May 23

Big Bang – How to make a Universe

FREE video conference for Year 10 students at 11am on Wednesday 8 June. Bookings are essential!BigBangJune2016

May 09

Fizzics Education

This post by Ben form Fizzics Education has a video and radio interview discussing the video conferencing.

This video covers the variety of educational virtual excursion festivals available for schools arranged by Virtual Excursions Australia. VEA is a network of museums, galleries, libraries, environmental centres, aquariums & more.

                                        Ben Newsome on Australian Festivals from CILC on Vimeo.

As you can see, there are so many opportunities available for schools, libraries, hospitals, remand centers and more to engage learners with real time learning with subject matter experts via video conference. It’s so easy these days! By the way, the interviewer was Jan Zanetis who is the Managing Director the Centre for Interactive Learning & Collaboration and a current International Society for Technology in Education board member.

You might like to find out more about events & learning festivals being conducted Virtual Excursions Australia and the work being done to reach remote learners via web and video conference! Also you might also like to know more about the Churchill Fellowship on best practice in science education via video conference I completed last year and it’s associated findings for Australian educators.

Ben from Fizzics Education connected with Unalaska library to run a video conference on the science of sound. As usual I had a blast working with the kids, but I got a great surprise to find that it got recorded by local community radio station kucb 89.7fm!


Video conferencing offers the opportunity to enrich regional and remote communities throughout the world. If your school or cultural organisation has the bandwidth and the hardware, why not consider running some connections to overseas sites? All you need is to do is to get in contact with a school or library district that uses virtual excursions and simply coordinate time zones using a time and date converter. The local connection time in Sydney was not an issue as the connection was after school hours for the library and this worked out to be 11:00am AEST… much more manageable than the 5:00am connections that sometimes need to happen for sites on the east coast of the USA!

Running programs internationally introduces another dimension to educational outreach and is certainly worthwhile pursuing! Want to find out more about educational video conferencing to your school?
Feel free to drop us a line or check out our video conference science clubs or virtual excursion workshops on how it all works.

All the best!


Fizzics Education

Apr 22

Cook and Banks: Charting the rumoured great Southern Land

To celebrate the Royal Botanical Gardens Sydney 200th anniversary, the Australian National Maritime Museum and Royal Botanical Gardens Sydney will offering a joint video conference for year 3 and 4 students History and Science. Cook and Banks: Charting the rumoured great Southern Land is a free video conference which will outline Cook and Banks voyage on the HMB Endeavour.  It will be presented by Kieran Hosty from the Australian National Maritime Museum and Louisa Murray from Royal Botantical Gardens Sydney.

Endeavour minus main top gallant. Image: Paula Tinney

Endeavour minus main top gallant. Image: Paula Tinney


The video conference will investigate the story behind Cook and Banks’ voyage to the rumoured great Southern Land and include topics such as:

  • The reason behind the momentous voyage.
  • The voyage and conditions on board the  HMB Endeavour.
  • Cook’s role as a cartographer and navigator.
  • Banks’ scientific contribution to the voyage and how his legacy began the Royal Botanic Gardens’ Herbarium collection.
  • Learn how scientists classify plants and try your hand at botanic illustration.
  • The enduring outcome of the voyage and how it changed Australian history.

We will be offering six sessions of the Cook and Banks virtual excursion. Three sessions will be offered on Dart connections (May 18th at 9.30am 11.30am and 2.00pm) and another three on Electroboard (May 19th  9.30am,11.30am and 2.00pm).

Apr 15

Top tips for teaching via video conference

There are so many ways you can use video conferencing to discover new educational opportunities, from visiting world-class museums and zoos to diving on the coral reef! Still, often as a teacher you get your training on how to use the newly installed VC system and then you’re left to your own devices to work out the intricacies on how to use it. If your school timetable means that you don’t get to use your system for a couple of months you can quickly forget some of things you need to know to make your experience much more enjoyable (for both your students and for the far end site working with you).

To help, here’s a few tips that can help out when preparing for a virtual excursion, plus some simple hacks to make you look like a pro.

Setting up your room

  • Connect a computer to your system with a HDMI or AV connector. You’ll then be able to share all sorts of content with the remote students. If you want you can use an adapter to connect to your iPad so that you have a document camera with extra functionality.
  • Have a remote mouse and keyboard at the table near you. That way you can access photos and applications easily. It’s useful to have a Google page open so that you can look things up on the fly as needed. Additionally it can be helpful to have the batteries easily accessible so that if you run out of charge you can quickly change them over.
    keyboard and mouse 300px wide
  • Consider your placement of your audio. Try to get the microphones as close to the middle of classroom as possible. Sometimes this is not feasible so in that case you can have someone next to the microphone to relay questions and answers coming from the back of the classroom. VC systems come with a variety of noise cancelling microphones. If you choosing to run a web conference via your computer instead of a H.323 VC system it’s worth purchasing a USB noise cancelling microphone as the sound quality for the remote sites is far superior than what you usually get with your inbuilt microphone on your computer.Polycom C100 noise cancelling microphone                                                       Polycom C100 noise cancelling microphone
  • Put a white board right next to your TV or projector screen and list down the different schools who are attending (especially if you’re leading the conference). That way you can quickly glance to the list and know who you’re speaking with. It can really help if you have a magnetic button to that a volunteer can quickly slide along so you know who spoke to last!List of schools in a VC

Before the conference

  • Set your camera presets before joining the conference. This means a view of your entire classroom, a view of your experiment table and perhaps 3 separate views of the left, middle and right-side of the classroom. It can also help to have a whiteboard view as well so you can quickly write down things to show the other schools. How do you do this? Generally if you zoom your camera to view you need you can hold down a number button on your VC remote and a preset will become stored for later use. Check your usual manual on how to switch between views (Polycom is slightly different to Cisco for instance).
  • Learn how to toggle the various layout views from self view and ‘Brady bunch’ view. I personally like the self-view option as I can see exactly what the other schools are seeing and I simply toggle back to active speaker view so I can see the other schools when they speak back to me. It certainly helps me see what’s going on!

chemistry VC      multipoint conference

  • If there are windows in the room, close any drapes or blinds. Daylight is a variable light source and can conflict with interior room lighting. Try to avoid ‘back-lighting’ as you will come across as shadowy figures with your faces hidden.
  • When adjusting your camera, try to fill the screen as much as possible with people rather than with the table, chairs, walls, lights, or the floor. People want to talk with people :)
  • For microphones not fixed to the ceiling or table, ensure they are at least 1 meter away from the video conference camera/endpoint and not near any other electronic equipment otherwise audio will be severely affected (think audio screech).
  • Have the experiment materials and volunteers ready in your room so that the conference can be more interactive. Your student’s experience in video conferences is affected greatly by what they get to do. Imagine if you were a student and have to sit by and watch another school do fun science experiments in their room without you getting to have a go, all because your teacher’s plan is to run the experiments later. You wouldn’t have much fun and certainly would report to the teacher that you don’t like distance learning as much. Give your students the best chance to get the most out of the conference.
  • Prime your students so that they’re ready to ask and receive questions during the conference. Some teachers get kids to research the content quite deeply and have a question written down so they don;t forget, just make sure that they don’t spend the time worrying about their time to speak and rather engage in the general conversation that occurs in the virtual excursion.

During the conference

  • Keep microphones muted until invited to speak by the presenter.  Mute your microphone directly after speaking. There is always peripheral noise at schools and the microphones pick up everything.  This is a big distraction to the presenter and other participating schools.
  • Use your presets you setup earlier to show the other schools your students, your experiments and your classroom itself. It’s great to have a view setup for outside your window too – kids love to see outside as a peek into your world.
  • Due to the nature of some school’s allocated broadband speed there is a chance of reduced clarity in picture. If a ‘dropout’ occurs simply redial into the conference.

After the conference

  • Like any lesson, this is the time to consolidate learning by asking questions with your students about the content presented and to run aligned follow-on lessons. The more you align a video conference with your standard learning sequence the more valuable it becomes.

As with all things, the more you use it the more familiar you are with what you can do and therefore the better your experience in virtual excursions. Learning to run one of these systems can be fun if you contact a colleague in another school to try some test runs with you. Even better, get some of your own students to learn the controls which means that you won’t have to always rely on having to set it up yourself plus the students will get extra technology learning outcomes and confidence with using modern communications.

If you need any help at all please feel free to drop me a line or you could have a in-depth read of my Churchill Fellowship report which details best practice in science education via video conference.

All the best!


Fizzics Education

Apr 06

Why Study Physics?

If you missed our live streaming event, you can view the recording here.

Why Study Physics? – A careers talk and Q&A presented by Dr Vanessa Moss

Are you ready to explore the secrets of the universe? Exploring the universe is one of the most amazing things we can do and astrophysicist Dr Vanessa Moss does it every day. Studying physics will allow you to see the world with a different perspective, to have insight into how things work, and to be curious about making new discoveries. Join Dr Moss as she shares her journey through her own career and describes the work of some of her peers who followed different career paths in physics.

Mar 01

Cosmic Engine, Year 11 Physics

Book NOW! ‘Cosmic Engine’ video conference for Year 11 Physics, Tue 15 March 2pm


Feb 21

Australian National Maritime Museum Events

The Australian National Maritime Museum offers a great range of video and web conferences for schools throughout the year. They are starting the year with 2 events the Women in Science Symposium and Frank Hurley – the Man Who Made History.

Women in Science Symposium at the Australian National Maritime Museum

Tuesday 8 March at 10am

For international Women’s Day the Australian National Maritime Museum, in partnership with the University of New South Wales is hosting a Women in Science Symposium. The aim is to encourage high school girls to look beyond the lab coats and to see the possibilities for careers in science.

Chaired by Scientia Professor Veena Sahajwalla, UNSW, the morning session will have a range of speakers from diverse areas including marine science, climate, ecology and innovation.
A live web stream of the presentation is being offered.

Please register through eventbrite

Image Credit - Maja Baska 2014

Image Credit – Maja Baska 2014

Frank Hurley – The Man Who Made History

Thursday 17 March at 1pm

The Australian National Maritime Museum is delighted to present a special program for students studying the Frank Hurley documentary as a prescribed text for the Discovery Area of Study.

Meet the film makers Simon Nasht and Anna Cater to hear how they approached dealing with the subject matter, constructing the story and making the film. The talk will be followed by a Q & A where students will have the chance to ask Simon and Anna questions about their film and learn about the available HSC study resources.

Registration through DART Connection

Feb 03

CAASTRO in the Classroom sessions for 2016

black hole web

CAASTRO in the Classroom has an exciting year ahead with some intriguing new video conferencing sessions offered to schools all over Australia.

Bookings are now open for all school terms for these engaging sessions presented by research scientists, with newly-developed pre- and post-visit resources provided for each topic.

Topics for 2016 are ‘Awesome Astronomy‘ for Year 5, ‘Solar System and Beyond‘ for Year 7, ‘Big Bang – How to Make a Universe‘ for Year 10 and ‘Special Relativity‘, ‘Cosmic Engine‘ and ‘Gravity and Orbits‘ for Year 11 and 12 Physics.

Jan 28

2016 Events

We had a big year of events 2015 with Virtual Excursions Australia delivering hundreds of session reaching 10’s of thousands of students across Australia and the world. We finished up the year with the reVEAl conference in December bringing 120 delegate together.

reVEAL had delegates join at the Australian Museum in Sydney, the Australian Centre of Moving Image in Melbourne and though the live web stream. The full day program had a variety of sessions for content providers and teachers.

ALIVE exhibition documentation

In 2016 Virtual Excursions Australia will host a variety of event including:

  • Harmony Day in March
  • World Environment Day 5 June
  • NAIDOC week 27 June – 1 July
  • SciFest throughout August
  • Threatened Species Day 7 September
  • Sea Week September
  • Earth Science Week October
  • ClickFest November

With 20 member organisations there is plenty of variety to suit every curriculum area and engage your students.  See the DART Connections or CONNECTme calendars for sessions and bookings. Please let us know if there are other topic are you would like us to be involved with.


Dec 02

reVEAl 2015 recording

Virtual Excursions Australia conference reVEAl 2015  was on Tuesday 8 December. The event was been designed to be fun, interactive and to provide networking opportunities for both teachers and content providers. We had a variety of short sessions to provide something for everyone.

The full unedited recording is linked below and the list of sessions are listed. We will also edit the recording into individual sessions in early 2016.


9:45 – 10:00am        Value of video conferencing for cultural institutions
10:00 – 10.15am        Techniques in presenting to camera
10:15 – 10:45am        Tech talk – web conferencing platforms

11:30 – 11:45am         How to help schools get comfortable with their equipment
11:45 – 12:15pm         Content provider experiences (the good, bad & ugly)
12:15 – 12:30pm        Future directions all in discussion for content providers

2:15 – 2:30pm          The value of video conferencing for schools
2:30 – 2:45pm         Key Learning Area Experiences: STEM
2:45 – 3:00pm         Key Learning Area Experiences:  Arts & Culture

4:00 – 4:15pm          Key Learning Area Experiences:  History
4:15 – 4:30pm          Key Learning Area Experiences:  Sports & more
4:30 – 4:40pm         Booking platforms in Australia
4:40 – 5:00pm         Worldview





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