This is a very interesting topic, Carly. Thank you for sharing and thank you all for opening up the discussion. I have not read the book, but I have come across the terms and phenomena associated: biophilia, environmental generational amnesia, shifting baseline. It seems the discussion has expanded to also include in particular how EE may go about implementing technology in the teaching toolbox. I think I echo others here in believing that the “baseline” should be real experiences in nature which are then complemented or supplemented by technology. One example in my experience was introducing 6th graders to GPS technology in the context of wildlife tracking. We utilized hand held GPS devices to document coordinates and store data when we found signs of wildlife out in the field. Another component of this lesson was a discussion surrounding Habimap, a cool tool for AZ educators, and the importance of data collection (Habimap link: http://www.habimap.org/).
Still, the basis for the learning experience was hands-on time spent in nature. So in regards to the broader issue, I cannot help but think that technological nature as a sole source would surely be a detriment to society and would only widen the disconnect with the natural world that I believe so many are already feeling, whether conscious of it or not. I agree with others that nature documentaries, virtual field trips, etc offer exciting discovery opportunities from afar. But again, as a stand-alone source, these experiences may run the risk of creating a sort of “otherness” perception of nature, something that exists completely beyond the human situation or perhaps something that exists solely for entertainment. It is important that the studies here suggest that experiencing one kind of technological nature may be better than experiencing no nature at all, but that ultimately technological nature is not a full-on substitute for a truly natural relationship with the natural world.
A strictly dichotomous view would be wholly unproductive. A goal of environmental education for children is to inspire and motivate future stewards and engaged citizens ready to take responsibility for creating a more sustainable world. It is my hope that students who have a positive learning experiences in nature may be the future wildlife biologists, geologists, ecologists, etc that we need. In such positions certain forms of technology already play a vital role, and one could argue that the effectiveness of research will rely heavily upon the utilization and leveraging of ongoing technological developments. All this to say that within the realm of environmental education the use of technology to complement or augment a learning experience in nature is desirable. Again, to echo what others have said, the place for technology is to build upon experiences in nature and supplement learning. It is a bonus rather than a substitute.