Category Archives: environmental

Using science to create NZ’s future

Here's a great opportunity to engage your students and community in  a game-based conversation about the future of NZ. Pounamu is a free, online game set in a future world where EVERYONE in New Zealand can use science as easily as they can use a computer now. Anyone can play; from primary school students to research scientists, from young entrepreneurs to kuia and koro.

The game will be live on 29-30 August, from midnight to midnight – all you need to do is register now to be able to access and participate. 

Players post micro-forecasts (concise ideas – 140 characters, like twitter) of future possibilities and build on, or reshape other players’ ideas. You can play for five minutes and share one idea, or play for the whole game and post hundreds of possible futures. Pounamu will have ’hubs’ scattered around the country on game days, so players who want to play in teams, or don’t have access to the internet, or just want to play in a social environment, have the opportunity to do so.

Pounamu is collaboration between the MacDiarmid Institute for Advanced Materials and NanotechnologyStratEDGY Strategic Foresight; and Professor Shaun Hendy, winner of the Prime Minister's Science Media Communication prize and author of Get Off The Grass which he wrote with the late Sir Paul Callaghan.


A parent guide to 21st Century learning

I've just been reading this new guide published by Edutopia, titled A parent's guide to 21st Century Learning. As with much of the material published on the Edutopia site, this is a really useful collection of tips, ideas and links for parents and educators alike (and I qualify on both fronts 🙂

The ideas in the booklet are grouped according to the age of the students, and use the “4Cs” from the Partnership for 21st Century Skills as a framework for emphasising the educative value of the learning resources that are shared.

  • Collaboration: Students are able to work effectively with diverse groups and exercise flexibility in making compromises to achieve common goals.
  • Creativity: Students are able to generate and improve on original ideas and also work creatively with others.
  • Communication : Students are able to communicate effectively across multiple media and for various purposes.
  • Critical thinking: Students are able to analyze, evaluate, and understand complex systems and apply strategies to solve problems.

Each resource is briefly described, followed by a section on 'how to get involved', providing practical suggestions for how to engage with and use the resource with you children. 

The resources provide a range of engagements, from projects that promote particiation in social change and the development of digitial citizenship, to using online games and social media to promote collaboration and support project based learning – plus everything in between. 

I like the section at the end titled Ten tips for bringing 21st century skills home which provides sompractical tips and links for parents wondering how to foster the 4Cs at home.

If you're not a member of the Edutopia site, here's a good reason to do so – it costs nothing to sign up, and the resource is free tod ownload to members. 


Adventure in your community

it's always useful at the start of a school year to come across resources that might be useful in the school programme. This one from National Geographic Education came to me through TES Online, and is intended to support Geography Awareness week (which I wasn't aware existed). 

The parent guide provides an excellent overview of the sorts of activities and challenges you can set kids to do – it would make a superb resource for teachers also to incorporate some of these activities into a classroom programme. 

The resource is designed to invite individuals or teams of students, families, or friends to explore their own communities anew through geographic eyes by undertaking a series of “missions.” These missions emphasize geographic skills such as photography, storytelling, mapping, and taking action. Complete missions and earn points toward badges in each of the skills, demonstrating that you are able to see your community and the rest of the world with deeper understanding.

NB: You need to create a TES account to access the resource, but it's straight forward and extremely worthwhile doing so.

Sustainability Film Challenge

With an increasing emphasis on the use of film and media in schools it’s always useful when there’s an opportunity to put those talents to good use as part of a challenge or competition. The NZ National Commission for UNESCO is a project partner in the Outlook for Someday sustainability film challenge for young people aged up to 24 years, making it idea for consideration at the senior secondary or tertiary level.

The challenge is to make a short sustainability related film, in any genre, filmed with any camera and at any length up to a maximum of 5 minutes. Entries can be from individuals, teams, schools, groups of friends etc., so the door is open to all sorts of collaborations.

Full details can be found on the Outlook for Someday website – entries close on 17 September.

Global Population Growth

I’ve just spent a couple of days working with some wonderful teachers in Hamilton, as part of two different cluster meetings. In my presentations to these groups I referred to the trends in population growth, and the considerations for us as educators of this on issues of globalisation, cultural awareness, language learning etc. in our future planning.

It was with interest that I saw the link to the video above from TED, featuring Hans Rosling on Global Population Growth. I really like this presentation for two reasons…

  1. it presents the issues in a very visual and entertaining manner, providing much food for thought. The clip itself would be very useful as a resource in the classroom – to generate discussion and further research.
  2. the way Rosling presents the information provides a brilliant example of how such complex and big picture issues can be made ‘accessible’ for learners, and so the modelling of what he does could be adapted by a classroom teacher wanting to introduce students to these ideas.

Rosling’s video, combined with resources such as the Miniature Earth project, provide us with opportunities to really engage our students in ways of understanding the implications of global population growth, and the distribution of wealth, health, food etc.

Global VC on climate change

This morning I participated in a global linkup of students from Opotiki and from Linwood College, Rangi Ruru Girl’s College, Christ’s College and Shirley Intermediate in Christchurch to discuss the effects of climate change on indigenous peoples. We were linked with others from Alaska, Australia, Canada, Mexico, Guatemala, Brazil, the Arctic and USA in the video conference which was organised  at the NZ end by CORE Education together with Canadian social networking organisation TakingITGlobal.

This all came to pass after I began corresponding with Terry Godwaldt after reading reference to his work on a blog post. I was impressed with what Terry is doing to engage students in thinking about global issues – and his global reach video conferencing projects seemed a great way to get New Zealand students involved.

For today’s conference we were privileged to have Karamea Insley (presenting in the photo above) presenting from Opotiki, providing a Maori perspective on the topic of climate change.  Karamea is part of the New Zealand international negotiations team to the United Nations and has been a key player in the Omaio Kaitiakitanga project near Opotiki. Karamea was joined by a group of  students from Opotiki who shared about their initiative, Kaitiakitanga | Caring for our Lands & Foreshore,  to conserve the coastal environment at Omaio. Students on the conference were quick to visit the Kaitiakitanga Facebook page to read more as soon as the conference was concluded,

The event confirmed for me the huge benefits provided by modern technologies to connect young people across the globe to participate in discussions about real and meaningful issues. For a young person the problems of the world can often appear simply too big and too difficult to solve – but connecting in this way can open new opportunities for thinking about the solutions that exist and the part that all of us can play in achieving them. As one of the students at the conclusion of the conference commented, “this conference has demonstrated to me that there are a lot of people out there who care – and we need to keep sharing and communicating so we can do something about it!”

View the news item filmed for Maori TV here.

Breathing earth

My daughter sent me a link to Breathing Earth a week or so ago, and I’ve had it on the list of things to explore since then. Breathing Earth provides real-time simulation displays the CO2 emissions of every country in the world, as well as their birth and death rates.The data used for the simulation has been gleaned from a variety of sources, including CIA World Factbook and United Nations Statistics Division.

The creator of the simulation emphasises that this is purely a simulation, and that data that measures things on such a massive scale can never be 100% accurate – however, I think it is an effective way of visually modelling some of the issues and concerns that exist around global warming, CO2 emissions etc as a ‘way into’ thinking and talking about such concerns with students.

Using the simulation as a base, I can see opportunity for lots of discussion and further deabte. Even if you consider the claims of CO2 emissions and global warming are over-rated, the simulation provides a prompt for exploration about the validity of such claims, further investigation of the data and its reliability etc.

In my mind this is one of the things that technology does well – processing large amounts of data and representing it visually in ways that allow for us to engage with complex issues and ideas more easily. Roll on the day when such representations are generated from real-time data collection and aren’t dependent on modelling based on already out-of-date data that has been gathered elsewhere 🙂

Ten Trends at Learning@School09

The Learning@School conference is rollicking along in Rotorua at the moment, with keynote speaker on day one, Andy Hargreaves, setting the scene with challenges to us all about the need to take account of the whole context and culture of our school when considering change and development. Pam Hook had the audience spell-bond also with her “Hooked on Thinking” ideas and strategies.

Unfortunately for me I am missing the conference, and have had to rely on my Twitter feeds, text messages and the odd call to keep me posted. Having made it to the opening of the conference I’ve had to return home for family reasons. That didn’t stop the presentation I was scheduled to do from going ahead – with my colleague from the Ministry of Education, Douglas Harre, stepping up to share thoughts, insights and ideas based on CORE’s Ten Trends for 2009. This is the annual list of trends developed by CORE staff to represent a view of some key areas of interest for NZ educators with regards to the impact of ICTs on teaching and learning.

This year’s trends are:

  1. Mobile Technologies for learning
  2. Netbooks
  3. Cloud Computing
  4. Learning spaces/environments
  5. Open Education Resources
  6. High Definition Video conferencing
  7. Advanced Networks
  8. Cyber-Citizenary
  9. Green computing
  10. Digital Literacy

The slideshow used at Learning@School is provided here:

For links to other research and lists of trends and predictions for 2009 check out the following:

Horizon Report, 2009

Looking forward to 2009

100 Top Sites for the year ahead

The Future of the Internet III

Horizon report – Australia/NZ edition


The growing interest in a global energy crisis and the drive to find alternative fuels and ways of conserving our existing energy sources is a hot topic at the moment, and one that provides an excellent context for theme-based, cross-curricular learning at all levels of the school.

I’ve blogged previously about resources that have been developed for use in schools, including Electrocity, a simulation focused on energy use in the city and PowerUp, a 3D virtual world with an environmental focus from IBM. The latest I’ve discovered is EnergyVille, (referred to me by Clarence Fisher via Twitter).

EnergyVille is an interactive game that puts you in charge of meeting the energy needs of a city or around 3.9 million people. It’s certainly engaging enough, with plenty of opportunity for exploring the choices to be made and pondering the consequences – I could certainly see how this could stimulate lots of activity in a classroom.

Of course, when considering energy futures we open ourselves to lots of speculation and differing points of view, depending on who is promoting the alternatives (energy companies, governments, ‘green’ groups etc – all have their own particular bias.) According to the game intro, the game has been created by the Economist Intelligence Unit, and the assumptions for the game, both present and future, are based on their assessment of global facts and trends from numerous credible sources. The intro goes on to emphasise that there are a great many points of view in this debate, and that there are no easily answers. The important thing that is emphasised is the need to engage with good information and understand what the variables are and the consequences of these in any decisions that are made. If indeed this is what the game embodies then it gets a tick from me as a useful addition to the resource bank for teachers!

World Environment Day – schools wanted to participate


World Environment Day is looming – Wednesday 5 June – and to celebrate this event schools from throughout New Zealand and around the world are being invited to make a pledge and decide on some sort of eco-action to make a difference in some way. These ideas and actions can be submitted on the WED Website. Every New Zealand school, wharekura, kura, early childhood education centre, and kōhanga reo can use this website to share their plans to contribute to a sustainable future and participate in World Environment Day (WED) on 5 June 2008.

Overseas schools can also share their own sustainability thinking on a day when New Zealand’s students will be first to see the sun and to show the way today! The organisers are currently trying to get schools from as many countries as possible to participate, so that the maps that become active on 5 June will show a broad coverage of participation from across the whole world. If you know of a school that might be interested in participating please pass this message on.