In May 2017, I served as an educator/guide for 14 Canadian students participating in Kwantlen Polytechnic University's Interdisciplinary Amazon Field School in Colombia. A recurring course theme was “Nature as Teacher,” where the complex relationships and subtle patterns of nature are revealed through observation, direct experience, playful inquiry, and spiritual practice. Learners were encouraged to not allow technologies to mediate, distort, or distract their experiences. Despite these well-meaning injunctions, learners took copious photographs and videos; journaled their experiences in books and laptops; recorded the sounds of the forest’s fauna; viewed laser-highlighted birds through binoculars; made bracelets out of fronds; found apps for identifying flora; and posted, liked, and shared their reflections and epiphanies on social media. In short, their experiences of the Amazonian forest, river, sky and peoples were thoroughly mediated via technological and digital tools. If we are to take seriously Paulo Friere’s (2005) reconfiguring notion that, “our relationship with the learners demands that we respect them and demands equally that we be aware of the concrete conditions of their world, the conditions that shape them,” then constraining how our students' experience nature’s infinite dimensions seems not only futile but also inconsistent with our pedagogical aspirations.
1. Friere, P. (2005). Teachers as cultural workers: Letters to those who dare teach.