COMBINING COMPUTER AND REAL ENVIRONMENT - EXPERIENCE FROM IMPLEMENTING BIODIVERSITY RESEARCH IN THE CLASSROOM
Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research-UFZ (GERMANY)
About this paper:
Appears in: EDULEARN14 Proceedings
Publication year: 2014
Conference name: 6th International Conference on Education and New Learning Technologies
Dates: 7-9 July, 2014
Location: Barcelona, Spain
Abstract:Climate change and dramatic loss of biodiversity are essential subjects for EU research. However, little of current knowledge is reaching the young generation. In order to implement biodiversity research into the reality of school education we brought members of the scientific and educational communities together. Educational software has been developed which combines desk (or rather lap-)top work with field experiences by combining virtual excursions with real ones.
The software PRONAS shows how scientists handle questions about the impact of climate change on species’ habitats. It makes core results of research projects available for students from 12 to 19 and is freely accessible on www.ufz.de/pronas-lernsoftware.Three basic scenarios characterize ”possible future worlds“- where the scenario GREEN is the optimal scenario describing sustainable development strategies for Europe. The pessimistic scenario RED stands for a growth applied strategy – a future world which is dominated by the market. The software has five parallel entries: (1) The storyline with “Tom and Tina”, (2) the “Science” entry with detailed information based on the IP ALARM (www.alarmproject.net) which has been funded by the EU, (3) four virtual excursions, (4) the “Species gallery” with more than 30 plant and animal species, and (5) Interactive projects. A special book for teachers - which was written in close cooperation with teachers - shows how to implement PRONAS in the in– and out-of-classroom learning. With the virtual excursions the project aims to encourage students to move from the computer into nature. Excursions are designed in a way which favours “retracing” of virtual trips in reality, or – at least – those excursions may motivate to go out for individual trips. PRONAS intends to bring knowledge, which is available in Earth Science, from the spheres of science really “down to Earth”, i.e. into classrooms. The supportive structure of both the software and the associated teacher handbook convey effective application. Broad dissemination has been favoured by the capable network of scientists and educators.
The educational software PRONAS provides alternative learning approaches that can encourage a variety of young users – those who are open to new learning techniques and even those who may not respond well to traditional teaching formats. Through provision of scientific information based on current research projects such as ALARM the software supports the development of critical and dynamical thinking and other competencies and skills that are essential for the young generation. In this way, PRONAS offers an opportunity to better understand how human activities, like land-use and climate change, impact on biodiversity at local and global levels. It increases the sensitivity of young people concerning their roles and responsibility in these processes.
Keywords: Biodiversity, educational software, climate change, EU project.