An Exploration of Children’s Experiences of the Use of Digital Technology in Forest Schools

Forest schools are distinctive outdoor spaces that are often regarded as an alternative to mainstream education (Garden, 2022). Their increasing popularity in the United Kingdom is often attributed to a perceived decrease in children’s outdoor play, due to a concomitant increase in children’s use of digital technologies in the home. The Covid-19 pandemic, which impacted the UK from March 2020, increased the time children spent indoors and their use of digital devices. This study explores how digital technology can aid outdoor learning activities through the use of digital tablets.

Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 32 Key Stage 2 children selected from two UK primary schools. The interviews explored the experiences and opinions of the children about the role of digital devices in learning in the forest school space using Interpretive Phenomenological Analysis (IPA). Observations and informal conversations were conducted to ascertain how participants viewed their surroundings and how they related to learning activities. The findings suggest that Forest School spaces can accommodate new technologies because new spaces can be constructed through the accommodation of the outdoor environment and technology. Suggestions for future research include reflections on how technology can be meaningfully integrated into Forest School practice and encourage peer collaboration whilst considering the relative influences of space, place and time.