Technology brings true potential
28 November 2011
Most primary principals and teachers know the personality - the highly capable child that hides their light under a bushel.
They get to Year 6 and have achieved the set work but need extra one-on-one attention to come out of their shell and push the limit of their potential.
Four dedicated principals in the state's central west around Orange, Parkes and Cowra have teamed up to offer these students from their schools a unique opportunity - a fun enrichment program run via video conference that focuses on key learning areas particularly maths.
The schools and principals involved are Cargo Public School (Brad Tom), Koorawatha Public School (Daniel Ebert), Gooloogong Public School (Adrian Smith) and Woodstock Public School (Vanessa Williams).
Eliminating the divide
Orange Small Schools Association president, Mr Tom, said technology had "eliminated the divide" between the four small schools that are 100km apart.
"We can offer extraordinary opportunities to our students where they can link up with students from other schools to learn and problem solve and feel they are part of a unique initiative that's just for them," Mr Tom said.
The program had been running for three months with eight students taking part across the four schools, he said.
"We wanted to start small to ensure we got it all right, give us time to iron out any bugs. But it ran perfectly from the start," Mr Tom said.
"It was born at a Primary Principals' Association meeting in Orange. A few of us got to talking about how we could use our new connected classroom packages to promote and grow enrichment lessons for students across Years 3, 4 and, 5.
Solving problems collaboratively
"We will expand in time but for now the students are enjoying the activities we select for them, usually based around numeracy and problem solving. So a student from Koorawatha can be on the screen working on a problem while students from the other schools offer him or her suggestions," Mr Tom said.
Year 5 Cargo Public School student Denny Cain said he enjoyed being able to meet other people via video.
"The work is pretty hard but it's lots of fun," Denny said.
"[Denny] told me it's the part of the week he looks forward to the most. That in itself is a great feeling for me and evidence that what we've put in place is working," Mr Tom said.
The schools envision the program being self reliant with the students taught how to operate the equipment.
"Down the track they could really, if they wanted, run the sessions themselves [but] our VC host will always be there to liaise with other schools before the event and cement each week's activity," Mr Tom said.
He said the school also used the equipment for virtual excursions and personal development.
"I'm loving the technology. It's opened the door to so many possibilities. The perception that an isolated, small school like mine can't offer its students the same resources and opportunities that a larger, city-based school can is shifting," Mr Tom said.
Photo by Daniel Ebert.