Last month I offered a workshop on what climate change might mean for higher education. I’m just starting to do this kind of thing, so I’d like to share and document it here.
The setting was the ShapingEDU Virtual Summer Camp. That meant a bunch of folks interested in education and technology, mostly (all?) in higher ed. Sessions covered a wide range of topics: AI, libraries, storytelling, race, gender, cloud computing, science fiction as metaphor, etc.
What I sought to do was get people working in an around ed tech to think about how the climate crisis could change their work over the next generation. From the description: “[F]rom campus buildings to teaching and research… [p]articipants will each start developing an educational technology plan for the fraught years ahead.”
In practice, that meant a session framed around what I see as three the topic’s major domains:
- The physical campus
- Campus-community relations
- Campuses engaging the nonacademic world as a whole.
Time was very limited, so I quickly presented key ideas and questions for each domain, then asked participants to write about how their work might change, and how best to support that transformation. That writing could take place in the Zoom chat and in other locations – I recommended Google Docs or similar.
I shared a Google Slides presentation to anchor my prompts:
As is usual for me, that’s a lot of slides in a hurry. I think people absorbed them.
Overall, the workshop went well, from what I can tell. People were interested throughout, based on most of them sticking around and participating. Folks gradually responded to the general discussion. The topic is daunting, so breaking it down into subdomains and giving folks practical ways to think about it seemed to help.
ASU brought in a visual facilitator to graphically reflect the session. I was very impressed by what they created, and am delighted to have their permission to share it here:
I like the visual byplay between red/orange for heat and crisis, versus green for optimism and engagement. The artist seems to have been attracted to the solarpunk vision, as you can see on the image’s bottom half.
ASU also recorded the session and posted the results to YouTube:
Some quick thoughts:
First, I want to be transparent about my work, which has been a personal principle for decades now. As I do more and more on the climate crisis, I hope to share that effort with as big an audience as possible.
Second, I hope these materials are useful. Please grab stuff for your own workshops, classes, presentations, etc.
Third, I’m not sure if this workshop’s ambition was too great for a single hour. It’s like the old class coverage question, shallow versus deep? Would it have been better to downplay all topics except the third, teaching?
Fourth, I counted on the ShapingEDU crowd to participate, given that group’s history, and they did. Yet this approach might not work for everyone else. Were my questions well chosen? Should I have added other interactive exercises: quick polls, shared whiteboarding (on Jamboard, Miro, or whatever)? Perhaps my attempt to cover a lot of ground in a hurry didn’t surface divisions of opinion within the group. A four quarters exercise might bring those out.
What else would be appropriate and productive?
Fifth, the topic is emotionally daunting, even devastating. I tried to strike a balance between sharing threatening information and encouraging productive optimism. I’m not sure this succeeded. Is this something to scaffold and make present in greater detail and intensity?
Sixth, I made a point right away of not giving a climate science 101 presentation.
There wasn’t time and there are plenty of ways for people to pick that up. Yet I didn’t identify sources. I do this in the notes for Universities on Fire; should I have offered a link or quick guide?
Seventh, I was delighted to see participation. Should that extend beyond a single hour of Zoom? That is, I post about the climate crisis and academia on my blog, which is open to comments and links from other blogs. The Future Trends Forum already has a subtheme on the topic. Should we go further? People could connect with more interested people and share their thoughts asynchronously. Asynch also helps us get past the global time zone problem for synchronous events. Perhaps I could set up a hashtag for Twitter etc., or launch a discussion board, or a dedicated blog? Maybe create a YouTube series for a fuller multimedia effect.
Eighth: there is a growing number of climate change workshops in the world, each aimed at a different audience and hitting distinct themes.
Climate change and leadership, climate change for executives, climate and health, etc. Right now I’m offering generic materials aimed at everyone in or adjacent to academia. This ShapingEDU event targeted an ed-tech-ish group. Would it be worth carving out different offerings for distinct subgroups and interests?
My thanks to ShapingEDU and ASU for hosting this workshop. Thanks to GraphicRecordingStudio.com for the rich imagery. Thanks, too, to the participants for thinking together with me.