Two Berkeley doctoral students, Jennifer Dizio and Joseph Kantenbacher recently received national attention for their work that aims to improve education and livelihood.

Collabosphere Connects Students Throughout the World

Jennifer Dizio, co-creator of Collabosphere.
Jennifer Dizio, co-creator of Collabosphere.

Jennifer Dizio, a third-year Ph.D. student in Education with a designated emphasis on New Media, is focusing on the use of digital tools in teaching. Along with Kyle Booten and John Scott, two other Education students, she created a project that encourages collaboration and aims to connect learners throughout the world. The multimedia application called Collabosphere allows students to create a project using digital archives including images, sound files, videos and narratives.

The students tested the site with colleagues from the University of Oslo and the University of Tromsø in Norway in a six-week pilot program between Master’s students in the U.S. and Norway. The project allowed peers in the two countries to effectively produce new digital material with each other. “We found that being able to see the circulation and appropriation of their own ideas and images fostered students’ participation,” Dizio adds. The students recently presented their findings at UC Engage, a one-day summit that focused on the ways that students interact with technology. They will be working on a new site during the summer of 2015 and plan to use it in teaching an undergraduate Education class in the fall.

The Link Between Happiness and Energy Saving

Joseph Kantenbacher

All work and no play not only makes life dull, it can also be more detrimental to the environment. Joseph Kantenbacher, an 8th year Energy and Resources Group PhD student, is examining the connection between happiness and energy saving. For his dissertation, he is researching how people’s activities and lifestyle can also be beneficial to the environment. “What I was particularly interested in seeing was whether enjoyable activities were also low-energy,” Katenbacher explains. To do this, he looked at how much money and energy people spend on daily activities. Energy use was split into household energy (electricity and gas), travel energy (gasoline), and embedded energy (how much energy is needed to make something or partake in an activity like eating).

His findings revealed that the most enjoyable activities, such as connecting with friends, consume the least amount of natural resources. “If we can live good, satisfying lives without needing lots of stuff or energy, then that’s good news for both people and the planet,” Katenbacher adds. Some tips he offers for a happier lifestyle with a lower carbon footprint include:

  1. Get more sleep. Sleep consumes the least amount of energy and has physical and mental benefits, yet most people don’t get enough of it.
  2. Socialize at home. Inviting friends over is good for your mental state and it also saves energy because you aren’t using transportation.
  3. Do something spiritual, volunteer, or find a hobby. Engaging in activities that you are passionate about makes life more satisfying.
  4. Exercise more. Exercising makes you healthier and increases life expectancy.
  5. Avoid Commuting. In Katenbacher’s study, he found that commuting to work in the morning is the unhappiest activity of the day.

Katenbacher’s findings were recently published in The Washington Post. He says that his research has influenced his lifestyle choices. Instead of surfing the web, he is now more inclined to “go for a walk or play Scrabble with my wife.”

To get the semester off to a good start, add an extra hour to your sleep schedule. Your body and the planet will thank you.