Climate Change Education’s Unexplored Potential
This year’s Climate and Society class is out in the field (or lab or office) completing a summer internship or thesis. They’ll be documenting their experiences one blog post at a time. Read on to see what they’re up to.
Tham Jie Min Geraldine, C+S ’16
As most of my C+S classmates already know, I am a sponsored student by the Ministry of Education in Singapore and will become an educator upon graduation from the C+S program. The relevance of the C+S degree to the job scope of an educator may seem minimal initially.
However, I had the privilege of working with educators from Teachers’ College who are very passionate about incorporating technology into climate change education. My internship with the Games Research Lab broadened my perspective and enabled me to see how I can apply the skills and knowledge I have acquired from this program into my job as an educator.
I was part of a team that worked on developing a mobile application game that aims to motivate its users to engage in environmentally friendly behaviors. It is of little surprise that I ended up recruiting some of my C+S colleagues to test out the application for the team! The team’s vision was to create an application that leads to long term behavioral changes that got people taking more sustainable actions in their own lives. As global temperatures continue to rise, the team felt that the need for effective climate change education has never been more urgent.
I helped developed the application’s elements such as what categories of actions can users take. The development stage of the application was tedious, as we had to work on feedback as well as fix bugs. The following screenshot gives a brief idea of how the application works. It is similar to Instagram, but primarily focuses on users sharing the environmentally friendly and sustainable actions they take. Unlike Instagram, we added a “groups” function that allows individuals to create a group and invite others into it. This could work for groups of friends who want to challenge one another, but more importantly, for schools to engage their students during events such as Earth Day or No-Meat Mondays. Additionally, users are able to redeem the coins they earn from posting images of their actions. The team is still working on this feature, but tentatively, users will be able to use their coins to donate money to partner NGOs.
Beyond development, we also did research comparing groups of students who were exposed to different methods of climate change education. Some of them were taught using the traditional classroom method, while some others were introduced to the pilot version of the application the team is developing. The research is still ongoing, and results have yet to be published. As the research progressed, the opportunity to work on a side-publication addressing the educational pedagogies embedded in the application and how that is a pioneer in its field arose. This proved to be the most exciting part of my internship, as I was able to see how I can directly apply this to my future job.
The key topic the publication I worked on addressed was the potential of using games in the context of classrooms and even schools to engage students and staff members in climate change education. Teaching pedagogies has always been an aspect of education that I am interested in, and the publication gave me the platform to explore this interest much further, while focusing on a specific topic that is climate change education. Working on this publication was thrilling because as an educator, teaching pedagogies is a topic that we learn about in preparatory classes, a topic we discuss at staff meetings, a method that we constantly employ the make learning more interesting for our students. Thus, it was something I am very familiar with, and exploring it in terms of how it has been used or how it can be used in the specific aspect of climate change education was appealing to me.
With the skills, knowledge and curiosity that both the C+S program and my internship have provided me with, I am very excited to return to Singapore to embark on my journey as an educator. Being part of the team developing the application got me thinking about how technology can be better incorporated into curriculum, and how climate change education can benefit from it (both in the broader context of the global education and within Singapore itself).
There is great potential for using wildly popular games such as Pokemon Go to be employed to advance climate change education. I definitely look forward to returning to my job and contributing to improving climate change education. More importantly, I hope to be able to help fellow educators and curriculum planners see the importance of emphasizing and investing in climate change education.