A new Web portal of digital education resources has launched through a partnership including several arts, science and educational organisations in Australia.
Senator Kate Lundy launched the initiative, Virtual Excursions Australia (VEA), this morning at the Interactive Technology in Education Conference in Sydney. VEA will organise videoconferencing events and give Australian teachers access to a range of interactive online content to use in the classroom.
"The Virtual Excursions web portal is an initiative that will help transform education in Australia and ensure it is an experience that goes far beyond the traditional classroom walls," said Lundy.
"Not all locations are accessible to all students, all of the time and virtual excursions allow classrooms to be transported to some of Australia's most important arts, cultural, science, and education institutions."
Lundy flagged rural areas as a major opportunity for the program.
"The Virtual Excursions project will be particularly useful for those in regional and rural Australia where research has found that for people in regional centres the relative cost of excursions ranges from 20 to 100 per cent higher than in capital cities. For students in remote areas that figure can be 200 to 500 per cent higher."
Upcoming videoconferencing events include Teachers Professional Development Day (15 July), the National Science Week Video Conference Festival (5-9 August), Dinosaur Day (4 November) and Clickfest (4-29 November).
The partnership has videoconferencing vendors Cisco, Polycom and Electroboard, as well as arts and science organisations including Australia's Academic and Research Network (AARNet), the Australian Museum, Sydney Opera House, the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO) and several others.
"Virtual Excursions Australia is the result of a grass roots collaborative effort by a group of national organisations who wanted to improve how teachers and learners find out about and access the wide array of innovative digital content available today," said VEA chair Karen Player, who is also the museum outreach manager for the Australian Museum.
"A high speed broadband connection enables teachers to access a huge choice of interactive online content to engage students and bring the curriculum to life in meaningful ways, without the traditional barrier of the expense and inconvenience of travel. VEA aims to be a portal where educators around Australia can begin their search for local and international resources and connect with content providers."
AARNet education outreach manager, Nick Cross, said, "The increased availability of high speed networks has provided a stimulus for content providers to invest in real-time interactive service design and delivery.
"The VEA initiative plays a vital role by bringing together networks of educators and nationally significant content providers, broadening access and enabling meaningful learning experiences."
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