In our 21st century world, students need 21st century skills. And fresh air and sunshine.
Susan Wells, founder of TechTerra Education in Durham, North Carolina, has found several ways to marry tech and nature, two realms that might seem diametrically opposed.
A former classroom teacher, she taught the four Cs: critical thinking, communication, collaboration and creativity through a schoolwide 1:1 deployment of iPod touches way back in 2007. She also started a STEM innovation lab where students created apps and designed games.
With many aspects of ed tech integration mastered, she started thinking about how to impact learning by putting students into different environments and encouraging them to consider how they might “save the fragile world we live in.”
Digital storytelling, she decided, would lend itself well. And today’s mobile devices make it all the easier.
“To step outside that door and say we are going to be learners outdoors is a whole new experience,” Wells says. "Digital storytelling crosses every content area and every grade level. In math, you can look for geometric patterns or count things. For English class, you can read poetry in an outdoor space. There just isn’t a content area or grade level that doesn’t benefit from getting out into the natural world.”
The outdoors also has the power to erase the nature deficit disorder, if you will. Studies show that children who are exposed to natural or outdoor settings have reduced ADHD symptoms, report higher standardized test scores and increase their performance on critical-thinking skills. Some researchers have even found a positive correlation between nature and generosity, social interactions and kindness.
Wells recommends these four digital storytelling apps as naturals for helping students learn in the great outdoors:
WeVideo. Wells likes this app because it simplifies video editing and makes sharing content easy. Students can work individually or in groups. Shadow Puppet. This is a go-to choice for making short movies and quick projects. The editing features are light, but users can add visuals, audio and titles.
Story Creator. This free iOS app – similar to the free Android version Book Creator – allows users to easily create beautiful storybooks.
ThingLink. Also a free app, it allows you to create interactive images and videos by layering elements such as web links, sound, text, images and video clips.