App extends student learning

Student use iPad app at Taronga Zoo.

Who are the heroes that keep the rainforest thriving?

Is it the Binturong, the Francois' Langur monkey or maybe the Fishing Cat? Could they all shade into insignificance next to the role of plants?

These are the questions students recently tried to answer when they accepted a mission while exploring the Rainforest Trail at Taronga Zoo.

Rainforest Heroes app

Seven schools took part in recent trials of an app called Rainforest Heroes, developed by the NSW Curriculum and Learning Innovation Centre in collaboration with the education staff at Taronga Zoo.

Students start their excursion at the Village School in the centre of the Rainforest Trail area and work together in small groups to learn about megafauna as well as the decomposers who keep the rainforest thriving. 

Using iPads, the app required them to be research assistants who were checking facts to be presented in a report to the zoo.

The students observed, took photos, watched videos, solved challenges, interpreted graphs, virtually fed the animals and used binoculars to explore the environment.

They navigated the area using GPS and compiled their report on the run, which they then emailed to school so it could be used in their class program.

Powerful learning tool

Zoo staff and volunteers shadowed the students to track their engagement levels, interactions and time spent observing the animals in their environments.

Taronga Zoo manager, learning and experience, Paul Maguire said: "The app has been very successful as it focuses and extends the students' learning beyond their time at the zoo as the report they compile is a powerful learning tool back in the classroom and back at home.

"The engagement of the students is extremely high as the iPad app is much more effective than the old paper-based resources."

Photo by Joanne Woodrow

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