The relationship between children, technology and nature

Technology changes our whole outlook on life; it has acquired the power to determine ideas, beliefs and myths to such an extent that all our thinking, as well as our activities, is now situated within that technological context. The word ‘nature’, which in the past described the natural world, has been displaced by ‘environment’ – which has a more technological resonance. More than that ‘Technology has been used to change so much of our surroundings that it is rarely correct to talk of the natural environment – this is observable and quantifiable’.2

One of the key themes to be explored in the classroom is the relationship between nature and technology. Nature is still key in fashioning our lives; take the natural weather conditions for example. For the past thousand years we have been influenced by the Benedictine idea of the world of Mankind within the world of nature. This notion stressed the creative transformation of nature and the idea of the careful stewardship of resources. Now, with the technological ‘know how’, we can help solve the problem of dwindling resources with man-made systems that are superior to natural systems.

Technology versus nature is one of the most poignant relationships in our world today. Many of us have a desire to return to a more natural way of life but we also need and use technology, devouring the latest gadgetry and innovations it provides us with. This relationship is played out in the classroom. Blue-tooth technology and laptops can allow the children to wander around with their technology, even outside. They can explore natural phenomena with the help of high technology, either by using the internet, using video technology, or by recording and analysing what they can observe on the computer.

However, in the design of classrooms it also becomes a dilemma. There is, in our view, a direct conflict between the amount of technology used and the strain that has on the natural environment. The more ICT equipment in the classrooms, the more heat extraction is needed. The more white boards are used the less natural light, and particularly sunlight, are welcome in the room. Using more natural materials, that are often quite hard, and having light airy spaces can make it more difficult to maintain the required noise levels. Just as one primary school is exposing the original Victorian high ceiling and opening up the classroom to light, air and space, other primary schools are installing suspended ceiling tiles to improve acoustic and thermal performance. Being aware of these conflicts is crucial in overcoming them successfully and creatively.3

Ballifield School received funding awards to provide ICT equipment in the new classrooms. This included 30 laptops and an interactive white board provision. Undoubtedly, technological advances allow a flexibility in the classroom in terms of wider communication and global reach. However, technology should also be in the service of the natural world, not only helping us to understand the world around us but also to achieve a healthy, breathing, responsive classroom environment. This is part of the lesson to be learnt through our new classrooms.