Mount Isa School of the Air
MISOTA was set up in 1964 in the mining town of Mount Isa in Queensland to provide distance learning to children in remote areas.
In 2010 the total enrolment was 184 students (82 girls and 102 boys), which are drawn from a large geographical area (a quarter of Queensland). The average class size is 6 pupils.
With regard to teaching level, students can enrol from prep school to secondary school years 8-10. For a list of the categories of enrolment, see http://mtisasde.eq.edu.au/wcms/images/Enrolment_Info/categories_enrolment.pdf.
The school's motto is "Through Adversity to Higher Things".
The Mount Isa School of the Air website is at http://mtisasde.eq.edu.au/wcms.
In 2010 25 teaching staff and 10 non-teaching staff were employed (respectively 23 and 8 full-time equivalents).
MISOTA provides its students with their curriculum through paper/web-based materials, through on-air synchronous daily lessons, daily reading lessons and through our field program. Core learnings are based on the key/core learning outcomes for all strands in all key learning areas as described in syllabus documents developed by the Queensland Studies Authority.
Mount Isa School of the Air is the second oldest school of its type in Australia. The history of the Mount Isa School of the Air has been linked with the development of the North West with perhaps a similar community influence as the Royal Flying Doctor Service (RFDS). The School of the Air followed the RFDS to Mount Isa in 1964 when the RFDS moved to its current premises in Barkly Highway.
To provide radio coverage over such distances High Frequency (HF or Short Wave) radio was used. MISOTA used 8 frequencies or channels available of which 5 were used daily to enable the teachers to conduct lessons with their classes.
Class groups averaging 7 students were grouped in geographical wedges, where possible, radiating out from Mount Isa to provide 3-way communication from teacher to student, student to teacher and from student to student. It was regarded as important that students could hear other students (hence the grouping in wedges) but on many occasions the children could often only just hear their teacher, let alone other students.
In 2001, 230 students from 120 families were enrolled with MISOTA. The majority of the families live on stations within a 450km radius from Mount Isa.
The technical facilities at MISOTA comprise 5 studios and lessons are transmitted from all 5 studios Monday through Friday, with the first lessons starting at 8:30 am. By using 5 studios, lessons can be concentrated into the morning time slot, which is the best period for communicating HF radio lessons to students, taking into consideration the tropical location and the possibility of gulf storms accompanied by lightning producing crackles and pops and interfering with lessons.
The number of students in a class is kept low to enable the teacher to in teract with each student. The number of students in a class is between 5 – 10, on average 7. The teacher keeps a record of responses from each class member and by doing so can even up the active participation by each student.
The Radio Components of The Mount Isa School of the Air consists of the following:
- A computer screen and keyboard
- A control panel
- A tape / CD player
- Audio monitor loudspeaker
- Headset / microphone (two provided, one for visiting student use)
The teacher uses the computer to access the bridge.
- All class groups are displayed that have dialed in.
- The teacher can join a conference or class group (and leave) as lesson times dictate.
- The teacher can speak to the class group via the headset and is able to play a tape or CD as the lesson requires.
- Control of the headset and tape / CD is made possible by manipulating keys on the control panel.
- For visitors in the studio the audio monitor can be turned up for them to listen to the conference in the studio without using a headset.
Schedule/Timing of Lessons
In Mount Isa School of the Air each lesson normally lasts for 30 minutes (with some 45 minutes and different starting times) and start on the hour and on the half hour. There are 5 studios and 5 studio lessons can be conducted simultaneously. Should a teacher be absent from the school building it is possible for the teacher to conduct a lesson remotely. Under these circumstances the teacher would dial into the bridge and join her students with reduced control. Up to approximately 5 minutes before the scheduled lesson start time the students will dial into their class. During the minutes before the teacher takes control the students are able to have a ‘chat’. When the lesson time has ticked over, the teacher recognises the assembled group and joins the students. There is a well established protocol that has developed over the years and students adhere to the protocol. Students only talk to the teacher when invited to do so. Therefore, every School of the Air is normally free to set its own schedule.
- Queensland State School Reporting - 2010 - Mount Isa School of the Air, 21 June 2011, http://mtisasde.eq.edu.au/wcms/images/stories/annualreport/soa.pdf, May 2012.
- Categories of enrolment, 8 April 2010, http://mtisasde.eq.edu.au/wcms/images/Enrolment_Info/categories_enrolment.pdf, May 2012.