Category: Conferences

Actions for Earth Global Youth Summit

In January 2014, VCE Environmental Science students have the opportunity to participate in a four-day international conference in Singapore, the “Actions for Earth – Global Earth Summit”. The “Actions for Earth – Global Youth Summit” is a youth-led global platform for students to network, discuss and initiate innovation for sustainable solutions to protect children, fresh water and the natural environment from further destruction. The theme, “Waste Not” empowers young people under the guidance of environmentalists, educators, entrepreneurs and researchers to collaborate locally and globally to plan and implement innovative initiatives to overcome the natural environment challenges. We would like our students to have the opportunity to share their learning and achieve collective knowledge construction by attending this conference.

In order for our students to participate in this valuable learning experience we are seeking financial assistance. Including flights, conference registration, meals, accommodation, transfers and travel insurance the cost will be $2500 per student. We have received a generous sponsorship from AGL Energy Limited – Macarthur Wind Farm, that will enable ten students to participate, with each student contributing $500. However, we have eighteen students enrolled in VCE Environmental Science in 2014, who would like to attend. I genuinely believe that our rural students would receive enormous benefits from travelling to Singapore and participating in this exciting event, including developing an international perspective on sustainability, meeting and working with students from a variety of cultures and experiencing a very different way of life to rural SW Victoria. It will be a memorable experience that will benefit their VCE learning by opportunities to learn about ecologically sustainable development, waste management, renewable energy and environmental management.

If you can assist me to provide this wonderful learning experience for my VCE Environmental Science class of 2014, I (and my students) would be very grateful. I have posted the project on the new crowd-sourcing site for education in Australia, @ProjectEdAust. You can contact Hawkesdale P12 College at (03) 5560 7225 or use my email at brittgow (at)


Learning 2.013 – Making Change!

“Learning 2.0 is a transformative, challenging experience for all participants; it is the conference that leads the change in education. Every year the goals of the conference are to connect  educators from around Asia and the world as well as to create an active learning experience that pushes their thinking about learning and technology.”

What an amazing experience – more than just another educational technology conference! Learning 2.013 is the eighth (?) in a series of unique conferences for teachers, organised and presented by teachers. Although I may have been the only teacher from a small, rural, government school, and certainly one of only about half a dozen teachers from Australia, I was one of four hundred delegates that were inspired by the whole event. Coming from Hawkesdale P12 College (230 students from prep to Year 12) I was amazed by the scale of the conference itself and the resources and infrastructure of the school. United World College South East Asia (East Campus) is a new school, building up to 3000 students from kindergarten to Year 12. It aims to be one of the most environmentally sustainable schools in the world, with passive solar design, air-conditioning powered by solar panels and an extensive recycling system.

Another great part of the conference was the overall structure and the Learning 2.103 app, which allowed users to choose their sessions and have an up-to-the-minute individual schedule at their fingertips. The conference was a combination of learning 2.0 talks (punchy presentations from the stage in the main hall, TEDx-style), extended sessions and ‘in a nutshell’ sessions from the same presenter, student sessions, hands-on workshops, un-conference sessions and cohort meetings. This allowed participants to choose some sessions based on feedback from others. There were three Science cohort meetings, which myself and John Gaskill facilitated.

Thursday 10th October

I attended the pre-conference day, participating in Heather Dowd’s (@heza) “Google Apps Bootcamp” workshop. Heather works at the Singapore American School and started the day by creating a collaborative slideshow using Google Presentation: Learning 2.013 GApps Bootcamp Introductions. Although I knew this was possible, and have seen Tom Barret’s “Interesting Ways” series use it with great success, I was surprised how well it worked with multiple users collaborating simultaneously. Other activities included:

I really enjoyed the opportunity to spend an extended period delving into the more intricate functions of Google Apps and especially ‘Flubaroo’ – a ‘script’ that allows you to automatically correct tests created in Google forms. Thanks Heather, for the huge amount of time and effort you put in to preparing and delivering this six hour pre-conference session (9.00am to 4.00pm).

Friday 11th October

On Friday, I attended Rebekah Madrid’s (@ndbekah) “Everything is a Remix – Learning 2.0 Edition”. Rebekah opened the session by sharing some YouTube videos by Kirby Ferguson, where he demonstrates how popular musicians and film makers have re-used melodies, lyrics and scenes over time. His argument is that there are no truly unique creations and that everything is copied, transformed and combined, so that new ideas evolve from the old ones. His brilliant TED talk is here:

Following the extended session were student presentations in the library, which included “Design teaching”, photography and robotics. These students were very capable, confident and enthusiastic about sharing their ideas, as well as demonstrating excellent technology skills. In the afternoon, Diana Beabout (@dianabeabout) from the Shekou International School, presented  “Asessing Learning with Digital Resources”.

Saturday 12th October

I was lucky enough to attend Adam Clark’s (@AdamClark71) extended session – “Balancing the See-Saw – Living Deeply with Technology”, which was all about  keeping the balance between work and family life in a digital age. He encouraged technology users to take breaks, using various techniques such as colouring mandalas, stretching towards an upturned cup on the floor and Pomodoros.

After lunch I presented my own workshop “Improving Student Outcomes in Blended Learning Environments”, which morphed into a “Digital Toolbox for Blended Learning”, after I discovered that the participants were probably less experienced with online learning than I had anticipated. it was well received, with some good feedback from participants, whose only suggestions were that we needed more time.

One of the most enjoyable sessions was Paula Guinto’s (@paulaguinto) ‘in a nutshell’Creating collaborative conversations in the classroom and beyond”. Paula is a dynamic primary teacher at UWCSEA (East Campus) and encourages respectful relationships between students by building trust. She is an energetic and thoughtful learning leader who cultivates complementary learning spaces, both physically (classroom set up to allow small group work, including a variation of the ‘harkness’ table) and virtually (teacher and student blogs). She facilitated a ‘fishbowl’ discussion, in which half the group were seated around the table and the other half were observers, recording aspects of each individual’s role in the discussion.

National Curriculum for Senior Science: “Earth and Environmental Science”

I write to you having just returned from the Australian Science Teachers Association annual conference, held in Canberra over four days. This was a fantastic opportunity to hear about contemporary science in action from experts in a variety of fields. However, my observations and discussions over the past few days have been of great concern with respect to the state of education for sustainability in Australia.

I have been the member of several expert panels to provide feedback to ACARA regarding the national senior science curriculum for “Earth and Environmental Science“. Only one of these meetings was attended by equal numbers of stakeholders with experience in contemporary Environmental Science teaching – all other meetings have been dominated by geologists, earth science advocates and others with very little understanding of contemporary education for sustainability. ACARA’s framework is that there should be four senior secondary science courses, of equal cognitive demand. However, I believe that Earth and Environmental Science, although they have been taught together historically, cannot be deemed equivalent to the major sciences (Biology, Chemistry, Physics).This belief is detailed by Prof. Annette Gough who writes as follows: “Environmental education cannot and should not be confined by the conventional curriculum jigsaw frame – the jigsaw needs to evolve as the field continues to evolve and our understandings about the environment and sustainability evolve.” (Gough, 2011)

One of the arguments against a separate Environmental Science course is that education for sustainability is a cross-curricula priority, as demonstrated in the Foundation to 10 national curriculums. However, until the ideal of an environmental ethic underpins the “whole curriculum and indeed the life and practice of the school and educational system…. environmental subjects need to exist to exemplify what environmental education is” (Fensham, 1990 p.18). In addition, until students with sufficient understanding become teachers, or those teachers are supported by free and convenient professional development, the enacted curriculum will be quite different to the written curriculum, as teachers will teach what they know best from an overcrowded, content-heavy document.

The EES course arose through ACARA and the Federal Government from lobbying by principally NSW and WA, the mining industry and environmental groups that a course in addition to physics, chemistry and biology should exist to cater for the “fourth” traditional science of Earth Science. It was thought this would satisfy everyones needs as the 4 “science disciplines” were covered. Therein lies a major concern, teaching authorities and schools grab whomever is available to teach courses such as EES, that requires a multi disciplinary approach, a broad understanding of the systems involved and whom are missing part of that knowledge base, so teach to their respective strengths and in so doing do not give a full account of the course material.

To clarify, this is my understanding of a contemporary education for sustainability:
“Education for sustainability is a critical component of 21st century learning, to allow our future leaders to develop the knowledge, skills and attitudes that will allow human society to develop in ways that meet the needs of the present generation without compromising the needs of future generations to meet their needs. In addition to the content knowledge of the way that the earth’s systems work, students also need opportunities to engage with the issues of how humans impact on their environment and how these impacts can be reduced. They need to be able to think critically, be ethically and environmental aware and have the knowledge and ability to participate effectively in decision making. Contemporary education for sustainability should prepare students to live and work in ways that minimize their impact on the planet that sustains us – they will need to be able to engage in the debate about carbon emissions, understand the life cycle of products they consume and make choices about the energy and water they use and the waste they produce. An Environmental Science course should include aspects of all the other sciences and Maths, including evaluating evidence and developing communication skills.”

Due to global scientific research into climate change over the past few decades, we have a vast amount of information and the development of new techniques to investigate issues such as the greenhouse effect, ocean temperatures, currents and acidification, measurement of biodiversity and changes in biotic distribution, renewable energy technologies, carbon sequestration, the effects of land use changes etc. It is crucial that we provide students with the opportunity to investigate these issues so they can be informed and aware global citizens. These issues, and more mentioned at “Science Teachers for Climate Change Awareness“, are vitally important to the understanding of climate change. They are very appropriate, if not indispensable, for a senior secondary science curriculum. By attempting to combine the traditional earth science course with these new areas of environmental science, we have a very content-heavy curriculum that cannot be taught in sufficient depth to engage students. Teachers attempting to balance the two will have great difficulty providing opportunities for students to investigate, analyse, synthesize and evaluate the key concepts in a two year course. Hence, parts that teachers have less understanding of will be omitted, in favour of areas that teachers have current experience with.

In addition, I believe there is a conflict between the philosophy and values of advocates of these two sciences. Students selecting an Earth Science course may be primarily interested in careers such as geology, engineering and mining – of course they should also have an understanding of erosion, pollution sinks and sources and land rehabilitation. Students selecting an Environmental Science course, in my ten year experience (confirmed by the Victorian Association of Environmental Education VCE Teacher’s network) are passionate about conservation, wildlife, renewable energy, effects of pollution and sustainability issues. These students are interested in careers in the emerging “green collar” sector. It is time that we put students at the centre and give them opportunities to develop the knowledge and skills to realize their goals of working towards a sustainable future.

It seems to me that the majority of teachers in all other states, apart from Victoria and Tasmania, have a strong bias towards Earth Science, due to the prevalence of mining industries in those states. Extensive free professional development opportunities have been provided by the mining sector in those states, enabling a high level of expertise in the earth sciences and consequently a focus on earth science and the search for and extraction of finite resources. My deep concern is that these same stakeholders do not have the same knowledge of sustainability issues that enable them to provide a balanced and contemporary education to our future leaders. In addition, many of the stakeholders have a vested interest in the status quo, in terms of textbooks, employability and convenience. For example, the textbook for “Earth and Environmental Science” in WA is sponsored by Woodside Petroleum and the ESWA (Earth Science Western Australia). This text has 19 chapters – 16 of which are traditional earth science topics and 3 that include climate change, ecosystems, human activity and biodiversity. In addition, the Minerals Council of Australia and Teacher Earth Science Education Program (sponsored by Exxon Mobil, Petroleum Exploration Society of Australia, Australian Institute of Geoscientists and the Australian Society of Exploration Geophysicists, amongst others) provide free or low-cost professional development.

Popular media has also influenced attitudes of the vast majority of Australians, ranging from the dismissive to the blatantly skeptical of the dangers of human induced climate change, biodiversity loss, human population issues, salinity, waste, an economy based on finite resources and more. This destructive influence is documented by Keith Burrows in his presentations at VicPhysics. It is the responsibility of science teachers, who have the knowledge base to understand climate change and the communication skills to explain it, to increase community understanding of this most crucial issue.

If these concerns are of interest to you, you may like to give feedback to ACARA, either by registering and completing a survey or by email, with a cover sheet. More information at the National Curriculum Consultation site.

Thank you for taking the time to consider this lengthy appeal. I hope I have made my concerns clear and that you can offer some advice as to what actions can be taken to inform ACARA, the State Science Associations and relevant Curriculum Authorities of these important issues. I look forward to discussing this with you, if you have the time and the willingness to engage in what may be a battle against the odds, but with morality on our side.



Image Source

This week I was fortunate to attend the Science Teacher’s Association of Victoria annual conference, held at La Trobe University, Bundoora. I presented two well-attended sessions of “A Digital Toolbox for Teaching and Learning Science“, for which I received some excellent feedback.

The Keynote address on Day 1 was Professor David Jamieson, from Melbourne University, who spoke about “Physics, Power and Climate Change”. It was a very sobering analysis of climate data over millenia, the relationship between climate and atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations and our currrent insatiable appetitie for power. He highlighted the imbalance between the consumers of power in the developed countries and the effects of climate change that will impact more severely on people in developing nations.
On Day 2, the keynote speaker was Dr Tanya Hill from the Melbourne Planetarium, who had a very inspiring plenary titled “Where to Find Aliens”. She had some awesome space images and great information about how new exoplanets are being discovered virtually every week and how some of them may be quite earth-like and capable of supporting life. She challenged us to think which was more incredible, that we are the only planet in the vast universe that harbours living beings or that there are other places where life goes on. One of the web sites that Dr Hill recommended was “Zooniverse“, which has eleven “missions” which are “citizen science projects” – that the general public can participate in. Zooniverse includes eight space missions, one about nature, one about humanity and one about climate.

6th World Environmental Education Congress, Brisbane, 2011

Between the 19th and 23rd of July, I had the great privilege to be able to attend the WEEC Conference, held at the Brisbane Convention and Entertainment Centre. I was invited to participate in a workshop by RMIT University, who were part of the School Community Learning Partnerships for Sustainability research project which included Hawkesdale College and 17 other schools on Victoria and Queensland. Our school was one of the case studies, identified as a successful example of school-community partnerships that work towards education for sustainability.

The conference was inspiring, challenging and dynamic, with academic researchers, teachers, government representatives and other stakeholders in environmental education from all over the world. I met people who had attended the 4th WEEC in Durban when I was there four years ago and made some new connections with like-minded educators. One of the highlights was meeting a couple of ladies who work in conservation education in PNG, who explained that, instead of the usual two coffee seasons in a year, a warmer climate has resulted in three or four harvests per year. Which means more money for highland communities, but it also means that some children are taken out of school to help with the coffee picking and more money is spent on alcohol. In addition, mosquitoes are becoming more prevalent in the highlands, due to the changing climate, which has brought malaria into areas that previously were free of the disease.

Another story I found very moving was from a keynote speaker from the Carteract Islands, which are being inundated with seawater as the sea level rises. They have built levies, but the soil is salty and many of the farmers can no longer grow their subsistence crops. So most of the men on the islands have moved to the mainland to find work and left their families behind. In some cases, the only men that visit are from the fishing boats that pass by. Significant numbers of young women on the islands have become pregnant and been disowned from their families, giving birth alone in the city hospital. When a particular young girl was given some money to buy some clothes for her baby, she did not return, leaving the baby in the hospital, because she had no means to look after it. This was a harrowing story and just one example of the unexpected social costs of climate change.

The conference was a timely and informative opportunity to discuss the national curriculum “Earth and Environmental Course” with experts in Education for Sustainability from many different countries and levels of education. On Monday I have been invited to review of the second draft of this course, and I attend with the knowledge gained from the WEEC conference, including perspectives from around the world, and the confidence to put forward my opinions.

Last week we have also had meetings with representatives of the Moyne Shire and AGL Energy, regarding the Macarthur Wind Farm Project – the ‘largest wind farm in the southern hemisphere’ being constructed about 14km from the school. We are proposing a partnership that will provide opportunities for site visits, incursions by expert speakers, work experience, traineeships, apprenticeships and perhaps annual scholarships for students to complete tertiary studies in renewable energy technologies, environmental engineering or similar. There are several large projects planned for the Moyne Shire and surrounding areas, including the Origin Energy gas-fired power plant near Mortlake and another proposed for Tarrone, the Penshurst and Ryan’s Corner wind farms and “Hot Rocks Ltd” are exploring possibilities for geothermal energy in the Hawkesdale and Koroit areas. I am keen to explore opportunities for corporate links and believe that school community partnerships can enhance student engagement and learning outcomes.

WEEC (Brisbane) and ATEA (Melbourne) Conferences

Lunch after the ATEA conference with Maxine, Michelle and myself in DeGraves Lane.

I won’t be back for school after the mid-year break at Hawkesdale P12 College – not because I don’t want to be there, but because I will be attending the 6th World Environmental Education Conference in Brisbane. I attended the same conference four years ago, in Durban, South Africa, but this time I will be presenting with researchers from RMIT University, about School Community Learning Partnerships for Sustainability. The title of our workshop will be “Stories to Evaluate and Facilitate Learning for Change: Different Perspectives”. This will be an exciting opportunity to share the great education for sustainability work that we do at Hawkesdale.

Last week I attended the Australian Teacher Education Association conference in Melbourne, with Maxine Cooper (University of Ballarat), Abby Schultz and Michelle Iro (beginning teachers who did teaching rounds at Hawkesdale P12 College last year.) We presented on the Virtual Teaching Program that was supported by Country Education Project, UB and DEECD, that involved three pre-service teachers spending six weeks working with Hawkesdale teachers and students to learn new web2.0 tools and practise new ways of teaching using Elluminate (now called Blackboard Collaborate), Skype, Wallwisher, Google Docs and other innovative teaching and learning platforms.


Following on from our presentation was the ideasLAB presentation from Brian Dixon and Richard Olsen. The ideasLAB is an innovative, advocacy and thought leadership company with high profile sponsors including Intel and DEECD. I was very interested in their approach to technology in education, although it does assume ubiquitous access to internet-connected devices. Although the data given showed increasing numbers of people in Australia and other countries having this access, it wasn’t explained as a proportion of the population. My concern is for equity – we may have already passed the point of environmentally sustainable computer and internet use, so again, communities in less developed countries will be excluded from the benefits. However, Brian and Richard presented a very interesting “big ideas” perspective on technology in education. Through two free, creative commons publications, ideasLAB provide the language and framework for moving towards contemporary teaching and learning that embraces the ‘collective knowledge constructive model’. Richard Olsen’s showcase publication, “Understanding Virtual Pedagogies for Contemporary Teaching and Learning” uses a theoretical model to enable us to better understand our student’s use of technology, with the main framework as follows:

1. Connecting (Archiving, Exposure to ideas, Seeking answers)

2. Communicating (Adding value, Responding, Presenting)

3. Collaborating (Remixing, Contrasting, Personal sense-making)

4. Learning Collectively (Curation, Synthesis, Collective meaning making)

“Toolbox for Environmental Change”

Denis Napthine at Openingx450

Denis Napthine opening the Hawkesdale Common Sustainability Trail with interpretative signage on Sunday 27th February

On Thursday 17th March I was fortunate to participate in the “Toolbox for Environmental Change” at Melbourne Museum. Sponsored by Greening Australia and Sustainability Victoria, this annual event attracted 320 registrations and included displays and stalls from over 30 sustainability and environmental organisations. With 27 different workshop sessions to choose from, there was a great variety of opportunities for learning and sharing, with the theme “Using  Technology for Sustainability”. As well as a plenary session by Paul Mees, outlining an integrated, multi-modal transport model for Melbourne, there were school case studies, story-telling workshops and information about ResourceSmart AuSSI Vic, the accredited framework for education about biodiversity, energy, waste and water.

 I was invited to present with Professor Leone Wheeler and Jodi-Anne Smith from RMIT and Sustainability Victoria, with the workshop session “Let’s talk about it – the role of stories in reflecting, learning and ongoing action for sustainability”. Our workshop came about as a result of the School Community Learning Partnerships for Sustainability research project which began in 2009. Professor Wheeler, Jodi-Anne and Jose (Robbie) Guevara visited the school early in 2009 to discuss the sustainability projects we have initiated with students, teachers and community members. They used a specific methodology, called the “Most Significant Change” story technique to elucidate Hawkesdale’s story, which we chose to call “People Power – Achieving Sustainability Together”.

 This process can be lengthy and time-consuming, as it involves meeting with all of the stakeholders to discuss:

  • The background of the partnerships between the school and community,
  •  the social, educational and environmental outcomes,
  • the most significant change from each perspective,
  • reflecting on the partnership and
  • reflecting on the story-telling process.

  Between each of the meetings, which were transcribed and then re-written, participants had the opportunity to read and review the stories. I saw this project as an opportunity to reflect on the education for sustainability projects that Hawkesdale has been involved with over the past decade and bring together the various initiatives into a coherent document that could be used to promote the school, apply for funding and demonstrate our commitment to the environment to parents and the community. As well as the opportunity to reflect and the resulting story, this method resulted in some other unexpected outcomes. As a teacher, I was able to hear from a student’s perspective the activities and learning opportunities that had the most impact on their development and identify the effective teaching strategies that had resulted in improved knowledge, skills and attitudes towards sustainability. I was also surprised by the scope of our achievements when we had finished documenting all the different aspects of our work at the school and encouraged to celebrate those outcomes –  trees planted, nesting boxes installed, gardens created, solar panels and wind turbines installed, mulching pits and recycling programs implemented, waste and energy use reduced and knowledge shared at conferences and in newsletters and magazines.

 This process was motivating to the participants, because we were able to reflect on how much progress we had made and we were receiving recognition for our work. Not all the outcomes of our work can be measured quantitatively and the story-telling process allows the qualitative outcomes to be documented. The skills and abilities that students have developed through the different projects, including the “kids teaching kids” process, has been the most significant change. These changes include leadership, teamwork and communication skills, increased confidence, organisation and resilience, and the ability to persist despite difficulty.

A Day with Stephen Heppell


On Friday 11th March I was very privileged to be able to attend the Country Education Project “Future Rural Leaders Forum” facilitated by Professor Stephen Heppell. I participated in the first session in November last year, as a result of Hawkesdale P12 College’s key role in the Virtual Teaching Project, in which I was a supervising teacher to a pre-service teacher from University of Ballarat. It was wonderful to be able to meet up with Michelle and Bianca, now in their first year of teaching, and let them know that I have been thinking of them both.

The session started with a review of the video that was produced at the conclusion of the last seminar and a brainstorm of the blockers and enablers that had impacted on each of us achieving the goals we had set ourselves. I had set the goal of using a ‘praise pod’ and ‘hero cards’ to recognise the achievements of my students, as well as giving students more ‘”choice and voice” in the classroom. I still hope to implement these strategies in the classroom, but I have initiated a few other Stephen Heppell ideas in the meantime.

  • I made the suggestion of having a student on our interview panel when we advertised a position last year. This was strongly howled down by a fellow staff member, who saw it as a gross invasion of privacy.
  • I have created a “Hawkesdale P12 College” Facebook page, which only has teachers as viewers so far, but once the principal has approved, we can advertise in the school newsletter. Professor Heppell refferred us to, a site for the research project about using Facebook safely in the classroom. One of his strongly held opinions is that schools do not need bulky “acceptable use” policies – students and teachers know the rules of the school and they should behave in the same way online.
  • I have created facebook groups for my VCE Biology and VCE Environmental Science classes. This is a great way to connect with the students – wish them a happy birthday, find out what they did on weekends and holidays, remind them of work and assessment tasks, provide links to resources and interesting video clips and importantly, model appropriate online behaviour.
  • I used the “Japanese Multiplication” YouTube clip in my maths classroom, which prompted an interesting discussion of how it works.
  • I participated in the discussions for landscaping around our new building, to make the natural environment accessible to students and part of learning every day.

If you know anything about Stephen Heppell you will probably know that he is a great fan of playful and authentic learning. He has worked with students and teachers in all parts of the world to enhance learning by giving students more ownership and it follows that there is no one answer to the perfect school or classroom. Different spaces suit different styles of teaching and learning so teachers will perform better in certain types of classrooms. Stephen gives the example of a UK school in which the students were given the task of designing their own classroom, a project they worked on for two years. The end result was the transformation of a shipping container into a modern space with mood lighting, a Skype bar, diversity of seating, whiteboard paint on all the surfaces where any devices that students walked in with just worked – wifi, mobile phones, netbooks.

Professor Heppell also advocates for parents and grandparents to be a significant presence in the school – as teacher support and to shadow a student for the day. Adults other than teachers, who can share their skills, can be careers advisors, music coaches, gardening advisors and more. This strategy ‘broadens the support base’ or ‘flattens the pyramid’ by giving more people ‘ownership’ of what happens in the school. He suggests that mobile phone technology and Facebook can be used to engage parents in the school. Stephen suggests that schools of the third millenium will be smaller and decentralized, with the administration ‘disaggregated’.

 When purchasing furniture, he suggests that locally made items can be sourced to the ideal specifications and purpose built at reasonable prices. This had been very successful at a Liverpool school, where there was a high rate of unemployment in the region. Mirrors on the wall assist to see student faces when they are working on computers installed against walls and giant billboard style photographs can be created to advertise the school and promote it’s values. Another suggestion was to mount a webcam at the highest point of the school, with the live streaming posted to the school website. It was very interesting to note that the ideal temperature for learning is considered to be 18*C.

When Professor Heppell was asked about middle years science learning he recommended that students be asked what they want to learn – using the scientific method to investigate our world comes naturally to children. The Observe-Question-Hypothesis-Test cycle is the way that virtual worlds and computer games are developed, so it is quite easy to use game-based learning to assist students to understand the scientific method. He recommends enquiry-based and project-based learning, suggesting the science of technology – how a mobile phone works for example. Stephen also showed a link to simulations of Newton’s laws and centipedal forces at

Spending time with Stephen Heppell was  great, but another highlight of my day in Melbourne was meeting up with fellow tweeps, who I had not met face to face before. Jenny Ashby (@jjash) organised dinner at the Blue Train, which was attended by Anne Mirtschin (@murcha); Helen Otway (@helenotway); Heather Carver (@hcarver); Lois Smethurst (@loisath); Bronwyn Mcleod (@seriata); Gillian  (@macgirl19); Georgina Pazzi (@edumazing) and Scott Duncan (@sduncan0101). What a fantastic, friendly bunch of tech-savvy educators all in one place together! I wish we could have talked all night, but a 4.30am start prevented that from happening. It got me to thinking how lucky I am to have a wonderful PLN – even though I live on a farm and work in a small, rural school, I have access to some of the best connected and innovative educators in Victoria. Cheers to Twitter!

Blogging Challenge #8: Building your Personal Learning Network – not just your readership


Although I have been blogging for a few years now, it is probably only in the last twelve months that I have been getting significant numbers of visitors from outside my own school. “Technoscience” was originally intended as a class blog, for storing links to resources, lesson planning, reflecting on practise and gaining feedback from students. It has developed a “split personality” now, with some posts directed towards my students and some towards my colleagues and peers. The Teacher’s Blogging Challenge has helped me to recognise this and decide to make the split. I will leave this site as my professional blog, for reflecting on my practise of teaching and for communicating with colleagues and I will start a new blog for my middle years Science students (link to follow!). As we are just starting a new school year, this is the best time to set up a new class blog for my Year 7 and 8 students. Hopefully, I can maintain my exisiting readership and build on my PLN (personal learning network) using the following strategies:

  1. Writing regular, informative and interesting posts, targeted towards teachers using technology, mainly with middle years Maths and Science students. Use these posts to encourage reader interaction with questions, polls, surveys, offers of assistance and requests.
  2. Using Twitter (@brittgow) often, to notify followers of new blog posts, good links and resources and to assist people I follow with answers to questions, requests for help and general feedback.
  3. Attend virtual and face-to-face conferences, as a presenter, moderator, assistant or participant, regularly throughout the year. I already plan to attend the “Toolbox for Environmental Change“(Melbourne), “World Environmental Education Conference“(Brisbane) and “Slide to Learn” (Gold Coast), as well as several online conferences.
  4. Frequently visit other bloggers and leave comments on posts that I  find relevant, well-informed and interesting. Make connections beyond blogging.
  5. Attend Professional Development opportunities via “Elluminate”, an on-line conferencing platform that allows participants to communicate via text chat, audio, video and an interactive whiteboard. The Victorian Education Department (DEECD) has an excellent program of PD at the “Educator’s Guide to Innovation Ning” and the virtual sessions can be booked for class use as well.

Even though I really like my clustrmap with lots of red dots showing visitors to my blog, building a personal learning network is far more important to me. These are the people I have met at meetings and conferences and then kept in contact with online, or the ones I have met online that I have connected with in some way – because we share the same interests, teach the same subjects, have similar opinions or ask the same questions. My personal learning network are the people behind the avatars, who respond when I send out a tweet asking for help, who comment on my photos and posts, share their resources with me and make me feel that I am part of a community. These are the readers and online friends I value. Sue Waters has created an excellent wiki, “PLN Youself”  about gaining the skills to build your PLN.

Many, many posts have been written on the subject of building your blog readership (different to building a PLN), and if that is important to you, here are some of the better ones, in my humble opinion:

Would you rather have lots of readers or a supportive PLN? What do you think is the difference?

P.S. I created the image above by copying and pasting the images and arrows into a Powerpoint slide, saving as a JPEG file (use the drop down box “save as”) then using Irfanview to resize to 450pixels wide.

21+ More digital tools for the 21st Century Learner

View more presentations from Britt Gow.

This past week I have been applying for various grants and awards to fund my attendance at several conferences in 2011. On March 17th at the Melbourne Museum is the “Toolbox for Environmental Change Forum 2011 – Using Technology for Sustainability“. On April 18th and 19th, on the Gold Coast, is the Slide2Learn Education Event for iPad, iPod and iPhones in education, with Tony Vincent as keynote speaker. Last year’s event in Shepparton was a unique mobile learning event that kickstarted my interest in all things ‘i’. Then from the 19th to 23rd July, in Brisbane, is the 6th World Environmental Education Congress. I was lucky enough to attend the 4th WEEC in Durban, South Africa, as a representative of the Australian Education Union. It was an exciting and inspiring event, with environmental educators from around the globe presenting research and workshops on education for sustainability.

One of the awards criteria was to “provide evidence of exemplary and innovative teaching practice with reference to the e5 instructional model”, which led to the above presentation.