Some of my favourite childhood memories involve the much-anticipated school trips; getting muddy in a field, breathing in fresh air and exploring interesting landscape that was just down the road.
Today children are exposed and accustom to using technology that only a few years ago was inconceivable. However, the childhood sense of adventure and getting your hands dirty is still very important when it comes to schools trips and learning outside of the classroom.
I firmly believe that technology tools should be used to enrich outdoor learning but not overpower it. It is far more beneficial for children to work together and, for example, build a sandcastle on the beach than sketch one on their iPad. It is important to strike a balance between the old and the new in order to get the best learning experience. Technology can be a huge support when it comes to field trip projects. It’s possible for students to use mobile technology devices to capture a wealth of data, whether it is sound recordings from a local nature reserve or images of an historical site as well as carrying out further research on the move.
There are so many interesting ways children can document and present the information they have taken away from the field trip. Rather than getting pupils to write a lengthy report, accounting the trip, they could post a blog entry, sharing images and other recordings, or perhaps film an animation based on their experience. Technology should be enhancing the traditional school trip. While some teachers are embracing this, many are still reluctant. Teachers may be comfortable using iPads in the classroom but a bit more apprehensive in taking them out into the great outdoors. Part of the reluctance could be down to a concern that expensive technological equipment could get damaged outside of the classroom. While this is a legitimate fear, it shouldn’t limit technology use; there are protective cases that can be purchased as well as insurance, should the worst happen!
For teachers keen to experiment with technology tools on school trips, the key is planning learning outcomes in advance. Working with the children to discuss how an iPad or a certain software programme can be used as part of a project or school trip means technology use is most likely to be effective. Forward planning will avoid technology being used for technology’s sake. Having these discussions can highlight that in some situations, a digital camera might be more appropriate than an iPad. Pupils today are very comfortable using mobile devices and various other hardware; with the right guidance, they can take ownership of using technology on a school trip which will increase their enjoyment and creative output.
While school trips have been practiced probably since formal education began and technology in classroom is no new phenomenon, the two concepts haven’t often been combined. This is changing and more and more schools are seeing the benefits of taking technology outside the classroom. As with all new concepts, I imagine the early adopting schools will pave the way and provide great best practice examples for the mainstream to follow.
James Betts, managing director of Kudlian Software