ETEC ETEC 541: Energy Literacy in Society and Digital Culture


Educational technologies and learning design allow for the capacity to address global problems through digital education. This course considers what might be one of society’s greatest global challenges: transitioning to alternative forms of energy in order to avoid a worsening climate crisis. Environmental and energy advocacy increasingly involve digital tools, from social media advocacy to digital storytelling, and these tools are a significant part of environmental education and literacy. How can we employ and engage with digital technologies to teach our learners about energy systems and climate emergency and influence social and cultural change through digital education?

Energy – as it associates with fuel systems, climate change, activism, and basic human needs – is difficult to understand, discuss, and represent in society. Energy literacy functions as an educational framework that explores how energy functions in the universe and in our lives; it requires an understanding of not only energy systems and how they function in society and culture but also the ways that society envisions imagining and building sustainable energy futures through formal and public education. Expanding energy literacy – through the development and understanding of energy epistemologies, or how to think about energy in society and consider sustainable futures – draws on conceptual, visual, and narrative models as much as on policy and science. Developing these energy epistemologies enhances the ways we can think and know about our energy pasts and futures.

This course ultimately aims to provide you with the tools to recognize basic energy technologies and infrastructures in relationship to the cultural and social dimensions of energy (contributing to STEAM but with an emphasis on the often-neglected Arts component). Covering aspects of how both quantitative and qualitative methods contribute to basic energy understanding, this course primarily emphasizes the need for qualitative approaches in the digital arts and humanities to address both literacy and action toward our energy futures.

Learning Objectives

This course and its related assignments, discussions, and activities are directed toward the following goals:

  • Increase understanding of environmental and energy issues, such as climate justice, to promote different motivations, actions, or behaviours in and across digital mediums.
  • Enhance STEAM curriculum, emphasizing the importance of the digital arts and humanities to further recognize qualitative educational models of energy literacy in sustainability education.
  • Develop methods for imagining and realizing how our energy futures materialize in social, cultural, and creative practices across digital and multimedia platforms.
  • Improve cultural and social awareness by thinking critically and creatively when exploring ideas within, between, and beyond texts.
  • Acquire necessary tools for teaching a range of student learners about energy issues through digital media arts.


This course follows a weekly module design focused on topics and themes relevant to the course objectives and assigned texts. You will engage in asynchronous online activities that include writing, group presentations, classroom discussions, digital media production, curriculum building, and self-reflection.

Module themes and topics

  • Opening: What is Your Energy Story?
  • Energy Literacy – The Basics
  • Petro-Modernity – A History of Fossil Fuel Energy
  • The Politics of Energy Economics
  • Climate Justice as Energy Justice
  • Energy Literacy in the Arts and Humanities
  • Energy Transition
  • Energy Futures
  • Decolonizing Energy in the Classroom

Readings & Resources

This course incorporates a range of non-fiction prose, fiction, poetry, and digital media texts that will all be available online through the course website or via links as open access materials.


Assignments & Assessment

  • Energy Self-Assessment: What is Your Energy Story? (10%)

Personal narrative statement outlining your energy story in three parts: (1) describe and reflect upon your connection to energy in your life (even if there’s not a clear link); (2) explain your relationship to ecological concerns and their potential links to energy use in your daily life; (3) identify and explain 3 areas where you would like to expand your energy literacy throughout the course.

  • Discussions – Weekly posts and responses (30%)

Weekly discussions are required throughout the course. Responses critically analyze, engage, or argue with some of the weekly readings, multi-media texts, and/or course materials. Responses could also explain how these topics or texts might be used in teaching situations.

  • Group Presentation (30%)

In an uncertain and ongoing era of distance learning, this group presentation will provide skills and experiences to deliver a lesson online about some of the topics discussed in this course. On presentation days, assigned groups of 2-3 people introduce the daily “Themes,” “Topics,” and “Digital Texts” listed in the Weekly Session Module (e.g., Energy Literacy [theme]; Environmental Literacy, Energy Epistemologies, Energy Education in a Digital World [topics]; and Social and Cultural Questions About Energy [digital texts]).

  • Final project (30%)

There are two options for the final project: (a) curriculum energy project or (b) digital artifact energy project. The first option is for those educators who would like to use this course as a way to build and prepare a short curriculum to teach some energy literacy in your specific context. The second option is designed for those who want to play with digital technology and use it to construct an “artifact” (i.e., digital text) that educates, informs, persuades, or entertains about any of the topics in the course.

Minor course topic, activity, reading/resource, and assignment details may change from year to year.