Session 5: Outdoor Technology

Unfortunately, due to illness, I was unable to attend today’s session, which was based around using ICT and technology outdoors.

As a result, I went away and did my own research and explorations, using the lecture notes and discussions with my peers to help.

After looking through Helen’s notes, I was quickly able to make links to my own practice and experiences. One of the discussion points was focused on what sorts of digital media we had seen being used in the outdoor environment.

On my last placement, I was working with a cohort of 70 Nursery children who had recently had their garden and outdoor area renovated. After having planning meetings with my mentor, one of our aims was for the children to capture their memories of having the new garden installed and recording their thoughts and experiences.

I decided to start an activity where the children used the setting iPads to photograph the garden in all weathers, states and at different times during the day.

In order to make the process fair, as the iPads were in demand by many children, I operated a ‘waiting list’ where the children would come and write their name (I would then scribe by the side if necessary) – this was a simple record of who was going to have a turn during a particular session. I made the rules very simple and clear, reminding children that if they could not have a turn during that session, there would always be time over the coming days. The children soon followed this and enjoyed coming back to this list to see how many names had been crossed off.

I was not surprised when many of the children, despite being aged 3-4 years, knew immediately how to operate the touch screen system and knew how to take photographs on the iPad. For most of the other children, all that was needed was some basic modelling and instructions…from that point, the children were very much in control.

I wanted to see how the children responded to the task and I was willing to give them a lot of freedom about what they chose to take pictures of…I reminded the children of the core rules before they set out on their explorations. Rather than following the children directly, I wanted them to have some freedom and to lead their own learning, and so I took a backstep, observing from a distance, questioning and commenting where appropriate.

Having told the children to take photographs of the garden and their favourite parts, I was surprised at the individuality of their photographs. From photos of the detailed path work, to the flowers, bark, bikes, swing and play toys, there was so much variety. The photos also highlighted the children’s creativity, as they were encouraged to take photos from different angles and levels, focusing in on objects and zooming in and out.

When the children had spent around 10 minutes photographing, they came back to the ‘Camera Station’ and went off with me to print their pictures. I wanted to make sure that the children were part of this end process, as well as taking the photos. The children operated the computer, with guidance, and clicked on the relevant buttons in order to print their pictures. It was lovely to see how fascinated they were when their photos came out of the printer!

After this point, the children went back to the Camera Station and started working on adding their photos to the ‘Photo Album’ (a large, A1, card photo album containing the children’s photographs, names and scribed comments). Whilst the children were cutting and sticking, the discussion about what they had photographed was fantastic, as they children enjoyed telling me, other members of staff and their peers about what they took and why they liked certain parts of the garden.

Although a time consuming process, the end result of the photo album, after the course of one week, was great! Almost all of the children were involved in the group creation in some way. My mentor then used my work with the children as an example to show the Nursery Governors, highlighting how the setting is beginning to use ICT in the outdoor area.

This experience taught me a lot about the value of linking technology and the outdoors and how much children can gain from such experiences.

See my earlier blog post about iPads for more information on how they can be used within children’s learning.

Taking photographs is only one way in which digital media can be used outdoors (and it comes in many forms, from iPads to flipcams)…

Here are some of my findings from exploring Helen’s presentation:

I really love the idea of children creating their own iSpy books, comprising of collections of objects.

These objects could be both familiar and unfamilar to the children, creating a challenge for them, to see if they can find some of the objects! When thinking about this idea, one of the first thoughts that came to mind was how these books could be used to promote learning outdoors…in Science sessions, we have been focusing in Living Things in the environment…why not make an iSpy book, including different living things that children can hunt for outdoors, e.g. pinecones, leaves, green plants, flowers, conkers, nuts, seeds, twigs, branches, rocks, stones etc. The children could then categorise and sort the objects into living and non-living things – the discussion created from this sort of activity would be fantastic.

(Images courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

In relation to how technology fits into this, the children would play a prime role in creating these books, with them taking digital cameras outdoors, photographing living and non-living things. Children could also learn how to find images on controlled websites, downloading them into photo albums online (with adult support). Helen recommended using Haiku Deck App, or Picasa online.

As I already have Picasa downloaded onto my laptop, Chloe and I decided to create our own iSpy album for children in the early years, based around Living Things. The images we used have a Creative Commons licence and have been taken from Wikimedia Commons.

  • Firstly, we found our images
  • Then, we uploaded them to a Picasa web album.
  • Next, we used my images to copy into a word document, to create our iSpy book

After thoughts…

Whilst making my iSPy book, we realised that for younger children, directly copying and pasting their own photographs, or those from a website would be more simple than using a web album…however, getting used to uploading to a web album is something that older children, in particular, would benefit from, as it would introduce them to new skills.

Note: Internet Safety would need to be taken into consideration if the children were to be searching internet for images. Firstly, the teacher would need to select websites for the children to look through, in advance, and adult supervision would be essential. When doing my own browsing about how to help keep children safe online, I came across KnowITAll, a site which offers primary school staff advice and guidance on internet safety, with practical guides and activities.

Note: It would also be important to consider whether the children would be able to freely use images from the internet, or whether they would need to use photos with a Creative Commons (CC) licence. There are plenty of sites which are CC photos, such as Wikimedia Commons and Flickr Creative Commons. Despite this, the same internet safety precautions would need to be taken, in order to protect children fully. A way of overcoming this problem would be to provide children with a selection of CC images, for them to choose from!

Chloe and I uploaded our idea to the Resource Bank. Find it here!

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