Tagged: conference

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) gmail.com.


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.



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.

“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.

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.

K12 On-Line Conference “Week in the Classroom”


Screenshot from K12 Online Conference

This week I have been excited to be informed that my proposal to present at the K12 Online Conference was accepted. The conference is in it’s fifth year and again promises a diverse range of international presenters, distinguished key-note speakers and excellent opportunities for collaborative professional development. The pre-conference week starts on 11th October with Dean Shareski, whose very name is the embodiment of what the conference is all about – sharing. This free conference, with the theme “Cultivate the Future!”, includes some truly inspirational and innovative users of technology in education, such as:

I am truly honored and humbled to be included in a line-up with such outstanding leaders in education. If you are planning on participating in any part of the conference, please leave a comment and if you are interested in my “Week in a Classroom” let me know what your specific interests are, so I can tailor my presentation accordingly.

Junior Landcare Victorian Youth Environment Conference

Lorne students

Ten Year 7 students are very excited to be participating in the Junior Landcare Conference in Lorne next week. These students have beeen preparing a presentation for six weeks about the effects of global warming. They have created a 40 minute news, quiz and current affairs program, 50 years into the future, when fresh water is scarce, sea levels are rising, temperatures are increasing, biodiversity is at risk and humans are threatened by their own toxic wastes. The multimedia program includes student-produced advertisements and ‘info-mercials’ as well as a “Who wants to be a millionaire?”-style quiz to test how much the audience have learnt.