Mag-Net Online Association of STEM Educators Inc.
Annual General Meeting
14 October 2017
President’s address: Gary Bass
Secretary’s Report: Dr. Robert Roe
Treasurer’s Report: John Widmer
Vice President’s report: David Lu
Committee member: Roland Gesthuizen
President’s address: Gary Bass
Welcome to the 2017 Mag-Net AGM. In my first year as President I have been active
In a few conferences locally and interstate. In June we had a ‘soft’ launch of the Mag-
Net T-shirt on Show here. The idea is that when representing Mag-Net in a semi-official capacity people will find it easier to take a photo of the t-shirt with you in it, rather than managing the ritual of business cards. So, when people try to remember what is this business card? And who is this Mag-Net bunch? They can look at the photo and there it all is.
So, we’ve attended quite a few conferences. Farthest away was Robert. His presentation in Oxford. So, Mag-Net is now on the international scene. On the national scene there was a CONASTA presence, in Canberra and
Hobart, where John, Roland and myself each ran workshops. And, raised the idea of our version of STEM. It is interesting to contrast our understanding of STEM with those other versions we found around the place. None of which seem to agree. But it is a rich field and a good topic of discussion. You can guarantee that in any conversation you have with anyone, you will find aspects about STEM on which you can agree or disagree.
Roland and I went to The Astronomy conference in Canberra.
And met up with Leonie McGlashan and Paula Floyd who are active in the parallel operation of STEM Australia
When Leonie and Paula were at Keysborough Secondary College they were the initiators of STEM Australia. STEM Australia is on Facebook. It isn’t linked to Mag-
Net at all. But Roland and I are members. I would recommend that you have a look at it. Especially if you have some resources that you want to share with other people. It is an easy conduit in which to connect with over nine hundred members. In just over a year STEM Australia has about nine hundred subscribers. So, in terms of the online presence, it’s a convenient avenue. It doesn’t create a job for anyone around the table here. There is about ten admin moderators who keep an eye on what is going on.
Of late there has been discussion about people going into these forums as self-promoters. So, they have got something to sell. Usually a product. ‘Buy my worksheets, notes, or buy my time. I am available. I can come to you and give you the good word.’ I’ve taken a particularly dim view of that form of self-promotion.
Though, if people want to recommend someone else. That’s probably what STEM
Australia’s purview is. In terms of getting involved and promoting STEM. You may say, ‘Hey, this is good. I think it is worth knowing about. This is my recommendation.’ Rather than blatant self-promotion which is usually very positive, and not critical at all.
So, I’ve had a conversation with a couple of people about this along the lines. ‘Well, we would like to be fellow travellers in this but we are not going into uncritical promotion. Some of the Science Centres have also succumbed to this form of promotion. Recently, at the Victorian Space Science Education Centre
< https://www.vssec.vic.edu.au/ > Roland and myself were on a panel talking about
STEM. Quite a few people were able to attend. John, David and Robert came along.
They had a tour of the place. But the conversation we had with Michael Pakakis, the
Director was quite robust. We pointed out to him some of the deficiencies in the place. He said he would look into these and address them. And he is well aware of these issues. He is happy to have that conversation. He actually welcomes critical comment.
I think that Mag-Net may have a role to play in this place - providing critical comment if you like. It seems that part of our role is to observe, to weigh up and to offer comment in a constructive way. So that these places can improve their performance. There educational performance, because, when looking around there seems to be self-interest. Commercial interest. But not the educational interest. The public interest. Mag-Net is not a public institution. Mag-net doesn’t have a special interest or investment in these educational institutions. So, our niche may be offering critical commentary that seems to be emerging over the past year.
As President, the last two months, probably, I’ve been a little bit quieter online than usual. That’s because my employment situation changed dramatically. I am now on-going, full time. So, the hour or so I used to spend most days doing stuff online has now completely disappeared. I understand how difficult it is to keep up with things without being online. So, some sort of summary digest may be appropriate for people who are not able to check the face book feeds every day. How do they get back into the conversation once you’ve looked the other way for a couple of weeks? Like assessments are coming up in the next couple of months. It is going to go very quiet across the board. How do they get back on board and feel welcome? So, that’s the online provider/consumer dilemma which in my case is still unfolding. I have seen it from both sides. As a provider of information and now as a consumer of it. You don’t want to jump in with a comment if it has already been talked about a week ago. So, that’s why it’s always difficult to know what is going on.
Secretary’s Report: Dr. Robert Roe
Thank you Gary. Thank you for your work in this financial year, 2016/17. In your role as President you represent all of us at the various meetings/conferences that you attend. Where ever you are and whatever you say. You are now speaking for Mag-Net. As you know I went to Oxford, in July. I attended a conference at which I discussed my research. At the same time I took on the challenge of representing Mag-Net internationally. I joined the trend and sent photos of the various places I visited proudly wearing my Mag-Net t-shirt. I did cause a bit of a reaction at the conference. As the participants were certainly not expecting the Mag-Net t-shirt to appear. Laughter.
What I was talking about was my attempt to reposition the voice of teachers in education conversations. As you may realise most of the discussion of STEM here in Australia, has been conducted by people who are not necessarily classroom teachers. People such as the chief scientist. Various federal and state ministers. They have come from various sectors of business and industry. Or from universities or the higher education sector. And when the views or perspectives of teachers are sought they are usually conveyed by someone speaking on their behalf.
My specific interest is in how to improve the contribution of the voice of teachers in
That dialogue. There is a lot we have to say but in general people speak for us. That’s
Why I think it is appropriate for Gary as President of Mag-Net at conferences
To inject an authentic voice of the teacher into the discussion. It means that the voice of a practicing teacher or someone who has experienced what it is to be a teacher is able to engage in the public discourse on STEM education.
I think the same can be said of Roland. Even though Roland is now working at Monash University it doesn’t mean the voice of the teacher is diminished or extinguished, allowing the voice of the academic to take over. People like Roland are teacher educators. While they are educators of teachers they can also inform the academics of what the day-to-day life is like for teachers in schools. And, when they are visiting schools they can discuss with their preservice teachers how to use their classroom experience to gain an understanding of the day-to-day life of teachers/students in schools. Which means that teacher educators like Roland are able to contribute to the discourse on STEM education.
I believe that Aaron also has a role to play in informing others on the possibilities of applied learning in STEM disciplines. Aaron has a technology education space which people can visit. Aaron can speak from his experience what he feels is the right way or more appropriate way of thinking about makerspaces/tech centres, etc. That is Aaron provides the voice of the practicing teacher which others need to hear. This is not the voice of others representing classroom teachers. I believe that Aaron is well versed in pointing out what it is that needs to be done if you want to develop appropriate engineering focussed applied learning courses for school aged students.
We all have a role to play in raising the profile of classroom teachers. Karen, in her work with primary and secondary students and teacher professional development is able to discuss learning from both sides of the pedagogical divide. Again, Karen has a perspective that should inform discussions of STEM education.
John has been doing that for some time. I think what John has to contribute is his personal/professional experience/perspective in the use of the Arduino board as a means of engaging students/teachers in a range of STEM focussed applied learning projects. John can talk from experience and authority on how the digital technology works or doesn’t work. Where to get the materials and how to import them. So, John is engaged in a new dialogue with teachers at conferences and with teacher educators like Prof. Russell Tytler and Dr. Peta White.
David has a role to play as a conduit at the school level, in trying to get students involved in science activities other than those of the ‘curriculum’. So, David is engaged in another discourse. The annual Space Camp provides an opportunity for David to talk about astronomy with students and parents. I believe that this is our strength. The ability to engage people in conversations involving STEM disciplines and activities across a multitude of interests and perspectives. We all have a track record in this regard. We all bring something different/unique to these conversations.
I think we have improved our knowledge and skills in developing
Mag-Net’s online presence. Roland has helped our understanding of online meetings via Hangouts. He has helped organize the sessions: keeping time; turn taking; suggesting possible discussion topics. We are in the early stages of experiencing and getting used to this technology. We are developing a sense of what it means to engage in a distributed conversation. We are still discovering and refining the protocols for a successful meeting using Hangouts.
We should think about inviting others to join our online meetings. I enjoyed the session when Leonie McGlashan joined us from Canberra. Roland: It actually shows that we are not just stuck in the physics/makerspace area. Leonie has a background in microbiology, biology and ecology. Offering a different perspective from which to explore STEM. This is pretty exciting. And it’s a bit of breadth in our group. We have a Mag-Nificant network here. And as Gary described it we have got some friends that are in line with us and are sharing their stuff.
Robert: I haven’t been as active as I wanted to be this year. I was distracted by some other projects. I am working on my next series of ‘Musings’. Namely: What is STEM? In my previous posts I was looking at the bigger picture. Now I am looking at STEM and School Education. I am currently drafting my musings, which John is keen to host on the Mag-Net website. I am rethinking the layout/content to make it more accessible for teachers. I am thinking of reviewing my past posts and rewriting it as an article. This could be submitted for publication. At this stage my contribution is for publication on our website. I think it is useful to have a record, not of us, necessarily. But, what is happening in STEM, as I see it unfolding in Australia.
So, that there is something that can be referenced if need be. That concludes my report for this year.
Treasurer’s Report: John Widmer
We don’t have a membership fee. I have been trying a new model which I trialled at the CONASTA conference. I actually give people stuff. If they turned up to our workshop they got a little handout. A show bag of bits and pieces. As Karen knows I am incredibly wealthy. And, I am in the process of helping people out. This has been really good as a couple of teachers have come online who otherwise wouldn’t have access. The extraordinary thing is how cheap some of these new technologies are.
Vice President’s report: David Lu
This year everybody seems to be involved in some sort of STEM activity. I have been helping teachers and students use electronic products like the Arduino in classrooms. At least I am trying to do so. Once again I went to the Space Camp, which was pretty good. Except I still have to learn how to work the telescopes. So they can work better. But, that’s okay. There were no battery problems this year!
Interestingly, all we had was cloud problems. That was the biggest problem. There was no real way to avoid the clouds. I guess it was the date we chose. Can’t do much about the weather. That’s about it really.
Committee member: Roland Gesthuizen
I’ll stick to the more recent stuff. Gary’s done a good job filling in the back story. I have a love of sun dials. My students printed the sun dial. You have to think about this. The digital sun dial. They can only be 3D printed. It shows the time in the shadows in the digital. If you look at the pattern on the screen. The sequence of dots from the shadow you can read the time in digital. So, it’s a real mathematical quirk of something digital on an analogue sun dial. I’m thinking about Monash having a two metre version outside the Education faculty. That will keep everybody guessing. Oh. Yes. You have to remember to switch to the southern hemisphere! Gary: Mojoptix < https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wrsje5It_UU> made a northern one. And he mentions vegemite in his video!
Roland: Laughter. I had a bit of fun – if I can show you this here on my screen. Now this was the ‘Plain of Jars’ in Laos.
http://www.abc.net.au/catalyst/stories/4557769.htm>. You can’t go walking around this archaeological dig because there is unexploded ordinance. So Monash is using drones to actually do the archaeology and the mapping. As well as marking out the safe routes.
I took my students as a class to the 3D virtualisation environment we have at Monash.
For this lecture the students were wearing 3D Google cardboard glasses, so they could see what I was broadcasting. I had a 3D camera which was broadcasting my lecture. I was standing inside a 3D virtualisation environment. I’m teaching in a virtual classroom in 3D from inside a virtualisation environment. This session was recorded. For students to avoid vomiting it is recommended that from time to time they take off their google goggles; Shake their head and then they can continue their virtual reality experience. So, they are wearing VR goggles. I’m in the VR. I’m inside, not as an avatar; I’m physically there inside a 3D virtualisation room. The room itself is using … polarisation technology. The camera I have has a polarisation filter. So, each screen on the camera actually captures images from different angles.
It’s a 360 degree room. I was puzzled. How can you have 360 degrees if you are rotating? Because when you rotate 90degrees. It’s kind of like the room itself. One view is rotated maybe by 5 degrees. So, you have a left and right view if you are standing anywhere in the room … wearing polarising goggles. And for my participants wearing google cardboard glasses they were watching a youtube video in another room. And they were able to join in.
I soon discovered that audio is a problem. Because, we don’t virtualise the audio.
You can’t turn the audio by 9 degrees. Or 5 degrees. … We had to think ahead. Because there is a four minute lag. We decided to go for high quality resolution. Which meant we cached more. It also meant we had to anticipate when questions were coming up, that were asked four minutes ago. So, I had to anticipate things on the chat room. I was living in two time zones. But, it was a good experiment. I enjoyed it. We found that students asked all sorts of interesting questions because of the nature of the virtual reality experiment. So, we had a lot of fun doing the 3D virtualisation lecture. We did the 3D lecture because we wanted to try out the virtual reality experience with students. We think that no other teacher educators have used VR in this way. We don’t think anyone has actually broadcast live a VR Lecture in which students are able to take part interactively. We think that it’s really remarkable that no one has actually pieced both things together: the live VR lecture and participation by people wearing google glasses. We are going to publish this VR experiment as a paper. The contention is that these virtualisation environments are more than just having fancy board meetings. Or looking at your supermarket in 3D.
I’m still puzzled as to where it would fit into a school environment with kids. I think a lot of it is fairly trivial. Google cardboard is still a virtual expedition. It’s kind of challenging. What are we going to be doing when kids are authors of these virtual reality learning experiences?
This is the ‘Around Me’ virtualisation app
<http://www.aroundmeapp.com> which is loading on my phone. This is something
Gary and I have been experimenting with. I went on a scout bushwalk and we made some virtual 360 tours. Gary also showed me a camera called Insta360 <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GrOmKKSRu8c>.
Now, there is some excitement at Monash for this camera. We are looking at getting some of these cameras for doing some of the capturing. Instead of me stitching images together to create the scene. The Insta360 records the scene.
Gary: It records a movie of things. So, it’s very, very clever. A huge amount of processing power. It is rubberised. So it will bounce. It has a little place to put a string on it. So, you can actually hold it from the roof. Swing it around. And, it is made for moving around. Outdoors where people aren’t that careful. All this technology it’s still a work in progress.