November 24, 2014
by Jillian Brown

‘Leaving the Earth’ – a Virtual World project

This week’s blog post was written by Chrisi Tambakakis, teacher at Doveton College.

‘Leaving The Earth’ is a cross curriculum program by SoundGarage that was developed for the students in Year 7 at Doveton College. The program focuses on learning in Humanities with major links to Science, Art, Music, Robotics, English, Food Technology and Drama.

The premise is simple: the world is no longer inhabitable. As a result humans must migrate to Mars where individual tribes must form a new society.  Using Design Thinking as a basis for learning and creativity, students were asked to plot their own journey into a new world. 

Our experience at Doveton College suggested that using a “gaming” approach to learning would usually ensure high student engagement. The use of Imprudence Virtual World offered an opportunity to tap into the interest base of the students by using the medium of a “gaming” experience to deliver curriculum, and have students apply their ICT knowledge and skills.

Leaving the Earth  –  Mars

In 2014 we embarked on a new journey “Leaving the Earth – Mars” (LTEM). We used the virtual world as a tool to enhance the learning experience of students, and give them the chance to apply their learning to “virtual” real life situations.

The LTEM program focused on the domain, Civics and Citizenship. The project was designed to develop cooperative learning strategies and teaching techniques. It challenged students to solve problems in a group to achieve a desired outcome.

The project posed this problem: ‘Unfortunately the tribes face a huge issue, the Earth has been decimated by man, and Earth is no longer livable. The only chance for survival is to leave the Earth and build new human colonies on Mars’. The goal of the project was survival of the tribe and successful resettlement on Mars.  All students were part of the earth tribe, and were required to develop a tribal identity and culture. As a group they were required to design, build and supply a space transport pod that would transport the tribe and all their needs to Mars.

Once the tribes arrived on Mars, the development of a new society began. Tribes had to rely on their own members and members of other tribes for survival.

Cross curricular learning

Using an inquiry through line of Leaving the Earth – Mars, most curriculum subject areas could access the topic and use the project as a point of reference for teaching topic related concepts.

For further information on this project, please contact

November 10, 2014
by Jillian Brown

Schools’ Hackathon @ Melbourne Knowledge Week

This weeks blog post is written by Thomas Hilder, Year 9 student at Warragul Regional College.

On Friday 31 October, 25 students from 4 Victorian schools participated in the Schools Hackathon, presented by NICTA and Digital Careers as part of Melbourne Knowledge Week 2014, and hosted by the University of Melbourne. The schools involved included Lowanna College, Warragul Regional College, Kew High School, and Charles La Trobe P-12 College.

The Schools’ Hackathon is a unique workshop for high school students who want to turn their creative ideas into software and apps that can make a difference to the world. The Hackathon challenges students to create an app that solves a real problem facing the City of Melbourne.

Schools Hackathon provided a chance to try coding for a day in a relaxed environment supported by researchers/mentors from NICTA and the University of Melbourne.

At 6.30am, students from Warragul RC and Lowanna College headed off for Melbourne. On arrival we were introduced to the staff and mentors and presented with our goal to create a tour of Melbourne on a selected theme, and assigned groups with a mix of different skills. Each group was required to brainstorm ideas, and select one to bring to life, create a demo and then pitch it to the full group and a panel of experts. To encourage competition between the groups, prizes were offered for the best pitch and best hack, and judged on the following:

1.  Impact – Would the application have real social impact? Can it change the world, or at least help someone in Melbourne? Does it solve a stated goal of the hackathon?

2.  Innovation – Is the solution novel? Did it solve the problem in a creative or never-seen-before way?

3.  Technical Achievement – Did it solve a hard technical problem? Did the group get a working demo completed within the allotted time?

At 9.30am we commenced our first activity by exploring data sets finding relevant information. Data sets include maps/tables displaying different types of information like public toilet locations and tourism numbers. We decided on a target audience and a theme for our tour. The group I was involved in chose art and environment, and targeted young adults.


We approached our task by first locating tram routes and maps of other relevant data like sculptures and gardens. We started to form a list of data to use in our tour, and from there formed ideas around the basic parts of the tour and the way it would work as an app. Next we designed ideas for pages of the app and how it could be navigated, and started to mark out key locations on a physical map.

After morning break, we broke our group in two. Tom and I started to work on the app design, whilst Hayden and Brad worked on the tour design. This helped us in starting to make an app prototype in ‘pop’, a very cool app that lets you take photos of drawings to place hyperlinks on them and simulate an app. This is actually the coolest app ever.

Before lunch we took a break from creating our app creation to watch a robotics demo. Two 1.5 feet tall robots danced with some success, although they fell over a few times. They also tracked sound and movement, and followed Hayden around for a while. Interestingly, since they looked sort of human you could feel sympathy for them when they fell. I want one!

After lunch we were treated to a tour of the University of Melbourne campus. We walked around the campus and looked at some of the amazing architecture, and were told that it is very similar to Oxford.

We then returned to finish designing our app prototype. It had a lot of pages and was getting complex at this point. This app could be a real thing ….I think, anyway. After this, we finished the main parts of the app and started finalising and debugging the app. At this stage we were all feeling pretty accomplished and excited. This was fun!

Our group finished early, and had the opportunity to look at some of the other teams’ work. Actual apps were being built, routes were being planned, and every group did something different. This was a very cool experience.


At the end of the day, we presented our app to the group and watched everyone else’s presentations. All the presentations were really interesting, and we all got so much out of the day. Kew High School will be returning to school to code their app and possibly use it for school projects next year. Warragul and Lowanna teachers will be sharing the experience within their network and looking at possibilities for extending the program.

When the ‘people’s choice winners were announced, we were excited to hear that our app won the award. Overall, it was a great day!

NICTA is Australia’s largest information and communications technology (ICT) R&D centre. It pursues high-impact, original research that is inspired by real-world challenges. NICTA is also the national coordinating body for the Digital Careers program and a critical training ground for future ICT researchers. This event is presented by NICTA as part of Melbourne Knowledge Week 2014



East Meets West on a budget in the South West Victoria Region

November 10, 2014 by Jillian Brown | 0 comments

This week’s blog is written by Jo Tate, Senior Project Officer and Heather Lin, teacher at Canadian Lead Primary School


For the past two years, Canadian Lead Primary School in Ballarat has been collaborating successfully with a partner school in mainland China.  They are an exemplar of what can  be achieved using Microsoft Lync (MS Lync) licencing for teachers.  The schools link up on a fortnightly basis when both are in session.


The initial focus for their collaboration involved linking art classes in the respective countries.  One giant canvas was negotiated and painted jointly.   The students used the MS Lync video conferencing linkups to settle on the theme of native animals and to share various art styles from our two countries.  The Canadian Lead students painted the first half of the canvas and sent this over to China where it was completed.  At the Chinese end there was time to display the canvas and share it with their community before it was posted back to Australia.

Recently the schools also explored the use of Zoom to facilitate more one to one and group learning activities between the students. Through the use of Zoom, students from Canadian Lead were able to talk to China directly independently. 


Six groups of students each used a computer with camera to link up with a small group students in China. The students were very excited to talk to the Chinese students and look forward to have this type of link up again.

As a result of the collaboration, leaders from the Chinese school are set to visit Ballarat in December to sign a formal MOU for curriculum collaboration into the future.  Canadian Lead Primary School Chinese teacher Heather Lin has established the project with the support of Jo Tate (DEECD Digital Learning Branch).  Heather is now working on a second such project in another local school, Caledonian PS.  One of the features has been opening up to a more cross curriculum focus to provide inroads for any teachers interested in incorporating Asia literacy in their classrooms.


Any schools interested in replicating this model can contact Jo Tate for details and support.

November 5, 2014
by Jillian Brown

‘Unlocking the Potential’ – DEECD’s digital learning strategy released

Earlier this week Department of Education and Early Childhood Development released its Digital Learning Strategy, Unlocking the Potential – A digital learning strategy for Victorian learning and development settings (2014 – 2017). The Digital Learning Strategy outlines the Department’s plan to strengthen digital learning in order to improve learner outcomes.


Unlocking the Potential – A digital learning strategy for Victorian education and development settings sets out three interconnected strategic themes and a set of actions:

  • Unlocking learning potential: a focus on curriculum, pedagogy, assessment and reporting, which will be enabled, supported, extended and re-imagined by digital technologies
  • Harnessing technology: leveraging infrastructure to support teaching and learning
  • Changing culture and supporting innovation: strengthening leadership, capacity building and promoting and adopting evidence-based practice and partnerships.

The strategy addresses early childhood, schools and vocational education and training settings and:

  • describes the rich learning opportunities that digital technologies offer
  • outlines the challenges and opportunities Victoria faces in achieving widespread and effective use of digital learning
  • describes 12 key actions that will be undertaken by the Department.

Practical ICT planning resources and programs are also available to support school leaders to drive change and implement a whole school approach to technology-enabled learning.

The release of the strategy is a valuable step in supporting schools in implementing ICT, and reaffirming the view that learning can be significantly enhanced by an explicit focus on identifying and demonstrating the opportunities and benefits that digital technologies can provide across curriculum, pedagogy, assessment and reporting.

Unlocking the Potential – A digital learning strategy for Victorian learning and development settings can be accessed at:

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