ETEC 565E: Energy Literacy in Society & Culture


Energy is one of the most complex and defining issues of our age. Society needs forms of energy to exist, but the most consumed form of fossil fuel energy is both finite and the primary cause of the climate crisis. Because the majority of the population lacks an understanding of the environmental and social impacts of energy usage, they cannot fully engage in the development of better practices and policies as educators and citizens. This restrictive literacy loop has created the current climate-energy impasse. Changing our energy futures requires not only researching infrastructures and technologies, but also, as this course proposes, transforming how we perceive and value energy in our daily lives.

This course ultimately aims to provide students and educators the tools to recognize basic energy technologies and infrastructures in relationship to the cultural and social dimensions of energy. Energy literacy draws on conceptual, visual, and narrative models, as well as through policy and science. Developing these energy epistemologies enhances the ways we can think and know about our energy pasts and futures. Both quantitative and qualitative methods contribute to basic energy understanding, but this course emphasizes the need for qualitative approaches in the digital arts and humanities – also known as the “energy humanities” – to address both literacy and action toward our energy futures.

Learning Objectives

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

  • Increase understanding of basic energy systems to promote different motivations, actions, or behaviours
  • Examine the links between energy systems and environmental and social issues related to climate justice
  • 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 multi-media platforms
  • Improve cultural and social awareness by thinking critically and creatively when exploring ideas within, between, and beyond texts


This course follows a weekly module design focused on topics and themes relevant to the course objectives and assigned texts. Required texts (readings and multi-media), course materials, online discussions, and assignments will be completed in an asynchronous format.

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 (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 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 (25%)

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.

  • Energy justice curriculum project (40%)

Students will create curricula that incorporate energy literacy in various disciplines or settings. These projects should be framed with a pedagogical purpose – that is, the audience would be current or future students in your classes. Or, if not an educator, they would be aimed at other public literacy experiences. When building these curricula, consider texts, assignments, theories and methodologies, and assessments. There will be three parts to this project: proposal (5%), posted presentation (15%), and final submission (20%).

  • Digital storytelling media project (25%)

Building on the energy self-assessment at the beginning of the course, the final project asks students to make a short video or podcast about your extended energy story. This video or podcast will be posted in the online course, as well as offering a possible tool for students and educators to use in their own classes or public literacy projects.

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