Connecting to nature with app and using this for outdoor education- is this ok in deep fundamental level. Does it align with core idea of taking people outdoors?
I have had discussion about this dilemma with different people working as outdoor guides in multiple times.
-Technology should be tool and how you use tools depends on person. Like using a box of matches- you can spark a fire that warms you for a long time or use it just to shed light for a moment. Game can be created just for fun on with clever and meaningful content to engage players and enforce learning some subject. For game creators, technology usually tends to spark creativity to make really good game concepts.
-Technology is a connection point for people who are familiar with tech but not with nature. You can use smart device based games as an ice-breaker activity, introduction before or between „offline“ activities. Also there are field-guide type of games that help to learn plant and animal species through gamification.
-Smart device can also be like a virtual guide that makes you move around on landscape and direct to notice details in nature. Location based questions about certain spot offer a good option to make player pay attention to surroundings.
-Technology should encourage interaction with your surroundings and other people in real life. Questions like “Snap a picture of team member who has seen most bird species in your team. Let him/her show the number in creative way” or “Count up how many different color mosses grow on boulder you are standing next to” work that way.
-Remind people only they decide what catches their focus. Users of technology should have enough awareness about the power they possess over usage time and purpose. It is up to you if you turn off mail and social networks for the time you use smartphone for educating yourself.
One thing what tech does not substitute in my opinion is the genuine emotion of sharing in real life that outdoor guides and educators as human beings give. The stories of their own experiences, the luck of noticing something in nature with your group just on that time and place.
Otherwise, use smart and stay smart!
Read more about the subject from Huffington post.