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NSW's virtual school addresses rural gap

SBS News reported. Aurora College, a state-run selective high school, caters for children from rural and remote regions of NSW. Students sit the Selective High School Placement Test to gain entry to the college in Years 7 to 10, where they study English, math and science. The remaining 60 per cent of the curriculum is delivered by their home school. The foundation’s principal, Chris Robertson told SBS News what makes Aurora College distinct from other virtual schools around the world is that it offers “synchronous online lessons.” “We’re not a distance education model with additional technology, but a face-to-face provision with real time lessons,” Mr Robertson said. “That’s quite unique.” Students log into the school’s online conferencing software and participate in classes led by teachers who can see and hear the students in real time, with the aids of webcams and microphones. The school features a virtual campus, built using technology developed by the University of Wollongong. “We’ve been able to provide a virtual playground for the kids to hang out at recess and lunch time with their Aurora mates,” Mr Robertson said. Other spaces include a lecture theatre, where outsiders can come to give presentations to the students, and the school hall, where parent-teacher evenings will be held later in the year. Mr Robertson said in the future virtual schools, and the technology they use, will become more common throughout the Australia education system. “What we have shown is that the technology exists to provide opportunities for groups of schools to work together, to share resources, and to share expertise. And those schools could be geographically remote from each other, as is the case with Aurora College, or it could be that two or three neighbouring Sydney schools could share a timetable and share a classroom teacher in this way using the same technology that we’re using.”]]>

NSW’s virtual school addresses rural gap

NSW’s Aurora College is using virtual reality technology to address the growing gap in achievement between rural and city students in New South Wales schools.

In Australia, fewer children from provincial and remote areas meet standard Year 7 milestones than their metropolitan counterparts. Less than 60 per cent of remote students complete Year 12, compared to 78 per cent in major cities, SBS News reported.

Aurora College, a state-run selective high school, caters for children from rural and remote regions of NSW.

Students sit the Selective High School Placement Test to gain entry to the college in Years 7 to 10, where they study English, math and science. The remaining 60 per cent of the curriculum is delivered by their home school.

The foundation’s principal, Chris Robertson told SBS News what makes Aurora College distinct from other virtual schools around the world is that it offers “synchronous online lessons.”

“We’re not a distance education model with additional technology, but a face-to-face provision with real time lessons,” Mr Robertson said. “That’s quite unique.”

Students log into the school’s online conferencing software and participate in classes led by teachers who can see and hear the students in real time, with the aids of webcams and microphones.

The school features a virtual campus, built using technology developed by the University of Wollongong.

“We’ve been able to provide a virtual playground for the kids to hang out at recess and lunch time with their Aurora mates,” Mr Robertson said.

Other spaces include a lecture theatre, where outsiders can come to give presentations to the students, and the school hall, where parent-teacher evenings will be held later in the year.

Mr Robertson said in the future virtual schools, and the technology they use, will become more common throughout the Australia education system.

“What we have shown is that the technology exists to provide opportunities for groups of schools to work together, to share resources, and to share expertise. And those schools could be geographically remote from each other, as is the case with Aurora College, or it could be that two or three neighbouring Sydney schools could share a timetable and share a classroom teacher in this way using the same technology that we’re using.”

Student takes exam

Queensland pulls out of NAPLAN online trial

Queensland’s Education Minister Kate Jones has confirmed state schools will withdraw from the NAPLAN online testing trial this year.

Ms Jones made the announcement ahead of the Education Ministerial Council meeting in Hobart in April.

“I have always said that I would not commit Queensland students to participate in the online NAPLAN tests if they were not ready,” she said.

“I simply cannot commit to a system that might disadvantage our students. We need to be 100 per cent certain that the online tests are good to go.

“However, recent trials conducted by my Department and in other states have identified ongoing concerns about the readiness of the online tests.

“My Department identified flaws with display settings in the online testing platform, which may be confusing for students.

“That is why I have withdrawn Queensland state schools from participating in the trial this year.

“We need to be sure that the system is fully ready so parents and teachers don’t lose faith in the program overall.”

Ms Jones said all Queensland state school students would sit traditional paper-based tests for NAPLAN this year, to be held between 9 and 11 May.

“Around 100 Queensland schools, including 68 state schools, were scheduled to participate in the 2017 NAPLAN online trial,” she said.

“I’ll be informing my Ministerial colleagues that Queensland state schools will delay the trial of NAPLAN online for 12 months, to allow sufficient time for these concerns to be addressed.

“The Queensland Government is committed to NAPLAN, but we expect the online tests to be of the highest standard.

“Last year Queensland students recorded their best ever results on NAPLAN which reflects the hard work that goes on in our schools every day.

“We believe in the concept of NAPLAN online and the potential benefits it will bring for students.

“We’ll continue to work with our national partners so that we can have confidence in the NAPLAN online rollout into the future.”

This year Queensland, New South Wales, Tasmania and the Northern Territory will conduct the 2017 NAPLAN tests as traditional pencil and paper tests.

IT Refresh Cycles: what is your school’s strategy?

Technology is constantly evolving and advancing in line with global market trends. Schools are a primary driver of adopting technology, ensuring they remain competitive in their bid to increase student enrolments.

 

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Laptops drive results: study

Laptops have helped a number of senior high schools in Sydney achieve improved results in science.

Education Review reported that in his PhD thesis for the University of Sydney, Simon Crook – demonstrated that teaching with laptops helped NSW Year 12 students achieve better results in Higher School Certificate biology, chemistry and physics.

Mr Crook’s thesis involved a six-year study of 16 Sydney Catholic schools and case studies with four NSW science teachers during the federal government’s Digital Education Revolution.

Implemented by then-federal education minister Julia Gillard in 2008, the initiative saw the government allocate $2.4 billion over seven years to provide laptops to all high school students in Years 9–12.

Crook found laptops were of most benefit to physics students, as they could run simulations of scientific theories.

“Currently in the physics syllabus there’s an experiment called Thomson’s experiment, which is about the discovery of the electron,” Crook explained.

“Now, this is mandated as part of the syllabus. That apparatus [needed for the experiment] is very rare in Australian schools. It’s even rarer if it’s intact and working, and even rarer still that the teacher knows how to connect it all up safely and to use it; and even in those extremely rare cases that they do have it, it would be a teacher-directed demonstration.”

“Using a simulation, every student can perform that actual experiment themselves in their own time, either in class, at home, on the way to school even, and can actually learn the experiments, the steps of the experiments and the relative effects, and even calculations within the experiment,” he continued.

“That’s something that you couldn’t do without technology basically, and that example has been cited time and time again, among other examples.”

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