The professional development experience

  • Principles
  • Flexibility
  • Multimedia learning
  • Independent learning
  • Opportunities
New communication technologies are resulting in basic changes in the way people learn and in the student-teacher relationship. The introduction of multimedia to the classroom can lead to higher-level thinking as the computer takes care of low-level routine tasks, supports inquiry learning by making available a wide range of resources, accommodates different learning styles, and changes the role of the teacher from knowledge source to learning facilitator.

Source: Adapted from Sui, D.Z. and Bednarz, R. S. (1999) The message is the medium: Geographic education in the age of the Internet, Journal of Geography, 98 (3), p. 96.

Teaching and learning principles

Multimedia-based learning is becoming increasingly common. While it has limitations, and certainly should not be seen as a substitute for face to face interaction, it does have numerous advantages for teacher education. For example, the information contained on the Internet is unlimited and evolving. It is up to date, inexpensive to obtain, and searchable. It is also democratic as it reflects the view of many authors and sources of authority. Multimedia professional teacher education can also be highly interactive and engaging through the use of animation, audio and video files, games and on-line discussions. All these can be undertaken at any time and at any place and without the need for an expert workshop facilitator.

Teaching and Learning for a Sustainable Future demonstrates the principles of effective teaching and learning that are a necessary part of reorienting education towards a sustainable future. That is, the type of professional development experiences in Teaching and Learning for a Sustainable Future seeks to ensure that the ‘medium’ for learning is a part of the ‘message’. In order to achieve this goal, the learning experiences in Teaching and Learning for a Sustainable Future reflect three principles of effective professional development: academic rigour, experiential learning and reflection.

Academic rigour
Teaching and Learning for a Sustainable Future incorporates up-to-date knowledge about key issues related to global realities and sustainable development themes from many disciplines. Since it is produced by an international body (UNESCO), the programme has been developed through extensive consultation, review and evaluation and is as free as possible from cultural or other biases. Links to numerous Internet sites also provide multiple perspectives on topics and can enhance access to information and critical thinking. The learning experiences in Teaching and Learning for a Sustainable Future also integrate contemporary thinking in educational circles on curriculum reform and effective teaching and learning strategies.
Experiential learning
All the modules in Teaching and Learning for a Sustainable Future are based upon an experiential learning process that invites teachers to analyse and interpret information in a variety of forms (e.g. text, tables, diagrams, computer games, and linked WWW-sites); review new knowledge in the light of current understandings; reflect upon and generalise from learning experiences; develop skills in a wide variety of teaching and learning strategies; and adapt and apply new ideas and skills to practical educational tasks.
Reflection
Reflection is integral to the professional development experiences in Teaching and Learning for a Sustainable Future. A deepening appreciation of Education for Sustainable Development is encouraged by the use of a ‘Learning Journal’ in every module. Answering questions in the ‘Learning Journal’ is a practical way of learning. It also provides a record of what has been learnt, ideas and plans for applying these ideas in local situations, and opportunities for on-going professional reflection. Some questions in the Learning Journal may also be used as starting points for student learning material.

Flexibility and ease of use

Teaching and Learning for a Sustainable Future is easy to use, even by people with only basic computer skills. In addition, the programme can be used in a very flexible way.

Some of the key design features are:

Relevant for diverse audiences 
Teaching and Learning for a Sustainable Future has been designed to be used in both initial pre-service teacher education, ie. for student teachers, and in the in-service education of experienced teachers. At the same time, it has also been designed to suit the professional development needs of curriculum developers, education policy makers and authors of educational materials.
Available in several formats
Teaching and Learning for a Sustainable Future is available in two multimedia formats – on the Internet <http://www.unesco.org/education/tlsf/> and as a CDROM [2010 Version 6 is available online only]. A separate DOC file of every module is also provided to facilitate printing and use of the programme in ‘hard copy’ format. A link to the index for these files can be found in the footer of each page.
Choice of topics
Teaching and Learning for a Sustainable Future contains 27 topics (called modules) organised in 4 thematic sections. While the modules are cross-linked, they are designed to be self-contained. The modules can be studied in any order to suit the interests and needs of users.
Range of activities
Each of the modules is divided into 5 to 7 activities with each one usually taking between 30 and 40 minutes to complete. The personal Learning Journal that is integrated into the programme allows busy users to ‘save’ their work after one or two activities and come back to the module when they have more time. These activities provide a full multimedia learning experience. Passive reading is minimal. Most time is spent answering questions, doing exercises, working through problems, games and other activities that encourage active learning.
Easy to use
User friendliness is reinforced by using a common presentation for all 27 modules. Each module is organised under the same headings – introduction, objectives, activities, references and credits, common design elements (e.g. navigation bars and icons). Simple and clear instructions are provided throughout.
Simplicity of design
Teaching and Learning for a Sustainable Future has a simple visual design, based on an attractive range of colours and icons. The programme is free of the large files and complex graphics that increase download time and the cost of Internet access. The programme can operate on a computer with relatively basic hardware specifications. No prior knowledge or skills are required. The clear instructions guide users step by step through the programme.
Learning styles
The many different types of professional development activities integrated into Teaching and Learning for a Sustainable Future provide a rich variety of learning experiences that cater to many learning styles. Long passages have been kept to a minimum – and when they do appear – are mostly located in pop-up boxes which can be printed and read when convenient. Great care has been given to providing information in a variety of forms (e.g. text, tables, diagrams, audio-files and linked Internet-sites). The programme contains over 500 Internet links. The activities require users to analyse and interpret this information and to apply the ideas learnt to local curriculum and teaching contexts. A Learning Journal allows users to summarise questions, answers and reflections and save them in a word processing programme.
Adaptable
An ’open architecture’ (ie. technical structure) was used to create the computer files in Teaching and Learning for a Sustainable Future. For this reason, the programme can be easily translated or adapted with a minimum of technical expertise and a basic webpage creation application. See guidelines for adapting Teaching and Learning for a Sustainable Future to different educational and cultural contexts.

A multimedia learning approach

Multimedia-based learning is becoming increasingly common. While it has limitations, and certainly should not be seen as a substitute for face-to-face interaction, it does have numerous advantages for teacher professional development.

Firstly, the information contained on the Internet is unlimited and evolving, up to date, inexpensive, and searchable. It also reflects the views of many authors and sources of information.

Secondly, multimedia professional development experiences can be interactive, involve asynchronous interaction, and take place at any time and at any place.

Analyse the relative importance of these nine advantages of multimedia-based learning.

This exercise or interaction (as exercises tend to be called in multimedia-based learning) is based upon a technique called Diamond Ranking which, as the name implies, requires you to rank the nine advantages in the shape of a diamond.

As well as providing an opportunity to review the advantages of multimedia-based professional development, this interaction also gives practice in a number of the multimedia-learning techniques you will use throughout Teaching and Learning for a Sustainable Future. These include:

  • Diamond Ranking – a technique used in several interactions;
  • ‘Drag and Drop’ – another technique used in several interactions;
  • Moving between ‘Interactions’ and the main Teaching and Learning for a Sustainable Future modules;
  • Moving between the main Teaching and Learning for a Sustainable Future modules and your ‘Learning Journal’; and
  • Using your ‘Learning Journal’.

Open your learning journal and answer the following questions:

Q1: Explain the reasons behind your choice of the three ‘most significant’ advantages of multimedia-based learning.

Q2: To what extent have these factors been a part of your professional development experiences to date?

Q3: What skills that you presently have will you be drawing on as you work through the modules in Teaching and Learning for a Sustainable Future? What skills might need further enhancement?

Q4: Explain how the four professional development principles of academic rigour, experiential learning, reflection and multimedia-based learning were integrated into the diamond ranking exercise.

Independent learning

The multimedia format of Teaching and Learning for a Sustainable Future encourages independent learning for individual and small group professional development. Teachers, curriculum developers, education policy makers, authors and designers of educational materials and teacher educators can all use Teaching and Learning for a Sustainable Future to study modules and activities whenever they want, either at work or at home.

Through personalised Learning Journals different users can work from a single CDROM or Internet-linked computer. Since each user has a personalised Learning Journal, their work remains confidential. This is because the Learning Journal, when opened, as automatically downloaded onto the hard drive of the computer or onto a floppy disk, and saved as a word processing file. Learning Journal files can also be printed, completed by hand, and stored as a set of paper files in a folder.

Because of the multimedia format of Teaching and Learning for a Sustainable Future, teachers no longer have to wait for a workshop or training seminar to be organised in their schools or districts. This is often a problem for some teachers, especially for those in remote locations. Furthermore, the modules and activities can be studied in any order – either alone or in small staffroom or study group. The resulting sense of independence and responsibility can bring a new professionalism to teaching and thus help raise the status of teachers.

Opportunities in teacher education

Professors, lecturers and others responsible for developing teacher education curricula will be able to useTeaching and Learning for a Sustainable Future in their courses, in different ways depending on their needs. For example, as:

  • A stand-alone course on Teaching and Learning for a Sustainable Future
  • A selection of modules integrated into a stand-alone course on a specific education topic
  • A selection of modules integrated into other courses on specific education topics as enrichment material.

In all of these cases, Teaching and Learning for a Sustainable Future can be studied on-line or from the CDROM – in class-time, as pre- or post-class activities, or as a full e-learning experience.

Each module in Teaching and Learning for a Sustainable Future takes approximately 4 hours to complete. This provides 100 hours of learning, the amount of time students could generally be expected to study in a 10-14 week term or semester course. However, selections and groupings of modules can be made to suit local decisions about term/semester length, the balance of in-class contact versus independent study in a course, assessment requirements, etc.

Moreover the programme is available free of change. Teacher education institutions can load a copy of Teaching and Learning for a Sustainable Future on a local server (to reduce access and download time for staff and students) and duplicate copies of the CDROM for free distribution to their students. All that is required is a request for permission from UNESCO, acknowledgement of UNESCO as the source, and using the copies for non-profit educational purposes only.

National and regional adaptations and translations of Teaching and Learning for a Sustainable Future are encouraged. Teacher education institutions are invited to work collaboratively and with relevant Ministries of Education to help facilitate these changes.

Some of the ways in which Teaching and Learning for a Sustainable Future can be used are illustrated in the following examples. Note, however, that the flexibility of the programme means that these are suggestions only and can be adapted to suit local plans.


Course 1

Teaching and Learning for a Sustainable Future

Curriculum Rationale

  1. Exploring global realities
  2. Understanding sustainable development
  3. A futures perspective in the curriculum
  4. Reorienting education for a sustainable future
  5. Accepting the challenge

Teaching about Sustainability Across the Curriculum

  1. Sustainable futures across the curriculum
  2. Citizenship education
  3. Health education
  4. Consumer education

Contemporary Issues

  1. Culture and religion for a sustainable future
  2. Indigenous knowledge and sustainability
  3. Women and sustainable development
  4. Population and development
  5. Understanding world hunger
  6. Sustainable agriculture
  7. Sustainable tourism
  8. Sustainble communities
  9. Globalisation
  10. Climate Change

Teaching and Learning Strategies

  1. Experiential learning
  2. Storytelling
  3. Values education
  4. Enquiry learning
  5. Appropriate assessment
  6. Future Problem Solving
  7. Learning outside the classroom
  8. Community Problem Solving

Course 2

Curriculum Planning for a Sustainable Future

Curriculum Rationale

  1. Exploring global realities
  2. Understanding sustainable development
  3. A futures perspective in the curriculum

Integrating Sustainability Across the Curriculum

  1. Sustainable futures across the curriculum
  2. Citizenship education
  3. Health education
  4. Consumer education
  5. Culture and religion for a sustainable future
  6. Indigenous knowledge and sustainability
  7. Women and sustainable development

Course 3

Teaching and Learning Strategies

Introduction

  1. Reorienting education for a sustainable future
  2. Accepting the challenge

Teaching Approaches

  1. Experiential learning
  2. Storytelling
  3. Values education
  4. Enquiry learning
  5. Appropriate assessment
  6. Future Problem Solving
  7. Learning outside the classroom
  8. Community Problem Solving

Course 4

Philosophy of Education

  1. Exploring global realities
  2. Understanding sustainable development
  3. A futures perspective in the curriculum
  4. Reorienting education for a sustainable future
  5. Accepting the challenge
  6. Culture and religion for a sustainable future
  7. Indigenous knowledge and sustainability
  8. Women and sustainable development
  9. Sustainable communities

Course 5

Issues in Sustainable Development

  1. Exploring global realities
  2. Understanding sustainable development
  3. Health education
  4. Consumer education
  5. Culture and religion for a sustainable future
  6. Indigenous knowledge and sustainability
  7. Women and sustainable development
  8. Population and development
  9. Understanding world hunger
  10. Sustainable agriculture
  11. Sustainable tourism
  12. Sustainble communities
  13. Globalisation
  14. Climate Change