Speaking at the FutureSchools Expo and Conference in Melbourne on Wednesday, David Hills, teacher of outdoor education at Brisbane Grammar School said technology could bring benefits to outdoor education.

Trackers and GPS devices, for example, could help mitigate the risk of getting lost, he said.

However, he cautioned that “anytime you gain something from using tech, you also lose something.”

“We know that we go outdoors to engage with the environment, to engage in the natural world, but when we take our phones out and fly drones, it’s taking something away from the experience, but it’s also giving opportunity to enhance that learning as well.

“It’s a problem and an opportunity.”

Hill said distraction was a major issue faced when incorporating technology in the outdoors, and that teachers were grappling with the need to strike a balance between usefulness and burden.

He encouraged teachers to think about why they are conducting outdoor education and what they aim to teach through the lessons. If disconnection is the aim, he said, technology might not be needed.

On the other hand, Hill explained movies, videos and pictures could enhance outdoor experiences by allowing students to share their learning with friends and family.

Teachers should also think about what students would use the technology for, and whether they themselves have the training to use the devices they are bringing along.

“And also think about the resources that are available,” he added.

“If you have 30 or 40 students on one GPS device or one tablet, it might not work out.”

Having considered all those things, Hill said teachers should then evaluate whether it’s worth incorporating technology into their lessons.

“It’s a question of balance.

“As long as you say that your use of technology is justified, that it's thought through and you’ve thought critically about exactly how you’re using it and you know that it's enhancing learning, not distracting from it, then I think there’s a strong future there and there’s a strong future for outdoor learning and there’s a strong future for technology in the outdoors.”