Technology-mediated engagement with nature: sensory and social engagement with the outdoors supported through an e-Trailguide

Lucy R. McClain, Heather Toomey Zimmerman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


This study describes the implementation of a self-guiding mobile learning tool designed to support youths’ engagement with the natural world as they explored the flora and fauna along one nature trail at an environmental center. Using qualitative video-based data collection and analysis techniques, we conducted two design-based research study iterations that documented interactions between technology, learners, and nature. Children (N = 83) between the ages of 8 and 11 used an iPad-based e-Trailguide designed for a nature trail at a summer camp. Analyses focused on three types of engagement between the learners and the natural world that were facilitated by the e-Trailguide, which we refer to as technology-mediated engagement with nature: (a) observation, (b) pointing, and (c) tactile investigation. Alongside the development of this framework for technology–child–nature interactions, our findings also include the emergence of a learning pattern with regard to technology-mediated engagement with nature: a specific order to the way that children engaged with nature with observations first, pointing second, and tactile investigations third. We also found increased engagement with nature among the children during the second iteration of the study when they used an interactive data collection tool embedded within the e-Trailguide. Design considerations for the future implementation of e-Trailguides in outdoor settings include the incorporation of textual prompts and questions to facilitate observation, development of joint observational activities to encourage collaborative learning, and articulated directions to promote tactile investigations of natural objects.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)385-399
Number of pages15
JournalInternational Journal of Science Education, Part B: Communication and Public Engagement
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 1 2016

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Education
  • Communication


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