OVERVIEW OF NATURAL TECHNOLOGY

This is an overview of the types of technologies that are used with or by children and young adults in nature. 

The overview is not an advertisement for the relevant technologies. We do not guarantee for their quality, functionality or personal data management. 

You can read more about our categorization procedure in our reports and scientific papers. 


If you would like to submit a technology to this overview, contact us at naturligteknik@edu.au.dk

 

With citizen science technologies, citizens volunteer to help researchers with mapping out nature via data collection, such as the registration of plant or animal species. 

Examples

iNaturalist

One of the most famous and most comprehensive citizen science apps is iNaturalist, a social network of scientists and regular citizens collaborating to map out biodiversity across the globe. With iNaturalist you can record observations of flora, fauna and fingi, get help with identification and participate in specific local projects focusing on certain species. You could also use the app to coordinate or join a local bioblitz ⁠— an event in which volunteers do an intensive area survey, trying to find and register as many species as possible within a limited amount of time. 

The app is available on App Store and Google Play. 

BirdNET

Some apps in this category focus on particular kinds of species or locations in nature. BirdNET, for example, specializes in bird identification by sound. As part of a research project about training artificial intelligence to classify bird species, the app allows users to submit recordings and review suggestions while learning more about the birds in their vicinity. The app is associated with the Cornell Lab or Ornithology, and the collected data has already been used to replicate findings in avian ecology. 

The app is available in App Store and Google Play. 

Mapillary

Mapillary was created to explore not plants or animals, but the landscape itself. By periodically taking pictures while you go on a walk, for example, the app uses computer vision to connect the images with 3D reconstruction and identify relevant markers, like road signs. This creates an interactive map with up-to-date features, similar to Google Maps. Mapillary maps and data are used for research and development purposes. The app is compatible with GoPro and can be used during bike and car rides as well — the possibilities are endless!

The app is available on App Store and Google Play. 

Activities

Citizen science apps are afford opportunities for a wide range of educational activites using available materials like smartphones. 

Organize a Bioblitz 
Using iNaturalist, or the more child-friendly verison, Seek by iNaturalist, you can organize bioblitz events for both younger and older children. Findings can be discussed and compared, and the activity is an excellent opportunity to introduce the concept of biodiversity in a hands-on way. For a more detailed guide to using Seek by iNaturalist for educational purposes, click here

Survey a Local Area
Survey a local area, both in terms of landscape and biodiversity. Constructing a cooperative Mapillary map with childen can prompt discussions about eco-friendly urban design (e.g. water drainage or green areas), while other registration apps like iNaturalist can help survey local species. Learn more about surveying activities by clicking here

Bird Days
Use apps like BirdNET to help identify birds by their song during a walk. Practice identifying the birds by appearance and sound, and dedicate special theme days to exploring facts and features of the relevant birds. Learn more about bird activities by clicking here

These technologies serve as reference works, providing helpful information about various natural phenomena even while you’re in nature. Some of them are digitized reference works which also can be found as books, while others offer completely new features that exceed a book's functionality by presenting the knowledge through other modalities. 

Examples

Stellarium Mobile

Stellarium Mobile is an app for the amateur astronomer, providing a virtual night sky with marked constellations, planets and much more. You can use it to plan observations, check visibility and get exact positions of celestial bodies, all tailored to your location. The app also allows you to explore different "sky cultures" and their conventions for naming constellations and planets — with everything from Romanian to Navajo settings. By upgrading the app for 19 kr. a month, you can access even more functionalities, but there is plenty you can do with the free version as well. 

Available on App Store and Google Play

LeafSnap

LeafSnap is a plant identification and care app. You can either search plants by name to access detailed information and photos or use the image identification function to help you determine the plant species. Information about your region helps the app make more accurrate classifications, and if you decide to take a plant home or buy one, you will be able to find extensive information about care, watering schedules, diseases etc. 

Available on App Store and Google Play 

AllTrails

AllTrails is a reference work of hiking, walking and biking trails from all over the world. You can search for particular areas or explore an interactive map. Trails are marked for difficulty, type, elevation and length, and many have been reviewed by other users, so you can make an informed decision before embarking on a trail. You need to register an account to use the app.

Available on App Store and Google Play 

Activities

Reference apps can be used on their own, but are also especially good for combining with other types of activites and technologies. 

Nature Hike
Use AllTrails to find and plan a hike, during which participants use identification apps, such as LeafSnap or iNaturalist, to explore the flora and fauna that they encounter on the way. You can even make it a competition. 

Take Nature Home 
In this activity, the participants choose a plant from the outdoors (always check endangered lists) and try to recreate its environment at home or in a classroom. Use LeafSnap and other reference works for information and care instructions. If the plant does not survive, try to identify what went wrong. 

Night Sky Experts
Explore the night sky with Stellarium Mobile, with or without a telescope. After a while, have everyone exit the app and check how many constellations they can remember and identify. 

These technologies help determine natural phenomena on site such as mushrooms, with the intention that they can be taken home and prepared. The use of these technologies therefore supports skills in nature that go beyond mere determination of and acquisition of knowledge about natural phenomena. This skill includes a closer connection to nature through the understanding of location and taste buds. An example of this is apps about mushrooms.  

The main function of this technology is to acquire more physical activity outdoors. Therefore, some of the technologies contribute to movement by creating a virtual ball. Others contribute by providing information about routes you can take, to get movement. An example is Zombies, Run! 

These technologies mainly target playing and competing. Many of the technologies sustain virtual universes, that are populated with monsters and beasts, who must either be fought or captured. Others allow you to follow waypoints in chosen locations, while you compete with others. An example of this is Jurassic World Alive. 

Educational apps have an explicit learning perspective and are designed for use in institutions. This category includes technologies that allow students to make field observations and apps/websites structured as lesson units on various plants, animals and natural habitats.

This category is linked to physical locations. For instance, these technologies show routes, activities, guides and information about specific places in Denmark. Therefore, they often support mediating of culture and nature, and consequently local knowledge and academic purposes at the same time. An example is national parks and museums apps for outdoor use.

This category includes 'multifunctional' apps that can be used for creative activities in nature with technology. However, the technologies are not specifically linked to nature. Accordingly, they support a type of digitalized learning, where nature and outdoor experiences can be replaced by other places and experiences. Some examples are camera and video apps, and Book creator. 

This category contains types of technologies that resemble digital measuring tools and therefore can replace the corresponding actual tool. These technologies are 'handy' versions that utilize the digitalized and space-saving format, which is accessed through smart technology. An example is Magnifier & Microscope. 

This category contains a heterogeneous group of technologies that are based on subscriptions through e.g. educational institutions or municipalities. They are generally not used privately. Several of them focus on movement and some on functions, that are meant to support or evaluate scholastic purposes, for example, integrated in the structure of a race.

This category includes types of independent technologies, that generally are compatible with Smart Technology solutions. In other words, they have memory functions and camera features that make sharing possible, and therefore act together with smartphones and tablets in outdoor nature experiences. Examples are; Easy Scopes, Snake Scopes, Data Loggers. 

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