UniServe Science News Volume 15 March 2000


GeoSciEd III

Kaye Placing
Educational Technologist, UniServe Science

GeoSciEd III was held at The University of New South Wales, January 17 - 20, 2000. As this conference addressed many issues associated with the teaching of geology in both formal and informal settings, the 180 delegates, representing over 25 countries, included educators from universities, colleges, museums, government organisations, national parks and specialist centres. Secondary teachers were encouraged to attend with many being financially supported by the Minerals Council of Australia.

Keynote speakers included Professor Michael Archer, Director of The Australian Museum in Sydney, Ian Clark, University of South Australia and Programme Convenor for the conference and Rosemary Hafner, Board of Studies NSW. Michael Archer used examples from the ongoing research at Riversleigh with its rainforest flora and fauna to indicate how a study of the "deeptime" can tell us much about the future of the planet and the areas of concern for its conservation. Ian Clark spoke on "New Ways to Teach Geology". As an Inspector on the Board of Studies, of NSW, Rosemary Hafner has been responsible for the development of the new Stage 6 Science syllabuses that have been introduced into all NSW schools this year. She outlined the process undertaken in the development of each syllabus and the change of focus and features of the Earth and Environmental Science syllabus in particular.

The conference attracted over 75 papers and 20 posters in the following strands: K-12 teaching content and skills; undergraduate teaching to large numbers; the role of field excursions; innovations in teaching aids; the use and success of outreach programmes; and the electronic classroom.

The presentation on "The Use of the Web in the Teaching of the Geosciences at Australian Universities" by UniServe Science can be viewed on-line at UniServe Science would welcome any additional links that would make this summary more complete.

Steven Croft and colleagues from the NASA Classroom of the Future presented a case study based on a collaborative problem-based learning experience which is held exclusively in an on-line electronic environment. The course web site at illustrates how they have used a graphic depicting the web-based collaborative environment with virtual spaces that are used for discussion and collaboration.

A common theme through many papers was alternative delivery methods that are being incorporated into geoscience teaching. These included poster sessions, portfolios, research-like experiences, action-based research and concept maps. Nancy Jonsson, College of Southern Idaho, described a portfolio as "a thoughtful collection of journal and magazine articles about the latest research and discoveries in the earth sciences". She expects her students to use the Web extensively, but not exclusively, for articles and virtual field trips to extend their geological experiences.

On Tuesday, delegates were invited to attend the inaugural meeting of IGEO (International Geoscience Education Organisation) where a constitution was formally adopted and the first committee elected. The committee consists of Chris King (UK), Nir Orion (Israel), Ian Clark (Australia), Laure Wallace and Mary Dowse (USA), Alan Morgan (representing the next host country, Canada) and one representative from every other country involved in IGEO.

A tour to the Blue Mountains and Jenolan Caves provided a welcome break to the normal conference proceedings on Wednesday. The conference also featured a number of pre- and post- conference excursions to local areas of scenic and geological interest. The excursions included the Great Barrier Reef, Central Australia, Kangaroo Island, Canberra and New Zealand - a great opportunity for the many overseas visitors.

At a post conference workshop entitled "Using Geological Maps and Computers in the Classroom" participants had an opportunity to experience some of the excellent teaching activities available through the Australian Geological Survey Organisation (AGSO). You might like to investigate the "Cairns Emergency Management Plan" from the information available on-line at

Social activities were an important ingredient of the conference, ranging from a didgeridoo "welcome" on Sunday evening, to a fabulous harbour cruise on Thursday night (probably the balmiest night we've had all summer). The trivia extravaganza at the conference dinner encouraged people to get to know each other through audience participation, including a Maori haka, the Vegemite song (with ukulele accompaniment), and particularly impressive renditions of national anthems from Mozambique, the Philippines and Japan.

The theme for GeoSciEd IV will be Geoscience Communication at the start of the 21st Century and will be held in Calgary, Canada from August 10-14, 2003. For further information and updates, visit the web site at

A memorable quote used by Michael Archer in his keynote address - "Civilization exists by geological consent ... subject to change without notice", Will Durant, American historian, 1885-1981.

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UniServe Science News Volume 15 March 2000

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