Students with disability across Western Australia are benefiting from a unique partnership between Catholic Education Western Australia and the Department of Education.
The Virtual Classroom Partnerships for Students with Sensory Loss in Regional, Rural and Remote Locations pilot program is using award-winning technology developed by CEWA to improve the level of support for students and teachers, which has been previously restricted by location.
The initiative accesses principles and learning from CEWA’s Virtual School Network which recently won the world’s most prestigious distance learning award for innovation.
In WA, the DoE School of Special Educational Needs: Sensory provides educational support for children with a hearing loss and/or vision impairment in both public and non-government schools.
Based at the Statewide Services Centre in Padbury SSEN: S Visiting Teachers provide in-situ support to students in regional, rural and remote locations where possible, with further support via web conferencing.
CEWA Virtual Programs Manager Meredith Roe is training two Visiting Teachers to support students virtually using CEWA’s LEADing Lights digital platform and ViSN principles.
Already trained to help students build skills, understand their disability and engage in the classroom, the virtual initiative is enabling the teachers to spend more time supporting students.
“This initiative is a great animation of the LEADing Lights project and what is possible thanks to virtual learning technologies,” Ms Roe said.
The Visiting Teachers use Microsoft applications including TEAMS, One Note, FlipGrid and Forms to engage with students and support them in their classrooms despite sometimes being thousands of kilometres away.
Ms Roe said feedback had been very positive from the five students and their teachers in Broome, Goomalling, Geraldton, Dalwallinu and Cue who are participating in the trial which will run for the 2019 school year.
“The students enjoy the creative thinking involved with using tools to engage and interact with the teachers, and the teachers are really excited about the program’s potential,” she said.
The program is centred around four core values of collaboration, communication, connection and community to ultimately enhance student learning, inclusion, wellbeing, and social and emotional health.
“Working together both CEWA and the Department of Education are sharing knowledge and skill development for the benefit of students,” Ms Roe said.