ForestLearning wins in multiple categories at Australian Geography Teachers Association Awards
Image Right: AGTA Awards Night - 29 September 2022. A time to celebrate! ForestLearning Program Manager, Beth Welden (Right) with Veronica Tyquin (left) accepting three awards.
Forest and Wood Products Australia’s education program ForestLearning has been recognised for its outstanding contribution to geography education, collecting two wins for three of its teaching resources and one highly commended resource at the biennial Australian Geography Teacher’s Association (AGTA) Awards held in Hobart last week.
The AGTA awards reward quality geography teaching products that meet all set criteria including the resource’s currency, authenticity, application of contemporary understandings about how students learn, the use of cutting-edge production, and contemporary and innovative style in supporting geographical education in Australian schools.
The award-winning ForestLearning resources included the world-first ForestVRTM – Learn through immersion education toolkit. ForestVR brings virtual reality (VR) forest and milling experiences into the classroom and allows students an immersive 360-degree view of Australia’s productive forests and wood processing facilities. Filmed at over 75 forest and wood processing sites across Australia, ForestVR video experiences can be viewed via the classroom ready ForestVR app or via any school technology via web-based content. 360-degree photo tours with embedded hotspots form another avenue for student VR exploration. Phase 2 ForestVR was recently launched in June 2022 with ten new video experiences and was funded with support of the Australian Government.
In conferring the awards, AGTA judges commended the high quality of the ForestVR education products and pointed to the “explicit value to their classroom with their technology-rich product design” which present a “highly accessible and engaging resource for students”.
The two Drones in Forestry teaching units for primary and secondary classrooms produced in partnership with She Maps also picked up a win for the best Digital/Online Resources. Launched in August 2022, these resources have already been downloaded over 520 times in their first month of being published online. The new, innovative, highly engaging, and technology rich units of work for Years 5-6 and 9-10 Geography and Digital Technologies classrooms allow students to explore and understand through real-world case studies how drones and Geographic Information systems (GIS), including remote sensing, assist forestry workers to sustainably manage the forest environments that provide sustainable and renewable resources for society.
Finally, the highly commended Year 10 geography Environmental Change and Forest Management resource produced in partnership with the Geography Teachers Association Victoria (GTAV) and published in May 2022, provides teachers with a complete teaching toolkit aligned to the Australian Curriculum focussing on Australia’s productive forests. The resource fully equips teachers with a range of engaging and technology rich teaching tools including the embedding of ForestVR tools and interactive spatial resources into the geography classroom for enhanced student engagement.
“Our curriculum aligned resources make it easy for teachers to engage students in topics such as sustainability, spatial technologies, and the environment. Importantly they address the gap of Australian-specific teaching resources about forests and wood products,” said ForestLearning National Education Program Manager Beth Welden.
“Using the power of virtual reality, the ForestVR 360-degree videos and photo tours make otherwise inaccessible areas of Australia for school field trips instead accessible online for educators and their students.
“Similarly, the ‘Drones in Forestry’ Story Maps, drone coding activities and forester case studies draw from a wide range of multimedia materials to create interactive and highly engaging learning experiences for students,” Ms Welden said.
Teachers and students responded enthusiastically to the ForestVR resources with 5,687 views across YouTube and Vimeo and 12,575 visits to ForestVR website pages.
A December 2021 survey of Australian teachers conducted by Youth Insight for ForestLearning revealed that although 90% of teachers believe it is important to teach students about forestry and wood products, 78% did not feel confident or only somewhat confident in teaching about these topics. ForestLearning resources aim to bridge this gap by equipping teachers with the tools they need to teach these important topics using innovative pedagogy and modern teaching practice.
“I’m proud of this huge achievement, that reflects not just the work of ForestLearning but the many forest and wood product industry and government partners that collaborated with us to produce these award-winning resources,” Ms Welden said.
“We congratulate our Drones in Forestry partner, She Maps, on this win, as well as our Year 10 Environmental Change and Forest Management partner, the Geography Teachers Association Victoria for our ‘highly commended’ award, and all the other winners, particularly our collaborators and other partners. We also thank AGTA and the judges for their investment of expertise and time in conducting and evaluating these awards,” said Ms Welden.
ForestVR was developed by ForestLearning, an initiative of Forest and Wood Products Australia (FWPA), via collaborative consultation with Geography Teachers Association Victoria, the Design and Technology Teachers Association Victoria, successful early adopters of VR teachers in classrooms, leading universities, the Australian Forest Education Alliance, and industry partners.
The ForestVR, ‘Year 10 Environmental Change and Forest Management toolkit’ and ‘Drones in Forestry’ resources are available to view and freely download via the ForestLearning website: forestlearning.edu.au
Links to resources
• ForestVR virtual tours and 360-degree video experiences
• Drones in Forestry Years 5-6
• Drones in Forestry Years 9-10
• Year 10 Environmental Change and Forest Management education toolkit