Inspiration

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?

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.

Critical on Maps

Rotating globe
Why all maps of the world are wrong. Or in other words: Why do all maps of the world present a wrong, distorted image.

Why do we use maps? How can we present the globe in two dimensions? What challenges do we face?

Start with one of the first two videos and then move on to the second one. The latter is spoken fast and uses a wide, scientific vocabulary.


The only correct representation of the world is a globe. Every projection serves a specific purpose. It’s interesting to explore the different projections and their use and purpose throughout history. It appears that projections and perpectives change over time and place and are culturally bound.

To get a good impression use the tool ‘The True Size. This tool makes it possible to drag a chosen country over the world and compare its (true) size with that of other countries. Visit the website  https://thetruesize.com

This topic can be addressed from many different angles: geography, politics. history, mathematics, ethics….

Eyesight Problems and Social Media

Research in Asia shows that in the big cities 90% of the students leaving school have to wear spectacles due to myopia (nearsightedness). The reasons given are too much hard work for school, far too little exposure to daylight, and lack of time spent outdoors.
Recent research in The Netherlands shows a steep increase in myopia (nearsightedness) among 20 year old students (Klaver, 2017). Myopia is the eye disorder with the most rapid increase in prevalence worldwide. In 1990 only 5% of the school leavers in The Netherlands suffered from myopia. In 2017 this has risen to 50%, and this is likely to increase. It develops in childhood, with a peak incidence between the ages of 13 to 15 years. Myopia developed in childhood cannot be reversed.

The main reasons given for the steep increase is the frequent use of social media on smartphones and iPads, and og computers in general. Children use their eyes too one-sided, namely for nearsight mainly. This results in eyes that change shape to accomodate for this effort. Another negative side-effect of the use of digital devices is the fact that the eyes become too dry. We blink only 10% of the normal amount when watching at a screen.
Other causes, related to the use of digital devices, are a decrease in hours spent outdoors and the decrease in exposure to daylight. In childhood the eyes need both daylight and the exposure to farsightedness.

How can we reverse the myopia epidemic?

Researchers and experts on eyesight have developed a rule-of thumb.

20-20-2

After 20 minutes working on a screen

Take a break of at least 20 seconds

Spend at least 2 hours a day outdoors

Additional smart rules for parents and teachers to prevent myopia and other eye problems are:

  • Young children (< 6) should not work more than 20-30 minutes a day on a screen.
  • The SmartBoards in classrooms should be turned off regularly.

Technology and Design

DiScoro writes about inquiry-based learning, digital resources, and ways to encourage higher-order thinking. We focus on STEM education and the use of technology.

This time we write about Technology & Design as a school subject or project for students (grade 6 to 10). In several countries Technology and Design has become a school subject.
Most commonly students work on a task during more than one hour. The tasks are interdisciplinary and require many different skills: planning, sketching, creativity, safety, use of tools, research , construction, experimentation etc.
Technology is not limited to the use of digital technology. Technology & Design tasks have a strong practical component and aim at problem solving skills. By nature the tasks are often low floor-high ceiling tasks. This implies that it is clearly understandable what the goal is, all students are able to get started (low floor). At the same time the tasks offer enough challenges and opportunities to dive deeper both in creativity as well as in complexity (high ceiling).

To make a plan is usually a step in the process. It is up to the teacher to ask for a report of the process or not. This can be written, visual, oral, with the use of multi-media (photos, video) or a combination.

Topics that could be part of Technology & Design are

    • design and create a rocking horse for children age 2-3
    • make a piece of household furniture using recycled materials
    • make a gripper stick for waste picking, or for elderly people at their homes
  • engineering (using concepts from chemistry and physics)

Technology and Design will certainly focus on the new economy where circular design and production, and no or minimal waste, are the ultimate challenges and goals.

Pair Programming

pair-programmingPair programming is a part of eXtreme Programming, an agile system development methodology. In Pair Programming two programmers sit together behind one computer. One is coding and the other reviews while communicating about the best solutions. The programmers frequently changes roles. Findings from different sources show that de results of the products contain less errors, are of a higher quality, and cost less man hours !

Research in the industry as well as in class indicates that starting programmers and students who practise pair programming are more confident and learn from each other tips on programming language, and design skills.  Girls show a higher interest in the subject when pair programming is used in class.

pairs-working-ipad2Children (and many adults) learn much more when they work together on one PC. This is not only because two people see and know more than one, but because working in pairs demands (verbal) communication, which is crucial for learning and understanding. Children do also benefit from working in pairs on one PC or iPad when working on programs and tasks that require problem solving skills.

Examples of activities on a computer that require problem solving skills:

Literature/research on Pair Programming:

A. Cockburn, L.Williams. (2001). The Costs and Benefits of Pair Programming,

Williams, L. et all. (2002). In Support of Pair Programming in the Introductory Computer Science Course. Computer Science Education, Vol. 12, Issue 3.

“Student pairs are more self-sufficient which reduces their reliance on the teaching staff. Qualitatively, paired students demonstrate higher order thinking skills than students who work alone.”

Liebenberg, J. , Mentz, E. & Breed, B. (2013). Pair programming and secondary school girls’ enjoyment of programming and the subject Information Technology. Computer Science Education. Vol. 22, Issue 3.

“Girls’ motivating for (programming and) computer science was much higher when they were allowed to work in pair. Girls’ confidence in the subject was higher in the pair programming classes.”

“A critical mass of girls is required to make girls enjoy and choose computer science and careers. Pair programming is an important means to reach that goal.” 

Pair Programming with kids, adolescents? Read the blogs and use one of the following programs: