Systems Thinking

These tools correspond with the SLS Student Learning Outcomes

 

 

 

Big Idea Writeup

Systems Thinking

Many scientists and engineers are trained to take a reductionist view of the world, breaking it down and analyzing it in discrete well characterized chunks on which experiments can be done and hypotheses tested. Unfortunately the synthesis required to take the reductionist knowledge and place it back into broader contexts is often missing from their training and subsequently their mental models of how to approach topics such as sustainable communities.

Course

Technology and Society

Technology and Society examines connections between the history of technology and other aspects of human history. The course uses historical episodes to challenge widely held misperceptions about technology and how it operates in the modern world. I argue that technology is a human product, not an autonomous force. Technology makes nothing happen by itself, but only as the result of human action. People can choose to design and use technology in different ways to better serve human needs.

Environmental Ethics

This is a practical course in environmental decision making in response to complex, open-ended problem situations.  Students work together in groups to acquire and practice basic tools of systems thinking and ethical inquiry, then bring those tools to bear on problem situations of their own choosing.

Ecology

Ecology (2335) is a traditional course where students work on applied problems, including those associated with climate change, invasive species, overexploitation etc. The focus is on the ecological concepts, looking at either sustainability or community, with reference to the other, through units, labs, assignments, and activities. 

Vertically Integrated Project: Civic Design

The purpose of this course is to research and develop information, communication, and media systems to address regional civic issues, using techniques from design, computing, and social sciences , in collaboration with government and community partners.  These systems will have real-world impact, and promote social sustainabilty, equity, and justice.

Sustainability, Technology, and Policy

The goal of this course is to provide a solid introduction to the concept of sustainable growth and development. Students will learn how to professionally navigate the current debate on sustainability and to assess strategies to promote sustainable communities and a sustainable planet. The course will blend qualitative and quantitative analysis of sustainable development, with large use of data analysis to measure progress towards sustainable development. Special attention will be paid to the role of technological innovation.

Toolkit Listing

SLS Case Study: Atlanta BeltLine

The Atlanta BeltLine is one of the most important urban renewal projects of the 21st century. In this case study, read about the ambitions, successes, and struggles of this project, now in its 12th year. Serve-Learn-Sustain interprets sustainable communities as integrated systems, wherein environmental, economic, and social factors all inform each other. As you read this case study, consider these terms as discrete factors, but also as connected.  This tool was contributed by Dr. Bethany Jacobs.

Smart Cities

The Smart City Kit is a set of hands-on materials that supports collaborative scenario building activities. These activities can foster a greater understanding of smart-cities as socio-technical systems. Through these activities, students should develop an appreciation for how smart cities technologies fit or don’t fit into the fabric of everyday life in the city. The kit requires no background knowledge in design or participatory methods. It can be customized for specific technologies or scenarios, and it can be used across the curriculum. The Smart City tool is available for check-out from the Serve-Learn-Sustain office.

Each kit imagines a team of 5-10 students, but it is possible to make a single kit stretch over twenty students. Email us for more details, and to inquire about check-out.