Dr. Willie Smits is one of the world’s greatest conservationists.  He’s personally responsible for rescuing hundreds of orangutans and other animals in Indonesia.  The founder of Borneo Orangutan Sanctuary (BOS) and other major rescue and rehabilitation centres, takes us on a close up journey into an orangutan rescue in this rare video clip.

It’s an ugly look at the horror of the conditions many orangutans are facing in Indonesia every day.  And this is by no means the worst of it.

Dr. Smits, an Indonesian national is one of the advisors to the DeforestACTION project.  You can learn more about his work here: http://www.ted.com/talks/willie_smits_restores_a_rainforest.html.   You can contribute to the DeforestACTION project at www.deforestaction.org.

DeforestACTION at ISTE

ISTE is one of the world’s premiere educational events. DeforestACTION will be featured in the closing keynote.

DeforestACTION will showcased to the education world after being annouced as the topic of the closing keynote at ISTE this year.

Chris Gauthier, a teacher from Queensland’s Cleveland State High School, will take the main stage with Dr. Willie Smits in San Diego, California, to explain the importance of global, project-based learning and DeforestACTION. 

Chris has recently returned from Borneo to witness first hand what the DeforestACTION project is about.  He is also an accomplished teacher, inspiring students in his school and beyond to get involved in projects like Earth Watchers and fundraising campaigns to save rainforest and more.

The International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) is the premier membership association for educators and education leaders engaged in advancing excellence in learning and teaching through innovative and effective uses of technology. ISTE is the trusted source in education technology for professional development, knowledge generation, advocacy, and leadership for innovation.

ISTE’s annual conference and exposition is one of the world’s largest education technology events, and the closing keynote is one of the most high profile slots on the program.

It is expected that the presentation may include some preview clips from the much anticipated upcoming cinematic feature about DeforestACTION “The Rise of the Eco Warriors”, which was recently filmed over 100 days in Borneo by Virgo Productions and partners.

We also expect the new Apps to be announced for Windows Phone, iPhone and Android, which have been managed by TakingITGlobal.

Stay tuned for more.

— ps — I have been offline for several months due to family issues. I’m back online now, so will keep you posted more regularly.

One of the largest information technology companies on the planet joins forces with DeforestACTION to connect school students with the realities of deforestation in Borneo

Samsung Electronics, one of the largest IT companies in the world, is putting its might behind the DeforestACTION project to ensure local people can connect with millions of kids around the world.  The front line of the DeforestACTION project is creating awareness and respect for the forests and their inhabitants by providing global collaborative education opportunities. Samsung have stepped up to accelerate this in a big way.

The first phase in this partnership will see Samsung providing a swag of the latest Series 9 laptops and NPCs to all the eco warriors,  plus offering their latest Samsung Omnia phones to  keep them connected online.  They are providing equipment to ensure the entire team in the field can share regularly with the onlookers across the globe and report on everything that is happening as it occurs.

Also for the local people, the latest Samsung cameras will allow them to record their stories, and share them online with students around the world.  Access to laptops, cameras and the internet will help them connect with students in classrooms across the planet, providing real time and asynchronous reports on their experiences, knowledge and stories.  The devices will allow local people to connect with the world in a way that has previously been inaccessible to them.

Add to all this the partnership with Polycom, who are providing the very latest video conferencing technologies to allow school students to connect face to face with the field, and you have a whole new level of exciting learning opportunities you could never get from a text book.

Polycom to provide new conferencing tools to link people to the field

Creating real transparency around the issues of deforestation, creating exciting, authentic and connected learning experiences for young people in schools around the world, and giving local people the most powerful voice they have ever had, is a significant contribution from our two newest partners. 

And this is all just the tip of the iceberg. Expect another exciting announcement around this shortly!!

XBOX Live Kinect

The fastest growing consumer device of all time will now be used to raise awareness of deforestation and orangutan intelligence

Imagine if millions of people could experience engaging orangutan interactions from their living rooms.  Imagine too, if they could experience it through a virtual 3D game made possible by XBOX with Kinect.  What kind of reach and exposure might become possible if some of the best minds in electronic games design combined forces to build such an experience for tens of millions of people globally?

Kinect is in the Guinness Book of World Records as the fastest growing electronic consumer device of all time, and provides an extraordinarily consuming experience.  It is also a serious educational tool with a growing portfolio of educational apps. With XBOX360 now in more than 60 million homes worldwide, we are very excited to announce the development of a new DeforestACTION game to raise global awareness of the desperate need for orangutan conservation.

The team at Hong Kong Polytechnic’s M-Lab school of design have been working on a concept of orangutan interaction games for the past year.  In these games, humans can already play against real (and simulated) orangutans incorporating a range of spatial awareness and memory challenges that orangutans can typically compete (or beat) humans at.  

A recent article from the Sunday Morning Post in Hong Kong.

By taking such a game concept mainstream we can ensure more people become respectful of the exceptional intelligence and diverse personalities orangutans demonstrate.  As players increase their awareness, they are likely to get involved in supporting their plight and actively oppose the forces of deforestation that are rapidly driving them to extinction.  With the broadcast power of XBOX Live, and some of the most creative and experienced minds on the planet (commercial, private and institutional) combining on this project,  this is sure to be a powerful driving force for conservation awareness and recruitment.

Below is an extract from a related article in the Sunday Morning Post in Hong Kong.

Ready for a game? You will be shown a sequence of five different pictures. Sometimes the pictures are abstract shapes, sometimes faces. Sometimes the faces are rotated. Memorise them: you have five seconds. Go! Now tell me what they are in the correct sequence with 20 pictures to choose from.

If your competitor was an orangutan, it would probably beat you at this game.

“The orang-utan has such good visual memory,” says Dr Hanna Wirman, the developer of this computer game made specifically for orangutans. They often have visual memories several times greater than humans’ due to the intricate paths they have to carve out and remember in a forest of similar-looking trees.

And they will win even if the images are turned 180 degrees, because orang-utans are often upside down.

“They are sensitive at recognising images no matter how they are rotated,” Wirman said.

She created the game to highlight an area where orang-utans could beat humans: a kind of cross-species game play that, if implemented in

zoos and wildlife rescue centres, could show visitors just how smart orang-utans – which share about 97 per cent of our DNA – are.

Wirman has a PhD in cultural studies from the University of the West of England in Bristol.

We will keep you posted as the game development unfolds.

got a great idea for this game? We would love to hear it in the comments below.

Last week we took a camera to Fulford Secondary School in York, UK, to get reactions from students as they were introduced to the DeforestACTION project.

These students connected with Dr. Willie Smits via Skype, and began working together with other students around the world to learn about the issues of deforestion.

Later in the week, they were invited to meet the Crown Princess of Jogyakarta, and pledged to expand their involvement in the project to help fund further orangutan rescues and to fight the destruction of important forests for palm oil production.

This is such an engaging project, because it connects students with one of the most importat topics on the planet, and makes it as real as possible. A big thank you to all the students and teachers at Fulford Secondary School for sharing this with us.  Are you a teacher? You can connect your students with those at Fulford by signing up at http://www.deforestaction.org.

Are you are an expert in deforestation or orangutan conservation?  We are looking to provide as much information as possible to students from around the world and are always on the lookout for new, engaging content.

'Innovate! Collective Wisdom from Innovative Schools' featuring Michael Fullan, Sir Ken Robinson, Dan Buckley, Will Richardson and loads more. All funds raised from the sale of this book will go directly to the DeforestACTION project.

It was a major hit at the BETT Show in London, with the first print run completely wiped out in only three days.  The new book “Innovate! Collective Wisdom from Innovative Schools” features the best examples of educational innovation from across the planet, and powerful ideas from the leading educational ‘gurus’.  It is a must read for anyone in education.

Perhaps best of all,  DeforestACTION is featured throughout as an exemplar of education best practice,  and all proceeds (yes, 100% of money raised) from sales of this book go directly to DeforestACTION.

This is good news for young people around the planet who are  continuing to fight deforestation and protect the endangered species including the orangutan.

The book was written in a very unique way.  Over 400 educational leaders collaborated across four days, sharing their best ideas, inspirations, quotes and case studies in an uber- OneNote document.  This process allowed the distillation of the most current, cutting edge educational thinking from the best in the world, quickly, powerfully and simply.  By leveraging the power of cloud technologies, and the single most powerful educational software tool – OneNote, this book is groundbreaking, not only in what it contains, but also in how it was created.

The book will soon be available through Amazon and other online booksellers.

DeforestACTION explained with examples of student work and great links to teaching and learning ideas.

Her Royal Highness, Princess Gusti of Jogyakarta pledged to personally recruit 1 Million students from Indonesia to the DeforestACTION project

Why would her Highness, Princess Gusti Pembayun of Jogyakarta want to open one of the world’s most important education events, and challenge school leaders from across the globe to get behind the DeforestACTION project?  And why would she stand before this powerful leadership group and personally commit to enrolling another one million Indonesian students into the project?

Last week in London, the British Council hosted the annual Education World Forum.  This three day long event draws Ministers and senior policy makers from across the world to consider the future of education and was opened by Princess Gusi Pembayun, who spoke about the importance of large education systems embracing DeforestACTION.

During her address, the Princess highlighed the incredible work students from around the world had already undertaken through the project.  She spoke of the challenges faced by local people in Indonesia, and how education could help stop the destruction of the important rainforests, the orangutans, local industries, and protect the futures of the local people.

Her message was simple.  Deforestation is a global problem.  We must work together as a global community to solve it – beginning with our young people. New solutions are needed – more agile, more creative solutions.  She finished with a personal commitment – she will work to bring another one million Indonesian students into the program so they can interact with students around the world through the DeforestACTION online spaces, through new DeforestACTION fact sheets, teacher guides, and other resources that can be distributed to non-connected students.

So why what were the main reasons for such a commitment?   Here are some of the key drivers:

1. Access: Over 50% of students in Jogyakarta have access to the internet today, but in the near future, this will be 100%.  Connectivity will allow unprecedented opportunities for global collaboration.  DeforestACTION is one of the best ways for students and teachers to quickly connect, engage in collaborative projects, and to solve problems together.

2. Awareness of the problems of deforestation are the key to the solutions.  The more young people understand about the value of the forests, the importance of the wildlife, and the potential benefits of preserving both, the better. The new DeforestACTION resources make it easy and fun for students to increase awareness.

3. Empowering students to feel they can make a difference was a key theme in the presentations at the EWF.  Offering students a chance to take meaningful action to solve problems that are relevent to them is a global imperative.   DeforestACTION is a powerful channel for young people to explore issues, learn about the challenges, but best of all to propose solutions and take action.

4. Urgency – Time is running out.  Young people need to be educated about these issues quickly, before there are no more orangutans, before the peat is all destroyed, and before the future is bankrupted by corporate greed.  Education is the key.  There is no more time to waste.

The Princess and Dr. Willie Smits will spend another week travelling through Europe promoting DeforestACTION with packed houses and media conferences dominating their travels.   We wish them all the best.