1 University of Thessaly (GREECE)
2 Centre for Research and Technology Thessaly (GREECE)
About this paper:
Appears in: EDULEARN11 Proceedings
Publication year: 2011
Pages: 3654-3662
ISBN: 978-84-615-0441-1
ISSN: 2340-1117
Conference name: 3rd International Conference on Education and New Learning Technologies
Dates: 4-6 July, 2011
Location: Barcelona, Spain
Environmental training is gaining momentum in European school education, often starting early on at the primary level. National level curricula in most European countries include high level objectives on environmental education as, for example, building respect towards the living world. However, input from the field demonstrates a lack of supporting deployment guidelines, applied learning activities, and learning tools, especially in digital form.
This paper presents an explorative and collaborative learning framework that takes advantage of virtual experimentation towards the development of environmental awareness among young children. The proposed learning methodology builds upon existing school practices on in-class collaboration and project-based learning taking them a step further through virtual experiments. Exploration and collaboration are enhanced through game-based learning aiming to grab the imagination of a new generation of learners through emerging channels and media that they are exposed to in and outside of school. The didactical methodology is completed through project-based learning and digital story-telling practices that provide structure in the learning process while encouraging independent research.
The methodological framework is validated through the design and development of three learning tools supported by learning activities and good practices scenarios. Under the umbrella title ‘my home, my town, my planet’, the EnvKids tool suite covers environmental issues in a learner-centered manner that starts from concepts close to home and expands to wider subjects. More precisely, the ‘my home’ pilot invites children to discover mitigation solutions that can be applied in everyday life towards environmentally friendly residential activities. Students are given the opportunity to design a green house and to manage it an environmentally friendly way. The ‘my town’ pilot application focuses on energy production solutions, behavior, and planning at the level of a town, aiming at pollution control and, as a result, improved quality of life. Students are invited to design a green city where energy needs are covered, pollution is minimized, and everyday living is enhanced. The last pilot application, entitled ‘my planet’, aims at raising awareness on sensible management of natural resources including forests, biodiversity, and water supplies. A graphical, map-based interface is used to demonstrate historical, current, and projected depletion trends and consequences on climate change, quality of life, animal habitat, and the welfare of endangered species. Learners interact with this interface in two ways: as information interpreters through the review of scientific data; and as narrative constructors through the development of educational content that is published through the application.
The EnvKids methodologies and tools are currently under evaluation in real-life learning settings that take place in classrooms at 6 schools located in Greece, Sweden, France, and the Czech Republic. Both learners and teachers provide positive feedback on the value-adding character of the tools towards enriching the learning experience in the context of explorative and collaborative blended learning activities. The EnvKids project is partly funded by the Comenius Action of the Life Long Learning Programme and runs from 2009 to 2011.
Game-based explorative collaborative learning open-ended.