The Kalgoorlie School of the Air (KalSOTA) supports the use of satellite Information and Communication Technology to provide a learning environment that reflects education as being a shared responsibility of students, staff, Home Tutors and parents.
Kalgoorlie School of the Air is a Level 3 government primary virtual school in West Australia that started in 1962 with the purpose of providing radio and correspondence lessons for geographically isolated children and their families. Initially, they utilized the radio network of the Royal Flying Doctor Service to provide “Air-Lessons” but now use satellite Information Communication Technology.
Its vision is to work in close cooperation with the school community to provide the learning environment that reflects education as a shared responsibility of students, staff, Home Tutors and parents. The school's motto is "Seek The Best".
It's main office is located in Boulder in West Australia.
There are a variety of reasons why students who attend Kalgoorlie School of the Air are unable to attend a mainstream educational institution, but the major reason is the distance between the students' homes and the presence of a mainstream educational institution. Enrolments each year in Kalgoorlie vary between 40 and 55 students and the levels include from Kindergarten right up to Year 7. Parents of children in Kalgoorlie are mostly pastoralists even though some work in gold mines while others are involved in sandalwood cutting. Other parents include those providing essential services in very remote areas with long distances to any mainstream educational institution. All of these students are assisted in their education by a Home Tutor.
Home Visit Programs
Members of the educational staff of Kalgoorlie school of the Air make at least three home visits per year to provide support for students and their Home Tutors. Through the Home Visit Programmes, staff try to model activities with students, assess students and discuss issues with Home Tutors. The school also has a Support Teacher Learning (STL) that assists staff with students where individual education plans are in place.
Other Face-to-Face Contact
In the course of the year, there are several other possibilities of face-to-face contact between staff, home tutors and students. At the beginning of the year, a Home Tutor Seminar brings together all home tutors and students. The Sports Camp also bring together all enrolled students in the third term or Term 3. A Junior Camp for Years K to 3 takes place in Term 4. The most popular come together is the Combine School of the Air Camp for Years 4-7.
The student’s day is very much occupied with Online Sessions which present lesson materials designed to address the subjects and other priorities of the school. They participate in class groups through online sessions. The Kalgoorlie School of the Air uses satellite technology to deliver online lessons and sometimes 1-on-1 teacher-student sessions.
The school staff of Kalgoorlie School of the Air consists of a principal and 4-5 full time teachers, with the number of part time teachers varying each year depending on the number of students that enroll. The school also has a registrar, a library aide, a part time gardener and cleaner as well as a Support Teacher Learner.
Parent and Community Body
KalSOTA has a School Council represented by parents and staff commonly known as the Parent and Community Body (P&C) who meet once a term to review the school plan and look at other school priorities for the following school year. Apart from physical meetings, they also meet once a month on ‘air’. The Isolated Parent’s Association (ICPA) Kalgoorlie Branch also meets regularly. The ICPA is a great supporter of Distance Education in Australia.
The Learning program is designed by staff using materials from SIDE, Leederville or a combination of both. Homework assignments are regularly sent to students as well as all materials needed for air lessons. Children send their homework in to teachers by mail, email, thumb-drive or on-line when they have completed it. Teachers work collaboratively with the Support Teacher Learning to design specific programs for students where needed. Students also attend camps during the year where staff and Home Tutors are able to further improve student outcomes in learning areas featuring group interaction. The school conducts specialist programs such as music when the teaching expertise is available on staff. The school pays postage.
The priority learning areas for KalSOTA include the focus on literacy, numeracy and integrating technology into the learning program. All learning areas are monitored for attention in the planning cycle. The school has an annual and ongoing review process to keep it informed about its student outcomes.
Most consumable items for educational use are purchased through voluntary contributions including a voluntary amenities fee of $9.00 for 1 child, $15.00 for two children and $18.00 for three or more children. Kalgoorlie also asks a donation of $50.00 for the P & C. A voluntary maintenance contribution also assists with the cost of maintaining computers; the P & C suggests the following contribution from each family using school computers - $100.00. The school also provides 1 colour cartridge per year.
The Use of ICT
The school uses various ICT hardware, software and peripherals such as digital voice recorders, digital cameras, digital microscopes, thump drives and many other equipments to facilitate teacher – student – family learning in the long distance situation. With the use of the various equipments, the following activities are facilitated:
- Photos can be taken of students' 3D work and then emailed in so that the work does not have to be posted in, especially if it is big or fragile.
- Students can read aloud onto the voice recorder and email in their reading - instead of taping and mailing in the cassette.
- The voice recorder files can be loaded onto the computer and played - and then recorded in the studio by the teacher, providing immediate feedback.
- Students and tutors can record a skill on camera and either email in or burn to a disk.
- Students can do counting exercises (or number checks) on voice recorder (and camera) and email in.
- Students can create presentations with photos and video they have taken with the camera, and insert their own narration from voice recorders.
- Students and tutors can create dynamic sound poems, reading samples and retells with sound and voice effects, using the voice recorder. It is easy to erase and record, even to record several trials, and then send work in.
- Webcams are also available, most families have them already. They can be used for talking to others, and for taking video of students. It is possible to use them in demonstrations, speeches, and presentations of work.
More details about Kalgoorlie School of the Air can be found on their website: http://www.kalsota.wa.edu.au/