Continuous collaboration, improvements in information technology infrastructure, and innovative use of learning technologies are leading to improved teaching and learning for SIDE’s secondary students living in the Kandiwal Community.
The Kandiwal Community of the Wunambal Ngauwudu people is located in a remote part of the Kimberley, about 2800km from Perth by road, 245km from the Gibb River Road, 300km north west of Kununurra and about 623km north-east from Derby. It is a beautiful location on the Mitchell Plateau, near the Mitchell Falls, andis an area rich in Aboriginal rock art. To reach the community from Perth requires two flights, one to Broome, and the other to fly to a small bush airfield.
Generally, primary students attend the Kimberley School of the Air and most students complete their secondary schooling with SIDE.
SIDE has been working with the Kandiwal Community since the early 2000s, initially using low-bandwidth satellite internet, print materials, phone and occasional school visits. Over time, ICT resources increased in quality although there were many technical problems. In the last two years, the NBN has delivered improved access to internet services.
Continuous discussion between the SIDE teachers, children and their parents, and the onsite SIDE supervisors employed by the Community, has resulted in a clearer understanding of the roadblocks to attendance and engagement.
Students attend daily Webex lessons with one core teacher, focussing on individual literacy and numeracy, and integrated Science and Humanities and Social Science (HaSS) lessons. They also have specialist subjects or courses at other times during the week. Moodle content includes resources and activities which are literacy and numeracy based. The program has a focus on oral language, collaboration and use of technology. It is supported by a SIDE-based Education Assistant (EA) who works with students using Webex, and onsite SIDE supervisors who reinforce and develop students’ understanding of content.
A Smart Board in the classroom is used for group work so that the school-based supervisors can view the lesson and support students. Students’ mobile phones are also used in information technology electives. Students take photos of themselves completing the task(s) and upload these in Moodle for teacher review and as a record of their work. Other interactive tools such as Kahoot! and Mathletics are also used to support learning.
Moodle features assist students in their personal organisation. Only one week of activities is ‘revealed’ at a time, decreasing visual clutter and so that the students know that these activities are the focus. Colour is also used; for example, a due date appears in a specific colour next to the activity or task. When the work is submitted the link changes colour so that students can see what still needs to be done and have a visual cue to their achievement.
In the last 18 months there has been a marked improvement in student attendance and engagement in their learning. Judith Williams, the students’ teacher, points to the factors that have been essential to the individual successes of students. These include the historical collaboration between SIDE and the Kandiwal Community, the NBN delivering stability of internet access, and the flexibility of SIDE’s learning technology platforms, which engage and motivate the Kandiwal students.