Gorokan Public School is leading the charge when it comes to distance education, with the school’s comprehensive learning from home website proving to be such a hit that it’s attracting international interest.
While many schools on the Coast have risen to the challenge of transitioning their communities to online learning, Gorokan Public School Principal, Jesmond Zammit, said his school had been uniquely placed to deliver such a substantial resource very quickly.
“Online collaboration has been a learning objective at our school for a while, so we felt quite prepared in launching the website,” Zammit said.
The site provides an array of targeted learning resources for students from Kindergarten through to Year 6, and also has dedicated advice sections for parents and guardians covering everything from setting up a home learning environment and settling into a routine, to advice on how to keep active and take care of your mental health in the age of COVID-19.
The site also includes useful videos to help parents and guardians who aren’t tech savvy get across the requirements of their child’s online learning.
From guides on how to download workbooks and upload student work, to advice on how to navigate online programs such as Abode Connect and the Google Suite, the website has been praised for its ingenuity and ability for two way engagement with the school community.
According to Zammit, that engagement has formed the crux of the school’s approach to online learning with teacher, student and parent/guardian feedback instrumental in refining what resources are available.
The site’s been given a gold star for its evolving take on distance education, with Zammit full of praise for his hardworking staff that championed it.
“I call them my Gorokan dream team because everyone has worked so hard to not only get this resource up and running, but to finetune it,” he said.
According to Zammit, students and parents/guardians are also loving it.
“Feedback from the community has been very positive, with parents grateful for the consistency between at home and onsite learning.
“The website has also had the added benefit of illustrating to parents just how hard our teachers work to ensure their child’s education.
“That’s not something they always get to see and its helped contribute to the positivity around what we’re doing,” Zammit said.
The website has also paved the way for new forms of communication between the community, with Zammit and the teacher behind the technology, Mitchell Gibbs, engaging in a live stream with students every school day.
They talk about what’s happening with their schoolwork, share tips about keeping happy and healthy whilst stuck inside and get to connect with one another, something Zammit believes is especially important during these unprecedented times.
There’s also joke time.
Every live contact must end with joke time.
The kids won’t let their Principal go otherwise.
Parents and guardians are also connecting with Zammit via a live link every Thursday afternoon.
During this time, they can ask questions, air concerns and also get updated about the situation at hand in an adult forum, meaning that topics that might be sensitive to children can be discussed freely.
Zammit said it’s also proven to be invaluable source of communication that has done wonders for keeping the parent/guardian community connected with the staff.
“This session is great for direct information.
“Parents get the latest updates straight from me.
“There’s no Chinese whispers, just concise information about what’s happening within the school,” Zammit said.
Aside from all that, the website also has a myriad of links to other resources that students can utilise in their studies, a flexible learning timetable to help parents and students plan how they’ll get through tasks on a day by day basis, and a dedicated ‘contact a teacher’ portal for direct support when needed.
For their efforts, school staff have been praised by the NSW Department of Education for being a leader in online learning from home support, with the website proving so popular that its even started attracting an international audience.
Zammit said that data from the week of March 23-27 indicated that 65 per cent of engagements on the site came from Australia, but noted that 26 per cent of engagements came from the United States and a further 9 per cent from the UK.
Looking ahead, Zammit said his staff are prepared to weather the COVID-19 pandemic via online learning for as long as necessary.
“We’re refining our approach as we go and won’t be leaving anything to chance when it comes to students’ education.
“We’ll continue to update and deliver new resources to ensure that we are meeting the thorough standards of the National Education Standards Authority and want to assure our community that we’re here for them,” Zammit said.
Hardcopy work packs of all learning materials are also available for those students with limited or no access to the internet and technology, and doors are open for students who cannot be at home.
Zammit said the school was also utilising its social media to stay connected with the community and encouraged parents and guardians to follow the Gorokan Public School Facebook page which is also posting daily updates.
Press release, Mar 30
Sven Wright, NSW Department of Education
Interview, Mar 30
Jesmond Zammit, Gorokan Public School
Reporter: Dilon Luke