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Global Warming? There’s an App for That

Posted January 8, 2014 in Classes & Presentations

Miami is about to be ravaged by flooding, an impending ice age looms over the earth’s northern hemisphere, increasingly toxic air has China on the verge of civil war, and only you have the power to stop it all.

No, that’s not a synopsis of the next blockbuster video game; it’s the premise of a new interactive app (click here to check it out!), designed by KCAD Digital Media students, that educates middle school students about the realities of global climate change. Students in the 8-14 age range often have trouble understanding the scope and importance of such complex issues because they’re typically presented to them in a way that isn’t entirely relatable.

That’s why the KCAD student design team of Ed Kindsvater, Brenda Snell, Tony Ellison, Casey Davis, and Pierre Babbitt enlisted the help of 17 students from Kenowa Hills Middle School, who not only tested the app’s interface and provided valuable feedback, but also researched and compiled every piece of scientific information contained in its menus, features, and assessment tools.

Digital Media student Ed Kindsvater presents the app's interface to students from Kenowa Hills Middle School

Digital Media student Ed Kindsvater shows off  the app's interface

The app’s interface prompts students to enter into animated scenarios in which kids just like them face disastrous situations caused by global climate change. As the scenarios play out, students are presented with scientific information and asked to make choices that decide the outcome.

“[With this app] we can take a huge topic like global climate change, with all the science, predictions, and numbers, and make it personal,” says Digital Media Professor Susan Bonner, who supervised the project. “As students use this app, we want them to be asking themselves what they could do to prevent these situations from happening in the future.

Digital Media student Brenda Snell runs through one of the app's interactive scenarios

Digital Media student Brenda Snell demonstrates one of the app's interactive scenarios

Memorizing key words from a worksheet or reading about sea level statistics in a textbook isn’t likely to elicit that same kind of deep questioning from a generation of learners that thrives on hands-on technological interaction. Take it from the Kenowa students themselves, who when asked if they preferred the app over other methods of learning about global climate change, responded with a resounding “yes!”

Displaying the app on a tablet

Displaying the app on a tablet. The KCAD design team worked to ensure the app's compatability across different platforms and devices.

Bonner hopes to continue the project next semester, adding more scenarios and scientific information so that the app can be brought to market and shared with students and teachers around the world. The app has already changed the way that one group of middle school students thinks about global climate change, but the idea behind it is much larger than the use of technology in the classroom; it’s about learning to harness the power of collective knowledge.

“We are bigger than ourselves,” Bonner says. “Together, we can make a change.”

Click here to check out the app for yourself!


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