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Icon for: Juliette Rooney-Varga

JULIETTE ROONEY-VARGA

UMass Lowell Climate Change Initiative

Transforming mental models of climate change through simulations, games, and ...

NSF Awards: 1245581

2017 (see original presentation & discussion)

Undergraduate, Graduate, Adult learners, Informal / multi-age

The World Energy exercise enables people to try out and explore the policies and investment scenarios that allow them to reach their goals on climate change. With a focus on the mix of solutions that will lead to a more stable climate, this simulation can inspire hope that is grounded in our best understanding of the dynamics of the energy and climate system.

What policies would you choose to enable a future that:

  • stabilizes global warming well below 2 degrees C temperature rise, or even 1.5 degrees C?
  • supports economic health?
  • provides for equity?
  • minimizes environmental damages?
  • is viable if human civilization is at its best?

 

For World Energy, participants are divided into teams that represent different sectors and negotiate with each other to come up with a global energy scenario that could lead to a safe and equitable clean energy future. Each team controls a handful of levers that are related to their sector and can be adjusted in the computer simulation En-ROADS. For example, the group focusing on energy supply has control over the levers that drive investment in renewable, gas, nuclear, and coal energy. Groups then present their plans and it is compiled and analyzed in real-time with En-ROADS.

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Original Discussion from the 2017 STEM for All Video Showcase
  • Icon for: Heidi Carlone

    Heidi Carlone

    Facilitator
    May 15, 2017 | 09:24 p.m.

    This project intrigues me because of its potential to engage participants in rich, authentic scientific practices (modeling, simulation, argumentation, critical thinking). Their apparent investment in outcomes makes more likely that their engagement in these practices is more vibrant. What kinds of participants have access to this simulation and program? Are there plans to make it more widely accessible? I think it could be an outstanding pedagogical tool for high school and/or college classrooms.

  • Icon for: Juliette Rooney-Varga

    Juliette Rooney-Varga

    Lead Presenter
    Director, Associate Professor
    May 16, 2017 | 08:33 a.m.

    Thanks for your comments! The simulator and all of the supporting materials are freely available for anyone to download and use. World Energy has been used at levels ranging from high school to graduate school, as well as with professionals in a variety of fields. In fact, most recently, ~100 UMass Lowell Engineering faculty members played World Energy as part of their faculty retreat! We are continuously improving the materials and welcome feedback on how to make the simulation more accessible to audiences in diverse educational settings.

     
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    Discussion is closed. Upvoting is no longer available

    Heidi Carlone
  • Icon for: Sarah Garlick

    Sarah Garlick

    Facilitator
    May 16, 2017 | 09:53 a.m.

    I was struck by the compelling comment in the video that we are never going to experience the consequences of our decisions in issues as complex as climate change, so we need simulations. I'm curious to hear about how participants think about their role-playing decisions in the simulation related to their real decisions in everyday life. Do you have data about impacts following the experience?

  • Icon for: Juliette Rooney-Varga

    Juliette Rooney-Varga

    Lead Presenter
    Director, Associate Professor
    May 16, 2017 | 11:07 a.m.

    Yes - we have been evaluating World Energy and have conducted extensive research on a similar simulation, World Climate. For now, I'll share that our data on learning impacts from World Climate show significant gains climate change science knowledge, affective engagement with the topic, and desire to learn more about it. We have a paper in review on that work now and are currently writing one about World Energy. We are also eager to collect more data. Educators can get involved with our research effort by going to: http://climate-change-initiative.org/research/j... .

     
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    Sarah Garlick
  • Icon for: Claire Quimby

    Claire Quimby

    Facilitator
    May 16, 2017 | 09:19 p.m.

    Watching this video, I can't help but think of Model UN! They seem to encourage many similar skills and probably have many similar outcomes for participants. Have you tried switching up the delivery of this simulation to test different outcomes for players? For example, I wonder how things might differ if individuals were assigned to one group (e.g. Land and Agriculture) for the duration of the simulation versus having to change groups midway through.

  • Icon for: Juliette Rooney-Varga

    Juliette Rooney-Varga

    Lead Presenter
    Director, Associate Professor
    May 17, 2017 | 11:01 a.m.

    Yes, the simulation does have some similarities to Model UN. We haven't tried to shift people around and see how their learning outcomes change, but we do give everyone a chance to explore the full computer model and, we hope, gain a systems-level view of energy use and its climate impacts.

  • May 18, 2017 | 07:56 a.m.

    This is a wonderful project.  One key aspect that should be considered is how to help the unbelievers change their views.  The people shown in the video are bright and enlightened.  After the recent election, I came away with view that many people turn away from science and its insights not from an intellectual but from an emotional framework.  Studies have shown that data alone doesn't sway people.  When smart people make poor choices there is usually an emotional issue that is involved.  Simulations could provide a way to tap into emotional responses.  Is there a way to move this simulation into non-academic arenas?  To make it have a more emotional effect on users?

     
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    Claire Quimby
  • Icon for: Juliette Rooney-Varga

    Juliette Rooney-Varga

    Lead Presenter
    Director, Associate Professor
    May 18, 2017 | 09:34 a.m.

    Thank you for your comments! We have not yet done extensive research on learning outcomes from World Energy, but have done so for a similar simulation that we have developed, World Climate. We have found that participants in the simulation make gains in climate change knowledge, affect (in particular, a sense of urgency), intent to take action, and desire to learn more. Gains in affect were linked to learning and intent. In other words, you are right: affective engagement (and in this case, through a social experience) enhances learning and motivation.

  • Icon for: Juliette Rooney-Varga

    Juliette Rooney-Varga

    Lead Presenter
    Director, Associate Professor
    May 18, 2017 | 09:35 a.m.

    We also filtered our data set to look only at US participants who opposed government regulation of free markets - i.e., one belief linked to both a conservative world view and, in the US at least, to dismissal of human-caused climate change. Interestingly, we found that gains in climate change knowledge, affect, intent, and desire to learn more were at least as high among this group as among the rest of the sample.

     
    1
    Discussion is closed. Upvoting is no longer available

    Claire Quimby
  • Icon for: Juliette Rooney-Varga

    Juliette Rooney-Varga

    Lead Presenter
    Director, Associate Professor
    May 18, 2017 | 09:37 a.m.

    Lastly, we agree about reaching beyond academic audiences and are working to do so. In fact, I ran a mini-World Climate simulation with state legislators in Massachusetts, which was covered by the Boston Globe. We have also run the simulation with business executives, scientists, and citizens, and youth groups.

  • May 19, 2017 | 08:15 a.m.

    Awesome! To maximize the impact of science on policy, we have to actively engage outside of academia. I feel I haven't done that well until I felt compelled to (i.e. in the last 5 months).

  • Icon for: Juliette Rooney-Varga

    Juliette Rooney-Varga

    Lead Presenter
    Director, Associate Professor
    May 19, 2017 | 08:50 a.m.

    Agreed. Of course, most of us higher ed faculty are neither trained nor incentivized professionally to reach outside of academia. And it's often not easy to find the time to do these 'extra' activities. But it is increasingly important.

  • Icon for: Claire Quimby

    Claire Quimby

    Facilitator
    May 19, 2017 | 06:56 a.m.

    In response to Henry's comment, I would think that the experience of working on a team to represent a certain segment during the simulation would create some level of emotional investment, but it also would be cool to see what other things could contribute to this. For example if the participants watched a few short video interviews with people who themselves have emotional attachment to the issues. Lots of interesting possibilities!

  • Icon for: Juliette Rooney-Varga

    Juliette Rooney-Varga

    Lead Presenter
    Director, Associate Professor
    May 19, 2017 | 08:53 a.m.

    Yes, there are many possibilities. One of our core design principles is to enable people to learn and feel for themselves - i.e., avoid one-way transmission of information as much as possible and instead deliver an experience in which people explore the physical-technical system (climate and energy) through the computer model, while simultaneously exploring the complex dynamics of human decision-making through role-play. 

  • Icon for: John Anderson

    John Anderson

    Informal Educator
    May 22, 2017 | 11:49 a.m.

    I echo Heidi's opening comments about the simulation being rich, authentic and engaging. My question is whether you've designed any long-term engagement beyond the simulation itself. Do participants join an ongoing network?  Is there any facilitation to help them continue learning or to encourage them to form a community that encourages application of lessons from the simulation to their ongoing work/studies/lives? 

    Is there evidence of lasting impact?

    I was also struck by Dr. Sterman's comment that people have to learn for themselves as the only way to help them learn and change their mental models and change their behavior. I'm now convinced that the systems in which we live our lives have a HUGE influence on behavior. What we know and understand matter, but the systems we have access to shape our decisions to a great extent. (Example: if we want people to walk to the store, put the store across the street from where they live. If it's easy, we'll walk to the store) What I hope the simulation will do is to help people to design different systems (agriculture, transport, manufacture, entertainment, etc) to be far more efficient.

  • Further posting is closed as the event has ended.

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