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MEA Bulletin - Guest Article No. 45 - Thursday, 17 April 2008
How Information and Communications Technologies Can Support Education for Sustainable Development: Current uses and trends
By Leslie Paas, IISD Associate, with Heather Creech, Director, Knowledge Communications, IISD
An essential step in the journey to sustainable development is educating citizens to recognize the problems facing the world today (natural resource depletion, increasing pollution, poverty and so forth), as well as the opportunities for innovation and progress (such as new energy technologies and full-cost accounting systems) and empowering them to act responsibly towards a sustainable future. Recognizing the importance of such education, the drafters of multilateral environmental agreements (MEAs) have included clauses related to education, public awareness and training as key implementation mechanisms for these instruments. Nonetheless, educational systems have not succeeded in influencing choices and behaviors that would support sustainable development. This paper identifies ways in which many changes called for in education for sustainable development (ESD) could be supported through greater integration of information and communication technologies (ICTs) in the learning environment

ICTs are important tools for reaching greater numbers of learners as well as facilitating new ways of learning and understanding that will be required to implement the complex solutions required for sustainability. The continued expansion of networks technologies, bandwidth, and computer capacity, coupled with increasing user familiarity with the tools, social networking applications, and the acceptance of innovative pedagogical methods in the educational system offer new and exciting new possibilities for ESD.
Based on this review of the history of ICTs in ESD, current uses and trends, the authors suggest that additional work is needed in the following areas:

1. Further exploration of the connection between ICTs and ESD. This paper has found that there is little research available that demonstrates and confirms the synergies between these areas of practice. Although there is a wealth of research on educational technology, a further step needs to be taken to link ICTs for ESD. This line of enquiry may ultimately lead to recommendations for educational policy development that more explicitly encourage the incorporation of ICTs into an ESD oriented curriculum.

2. Exponential increases in the quantity of information and knowledge management and sharing tools will generate two needs:

a. the need to help students (and educators) assess the quality of information and opinions to which they are increasingly exposed, especially taking into account the tendency for a greater emphasis on peer learning, interaction and the tendency for social networking tools to quickly create a “critical mass”; and

b. the need for educators to learn how to use these same tools to track advances and keep up-to-date in their knowledge area.

3. Finally, there is a need to devise new measures for learning outcomes in an ICT-supported and connected learning environment, as well as to determine whether educational pedagogies, tools and learning environments are really helping to educate citizens to live sustainably.

To access the full report: How Information and Communications Technologies Can Support Education for Sustainable Development
(PDF - 559 kb)
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