Note: This is part of a series of reflective posts that form part of a university course that I am taking. I hope that you will find something valuable in my reflections as well.
Nature. Technology. Balance. Or maybe more appropriately - balance? Is it possible - or even necessary - to strike a balance in schools between technology use and time spent in the natural world?
As it turns out, to take a trip down this rabbit hole requires us to return to our earliest experiences with education, to go back to preschool and kindergarten. To remember what it was to learn as a young child, using all of your senses to move through the world, eyes wide open and filled with wonder, hands reaching and touching, feet leaping and running. Early childhood educators know that children need to immerse themselves in their world in order to learn fully, none more so than those trained in the Reggio Emilia method. But does following a nature- and play-based pedagogy preclude the use of technology? Linda M. Mitchell suggests not. In her article Using Technology in Reggio-Emilia Inspired Programs (2009), Mitchell explores how technology can be used to intentionally enhance a Reggio style program; in other words, how to find that elusive unicorn, balance. Similarly, Siskind et al. (2019) explore how striking a balance between outdoor learning and technology creates positive effects for young children, providing suggestions for educators on how to achieve this.
Further down the rabbit hole, we find David Sobel's beautiful website, dedicated to all things nature-based learning. The myriad articles and blog posts, as well as a short film, all point to the benefits of nature-based education, for kids and communities. And so the pendulum swings towards favoring teaching kids about, and in, nature.
What about technology for older kids? What, if any, are it's benefits? It's downfalls? The OECD sets out to answer these questions in the working paper Impacts of technology use on children: Exploring literature on the brain, cognition and well-being (2019). Small et al (2020) also tackle the effects of technology on the brain, considering the positive and negative effects that technology can have. In the same vein, Children, wired - for better or for worse (Bavelier, Green & Dye, 2011), digs in to the complexities inherent in the digital world, focusing primarily on the fact that not all technology is created equal. While I won't say that this research decisively swings the pendulum back to technology, it definitely draws it back towards the centre.
From this initial research it seems like there are champions of both technology and nature-based learning but that balance is achievable if you are intentional about what you are trying to achieve. Perhaps this then is where we need to spend our energy - on intentionally planning our lessons to maximize the benefits of both technology and the natural world, rather than focusing on which is better than the other.
Daphne Bavelier, et al. “Children, wired: for better and for worse.” Neuron vol. 67,5 (2010): 692-701. doi:10.1016/j.neuron.2010.08.035
David Sobel (2020) davidsobelauthor.com Accessed July 14, 2021.
Demi Siskind, Dana Conlin, Linda Hestenes, Sung-Ae Kim, Amanda Barnes & Dilara Yaya-Bryson (2020) Balancing technology and outdoor learning: Implications for early childhood teacher educators, Journal of Early Childhood Teacher Education, DOI: 10.1080/10901027.2020.1859024
Gary W Small et al. “Brain health consequences of digital technology use .” Dialogues in clinical neuroscience vol. 22,2 (2020): 179-187. doi:10.31887/DCNS.2020.22.2/gsmall
Linda M. Mitchell (2007) Using Technology in Reggio Emilia-Inspired Programs, Theory Into Practice, 46:1, 32-39, DOI: 10.1080/00405840709336546
Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, editor. IMPACTS OF TECHNOLOGY USE ON CHILDREN: EXPLORING LITERATURE ON THE BRAIN, COGNITION AND WELL-BEING. 2019. OECD.org, https://www.oecd.org/officialdocuments Accessed 14 July 2021.
I'm Bryn, teacher, mom, book lover, athlete. I am passionate about living life with my family, teaching and learning something new all the time. I hope you find something that speaks to you here on my blog and would love to hear from you too!