Innovative education: Rural schools go remote
The State Government has made every day this week a pupil-free day for schools across Queensland in response to the coronavirus outbreak, giving parents and students the option to continue their education from home while self-isolating.
With warnings the coronavirus restrictions could last up to six months, it seems unlikely that schools will return immediately after the Easter break. However, for regional communities like the Western Downs, limited internet and technological access could make remote learning more difficult than in metropolitan areas.
However, for Saint Maria Goretti Primary School in Inglewood, being a quiet rural school isn't a barrier to remote learning - it just requires a little more innovation.
The school's principal, Casey Sly, said the greatest difficulty was in finding a program that would be easy for parents to facilitate at home and without relying on internet, as well as the least disruptive to students during this pivotal stage of their education.
"What we've decided to do is, due to our context as a small and rural school, we are sending 'home learning packs', and they're going to be a physical pack rather than a digital one," Miss Sly said.
"They're completely aligned with the Australian Curriculum, and we're focusing on literacy, numeracy, and we're making sure that students are reading daily. The packs also come with portable versions of those resources they'd have in school, like sight-word booklets and multiplication charts."
"We've also included some additional options for families like making a cubbyhouse in the loungeroom or drawing a picture of your family, which are enjoyable and developing students' social and emotional health as well."
In addition to the home learning packs, Miss Sly said the school had compiled a list of online and digital resources, designed to further enrich learning and also keep students and their families in contact with teaching staff.
"There's Storyline online, which has 'read-alouds' done by mostly authors, which can help students engage with reading in a different way," she said.
"Students that do have internet access at home can also tune into online (physical education) classes and make sure they're still keeping active, which is important for their mental and emotional health. Again, it could be something fun that gets parents and caregivers engaged as well."
For Miss Sly, the most important aspect will be making sure the remote learning is sustainable for students, parents, and teachers, regardless of how long Queensland schools end up being closed due to the pandemic.
"After this ten-day learning pack, who knows how long we will need to use it for. If (teachers and parents) find it isn't sustainable and they're looking for a different format, that's just a matter of getting the staff together and tidying up the edges," she said.
"At the time, I think the most important thing is we're focusing on what's best for our context. I think this is the best way to go about it, but of course we'll review and make decisions if there is a longer school closure."