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Using Technology to Enhance Environmental Education

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Todd Beasley EDET780 May 29, 2013 Dissertation Reviews Introduction Reconnecting children to nature, still a hot topic of discussion for decades can be traced as far back as the turn of century with Dr. Beal of Michigan State who wrote about nature studies and the disconnect that children are having. It is a growing problem as more land is developed and opportunity for exploration continues to decrease. A growing trend in this digital age is to reconnect students to the outdoors through the use of technological devices and gadgets as a means to enhance, engage, and increase students interest in academics and their achievement. The ultimate goal is to increase the behaviors, knowledge, attitudes, and skills of students in terms of environmental issues and to increase STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) learning. Dissertation #1 Connecting Children to Nature: Integrating Technology into Nature Programs and Incorporating Environmental Education into an Urban After-School Program Wesson, Mark (2011). Connecting Children to Nature: Integrating Technology into Nature Programs and Incorporating Environmental Education into an Urban After-School Program. Colorado State University, Fort Collins, Colorado Summary Wesson’s research involved the infusion of technology and the knowledge content participants had in terms of wildlife value orientations in order to influence nature programs. The study involved 282 residents from Wake County, North Carolina that participated in focus groups and a pilot project that allowed them to assist in natural resource research that involved the tracking of box turtles using radio telemetry. Results showed that participants had interest in nature and

nature programs that incorporated technology. Methods from the study were shown to influence the effective development of after-school programs. Review As this study is still fairly new, the implications are still unknown. However, compared to other studies, technology has been shown to increase the interest of the Millennial Generation that has exposure of technology deeply rooted within their skill set but have a growing disconnect from the outdoors and nature. However, this is the case for impoverished minority groups that have been marginalized is even worse. The implications for this study then can be used as the impetus to connect with marginalized groups to not only introduce them to nature, which the disconnect that these groups have is a growing issue, and secondly increase their introduction to new skills that will hopefully lead to a reversal in the trend of under-participation by minorities within the environmental and outdoor based nature professions. By using Wesson’s research, the design and modified examples can be a model for interesting real-world connections and research that capture the imaginations of students. Dissertation #2 Collaborative Technology for Young Children’s Outdoor Education Chipman, Leslie Eugene. (2007). Collaborative Technology for Young Children’s Outdoor Education. University of Maryland, College Park, Maryland. Summary This dissertation was a study of how mobile technology can increase immediate discussion and collaboration along with the synthesis of knowledge that is lost when discussion does not take place until a return to the classroom. Chipman addressed three factors: creating a concrete connection between digital information and the real world, supporting awareness of collaborative opportunities in an open environment, and promoting face-to-face collaboration. The study

involved kindergarten children in natural settings using Tangible Flags technology. This type of technology has been specifically designed for young children to easily use and allows access to digital information through multi-user tools. The study showed that students that use this technology collaborate more asynchronous and were more engaged. Review In the 5+ years this study was undertaken, it is still relatively new and underutilized. The implications for this; however, are huge. I really like the idea of mobile-learning. With the current generation and their attachment to technology, it seems like a win-win situation that is comparable to Wesson’s research. The other caveat here is that this type of learning is a great way to incorporate multicultural education. Collaboration is a key component with

multiculturalism and can also be a great way to infuse environmental education which when combined leads to another burgeoning field – multicultural environmental education. Dissertation #3 An Exploration of the Role of Film in Environmental Education Temple, Laura Gail. (2009). An Exploration of the Role of Film in Environmental Education. Dalhousie University, Halifax, Nova Scotia. Summary Temple examined the impact of environmentally themed film and the reactions they had on the audience. Analysis was gathered via interviews and focus groups. Results indicate first that the film’s impact if contingent upon time and context. The two strongest impacts that were found were that the viewers felt significant emotions and gained new perspectives on environmental themes. Review Call me old school and archaic, but I am a big supporter of using this type of technology as it

enhances lessons through visuals and audial processes. One of the reasons is that you have the whole world at your hands to show. It is cheaper and more convenient for teachers that are constrained by time, budgets, and other logistical issues. One of the big advantages is that for teachers that are not prone for taking kids outside, this is a big start and students can see real connections without leaving the room and it is safe – this holds especially true for urban students that don’t have this exposure. However, it should be used as an introduction and then coupled with the work of Wesson and Temple, the impacts will be greatest!

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