What role does technology have in shaping how students learn when they're outdoors? Researchers from the National Taichung University of Science and Technology in Taiwan recently studied the emotional learning that occurs when students use technology in an exploratory setting: a botanical garden.

Researchers separated seventh grade students into three groups: one with an augmented reality system on their mobile devices, another with mobile devices and a human field guide, and a control group without any mobile devices. Researchers measured levels of emotional satisfaction, comprehension, and the desire to study under these learning conditions. Students were surveyed before and after moving through the garden to gauge their emotional and intellectual engagement with the tour.

The study revealed that students without mobile devices were not as emotionally connected to the environment, nor were they as empowered in learning the content as the group that was given technology and a field guide. Students who experienced the environment via a traditional learning model with only their notebooks showed the least amount of enthusiasm, while students with technology and the field guide reported the most engagement with the tour. These students had the highest confidence in what they had learned and showed the most motivation to continue regular coursework in biology.

This study is important because it finds that students learn most effectively in outdoor settings with a combination of instructor guidance and personal exploration with technology. And because it indicates that students are still receptive to traditional models of teaching, it supports environments where students build confidence by exploring on their own but can still rely on a teacher to deconstruct and verify their findings.

Huang, T-C., Chen, C-C., & Chou, Y-W., (2016). Animating eco education: To See, feel, and discover in an augmented reality-based experiential learning environment. Computers & Education 96, 72–82.

Image: Nature vs Technology by Anna Tomás Santamaría via Flickr