Monday, April 01, 2019

Can you name the three winners winner of the Nobel Prize for their work in climate change? How online learning is tackling climate change

Climate change is a challenge. Above all it is an educational challenge. It is not easy to get to grips of the complexities of the issue. I asked some teenagers last week if any could name the three winners winner of the Nobel Prize for their work in climate change. None could name any and no one even knew that it had been awarded. (Answers at end.)
I then asked about the Paris targets – again no actual knowledge. How about something practical, like the inner workings of a wind turbine or the power equation for wind energy? Nothing. To be honest, I had the sketchiest of answers myself. So it was a joy to be doing some online learning for a major European, renewable energy company.
We used WildFire to teach:
  1. Wind turbines
  2. European policy 

1. Wind turbinesWe see those mighty, white towers and big blades all the time but how do they work? Inside the ‘nacelle’ (no I didn’t know that was its name either) the casing at the top of the tower is a fascinating box of tricks – shafts, a gearbox, generators and controls for ‘yaw’ and ‘pitch’ (know what those are?). Then there’s the wind power equation. Once you understand this, you’ll realise why  the biggest variable in the mix is wind speed, as generated  power equals air density X blade area X wind speed cubed. That word ‘cubed’ really matters – it means low-wind, almost no energy; high-wind, tons of energy.

2.  European policyPolicy is action and it is good to know what Europe is doing and by when. There’s the decarbonisation policy, the Paris targets, electrification, targets in transport, construction and industry. You’d be surprised at the differences between nations across Europe and the scale of the problem is immense. Emissions, in particular, are a real challenge. There’s the near terms 2030 targets and the 2050 targets. On policies, you need to know about incentives, taxes, subsidies and all sorts of market dynamics.

How did we do this?
WildFire simply took the documents, sent to us as attachments by email, we fed them into WildFire and produced two kinds of course:
1.    Detailed knowledge
2.    Free text input
The first literally identifies the key components in a wind turbine, key concepts like yaw and pitch, the variables in the wind formula and so on. You read the content, in sensible chunks, then have to type in your answers, either specific or free text, which is then semantically analysed and feedback given.
In addition, for most concepts, the system automatically provides links out to further explanations. For example, if you don’t know what ‘torque’ is, a link pops up automatically and you get supplementary explanation (including an animation). This is all generated automatically.

Fast
We have literally had no face-to-face meetings on this project, as the client is in Europe. The content was super-quick to produce, at low cost. Above all, as the learner has to actually retrieve and write what they think they have learnt, as opposed to simply clicking on stuff, they have to get it into long term memory. This is high retrieval and retention learning, not clickthough content.

CurationThere is also the option to add curated content to the end of every small piece of learning using the curation tool. This allows individual teachers and trainers to customise things to their own ends.

ConclusionIt is great to deliver a project where a social good is the aim. Climate change has its challenges, one of which is understanding the available renewable technology, another the policies and targets. Many countries now see education as a key pillar in their climate change initiatives. This is spot on. But it takes effort. It is one thing to skip school to protest but this must be more than matched with good informed knowledge and debate around what it actually takes to change things. The climate is changing and this must be matched with cognitive change - that, in the end, is all we have to prevent catastrophe.

PS
2007 Nobel Prize to between the IPCC and Al Gore. The 2018 Nobel Prize went to William Nordhuas, for his work on the economic modelling of climate change.

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