Sustainability and Technology

This is one of my biggest concerns, and finally I read about it on Edudemic.

I’m not really sure how I feel about this though.  While it does talk about rare earth elements and how important they are, I guess I was hoping for more about the how and the why to teach it.

Many tech teachers (well the ones that I know) all feel this is important, but with limited explicit tech teaching time, we may miss out on these opportunities to talk about recycling products that have things we desperately need if we are to continue this style of life.

AttributionShare Alike Some rights reserved by Dell’s Official Flickr Page

While I think it is great that companies like Dell (above) and Apple (when you search for it) have recycling programs, I think we have to move beyond that for tech.  By making producers responsible for the goods they create, making the source responsible for recycling, upcycling, repurposing whatever we might be better off.

For those tinkerers and people who want to mess around with the device, they can pay a premium to own it, but other than that, I think our devices should be rented, returned, upgraded and then brought back into our hands, or our classrooms or whatever.

Here in Cambodia, we can’t access these types of recycling programs, so we are just contributing to massive waste by living in a place with no access to these programs (I do go to Singapore often, and would bring my products there, but it seems like a hefty price to pay both with engine fuel and cash to recycle something small like an iPad).

Awhile ago I read in the Big Issue that many Australians have extra mobile phones just hanging around the house, so all of these rare earth elements can’t be extracted. If producers were responsible, I’m sure it would cut down on this type of waste.

Not really sure where I’m headed with this, but how can we teach about sustainability while using technology, any ideas?

How do you know when you stop messing around?

Messing Around

In the Living with New Media report messing around involves experimenting and exploring and doing things just to learn more.  It is more of a tinkering culture, a figuring things out, something I feel is where I am almost stagnant at least in some aspects of tech.  I’ve been playing around with code, but I definitely haven’t geeked out.  I’ve been working on the blog, but again, more tinkering and exploring.

Attribution Some rights reserved by 1lenore

Tinkering and Connectivism

Tinkering fits nicely with a connectivist viewpoint.  Connectivism as George Siemens describes it is a fuzzy process which involves tinkering and no longer just happens at school or just from humans.  We can tinker with things, or converse with people and our knowledge grows. 
The ability to see connections between things, and create connections is a valuable skill according to Siemens. We need to help our students make those connections, and technology is one way we can connect people to sources of information. 
  

Tinkering with things allows us to experience, which we can then share with others to not only consume knowledge but to produce it.
Attribution Some rights reserved by ell brown

Slow Down

For me, slowing down and seeing or making the connections is an important step in the process. Slow education involves making those connections and deepening our understanding, maybe even “geeking out”. We are sharing our process together, so we need to take the time to develop our community, learn together, tinker together, wonder together.  Connectivism doesn’t see our learning as dumping information, it is a process of looking for connections, meeting people, learning more, and directing ourselves. As Siemens said we need the opportunity to plug into knowledge when we don’t have it, but sometimes I think it’s important to slow down and see where the outlet actually is. 
I think we stop messing around when we start to dig deeper into things.  Slowing down, looking at systems and making connections is a great way for us to start making these connections. 

What does it mean to be outdoors?

Next week I head back to work, it’s exciting, and daunting, as I start a new job, but I’m looking forward to interacting with young learners again, and getting a sense of what it means to be an environmental educator in a tech job.

This week in our #enviroed chat, we are looking at cultural diversity in the outdoors.  I’m looking forward to the discussion, and thanks to @RangerRidley I decided to look at this before the conversation starts.

Before writing this, I had a quick chat about the idea with my friend Angela.  She mentioned a camping program for new people to Canada , and I think she and I had talked about it before.  The idea that we have to integrate people into new natural environments is interesting. The statistics from the site said that while the program is called, “Learning to Camp” around 3/4 of the participants are “New Canadians”.  My first thought about this stat was, why new Canadians? Do all of us feel comfortable in our own environment?

As an expatriate, and an international school teacher, I wonder about how different people perceive the world around them and how it changes who they are, and what they believe.  Without going into too much, for fear of going on forever, I’ll just write about a few of my favourite experiences abroad in the outdoors.

Living in Australia in 2005, I realized everyone was outside, all the time.  I wondered if it was about the way they ran business in WA, most stores close at six and many are closed Sundays. The sporting nature of their culture may also play a part.  But what I remember most about Western Australia was the space. When we went camping, we were often alone, just us, and the park rangers had little sheds where you paid, but no one was usually around.  The idea was that people felt comfortable out in nature and could interact with it responsibly (I think?).

I moved to Korea after that, from 2006 – 2008 I lived in different areas around the country.  There seemed to be seasons for everything, and a structure to being outside. Beach season in the summer, would end abruptly, regardless of the temperature in September. So we would have the beach to ourselves.  Hiking season was wonderful, gorgeous leaves, crisp mountain air. However, almost all the paths were paved, and the women hiking in high heels always made me laugh.  People were outside, but it didn’t always change their attire.  There were people who were really geared up, and would have the hiking poles out, and all the new hiking vests for a short hike, so a lot of individual approaches to hiking, rather than a cultural perspective.

While in Kuwait, I was first amazed that people had been living in the desert for so long. I was introduced to Masdar and wondered how people so focused on oil, could start something so progressive. I asked students about how their grandparents had lived and what had changed, but few asked or seemed to care.  I remember there was not much outdoors time, save for the rare people who went out on the water in their boats. I started an environmental club, mostly my students, and we planted gardens that could work in the desert and watched mushrooms grow.  Most of these students were not Kuwaiti, but from other middle eastern countries.  I had a sense that most people would rather be inside, rather than out, but when it is 50 degrees, can you blame them?

Cambodia, I thought, would be totally different. A lush tropical land where people enjoyed being outside most of the time. During my research for my thesis, I found there was a lot of resistance from parents about having their students outside.  Their main concern seemed to be around safety. I’m not sure what that entailed specifically, but it made me wonder about how people perceive the outdoors.  We had a conversation on #enviroed a couple of weeks ago that went into the idea of safety and the outdoors.  Like most things, the more you are outside, and trained to be outside (like the camping program, or good environmental ed practices) the safer you are.  In the parents’ defence, most of them are expatriates as well, and it may not be the fear of the outdoors, but the fear of snakes, scorpions, or other things they are not used to.

Going back to my constant wondering, is how do we bring expats, or new people to our community to understand the place where we live.  Is the camping program run by Ontario a good thing, is it effective? Why is it only focused on camping?

Really looking forward to this twitter chat, and reading about how different people think about this topic.

What Should We Know/Teach?

What Every Student Should Know About the Environment


There are scores of possible models of environmental education programs, and most have many of the following large concepts in common. As students go from kindergarten through high school, they can work their way down the list.
  1. Earth overflows with life.
    One of science’s biggest mysteries is how many species share this planet— estimates range from 5 million to 100 million species. Many environmental education programs begin with the premise that life is vanishing; young learners should first know that Earth teems with a huge number of creatures.
  2. Each creature is uniquely adapted to its environment.
    Every species evolved to possess a unique set of adaptations that enables it to survive and thrive in its ecosystem. Students should be on a first-name basis with many local creatures.
  3. The web of life is interdependent.
    Organisms evolve complex relationships, each depending on numerous other species for their survival.
  4. Materials flow through ecosystems in cycles.
    All creatures need water, air, and nutrients to survive. These materials cycle and recycle through ecosystems. The water we drink today is the same water we’ve always had, and always will.
  5. The sun is the ultimate source of energy flowing through ecosystems.
    Food grows from sunlight energy; our houses are heated by fossil fuels created many millennia ago from ancient sunlight.
  6. There is no waste in nature; everything is recycled.
    In nature, every waste product is used by other creatures. Humans have bent those circles into straight lines, where things are used once and tossed.
  7. We consume resources to live.
    Every student should know where the trash truck takes the trash, where water comes from, and how the nearest power plant makes electricity.
  8. Conservation is the wise use of finite resources.
    We are physical creatures with real needs—to eat, drink, build houses, write on paper. But how do we use these resources sustainably?
  9. Humans can have a profound effect on environmental systems.
    Fossil fuels pump carbon dioxide into the sky; habitat loss is causing the extinction of large numbers of species. Our actions profoundly affect the ecological systems that sustain living things—and us. Nature can often repair these systems (forests grow back, for example); but humans are changing systems faster than nature can adapt.
  10. Each of us can powerfully affect the fate of the natural world.
    Because each of us is directly plugged into the planet, the actions we take—or fail to take—profoundly influence earth’s systems.
– Taken from ASCD, Mike Weilbacher, May 2009 | Volume 66 | Number 8 

Teaching Social Responsibility Pages 38-44

After a great #enviroed twitter chat, of which I could only play a small part, I thought back to what environmental education actually was, and what we as teachers needed to understand. 
During my thesis, I used a participatory action research model to look at how we were teaching environmental education, and this was one of the articles we looked up.  
Coming from a perspective where there is no need for any more doom and gloom, I really resonate with the first point.  Earth overflows with life.  Sometimes, we don’t always see it, sometimes we question why it is there, or want to move it or kill it, but one thing is true, there is a lot of life, and it is something we need to celebrate more. 
I’ve been reading a lot over the holiday, so far anyway. And one of the things I am struck by is how little we truly understand about life. I wonder if this goes back to the nature deficit disorder , and our inability to notice or name things? 
Anyway, what matters about environmental education, why are we teaching it, and what do we need to do to (re)connect young learners with nature?