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2000 Robyn Boswell: Future Problem Solving - NZ kids foot it

2000 Alan Cooper: Thinking to learn

2000 Gwen Gawith: Information literacy in action at SCONZ

2000 Gwen Gawith: Blooming questions

1999 Art Costa: An interview with Art Costa

1999 Robyn Boswell: International Future Problem Solving success

1999 Gwen Gawith: The survival of the book: Co-existing with Gog and Magog

1999 Gwen Gawith: Lost the plot: Reading for what?

1999 Gwen Gawith: Rushkoff and visual literacy

1999 Gwen Gawith: KFL: Knowledge Free learning?

1998 Gwen Gawith: Ban projects: Teach information literacy

1998 Gwen Gawith: The cry for deep learning…

1998 Gwen Gawith: The Mercury model of information literacy

1998 David Hyerle: Thinking literacy in an age of ICT

1998 Pauline Donaldson: A virtual classroom with 3500 students

1997 Jeff Bruce and Gwen Gawith: information literacy and Infolink

1997 Gwen Gawith: How to ? or not to?: That is the ?

1997 Gwen Gawith: Unlocking learning: Key words

1996 Gwen Gawith: Epistemic fluency or the cognitive trots!

1995 Gwen Gawith: A serious look at self-efficacy: waking beeping Slooty!

1993 Gwen Gawith: The National Curriculum and the information process

information literacy:
learning & thinking

A virtual classroom with 3500 students

This article was published in Good Teacher, Term 1 1998

Pauline Donaldson

Imagine stepping out of your classroom into a virtual classroom of 3,500 students. Imagine stepping out of a C141 Starlifter after a five- hour flight into a bright, sparkling world of ice and snow. Where? Antarctica.

As LEARNZ97 Teacher I was about to share an amazing experience with students and teachers in New Zealand and Australia. I was about to become a living resource!

As a strong advocate of resource-based learning I was in one of the world's most interesting learning contexts. My role was to be the interface between the students and the scientists working on the ice - to use audioconferences to get students' questions answered, and to describe my experiences in language which would make it come alive for them.

Audioconferences and the LEARNZ web diary gave students a sense of real time and real contact. We were the bridge to reality through virtual reality. We spent most late evenings reflecting on the day's activities, then writing the diary and making connections to the LEARNZ modules, and references back to previous audioconference transcripts on the website. The digital photos taken during the day were slotted in. There was satisfaction in knowing many of our LEARNZ schools could access our days activities when they arrived at school in the morning. Our families were able to share the trip on a daily basis too. The sun was still shining when we headed off to our bunks, diary finished for the day, but daylight never ending in late October in Antarctica.

This method of learning involves real people in real places at real times via the WWW. Link voices via audioconference and it becomes very powerful. It encompasses the whole range of Essential Skills of the National Curriculum, lending itself to intercurricular studies. From the basic IT skills of writing questions on the computer, sending a fax and using a telephone, sending an email or accessing the Internet - all were used in real time learning situations.

LEARNZ provided a purpose for learning, practising and using these skills with responses and results. The aim is for our students of today to be lifelong learners, able to transfer their skills from once context to another. LEARNZ was a good rehearsal.

As LEARNZ97 teacher I had a Royal Society Science and Technology Teacher Fellowship for twenty weeks of the1997 school year. I worked with Pete Sommerville, LEARNZ Project Manager, in the planning, writing and implementing of the LEARNZ97 programme 'Global Concerns' for schools. Sally Murray, education officer Antarctic Visitors Centre, and Sue Graham LEARNZ96 teacher, supported us.

My LEARNZ year began in March with a planning trip to Christchurch to the International Antarctic Centre, from then on it became my second home as I worked between there and Wanganui. The visit to Antarctica was the culmination of the LEARNZ year, helping to deepen my understanding of New Zealand's role in Antarctica.

I had been involved in the XXIV Antarctic Treaty Meeting in Christchurch in May, talked to scientists and support staff involved in research on the ice, spent hours in the Antarctica New Zealand library and talked incessantly to IAC staff about projects, logistics and issues of working in Antarctica. Total immersion.

Post-Antarctic opportunities to visit schools were rewarding. I had a chance to see the enthusiasm and wonderment on students' faces. They had the chance to see me as a real live teacher. I was able to share my excitement, and answer their innumerable questions. They were thrilled to try on and handle the clothing, so much of it and so bulky - experiences to help make it real in their minds.

They had listened to audioconferences, read emails, viewed the webpage and now the connections were made, the gaps were bridged; they had become active participants in mukluks, neckgaiters, nosewiper mittens and dogtags!

The 60 Minutes programme 'Lessons on Ice' made during our first five days in Antarctica and screened in November, together with photographs, also helped students expand the ideas gained from the webpage diaries. In the diaries using analogies was important. We tried to paint word pictures of our experiences to helped make it real in their minds. Examples were:

"Looking up at the roof of the snow mound we had built was like being in the dome of a cathedral, the ceiling had a beautiful abstract pattern with little green stained glass windows."

The Condition One storm was like a " wild raging animal buffeting Scott Base continuously for two and a half days."

Visiting the Weddell seals beyond the pressure ridges at Scott Base: "The seals looked completely disinterested in our arrival. Great grey slugs sleeping soundly, as if sunbathing."

Meeting the Emperor penguins on the sea ice at Cape Evans: "The encounter with Emperor penguins was magical. Their cream and black feathers are sleek and smooth. They glowed in the Antarctic sunlight. The golden colour under their chins is like a sunrise."

Walking up onto the Wilson Piedmont Glacier: "It was a gentle climb and the surface of the snow had melted slightly then frozen. The sensation was like walking across meringue. Our mukluks crunched as we walked."

Returning to Cape Roberts by helicopter at 10 pm: "The sun was streaming down as we flew along the ice edge. The sea ice had broken out after the big storm of last week and floated on the surface like thousands of panes of glass. "

By giving students the chance to experience learning through a variety of media we enabled them to become active viewers. They had many opportunities to make connections between my real life experiences and theirs from the LEARNZ Live Textbooks. Being a living resource is an exciting, frantically busy and stimulating experience.

LEARNZ was a 20 week experience that will stay with me forever. I was teacher-as-learner with the students one step behind my mukluks.


Pauline Donaldson is a trained teacher-librarian who teaches at St Georges Primary School in Wanganui