Video shares the radio star

QUESTNet Conference in Queensland
 Brendan Smith
Web conferencing 'events’ can expand the reach of cultural organisations beyond their physical walls.


Did video really kill the radio star, or is it just another way to share Australia’s radio, music, film and television ‘stars’?

Imelda Cooney (coordinator of our School Screen program) and I recently attended and presented at the QUESTNet Conference on the Gold Coast in Queensland. QUESTNet is an annual event that promotes the development and use of ICT technologies in higher education and research.


The event brings together education professionals, academics and researchers, as well as technology providers and developers. It’s an unusual combo – the exhibition hall full of high-end tech providers and companies hawking servers, delivery services, gadgets and systems (I must confess I didn’t know what half of it was), and wandering academics, school teachers and museum reps.

For the first time this year, the conference included a stream on Digital Outreach, coordinated and sponsored by AARNet, which attracted a small but enthusiastic audience. The presentations focused on the increasing use of web and teleconferencing by cultural institutions, museums, archives and scientific agencies to share their collections and work with students and audiences around the country and internationally.

Organisations such as ReefHq (the National Education Centre for the Great Barrier Reef), Questacon and the Australian Museum are clearly leading the way in terms of the breadth of programs they offer and numbers of students they reach. For instance, ReefHq’s webconferencing program includes ‘wet’ presenters talking to school audiences from the reef aquarium, interacting with fish, clams, sharks and stingrays; and the Australian Museum team is able to show students the original First Fleet diary and discuss comments and diary entries from our founding fathers.

It was great to represent the NFSA in amongst this cluster of agencies, sharing the work Imelda has been doing with the NFSA’s web conferencing program NFSA Connects. The program, like others presented at the conference, showcases the Archive’s collections and links Australian screen and music content with students in regional locations via video and web conferencing ‘events’ with directors, actors, producers and musicians.

Without a doubt, the highlights were a link up to San Francisco to chat with a videoconferencing guru who has championed some of the Australian programs to schools and other groups in the US, and a live link up to ReefHQ to watch and listen to a ‘wet’ presenter underwater in their open air reef aquarium! While some of us are just dipping its toes in the water, others are plunging right in. Talk about finding Nemo!

The opportunities for the NFSA and other agencies are huge, and the potential audiences and web conferencing users are growing all the time, hungry for engaging and interactive content. Not only are there growing audiences in capital cities and country and regional areas across Australia for such programs, but increasingly, they are being enthusiastically consumed by schools and community organisations across the United States, in Europe, Alaska and Russia. There are also some great partners out there to learn from and collaborate with, who have been exploring these possibilities for many years. Watch this space…