Vol. 2, June 2015
In this issue:
3B Smalls Road
Phone: 02 9886 7560
From the Principal’s desk
A very rare event in Sydney this week has been the appearance of the bright lights of Aurora Australis. This natural light display, seen most commonly in NSW in the night skies of the southern half of the state, is caused by the collision of solar winds and electrons in the earth’s magnetic fields. For awe-struck residents of Sydney, it seemed as if Mother Nature was providing her own presentation of Vivid Sydney, the festival which transformed the city into a wonderland of ‘light art’ sculptures earlier this month.
Looking through the many images of Aurora Australis on news sites this week, I was reminded of the inspiration it provided to the reference group charged with the task of selecting the name for this, the state’s first virtual school. Capturing the singular context of the college and echoing our hopes and aspirations for its students, the reference group’s briefing to the Minister for Education stated:
“Aurora suggests the far reaching bands of colourful light on the horizon that look different depending on where you stand, igniting new ways of thinking in the gifted students (stars) in a learning environment which is broad spanning and unique.”
Aurora is also the Latin word for sunrise and the name of the Roman goddess of dawn. Both of these meanings mirror the unique purpose of the college – to ignite new ways of learning, by allowing our students to connect locally and to learn globally.
These ideas have been front and centre in the work the Aurora College State Reference Group is currently undertaking. Following several very productive meetings this term, I will soon be in a position to provide information on how the partnership between Aurora College and our partner schools will work in 2016. I am confident that our efforts this term will be well received by our current and future partner schools and will allow the college to provide the best possible curriculum for our students.
For the 2015 bright lights of Aurora College, today marks the conclusion of their second term of learning with their new school. I would like to congratulate our students on the fine work they have been doing, as evidenced by the very high standard of the Semester 1 reports. I would also like to thank all staff for the conscientious and highly professional way in which they completed the Semester 1 assessment and reporting cycle.
I am pleased to report that great progress has been made this term on the many initiatives I wrote about in the first issue of The Auracle. In particular, our Masterclass and Mentor programs are gaining momentum, and personal learning plans for many of our students are now in operation. The design brief for our 3D virtual playground and learning spaces has been completed and work has commenced on their ‘construction’. I am confident that these will be available to students and staff in the second semester, adding yet another invaluable component to our cutting edge virtual learning environment.
Following the recent meeting of the Selective Schools Panel, the High Performing Students Unit will shortly be making offers of a place at Aurora College to students entering Year 7 in 2016. I would like to thank Mary Whitehouse (mother of Lillia, Year 7) for volunteering her time as your parent representative on the panel. Applications for entry in 2016 for students in:
HSC subjects will commence in Term 4 this year, with the addition of Extension 2 Mathematics, Extension 2 English and History Extension. In 2016, we will also be adding Italian Beginners and Japanese Beginners to our list of Stage 6 Preliminary courses. Information and application forms can be downloaded from our website (http://www.aurora.nsw.edu.au/learn/enrol/).
Finally, I would like to thank the readers who took the time to provide feedback on the first issue of The Auracle. Your very positive comments support my own view that this e-newsletter will become an important means by which we connect the many families and communities that call Aurora College their school.
Have a happy and safe holiday!
Term 2 has been busy for Aurora students as they learn to balance their home school and Aurora workloads. In this issue of The Auracle, I would like to remind you of a number of important roles and procedures.
Aurora College Coordinators
From time to time, students will need some assistance to manage their concerns. The first port of call should be the Aurora College Coordinator in the student’s home school. Their role is to help students with things they may not be able to manage themselves and to contact Aurora College staff if necessary.
The coordinators role is similar to that of a Year Advisor, including the provision of wellbeing and administrative support. They are the onsite ‘face’ of Aurora College. Their role includes:
Student attendance is recorded in each lesson at Aurora. The coordinator or parents/caregivers are required to inform the coordinating office of Aurora College within seven days if the student is sick, or:
The Aurora College coordinating office may be reached by email firstname.lastname@example.org or telephone on 02 9886 7560.
Additional curriculum support
Our Learning and Support Teacher, Sharleen Newcombe, is assisting each of our students in developing a personal learning plan. For students who are experiencing difficulties in keeping up with their home school and Aurora workloads, we are also providing targeted one-on-one support in English, maths and science. If, at any time, a student feels as though they are struggling and would benefit from help in organising their time efficiently, they (or their parents) should contact the coordinating office and speak to myself or the Principal on Ph: 02 9886 7560.
Extensions for assessment tasks
An extension for an assessment task may be granted in exceptional circumstances where students are unable to complete the task by the due date, because of illness or misadventure (eg: accident, unforeseen event). You or your child should request that the Aurora College Coordinator immediately notify the relevant Head Teacher Curriculum at Aurora.
The illness/misadventure form must be completed and signed by the student, parent/guardian and the Aurora College Coordinator. The coordinator will then email a scanned copy of the form to the classroom teacher and relevant Head Teacher Curriculum. The completed form must be forwarded within 2 days of the request for the extension. The Head Teacher will review the application and any supporting documentation before deciding to uphold or decline the application. Each application is assessed independently, so it is important to attach comprehensive evidence.
If a student is absent from class on the day of an ‘in-class’ assessable task, he/she should have a completed illness/misadventure form with them when they return to school and should expect to complete the assessable item on their first day of return to Aurora College lessons.
Leadership Team 2015
The leadership team met again this term on Thursday 18 June to begin the process of forming the Student Representative Council (SRC). The meeting focused on the questions of:
Meeting times are presenting a challenge for the group and we will endeavour to meet at varying times to ensure all students have a chance to attend. The next meeting will occur early in Term 3.
Year 11 reports were issued in Week 5 of this term and Year 7-10 reports were issued in Week 9. Most parents would have received these via email, as well as the Parent Portal in Sentral. Follow-up meetings with teachers this week have given parents the opportunity to discuss their child’s progress in Semester 1. Meetings with parents who were unable to meet teachers at that time will be held in Week 1 of next term.
Tip from a techie
Students, staff and parents have joined me for IT Open Days in Term 1 and Term 2. Given the high rate of attendance, in Term 3 we are going to shake things up a bit by making them a regular item! Instead of one full day each term, there will be regular scheduled periods when the IT Support team will be available for drop-in consultations.
Starting Week 1, Term 3 (14 July 2015), you will be able to connect with the IT Support team at the following times:
To connect, simply log into the Adobe Connect room at: https://connect.schools.nsw.edu.au/aurora-it
Students, staff, parents and coordinators can contact the IT Support team via email AuroraCollegeITSupport@det.nsw.edu.au or by phoning 1300 610 733, during school hours.
Did you know you can use the Sentral Parent Portal to review the information that Aurora College has for your students? You can check contact details, emergency contacts and more. The following video will guide you through the process.
Learning Technologies Support Officer
Connect locally, learn globally
My name is Ayla and I live near the rural town of Kyogle. Kyogle has a population of about 3000 people, and although it is not a well-known town, the district is known for its cattle, dairy farming and nearby national parks. It is a small, friendly community. I can walk down the street and feel entirely safe and I know every second person I see.
Even though I live half an hour out of town, I am still part of the community. Being in a small town means that I know basically everyone my own age, and a large number of adults with different professions, which means that I am exposed to many jobs and occupations. Despite this, I still have barely any idea what I would like to do when I leave school.
I live on a 100 acre, steep bush block with my Mum and Dad, my two brothers Eli and Oliver, and our dog Betty. We are approximately 2 km ‘as the crow flies’ from the Border Ranges National Park. I catch the bus every morning to Kyogle High school, which is roughly a 1 hour bus drive, if we go the long way. Kyogle High School has around 400 students, and Year 7 is the second largest year group, with over 80 kids.
I am really liking being part of Aurora, mostly because of the independence and the challenging work. Being in an Aurora class with other kids that value learning is stimulating and inspirational and is making me strive to keep up.
I do a number of extracurricular activities, including playing the piano and being a member of the Kyogle Scout Group. Many of my weekends are taken up going on scout camps such as Region Rally, where every scout in the region gets the chance to compete in a contest using scout skills such as knots and navigation, and JOTA/JOTI (Jamboree of the Air and Jamboree of the Internet) where scouts use the radio and the internet to connect with other scouts from around the world.
I am looking forward to continuing my Aurora Classes throughout my high school years, while still having a good time with my non-virtual friends at Kyogle High! 🙂
I go to school on the internet
Students in Year 10 are currently studying creative non-fiction writing. Following are two outstanding samples of student work.
I go to school on the internet by Isaac Henby of 10ENG2 (Oberon High School)
“I go to school on the Internet.” – a statement that often gets sideward glances and a couple of giggles from some, or confusion and odd remarks from others. A statement that, in itself, can seem quite difficult to grasp at first, but once explained makes a lot more sense.
The crux of the matter is that my schooling environment is quite unlike what most people would consider a traditional schooling environment. Not only does it not have a physical building as such, where students come to learn, but not all of us attend every lesson due to timetable clashes – something that very rarely, if ever, happens at a ‘proper school’.
The question of how productive such a scenario might be is also brought up quite often. Going to school on the Internet? Are you even going to get anything done? Now this is obviously a large concern, but not really one any more prevalent than a standard school class. If I didn’t want to attend either school, I could simply avoid going to class.
Some people think it’s just an excuse – something I say to get myself out of classes like English and Maths, because it seems like it, in a way. For all that my classmates know, I’m not attending English at all. It’s only when I explain what’s happening that they sort of understand. Mind you, they still prosecute me about being lazy.
The interesting thing about the entire situation is that the idea of attending classes online should not be new to anyone who has access to the internet. The internet is, in itself, a place of learning. Just by being on the internet you are exposing yourself to new information and things you’d never have even dreamed of. And isn’t that the entire point of school? Learning new things, being exposed to things you’ve never heard of? So, in that regard, yes, I do go to school on the internet, but so do you. So does everyone who has ever used the internet. And that’s not something that should be laughed at any day.
I go to school on the internet by Katana Murphy of 10ENG2 (Orange High School)
“I go to school on the internet” – try explaining that one! Eventually telling everyone, “I work all alone in a room,” makes them worry that you are plotting something sinister. Putting this aside, the room I am ‘alone in’ is warm and cozy, even if the black walls are a little depressing. The fluffy cushions make things a little better.
The most amusing part of my day would probably be my efforts to explain to other students why I get to escape to my Hawaiian paradise while they run laps on the slippery slide that is any oval in the Orange district.
“Why do you get to go inside?!” their faces drop. I try to explain, but soon their cheeks turn red with anger and I am already running late for a lesson. Typical.
Life in online schooling isn’t easy, though; I’m constantly explaining to teachers why I am late or why I need to leave early. There are the defensive teachers who stand up tall and bellow at you to sit back down and there are the ones who beg you to stay. The most comical replies, however, are when the teacher doesn’t really know what in the world Aurora is, so they give you a funny look with their head tilted sideways and say, “Oh… Yes, run along darling”, never really sure if you’re actually going to class or planning to hold up a gas station.
The real challenge comes with explaining online schooling to my grandparents and this conversation takes place approximately four times a week. This is about as safe as attempting to scale Everest with a skipping rope. There is a fine line between them understanding and them giving you a lecture about ‘school in their day’, you see.
“I do some classes online,” I start, but by this time their faces are non-responsive and I wonder if one or both of them are choking on a pea again. Please no, I think, I’m no good at the Heimlich. After they finally reply with something along the lines of, “Huh?” I usually feel bad for the headache I have caused them and offer to do anything they want.
At the end of the day, I love online schooling, even if it does involve people asking me several hundred questions each day and thinking I’m a recluse. At least I will always have the element of surprise.
Bright lights of Aurora
Congratulations to the following students:
Alycia Trainor of Year 10 (Coolah Central School) has been accepted into the NSW State Dance Ensemble to perform at the NSW Public Schools State Dance Festival in Term 3, as well as the Schools Spectacular in November. She has also been selected in the Dance Off Troupe who will perform at the Pulse Concert at the Sydney Opera House in August. She ran at North West Cross Country, finishing second, and qualified to compete at the NSW State Cross Country Championships in July.
Samuel Long of Year 8 (Cowra High School) participated in the Combined High Schools Athletic Carnival and was Age Champion (13yrs boys).
Nikita Frazer of Year 11 (Bingara Central School) is currently preparing for an acting role in the local dramatic production of “Lipstick Dreams”. She is also highly organised, being enrolled at Southern Cross College of Distance Education, Dubbo School of Distance Education, Aurora College and Bingara Central School!
We had our first set of masterclasses on Thursday 11 June. These were provided online by Macquarie University via Adobe Connect. Over 70 students heard from experts at the university, delivering engaging presentations about the following:
The science masterclasses were insightful for our science students and even addressed some requirements for the current Year 7 assessment task.
Aurora students were eager to participate and interacted with each other and the presenters. They asked Professor Amanda Barnier a few probing questions, including:
Receiving immediate answers to their questions from people who are experts in their field highlights the benefits of the masterclass program.
Another series of masterclasses was held on Tuesday 16 June on the theme of engineering. Offered to mathematics students, a small number participated in one or more sessions. The most intriguing engineering masterclass was that provided by a previous Formula One engineer, Dr Sammy Diasinos. The statistics, facts, PhD and career path that he presented captured the interest of our students.
The masterclasses were not only a unique opportunity to interact across year groups online, but also to interact with experts in real time, despite the geographical distance between them.
The next masterclass is with teen fiction author Fiona Wood on Thursday 16 July. She will address her novels, character and plot development and the process of writing. Years 7-10 English will be participating and will have opportunities to ask questions and interact with Fiona in sessions specifically designed for Aurora College.
Head Teacher Secondary Studies
During Weeks 5 and 6 of Term 2, Aurora students were given the opportunity to participate in a whole day of science experiments in their home school.
The Science is awesome competition was held at the same time to encourage students to film and/or photograph the experiments they participated in.
We received an excellent array of short films as part of our competition and we would like to announce the winners …
Congratulations to these students. Your prize of an iTunes gift card will arrive soon.
The overall winner of Science is awesome will be judged by all students in an online poll. Watch out for the link!
A few schools also sent us pictures of Science day in action. We love to receive pictures of our students working hard and enjoying their learning, so keep them coming!
Hands on practical work is an important part of the science curriculum. Aurora students engage with a variety of online experiments, simulators and models, and undertake practical tasks that can be completed safely without the supervision of a science teacher. With the State Reference Group, we are working to ensure that in the future, all students will have the opportunity to gain more regular hands on experience in their home schools.
Head Teacher Science
Spotlight on … Ms Sharleen Newcombe
Throughout Term 2, demonstrations about how to access and use the virtual library were scheduled. Staff and students were shown how to use the OLIVER platform and shown how to perform basic, advanced and federated searches.
Information from other providers, such as the State Library of NSW and ABC Splash can also be accessed after conducting a search. A straightforward registration process is required by other providers.
Wheelers is a library within OLIVER where an extensive range of books can be borrowed online. Students have been encouraged to borrow novels and read from this platform.
Each ‘active’ student will be entered into a raffle for an iTunes voucher or book. The raffle will be drawn at the beginning of Term 3. If students have forgotten their username or password, please contact Belinda Doyle via email on Belinda.email@example.com
There are several other online resources that staff and students can access through our digital library. Further mini-presentations are planned for Term 3 to assist students and staff in making the best possible use of this wonderful platform.
Click here to visit the Wheelers site and to see the books that have been added recently.
A message from our technology sponsor, Microsoft
Microsoft is providing Office 365 to every NSW public school student free of charge. With Office 365, your child will now have access to the latest version of Word, for writing; Excel, for spreadsheets; PowerPoint, for presentations; OneNote, for organisation and note taking; and much more.
Instruct your child to follow these simple steps to get Office:
For PC and Mac:
For iOS and Android:
Your child will need their school email account to sign in. If you have trouble installing Office, this guide may resolve your issue: http://aka.ms/office365help.
A message from our technology sponsor, Hewlett-Packard
Hewlett-Packard has developed their NSW Education store for students, parents, staff members and families to purchase devices like the Elite X2 (pictured left) at special prices.
Be sure to check out the store at http://hpshopping.com.au/edunsw
From the engine room
All parents would have received an email this term with an enrolment form for Aurora College attached. Parents would also have received an email with the college’s Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policy, which needs to be signed by parents and students and returned to the Aurora office.
If you have not returned these two items please return to the college via email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or post (3b Smalls Rd, RYDE 2112) as soon as possible.
School Administrative Manager
Holiday travel and road safety
These school holidays, please drive safely. Speed is the biggest killer on NSW roads, causing about 40 per cent of road deaths each year. Speeding is seen to be more socially acceptable than drink driving, even though it claims many more lives on NSW roads.
Roads and Maritime Services has developed a number of resources on road safety. One of their major campaigns this year is the “Don’t Rush” campaign. Since its initial launch in 2010, a large number of people have been motivated to change their driving behaviour, by taking more care in keeping under the speed limit.
For more information, go to the Transport for NSW Centre for Road Safety website: http://roadsafety.transport.nsw.gov.au/
Aurora College; 3b Smalls Road, Ryde, NSW 2112