, and yes, even to those pesky emails. However, as Florian Cramer and Petar Jandric recently discussed, the postdigital is a strange term. We essentially live in a society that is more and more digital. So, the kind of ‘post’ in postdigital doesn't really make a whole heap of sense. But what the postdigital represents is that the digital no longer describes any meaningful difference. The digital is the default and it is the unescapable condition. So, why does that matter for outdoor education? Well if we begin from the standpoint that we no longer have a so-called non-digital sphere, then it's reasonable to suggest at least that outdoor education is embedded and sustained in a truly digital culture.
And I think this is important really, when we're thinking about how learning is both embedded and sustained for young people in contemporary educational contexts. So, that's the postdigital, and that's the kind of collapsing binary that I mentioned at the end of the plenary there. But moving on to point two, there are clearly, I think, many areas to explore here as has already been mentioned, but one area for thought came from a really interesting book chapter written by Susan Herring in 2008, called ‘questioning the generational divide technological exoticism and adult constructions of online identity.’ Now in it, she says that when adults use words such as unprecedented or words such as transformational in relation to relationships between young people and technology, then adults inadvertently at least kind of ‘other’ the experiences of young people in this domain. And Herring explains this issue as the experience gap between young people and adults.
So, really kind of having adults talk about young people's uses of technology, it must not be at the expense of listening to learners themselves, and I think this is critical really as we move forward in outdoor education as we know there is, for now at least, limited literature which centralizes the youth voice in this space. And the second issue actually was brought up by Heidi Smith in the chat not too long aga, around the kind of sliding scale of access to technology for young people. It's estimated that over 3.8 billion people have
some form of access to social media across the world, but we cannot, and indeed should not, assume that all young people have equal access to these forms of technology. And I think we can go further here. There are other factors at play for young people who do have a smartphone who are connected. For instance, things such as intersectional issues around maybe gender, sexuality, socioeconomic backgrounds and ethnicity. And of course there are more. Yeah, we have to ask how these may begin to affect how young people use networked spaces. I think these are key areas for the field of education more broadly to consider, and absolutely key factors for both research and practice in outdoor education. And finally, point three, it's yeah, super important that we ask ‘where to next?’ Now, I don't want to bring down the mood here by mentioning that the Covid word, but I think this is really important when thinking about where next, especially in this context of technology, so during lockdowns and isolation, there is literature now emerging which recognizes how networked spaces provided a kind of critical arena for young people's interactions, but also for their learning, for their sense of togetherness, and also for their sense of belonging.
And in the UK context at least, as residential centers begun thankfully reopening, I think it's really important to recognize that connectivity for young people has been, and will likely continue to be, more important than ever. I think this is a, like I say, a critical consideration for both research and practice, especially as we hopefully, hopefully move toward a post-pandemic society. So, overtime. I'll end there. But thank you very much. Pass back to Simon. Thanks, Jack, Did you manage to squeeze the word assemblage into that? No, I haven't. I was waiting for it, I was waiting for the word assemblage. I can tell if somebody’s got a question about it. But yeah,
that was a another realm that just wasn't going fit in. Great, well let's see. I wonder if… there's a Scott in Montreal who asked a question around technology and the cost of that for schools, so I wonder if that could be, we’ll get to the questions in the chat in just a moment, but I just wanted to make sure that maybe one of the panellists could maybe say a word about that, or indeed an audience member or Brendon our offsider. We've spoken already about what Heidi and Jack were saying the cost and access for an individual, an individual student. But what does all this mean for the educational institution or the outdoor center? Is this just part of the existing equipment budget, or does this mean a whole lot of additional costs? Not just costs, but that comes with stress, right? 'Cause people have to learn how to use all this new stuff as well. So, I just thought I'd throw that one out.
Is there any one first? Imre, Jack or Brendon, or Dave who’d like to have a go at that? Or an audience member, or we can just let that slide? I can briefly comment on it. I wouldn't necessarily say that I have an answer to it. I mean, it's easy speaking for a Norwegian context where institutions generally have, there are relatively better budgets than other institutions around the world, But, I think it's definitely a consideration. I think it's very important for educators to kind of survey around the participant group and check up on what they have access to, or in possession already, before making it a part of any curriculum. But I think another consideration, what you mentioned, is the training of also the educators themselves.
I mean, we've experienced that here at the institution at NIH during the Covid situation, about everyone being able to use zoom and teach digitally, and use breakout rooms or have hybrid classrooms or blended classrooms. I mean, these are things that don't come naturally to everyone, so I think that's definitely a consideration before it becomes kind of generalized - if it ever will. I think you'll find a fair bit of stuff, especially from the geosciences and from some of the geography academics who have found that issues with BYO - bring your own devices - that those sort of things just plague many of their sort of organizational sort of activities in this area because of the extremes of, Simon with his $1200 iPhone and me with my Nokia 3310, that's a brick still.
And those are the things that it takes up actually more time than just taking them out into the field. That's pretty prevalent in that literature, and it's probably something from an outdoor education field we can learn from others that have gone before us and tried to trample that path of, you know, extensive use of technology and that there's probably some pitfalls there in that area, especially. There's some interesting, some great stuff in the chat about the role of virtual reality as an addition to what we're doing. But let's chat a little bit about, 'cause right now we we've sort of said we've got no tech or the integration of tech, and we're trying to explore this in-between space where we can use tech well. But there are voices out there, like Bob Henderson, possibly, and I’m just picking up on a little thread between there’s Bob and there was Glyn, I think, and if there were some other voices, of course, that, who couldn't join us today, I suspect there would be a perhaps a stronger chorus of voices saying ‘yeah, but there is still a place for the complete, completely no tech outdoor experience and this is something that we as outdoor educators can offer the world, a world where young people are struggling with, you know, all kinds of screen-related indoor consequences. Well, consequences of extensive screen time,
extensive indoor, perhaps sedentary time. Extensive attachments to their network, online spaces. Perhaps outdoor education programs that offer complete detachment. This is a big USP that we can offer that no one else can. I'm just wondering if some folks would like to comment on that.
Imre is a very good person 'cause she has her hand up. So Imre you start, and then if anybody else would like to join in, please just say it on the chat if you have a comment about that. Thanks go ahead Imre.
Thank you. Well, I'm happy that we start about this, with this with this question or comment. Because even though we have this webinar around digital technology and we all joined together in exploring potential and possibilities and the challenges and discuss this, which I think is it's really what we should be doing. It can give the impression that we are all pro tech and we emphasize the potential. We emphasize the benefits and yes, there are lots of benefits and there are opportunities that are largely unexplored but, like I said before, accepting it to some extent and employing it to some extent doesn't mean it will enter the field or every aspect or every activity in our outdoor education curriculum, and I think it is still important that we also that we maintain and keep on creating spaces where there is not that influence of digital technology, and I personally feel quite strongly about that, because when I go in the outdoors, even just by myself alone, I have a different experience when I have my phone on airplane mode all the way down in my backpack, just in case I ever need to use it. But really, I'm like no, the next two hours like I'm just out in the forest without any interaction with my phone.
And I think that's very different. I think, however, one consideration is that when we claim a field that's alternative and that doesn't use digital technologies in any way yet - while we do use it in some ways, but it remains unexplored and unacknowledged. I think there is an issue at the same time, when we have young people, especially the ages let's say under 16, there might be kind of this inner rebellion when everyone has to put their phone away all the time. But what about like I said, having open discussions with them, having a curriculum where there’s activities where partly there's technology and there's reflection about the use of it and the impact of it, and then part of the curriculum or the activity that's completely without, and offering them thr contrast, rather than either one of them, and entering that conversation with them. I think that might definitely be something to explore and experiment with. Thanks, Imre. Let's move over to Jack.
Great, thank you. Yeah, I find this whole conversation around disconnection really very interesting. And something that I've been thinking about just recently, off the back of some articles published in the Journal of Adolescent Research, just a couple of weeks ago, is the importance of social media and phones for young people's mental health, which kind of sounds almost polysemantic in some ways, maybe that's not the right word, but some young people, especially kind of post-Covid, and this is kind of emerging in the literature, like I previously said, are becoming increasingly reliant on these social media spaces for a sense of connection, and so if we take those social spaces away from young people, that it's natural that they're going to experience anxiety, and at worst potentially fear. And so, that's just something I'm particularly interested in, is actually thinking about mental health now, just a couple of examples from my kind of recent practice. I've heard from some some instructors that young people who go to residential outdoor learning center and a really keen to keep their Snapchat streaks going. Which is where they interact with one person on a daily basis, and they create this streak every day as they go forward.
However, this creates this sense of anxiety when removing the opportunity to keep this going, because these Snapchat streaks are a method through which young people kind of ensure that their friendship is continuing, and so taking these friendships and opportunities to connect outside of the outdoor education space, potentially create some friction for young people. And the other example can very recently, again from another person who was working with a bunch of young girls, who were taking the young girls out for an overnight, and one young girl downloaded a series of YouTube videos, so that when they were in their biffy at night, they could fill that kind of sense of connection. And again, that links potentially into these conversations around mental health, anxiety