School of Education and CI&DETS, Polytechnic of Viseu (PORTUGAL)
About this paper:
Appears in: EDULEARN16 Proceedings
Publication year: 2016
Pages: 3058-3066
ISBN: 978-84-608-8860-4
ISSN: 2340-1117
doi: 10.21125/edulearn.2016.1670
Conference name: 8th International Conference on Education and New Learning Technologies
Dates: 4-6 July, 2016
Location: Barcelona, Spain
Technology has an important role in children's lives and education. Based on several projects developed with ICT, both in Early Childhood Education (3-6 years old) and Primary Education (6-10 years old), since 1997, the authors argue that research and educational practices need to "go outside", addressing ways to connect technology with outdoor education.

The experience with the projects and initiatives developed supported a conceptual framework, developed and discussed with several partners throughout the years and theoretically informed. Three main principles or axis have emerged: strengthening Children's Participation, promoting Critical Citizenship and establishing strong Connections to Pedagogy and Curriculum. In this paper, those axis will be presented and discussed in relation to the challenge posed by Outdoor Education to the way ICT in Early Childhood and Primary Education is understood, promoted and researched.

In the last two decades, different authors and studies in favour of Outdoor Education have established arguments for a more prevalent use of the outdoors in education, specially in Early Childhood and Primary Education. These arguments range from the importance of environmental learning, closely connected to the outdoors, to the particular learning that comes from being in nature, to the contributions that the outdoors can give to all areas of learning by promoting real world experiences and contributing to children's well being (Bento, 2015).

Nature and outdoor are not monolithic concepts. The interpretation of nature is itself cultural (MacQuarrie et al., 2015). The notion of risk taking, for example, greatly influences the opportunities teachers provide to the children (Bento, 2012). In the same way, the disconnection, sometimes opposition even, between Outdoor Education and ICT is a question of culture and educational thinking that can (and should) be contested. Stephenson (2002) already challenged the idea that the outdoors is the environment for active physical play, by creating a more fluid connection between indoor and outdoor through prolonged access to the outdoors and indoors simultaneously, and by providing a range of varied learning experiences in both contexts. An approach to ICT that sees it as cross curricular, promoting children's participation and multiple languages and based on multisensorial information, can find relevant relations to nature and the outdoors.

The paper is exploratory, attempting to connect theoretical and conceptual contributions from Early Childhood Pedagogy with contributions from ICT in Education. The research-based knowledge available is still scarce, mostly based on studies developed with other purposes. The paper, therefore, focus the connections and interpellations between concepts established through the theoretical framework and draws on the almost 20 years of experience with large and small scale action-research projects of ICT in schools. The more recent one is already testing the conceptual framework by supporting children in non-formal contexts to explore vineyards and the cycle of wine production with several ICT tools.

Approaching Outdoor Education as an arena where pedagogical and cultural dimensions influence decisions and practices, the paper tries to argue that the three axis are relevant in supporting a stronger connection between technology and the outdoor.
Digital Tools, Pedagogical Practices, Outdoor Education, Early Childhood Education, Primary Education, Free Software and Culture.