Thursday, February 27, 2014

Instructional Technology: The Green Solution

An often unrealized potential of instructional technology is the ways it can benefit the environment and reduce waste.  Here are some of my favorite ways to reduce waste through technology.

Online Readings

By providing readings online and allowing students to bring digital devices to class to use when we are working on the class readings, means that students are less likely to print it out.  However, even if they do, I provide them with instructions on how to get the most out of printing by using double-sided and depending on their viewing preferences, possibly 2 pages per side of paper (therefore a 60-page document is reduced to 15 pieces of paper).  Particularly in courses that have massive (and often, overpriced) texts that have lots inside that may never be read, I like that I can provide just the necessities. And with a growing assortment of Open Textbooks that are online for free, it makes it even easier!

Online Assignments

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I stopped taking paper assignments several years ago and it has been a great experience.  Not only do I save paper but I am more organized, save time, and provide much more potent feedback to students.  Most word processor programs have a "comment" feature now so that you can provide comments around a paper rather than writing directly on it.  Between the comment feature, the highlight feature, and a file with canned comments (e.g. "Avoid using 2nd person pronouns in formal essays.  Remember that if your argument relies upon directly addressing the reader, then it might not be as strong as it can be").  I can download the papers, grade them, and send them all back.  Students get their grades sooner and have all of their grades in ANGEL or in their email.   

Virtual Tours and Field-Trips

Organizing a class field-trip has a variety of challenges.  Besides cost, determining times, getting everyone together, etc, there's also the challenge of whether there is a local place to visit that merits uprooting everyone's schedule.  However, many places such as museums and galleries are offering virtual tours for participants.  A good example of this is the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History where you can tour the facilities.  Besides the cost, the environmental impact of visiting a museum that might be thousands of miles away is all but eliminated.   

Virtual Reality/Simulations/Games

In addition to virtual tours, you might also consider finding virtual reality environments (Second Life), simulations (such as ECG Simulator) or even video games (check out Serious Games for more information on these) as great learning experiences while also reducing the amount of waste, risks, and costs.  Additionally, with many of these types of environments you can either capture the experience or have each student have personalized experiences enhancing the learning for all involved. 

What are some of the ways you are leveraging technology to reduce you and your students environmental impact?