This year we have been running Woodland Workshops for our Foundation children. They visit the nearby woodland for a morning session every fortnight. It’s a great opportunity to get outdoors, no matter the weather, to investigate seasonal changes and take a closer look at this environment.
There have been stacks of learning outside and I wanted to share one way in which technology enhanced outdoor learning. Yes, iPads, outside, away from school.
I’ve talked with teachers for many years about the advantages of mobile technology in the hands of our youngest learners. But taking devices outdoors still seems like a big deal, yet it is very possible and brings great benefits. We use other tools outdoors so technology, when planned for carefully, also enhances play. Furthermore, there are many jobs out there which rely on the use of mobile technology and the outdoors. Take Network Rail for example, who maintain the railway with a workflow supported by a suite of custom made apps. See the story here.
So this post is all about documenting learning outdoors using a few age appropriate apps.
Our first few visits to the woodland was themed around ‘getting to know’ the woodland and what it has an offer. Children were tasked with finding a treasure, something unusual, fascinating, marvellous that they could hold on to and treasure. They needed to describe why it was marvellous to them, but of course, return it to its home before heading back to the classroom.
In our rucksack we carried up a set of iPads and making use of PicCollage, children could photograph their different treasures and display them on their PicCollage posters. The app is very easy to use as age appropriate software for early years. Within the app children press the + button and tap ‘Photos’ which gives them to option to launch the camera and take photographs for use on their poster. They use pinch and zoom gestures to resize the photographs then tap to drag them around and position. Text and stickers can also be added, backgrounds and colour schemes can be adapted easily too.
This enhanced the discovery as the moment was captured and could be taken home, but also gave a chance for reflection later in the learning. A chance to look closely at the photographs and describe what had been found. This gave a purpose for writing (physical writing and writing on the iPad) about the photographs of treasures. It linked the outdoors with the indoors and bridged the woodland with the classroom.
A few weeks later, in our ‘What Happens When the Sun Goes Down’ project, we were learning about nocturnal animals. During our Woodland Workshop times we would take our small world nocturnal animals and create habitats for them in a real setting. Stories began to be structured and children enjoyed making up fantasy situations for their characters to engage with. So much language happens in these sessions and we love small world, but without sitting alongside each and every group, it has been impossible to capture this language. That’s the magic of Woodland Workshop too, that the adults are always hovering over asking questions. It’s a place for real independent exploration!
We packed the iPads in our backpacks for two of these story telling workshops. Children captured their stories as a photograph book on their iPad using Book Creator. Each page showed a different photograph, that the children inserted themselves, and they also made use of the voice recorder to tell the story that they had imagined. The iPad enhanced this outdoor learning as the play could be documented by the child, with an authentic book to take back to the classroom and publish like a real author.
In the classroom children shared their books over AirPlay to our smart TV and later in the classroom they could add further voice recordings to their stories.
These are just two very simple apps that have enhanced our learning outdoors as they made the play purposeful by capturing the moment and making a clear connection between the woodland and the classroom. There are plenty of ways for children to record and reflect on their learning outdoors with iPads and as children’s skills in using content creation apps develop, these opportunities allow them to apply their learning.