Find the department’s latest advice on COVID-19 requirements in our schools throughout NSW.
Anyone who has visited Aurora HQ knows that life in our office is hectic in the best of times. It has been particularly so in the past few weeks, as we have made final preparations to relocate the coordinating office to our new home at the Lindfield Learning Village (LLV) site. Preceding this final flourish of activity has been many years of planning and countless meetings with members of the project team.
During the upcoming school holidays, we will ‘move house’ to LLV, the former University of Technology Sydney campus adjacent to the Lane Cove National Park. Aurora will occupy a building in the north west corner of the site, with our custom-designed space incorporating: teaching studios; open-plan workstations; a conference room; a recording and broadcast studio; reception area; and individual offices. On site at LLV there are a range of other facilities that we hope to use during future residential schools, including an 850 seat lecture theatre.
Lindfield Learning Village is a new comprehensive, co-educational public school for students of all ability levels from Kindergarten to Year 12. The innovative educational model that has been operating at the school since 2019, is designed to create independent, resilient learners with the dispositions required for success, within and beyond school. The Aurora staff look forward to the future collaborations that will undoubtedly follow from having two of the department’s ‘lighthouse’ schools operating from the same site.
I would like to thank Caroline Alford and her staff at Mowbray Public School for being such gracious hosts over the past three and a half years. As is often the case with large scale infrastructure projects, LLV has taken longer than expected to complete, which has meant our ‘tenancy’ at Mowbray has been much longer than was intended. We have all enjoyed being a part of the wonderful Mowbray community, and the Aurora staff wish our colleagues and their students continued success in the future.
Please note: Our telephone number (1300 287 629) and email address (firstname.lastname@example.org) will be unchanged at our new address (100 Eton Road, Lindfield NSW 2070).
Do you know students in your local community who would benefit from an Aurora College education? If so, please pass on the following important information. Application processes for entry in 2022 are well underway. By way of update:
For further enrolment information, please visit https://aurora.nsw.edu.au/our-school/enrolment-information/.
As discussed in the May 2021 edition of The Auracle, Aurora College will host a Stage 6 subject information evening for our current Year 10 students and their parents at 7:00 pm (AEST) on Tuesday 27 July (Term 3, Week 3). At this meeting, our Head Teachers and Senior Executive will tell you everything you need to know about applying for and studying Year 11 and 12 subjects at Aurora College. I strongly advise that our Year 10 students attend with at least one parent, so that you fully understand your Stage 6 options. We will support the application of any current Year 10 student wishing to study one or more Stage 6 subjects with Aurora College. To register your attendance, please click here.
As the term draws to a close, we bid au revoir to a number of our highly valued colleagues.
We are in the process of recruiting and training replacements for our departing colleagues and will introduce the new staff in the next edition of The Auracle.
Finally, we send our congratulations and best wishes to Ben Hillsley and his wife Jane on the birth of their son, Edison. Edison arrived safely on the morning of Monday 21 June 2021. Baby, mother, father and big sister, Parker, are all well, and we look forward to making Eddie’s acquaintance as soon as possible.
Have a safe and enjoyable school holiday break!
Chris Robertson | Principal
As we reach the halfway point of 2021, I would like to take this opportunity to thank all our staff who completed reports and conducted parent interviews. If parents have not seen their child’s Semester 1 report, please contact the coordinating office. Similarly, if parents have missed out on the opportunity to have an interview with your child’s teachers, please feel free to arrange an interview by contacting the coordinating office by phone on 1300 287 629 or email email@example.com
Serena McLean and I were fortunate to be invited to the Principals Network Day for the Barwon and Namoi Networks which was held at Moree Public School on Wednesday 2 June. This was a chance for us to spend time with current and potential partner school principals and share with them the various levels of support that Aurora College can offer to not only the students within their schools but also the staff and parents. Thank you to Jeremy Mills (Director, Educational Leadership Barwon Network) and Kris Pizarro (Director, Educational Leadership Namoi Network) for your hospitality on this day. We are always happy to speak with schools and communities about the excellent opportunities that exist when you partner with us.
This informative session will take place online on Tuesday 27 July 2021 from 7:00 pm to 8:15 pm. At this session we will look at the NSW Department of Education and NESA requirements for students enrolling into Stage 6 and will also allow students and parents to look the wonderful selection of courses that can be studied with us. Click here for further details and to register your interest.
It is an expectation that Aurora College students will behave in a manner that reflects well on Aurora College and their home school, at all times. Below are the core rules that all students in NSW are expected to follow. Aurora College’s School Discipline Code incorporates these core rules.
All students in NSW Government schools are expected to:
Behaviour that infringes on the safety of others, such as harassment, bullying and illegal or anti-social behaviour of any kind, will not be tolerated. Source: Core Rules – Student discipline in NSW Government Schools
When a student enrols with Aurora College, they become a shared enrolment of two schools. It is an expectation that our students will behave in a manner that reflects well on Aurora College and their home school at all times.
As heavy users of the internet and online communication services provided by the NSW Department of Education, all Aurora College students must abide by the Department’s conditions of acceptable usage.
Online Communication Services: Acceptable Usage for School Students lists three key areas of responsibility for students when working in the college’s virtual learning environment. These relate to:
For further information, please visit https://aurora.nsw.edu.au/our-school/enrolment-information/.
Carolyn McMurtrie | Deputy Principal
We loved being an ambassador for our home towns and movie stars in promotional videos this term. Our challenge this term was to create a short film promoting the towns we live in and the school communities we are connected to. As movie stars of our own films, students were also encouraged to enjoy the limelight and opportunity to highlight their families and share about themselves. We also celebrated the traditional custodians and the history of the communities our students are from.
Storyboards, scripts and mind maps were all part of the planning process. Being the film maker, production editor, producer and hair and make up artists can be quite a challenge. Thank you to the many parents, siblings and coordinators who assisted with the many ‘takes’ of these short, and some not so short, films.
Movies were created using WeVideo. Teaching the tools of editing and movie making are skills that we hope to refine and develop throughout the programs. Students will utilise these skills to demonstrate their work, submit assessment tasks and embed in the phases of their design thinking.
Students are currently showcasing their presentations in class. Nominations will be submitted to our Community Liaison Officers (CLOs). The role of CLO at Aurora College is to visit schools and communities to support students and parents. We look forward to our CLOs selecting schools and students to visit after being inspired by these great short films.
Our OC STEM kits are filled with so many items to discover. These materials and devices help us to create prototypes, solve problems, re-design existing solutions and well … just have fun!
Over the last few weeks, students have been busily delving deep into our Micro:bit kits to support our ‘Short Circuit’ unit. These amazing kits are filled with fans, LED lights, light sensors, and speakers, to name a few items. Our students have been coding their Microbits online to talk, play music or display a light show.
Throughout our ‘Short Circuit’ unit, Year 5 labelled diagrams of their circuits. As teams or through independent work, students have demonstrated these circuits using the items from their kits. We love watching the discovery and exploration. We are so proud of our students; particularly of their willingness to learn new things, be challenged and take risks.
These Micro:bits have been used by some of our students to solve design thinking challenges already. As our program continues, we look forward to seeing all our students engage with elements of the Micro:bit kits and more creative coding to solve challenges in the future.
Serena McLean | Assistant Principal
Aurora College kicked off our 2021 HSC Study Day program with sessions in Physics and Economics. This program is a valuable resource for HSC students across the state – we don’t just offer these to our students, but to all NSW Department of Education students, regardless of their school.
Our Physics day saw Chris Bormann (Science Education Unit), Paul Looyens (Macarthur Anglican and Physics High on Youtube) and Professor Tim Bedding (School of Physics, University of Sydney) all sharing their collective passion and wisdom around Physics research and knowledge. There was much discussion around the things students will need to get their heads around, especially as they apply their learning across the course, not just in one area!
Our Economics presenters, Sue Powell (Killara High School), Ross Gittins (Sydney Morning Herald), Richard Nikolovski and Georgina Barone (Georges River College) were dynamic and spoke in expert detail about issues concerning the local, national and global economy, and impacts of external pressure on the effective running of economies.
Don’t miss out! For information on upcoming HSC Study Days, visit https://aurora.nsw.edu.au/programs/hsc-study-days/
Marnie Etheridge | (Rel.) Head Teacher, Teaching and Learning
This term, Year 7 have been learning to write essays through their study of the fantasy genre. Here are a selection of student essays to read:
In Term 2, students have been exploring the Gothic Horror genre through the poetry of Edgar Allan Poe and the fiction of Mary Shelley and Bram Stoker. Students have analysed how composers manipulate language to create characters and develop ideas. In the assessment task, students have applied their knowledge, skills and understanding of the genre to compose analytical essays. A selection of student works are shared here for your reading pleasure:
This term, Year 9 have been studying Aboriginal voices, allowing them an insight into the diverse experiences of Aboriginal people in Australia, in their own words. One text we studied was the spoken word poem Yuya Karrabura, or Fire is Burning.
With Reconciliation Week just gone, this is an appropriate poem for all of us; encouraging us to consider how we can share our stories and, perhaps even more importantly, listen to the stories of those who share our incredible country and have been its custodians for so long.
Year 10 have been studying The Great Gatsby. The Great Gatsby is a 1925 novel by American writer F. Scott Fitzgerald. Set in the Jazz Age on Long Island- New York State, the novel depicts an unreliable narrator Nick Carraway and his observation of and interaction with a mysterious millionaire named Jay Gatsby. At the end of the study they were given the question “Is Gatsby Great?” and wrote essays arguing their case. Enjoy reading a selection of their essays;
Year 12 Advanced English have been studying Shakespeare’s Henry IV, Part 1 for the HSC. As a homework task they had to write and record an elevator pitch. Essentially an elevator pitch is a short 2 minute promotional pitch you would deliver to someone trying to convince them to accept your idea. It comes from the idea that you are stuck in an elevator with the boss and you are trying to sell them your idea – you have until they get to their floor to do that.
The task for Year 12 was to pretend they were in an elevator with an executive of NESA (NSW Education Standards Authority) – they needed to convince them that this play needed to stay on the HSC list. While this might seem like just a fun activity, it works in a number of ways: 1) the students record it over and over until they are happy with it (so therefore remember it) and 2) it becomes the foundation for a line of argument in the exam.
Our students were also given a task to rewrite the play as a drama, set in their own schools. While we would love to publish those (they were masterful and hilarious) I am sure there would be too many identifiable local characters in the stories!
Jowen Hillyer | Head Teacher English, HSIE & Languages
Recently, Harry Bottero was at the Australian National University (ANU), Canberra, collecting data for his Science Extension research project over two consecutive days.
Harry was collaborating with astrophysicists, Dr Stefan Patevich and Domink Koll, in the Nuclear Physics facility at ANU. The team at the Nuclear Physics Mass Accelerator is investigating sample mixture composition of Zirconium 92 and 94 to establish the most stable sample to measure the isotopes.
Harry had the opportunity to enjoy two days of ‘real science’ and discuss his future career aspirations in science. He learnt how science is ‘behind the scenes’ of the mass accelerator and the importance and application of nuclear physics in medical, cosmology and industrial research.
Dr Silvia Rudmann | Science Teacher
Assessment Task 3 for Year 7-10 Mathematics will be due mid next term. Students will receive a notification at least 2 weeks before the due date.
Assessment Task 3 includes a creative component, and will require some preparation and time outside class to complete. The earlier topics can be attempted as soon as the task is received. We encourage students to begin preparation for the task as early as possible, and leave themselves plenty of time to complete all the components of the task to a high standard.
Year 12 are encouraged to continue their preparations for the upcoming trail HSC examinations in weeks 4 and 5 of next term. Students should be preparing by creating summary sheets for each topic, and attempting past HSC papers under timed examination conditions to prepare for the pace and question style of their examination.
Year 7 have just finished studying fractions, decimals and percentages. They are currently working on completing indices until the end of the term.
Year 8 have finished their work on linear relationships, looking at the link between straight lines on graphs and their equations. They are currently studying area and surface area. Their next topic will be numbers of any magnitude, looking at concepts such as scientific notation as a way to express particularly large and small numbers.
Year 9 have finished index laws, an important algebraic component. They are currently working on surds and will be moving into equations as their next topic. Students are encouraged to revise their algebraic and equations skills regularly to build confidence in these foundational topics that are often used as a basis in other topics as their mathematical studies advance.
Year 10 have finished surface area and are currently working on completing equations until the end of the term. Their next topic will be a revision and slight extension on data and its applications, including spreadsheet skills.
Year 11 Mathematics Advanced have finished calculus and are currently studying trigonometry. Their next topic will be statistics.
Year 11 Mathematics Extension have completed combinatorics and are working through further calculus. They will be following this up with further trigonometry.
Year 12 Mathematics Advanced have finished financial mathematics and are currently studying functions. Their next topic will move into trigonometric functions.
Year 12 Mathematics Extension 1 have completed differential equations and are now on further calculus. Their next until will focus on further trigonometry.
Year 12 Mathematics Extension 2 have finished 3D vectors, are currently learning about further integration, and will be moving into simple harmonic motion.
It is often said that from little things, big things grow.
The current Year 12 Software Design and Development students have shown phenomenal growth from when they were in Year 11 and just starting to explore coding. They are now creating full-featured, interactive games with scoring, timers, interactive events and even retro-inspired graphics and sound. They recently completed a major Agile Project with two sprints in which they built games that would make any software development house proud. These games were based on the topics ‘Software Development Cycle’ and ‘Developing a Solution Package’.
Students are now starting option topic 2 ‘The Interrelationship Between Software and Hardware’. Students will develop an understanding of the complexities and intricacies of how computer hardware works, which is essential for STEM careers and their understanding of the computing world.
Helen Spencer | Mathematics Teacher
Students in TBR, our Aurora College Virtual Book Club, have been keen readers this term. As a group, we read a range of books considered to be classics, as well as Jane Doe and the Cradle of all Worlds by Jeremy Lachlan, a Griffith based author. Over the term break we are reading Eragon, book 1 of The Inheritance Cycle by Christopher Paolini. TBR meets every second Thursday at 1:30pm to discuss and recommend (or not) what we’ve been reading to other members of the group and what’s new in our digital library. Students in Years 7-12 are welcome to join in at any time.
SpineOut is an online magazine for students aged 12-17. It is a wealth of information for all book related things. Students are invited to get involved by reviewing books or submitting their own works of poetry, short stories, comic strips etc. to be published in SpineOut. If you think this may appeal to your child, please email me to request a permission note, to allow their works to be published. This is open to students from Years 7 – 12.
To access issues of SpineOut, students need to go to the news page in OLIVER via their student portal. This current issue also features a review from our very own Elizabeth in Year 7!
A very wide range of ebooks and audiobooks took out the honours for the top five in May. Great to see so many students reading – don’t forget students can log the titles for the PRC (Years 5-9) or the Aurora College Reading Challenge (Years 5-12) – both are still open for 2021!
Students are reminded that they can be rewarded with ASTRAs if they submit a book review in OLIVER. If your child is not sure how to do this, they can access OLIVER via their student portal, locate a book they’ve read and click on the “Write a review” link as shown in the image below:
Our digital library supports students and staff at Aurora College. While reading for recreation is strongly encouraged and widely promoted, we also curate aspects of the collection to support teaching and learning. In addition to resources in support of the subjects on offer, we have a strong well-being collection and a rapidly expanding range of materials to support the professional development of our teachers.
Robin William’s character Mr Keating, in the movie ‘Dead Poet’s Society’, has been an inspiration to me as an educator and specifically as a Teacher Librarian. I admire the character’s passion for literature and language, his advocacy regarding words and ideas having the power to change the world, and also his connection with young adults. These fuel my own educational fire, so to speak. But ultimately, it is the following few words that are passionately delivered by Mr Keating, that I hope our students at Aurora College take to heart:
“When you read, don’t just consider what the author thinks, consider what you think.”
Kaylene Taylor | Teacher Librarian
I would like to thank everyone for their patience and understanding as responses to support queries have become increasingly longer in the last six months. As you will remember from last year, we have been without a Technology Support Officer since Sean Will left us in September 2020. Add to that the complicated logistical challenges of moving a school in the middle of the year, and I’m sure you can understand why it’s been hard to answer all emails.
The good news is that this situation should soon get much better. Not only are we in final preparations for the move during this school holiday period, we have also completed our recruitment for a Technology Support Officer. I would like to welcome Tara Burnett to the team, who will commence at the start of next Term. Tara has experience in IT and Events management, and has previously worked in schools on the Central Coast of NSW. I look forward to the contributions Tara will bring to the team.
Ben Hillsley | Learning Technologies Support Officer
I’m Adibah and I live in Ballina, which is a town in the Northern Rivers region of NSW. One of the many opportunities in Ballina is being able to enjoy the stunning beachy views and partake in the fun water activities available. Ballina Shire local produce is excellent, and is well-known for its fresh seafood, sugar cane avocados, tropical fruits and macadamia nuts. Fishing in Ballina is a particularly popular activity; hence ‘The Big Prawn’ being a prominent structure.
There are lots of entertaining places to go to with your mates, for example I play in the Ballina Soccer club with my friends, and I used to play in the tennis courts right next to my school. On weekends, there are fun activities in the Cherry Street Sports Club, and I also like to go tenpin bowling or watch movies at the Ballina Fair Shopping Centre with friends.
In my local school, Ballina Coast High school, there are three other Aurora kids with me, including my brother. The high school is very big and crowded, as it has 700-800 kids approximately and about 150 in my year (9). An interesting thing about where I live is that it’s gone from being a lovely spot for tourism to having a high demand in land, as Ballina’s rural homes and grazing properties had an increase in price with strengthening demand from people from Sydney or other places. It’s starting to get more populated in Ballina, and with it there have been more financial adjustments made through the Shire Council. Nevertheless, Ballina is a very peaceful place to live and visit.
There is a reasonable amount of opportunities I could have when I leave school in my area. However, I’m not entirely sure what I’d like to be when I’m older. I chose Aurora so that I could learn and excel into further studies so when I leave and go to university, I could have more options. Yet, one of the best things about being part of Aurora is interacting and learning with other people. Making friends, with people who are just like me. I feel like I have reshaped my identity since I started with Aurora, as I am more comfortable being myself than I could at home. The experience has been quite a roller-coaster for me so far, but nonetheless fantastic, and I’m so glad I did it. Everyone is so kind and amazing, and I’m very happy with where I am now.
Adibah (Year 9, Ballina Coast High School)
Dinara Jayarathna (Year 11, Taree High school) attended the Public Education Foundation Award ceremony in Sydney, to receive her Connected Communities scholarship. Dinara is also a Rural Youth Ambassador.
Kate Ibbott (Year 9, Coonamble High School) received a Harding Miller Foundation Scholarship. This scholarship supports high potential and socio-economically disadvantaged girls across Australia.
Jackson Worley (Year 12, Quirindi High School) received a music scholarship for Indigenous students, presented in Canberra.
Scarlett Bull (Year 5, Crescent Head Public School) represented her home school in Dance Festival performances.
Anneliese Rothe (Year 8, Young High School) and Marianna Smith (Year 8, Tumut High School) attended Riverina Bandlink over two days. Both students were focused on their playing skills during the workshop program.
Vincent Ward (Year 11, Young High School) attended music camp in Sydney.
Luella Robinson (Year 8, Melville High School) attended the State Junior Music Camp
Anthony Bethe and Marianna Smith (Year 8, Murrumbidgee Regional High School) attended the State Junior Music Camp.
Emily Pearce (Year 10), Finley Sales (Year 9), and Lily Thomason (Year 7) are all involved in the production of Shrek the Musical at Leeton High School.
Laura Weppler (Year 10), Heath Bethe (Year 10), and former students Ella Rowley and Callum Weppler were all involved in a production of Cinderella. Laura shares the following:
At the start of June, my school (Murrumbidgee Regional High School) performed Roger and Hammerstein’s musical Cinderella for the community. I had the role of Cloth Merchant in Cinderella’s village and promised “My best brocade in every shade to the palace for the ball”. I got to wear a microphone for that line! Fellow Aurora student, Heath, was in the ‘Fancy Folk’ ensemble who attended the ball and did a fantastic job of dancing with all the maidens. Two former Aurora students (now in Year 12) also took part, with Ella starring as the Stepmother and Callum working the projections. Everyone – cast, crew and audience – had a blast and made it a fantastic experience.
Heath Bethe will also participate in Work Experience in Week 2 next term on a production of ‘Wicked’ with the Packemin Theatre Company at the Riverside Theatre, Parramatta.
Amelie McPhee (Year 5, Eureka Public School) attended the final part of the Byron Bay Writers Festival, brainstorming ideas for an English extension program in her home school.
Cameron Gordon (Year 5, Thurgoona Public School) was a finalist in his regional public speaking competition.
Evie Snowden (Year 5, Bowral Public School) was a finalist in the public speaking competition.
Flynn Bunn (Year 5, Griffith East Public School) was a finalist in the public speaking competition.
Fyn Harrison (Year 8, Toormina High School) – Buckley Shield
Boyd Hutchens (Year 5, Parkes Public School) – State Championships
Fyn Harrison (Year 8, Toormina High School) – State Championships
Skye Adams (Year 7, Monaro High School) – high performance basketball camp
If your child has a passion outside of our virtual classrooms, please feel free to email us a few words and an image. It is always lovely to celebrate what our students are up to in their local communities! Please email: firstname.lastname@example.org, marked: attention The Auracle.
I work from Great Lakes College Tuncurry campus. It’s on the mid north coast on Worimi country and “Tuncurry” means ‘plenty of fish’. There certainly are- my host school is 5 minutes drive from spectacular coast line. Sometimes I work from the Aurora College site and sometimes I work from the Department of Education building in Parramatta.
My local community is a mix of surfers, farmers and artisans. If you came here at the weekend you would see lots of swimming, boating, markets and outdoor eating. Even in winter it seldom drops below 20 degrees. Forster/Tuncurry is like stepping back in time- it is a holiday place straight out of the 1980s. I live at Black Head Beach- a small coastal village. To get chain store takeaway we would need to drive 20 minutes minimum.
I am trained to teach English and HSIE (with a few years of teaching junior French too!). I love teaching creative writing the best but really love ancient history too.
I love the sense of community at Aurora. I enjoy getting to know all my diverse students and the places they live and work. I could go from discussing deep ideas with Year 11 to sharing photos of newborn animals on a farm. I am so happy to watch students from all across NSW engage in their learning and to make deep and lasting connections.
I have 3 sons, a husband and the fattest border collie you have ever seen (she’s short- it’s not her fault and I definitely did not give her too many treats). I am not very sports minded but I really love reading and writing. I write short stories and poetry and will soon be brave enough to enter them in competitions. I write academic articles for fun and I present at lots of conferences. My biggest achievement in that field was when I presented in Venice, Italy in 2009. I used to be a lecturer at Sydney University and still work in academic endeavours.
I am decent home cook but not a masterchef- I love making fun cakes but once made a shark that looked more like an orthodontically challenged dolphin!
I studied Communications (journalism) at university and before I was a teacher I worked in the media. I did an extra degree to become a teacher and eventually began a doctorate in education. This year is my 25th year as a teacher (and 18 of those as a Head Teacher)
My day usually begins quite early- teaching seniors at 8am. Then I answer all my emails (well I try to), have some meetings and teach some more. I like to spend some time researching fun ways to teach my classes!
Here I am teaching from a borrowed office for the day – because my REAL desk is too messy to show!
A reminder the Aurora P&C will meet (via Zoom) at 7:00 pm (AEST) on Wednesday 11 August and 3 November 2021. The meeting on 11 August is an important meeting – the Annual General Meeting of the Aurora P&C. Elections will be held, followed by an ordinary General Meeting, the first for new office-holders.
Zoom invitations and the meeting agenda will be sent to the school community by email in the week before each meeting. We look forward to you joining us online. All parents and community citizens are welcome to join the Aurora College P&C. New members are always welcome and all members are highly valued for their input. For all enquiries related to the Aurora P&C, please email email@example.com
For anyone interested in joining the Aurora P&C, the NSW P&C Federation is pleased to announce our new Learning Hub for members! The Learning Hub is an online platform developed to provide Office Bearers with online training courses, specifically designed to meet the training and professional development needs of P&C Associations. Courses can be completed anytime and at your own pace. These courses are complemented by a range of other resources – downloadable documents, video clips and video webinar recordings.
Topics covered include:
The Learning Hub is available to Office Bearers of P&C Association members and can be accessed through the Member Portal: https://membersportal.pandc.org.au/PandCMember
If you don’t have access to the Member Portal, please contact P&C Federation at firstname.lastname@example.org. Alternatively, you may use your affiliate email to gain access to the portal. You can do this by going to the portal (above link) and clicking on ‘Forgot Password?’. Enter your affiliate email and follow the prompts.
Narelle Myers | Secretary
Ask any student and they will tell you they can multi-task with ease. Do homework, watch TV, listen to music and check their phone all at the same time, no problem. Ask the academic researchers though and a different story emerges.
Dr Larry Rosen, Professor of Psychology at California State University, explains that what is actually occurring in this ‘multi-tasking’ is ‘task switching’. Instead of doing two things at once, students are actually switching their focus from one task to another and back again, in a parallel fashion, at high speed, resulting in them staying on task for an average of only 65% of the time period and for a maximum of only 3-5 minutes at a time. Constant task-switching results in it taking much longer to complete the individual tasks, not just due to the interruptions, but also because there are delays as the brain switches between tasks and refocuses. This brief bottleneck in the prefrontal cortex delays the start of the next task and the more intense the distraction, the longer it will take the brain to react.
A study conducted by Dr Rosen’s team sent varying numbers of text messages to students in a lecture then tested the students on the content of the lecture. The results were surprising, it was not the number of interruptions that negatively impacted results, it was the time taken by the students to react to the interruptions. Students who responded immediately performed worst on the tests. Those who considered when to check the message and respond (ie in a part of a lecture they deemed less relevant) performed significantly better.
What we can learn from this is that students need to become more aware of their ‘task-switching’ and make conscious decisions as to when they choose to shift their focus – instead of being enslaved by their technology and at its constant beck and call. We need to teach students that this constant mental task shifting (even thinking about the technology has the same effect as actually checking the technology) takes oxygen and brain activity away from what they are learning. We need to convince our students that it is ok and even necessary to wait, that they don’t have to respond immediately and do have the ability to delay their check-in with the cyber world. It is all about learning that we can control our selective attention and choose to ignore distractions.
We need to train the brain to stop thinking constantly about technology. However, resistance for too long can create anxiety and a fear of missing out, creating ‘continuous partial attention’ in students as oxygen is diverted to activate and maintain thoughts about social media at the expense of classroom material.
Dr Rosen’s team has determined the best approach for students who find it difficult to pull back from their technology devices is to set an alarm on their phone for short regular ‘tech breaks’. They may start with 15 minutes and gradually increase this amount over time to around 30 minutes. The phone will be face down on their desk on silent mode or off, and when the alarm rings they let themselves check messages and status updates for a minute or two, then set the alarm again. Dr Rosen’s studies found that knowing they can check in 15 minutes creates less anxiety, whereas depriving them of the phone completely did not stop them thinking or obsessing about possible e-communications which took away from their ability to focus fully on their homework. It all comes back to teaching the concept of focus.
Finally, Dr Rosen argues that we cannot simply remove technology and other distractions; they are too intricately woven into students’ daily lives. Instead, students should learn metacognitive skills to help them understand when and how to switch their attention between multiple tasks or technologies.
Visit the Dealing with Distractions unit at www.studyskillshandbook.com.au to learn more about managing your distractions and tools and Apps that can help.
Learn more this year about how to improve your results and be more efficient and effective with your schoolwork by working through the units on www.studyskillshandbook.com.au – our school’s access details are on the student learning support site.
Lucy Jellema | Learning and Support Teacher
We are so excited to be moving to our permanent home, finally, after 6 years in operation. We will take up residence at 100 Eton Road, Lindfield NSW 2070 from the commencement of Term 3, 2021 (12 July). Our telephone number, 1300 287 629, and email address, email@example.com will remain unchanged.
The new site is equipped with 13 teaching studios, a conference room, a recording studio, a front reception area and designated office spaces. We thank Mowbray Public School for allowing us to use their space for the past 3 and a half years. We hope we were good neighbours.
We wish all our families and students a relaxing break and look forward to continuing to serve you at our new home.
Denise Deaves | School Administrative Manager
We would like to pay our respects and acknowledge the traditional custodians of the land and also pay respect to Elders both past and present.