Revisiting Global Challenges

I am currently in the process of updating the Global Challenges syllabus and assessment. Nothing too drastic, but I would like to make a number of changes for the new academic year. The biggest change is that there will no longer be an exam. While the exam turned out very well – there was a good spread of grades with some students getting excellent marks – I want to embed the assessments further into the course with time and space for reflection on feedback. That would be possible with a series of in-class tests (something that can work very well, for example see Living with Environmental Change) but instead I will use more assessed group work.

I am also currently experimenting with lecture recording and flip teaching. Lectures will be recorded and watched online before classes that will concentrate on discussions of the lecture material and allocated reading. This has worked very well for Sustainability in the Local and Global Environment. This also gives me the opportunity to try and get some guest lecturers that slipped through my clutches last year as we can in principle record anytime. And anything that could help reduce my stress levels as I do battle with the diaries of eight very busy academics is to be welcomed. Once recorded I can schedule a lecture anytime.

Interview at Intech

Last week I gave an evening lecture at Intech in Winchester. If you haven’t been to Intech I can really recommend it. Great for kids (small and about my size…) with many hands-on exhibits about science and engineering. The lecture was in their planetarium which was a fabulous venue. I was told it was all state of the art and it looked it. The lecture itself was recorded and may end up online someday. Afterwards I was interviewed by ICM Reporting.

One thing that I forgot to mention in the interview is that one way that I would like people to get more involved in the issues I talked about is to sign up to the Global Challenges online course – when it is actually online. The current module is going very well and I am planning on opening it up for those that would like to study remotely. Please stay tuned for developments.

New Global Challenges website

The Global Challenges module is in its third week and the students already seem to be getting a great deal from it. Their response to John Shepherd’s guest lecture yesterday was so positive and enthusiastic. Great stuff.

I’ve created a new module website to let anyone join the party:

You will find all lecture slides along with videos of the lectures, seminar material, reading lists and online resources. I don’t have a mechanism by which you can remotely register for the course, submit coursework, have it assessed and be awarded a certificate for completing the module, but I’m working on it!

And we’re off!

After a very unrestful and disruptive Christmas and New Year (all my own fault, but well there you go) teaching kicked off this week with the start of Semester 2. This means that the Global Challenges module has finally begun. It’s my intention to get as much public engagement with the module as possible. To that end I’ve created a new website:

This will include course material such as reading lists, lecture slides and notes and (hopefully – if everything works!) videos of our guest lecturers. I’m particularly excited about that. We’ve managed to arrange an impressive line up of speakers who will be giving their take on the global challenges. These are world experts in their field and are often to be found advising governments and NGOs. Collectively their lectures will prove to be an important contribution to how we can effectively engage with the global challenges.

A false dawn?

“The devastation that Hurricane Sandy brought to New York City and much of the Northeast — in lost lives, lost homes and lost business — brought the stakes of next Tuesday’s presidential election into sharp relief,”

“Our climate is changing… and while the increase in extreme weather we have experienced in New York City and around the world may or may not be the result of it, the risk that it may be — given the devastation it is wreaking — should be enough to compel all elected leaders to take immediate action.”

New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg.

Bloomberg cites concerns over climate change as one of the reasons he is endorsing Obama rather than Romney. In fact the title of his Op Ed piece is “A vote for a president to lead on climate change.” This comes just after the Republican Governor of New Jersey gave effusive and repeated praise of Obama and cited the importance of climate change.

Has the day after tomorrow finally arrived?

“You do not have ocean water, salt water breaching the banks of Manhattan in my lifetime. When you start to fill subway tunnels with salt water, much of the ConEd equipment is underground… “That is a design flaw, I believe, for our system now. … We did not anticipate water coming over the Hudson River, coming over the banks and being 5 feet deep on the West Side highway.

…what I saw last night in downtown Manhattan and the south shore of Long Island was some of the worst that I have seen. The Hudson River was literally pouring into the Ground Zero site with such a force that we were worried about the structure of the pit itself… It was frightening.

Anyone who says there’s not a dramatic change in weather patterns is probably denying reality.”

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo.

What would it take the world’s second largest emitter of greenhouse gasses to collectively conclude that the effects humans were having on the Earth’s climate posed a serious risk to us? Apocalyptic scenes like this?

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Another title slide, another talk

Did you know that the 24th October is UN World Development Information Day? It’s been running for 40 years now and is intended to raise the profile of development issues and how they may be addressed. The University of Southampton is holding a public event to show some of its recent work in this area. I will be giving a talk about the global challenges module and our ideas for a TEDx event at Southampton. If you can’t make the talk, you will hopefully be able to catch it being streamed live here. Some event details:

Wednesday 24th October 5:30pm-7:30pm
Room 44/Lecture Theatre A 1041, Highfield Campus

Free wine and nibbles after the talk!