Author: DiScoro

The Carbon Footprint of the Digital World

icon ecological footprint

In this blog two thoughts on how we as individuals can reduce our digital carbon footprint. Maybe this can be used to challenge ourselves, students and colleagues for more ideas. We start with a few facts.

Data centers are responsible for as much CO2 emission as all air traffic (2019). The communications industry is on track to generate more carbon emissions than the automotive, aviation and energy sector together. Data use doubles every four years (Computerworld  Aug. 9, 2019).

The energy consumption of data centers is estimated to be 3.2 % of the total worldwide carbon emissions by 2025 and responsible for a fifth of global electricity consumption. By 2040, storing digital data is set to create 14 % of the world’s emissions. Electricity worldwide is mostly generated using fossil fuels. Some claim that renewable energy could be a solution, but this is a sham. Renewable energy to fuel these data centers is energy that cannot be used for other sectors. So-called renewable energy based on pulp from production forests is only CO2 neutral when looking at a period of 80 years, and that is not the timeline we can afford us now. Pulp plantations often replaced rich ecosystems. Renewable energy such as biofuel often displaces crop production farther into threatened forests, savannahs and peatland. Only a very small portion of biofuel comes from waste fats from the food industry (greenpeace.org).

40% of the energy use in data centers is used for cooling. The industry itself could safe on this part of the energy consumption by moving data centers to cold places, such as Siberia. But what can we do?

We could delete old files that are stored in the cloud, such as e-mail messages, photo’s, videos etc. We and employers should consider to stay away from cloud services. Maybe not so easy, but the easiest solution is not always the best for our planet.   

If all US citizens using email deleted 500 e-mail messages which reside in Spam box, Trash bin, or Unread messages, this would save energy use amounting to 33.000 million kilowatt-hours. This equals 3.700 million liter gasoline.

Picture of email and Trash bin. Arrow to indicate that email should be moved to the Trash bin.
Delete as many emails as possible. Empty your Trash bin.

If everyone around the world deleted 10 emails (spam or not spam), this would result in deleting 1,725,00 GB, because storing 1GB emails (or 1000 emails) takes 32 kWh. Consequently, this would save 55.2 million kWh (Good Planet & RESET).  

So imagine how much energy would be saved if everyone deleted 10 emails every day?

The map above shows that China is the country with by far most CO2 emission (Our World in Data). So, what can we do about this? One of the reasons is that energy production in China is still mostly relying on burning coal. Another reason is that China produces many products for the rest of the world. How many of these products (plastic toys, cheap clothes, gadgets …) do we really need? And which products can be produced elsewhere with less pollution, less CO2 emission, less transport costs, and under better worker conditions?

Inquiry-based learning

We have been teaching about Inquiry-based learning (IBL) a while and practicing it ourselves. Students in teacher education at the University of Agder have experienced IBL themselves and some try to put it into practice. We have developed four short videos visualizing what IBL entails in the classroom practice. An article based on the development of these videos has been submitted to the online journal NorDiNA. The title is: Designing Videos on Inquiry-Based Learning for use in Teacher Education – Investigating and Exploring Design Principles the Design Principles. Those who wish to use theory on IBL and references to previous research for their own work, please download (and reference) the following document.

Result IBL task: Make a cubic decimeter from material you find outdoors. Take a picture with a reference showing the scale for the viewer.

Juggling

Juggling is fun, it’s a nice break, you can do it anywhere, and at any level. If you do not have juggling balls, you can easily make them yourself. See the video below or search YouTube for more examples. Some use rice, others flour. We experienced that making juggling balls from (old) tennis balls is the easiest and gives the best result.

Now you can start juggling. First a video for young kids and thereafter more technical video on how to learn juggling.

Juggling, just like training any physical activity, changes the brain. Read The Art of Changing the Brain or Juggling Boosts the Brain (Nature, 2004). We do not wish to spoil the game, but there is mathematics in juggling. See Math is in the air.

Outdoor workout in pairs

An outdoor workout or boot-camp is a good alternative for the gym, especially in times of corona. Research claims that being physically active every day, has a positive influence on your brain and on cognitive work. Many physical breaks have a larger effect than one workout. Read for example Mike Kuczala’s book The Kinestetic Classroom. Training together is more motivating and more fun. For younger kids exercise should be a game. There are may ways to be active outdoors. Here two suggestions, a video and a program in visualized in pictures. See also the blog about Juggling.

Hedy – gradually learning a programming language

Hedy is a programming language and a new way to learn a programming language. You will learn the programming language Hedy in a similar way to learning a normal second language; gradually. This means errors in the syntax are allowed at the start. You will start with simple expressions and will learn the syntax (grammar) step by step. There is no need to install something to start programming with Hedy, you can just start in your browser. Hedy prepares you to program in Python later on. Python is a general-purpose coding language, which means that it can be used wider than in web development.

Hedy is text based, unlike Scratch and Logo which are graphical. All three programs have their strengths and weaknesses. You will learn the basic concepts of programming, such as variables and conditional statements (e.g. if-then-else) much easier and earlier in Hedy then in Scratch.

Hedy is being developed now and has a limited set of levels up till now, but it is very easy to get started. Scratch as a programming language encourages more creativity, but can also be frustrating in the beginning. Hedy is much more structured and scaffolded. Different pupils may prefer different approaches to learn programming. As a teacher is is valuable to know the options.

The following video explains why Hedy was developed.

Amazing maps

The website FarandWide offers blogs maps on a wide variety of topics. Although the website is targeting US citizens who wish to travel, there are interesting topics that may be used by curious person. Particularly interesting are the many sets of maps available: geographical, social, political, historic, current social issues etc.

100 Amazing World Maps

Maps that changed the world

Recently a set of 75 maps were published with data on European countries that may be of interest when travelling. Most maps show when the data were gathered, though with some maps this information is missing. Though this can be a good exercise for students to look at data and information on the web critically.

Maps that show Europe in a new light

Wrong Historical Maps

Two examples of Maps that made us laugh and could be inspiration for students to search for or make their own maps.

See our other blogs on Maps for example: Critical on Maps and Maps of the World

Actionbound – Scavenger Hunt

Actionbound is software that makes it easy to create Scavenger Hunts for your students. The students use an App on their telephone to use the ‘bound’ you have created. Actionbound is based on maps and uses GPS. You can create missions which are tasks and quizzes that require an answer. As a teacher creating a ‘bound’ you can upload audio, video, and pictures. You decide how students can send in their results on missions. Different formats can be chosen: sound, video, picture, text. You can also define how students should respond on quiz questions: in text, numbers, with a slider etc.  


[Actionbound is availbale in English and in German. Both missions, which are open tasks, as well as  quizzes offer good options to design for inquiry skills. It is very easy to see implementation of interdisciplinary bounds. Any combination is possible: mathematics, physics, biology, language teaching, history, geography, arts etc. Outdoor learning and kinesthetics are incorporated in the use of Actionbound. Actionbound can be a good alternative for learning in class during the corona pandemic. The App can be used from grade 4 onwards.
The developer software can be tested for free. When you start using the program in your school you need a license to publish your ‘bounds’ and to monitor the results. The App for students is free.