March 21, 2012

The Importance of Education


I recently had the pleasure of presenting at the 2012 Massachusetts Environmental Education (EE) Society conference at the college of the Holy Cross in Worcester, MA. The focus of my talk titled, “The Digital Bird Watcher” was an overview of online resources and ways teachers can connect students to bird watching through real science data. These days the EE movement is largely focused on getting kids unplugged, outside, and undoing the effects of “ecophobia” (D. Sobel) and “nature deficit disorder” (R. Louv). I’m fully in favor of this anti-microchip bend that EE advocates for, so I was conscious that the word “digital” could be the cause of some rancor. To reassure the participants of my beliefs I prefaced my talk with the question, “what do we mean by digital?” and subsequently defined the role of digital technology as:
an aid, not a replacement for being outside in the field
- connecting learning around local and global issues of conservation and migration through accessible data
- personalizing the experience of bird watching through searchable maps, lists, and shared information

Further more I defined the very goals of bird watching education as:
 Providing an exciting and accessible entryway into the world of biodiversity
- Developing topophilia, a personal even magical connection to place
- Educating about local and global conservation issues through the story of migration

I was mindful not to make my lecture an Itunes store full of bird watching apps (though there are many good ones) nor was I going to showcase gimmicky, gadgets like binoculars with built in cameras or GPS sound recorders. The purpose of my talk was to share with teachers the incredible wealth of accessible data that lives on the web, free of charge, up to date, multimodal, and pertinent. While there are many good sites dedicated to K-12 curriculum ideas about bird education I was more interested in sharing with teachers the citizen science projects, breeding bird studies, and migratory tracking data that is being used by biologists and bird watchers across the globe. In preparing for this talk I assembled many of the resources I've been using and at the request of session participants I wanted to make these available online.

I’m please to announce that I will now host a page titled “Bird Watching Resources for Teachers and Educators” on my website the Daily Bird New England (look for the picture of the teacher studying the skeleton). I hope that these resources find their way into the hands of informal educators and classroom teachers alike and help ensure that we are getting kids engrossed in the natural world through the study of birds.

bio and contact

My photo
is an educator, bird watcher, and writer fascinated by the intersections of place, people, nature, and culture. He works for Mass Audubon and lives in the heart of Massachusetts. For questions or comments please contact: alexanderjosephdunn@gmail.com

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