UNESCO: How to continue Education for Sustainable Development during the pandemic: Practitioners share innovations in digital and remote learning
In the second edition of UNESCO’s series of online workshops on the ‘transformative power of Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) for the world beyond Covid-19’, practitioners shared their experiences of creatively integrating ESD into digital and remote settings, and how to build structures to ensure that ESD learning continues.
On 14 October 2020, some 600 participants joined UNESCO for the online workshop, ‘ESD in remote and digital settings: Lessons learned during the COVID-19 pandemic’ (click here to watch in English - French - German), which featured educators who are using innovative methods and technologies to make ESD learning possible despite the challenging circumstances.
A poll showed that 94 % of the live participants continued some form of ESD learning during the pandemic (67% fulltime, 27% partially) and the majority did so through the internet or using telephones.
During the panel interview, ESD practitioners from four different global regions shared how they continued ESD despite the challenging situation during the pandemic.
Work together to quickly adapt to the situation
Yusuke Morita, Professor at the Faculty of Human Sciences at Waseda University in Japan shared the example of Kumamoto City, where schools used apps for interactive online collaboration. Different actors, such as schools and local authorities, worked together to quickly adapt to the new situation and ensure continued ESD learning. Professor Morita shared that this collaboration between different actors of the education sector and local communities was a great success and ESD learning could be picked up online quickly after social distancing measures were announced and schools had to be closed.
Maintain a sense of connection and expand the community of practice
In collaboration with TedX, the digital learning platform Earth School is accessible, and entails modules that can be easily followed by both independent learners and those learners who need parent involvement. Fifty curators across the world collaborated to create an online resource to mark the Earth Day 2020 in under 30 days.
Kathleen Usher, science specialist at the English Montreal School Board in Canada, was one of the curators of the Earth School Project and shared how the creators made learning on this online platform more active, by providing activities that learners can easily do at home and connect with their everyday activities and lives.
Ensuring social and emotional learning continues during the pandemic
The importance of feeling connected and emotionally engaged was also emphasized by Maria Anagnostidou, who is a teacher at the 3rd Primary School of Serres, Greece. For her, social and emotional learning and creating a sense of community is a core challenge in digital learning and she shared some stories of how she involved her students in ESD activities during the pandemic: Together with a school in Poland, she designed several online exhibitions and activities that the students could independently create and then showcase online. She used international days to engage students in activities, for example the internal bee day to learn about bee keeping and pollen or the international gastronomy day to speak about food and nutrition.
Make ESD learning accessible and inclusive
Cristian Vélez Ramirez, the Education Coordinator of The Amazon Rescue Center (CREA) and Amazon Forever in Peru underscored the importance of inclusivity and shared examples on how ESD learning was shared through the internet, TV and also radio to young people in the country. The initiative was part of the Ministry of Education of Peru’s ‘I learn from home’ – ‘Aprendo en casa’ programme, including the ‘One child, One radio’ for young learners in remote settings without internet access. Cristian and his colleagues also moved many of their education activities online,thereby reaching learners who would usually have to come to the Amazon Rescue Center.
The speakers concluded that collaboration between different actors in the community and making digital and remote ESD programmes more engaging and action oriented are crucial elements for the continuation of ESD during the pandemic. They highlighted that supporting teachers to help them facilitate ESD in digital and remote settings was vital, as was exploring new technical possibilities, including virtual reality, depending on context and available resources.
When the question was asked, what the panelists would do better or differently during another lockdown, they emphasized the importance of collaboration with parents, private donors, or local authorities to make sure that structures are improved to reduce the digital gap and provide access to the internet and devices. Another learning from more remote settings was that finding creative solutions tailored to the local context can reduce the digital gap, for example by providing battery operated radios to students in remote settings and focus on audio lessons and podcasts so that distance learning can take place, also without access to the internet. The panelists shared the same observation from the first few months of the pandemic, namely that distance learning from home can be a potential entry point into the family learning environment and provides an opportunity to involve families and the community into holistic ESD learning through action-oriented strategies. These action-oriented elements are also crucial to creating a healthier learning environment for students and avoid long hours of screen time.
This event was part of an online workshop series organized by UNESCO, in cooperation with the Federal Ministry of Education and Research of Germany and the German Commission for UNESCO in preparation of the UNESCO World Conference on ESD.
Source: UNESCO, 02/12/2020