Kimberley School of the Air

Guest Host: Judith Pritchett

Judith Pritchett started with Kimberley School of The Air in 1996 teaching years 2 and 4 using the radio as the delivery platform. Judith has since taught across the school years specialising in the Information and Technology area. Currently, she is teaching Kindergarten as well as doing the IT role.

The days of misinterpreting news from a seven year old during an air lesson over the crackle of the radio is a far cry from the clarity of satellite today.

In the past, children on remote stations or isolated communities have had their only daily contact with their teachers via the UHF radio waves. Boosted at every radio tower there were often delays and interference, as the same radio service was also used for travellers, transport vehicles, businesses, and mustering stations as well as emergency services, which made the structure and attempt at normal lessons difficult at best.

Broadband and satellite internet gives isolated students a much greater opportunity to be educated as well as any student in an urban community.

School-on-Air2_featureLearning via the Internet.

Centra is a suite of software that delivers live eLearning and collaboration via the Internet. It includes instructor-led training, self-paced learning, online meetings, demonstrations, presentations, and virtual teamwork. This software has been adopted by the West Australian Department of Education for Distance Education.

It means that any student with a digital camera can watch and participate in online lessons with a teacher and other students. Not only students but everyone in the home classroom, can be clearly heard and seen through webcams – so be alert! Some of the other interactive features include:

  • An interactive whiteboard allowing students to work collaboratively at the same time on a project.
  • Individual students or partners can work in virtual classrooms called Breakout Rooms so a teacher may have 6 or 7 classrooms operating at the same time and can slip into any one of them at any time.
  • A teacher can guide students through a web search using Web Safari, or allow students to individually search the same site by inserting links directly into the lesson.
  • An application from a teacher’s computer can also be shared with the class. Students can actually interact with the program which is only installed on the teacher computer.
  • Worksheets can be instantly downloaded during a lesson using file sharing so the days of waiting for the mail plane for activity sheets is over.
  • Over too, are the days of teachers having to plan lessons for the next entire term and send them to students who they may never have met or seen before.

Flexibility, current events, student interests, and student needs drive Air Lessons today.

Working with technology.

It all sounds like utopia compared to Radio Days! But weather conditions as well as home and Education Department hardware and technical issues can still sometimes cause frustration and disappointment.

A rehearsed assembly item doesn’t come to air as expected because “Centra is down” – meaning that the Education Department Portal is experiencing technical issues. A class lesson is disrupted as several students “drop out” – meaning that contact from their satellite dishes to the sky satellite has been broken due to electrical storms. An individual student can’t be heard or cannot hear, which causes class “down time” in lessons, while teachers and home tutors desperately try to fix the issue.

BUT when it is working well, schools using satellite and Centra’s extraordinary tools in real time – seeing the other students in the class, knowing that you aren’t the only kid being taught by your Mum – is definitely better than the crackley radio. “Over and out!”