science

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?

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.

Lux Meter App

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.

A phone with a camera has an built-in light sensor. This makes it possible to use your camera as a Lux meter. Lux meters on smartphones are an easy, accessible and cheap way to measure illumination.

Galactica is a lux meter that can measure light in to modes: direct and reflected. You can save measurements as photos and add a note.

Is a Lux meter on your smartphone reliable? Read the following blog Luxmeter App vs measuring device on research carried out with different smartphones and with different software. The conclusion is that for accurate and consistent measurements you need professional equipment and software.

However, to get an idea about light intensity the lux meters function well. The reflection mode offers the opportunity to see how the colour of a surface reflects or absorbs light. An interesting experiment is with a static lamp shining on a tabletop. Put paper sheets of different colours on the table and measure the light that is reflected by each colour. The results are quite remarkable.

Hardware and software with sensors for light, noise and temperature designed specifically for educational purposes is  €Sense. This package offers activities/lessons in which the sensors are used. Read more about €Sense (Euro Sense).

There are many lux meters available for iOS as well as for Android.

 Purchase  Free
 Hardware  iPhone, iPad
 Requirements  iOS 6  or higher

Video Science

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.

Video Science produced by by Science House offers a large number of short videos on experiments. The videos focus mainly on chemistry, but some videos are about phenomena from physics or other science areas.
Students can watch the video’s or carry out the experiments themselves., although some experiments require substances or equipment that will not be readily available. For you as a teacher the videos may inspire you to let show students the experiments. Of course it is even more more interesting and instructive if the students carry out experiments themselves in class.

The future for industry and society lies in recycling, and even a step further ahead in cyclic production, and cradle-to-cradle production. Particularly interesting are therefore experiments such as “Green plastic” and “Recycling paper”.

The latest App (version 4.0) is designed for iOS 6. Unfortunately the App does not work on iOS 11. Hopefully this will be resolved soon.

 Purchase  Free
 Hardware  iPhone, iPad
 Requirements  iOS 6  (not working on iOS11 !)

DaVinci Kindergarten

DaVinci Kindergarten is a pilot project in which we design, develop and try-out inquiry-based activities for children in the age 4-8. We have worked with children age 4-5 at two kindergartens in Norway. The activities focus on concepts from science, and technology and foster mathematical thinking.

We present some of the activities that have been developped. Contact us if you wish a complete description of the activity.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

  1. Show-box– sight lines and mirroring.
  2. How big is the panther? – measuring, human-based measuring units e.g. foot, thumb(=duym/inch), span (=fathom), step.
  3. How do you get the light on? – electricity, battery, light, lightbulb, lamp, electrical wire, curcuit.
  4. What weighs most/least? – experimenting with balance scales and different materials with the same volume and different weight.
  5. Discover more about your toys. What kind of materials are they made of? – Categorise, recognise, examine the different materials and discover their characteristics.
  6. Bee-bot – programming a robot.

Show-box and Sight lines

This time we write about inquiry-based science and math activities we tried out in kindergarten, but this is definitely suitable for first and second grade as well. The first activity is about experimenting with sight lines using a show-box.

Concepts: sight lines, mirror, reflection.

Vocabulary: in sight, out of sight, hidden, position, sight line, eye, straight line, corner, behind, in front of, next to, around the bend …

The children worked in groups of three or four children (age 4 and 5) on one show-box. First, the children are presented with an empty show-box with four spy-holes. They are asked to furnish the room and place some dolls/animals using items they have in class. Thereafter we ask them explore what they see and what not and reason about it. We ask them to look through their spy-hole and tell each other what they see. We ask them why they do not see the same items.

There are many questions to ask that require experimenting, thinking and reasoning.
For example:

  • Can you place an item so that this can only be seen from one spy-hole?
  • Can you position an item that can be viewed from just two, three, or from all the four spy-holes?
  • Can you place an item in such a way that it cannot be viewed by anyone?
  • Build a half wall and place an item behind the wall. Choose a hole from which you cannot see the item. Now use the mirror so that you can see what is behind the wall.
  • One child take a picture though one of the holes while the other turn their back. Show the picture ans ask from which hole it was taken and why they thinks so.

Decibel meter App

decibel-icon-appHow loud is the noise? Whether sound or noise is considered (too) loud or not is often subjective. The App Decibel enables one to measure the noise level and make it objective. It is a sensor that shows the results in three different ways: digital, analogue and in a graphical. There are many Decibel Apps but some show the results of the measurement only anlogue, and some analogue + digital but not graphical. When using this App in class students should be aware of how they measure, what to pay attention to so that results can be compared. Factors influencing the measurement could be: the distance to the source, the direction of the sensor/phone, pitch of the sound, background noise etc.

Combining the use of the App with the screenprint function of the device makes it possible to record, store and present the measurements at a later stage.

decibel2
Students could plot their own measured sounds on a scale: unplugged musical instruments, birds, voices, traffic etc. There are plenty charts on the internet that show which levels are dangerous and damaging.sound-levels

 Purchase  Free
 Hardware  iPhone, iPad
 Requirements  iOS 8+  (similar Apps are available for Android and on Google Play)