University of Thessaly (GREECE)
About this paper:
Appears in: EDULEARN20 Proceedings
Publication year: 2020
Pages: 7780-7784
ISBN: 978-84-09-17979-4
ISSN: 2340-1117
doi: 10.21125/edulearn.2020.1963
Conference name: 12th International Conference on Education and New Learning Technologies
Dates: 6-7 July, 2020
Location: Online Conference
Sustainability goals include the development of affordable energy, efficient cities and communities, responsible consumption and production, climate action, elimination of hunger and poverty, health and education, and preservation of natural resources, among others (UN Sustainable Development Goals). They are both urgent and complex. Actions towards their mitigation or prevention are the result of collaboration across fields, brainstorming, innovative design, and problem solving taking into account cultural and community factors. Sustainability skills must be developed among the young generation that will be challenged to introduce sustainable solutions in everyday life and business towards improving human lives in the present and into the future.

This work aims to build awareness, basic knowledge, positive attitudes, problem solving skills, collaboration ability, and ability to synthesize innovative solutions among secondary education students aged 12-16 for preparing them to actively engage in sustainable development practices individually and in their communities as civically minded young adults. The project introduces a problem-based learning approach that is rooted in design thinking principles. The proposed framework encourages students to be open minded in precisely identifying the actual, as opposed to perceived, parameters of a complex problem and to understand through empathy the experiences of individuals affected by it. It motivates students to introduce through brainstorming, ideation, and collaboration innovative solutions. And it encourages students to validate the effectiveness of their ideas by designing and testing prototypes.

Learning is delivered through a digital learning service under development that promotes secondary education student collaboration on sustainable objectives. The proposed learning intervention reinforces through design thinking principles basic knowledge from diverse curricula subjects (STEM and more) by asking learners to apply it in practice in the context sustainability challenges. It encourages learners to voice their views in an inclusive and supportive environment, to review each other’s proposals, and to collectively synthesize solutions to jointly owned problems. The services promote long-term engagement with learning through gamification elements that foster engagement with meaningful missions through internal motivation. They build soft skills that learners will need as adults including the optimism that they have the power to design reasonable actions to 21st century challenges. The platform further introduces services for educators that support the structuring of educational activities that follow the design thinking paradigm.

The expected impact of the proposed sustainability learning intervention is facilitating the modernization of education by supporting the uptake of innovative problem-based learning design and ICT technologies that help bring education to the digital era. The work further supports student long term engagement with the learning process by demonstrating the links of education to the modern world. And it promotes employability by building key, basic competencies desirable in the world of work for ensuring that business practices are in line with international sustainability policies.

The work is funded by the Erasmus+ Program through project DT4S: Design Thinking in Sustainability Education that is implemented from 2018 to 2020.
Sustainability education, design thinking, gamification, critical thinking, motivation, engagement, problem-solving.