reconsidering my assumptions

Marble Meadows
Two students testing icy waters on a 2-week mountain leadership course

For the past ten years I have had the privileged of facilitating nature-based, experiential education. My classrooms have been the mountains, rivers, lakes and oceans in regions blissfully untouched by cellular and internet connection. I have had the joy of witnessing students find a deep sense of interconnectedness and meaning in the silence afforded by digital disconnection. I have watched campfire discussions replace emails, canoe songs replace texts, mindful moments replace instagram feeds, and the satisfaction of the successful provision of shelter, food and water replace letter grade motivation. At the end of the day, week or month, students reflect on the unexpected contentment they feel when unteathered from technology. We all talk about the the magic that happens on these trips – how the days feel timeless, how their feet grow roots into the ground, how their minds drift into the sky, and how they become fully present with each other.

I have long explained that my passion for facilitating outdoor education is fed by my desire to help students feel a sense of connection: to self, to community, and to their inherent home in the natural world. This connection I have believed surfaces most easily in the times of technological disconnection.

And yet, after a decade of relishing in the joy of outdoor experiential education, I have decided to start the path to conventional teacherhood. Fortunately, I am learning that educational methods these days are far from the conventions I have feared. As I rethink the potential for classroom education, I am also rethinking my assumption that technology hinders connection.

Prompted and guided by my participation in EDCI336: Technology Innovation in Education, as part of the PDPP Elementary Education program at UVic, I am keen to open my mind to the role of technology in classrooms. Can technology help create the sense of connection revered by my outdoor, experiential education philosophy? How can technology be used in an intentional way to connect, rather than an habitual way to disconnect? Can technology help spur the web of wondering and path of questioning I witness in students’ exploration of the natural world? When does technology enrich students discovery and when does it distract? How does technology contribute to students’ sense of meaning and sense of place in their cultural, social and natural environments?

Inspired from my first week of classes, here is the start of a fluid, predictably evolving list of my learning goals for this course:

  • practice open-mindedness to the role of technology in student experience
  • discover the potential for symbiosis between technology-based learning and nature-based learning
  • learn how to facilitate self-awareness in students of the positive and negative impacts of technology on their lives, and help students develop means of intentional, rather than habitual, use of technology
  • explore ways of applying technology to build students sense of connection to self, peers and community
  • understand the how technology can support students in self-regulated, inquiry-based learning environments
  • balance my own ability to plug-in and un-plug
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