Ron DeSantis’ Super PAC Thinks It Has Cracked the


By most obvious gauges, the monthlong surge was a failure. Polls now show DeSantis worse off just about everywhere, even struggling to hold onto second place. Indeed, the insurgent seems no closer to figuring out how to position himself to either peel off Donald Trump’s supporters or consolidate support from those already backing other opponents in the 13-candidate field. A once-formidable contender is starting to look like just another also-ran.

Yet embedded in that outreach was a massive research experiment designed to illuminate a path through a bewildering political media environment in which broadcast television and radio have lost their centrality, but, for political advertisers at least, the internet has failed to live up to its promise as a replacement. The peculiar design of the surge — intentionally imbalanced, with some areas excluded for use as a control sample — permitted the campaign to measure the relative effectiveness of different methods of communicating with voters, and how they interact with one another. The results are already shaping how Never Back Down spends the remainder of what is still likely to be the largest war chest in Republican primary history.

“Sifting through 330 million consumers to find 34.7 million Republican primary voters is a Herculean task,” says Never Back Down chief strategist Jeff Roe. “You can only do that with a deep commitment to data. And you can’t do that without understanding exactly how to apply that directly to voters when you can no longer do it in the simplest and easiest way possible in the past.”

Never Back Down is not the first political entity to try to build a large-scale experiment into its operations, but the $17 million surge certainly stands as one of the single largest such research projects ever. Earlier this year, Roe imagined the findings not only shaping a plan for helping DeSantis unseat Trump atop the Republican Party. Envisioning the start of a how-we-won-the-White-House narrative, Roe and the organization’s data director, Chris Wilson, even talked about writing a book about the project.

Today, however, few around DeSantis are thinking about post-election victory laps. Media coverage of the campaign has been rife with reports of once-enthusiastic donors souring on DeSantis’s prospects. Never Back Down and its putative allies on DeSantis’s campaign responded with some unusually overt finger-pointing about the other’s ability to follow directions and spend money effectively. (The two entities are forbidden from coordinating strategy but can exchange cues as long as they are not communicated in secret.) “They were taking a hard shot at the PAC, for whatever reason, and we were worried that they were going to, like, kill us in the crib with donors,” Roe says of DeSantis’ Tallahassee-based campaign.

Now Never Back Down will put what it has learned into practice. This week, the super PAC begins another, even larger communications push that could either drive DeSantis back into contention or give already quivering donors a reason to flee his candidacy for good. The springtime research informs an autumnal move off the airwaves and straight to voters’ pockets, where an artificial intelligence chatbot is entrusted to push the pro-DeSantis message.

Roe, however, is not guarding the study behind the tactical shift as a competitive advantage. Rather he is desperate to demonstrate publicly that Never Back Down’s aggressive spending has not been all in vain and that he has a plan to exploit the resource advantage that may offer DeSantis’ best hope yet for catching up to Trump.

“That’s why we’re talking,” he said recently over dinner in Atlanta, not far from the super-PAC’s headquarters. “It is a little CYA.”

In 2013, Wilson had signed up to target voters for Texas gubernatorial candidate Greg Abbott when he learned the campaign’s leadership was ready to leave its targeting up to the fates.

Abbott’s chief strategist, Dave Carney, was already an enthusiastic and prolific sponsor of political science research, having invited four academics into the 2006 reelection campaign of Texas Gov. Rick Perry to test any campaign function they could possibly randomize. Ultimately, for a short period during the primary season, they took full control of the candidate’s schedule and his television advertisements. (At one point, Perry’s travel over a 12-city barnstorming tour was determined entirely by chance.) The academics hoped the randomized-control trial would address one of the most vexing arguments in political science — to what extent are election outcomes shaped by campaign activity as opposed to structural conditions? A career campaign operative, Carney was driven by a more self-interested curiosity: How could he make sure he was spending money in a way most likely to win votes?

The experiments revealed that the campaign moved public opinion in Perry’s direction with paid and free media coverage but that any gains wore off quickly. The years that followed, however, brought new vectors for reaching voters: online advertising networks, social media platforms, individually addressable cable boxes and satellite dishes. Directing Abbott’s campaign to succeed Perry in office eight years later, Carney brought back one of the political scientists to test whether the novel technologies — which each promised greater efficiency and precision than broadcast ads — might have a different impact on voters’ perceptions of Abbott and the likelihood they would cast a ballot in the general election. Once again, the focus of the research would be not on what a campaign might say to a voter but where it would be said. “If we test a potential message now and then again three weeks from now, who knows what we’ll find?” said University of Texas professor Daron Shaw. “We thought mode was a little stickier, at least in the context of a single campaign.”

Shaw isolated Texas’s 17 smaller media markets and matched them into four clusters based on demographic and political similarities. Within those sets, he randomly assigned one in each to receive varying combinations of campaign contact, including control samples that went untouched. (Carney insisted on excluding Dallas, Houston and Austin, which he determined were too important to the governor’s strategic interests to sacrifice for research.) The broadcast airwaves in Abilene were blanketed with Abbott commercials, while those in San Angelo saw only digital ads and Wichita Falls did not hear from his campaign at all.

The experiment’s findings might not have been conceptually groundbreaking but proved valuable to the strategists overseeing Abbott’s general election budget. As Shaw and two of the campaign’s consultants, Christopher Blunt and Brent Seaborn, detailed in a 2018 article in the academic journal Political Research Quarterly, voters in cities where Abbott advertised grew more favorable to him and more likely to vote, especially when the ads were delivered across various media in combination with one another. A $1 million investment in digital advertising, the paper estimated, would increase Abbott’s net favorability rating in the 2014 race by nearly 13 percent. (Abbott was ultimately elected in a landslide.)

Wilson was largely a spectator during Shaw’s experiment, but when Abbott protégé Ted Cruz sought the presidency the next year Wilson was in a position to act on its findings. Working with Roe, the campaign manager, to guide Cruz’s path through a crowded Republican field, Wilson found the narrow precision of online advertising uniquely appealing. He split the Iowa caucus electorate into 150 distinct segments, on personality characteristics and issue priorities, including some boutique causes like relaxing Iowa’s restrictions on fireworks use. (The psychological profiling was performed by employees of the firm Cambridge Analytica, whose manipulation of Facebook user data became a scandal when publicized in 2017.) Cruz outfoxed Trump to win the Iowa caucuses, stitching together a wide-ranging conservative coalition largely on the basis of individually targeted communication. “I thought digital had tremendous potential,” says Shaw. “It did, but it may have hit its apex right around that time.”

Surprisingly digital advertising has become less useful to campaigns since then. Facebook and Twitter (now known as X) have at times prohibited campaign ads, changing their policies unpredictably and inconsistently, while TikTok and LinkedIn have upheld permanent bans. Google has imposed limits on the use of voter registration data for targeting, including on its YouTube platform. Apple has promoted privacy protections on its devices through an “Ask App Not to Track” option, crippling the ability of advertisers to target individual users through unique mobile-device identifiers.

Even as more voters spend time online, it has become harder for campaigns to profile and reach them. In the years since, while working for Republican candidates in statewide and congressional races nationwide, Roe has paid especially close attention to survey results in which voters were asked whether they had seen one of his candidate’s ads. “That number just kept on coming down and coming down and coming down,” says Roe. “The reality is we’re not penetrating.”

When Roe signed on to help elect DeSantis, he agreed to run the super PAC — which can raise unlimited funds from both individuals and corporations — and implement a more capacious vision of what such an organization could be. Over their decade of existence, super PACs have typically been dedicated to airing television ads that amplify a candidate’s existing message or attack his opponents, work that can be capital-intensive but scales up with relatively little additional effort. When a well-funded super PAC has emerged, the official campaign typically reverts to labor-intensive duties, like those that involve directly interacting with voters. With Never Back Down, Roe has inverted those standard economics. A number of core campaign functions are now managed from Atlanta rather than Tallahassee, including aspects of the candidate’s schedule (DeSantis has regularly appeared as a “guest” on Never Back Down bus tours) and a massive field organization built to knock every potential Iowa caucusgoer’s door four times.

To target those interactions, Roe brought on Wilson and Conor Maguire, who had served as the Republican National Committee’s liaison to candidates for voter data during the 2016 primaries. The two took over a room in the corner of Never Back Down’s office-park suite, papering the walls with maps of the first four states to vote and filling a small bookcase with an unlikely library that intersperses titles like Lead Like Jesus: Lessons for Everyone from the Greatest Leadership Role Model of All Time among a collection of books about Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign. Wilson has been rereading the Obama books particularly closely, with an eye on how the younger, well-funded insurgent overcame Hillary Clinton’s dominant position to win the Democratic nomination. “You know, he didn’t start to move until October,” Wilson explained. “So maybe some of it is a little bit of solace.”

Their first task was profiling the electorate in the 18 states that vote before the end of next March, through statistical models that predict each voter’s likelihood of supporting DeSantis or Trump and of casting a ballot. Based on those individual-level predictions, Wilson and Maguire broke the electorate into categories of potential voters: those whom Trump or DeSantis could consider “in the bank,” those deciding between the two and those whom either candidate would see as supporters but remained unreliable enough they required get-out-the-vote nudges. (A final group, labeled “disengaged” for its low likelihood of casting a ballot and expected indecision among candidates, would be a low priority for any outreach.)

In the first four states, there were 5,552,851 people whose votes appeared to be gettable for DeSantis, and all were targets for the springtime surge. Never Back Down would work to persuade and mobilize those whose votes were in play, while the in-the-bank bloc would be targeted for recruitment as volunteer county chairs. “We decided, because we knew roughly when the governor was going to get in, to spend a bunch of money to help him get him in the best spot,” says Roe. “We have analytics and the ability to do this. Now let’s go and test all this shit and see what works.”

But the super PAC’s strategists were not prepared to fully yield control in the interest of research. Instead of randomly assigning contact, as Abbott’s successful campaign had done, the matter of how to allocate treatments and controls became the subject of fraught negotiations between the super PAC’s strategists and its analysts. (Having the results appear in a scholarly journal was not a priority.) The strategists were not ready to concede major markets covering the early states, especially Iowa, for use as a control sample. So Iowans in Des Moines and Cedar Rapids and New Hampshirites within range of Boston were exposed to a full-strength campaign: broadcast and connected television ads, targeted direct-mail leaflets and text messages. The use of streaming services was the closest the experiment came to online advertising.

It was the smaller markets, or those in bordering states that campaign targets find inefficient regardless — like Portland, Maine, whose signals stretch into small parts of two New Hampshire counties — that the strategists were willing to sacrifice. A few of the smaller and border markets were used for boutique variations: seven direct-mail pieces rather than four, or advertising on rural radio stations. No South Carolina-based market went without broadcast ads, but the roughly 4 percent of the state’s residents who watch television stations in Charlotte, North Carolina, would not have seen any.

The committee’s staff tracked their progress on a large flat-screen monitor that Wilson and Maguire set up outside their office loaded with software developed by their firm WPA Intelligence. Every time Never Back Down made contact with one of its targets, a dot lit up on the flat-screen map, a yellow pinprick on a dark background, swelling together as a blob around the suburban population centers of the early states.

Across them, enough voters would be exposed to similar outreach that the analysts were confident they would be able to learn something from the variations. After a month, Wilson’s team would revisit the modeling scores, informed by updated, post-surge survey data, and use a statistical regression to identify patterns. Differences in voters’ movement toward DeSantis would be attributed to the type of contact targeted at them, allowing the super PAC to assess which were most efficient at changing opinions.

“If used to maximum value, these findings should dictate everything from messaging to media mix to when and where to spend,” said Scott Tranter, the data science director of Marco Rubio’s 2016 campaign. “Dedicating 5-10 percent of a campaign’s voter-contact budget to testing would pay exponential dividends in how the remaining 90-95 percent is spent. If used properly, it can certainly be an edge a campaign needs to claw out a win.”

On Tuesday, April 25, phones in New Hampshire’s Grafton County — which receives its broadcast television signals from Burlington, Vermont, rather than Manchester or Boston — started lighting up with the same text message from an unfamiliar number. “We must remain relentless in our fight for freedom. We must never back down. Join us today,” the message went on, addressing the recipient by the name used on his or her voter registration. “Join our team of concerned patriots working to protect liberty and the future of this country.” At the bottom was a snippet of the “Anthem” ad and a link to a Never Back Down webpage featuring the entire thing. Similar messages arrived nearly every day for two weeks; a voter who typed back a response at any hour was sure to get an answer.

Those text messages turned out to be the unexpected star of the surge experiments. Broadcast television ads were the most persuasive mode tested, with the average voter exposed to them six-and-a-half percentage points more likely to support DeSantis as a result. But it was possible to replicate much of that impact by sending the ads directly to a prospective voter’s phone. Receiving a sequence of text messages over the course of two weeks made the average voter about three-and-a-half points more likely to support DeSantis; bombarding an individual with 10 had appreciably more impact than five. “The key finding,” Wilson and Maguire said when presenting the experiments to super PAC leadership and donors, “is the value of text as a substitute for broadcast where broadcast is infeasible.”

The idea that one can swap out television ads for text messages is a fortuitous insight for a super PAC now struggling to meet its once-grand goal of raising and spending $230 million on DeSantis’ behalf. Placing television ads is an inefficient use of any independent group’s resources, as stations are required under federal law to grant only candidates preferential access to ad inventory and sell it to them at discounted rates. Every gross rating point, the standard unit for measuring advertising exposure, used to boost DeSantis will likely cost significantly more if purchased by his outside supporters than by his campaign itself. (A New York Times analysis last year found instances where super PACS paid as much as 17 times more for the same ad time as candidate campaigns.) For the pro-DeSantis ecosystem, the optimal arrangement would have television ads purchased from Tallahassee and text messages routed from Atlanta.

Wilson estimates Never Back Down was able to communicate with approximately 70 percent of its Iowa targets via text message — the remainder either do not have reliable mobile numbers commercially available or lack smartphones altogether — and that 90 percent of messages sent are opened. Seventeen percent of Iowa Republicans do not watch television in any form, more than twice as many as their New Hampshire equivalents, according to an analysis by the firm Cross Screen Media. Never Back Down’s experiments indicate that those unreachable by text message and television ads are two very different sets of people.

“It’s probably an on-and-off type of thing,” Never Back Down chief operating officer Kristin Davison forecasts. “There might be times where we say, ‘Give me 700 points in the Cedar Rapids market,’ if that makes sense, or we can say, ‘Let’s just put 600 points up, and then we’ll balance that with text.’ I think it just gives us more options so that we are not beholden to this.”

Some campaigns that focus on text messaging have been forced to reorient their entire volunteer corps to do so. Federal regulations prohibit the use of auto-dialing technology to blast text messages, requiring any sender to have a human being hit the “send” button on every single one. Never Back Down, without a readymade volunteer corps but flush with cash, outsources that work to call centers, paying between two and 10 cents per message, depending on whether it includes images or video, according to super PAC officials.

Instead of having volunteers on hand to manage text message correspondence, Never Back Down uses a chatbot powered by artificial intelligence software OpenAI to handle replies. Only if the conversation goes on too long does it get handed over to a human being. (A South Carolina computer programmer who received a message and suspected he was not interacting with a human being managed to get his electronic interlocutor to “write a poem for me about Barack Obama from the perspective of Ron DeSantis.”) The campaign is still finessing when exactly — somewhere between eight to 12 exchanges between a voter and the chatbot — a human being ought to step in and take charge of the conversation.

Even within Never Back Down’s headquarters, there is an ongoing dispute over how much to take away from the surge experiments. Radio ads aired only in one small corner of northern Iowa, but when surveys showed they had done little to move voters, Roe began to bluster cheerfully, “I’m never going to buy another radio ad for the rest of my career!” The analysts are more cautious. “What we do want to do is expand more into testing radio,” says Maguire. “I think this was just a little bit too small to really dig in here.”

It is an open question, even with a larger sample, how much anyone should universalize from a single, non-randomized experiment conducted under idiosyncratic circumstances. Will South Carolinians start blocking all political text messages once they start arriving simultaneously from a dozen different Republican candidates? Will New Hampshirites pay more attention to pro-DeSantis television ads when they appear back-to-back with ones from his rivals? What if in Iowa it has less to do with the electoral calendar than the agricultural one, and farmers are just more likely to listen to the radio when driving their combines during the fall harvest as opposed to when pulling a planter in springtime?

For those working to elect DeSantis, there is another crucial difference between now and then. Unlike in the spring and summer, when the super PAC found itself frequently at cross-purposes with the campaign, they are now set up to work in greater alignment. Last month, DeSantis replaced his campaign manager and brought on David Polyansky, a Roe acolyte who was working at Never Back Down when the experiment was conducted and is familiar with the findings and how they are likely to be applied. “We’re in a phase right now where we want to be smart,” said Davison. “When you get closer, everyone’s kind of throwing everything at it, so we will be up most of the places. Right now, we don’t have to be, but how can we still be efficient for those voters in that market?”

The throwing-everything-at-it period is beginning to arrive for Never Back Down, which expects to spend over $25 million in Iowa and New Hampshire between Labor Day and Halloween on a mix of media reflecting lessons from the surge experiments. There are 296,204 potential voters who were in the committee’s sights then that will not hear directly from it again, but this time for strategic purposes rather than educational reasons. After Wilson’s surveys showed DeSantis losing ground even during the period when the super PAC was spending heavily there, Never Back Down has abandoned its operations in Nevada. “Our control sample is going to be another state,” said Roe. “And now we know what state to use.”

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Waimea Fire Prevention and Resilience Fair set for Saturday


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The struggle for democracy persists as we come into the second half of 2023. As the year progresses, we face lies, corruption, and violence. And so the fight for America will continue as Senate Republicans strive to prevent Democrats from passing even the most popular measures under Biden’s presidency.

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Notes by Giuliani’s ‘jack-of-all-trades’ adviser who


Editor’s note: Headline updated for clarity.

Notes written by one of the closest aides to America’s criminally indicted whilom Mayor Rudy Giuliani were handed over to United States Justice Department special counsel Jack Smith as part of his ongoing investigation into the January 6th, 2021 conspiracy allegedly perpetrated by former President Donald Trump and members of his inner orbit, Politico’s Betsy Woodruff Swan and Kyle Cheney report.

Katherine Freiss “circulated a draft email addressed to the White House seeking ‘provisional’ security clearances for the former mayor and members of his team as part of their work to keep Donald Trump in power,” according to documents reviewed by Swan and Cheney.

Freiss “helped Giuliani woo potential donors to finance Trump’s effort to reverse the results of the election,” Cheney and Swan note. “She helped draft a ‘strategic communications plan’ for a final push to keep Trump in office, a document that became a focus for Jan. 6 investigators and that called for placing paid ads on radio and TV alleging widespread voter fraud. At the same time, Friess warned other Trump aides that their claims about dead people voting in Georgia were weak — but Trump continued to trumpet those claims anyway.”

POLL: Should Trump be allowed to hold office again?

Politico continues, “Friess, a national security consultant with deep roots in Washington, kept a low profile, but in November and December 2020, she was Giuliani’s jack-of-all-trades. A host of emails and documents exchanged by Friess and other Giuliani aides have been turned over to special counsel Jack Smith, according to a person familiar with the investigation granted anonymity to discuss the sensitive material.”

Politico writes, “The earliest known sign of her involvement with Giuliani’s team is a declaration she signed on Nov. 9, 2020, in which she complained of restricted access to mail-in ballot counting processes in Allegheny County, Pa. It’s unclear if the declaration was ever filed in court, but a version of it, with Friess’ signature, was among the documents reviewed by POLITICO. In the document, Friess said she was an approved Republican Party observer and spent two hours watching the process at a Pittsburgh canvassing center on the morning of Nov. 3, 2020. She didn’t have a good view of how election workers were reviewing and counting mail-in ballots, she added. ‘I do not believe any of these ballots should be allowed to be part of the final vote tally,’ she wrote.”

Although Freiss “has not been accused of any wrongdoing — by prosecutors or by Congress,” Politico explains, her personal accounts “add new detail to the public understanding of how Trump’s allies operated after Election Day — and how they grappled with obstacles both immense and quotidian.”

Moreover, the communications, “including more than 20 sent or received by Friess herself,” Politico adds, were submitted from “encrypted Hushmail or ProtonMail accounts” and “depict her as an active figure in Giuliani’s effort who feared what would happen if they failed. And they show that like so many others who have worked for Trump over the decades, Friess struggled to get paid.”

READ MORE: Giuliani’s ‘life essentially is falling apart’ amid mounting ‘legal woes’: reporter

Swan’s and Cheney’s full analysis is available at this link.

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The Space Station is Getting Gigabit Internet


Aboard the International Space Station (ISS), astronauts and cosmonauts from many nations are performing vital research that will allow humans to live and work in space. For more than 20 years, the ISS has been a unique platform for conducting microgravity, biology, agriculture, and communications experiments. This includes the ISS broadband internet service, which transmits information at a rate of 600 megabits per second (Mbps) – ten times the global average for internet speeds!

In 2021, NASA’s Space Communications and Navigation (SCaN) began integrating a technology demonstrator aboard the ISS that will test optical (laser) communications and data transfer. This system currently consists of Laser Communications Relay Demonstration (LCRD) and will soon be upgraded with the addition of the Integrated LCRD Low Earth Orbit User Modem and Amplifier Terminal (ILLUMA-T). Once complete, this system will be the first two-way, end-to-end laser relay system, giving the ISS a gigabit internet connection!

The system relies on infrared light, which allows for information to be sent and received at higher data rates and will showcase the benefits a laser relay array could have for missions in low Earth orbit. This system will also allow missions beyond LEO to send more images and videos back to Earth in a single transmission. In addition to higher data rates, laser systems are lighter and use less power than conventional radio communications. The ILLUMA-T system measures only a few cubic meters and will be launched as part of SpaceX’s 29th Commercial Resupply Services (CRS) mission.

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““Laser communications offer missions more flexibility and an expedited way to get data back from space,” said Badri Younes, the former deputy associate administrator for NASA’s SCaN program, NASA press release, “We are integrating this technology on demonstrations near Earth, at the Moon, and in deep space.” Once it reaches the ISS, the ILLUMA-T will be secured to an external module to conduct its demonstration with the LCRD. Recently, NASA concluded a year-long campaign, conducting experiments with the LCRD to refine NASA’s laser capabilities further.

These experiments have also demonstrated the benefits of laser relay communications in geosynchronous orbit (GSO) by beaming data between two ground stations: Optical Ground Station -1 (OGS-1) in California and OGS-2 in Haleakal?, Hawaii. Said Matt Magsamen, deputy project manager for ILLUMA-T:

“Once ILLUMA-T is on the space station, the terminal will send high-resolution data, including pictures and videos to LCRD at a rate of 1.2 gigabits-per-second. Then, the data will be sent from LCRD to ground stations in Hawaii and California. This demonstration will show how laser communications can benefit missions in low Earth orbit.”

ILLUMA-T will be installed on an external mount on the Japanese Experiment Module-Exposed Facility (JEM-EF), also known as “Kibo” (“hope” in Japanese). The ILLUMA-T team will then perform preliminary testing and in-orbit checkouts, followed by a first light test, where the mission will transmit its first beam of laser light through its optical telescope to the LCRD. These tests build on previous experiments, including the 2022 TeraByte InfraRed Delivery system (TBIRD), which is currently testing laser communications on small CubSat in LEO.

NASA’s Laser Communications Roadmap: Demonstrating laser communications capabilities on multiple missions in various space regimes. Credit: NASA/Dave Ryan

There were also experiments NASA conducted in 2014 as part of the Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer mission (LADEE), where the Lunar Laser Communications Demonstration (LLCD) transferred data between lunar orbit and Earth. The Optical Payload for Lasercomm Science in 2017 also demonstrated how laser communications can offer improved data transfer between Earth and space compared to radio signals. Once first light is achieved, experiments will commence and continue for the duration of the mission.

These tests will test the viability of laser communications in various scenarios and inform future missions to the Moon, Mars, and beyond. It is anticipated that robotic and crewed missions will rely on laser communications to supplement radio systems. These will allow for high-broadband communications between astronauts and their families back home, which is essential for long-duration missions. It will also allow robotic probes to send larger volumes of data back to Earth, greatly increasing the scientific returns of individual missions.

Further Reading: NASA

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Dependence on Tech Caused ‘Staggering’ Education


In early 2020, as the coronavirus spread, schools around the world abruptly halted in-person education. To many governments and parents, moving classes online seemed the obvious stopgap solution.

In the United States, school districts scrambled to secure digital devices for students. Almost overnight, videoconferencing software like Zoom became the main platform teachers used to deliver real-time instruction to students at home.

Now a report from UNESCO, the United Nations’ educational and cultural organization, says that overreliance on remote learning technology during the pandemic led to “staggering” education inequality around the world. It was, according to a 655-page report that UNESCO released on Wednesday, a worldwide “ed-tech tragedy.”

The report, from UNESCO’s Future of Education division, is likely to add fuel to the debate over how governments and local school districts handled pandemic restrictions, and whether it would have been better for some countries to reopen schools for in-person instruction sooner.

The UNESCO researchers argued in the report that “unprecedented” dependence on technology — intended to ensure that children could continue their schooling — worsened disparities and learning loss for hundreds of millions of students around the world, including in Kenya, Brazil, Britain and the United States.

The promotion of remote online learning as the primary solution for pandemic schooling also hindered public discussion of more equitable, lower-tech alternatives, such as regularly providing schoolwork packets for every student, delivering school lessons by radio or television — and reopening schools sooner for in-person classes, the researchers said.

“Available evidence strongly indicates that the bright spots of the ed-tech experiences during the pandemic, while important and deserving of attention, were vastly eclipsed by failure,” the UNESCO report said.

The UNESCO researchers recommended that education officials prioritize in-person instruction with teachers, not online platforms, as the primary driver of student learning. And they encouraged schools to ensure that emerging technologies like A.I. chatbots concretely benefitted students before introducing them for educational use.

Education and industry experts welcomed the report, saying more research on the effects of pandemic learning was needed.

“The report’s conclusion — that societies must be vigilant about the ways digital tools are reshaping education — is incredibly important,” said Paul Lekas, the head of global public policy for the Software & Information Industry Association, a group whose members include Amazon, Apple and Google. “There are lots of lessons that can be learned from how digital education occurred during the pandemic and ways in which to lessen the digital divide.

​Education International, an umbrella organization for about 380 teachers’ unions and 32 million teachers worldwide, said the UNESCO report underlined the importance of in-person, face-to-face teaching.

“The report tells us definitively what we already know to be true, a place called school matters,” said Haldis Holst, the group’s deputy general secretary. “Education is not transactional nor is it simply content delivery. It is relational. It is social. It is human at its core.”

Here are some of the main findings in the report:

For more than a decade, Silicon Valley tech giants as well as industry-financed nonprofit groups and think tanks have promoted computers, apps and internet access in public schools as innovations that would quickly democratize and modernize student learning.

Many promised that such digital tools would allow schoolchildren to more easily pursue their interests, learn at their own pace and receive instant automated feedback on their work from learning analytics algorithms.

The report’s findings challenge the view that digital technologies are synonymous with educational equality and progress.

The report said that when coronavirus cases began spiking in early 2020, the overselling of ed-tech tools helped make remote online learning seem like the most appealing and effective solution for pandemic schooling even as more equitable, lower-tech options were available.

UNESCO researchers found the shift to remote online learning tended to provide substantial advantages to children in wealthier households while disadvantaging those in lower-income families.

By May 2020, the report said, 60 percent of national remote learning programs “relied exclusively” on internet-connected platforms. But nearly half a billion young people — about half the primary and secondary students worldwide — targeted by those remote learning programs lacked internet connections at home, the report said, excluding them from participating.

According to data and surveys cited in the report, one-third of kindergarten through 12th-grade students in the United States “were cut off from education” in 2020 because of inadequate internet connections or hardware. In 2021 in Pakistan, 30 percent of households said they were aware of remote learning programs while fewer than half of this group had the technology needed to participate.

Student learning outcomes stalled or “declined dramatically” when schools deployed ed tech as a replacement for in-person instruction, the UNESCO researchers said, even when children had access to digital devices and internet connections.

The report also said students learning online spent considerably less time on formal educational tasks — and more time on monotonous digital tasks. It described a daily learning routine “less of discovery and exploration than traversing file-sharing systems, moving through automated learning content, checking for updates on corporate platforms and enduring long video calls.”

Remote online learning also limited or curtailed student opportunities for socialization and nonacademic activities, the report said, causing many students to become disengaged or drop out of school.

The report warned that the shift to remote learning also gave a handful of tech platforms — like Google and Zoom — extraordinary influence in schools. These digital systems often imposed private business values and agendas, the report added, that were at odds with the “humanistic” values of public schooling.

To prevent a repeat scenario, the researchers recommended that schools prioritize the best interests of schoolchildren as the central criteria for deploying ed tech.

In practical terms, the researchers called for more regulation and guardrails around online learning tools. They also suggested that districts give teachers more say over which digital tools schools adopt and how they are used.

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This Startup Is Building the Internet of Underwater Things


This is a sponsored article brought to you by LEMO.

Science thrives on data. As such, the emergence of the Internet of Things (IoT) brought about a fantastic revolution. Billions of “intelligent objects” packed with sensors are connected to each other and to servers, capturing and exchanging, in real time, huge amounts of data. Analyzed, accessible, and shareable worldwide, these data enable researchers to observe and understand our planet like never before.

Well, not all of our planet: IoT does not connect us to seas and oceans.

This blind spot is rather striking. Water covers 72 percent of the Earth’s surface, its volumes host 80 percent of biodiversity and play a pivotal role in global phenomena, such as climate change. It is impossible to claim a global vision without integrating the oceans.

Pioneering underwater network technology

There are a few marine research stations scattered around the globe (like needles in algal stacks). An increasing number of intelligent marine objects have also been created (sensors, buoys, autonomous vehicles, probes). The foundations of an underwater wireless network are also being set up, which should be as accessible and reliable as the IoT, the Internet of Underwater Things (IoUT). A pioneer in the field, Italian company WSense has had favorable currents this year.

The adventure of the startup began at the University of Sapienza in Rome, where Professor Chiara Petrioli is in charge of a research laboratory. “We started looking into underwater networks 10 years ago,” she says. “We wanted to find a way to transmit information reliably with elements like routers in large areas.” This research resulted in solutions “achieving levels of reliability and performance previously not possible” and several international patents were filed. Potential applications supported the creation of a spin-off: WSense launched in 2017 with a handful of PhDs and engineers with backgrounds in acoustics, network architecture, signal processing, among other areas.

Today, the startup employs a staff of 50 people with offices located in Italy, U.K., and Norway. It has about 20 customers — “Blue economy” companies and scientific institutions. Its innovations have been honored in 2022 by a Digital Challenge of the European Institute of Innovation and Technology and by a Blueinvest prize from the European Commission.

How WSense is helping protect Italy’s underwater archeological treasures

Deploying acoustics, optical systems, and AI

As you can imagine, “wireless network” and “underwater” are not made for each other. In fact, anything that makes aerial Wi-Fi function does not work underwater. Radio waves are significantly attenuated, light or sound communication vary a lot depending on the temperature, salinity level, background noise — everything had to be reconsidered and that’s exactly what WSense has done.

Their solution is based on an innovative combination of acoustic communication for medium-range distances and optical LED technologies for short distances, with a hint of artificial intelligence.

More specifically, underwater “nodes” are deployed. Data transfer between the nodes is permanently optimized by AI: Whenever sea conditions change, algorithms modify the path followed by byte packets.

The system, explains Petrioli, can send data to 1000 meters at the speed of 1 kbit/s and up to several Mbit/s over shorter distances. This bandwidth can’t be compared to those of aerial networks “but we are working on enlarging it.” However, it is sufficient for transmitting environmental data collected by the sensors.

“We are in the process of developing autonomous robotic systems. We can allow teams of robots to communicate and collaborate, to send data, get instructions, and change their mission in real time.” —Chiara Petrioli, WSense Founder & CEO

The resulting network is stable, reliable, and open: A plurality of devices (sensors, probes, vehicles) of various types and brands can be connected. WSense has designed its platform first for shallow water (up to 300 m depth), but now it asserts that it is operational up to -3000 m, opening the door wider to the oceans.

On the surface, floating gateways (or posted on nearby land) connect this local network to the cloud, and so to the rest of the world — the IoUT joins IoT.

WSense designs all the software in-house (from network software to data processing) as well as all the necessary hardware: nodes, probes, modems, and gateways.

WSense’s devices are packed with sensors. “They measure parameters such as temperature, salinity, pH, chlorophyll, methane, ammonium, phosphate, CO2, waves and tide, background noise,” explains Petrioli. In a nutshell: everything required for real-time follow-up and extensive surveillance of submarine environments.

Aquaculture was one of the first sectors to show an interest in WSense (and remains a sector with key customers). The deployment of a wireless network covering the rearing cages, without multiple bulky cabling, connects everything that provides for monitoring the biotope and controlling the fish farm. Cameras and sensors, as well as robots.

“We are in the process of developing autonomous robotic systems,” says Petrioli. “We can allow teams of robots to communicate and collaborate, to send data, get instructions, and change their mission in real time.”

Studying how animals adapt to climate change

Following a request from a Norwegian customer, WSense R&D has recently developed an ultra-miniature fish wearable element. It makes it possible to closely observe the life and health of animals, while monitoring water quality. “All this goes in the same direction: supplying tools to go further in the direction of a more sustainable fish farming,” Petrioli says.

Similarly, WSense’s platform can make it considerably easier to survey and work around offshore stations, as well as underwater infrastructure, such as gas and oil pipelines.

It is just as efficient in more natural environments. The startup has deployed its network in sensitive sites and environmental hotspots. Scientists use it for instance for studying how algae, corals, and animals adapt to climate change. In the field and continuously, “which is much more precise than what we could do from the surface or satellites,” according to Petrioli. The solution also monitors sites that represent major risks for human populations, such as volcanic areas.

The WSense platform is also deployed in archeological or cultural sites, such as the submerged luxurious Roman city of Baiae, near Naples (Italy), which is part of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites. By measuring pollution and the effects of climate change or potential damage caused by visitors, it contributes to their protection the same way as it has for a long time in the case of on-land archaeological sites.

Just like webcams placed around the world, “those connected by WSense can also promote these sites.” They open windows for education and tourism, providing access to a larger audience than that of just scientists, companies, or authorities.

Defining the standard for IoUT

The startup is also about to launch a “micronode” that, connected to a watertight tablet, would enhance the diving experience. This new appealing product does not really embody WSense’s true ambitions. The Italian company does not only offer, unlike others, “smart devices.” It doesn’t want to be just one more component in our already too fragmented knowledge of oceans.

On the contrary, it wants to unite all the components.

With this in mind, WSense has ensured the interoperability of its submarine network. For the same reason, it has also been working hard on making deployment simple and reducing costs, both prerequisites for its true purpose: to define the standard for IoUT.

Underwater wireless networks give continuous access to an unprecedented wealth of data about our oceans

For this purpose, WSense must enhance its notoriety as well as its platform. In January, it got a great boost from a place that hasn’t seen any oceans for the last 200 million years: Davos, in the heart of the Swiss Alps.

During its last edition, the prestigious World Economic Forum (WEF) rewarded 10 companies, including WSense, winner of its Ocean Data Challenge, an event for identifying the most promising technologies in data collection and management for ocean protection. The award gives access to the WEF network, an ideal platform for finding people who could give support for global scale up.

There was an immediate effect: WSense spent the following weeks answering a flood of inquiries.

“It was huge,” says Petrioli. “We were able to talk to political and scientific leaders, top managers, who were often unaware of the possibilities. We could explain to them that the Internet of Underwater Things was not deep tech, but a solution ready to be implemented.”

Quick positioning on the submarine communications market is quite interesting (Forbes estimated it at $3.5 billion dollars, with a 22 percent increase per year). However, urgency lies elsewhere, insists Petrioli.

“We cannot delay applying these solutions. We must not go on ignoring so many things about the exploitation of the oceans or climate change. We must understand today, because it may be too late tomorrow.”

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WMNF | September 2023 GM Message for News & Notes


Cleaning House and Brightening up for our Close-Up

We’ve been cleaning up our spaces – physical and otherwise. All over the building, we can see surfaces and nooks that were previously hidden. Volunteers have more ways to participate in the workings of what we do, both inside and outside the building.

Programmers now have concrete ways to improve how they deliver the WMNF sound, and listeners have more innovative ways to get the WMNF vibe they love – whether it comes from their car speaker, smart speaker, HD radio, or through attending the wider variety of WMNF events.

At the ripe old age of 44, WMNF is also reviewing our mission statement. Healthy organizations evaluate and review their missions regularly. Our national culture has certainly changed over the past 44 years. Let us know what you think. Is the language still relevant today?

Our current statement reads:

WMNF is a listener-supported community radio station that celebrates cultural diversity, promotes community engagement and is committed to equality, peace and economic justice. WMNF provides broadcasts and other forums with grass-roots local emphasis that promote creative, musical, and political vitality.

I am a mission-driven person. And like many staff members and volunteers, I was drawn to WMNF by its mission statement. So, why consider changing it? Why now?

First, let’s consider the shift in audio programming. It has moved from traditional broadcast radio to on-demand listening via the internet and satellite. In this context, can we still call ourselves a ‘radio’ station? Furthermore, are we in the same organization we were 44 years ago? This question becomes especially relevant as our WMNF community now finds and listens to us globally via the internet.

In true WMNF fashion, the three major constituencies (Board, staff, and volunteers) are meeting both separately and together to discuss these issues. If you want to participate in these conversations, please contact your representative.

A few representatives from each of these groups also meet as the Special Committee for the Mission Statement Review. They are tasked with bringing the views of their constituency to the table. To date, the Special Committee has been working virtually and formally met on two or three occasions.

The President of the Board of Directors, Isha DelValle, has said there is no deadline for a new mission statement, nor any guarantee that a new one will be adopted at all. We’re just doing our part to make sure that the mission statement of our mission-driven organization remains relevant in 2023; and that we are positioned to make long range plans up to our 50th year and beyond.

In addition to the staff’s proposed budget, we will also make space for conversation about our mission at the All-Station meeting on September 14th. If you are interested in and wish to contribute to the mission of WMNF, or just want to watch how we work out these issues, please attend this public forum. After all, we are a community that makes community radio!

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Climate change is affecting telecommunications


As Atlantic Canada gears up for another hurricane season after a year of unprecedented disasters linked to climate change — including post-tropical storm Fiona last September — amateur radio operators say a simple technology can play a part in the response to disasters across the region.

When Fiona hit Nova Scotia, it affected electrical grids and telecommunications networks, leaving some people unable to call for help. That experience in particular prompted a renewed interest in amateur radio — also known as ham radio — which allows non-professional users to send messages without requiring the internet or cell phone networks. 

“I think it’s kind of an unsung hero in communications that gets forgotten in the noise of disaster when it comes to, ‘Well, how do we get that message out?'” said John Bignell, president of the Halifax Amateur Radio Club. 

Radio operators say the technology can help Nova Scotians respond to the increasing risks of extreme weather, as climate change forces a reckoning with communications infrastructure across the country.

Communications failed following Fiona

When Lyle Donovan became emergency management co-ordinator for Victoria County in 2008, the municipality’s emergency plan included amateur radio, drawing on the expertise of a local group.

“They were an older generation, but they were active in amateur radio and we utilized them,” he said.

In time, that group petered out. With no operators left in the county, Donovan removed the section on amateur radio when he redid the municipality’s emergency plan in 2016.

“What’s the point in having it in our emergency plan if we had no operators?” he remembered thinking.

In the past, amateur radio held more appeal, Donovan said, but other forms of communication had become ubiquitous in the meantime, and amateur radio no longer seemed necessary.

Joshawa Tyler LaVoie captured this striking image of downed power lines and poles on Woodlawn Road in Dartmouth.
Downed utility lines and poles lie across Woodlawn Road in Dartmouth in the wake of Fiona. (Submitted by Joshawa Tyler LaVoie)

More to the point, Nova Scotia and Atlantic Canada more broadly already have a highly stable radio network, Donovan said. All frontline emergency services in the province use the trunked mobile radio system, which was put in place after the SwissAir disaster in 1998. Donovan calls it “the best communications systems in the world.”

“So we got kind of complacent to think that we have this system, we have VHF, we have satellite telephone and of course, we still have our cell phones and not all of those systems are going to go down.”

Then post-tropical storm Fiona struck. 

The day after the storm made landfall in the province, Donovan, who is a paramedic, woke at 5 a.m. to prepare for work. Attempting to turn on the TV, he realized there was no power; turning to his phone, he found there was no cell service either. Because the local radio tower was down, local emergency services could talk to each other but couldn’t send messages outside of the immediate area. 

“That’s when I knew we were in trouble,” he said. Then, with communications interrupted, “Lo and behold, [there was] a cardiac arrest.”

The family of the victim was unable to call 911. While their neighbour was an RCMP corporal with a TMR radio, they were unable to call for help because they couldn’t communicate with the wider network.

Eventually, someone was able to get a message to Donovan via the local fire chief. But by then 40 minutes had passed and the victim couldn’t be saved. 

“I have a close personal relationship with the family,” he said. “We went on to discover that [medical attention] wouldn’t have helped anyway, but it’s just sheer fact that people were not able to call 911.”

In the aftermath of Fiona, Donovan said they started asking how the situation could have been avoided, and — after connecting with a longstanding amateur radio club in Halifax — started looking to amateur radio. 

“Somebody from my area could have called someone in the Halifax area, and they could have called 911 for us, to get emergency services rolling,” he said. 

The Halifax Amateur Radio Club is one of the oldest in the country, having started in 1932.
The Halifax Amateur Radio Club is one of the oldest in the country, having started in 1932. (Moira Donovan)

The Halifax Amateur Radio Club is one of the oldest amateur radio clubs in North America, dating back to 1932. 

Bignell first got interested in amateur radio as a teenager. He said its simplicity is part of its enduring appeal.

“The ability to build your own radio and then send a message that bounces around the atmosphere and be able to talk around the world with a simple little wire, it’s kind of cool,” he said.

But amateur radio is more than a hobby; because it doesn’t require a service provider such as a telecommunications company, or extensive infrastructure, it can step in during disasters when other systems fail.

This has been true with disasters in the past. Bignell said his club has played a role in every major disaster in the province going back to the Moose River mine disaster in 1936.

Amateur radio has also been essential elsewhere. Amateur radio operators were instrumental in relaying messages around New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina knocked out telecommunications networks. In Mozambique, a recent series of storms has prompted the government to set up a network of amateur radio operators to help with disaster response.

While communications infrastructure has steadily improved in the last 20 years, Bignell said amateur radio still provides an additional layer of safety.

“We have some really robust systems in Nova Scotia and in Canada, but there’s always that one moment where you go ‘Oh this isn’t going well, we need a backup,’ and that’s where amateur radio plays a real key role.”

John Bignell is president of the Halifax Amateur Radio Club. He says the reliability of amateur radio, combined with technological advances like WindLink that allow people to send emails and updates over radio waves, make it a useful backup in an emergency.
John Bignell is president of the Halifax Amateur Radio Club. (Moira Donovan)

Bignell said amateur radio also works with more modern technology through tools such as Windlink, which radio operators can use to send emails, weather reports and information bulletins over the airwaves, without internet. 

Amateur radio is undergoing a renaissance, Bignell said, in part because the ability to connect amateur radios to laptops and cell phones has greatly increased what it can do.

That surge of interest is coming at a time when Canada is taking a closer look at the resilience of its telecommunications infrastructure. 

The federal government recently began a process to improve the resilience and reliability of telecommunications networks, citing disasters such as hurricanes Fiona and Dorian in Atlantic Canada, the forest fires in Alberta and B.C. in 2021, and the derecho storm that struck Ontario and Quebec in 2022. 

In a notice of consultation, the CRTC noted that the increasing risks posed by climate change have made it necessary to build a more robust telecommunications system. 

Jason Tremblay is community services officer for Radio Amateurs of Canada, a nationwide volunteer-based network of amateur radio operators.
Jason Tremblay is community services officer for Radio Amateurs of Canada, a nationwide volunteer-based network of amateur radio operators. (Jason Tremblay)

Jason Tremblay,  community services officer for Radio Amateurs of Canada, a national volunteer-based network of amateur radio operators, said that the organization is pushing for amateur radio to be included in more conversations about strengthening communications systems.

“Being able to work with government agencies, work with NGOs and members of the community, it’s a way for us to understand what their needs are — it’s a way to better our service.”

He said as technologies and climate conditions change, amateur radio operators are taking on new methods and challenges in disaster response. 

“There’s been an explosion of interest from emergency managers,” he said. “I think there will always be a call for amateur radio; it’ll always adapt and be there.”

Bringing ham radio back

In Victoria County, Donovan is now looking to re-introduce amateur radio to the municipality’s emergency management plan, and has heard there’s at least one radio operator in the county who is interested in helping out. 

Donovan is also hoping to bolster interest in an amateur radio club in the county. 

He stressed that what happened to emergency communications after Fiona was a rare occurrence.

Still, he thinks amateur radio could form an additional layer, to help the public feel safe in the disasters to come. 

“Amateur radio is certainly still a benefit to Nova Scotia. It’s a backup system, and in the event that something happens, it’s something that we could use.”

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Goulburn Valley library lines | Shepparton News


This exciting workshop will help you find inspiration all around you and hone your skills. The workshop will be delivered by Andrew Cox. Andrew is a proud Filipino/Australian who creates and lives in Ngunnawal and Ngambri country (Canberra), Australia. Currently, Andrew produces and leads Canberra Poetry Slam, the capital’s new and exciting home for stories and spoken word. Andrew’s work has been shortlisted for national writing prizes, notably for innovation in spoken word, and his writing has been published in multiple anthologies. He is recognised as an emerging voice in Australian poetry.

Where: Shepparton library.

When: Thursday, September 7, 6.30pm.

Contact: To register for the workshop, contact Shepparton library on 1300 374 765 or email shepparton@gvlibraries.com.au

Words have power: Andrew Cox will be running a ‘wordshop’ in the lead-up to Friday’s Poetry Slam Heat at Shepparton Library.
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Poetry SLAM heats

Shepparton library is thrilled to host a Victorian heat of Poetry Slam. We paused. Took a moment. A worldwide “Ummm”. Now, the slam storm returns. In 2023, flex vocal chords with a new voice. Run with new leaders. Turn your moments of “um” into MomentUm. Write new poetic revolutions. You’ve got two minutes on the mic. Build your MomentUm to a crescendo and be heard.

Whether you are a budding poet or more experienced, Poetry Slam is a great way to get your poetry heard. Twenty people will have the opportunity to compete in the Shepparton heat, with the winner competing in the Victorian finals and maybe in the national final. Registrations open at 6pm, with the heat starting at 6.30pm.

Andrew Cox will host the heat and Luke Patterson will be the feature poet performance. Luke is a Gamilaroi poet, folklorist and musician living on Gadigal lands. His poetry has appeared in Cordite, Plumwood Mountain, Rabbit, Running Dog and The Suburban Review. Luke has also been featured in the anthologies Active Aesthetics, Fire Front: First Nations Poetry and Power Today and Best of Australian Poems 2021.

Details: To compete, you must register at the library from 6pm, heats start at 6.30pm. Full APS 2023 rules can be found at www.australianpoetryslam.com/rules

Where: Shepparton library.

When: Friday, September 8.

Legal information session

Divorcing or separating from your partner? Information about the legal process of separation and divorce:

• What you should do when you are thinking of separating.

• What will happen once you do.

• Explanations about the different ways you can divide your assets and make arrangements for your children.

This session is being presented by Georgia Morrissey from Family Centred Law.

Where: Shepparton library.

When: Tuesday, September 12, 10.30am. Bookings essential.

Meet the author

The acclaimed author of Cooper Not Out is on his way to the Goulburn Valley to share his newest novel, Good as Gold, set in the Victorian gold rush era, and which reimagines the running of the inaugural Melbourne Cup.

Justin is a Melbourne writer, journalist and broadcaster. He is a columnist with the Melbourne Herald Sun and a weekly guest on Channel Seven’s Sunrise program and Sky News. Justin has had a long career in radio as a presenter and executive producer. He has hosted national programs; he was embedded with Australian troops in Afghanistan and was the drive host on Sydney’s 2UE. He’s won multiple awards for journalism and broadcasting.

Full of heart and humour, Good as Gold follows an escaped orphan, a copper and his prisoner, and a gang of bushrangers as they descend on Melbourne town for the cup. Each hopes for something different — a new beginning, a chance to make history, or a prize bigger than they could imagine. In the end, only one can get the gold.

Where: Shepparton library.

When: Friday, September 22, 1pm.

School holiday fun

Loads of fun coming to a library near you. Check our website, www.gvlibraries.com.au, or pick up a brochure for more information.

Fabulous French knitting

Learn how to make fabulous French knitting and craft your own ‘knitting Nancy’.

Where: Mooroopna library.

When: Tuesday, September 19, 10.30am.

Paper skeleton hands

Just in time for Halloween. Enjoy some spooky fun. Use a template or trace around your own hand.

Where: Mooroopna library.

When: Thursday, September 28, 11am.

Minecraft selfies

Ever wondered what you would look like as a Minecraft character? Let’s find out! Make your own Minecraft selfie or make a Minecraft portrait of someone else.

Where: Shepparton library.

When: Monday, September 18, 2pm.

Popcorn and pizza — movie afternoon

Join us for this free screening of Hunt for the Wilderpeople (PG). Two rebels. One million hectares of untamed wilderness. The hunt is on. Ricky (Julian Dennison) is a defiant city kid who finds himself on the run with his grumpy foster uncle (Sam Neill) in the wild New Zealand bush. A national manhunt ensues and the two are forced to put aside their differences and work together to survive in this hilarious and heart-felt adventure.

Where: Shepparton library.

When: Tuesday, September 19, 2.30pm.

Chomping T-Rex

T-Rexes love to chomp! We’ve got two for you to make.

Where: Shepparton library.

When: Thursday, September 21, 10.30am.

Wonderful world of trains

Learn all about the wonderful world of trains and the fun and excitement of model railways with the GV Rail Club. Join us for a fun evening of model trains — you will even have the chance to drive one of the trains yourself! Keep an eye out for some special engines!

Where: Shepparton library.

When: Thursday, September 21, 6pm.

Craft and movie afternoon

Let’s make foam glider planes and watch a movie: Zog and the Flying Doctors (PG). Zog, Pearl and Gadabout are now a flying doctor trio, caring for creatures, including a mermaid, a unicorn and a sneezy lion. However, when bad weather forces them to land at the palace, Pearl is locked up by her uncle, the king. Includes free popcorn.

Where: Shepparton library.

When: Tuesday, September 26, 2pm.

Fabulous French knitting

Learn how to make fabulous French knitting and craft your own ‘knitting Nancy’.

Where: Shepparton library.

When: Thursday, September 28, 10.30am.

Libraries After Dark

Lego: Batman (PG) In the irreverent spirit of fun that made The LEGO Movie a worldwide phenomenon, the self-described leading man of that ensemble, LEGO Batman, stars in his own big-screen adventure. But there are big changes brewing in Gotham, and if he wants to save the city from the Joker’s hostile takeover, Batman may have to drop the lone vigilante act, try to work with others, and maybe, just maybe, learn to lighten up.

Where: Shepparton library.

When: Thursday, September 28. Activities from 6pm, movie screens at 7pm.

‘Rock’ engraving

Be inspired by Indigenous rock engravings and make your own artwork using simple, everyday supplies.

Where: Tatura library.

When: Thursday, September 21, 10.30am.

Coffee ground fossils

Imagine you are on an archaeological dig, except we will be making the fossils ourselves. It is a fantastic activity for kids and their grown-ups to do together.

Where: Tatura library.

When: Thursday, September 28, 11am.

Socialising: Come along to the library for a chat and coffee!
Photo by
Rodney Braithwaite

Craft and coffee

Join us for about an hour as we gather to learn a new skill, have a chat, and go home with a handcrafted accessory. Tea and coffee are provided, but we appreciate your ‘Keeper Cup’. Bookings are required, as spaces and materials are limited.

Coaster from repurposed materials

Old clothing can make useful coasters. Great gift.

Where: Mooroopna library.

When: Thursday, September 14, 10.30am.

Felt brooch

Layers of felt combined with decorative stitching make a beautiful brooch for your hat, scarf, or lapel.

Where: Shepparton library.

When: Wednesday, September 20, 10.30am.

Macramé planter

In just a few knots you will have a beautiful hanger for a small potted plant.

Where: Tatura library.

When: Thursday, September 7, 10.30am.

Human Book Club

Lending a hand: Organisations that help our community. Strong communities are critical because they’re often an important source of social connection and a sense of belonging. When things go wrong, strong communities support each other and recover faster. People who live in strong communities are healthier and happier.

Many organisations offer support and help to improve our community. Hear our books tell the story of how their organisation helps our community. You might find a helping hand or discover a way to be involved in helping.

Where: Shepparton library.

When: Thursday, September 28, 6pm.

Libraries After Dark

Join us on Thursday nights until 10pm at Shepparton library. There’s always something to do, people to talk to or just a place to sit with a coffee and a newspaper. All our regular library services are available and sometimes we have a movie or craft activity. Get out after dark at the library. Library membership is free — just ask Kim and Nicole how easy it is to join. Check out www.gvlibraries.com.au to see the list of our current programs.

CrAfter Dark

Felt brooch

Layers of felt combined with decorative stitching make a beautiful brooch for your hat, scarf, or lapel. Limited places, bookings essential.

Where: Shepparton library.

When: Thursday, September 21, 6.30pm.

Movie time

Poms (PG) An uplifting comedy about Martha, a woman who moves into a retirement community and starts a cheerleading squad with her fellow residents Sheryl, Olive and Alice. She proves that it’s never too late to follow their dreams.

Where: Shepparton library.

When: Thursday, September 14, 7pm.

Tai chi

Learn the basic concepts of tai chi with Chris Yosh. Learn about posture, relaxed deep breathing, flowing movements and the mind-body connection. This is a gentle exercise class suitable for beginners. Participants should wear comfortable clothing. Limited places, bookings essential.

Where: Shepparton library.

When: Thursday, September 7, 6.30pm.

Get crafty: Join the Happy Hookers and bring along your knitting or crochet projects to the library.
Photo by
Daneka Hill

Craft circle

The Happy Hookers meet every Friday from 10am to noon in the sunny corner of the library. Bring along your crochet and knitting projects and join in the fun and laughter.

Where: Mooroopna library.

The Knitters meet every Friday from 10am to noon. Bring along your knitting or crochet projects and join the circle for a friendly chat and yarn fun.

Wher: Shepparton library.

Rhyme and story time, and baby rhyme time

Rhyme and story time

Where: Mooroopna library.

When: Wednesday, September 20, 10.30am.

Baby rhyme time

Where: Mooroopna library.

When: Thursday, September 21, 10.30am.

Baby rhyme time

Where: Shepparton library.

When: Every Wednesday, 10.30am.

Rhyme and story time

Where: Shepparton library.

When: Every Monday and every Friday, 10.30am.

Rhyme and story time

Where: Tatura library.

When: Thursday, September 14, 10.30am; Thursday, September 28, 10.30am.

Ready Tech Go

Keep up-to-date with an ever-changing digital world, with tips and tricks to help you learn the basics and master your smartphone, tablet, the internet, social media, cyber safety, online banking apps and more! This weekly program will take you through a new topic each week.

Where: Shepparton library.

When: Tuesdays, 10.30am. September program, Tuesday, September 12, all about Instagram. Tuesday, September 19, NBN Local: Getting started — Device knowledge, Tuesday, September 26, Cyber safety. Bookings required and please bring your mobile phone or tablet.

Tech 000 (One-On-One)

Need help with your mobile device? Getting started with Cloudlibrary? Working out how to attach a document to your email? Book an appointment for Tech 000. Appointment times will be available at Shepparton library for a library staff member to answer your questions about using your mobile technology. Ask staff how to book a time for your Tech 000 help.

Friends of the library

Friends of Shepparton library

By becoming a member of Friends of the Shepparton library, you will be working to support your local library. Meetings are held in the library (unless otherwise advised) on the third Friday of the month at 11.30am. New members are most welcome.

Friends of the Mooroopna library

Our aim is to promote, enhance and support Mooroopna library and its facilities for the betterment of our local community. Meetings are held in the library on the second Tuesday of each month. New members are most welcome.

Hublets for loan

Shepparton library offers tablet devices for loan in the library: you can connect via library wi-fi for up to two hours. Your current library membership card is required to check out a personal device for reading, watching videos and playing games. You will need to supply your own ear/headphones. Ask staff for more information about Hublets or call in to the library to see the Hublets in action.

Online offerings

Comics Plus

Comics Plus is a new online resource for fans of comics, graphic novels and manga. Try the children’s library, aimed at those between five and 14, or adults can access the full collection. Using your membership card, you can access 23,000 titles via a web interface or dedicated app. Ask our friendly staff to get you started.

Online story time videos available from

• our website www.gvlibraries.com.au/kidspace

• our YouTube channel @GVLibraries

• our Facebook page @GVLibraries

Each video is accompanied by extra book suggestions and a craft template or activity. New stories are being added all the time so enjoy story time anytime.

So many options: Borrow a book, eBook or an audio book at the library.

Story Box library

Australian stories read by Australia’s finest storytellers. Connect 24/7 @ www.gvlibraries.com.au


BorrowBox enables members of GV Libraries to borrow eBooks and AudioBooks (eAudios). Download the app or visit our website www.gvlibraries.com.au/ebooks


Cloudlibrary gives library users the ability to search, browse and discover eBooks and eAudiobooks available for borrowing through GV Libraries with ease. Download anytime with your free library membership. Download the app or visit our website www.gvlibraries.com.au/ebooks


The Libby app is now our dedicated eMagazine portal. Over 1000 popular magazine titles to read online or download, including Better Homes and Gardens Australia, PC & Tech Authority, Taste.com.au, Australian Handyman and Digital Photography. All you need is your library card and your library PIN. www.gvlibraries.com.au/emagazines


If you’re interested in independent, foreign language, classic, or documentary films, you’re in luck! Sign up for Kanopy, our on-demand video-streaming service. You can stream over 26,000 carefully selected films from hundreds of popular producers such as The Criterion Collection, The Great Courses and PBS, as well as thousands of independent filmmakers. Now including Kanopy Kids: thoughtful entertainment for children aged preschool and up. Parents can trust in a curated selection of educational and enriching videos with developmentally appropriate, age-based ratings from Common Sense Media, as well as additional parental controls to keep kids safe. All you need is your library card and your library PIN. www.gvlibraries.com.au/streaming-video

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