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UC education innovators make global awards shortlist

Virtual field trips and a hi-tech game developed at the University of Canterbury (UC) are opening up new and inspiring horizons in science teaching. The projects have been shortlisted for a prestigious global competition in education innovation.

Drilling into a magma chamber is the thrilling scenario for an innovative game that is adding excitement to secondary school science education. ‘Magma Drillers Save Planet Earth’ is one of two UC projects shortlisted for QS Reimagine Education, a global competition that rewards educators finding imaginative new ways to enhance student learning and employability.

UC volcanologist Associate Professor Ben Kennedy and geo-modelling expert Dr Jonathan Davidson developed ‘Magma Drillers’, a Curious Minds project, last year as an educational tool to help inspire an interest in science and technology among secondary school students, particularly female students and others under-represented in those fields.

Associate Professor Kennedy says the game uses 3D imagery to engage students in role play as scientists or engineers trying to safely extract renewable energy from a volcano.

“It’s great to see students exploring usually inaccessible scenarios together – drilling too deep could kick off a deadly eruption, so there’s a big incentive for everyone to work together to avert catastrophe!” he says.

The game is currently being disseminated throughout the Christchurch secondary school sector.

Creating virtual field trips for geology students - another UC project involving Associate Professor Kennedy and Dr Davidson and funded by Ako Aotearoa – has made QS Reimagine Education’s hybrid learning shortlist for projects that unify web-based and traditional learning practices. School level virtual fieldtrips and a unique collaboration with Core education and EQC informed the project.

Dr Davidson says “in recent years, new technologies have enabled the development of virtual field trips as an effective tool for teaching. Such field trips can be used as prep for workshops or to transport students to remote sites of interest around the world. Student surveys show that this innovative approach is being very positively received.”

Also part of the Magma Drillers development team were Dr Valerie Sotardi (education psychologist, UC) Rob Stowell (AV support, UC) and Ian Reeves (Head of Science, Papanui High School).

QS Reimagine Education winners will be announced in London in December 2019.


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