How are Outdoor Educators in Minnesota Using Technological Devices to Deliver Curriculum?

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How are Outdoor Educators in Minnesota Using Technological Devices to Deliver Curriculum?

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There is a philosophical tension between outdoor education and technology (Neill, 2010). Outdoor educators often encourage students to leave their technological devices behind and experience the natural world without cell phones, iPods or any other electronics. However, these same 'devices of distraction' can also be used as electronic field guides, portable data collection devices for use in the field, and in various other ways to help deliver outdoor education curriculum. At a time when 93% of Americans under the age of 29 use mobile phones and are online every day (Lenhart, Purchell, Smith, & Zickuhr, 2010), outdoor educators will be more effective helping a plugged-in generation connect with nature if they understand what technological devices are being used by learners, and what devices are being used by other outdoor educators. This study describes how outdoor educators working at Minnesota nature centers, aquaria, zoos and parks are using technology while teaching outdoors. 105 outdoor educators in Minnesota responded to an online survey which asked questions about how they use technological devices to deliver curriculum while outside. 54% of respondents (n=57) work in either a nature center or in a K-12 school. 64% (n=67) of respondents were between the ages of 22 and 44. Respondents felt that they do not use as much technology as their colleagues, although in reporting the variety of devices they did use, this does not actually appear to be the case. The outdoor educator who is aware of what technological devices exist and how they can be used to deliver educational content will be in a better position to decide how to most effectively deliver curriculum in their outdoor classroom.


Thesis presented in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the Master of Education in Environmental Education in the College of Education and Human Service Professions, University of Minnesota Duluth, 2011. Committee names: Ken Gilbertson (Chair), Bruce Reeves. This item has been modified from the original to redact the signatures present.

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University of Minnesota, Duluth. College of Education and Human Service Professions.

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French, Bryan. (2011). How are Outdoor Educators in Minnesota Using Technological Devices to Deliver Curriculum?. Retrieved from the University Digital Conservancy,

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