The Use of Mobile Technologies in Wisconsin Environmental Learning Centers
Schaeffer, Kelly M.
University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, College of Natural Resources
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Technology, when properly applied, has been shown to enhance student learning. Though some forms of technology are being used by educators in the Environmental Education (EE) field, there is still resistance to adopting new methods and new technologies. The belief that technology detracts from the outdoor, experiential education which EE strives to provide has kept some Environmental Learning Centers (ELCs) from embracing technological advancements. Caution when implementing these technologies is understandable as research shows that, to be effective, technology must be applied wisely. If properly integrated with in-depth discussion and experiential learning, however, technology can enhance teachers’ ability to address multiple learning styles and to put EE into broader context. Mobile technologies provide just such an opportunity, presenting the potential to address the needs of both ELCs and their audiences. Using qualitative methods, this research evaluated why and how five Wisconsin organizations are incorporating mobile technologies into their ELCs. The most commonly chosen mobile technology were iPads for their intuitive format, ease of use, flexibility, applications, and the ability to replace multiple field devices. Informants felt that while there were organizational and technological challenges associated with the use of mobile technologies, they were outweighed by the benefits to students and ELCs through programmatic enhancement and increased engagement. Informants felt that mobile technology’s presence within ELCs was inevitable and that the adoption of these devices would help their centers remain relevant and better serve their audience needs.