ADVENTURE LEARNING: BRINGING REAL-WORLD ISSUES DIRECT FROM THE FIELD INTO CLASSROOMS WORLDWIDE
Many K–12 distance educators are experienced classroom teachers who have transitioned into online teaching, often without educational training speciﬁc to distance education (Archambault & Crippen, 2009b). Professional development for these teachers is important because compared to face-to-face instruction, effective online teaching requires a different set of skills and strategies (Baran, Correia, & Thompson, 2011; Bawane & Spector, 2009; Scagnoli, Buki, & Johnson, 2009). For example, an online educator needs to be able to seamlessly merge pedagogical insights and technological tools to facilitate interactions between students, content, and instructor (Anderson, 2003), while also serving as content expert and educational technologist.
This paper explores the promising concept of expedition ﬁeld experiences (EFEs), which are situated and authentic professional development experiences capable of exposing teachers to content knowledge as well as a range of online teaching skills, tools, and strategies as teachers travel and/or work alongside practicing scientists, researchers, or explorers in real-world settings. Distance educators are increasingly embracing social and experiential aspects of education (Author, 2010), and EFEs provide opportunities for educators to participate in and explore distance teaching through reﬂection and action (Baran et al., 2011). There is, however, a dearth of literature on the topic.
To examine these issues, we ﬁrst review the literature on EFEs and programs that have used EFEs. Next, we examine the specific experiences of ﬁve teachers who traveled with a team of educators, scientists, and explorers on circumpolar Arctic expeditions to deliver adventure learning (AL) programs to K–12 students at a distance. Our goal is to understand the ﬁeld experiences of these teachers when positioned in the role of distance educators.
This study is based on the GoNorth! Adventure Learning Series, a program whose central goal was to deliver an online multidisciplinary K–12 program focused on climate change, sustainability, and Arctic culture (Author, 2006; Authors 2010; Author, 2009). The program consisted of ﬁve AL projects over ﬁve consecutive years educating distance students about environmental and cultural issues while educators, explorers, and scientists traveled the Canadian, Alaskan, Russian, Fennoscandian, and Greenlandic Arctic. Each year, one teacher explorer (TE) was selected from K–12 educators across the USA to participate in the expedition for a minimum of two weeks. The goals of this EFE included providing educators with the opportunity to (1) experience the content they were teaching, (2) understand how AL programs were designed, developed, and delivered, and (3) participate in the collection, sharing, and use of authentic scientiﬁc data within a distance learning program.
Our study results highlight the personal and professional impacts this opportunity had on teachers, including their empowering, fulﬁlling, and mentally exhausting experiences while assisting in delivering distance education to students worldwide. The paper concludes with a discussion of issues to consider in the development of similar programs.