Virtual reality and Oculus Rift

Interesting developments in virtual reality…..

Facebook acquires virtual reality company Oculus VR for $2 billion

The Oculus Rift virtual reality (VR) goggles were developed during a Kickstarter campaign, one of the most successful ever. When you wear the headset goggles, you are immersed in a virtual world (eg. a computer game running on your computer) – and you interact with that world as if you were actually there. Currently, developer kits for the Oculus Rift are available and now Facebook has bought the company. Zuckerberg says he wants to “make the Oculus a platform for many other experiences” – including classroom use, medical consultations and sport. The Oculus team believe that virtual reality has the “potential to transform the way we learn, share, play and communicate”. Some say Facebook is betting on virtual reality replacing smartphones & other mobile devices.

Here at Dickson College in the ACT, Maker culture is thriving. Our innovative IT & Engineering teacher Andrew Moss is using the Oculus Rift developers’ kit with students in years 11 & 12. They are adding webcams so that the Oculus can film where they look and then turn this into virtual reality. The Oculus might also be used with the UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle) program. The students demonstrated the Oculus and the 3D printer as part of our United Nations International Day of Happiness celebrations on 20 March. I had a turn with the Oculus goggles and they were awesome!! You really felt immersed in a virtual world – in this case, a rollercoaster ride. Could be quite addictive!

Video using Oculus Rift in Skyrim game (impressive!):

Other videos (including satire):

Will Facebook just turn the Oculus headset into another device for mining personal information and selling advertising? Many supporters of Oculus Rift are less than impressed at the Facebook acquisition. Minecraft creator Markus Persson has decided against using Oculus in the game, because Facebook creeps him out. Check out the GIF haha:

Facebook begins its quest to replace reality:

Exciting times!

Australian Curriculum: technologies; and computer coding

Some interesting news and views….

Australian Curriculum: Technologies

Available for use; awaiting final endorsement. Two distinct subjects – 1. Design and Technologies 2. Digital Technologies. All students will study both from Foundation to Year 8. In Year 9 and 10, access will be determined by school authorities.

Design and Technologies – students use design thinking and technologies to generate and produce designed solutions for authentic needs and opportunities.

Digital Technologies – students use computational thinking and information systems to define, design and implement digital solutions.

Australian Curriculum: General Capabilities: ICT Capability

“In the Australian Curriculum, students develop ICT capability as they learn to use ICT effectively and appropriately to access, create and communicate information and ideas, solve problems and work collaboratively in all learning areas at school, and in their lives beyond school. The capability involves students in learning to make the most of the digital technologies available to them, adapting to new ways of doing things as technologies evolve and limiting the risks to themselves and others in a digital environment.”

Do we really need a Digital Technologies syllabus?

Here’s an interesting article by Deborah Trevallion (lecturer, School of Education, Uni of Newcastle). If ICT capability is integrated into every subject, why do we need a Digital Technologies syllabus? Who is going to teach it? Will we need to find specialist computing teachers? The Australian syllabus is already overcrowded – perhaps the Digital Technologies syllabus should just be a strand of the Design and Technologies syllabus.

Teaching the new Digital Technologies syllabus

Indeed, feedback was given during the Draft stage, commenting on the level of difficulty and advanced nature of the Digital Technologies curriculum, especially for years F-6. Will teachers have the expertise to deliver the curriculum? Interesting to see the Computer Science Education Research Group at the University of Adelaide (supported by Google) offering a free course for F-6 teachers (starting 24 March) in digital technology and computational thinking and how to implement the curriculum (thanks Stephen Loosley for your update). More courses like this will need to be offered so that teachers can become familiar with this new learning area – many teachers will have had little experience with concepts such as algorithms, programming and information systems. Interesting though!

Implementing the Digital Technologies syllabus will be an exciting time – maybe it’s an area in which teacher librarians can develop expertise? Computer science and coding are becoming more prominent worldwide…. and the Hour of Code launched in January 2013 – a non-profit organisation that promotes computer coding & computer science, especially in schools. Supporters include Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates and President Obama. During 9 – 15 Dec 2013 they launched the Hour of Code Challenge – 20 million people in 168 countries participated and 600 million lines of code were written.

Teacher coding & user friendly professional resources (useful for Aust. Curriculum) – looks like fun!:

Chicago public schools are establishing computer science as a core subject in high schools, in partnership with,. who will provide free curriculum and PD for teachers. Sounds good!

The National Curriculum for primary schools in England will adopt lessons in basic programming from Sept 2014, from kindergarten on. This is already happening in Estonia. The Hour of Code will also run in the UK in March this year.

Short video:

National Curriculum in England: computing programmes of study:

Lots of exciting developments!

Climate, science & global poverty

Some interesting info for geography, science, global studies, sociology..…

State of the climate 2014 Report

Released 4 March, it is the third report produced by CSIRO & Aust. Bureau of Meteorology – a summary of observations of Australia’s climate and analysis of the factors that influence it. Chapters include: Heavy rainfall & tropical cyclones; Oceans; Future climate scenarios.

Fast facts: Aust’s climate has warmed by 0.9 degrees since 1910 & there is more extreme heat and fewer cool extremes. Extreme fire weather has increased and the fire season has lengthened across large parts of Aust. since the 1970s. Sea-level rise and ocean acidification will continue.

Video & info:


Goodbye Scirus

Scirus, the science-specific search engine, has retired (Jan 2014). It was owned and operated by giant medical & scientific publishing company Elsevier (publisher of Lancet & Gray’s anatomy), which does have a reputation for very high subscription costs for universities & other institutions.

Elsevier still offers the ScienceDirect database which searches through thousands of journals and books. Many of the articles have a cost, but free open access full text articles can be found via Advanced search. Articles are suitable for university level and advanced senior high school students.


Global Citizen Tickets

This initiative of the Global Poverty Project tracks and rewards social activism that helps address poverty, by giving out free concert tickets. Fans can earn points for each online action taken (not fundraising) and go in the prize draw for tickets. Performers such as the John Butler Trio, Bernard Fanning, The Temper Trap, Gotye, Art vs Science, The Jezabels & Eskimo Joe have all donated tickets to their forthcoming concerts.

Global Poverty Project is an international education and advocacy organization working towards the end of extreme poverty by 2030. Since launching in 2012, more than 250 000 Global Citizens have joined, taking more than 1.5 million actions.


Human rights resources

Some interesting resources for geography, science, global studies, sociology, legal studies..…

Human Rights Watch

This excellent and informative independent organisation recently published its World Report 2014, its 24th annual review of human rights practices in over 90 countries.

Human rights issues by country – interesting to read about Australia:

Current news and human rights information – browse by topic or region:

Videos of human rights issues:

Rights struggles of 2013: stopping mass atrocities, majority bullying and abusive counterterrorism – keynote by Kenneth Roth:


Social watch: poverty eradication and gender justice

This international network of citizens’ organisations is committed to peace, social, economic, environmental and gender justice. Social Watch Reports are produced annually, as well as detailed National Reports. The Gender Equity Index measures the gap between men and women in education, the economy and political empowerment. The Basic Capabilities Index monitors the evolution of basic indicators and makes comparisons between and within countries. Detailed statistics are provided for countries and also an interactive map.


Aust. Human Rights Commission

Comprehensive information – news, current projects, legal issues, forums, publications etc. Includes Asylum seekers and refugees, Disability, Race, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander, Rights and freedoms, Age, Sex discrimination, LGBTI.

Hot topics index:

Teachers’ resources and books to download:

More human rights links:


International human rights: HSC legal studies

Useful links from the State Library NSW – websites and other resources, some of which need a State Library card (the National Library & Libraries ACT would probably offer access to similar resources).

Human rights in Aust: