High school assembly – Wilcannia
Wilcannia Central School used the community access to Facebook to build connections during the COVID-19 lockdown but are now leveraging that engagement to bring assemblies and excursion to the parent community.
Wilcannia Central School is in remote far west New South Wales. It serves 86 students from a predominantly Aboriginal community. Wilcannia is located on the Darling River, and its traditional owners are the Barkindji people. Students range in age from preschool to Year 12.
The school had already been using Facebook to engage with their community. Even before the learning from home period began, the majority of families did not have internet access at home. They did have some access via mobile phone, but this relies on them having credit.
Before COVID-19, community events that the school participated in, including BBQ's down by the river and local footbal games were often live streamed on Facebook by the parents.
All videos, images and live streaming has been produced using only the school owned iPads.
Responding to COVID-19
The school had already been using Facebook to communicate with their community. Even before the learning from home period began, the majority of families did not have internet access at home. They did have some access via mobile phone, which relied on them having credit. As soon as the Premier encouraged students to stay home the school surveyed families to find out what their access options were.
When they were operating in lockdown, the school team decided to use Facebook for community communication. They delivered home packs, created hardcopy resources and activities and provided stationery packs. To support student engagement with learning at home, the school partnered with a local radio station. Every day a teacher went to the radio station to read a story live on air. Video lessons or Zoom were not accessible to their students - the radio broadcast allowed teachers to talk about each day’s tasks so students and parents knew what was expected.
The next step was supporting students communicating back to their teachers, and figuring out how teachers could give feedback on the work being done and encourage student participation. How could they collect the work and motivate others by showing the community what other families are doing?
Gathering evidence of learning
The primary team created a private Facebook group learning page. The whole school site delivered communications about delivering work and food to families, doing cooking challenges, while the private page was where activities were published, including posts about tasks. The team encouraged parents and carers to post videos of students doing the tasks, which encouraged families to interact and connect with each other.
Every school day the primary classes start with a morning circle and they wanted to keep that going. They started running the morning circle live on the private Facebook group so all families could watch. Now that in person classes have resumed, the students lead the morning circle and sometimes run it on Facebook so students who are learning from home can participate.
Long term changes
The use of Facebook to engage community increased the participation rate of parents as well as providing connection for students going to school.
Increased enthuaiasm and engagement by family created a feedback loop for staff who could see the impact their efforts at communication were having. The school now does whole school newsletters and has a constant focus on learning in their public and private Facebook groups. The interactions between school and community has built a sense of pride in the learning of all students.
Their future plans include whole school assemblies. Previously these gatherings included family and community members. The school cannot bring parents in at the moment, but the assemblies can be streamed so that the community can share the experience and celebrate the students.
There are also plans to live stream excursions so that students and parents can see the students working and learning on country. The school has discovered that live streaming is a way to help engage and connect community and allow them to feel proud about their children.
The school has relied on the permission to publish forms completed by parents at the beginning of the year, but this is partly because any Facebook live streaming is only done in private groups with parents. The school will not publish the videos on the whole school page because of privacy concerns, and have limited the number of family members per student allowed to join the private group.
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