2014 Australian Mobile & App Awards

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Wild Australia Taronga Zoo app [DRAFT]




Project Overview

Taronga Zoo teamed up with NSW Department of Education and Communities (NSW DEC)to excite students to learn about our iconic Australian animals.

The Wild Australia app merges digital learning and natural investigation in a complementary way. Packed with informative videos and activities,it can be used at Taronga Zoo in Sydney, Taronga Western Plains Zoo in Dubbo or at home.

The app opened up motivating ways to present student learning about native animal conservation by embracing students’ creativity, technological interests and skills. This resulted in increased focus and engagement by students while on their zoo visit.


Department of Education and Communities


Joanne Woodrow - R/Learning Design and Development Advisor, Learning Systems, NSW DEC

Grant Focas - Virtual Learning Environment Manager, Learning Systems,NSW DEC

Rod Cheal- Learning Engagement Officer, People and Learning, Taronga Zoo, Sydney

Kris Fretwell - Educational Programmer, NSW DEC

John Cottee - Digital Media Designer, Learning Systems, NSW DEC

Project Brief

When Zoo education staff, learning designers, programmers, teachers and graphic artists all came together in one group in NSW DEC, the opportunity to capitalise on the varied expertise and to take advantage of the combined organisational credibility couldn’t be ignored or underestimated.

Taronga Zoo has a goal to have each visitor leave the Zoo knowing how to implement a positive behaviour change action for the conservation of our Australian animals. In order to achieve this, Taronga’s Learning Centre wanted students to dwell longer and observe each animal’s behaviour more closely.

The design brief was informed by this aim and included the following ways to extend and record student observations:
• to augment learning where and when it was needed
• to enrich learning, discussion and sharing in real time
• to deliver observations back to the classroom for further study and collaboration.

Wild Australia app was conceived – designed and created by the NSW DEC Learning Systems’ team to encourage fascination in the natural world using the learning practices that students are familiar with in their everyday lives. Curiosity, creativity and collaboration are foundations for deep and effective learning and the partnership between the NSW Department of Education and Communities (DEC) with the Taronga Zoo Learning Centre has embodied these elements in the Wild Australia app for iPad.

Project Need

Student engagement with the animals and their conservation needs opens wonderful opportunities to continued learning in the classroom. The usual way of recording on worksheets which were often discarded is outdated and unreliable. With Wild Australia app the students have a product of their own creativity emailed back to school, providing a motivation for both teacher and students to consolidate the experience.

“The poster emailed to the user when they finish is a fun, yet powerful learning tool back in the classroom or at home”, said Paul Maguire, Manager Experience and Learning, Taronga Zoo.

The design solution provides:
• intuitive navigation and user interface
• motivation for students to use the app to consolidate learning
• the ability to add to the content and personalize
• the ability to create a poster to be emailed as the takeaway, user-generated content
• GPS assisted locational learning at Taronga Zoo, Sydney and at Taronga Western Plains Zoo, Dubbo. It can also be used offsite
• the adaptability to be enjoyed by general public users as well as student excursion groups.

The advantage of creating their contribution and not just choosing from a menu appeals immediately to users. The ability to learn from the rich media retains interest while providing needed information.
The videos and factual information, provided by the zoo keepers, reinforces the zoo messages of habitat restoration and encourages positive conservation behaviour.

User Experience

The Wild Australia user experience is: observe, discover, solve, record, deliver. Within this process curiosity, creativity and collaboration are critical elements to generate a product to inform and motivate others.

To begin, students/users choose …
• location to inform which map
• team name
• team photo
• to replay instructions.

Tracking user position on the zoo trail maps assists in discovering the amazing animals. Users are provided tools and activities for each animal chosen, including:
• videos of the animal in action (captioning and support for voice-over assistive technology is included)
• binoculars for detail / focusing attention
• photographs to choose or the camera to take their own photos
• facts in the guise of discovering and solving true statements and amazing Did you know? information and videos
• drag and drop habitat activity with audio
• provision for their own conservation statement.

A poster is created using information the students collect and emailed as a record of the visit and learning. This prompts further study or sharing so others find out about conserving Australia’s unique wildlife.

User testing provided feedback that the main elements to extend the learning were: working together to solve challenges; learning on location with information on hand; and, discovering new things. It also identified that the technology was not the main focus but the equipment to make the learning meaningful. This meant the digital learning and the natural investigation were in fact complementary.

Project Marketing

The marketing of this project was three pronged:
• educational channels, both NSW DEC and nationally
• through the zoo website and promotion into the global zoological arena
• featured as Best new app as well as What’s hot on the Australian app store for many weeks which provided exposure into the app community.

Ratings from users sit at 4.5 stars; the download figures reached an impressive 10,000 in the first two months of 2014 and analytics shows the reach is right across the planet. These all point to enjoyment and usability of the app.

The NSW DEC promotion and marketing included:
• YouTube promotion of a 30 second trailer
• highlighted on NSW Scootle and TaLe, educational resource repositories
• social media posts and exposure through NSW DEC and Learning Systems pages and accounts
• articles within NSWDEC online news channels for teachers and parents, eg Schoolbiz, a weekly newsfeed to all NSW schools
• cross-promotion with other NSW DEC apps
• promotion on schoolatoz website for parents
• an article written about apps in education, called Tap into apps

The Taronga Zoo strategy included:
• promotion on the Taronga Conservation Society Australia website - Education section
• YouTube promotional trailer
• promotion to schools as an excursion option
• posters displayed with App store QR code link
• Wild Life, online quarterly magazine advertising
• social media posts and exposure
• email groups information

Project Privacy

As Wild Australia is a native app, there is no data sharing. The data is stored in its own sand box and the only network data is emailed by the user to their own account or saved on their own application on the device. Students are encouraged to use their education email if they are on the zoo excursion program. Only the schools obtain the student data that is emailed to student accounts for further use in the classroom learning environment.

Zoo education staff provide the iPads to students on excursion and the staff use best practice actions by clearing the app’s data between excursion sessions using a secret gesture combination– there is no saved data for the next user to access. Students/users can also do this at the completion of the app. There is also the choice at start up to keep or clear data.

During use photographs are uploaded to the app and can be changed at any time throughout the app right up until emailing. This is a collaborative decision by the group and so requires input from all users.

The app goes through a very strict Quality Assurance process in Learning Systems and then is required to be reviewed by Apple before publishing on the App store.

This category recognises education themed apps across all education sectors.
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