Remote radio change on way

26 Mar, 2003 10:00 PM
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THE School of the Air's high frequency (HF) radios that have provided the interface between teachers and remote students for 43 years will soon be relegated to museum shelves.

This was revealed at last week's Isolated Chldren's Parent's Association annula conference in Perth.

It was claimed at the conference that the radios' old valve technology was to be replaced by a revolutionary two-way satellite system due to be rolled out to more than 500 WA homes in remote areas next school term.

While the two-way video streaming facility will be left out of the project initially, the system will ultimately allow 'live' interaction between students and teachers.

The new satellite system which was was trialled in Kalgoorlie late last year will get around the limitations of the HF radio where reception depended on cloud cover and students could not hear one another speak or sing!

"It has taken a long time to get it right, but the two-way satellite system will feature a raft of tools that will allow teachers, home tutors and students access to the best learning opportunites," said Steve Salamon, manager of the education technology unit with Schools of Isolated and Distance Education (SIDE).

Improved voice quality, high speed data transfer, an interactive white board facility which allows graphics to be inserted and 24 hour internet access are part of the package that Optus has built specifically for the project.

Mr Salamon assured delegates at last week's Isolated Children's Parents Association (ICPA) conference that the new two-way satellite system would incorporate training to smooth the transition.

"Professional development for all those involved - students, home tutors and teachers - is vital," he said.

The initial trial last year at Kalgoorlie has resulted in subsequent upgrades to the system including an increase in bandwidth (capacity for data transfer).

The new satellite technology will reduce the reliance on print based learning material and create many new opportunities for electronic learning (e-learning).

Paul Albert, director general of the Department of Education and Training said the recent amalgamation of these two departments would allow the combining of technology and curriculum planning resources from each department.

"Costs associated with e-learning are high because it requires high levels of expertise to develop first class material," he said.

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