MET:ESD in E-Learning Environments

From UBC Wiki

This page was originally authored by E. Danielle Norris in 2011.


File:Green Laptop 1.jpg
Figure 1: Green Tech

Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) is the practice of integrating sustainability teaching and learning into education. Sustainable Development (SD) refers to the social, economic and ecological sustainability of our planet and its inhabitants. More specifically, “Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs” (Our Common Future, 1987). ESD in e-learning environments refers to education technologies and how they are used in terms of both design and pedagogy.

ESD in E-Learning Environments

Green Tech

Green tech is environmental technology or sustainable technology. More specifically, it is technology that has little or no environmental impact. Wimba, the makers of Collaborative Learning solutions and services, created Wimba Pronto - an instant communication platform powered by wind energy. As wind powers Wimba Pronto’s servers and routers, students and teachers engage in real-time communication and application sharing in a pollution-free, sustainable learning environment.

File:Solar Laptop Charger.jpg
Figure 2: Green Tech

Green Tech also includes such energy solutions as solar powered laptop chargers. Such devices are not only useful for students’ laptops, but can also be useful for sustainably recharging mobiles and other electronic devices. With close to 1.5 billion people in developing countries without access to electricity and with electrical power accounting for 26% of global greenhouse gas emissions (Grimshaw 2010), such green technologies could considerably improve the sustainability of e-learning environments.

Green Resources

The Internet offers educators a seemingly endless supply of resources and materials for integrating ESD into the curriculum and classroom. The advent of collaborative online work spaces have enabled educators around the world to share resources, knowledge, and ideas. Given the number of environmental, social, and economic problems we currently face worldwide, the need for ESD is paramount and the Internet is key. Educators need to develop students’ multiliteracies that not only include developing their literacy of an ever increasing multicultural, multi-lingual, and technological society (New London Group, 1996), they also need to develop their literacy of sustainable development and what it means for their future, and future generations.

Figure 3: Games for Change

Games for change:

  • “Games for Change is the leading global advocate for supporting and making games for social impact.”

Centre of Ecoliteracy:

  • “The Center for Ecoliteracy provides a variety of instructional tools to assist teachers as they plan and implement sustainable curriculum.”

Resources for Rethinking (R4R):

  • R4R “provides teachers access to lesson plans and other teaching resources that integrate environmental, social and economic spheres through learning that is interdisciplinary and action oriented.”

Education for Sustainable Development: Blog:

  • “The ESD site Education For Sustainable is an education resource site for people actively working with the development and implementation of ESD in schools and other educational institutions – and related educational research.”


  • “EcoLeague™ is a youth empowerment program that challenges and motivates students across the country to help save the planet through community and school-based environmental action projects.”

Green Design

File:Green design.jpg
Figure 4: One Laptop Per Child

]The nature of instructional design is changing with a move away from didactic approaches to those that foster collaboration and authentic problem-solving. The need for sustainable development on a local and global scale is a very real and urgent problem. The design of e-learning environments therefore needs to not only bring students together to work on an authentic task, but they also need to engage students in collaboration on problems that are an integral part of the ongoing activity of society (Barab and Duffy, 1998). Such communities of practice or Knowledge Building communities foster transformative learning that extends beyond school walls. E-learning environments enable progressive problem-solving in a socially dynamic and inclusive setting. The “problem-solving approach that is common to technology education classrooms provides many affordances to students engaging meaningfully with ideas of sustainability and developing strong understandings of its scope and significance” (Middleton, 2008). Furthermore, with e-learning, students are able to engage with a variety of media that allow students to maximize the advantages of a variety of discourse modes (Scardamalia and Bereiter, 1994).

A Green Design to e-learning environments will include the following elements:

  • authentic problems related to sustainable development that are meaningful to learners and that draw on their personal contexts and background knowledge
  • a variety of synchronous and asynchronous communication capabilities and interactivities that enable reflection and peer commentary
  • access to the expertise, other than the teacher, of those working within the area of sustainable development



By not having to travel to and from school or university, students are reducing their carbon footprint by engaging in e-learning environments. E-books and other online resources are also reducing the amount of paper being used for educational materials. However, the cost of storing and processing data to both the institution and the environment. Many large institutions in the United States spend millions powering inefficient machines, cooling systems and servers (Keller, 2009). Furthermore, the rate at which e-learning technologies change and require upgrading also adds to the high cost of education for institutions their students.


File:Apple E-Waste.jpg
Figure 5: Consequences of E-Waste

As e-learning technologies become obsolete, their disposal contributes to e-waste - a large contributor of environmental degradation. Eighty percent of the 47.5 million computers being thrown out yearly in the US are shipped to landfills in China (Schaffhauser, 2009). Many electronics contain toxic contaminants that seep into the ground causing significant risks to the local population. Furthermore, as little residents will also use inappropriate means to dismantle electronic waste in an attempt to remove precious metals and other recyclable components (Schaffhauser, 2009). As educational institutions strive to keep up with state-of-the-art e-learning technologies, inappropriate disposal of waste technologies and subsequent damage to the environment often the Gates the good intentions of their original purchase.

See Also

External Links


Barab S. A. And Duffy, T. (1998). From Practice Fields to Communities of Practice. In D. Jonassen, and S. Land (Eds.), Theoretical Foundations of Learning Environments. Bloomington: Indiana University.

Bruno, R. (2010) Does this belong to you? Apple e-waste in China. Retrieved from

Gadotti, M. (2010). Reorienting Education Practices towards Sustainability. Journal of Education for Sustainable Development, 4(2), 203-211. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.

Grimshaw, D. J. (2010). Solar Power for the Poor: Facts and Figures. SciDev.Net. Retrieved from <\and-figures-1.html>.

Heimbuch, J. (2008). 7 Portable Solar Laptop Chargers Worth Considering. Retrieved from

Keller, J. (2009). Energy Drain by Computers Stifles Efforts at Cost Control. Chronicle of Higher Education, 55(18), A1. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.

Leal Filho, W., Manolas, E., & Pace, P. (2009). Education for Sustainable Development: Current Discourses and Practices and Their Relevance to Technology Education. International Journal of Technology and Design Education, 19(2), 149-165. Retrieved from ERIC database.

Middleton, H. (2009). Problem-Solving in Technology Education as an Approach to Education for Sustainable Development. International Journal of Technology and Design Education, 19(2), 187-197. Retrieved from ERIC database.

New London Group. (1996). A Pedagogy of Multiliteracies: Designing Social Futures. Harvard Is Educational Review, 66(1), 60-92.

Oiligarchy (2011). Games for change: Oiligarchy. Retrieved from

One Laptop Per Child: News (2011). One Laptop Per Child. Retrieved from

Pachal, P. (2008). MacBook Earth, Fire and Water. Retrieved from

Pavlova, M. (2009). Conceptualisation of Technology Education within the Paradigm of Sustainable Development. International Journal of Technology and Design Education, 19(2), 109-132. Retrieved from ERIC database.

"Report of the World Commission on Environment and Development: Our Common Future – UN Documents: Gathering a Body of Global Agreements.” Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Retrieved from

Scardamalia, M., & Bereiter, C. (1994). Computer support for knowledge building communities.The Journal of the Learning Sciences, 3(3), 265-283.

Schaffhauser, D. (2009). The Dirt on E-Waste. T.H.E. Journal, 36(3), 20-25. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.