Technology in the Classroom – How Schools are Using it to Teach Sustainability

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University of Wollongong IDLE

Technology can be a major distraction for students in the classroom. In fact Penn State and California State University have even developed an app called Pocket Points that rewards students for ignoring their iPhone during class, with discounts and deals from local businesses. Of course technology can also be an important tool to strengthen the curriculum, bring interdisciplinary groups of students together, and engage with the wider community. In this post we look at how Universities are using technology as part of their approach to embed sustainability and responsible management into the curriculum.
Using technology to increase discussions and sharing

Lomonosov Moscow State University Business School in Russia has an agreement with a Social Innovation Lab called Cloudwatcher, a non-profit Moscow based organisation dealing with the new technologies that promote social projects and social entrepreneurship in Russia. Students help find sponsors and volunteer support for different projects through an internet platform created for those who are seeking for support or offer it. Portsmouth Business School in the UK has put in place a number of Technology-Enhanced Active Learning (TEAL) rooms. The layout of these rooms give access to multiple technologies that allow students to share multiple viewpoints and angles giving them a greater ‘systems’ perspective for what they are doing and learning. The eZone at University of Kwazulu Natal in South Africa was developed for students and academics to have a platform to write informative and practical articles that develop entrepreneurial and intrapreneurial thinking, and build collaboration between students, communities, and academics.
University of Curtin in Australia is committed to engaging one million active learners by 2017. One of their approaches is an innovative “Balance of the Planet” challenge, a collaboration with UNESCO Bangkok, which works to engage self-forming, collaborative, international, problem-solving teams across the Asia-Pacific region, to create solutions to addressing sustainable development goals through a digital media learning laboratory. The challenge will be open to anyone aged 18 and above. The criteria for judging solutions ideas will be open, transparent and available to all. Voting and comments on solution ideas will be open and transparent.

Using technology as a basis for research in the community
The Centre for Digital Business at the University of Salsberg in the UK, has an internationally-recognised profile of research in digital technologies. The Centre together with Tameside Council and the Sustainable Housing & Urban Studies Unit (SHUSU), developed an innovative engagement strategy and digital toolkit to support home owners to return their empty properties to use as much-needed affordable housing. This Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) was awarded an outstanding rating—the highest possible—by an independent panel of assessors from Innovate UK.

Using technology to strengthen learning opportunities
Copenhagen Business School (CBS), in Denmark, uses technology as an integral part of bringing sustainability into the curriculum. In their fourth semester, students work to facilitate a sustainable and energy efficient lifestyle with the use of informa¬tion technology, including big data and the Internet of Things. The Smart City online module enables students to apply new ideas in using tech¬nology to better bridge the gap between humans and their energy consumption. This includes exploration of how citizens, governments and corporations can take ideas from research to market. CBS also offers a MOOC on Social Entrepreneurship. In excess of 26,000 people from more than 180 countries signed up for this 12-week online course on how to create societal impact through social entrpreneurship. Students were introduced to examples and guided through the process of identifying an opportunity to address social problems, in addition to how to outline their ideas in a business plan. At the end of the course business plans were submitted by 270 participants and five of those plans made it to the finals.
University of Wollongong’s (Australia) interactive and dynamic learning environment (IDLE) computer simulation, designed and developed by the Faculty of Business in 2014, received first place in local iAwards for innovation technology. IDLE is a total enterprise simulation that incorporates social responsibility and sustainability decisions. The Stockholm School of Economics in Sweden is collaborating with the Financial Times, Technische Universität München in Germany, Foreign Trade University in Vietnam, African School of Economics in Benin, and the Darden School of Business in the USA to use technology to discuss important sustainability topics on an international level. The collaboration involves using current news articles published in the Financial Times, and discussing them in real-time with students from the different schools on the SSE MBA Island in the virtual life platform Second Life.

Using technology to help not for profits and small businesses
Justine Rapp, Assistant Professor of Marketing at the University of San Diego School of Business Administration, won the 2014 Innovation in Experiential Education Award for two experiential learning projects she developed for her Digital Marketing and Social Media course. The first project, called “Google Pay-Per Click Campaigns,” involves students working with two non-profit organisations, USD Electronic Recycling Centre and Skinny Gene Project. Students need to develop an advertising campaign for these groups that are run on Google. The project is split into two parts. For part one, student groups create three different advertisements which run concurrently on Google. After 6 weeks students reconvene and look at the data and readjust the advertisements accordingly. Newly revised ads are then run on Google for another 6 weeks. On the last day of class, everyone comes together to look at the data, and compare successful and unsuccessful measures.
The second project she does in class is a website development project for small businesses in the San Diego area. Each client gets three websites, developed by the students, to choose from at the conclusion of the semester. The project helps support a number of small business owners locally each year who often struggle to build their first professional website and hire a marketing team, whether due to finances, time or logistics, and also helps to support students in launching their marketing careers with some hands-on experience.
Jonkoping International Business School in Sweden established a collaboration to engage students in the practice of crowd-funding, by means of a competition on ecological sustainability. Makers and Bankers is the first financial social platform for crowd-funding with no commission and a 0% interest rate based in Jonkoping. The company was founded by five graduates of the School. Students in the undergraduate course “New Venture Development” participate in the competition, and design social and sustainable venture projects.

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