Botanic Gardens Trust, Sydney, Australia

Digital education milestones reached at the Australian PlantBank

With support from HSBC, Community & Education Programs is keeping pace with the global online learning revolution. In a landscape of rapidly changing technologies, traditional real-time face-to-face teaching has been augmented with a dynamic new capacity to deliver interactive online lessons. We have the potential to communicate the plant sciences to vastly expanded new audiences across Australia and internationally. The Interactive Learning Project funded by HSBC is a three-year program of building digital education capability across our Gardens, launched on 29 November 2013 at PlantBank.

June has been a month of celebration with milestones reached in the Interactive Learning Project at the Australian PlantBank - the completed installation and successful activation of a suite of digital education resources. The Persoonia Learning  Laboratory has become a film studio for video conference classes with our Education and Science staff coming to grips with a range of smartboards, cameras, microscopes and other high-tech equipment to successfully deliver live classes online to more than 500 students across NSW and Victoria. Through these virtual excursions, school students gain an insight into plant conservation, biology, seed collection, preservation and propagation, all focus areas of the new Australian Syllabus theme, the Living World.

Nothing beats hands-on sensory experiences and to balance the video-conferenced lessons, we are harnessing a different area of technology to enhance in-the-field visits to our Gardens. A class set of tablets (water and shock-proof) is now available as a multi-purpose resource with carefully designed content supporting outdoor learning for visiting classes. Students will be able to access custom-made eBooks created on our lesson themes and use apps as analytic and creative tools for such activities as data collection and syllabus-linked presentations to extend the immersion experience during excursions. This tablet resource extends lessons to a new level and transforms the way we deliver education at the Gardens. The Digital Discovery excursions will be offered from Term 4 at the Australian Botanic Garden Mount Annan. For more information see Interactive Learning.

The Trust is very grateful for sponsorship from HSBC which supports the three-year Interactive Learning Project. An Environmental Trust Grant also provided funding towards the development of digital resources including the PlantBank smartphone app, the new PlantBank education website, plant models for the teaching lab and Connected Classroom hardware.


Sustainable video conference

PlantBank digital education launch

Bretford iPad charging cart