Using virtual environments – which are ultimately representations of representations – to reinforce our bonds with the natural environments from which we all come and on which we depend for vital ecosystemic resources, is the key challenge taken up by the Digital Diorama project. The Digital Dioramas are learning resources that invite exploration and interpretation of transversal and strongly interrelated biology themes. By encouraging users to actively construct their own knowledge, the DD stimulate discussion – whether in the classroom or on line – at multiple and interconnected levels. They are therefore highly effective in promoting collaborative learning and the creative exchange of ideas.
The exploratory methods that are specific to the Digital Dioramas are those called for by experts in sustainability education. They offer an ideal alternative to the prescriptive methods with which science in general, and biology in particular, are still all too often taught in schools and disseminated by the media. Transferring the methods suggested by the DD to everyday life contexts can lead users to develop sustainable sociocultural attitudes and behaviours that are not based on rules but stem from individual creative choice.
If we are to authentically educate for sustainability, we should not confuse information with education and still less should we confuse the notionistic transmission of facts with teaching.
Change cannot be achieved within the constraints of existing systems (whether economic or educational); we should not continue to rely on the methodologies currently in use, but radically modify them. Our local and national institutions still lack the complex, systemic vision required to deeply transform themselves. Different strategies are needed to introduce innovative perspectives and methods into target systems such as schools. The Digital Diorama project, with its novel approach to exploring transversal themes, is an example of the type of alternative strategy that may be deployed.