Worldwide, the use of digital technologies for learning, seeking information, social contact and entertainment is on the rise. In Denmark, 70% of children aged seven to twelve are active YouTube consumers (Mehlsen 2016). They also communicate heavily by exchanging text, pictures and links through social media, such as Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram.
However, this extensive use of technology coincides with a decline in outdoor experiences (Fraser et al. 2010), which has been popularised as ‘nature deficit disorder’, where technology-based communication and indoor activities replace learning and playing outside (Louv 2008). Informal learning about how the world is connected from direct experience of nature is replaced with another type of informal learning that focuses mainly on communicative skills and digital literacy. However, the divide between nature and technology is not set in stone. Technology and the use of social media could recruit children into more informal learning experiences of the natural world (e.g. Schilhab et al. 2018b; Schilhab, 2021).
Based on the research project ‘Natural Technology’, we document and analyse the kind of app technologies children and young people implement in their outdoor activities. Our aim is to systematise the current kinds of technologies children and young people use in what could be considered open education situations. We then consider the question of the extent to which informal learning using digital technology contributes to direct experiences with an improved understanding of nature.
- Formal learning
- Informal learning
This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.
Tax calculation will be finalised at checkout
Purchases are for personal use onlyLearn about institutional subscriptions
Digital ethnography is a broad field interested in how “the digital has become part of the material, sensory and social worlds we inhabit” (Pink et al. 2016, p. 7).
We have left apps out of our inventory that are more tangential to the nature and technology theme.
Although apps in this category are rare and therefore collapsed with C-apps on the website, for analytic purposes we describe them here as an autonomous category.
Bakolis, I., Hammoud, R., Smythe, M., Gibbons, J., Davidson, N., Tognin, S., & Mechelli, A. (2018). Urban mind: Using smartphone technologies to investigate the impact of nature on mental well-being in real time. Bioscience, 68(2), 134–145. https://doi.org/10.1093/biosci/bix149.
Berman, M. G., Jonides, J., & Kaplan, S. (2008). The cognitive benefits of interacting with nature. Psychological Science, 19(12), 1207–1212. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-9280.2008.02225.x.
Berman, M. G., Kross, E., Krpan, K. M., Askren, M. K., Burson, A., Deldin, P. J., et al. (2012). Interacting with nature improves cognition and affect for individuals with depression. Journal of Affective Disorders, 140(3), 300–305. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jad.2012.03.012.
Bijker, W. E., Hughes, T. P., & Pinch, T. J. (2012). The social construction of technological systems: new directions in the sociology and history of technology (Anniversary ed.). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Carlone, H. B., Haun-Frank, J., & Webb, A. (2011). Assessing equity beyond knowledge- and skills-based outcomes: A comparative ethnography of two fourth-grade reform-based science classrooms. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 48(5), 459–485. https://doi.org/10.1002/tea.20413.
Carlone, H. B., Huffling, L. D., Tomasek, T., Hegedus, T. A., Matthews, C. E., Allen, M. H., & Ash, M. C. (2015). ‘Unthinkable’ selves: Identity boundary work in a summer field ecology enrichment program for diverse youth. International Journal of Science Education, 37(10), 1524–1546. https://doi.org/10.1080/09500693.2015.1033776.
Cervinka, R., Röderer, K., & Hefler, E. (2012). Are nature lovers happy? on various indicators of well-being and connectedness with nature. Journal of Health Psychology, 17(3), 379–388. https://doi.org/10.1177/1359105311416873.
Chawla, L. (2007). Childhood experiences associated with care for the natural world: A theoretical framework for empirical results. Children Youth and Environments, 17(4), 144–170.
Christensen, P., Mikkelsen, M. R., Nielsen, T. A. S., & Harder, H. (2011). Children, mobility, and space: using GPS and mobile phone technologies in ethnographic research. Journal of Mixed Methods Research, 5(3), 227–246. https://doi.org/10.1177/1558689811406121.
Clements, D. H. (2000). ‘Concrete’ manipulatives, concrete ideas. Contemporary Issues in Early Childhood, 1(1), 45–60.
Collins, S. G., Durington, M., Favero, P., Harper, K., Kenner, A., & O’Donnell, C. (2017). Ethnographic apps/apps as ethnography. Anthropology Now, 9(1), 102–118. https://doi.org/10.1080/19428200.2017.1291054.
European Commission. (2018). Ethics in Social Science and Humanities. Retrieved from http://ec.europa.eu/research/participants/data/ref/h2020/other/hi/h2020_ethics-soc-science-humanities_en.pdf
Cox, D. T. C., Shanahan, D. F., Hudson, H. L., Plummer, K. E., Siriwardena, G. M., Fuller, R. A., et al. (2017). Doses of neighborhood nature: The benefits for mental health of living with nature. Bioscience, 67(2), 147. https://doi.org/10.1093/biosci/biw173.
Diamond, A. (2013). Executive functions. The Annual Review of Psychology, 64, 135–168. https://doi.org/10.1146/annurev-psych-113011-143750.
Dorward, L. J., Mittermeier, J. C., Sandbrook, C., & Spooner, F. (2017). Pokémon go: Benefits, costs, and lessons for the conservation movement. Conservation Letters, 10(1), 160–165. https://doi.org/10.1111/conl.12326.
Engemann, K., Pedersen, C. B., Tsirogiannis, C., Mortensen, P. B., & Svenning, J.-C. (2018). Childhood exposure to green space – a novel risk-decreasing mechanism for schizophrenia? Schizophrenia Bulletin, 44(suppl_1), S59. https://doi.org/10.1093/schbul/sby014.149.
Faber Taylor, A., & Kuo, F. E. (2009). Children with attention deficits concentrate better after walk in the park. Journal of Attention Disorders, 12(5), 402–409.
Fjørtoft, I. (2004). Landscape as playscape: The effects of natural environments on children’s play and motor development. Children Youth and Environments, 14(2), 21–44.
Frost, J. L. (2012). The changing culture of play. International Journal of Play, 1(2), 117–130.
Foster, S., Villanueva, K., Wood, L., Christian, H., & Giles-Corti, B. (2014). The impact of parents’ fear of strangers and perceptions of informal social control on children’s independent mobility. Health & Place, 26, 60–68.
Gullestad, M. (1989). The meaning of nature in contemporary Norwegian everyday life: Preliminary considerations. Folk, 31(1989), 171–181.
Hasse, C. (2016). Anthropology of learning. Cham: Springer.
Hirsh-Pasek, K., Zosh, J. M., Golinkoff, R. M., Gray, J. H., Robb, M. B., & Kaufman, J. (2015). Putting education in “educational” apps: Lessons from the science of learning. Psychological Science in the Public Interest, 16(1), 3–34.
Hjorth, L., Burgess, J., & Richardson, I. (2012). Studying the mobile: Locating the field. In L. Hjorth, J. Burgess, & I. Richardson (Eds.), Studying mobile media: Cultural technologies, mobile communication, and the iPhone (pp. 1–7). New York: Routledge.
Huertas-Delgado, F. J., Herrador-Colmenero, M., Villa-González, E., Aranda-Balboa, M. J., Cáceres, M. V., Mandic, S., & Chillón, P. (2017). Parental perceptions of barriers to active commuting to school in Spanish children and adolescents. European Journal of Public Health, 27(3), 416–421.
Hutchins, E. (2005). Material anchors for conceptual blends. Journal of Pragmatics, 37, 1555–1577.
Ihde, D. (1990). Technology and the lifeworld: From garden to earth. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press.
Janssen, I., & Rosu, A. (2015). Undeveloped green space and free-time physical activity in 11 to 13-year-old children. The International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, 12(1), 26–26. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12966-015-0187-3.
Kahn, P. H., Severson, R. L., & Ruckert, J. H. (2009). The human relation with nature and technological nature. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 18(1), 37–42. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-8721.2009.01602.x.
Kaplan, S. (1995). The restorative benefits of nature: Toward an integrative framework. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 15(3), 169–182. https://doi.org/10.1016/0272-4944(95)90001-2.
Khalid, M. S., Jurisic, O., Kristensen, H. S., & Ørngreen, R. (2014, October). Exploring the use of iPads in Danish Schools. In Proceedings of the 13th European Conference on e-Learning (ECEL 2014).
Kirsh, D. (2010). Thinking with external representations. AI & SOCIETY, 25(4), 441–454. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00146-010-0272-8.
Kogan, L., Hellyer, P., Duncan, C., & Schoenfeld-Tacher, R. (2017). A pilot investigation of the physical and psychological benefits of playing Pokemon GO for dog owners. Computers in Human Behavior, 76, 431. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chb.2017.07.043.
Lee, Y. K., Chang, C. T., Lin, Y., & Cheng, Z. H. (2014). The dark side of smartphone usage: Psychological traits, compulsive behavior and technostress. Computers in Human Behavior, 31, 373–383.
Logan, A. C., & Selhub, E. M. (2012). Vis Medicatrix naturae: Does nature “minister to the mind”? BioPsychoSocial medicine, 6(1), 11–11. https://doi.org/10.1186/1751-0759-6-11.
Louv, R. (2008). Last child in the woods: Saving our children from nature-deficit disorder. Algonquin books.
Maynard, T., & Waters, J. (2007). Learning in the outdoor environment: A missed opportunity? Early years, 27(3), 255–265.
Mehlsen, C. (2016). Teknologiens Testpiloter: 10 Ting, Der Ruster Børn Og Unge Til En Digital Fremtid.
Niebert, K., Marsch, S., & Treagust, D. F. (2012). Understanding needs embodiment: A theory-guided reanalysis of the role of metaphors and analogies in understanding science. Science Education, 96(5), 849–877.
Papadakis, S., Kalogiannakis, M., & Zaranis, N. (2017). Designing and creating an educational app rubric for preschool teachers. Education and Information Technologies, 22(6), 3147–3165.
Pink, S., Horst, H., Postill, J., Hjorth, L., Lewis, T., & Tacchi, J. (2016). Digital ethnography: Principles and practice. London: Sage.
Przybyliski, A. K., & Weinstein, N. (2013). Can you connect with me now? How the presence of mobile communication technology influences face-to-face conversation quality. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 30(3), 237–246.
Pulvermüller, F. (2005). Brain mechanism linking language and action. Nature, 6, 576–582. Retrieved from http://ling.umd.edu/~idsardi/728/Pulvermueller.pdf.
Radesky, J. S., Kistin, C. J., Zuckerman, B., Nitzberg, K., Gross, J., Kaplan-Sanoff, M., et al. (2014). Patterns of mobile device use by caregivers and children during meals in fast food restaurants. Pediatrics, 133(4), e843–e849.
Raney, M. A., Hendry, C. F., & Yee, S. A. (2019). Physical activity and social behaviors of urban children in green playgrounds. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 56. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.amepre.2018.11.004.
Ruiz-Ariza, A., Casuso, R. A., Suarez-Manzano, S., & Martínez-López, E. J. (2018). Effect of augmented reality game Pokémon GO on cognitive performance and emotional intelligence in adolescent young. Computers & Education, 116, 49–63. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.compedu.2017.09.002.
Rudy, J. W. (2008). The neurobiology of learning and memory. Sunderland: Sinauer.
Schilhab, T. (2007). Interactional expertise through the looking glass: A peek at mirror neurons. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A, 38(4), 741–747.
Schilhab, T. (2015a). Doubletalk–the biological and social acquisition of language. Biologically Inspired Cognitive Architectures, 13, 1–8.
Schilhab, T. (2015b). Re-live and learn–interlocutor-induced elicitation of phenomenal experiences in learning offline. Progress in Biophysics and Molecular Biology, 119(3), 649–660.
Schilhab, T. (2017a). Impact of iPads on break-time in primary schools—A Danish context. Oxford Review of Education, 43(3), 261–275.
Schilhab, T. (2017b). Derived embodiment in abstract language. Cham: Springer.
Schilhab, T. (2017c). Adaptive smart technology use: The need for meta-self-regulation. Frontiers in Psychology, 8, 298.
Schilhab, T., & Esbensen, G. L. (2019). Socio-cultural influences on situated cognition in nature. Frontiers in Psychology, 10, 980.
Schilhab, T. (2021). Naturoplevelser i naturfagsundervisningen. Aarhus Universitetsforlag. Pædagogisk Indblik No. 10.
Schilhab, T. S. (2018b). Neural bottom-up and top-down processes in learning and teaching. Postmodern Problems, 8(2), 228–245.
Schilhab, T. Balling, G. and Kuzmicova, A. (2018a). Decreasing materiality from print to screen reading. First Monday.
Schilhab, T., Esbensen, G. L., & Nielsen, V. J. (2020). Børn og unges brug af teknologi til naturoplevelser - Statusrapport for del 1 af forskningsprojektet Naturlig Teknik.
Schilhab, T., Petersen, A. M. K., Sørensen, L. B., & Gerlach, C. (2007). Skolen i skoven: hjerne, krop og læring i naturen. Danmarks Pædagogiske Universitetsforlag [In Danish].
Schilhab, T. S., Stevenson, M. P., & Bentsen, P. (2018b). Contrasting screen-time and green-time: A case for using smart technology and nature to optimize learning processes. Frontiers in Psychology, 9, 773.
Schultz, P. W., & Tabanico, J. (2007). Self, identity, and the natural environment: Exploring implicit connections with nature. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 37(6), 1219–1247. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1559-1816.2007.00210.x.
Skar, M., Gundersen, V., & O’Brien, L. (2016). How to engage children with nature: Why not just let them play? Children’s Geographies, 14(5), 527–540. https://doi.org/10.1080/14733285.2015.1136734.
Sood, A., & Jones, D. T. (2013). On mind wandering, attention, brain networks, and meditation. EXPLORE: The Journal of Science and Healing, 9(3), 136–141.
Stevenson, M. P., Dewhurst, R., Schilhab, T., & Bentsen, P. (2019). Cognitive restoration in children following exposure to nature: Evidence from the attention network task and mobile eye tracking. Frontiers in Psychology, 10, 42. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2019.00042.
Stordahl, G., Follo, G., & Pareliussen, I. (2015). Betwixt the wild, unknown and the safe: Play and the affordances of nature within an early childhood education and care institution in Norway. International Journal of Early Childhood Environmental Education, 3(1), 28–37.
Swami, V., Barron, D., & Furnham, A. (2018). Exposure to natural environments, and photographs of natural environments, promotes more positive body image. Body Image, 24, 82–94. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.bodyim.2017.12.006.
Taylor, A., & Kuo, F. E. (2006). Is contact with nature important for healthy child development? State of the evidence. In C. Spencer & M. Blades (Eds.), Children and their environments: Learning, using and designing spaces (pp. 124–140). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Turkle, S. (2015). Reclaiming conversation: The power of talk in a digital age. New York, NY: Penguin Random House.
Varis, P. (2016). Digital ethnography. In A. Georgakopoulou & T. Spilioti (Eds.), The Routledge handbook of language and digital communication. New York: Routledge.
Wells, N. M., & Evans, G. W. (2003). Nearby nature: A buffer of life stress among rural children. Environment and Behavior, 35(3), 311–330. https://doi.org/10.1177/0013916503035003001.
Zahl-Thanem, T., Steinsbekk, S., & Wichstrøm, L. (2018). Predictors of physical activity in middle childhood. A fixed-effects regression approach. Frontiers in public health, 6, 305.
This research was supported by a grant from Nordea-fonden to TS and the research project Natural Technology (02–2017-1293).
Editors and Affiliations
© 2021 Springer Nature Switzerland AG
About this chapter
Cite this chapter
Schilhab, T., Esbensen, G.L. (2021). Outdoor Learning with Apps in Danish Open Education. In: Marcus-Quinn, A., Hourigan, T. (eds) Handbook for Online Learning Contexts: Digital, Mobile and Open. Springer, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-67349-9_8
Publisher Name: Springer, Cham
Print ISBN: 978-3-030-67348-2
Online ISBN: 978-3-030-67349-9