Hawkesdale P12 College was one of many rural schools across Victoria that were given a polycom conferencing unit. Prior to this week, the equipment has been used as a projection monitor and for videoconferencing with skype. The image and sound is crystal clear on this high quality equipment.
This week an email from Rod, the acting principal at Cowwarr Primary School was received. Their staff and students had been affected by the recent flooding in vast areas of Gippslang south eastern Australia. Here is part of the email:-
Are you in class today? We were affected by the floods yesterday with 50% of the kids ( grand total of 11) unable to get in due to road closures.
This morning I find my other staff member is on the other side of the river as she stayed out last night and the river has risen overnight!
The next question was “Would you like to test our videoconferencing equipment?”. Delighted to be able to work with someone who could step us through it, we agreed.
The equipment was tested in the morning and a quick linkup was trialled, after Cowwarr students had walked to see the nearby river – now a raging torrent spilling over 10 metres on either side. Year 9/10 students had ICT after lunch. As they entered, the call from Rod was answered and they were catapulted into their classroom via videoconferencing. Cowwarr is a small rural school with students from prep to year 6. However, a year 7 and year 9 student were present due to the flooding. Rod taught us how to use the remote controls. The photo below shows how clear the connection was – felt like they were in the same room.
Introductions were made and questions posed of each other. We were intrigued by the flooding and the impact it had on them – one girl had lost her 6 week old poddy calf. Others had had to shift their livestock to higher ground the day before. Some had water coming into their homes. The students at this small school study Chinese without a Chinese language teacher. Our school is fortunate to have Wung-Li for 12 months on an exchange program helping with our Chinese program in our school Wung was introduced to the students who quickly asked many, many questions of her.
This may be the start of a sharing relationship with Cowwarr, as Wung can teach remotely using this equipment. Technology empowers learning and supports a comprehensive syllabus in rural schools that would normally not have access to specialist subjects.
This equipment will provide a powerful aid to empower learning, enabling schools to provide a comprehensive curriculum despite rurality and isolation.