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									           LEARNZ 'real people, real locations .. in real time'
                                                          Pete Sommerville
                                  1
                                      Director, Heurisko Ltd, Learning Technology Specialists

ABSTRACT                                                               To ensure that students are adequately prepared for the field trip a
LEARNZ is an online virtual field trip programme designed for          web site resource is developed with background pages and
New Zealand school students. It provides both an online                activities that teachers use to prepare their students. These pages
knowledge base from which teachers prepare their students, and         are written by the LEARNZ teacher with the assistance of the
the virtual field trip itself. In recent years, LEARNZ has partnered   people with whom they will work closely during the field trip.
with the New Zealand Department of Conservation (DoC), with            The people, topics and locations visited during the field trip are
field trips focusing on conservation research in World Heritage        profiled and described in appropriate language for the target
Areas. Field trips are three weeks in length, centred around the       student audience (years 4-10).
experiences of the LEARNZ Teacher that are recorded in online
diaries, and digital images on the web site. The teacher interacts     2.1.2 Principle - Student Engagement
with students each day during live audioconferences. Soft toys         Learning is most effective when students are engaged at an
known as 'Class Ambassadors' sent by students have their own           emotional as well as an intellectual level.
web page, and email their classes during the field trip.
                                                                       Students have the opportunity to develop working relationships
 Keywords: virtual field trip, online education, experiential,         during the field trip. The most important relationship is with the
enquiry learning, conservation, curriculum based.                      LEARNZ teacher whose personality becomes imprinted on the
                                                                       programme. They are the eyes and ears of students, their diaries,
                                                                       photos and voice become well known and they respond to student
1. INTRODUCTION                                                        email. Relationships also develop with experts (DoC staff) on
LEARNZ began in 1995 as an Antarctic-focused online education          location: younger students develop close relationships with their
programme harnessing the great stories that came from New              class ambassadors (soft toys) who travel with the LEARNZ
Zealand Antarctic science research. LEARNZ at that time was an         Teacher.
acronym for Linking Education and Antarctic Research in New
Zealand. During the period 1995-1998, LEARNZ developed the
concept of the virtual field trip, taking students on learning
adventures studying Antarctic landforms, experimenting with
floating ice, investigating penguin reproductive biology,
researching the ozone layer, exploring marine food chains,             Fig 1. The eyeball shape of the LEARNZ logo, with lines of
examining the decay of historical artifacts and 'experiencing'         latitude, represents the earth and the locations that learners can
Antarctic Field Training. The focal person of these adventures         'visit'. Arrows represent travel - in the blink of an eye!
was the LEARNZ Teacher: working alongside researchers,
interpreting and describing their research and interacting with        3. The Programme
students while meeting learning objectives in science, social
                                                                       Registered schools receive a Teacher Resource Kit which includes
studies and technology.
                                                                       a 70 page Teacher Manual, booklets, maps, coloured overheads,
                                                                       posters and other support materials. The web site features
In 1999 LEARNZ shifted its attention to New Zealand World              background support materials, teacher and student sections and
Heritage areas. Partnering with the Department of Conservation it      the virtual field trip section. This section is updated continuously
created real-time classroom learning opportunities from                during each three-week field trip event and consists of a daily
conservation research.                                                 diary with images, a discussion board providing opportunities for
                                                                       students to ask questions and an audioconference programme
                                                                       featuring 2 audioconferences each day. Audioconferences are
2. PRINCIPLES                                                          arguably the most effective in providing the 'virtual travel'
The essence of the LEARNZ experience is the connections that           experience, when used in conjunction with the web site.
are made between students and the location visited .. 'real people,    Audioconferences with researched and pre-prepared questions
real locations, real science .. in real time' is the programme         provide valuable learning conversations, allowing students to
byline. Two principles underpin an effective LEARNZ                    interact directly with the LEARNZ teacher and researchers in the
experience:                                                            field.
2.1.1 Principle - Student Preparation
Students gain more from virtual field trip experiences when they       3.1 Class Ambassadors
are prepared with adequate knowledge and understanding.                Classes are invited to send an ambassador (soft toy) to travel with
                                                                       the LEARNZ Teacher during Field Trips. These 'Ambassadors'
have their own web-site, their own email address so they can              visitors to experience at close-hand, endangered and rare species
communicate with their class by e-mail, and return with a folder          and Great Barrier Island in the Hauraki Gulf where DoC are
describing their learning experiences. This component of                  working to protect the chevron skink and brown teal.
LEARNZ offers a powerful means of engaging younger students
who have a strong sense of ownership of the experience through            4.1.4 LEARNZ2002 Mountains of Mana
the identity of their ambassador.                                         Supporting the UN International Year of Mountains features:
                                                                          Aoraki/Mt Cook New Zealand's highest mountain and a dominant
                                                                          feature of the South West New Zealand World Heritage Area;
4. CONTENT and TOPICS                                                     Auckland volcanoes Rangitoto Island and Mount Mangere both
4.1.1 LEARNZ99 Fiordland's Secrets:                                       with a rich cultural history of Maori occupation and volcanic
Features: the characteristics of South West New Zealand (Te               eruptions.
Wahipounamu) world heritage area; the takahe (an endangered
flightless bird species) and its recovery programme; habitat              5. AWARDS
restoration, research and predator control programmes in the              LEARNZ was the winner of the: Computerworld Award 2000:
Eglinton Valley and the special nature of New Zealand's only              Excellence in the use of IT in Education and the TUANZ 2000
native mammal, the bat.                                                   Award: Education Award for Telecommunications.

4.1.2 LEARNZ2k Nga Taonga o Tongariro: The
Treasures of Tongariro                                                    6. ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
Features: the natural and cultural landscape of this world heritage       The LEARNZ programme has been made possible with funding
area including volcanism and the cultural and spiritual                   from the New Zealand Ministry of Education and logistics and
associations of both Ngati Tuwharetoa and Ngati Rangi Maaori              personnel support from the Department of Conservation.
tribes to the mountains of the national park; 'Operation Nest Egg'
the kiwi recovery programme and 'Karioi Rahui' a co-operative             ABOUT THE AUTHOR
management programme involving local Maori tribes in the                  Pete Sommerville is a Director of Heurisko Ltd a private New
management of a unique forest ecosystem.                                  Zealand company specialising in technologies for learning. He
4.1.3 LEARNZ2001 Island Odyssey                                           holds an honours degree in Science from Otago University and is
Features: a 'Mainland Island' where habitat restoration and               a qualified and experienced secondary school teacher. He may be
predator control are returning a forest area to its natural state; Tiri   contacted at: Heurisko Ltd, PO Box 8577, Christchurch, New
Tiri Matangi offshore island 'open sanctuary' where DoC allows            Zealand Ph 64 3 353-7360; p.sommerville@heurisko.co.nz

								
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