torsdag 26 mars 2020

Systems Thinking exercises in Computing Education (paper)

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We played games from "The Systems Thinking Playbook for Climate Change" with our students. Then we wrote a paper about it,


Our paper, "Systems Thinking exercises in Computing Education - broadening the scope of ICT and sustainability" has been accepted to the upcoming ICT for Sustainability (ICT4S) conference. The paper is written by Elina Eriksson, Miriam Börjesson Rivera, Björn Hedin, Daniel Pargman and Hanna Hasselqvist. The conference itself was supposed to have been held in Bristol during the second half of June but has now moved online.

This paper is based on our work of introducing Systems Thinking and in particular Systems Thinking games into our sustainability education. We introduced Systems Thinking games in our course about "Sustainability and Media Technology" during two course rounds and then expanded the role of Systems Thinking this past autumn (and will expand it again the next time the course is given).

The paper is a more or less straightforward narration of what we did, how we did it, lessons learned etc. The paper can also be seen as a follow-up to the paper that my colleague Elina Eriksson and me wrote and presented at the (2014) 2nd ICT4S conference in Stockholm, “ICT4S Reaching Out: Making sustainability relevant in higher education". This paper starts the conclusion byt stating that:

"To sum up our experience, we can only warmly recommend using systems thinking games as a tool in sustainability education for computing students. There was a wealth of aspects that could be used as examples in our education, to point back to and remind students of how systems work."


We originally encountered the idea of using Systems Thinking games in a great ICT4S 2014 paper by Steve Easterbrook, "From Computational Thinking to Systems Thinking". It was after attending the (2018) 5th ICT4S conference in Toronto and actually playing such games together with Steve that we seriously started to consider trying this on in our own courses. The games themselves come from "The Systems Thinking Playbook for Climate Change" by Sweeney, Meadows and Mehers (see image above - also available online as a pdf file!). We have used four different games (Group Juggle, Harvest, Living Loops and 1-2-3-Go) of which most time (in class) is spend with the game Harvest (about the commons and individual vs collective rationality).

The paper has been accepted to ICT4S and we have a bit more than 10 days to take the reviewers' comments into account and do minor edits before we submit the camera-ready version of the paper. Here's the abstract:


ABSTRACT
Integrating sustainability in computing education entails broadening the scope of the education, but how can that be done while maintaining student engagement? Climate change and species extinction can appear far removed from data structures and algorithms to say the least. In our ongoing work of integrating sustainability in our Media Technology programme, we have addressed this gap by introducing systems thinking games and activities to broaden the scope, as well as by situating the issues addressed in the course in relation to their future profession. In this paper, we present our experiences of introducing and playing systems thinking games, how the systems thinking exercise sessions were conducted, outcomes of the sessions and finally some lessons learnt. Furthermore, we present and analyse changes we did to the exercises and that led to a richer material for discussions in the classroom.
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