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Hi Skwirkers!

This Saturday 2nd of July, the members of the 45th Parliament of Australia will be decided by national population vote. Today Skwirk Explores ACHCK023 in Stage 3 to help develop students’ understanding of voting, elections and Federal Government structures allowing them to better interact and process media and discussions occurring around them during this time. Let us know some of the ways you have addressed the upcoming Federal Election as a topic in your classroom!

Introduction

Voting is the process whereby the people choose someone to represent them in government. A person’s vote is their choice of an elected representative.

Who can vote

All Australians over the age of 18 must vote in elections.

To be allowed to vote you must enrol as a voter. You can enrol if you are

  • 17 years old; and
  • an Australian citizen.

It is compulsory to enrol when you are 18 years old.

The system was not always like this, as there were times when both women and Aboriginal people were not allowed to vote. Different States allowed women and Aboriginal people the right to vote in different years. Generally women were allowed to vote by 1908 and Aboriginal people were only allowed to vote in all States by 1967.

When and where do you vote?

Elections are held on a Saturday and people vote at their nearest polling place. Often these polling places are in local schools or community halls. People are placed in electoral divisions and generally must vote at a polling place within that division.

For people who cannot vote because they are away or out of their local area there are special procedures. These include:

  • People who are away from their electoral division but in the same State can still vote by casting an absentee vote. This means that they can vote in another electorate.
  • People who are overseas or who are seriously ill and are unable to go to a polling booth can vote by post, or cast a vote before the voting day.

Voting day

Election day is always on a Saturday. Polling places open at 8.00 am and close at 6.00 pm.

At the polling places there are different people who play an important role in the voting process. The three main types of people at the polling places are:

  1. Party Workers (for example Labor Party or Liberal Party volunteers) standing outside polling places handing out how-to-vote cards. The cards show voters how particular candidates would like the voters to fill in their ballot papers.

  2. Polling Officials are employed and trained by the Australian Electoral Commission and make sure that the voting is carried out correctly. They are required to ask voters three questions:
    What is your full name? What is your address? Have you voted before in this election?

    The official checks the voter’s enrolment on the certified roll and gives the voter a ballot paper to vote with. The voter then goes alone into the voting booth to vote in secret. The voter then puts the completed ballot papers into the sealed ballot boxes.
  3. Scrutineers represent the candidates. They are allowed to go to the polling place to observe but cannot influence any voter. The most important task of the scrutineers is to watch the count and make sure that only formal votes are counted and that they are counted properly.

Secret ballot

A secret ballot means that when a voter casts a ballot no name appears on the voting paper. Although the name of the voter is checked of by an official before voting, no one knows who a person voted for. This is an important part of the democratic system because it means no one can be forced or pressured into voting for a particular candidate. Secret ballots help to eliminate corruption in the voting process.

Voting systems

The voting systems for the two houses of parliament (the Senate and the House of Representatives) are different. Voters are given two separate ballot papers (voting slips) for each house. (Refer Chapter 3: Voting Systems).

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Current Skwirk subscribers can access all our content on this chapter here including a voting-themed interactive game and six “Prove It” exercises to demonstrate your student’s knowledge on voting! Not a Skwirk subscriber? You can access this content and more through a free trial of Skwirk to use these resources in your classroom during the election period.

Happy Skwirking!

Are you confused by the NAPLAN test and its purpose, how to assist students in getting through without undue anxiety, or are you hunting for information on student preparation and resources? This time of year we get a lot of questions from teachers, parents and even students so we thought we would put together a quick guide to prepare you in the lead up to the 2016 NAPLAN.

You may have already entered the labyrinthine NAPLAN website, only to become completely disoriented and emerge much later feeling frustrated, dazed, and none the wiser. There really is so much helpful information there, but sifting through it can be very time-consuming and ultimately, somewhat overwhelming. NAPLAN, though, is here to stay for the foreseeable future, so we might as well become familiar with it, like it or not, for the sake of our students. Hopefully, this will help to clarify a few significant details for you, including whether or not NAPLAN tests can, or should, be studied for.

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What is NAPLAN?

The National Assessment Program – Literacy and Numeracy (NAPLAN)

Every May since 2008, around a million school students in years three, five, seven and nine, have gathered their collective nerve and poured into exam rooms across Australia to sit our biggest standardised test of literacy and numeracy – NAPLAN. The tests are divided into Reading, Writing, Language Conventions and Numeracy.

Put simply, this test measures what students have been learning already in school. There is no pass or fail grade, but given the subject matter is very broad many students worry about meeting the challenge when they have no idea what to expect or how to prepare for the tests. There is no actual course of study for it and according to the NAPLAN website, there is no benefit to be gained by trying to study for it by drills or too much targeted practice, because of the purpose of the test.

What NAPLAN Is For and How Results Can Be Used

In a nutshell, the test is designed to identify strengths and weaknesses in students’ abilities, so that parents and teachers can respond individually and the government can act on any apparent problem areas, by addressing them in the curriculum. The marking criteria are available on the NAPLAN website so you can see what features are under scrutiny, if you have a bent for grammar, literacy and maths.

Schools and teachers may get a clearer indication of the effectiveness of their teaching strategies and make whatever adjustments they deem necessary to lesson content and methods to improve students’ learning opportunities and outcomes. That means, scrutinising which errors were made by a particular student, then working on areas of weakness, as well as locating strengths and extending them to a higher level. Individual student’s scores are ranked nationally, so teachers, students and their carers, are free to compare their placing with those of others.

Are test results connected to in-school assessments and grading?

NAPLAN results do not impact upon your students’ school grades or class placement. Individual schools conduct their own assessments for those and NAPLAN is completely unrelated.

What’s Included:

For the Writing component, students will be given the same ‘writing stimulus’ from which to complete their task, and to date, they have always been directed to write one of two text-types, either a Narrative or a Persuasive text. These forms might sound daunting, but children use them all the time. ‘Narrative’ simply means ‘story’, and what child hasn’t used persuasive language when engaging in pester power, or listening to a politician or radio advertisement.

These two genres (Narrative and Persuasive writing) are selected because they are the most suitable for showing what skills and ability a student has and they are deemed essential for successful communication at a higher level, thus improving the students’ opportunities in life.

It’s important to give your students ample learning opportunities for both of these different text-types in order that they can be familiar with the standard format and conventions required for satisfying the task requirements.

The numeracy component assesses problem-solving ability and reasoning across three key learning areas: numbers and algebra; statistics and probability and measurement and geometry.

Preparing for NAPLAN

Students do not need to study for the test but ideally they should be prepared for it. That means, engaging in everyday practice in the areas that will be tested, (literacy and numeracy), and becoming familiar with the test format. The knowledge being tested is developed over time, so it’s simply impossible to ‘cram’ for a NAPLAN test. Completing practice tests beforehand makes it easier for students to go in with an understanding of the format and the kinds of tasks they will be asked to do. Most schools now offer students a practice test, (usually just the test from the previous year) within the fortnight prior to testing.

You could buy expensive sample practice-test packages online and books full of NAPLAN study tasks, but the highest advantage is most likely gained by focusing on everyday curriculum requirements and using the free test samples available on the NAPLAN website via the following link:

According to the education specialists who manage NAPLAN, the best way you can assist your child to prepare for the test is to support them well in gaining and increasing their literacy and numeracy skills. The links included above and those below, are for Australian websites that aim to do just that:

Another valuable resource is the online learning platform, Skwirk, which is used in homes and schools. Skwirk offers an enormous opportunity for students supporting literacy and numeracy across the board, while catering to different student’s individual learning styles. Although it does not specifically target NAPLAN, the underlying learning principles are the same as those sought in the testing and students are able to easily access engaging content across all areas of the NAPLAN testing components.

What is the worst thing that can happen if a student fares poorly in a NAPLAN test?

Some significant areas of difficulty have been pinpointed, enabling parents and educators to assist them towards clarification, understanding and move towards a fully functional use of those areas. And remember, the test scores don’t only indicate what a child can’t do, but show us what they have mastered, and provide records of their ongoing progress.

Felicity Wright has taught High School English and English Language for fourteen years, during which, she worked extensively on the range of state and national skills tests including NAPLAN. Now, Felicity works as a freelance writer.

Currently teachers, parents and home educators can subscribe to Skwirk using the discount code NAPLAN for a 20% discount off all individual subscriptions. Offer ends 12th May.

Online learning services like Skwirk are revolutionising the world of home education, making it easier and more effective to conduct than ever before.

The number of children learning at home in New South Wales alone has risen by 65% in the past four years (http://www.smh.com.au/national/education/home-schooling-up-65-in-four-years-20130907-2tcj8.html), and at Skwirk, we’re seeing more and more parents sign up for our online interactive portal every day.

Skwirk brings Australia’s curriculum to the home

The big reason why more and more home educators are turning to Skwirk in Australia is because our online content directly reflects the Australian teaching curriculum.

A big challenge in the past for parents educating their children at home was to provide textbooks, tests and content that was in keeping with what was being taught in the regular school system.

If they failed to do that, their children could have been at a disadvantage, negating any positive outcomes of bringing the classroom into the home.

The rise of the internet and online education portals like Skwirk means that it’s now easier than ever to access high quality teaching materials that allows parents to perfectly replicate what’s being taught in school in their own home.

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Home education can be effective

Another major reason more and more home educators are turning to Skwirk in Australia is that home schooling is well and truly a viable alternative to regular schooling.

Through home education, parents can tailor their child’s education to their abilities and interests and provide a more focused learning environment than what can be found in the regular school system.

And by using Skwirk’s online education portal and its wide range of lessons and teaching aids, parents and their pupils have everything they need for effective learning at their fingertips.

Skwirk’s cost effective education

Sending your children to school can be one of the most expensive things you ever undertake, with some places of education charging tens of thousands of dollars a year. And that figure excludes the cost of uniforms, books and extra curricular activities.

If you can educate your child at home to the same level of quality as a regular school for a fraction of the price, then it’s a no brainer.

Skwirk is offering home education subscriptions for just $200 a year, giving you access to most major subjects taught in the Australian curriculum as well as teacher tools, student assigning, tracking and reporting.

It’s a complete package that puts the power of education in the hands of both parents and children.

Skwirk is the answer for home education

At Skwirk we think the growing trend towards home education is very exciting. Our mission is to provide the highest quality teaching materials and teaching aids through our online portal, and knowing that our content is being used in homes, as well as schools, makes us proud.

Home education can be very effective and Skwirk can help bring the Australian curriculum to a tailor-made learning environment.

For a free trial subscription to our service, just click this link 

Watch the home educator video tour below:

There is no one-size-fits-all teaching method that will help every child in a class to learn. Instead, each person tends to respond in a unique way to different stimuli. Different learning styles require different teaching methods, and Skwirk can make it possible to tailor information to suit the many minds housed together in the same classroom.

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In order to help students improve their grades, the eLearning database of Skwirk is designed to cater to an array of different learning styles. Some students will respond best to colourful animations, videos and visual stimulus, others will respond to aural learning – listening to the information presented. Others still will be able to retain information if they experience it via a demonstration or by doing it themselves. Many will respond to a combination of these techniques – every class and every child is unique.

Because each student will have their own individual style of learning, it can be a challenging task for a teacher to create lesson plans with so many personalities in the room. It’s no easy feat to make classes and assessments for students that will be helpful to everyone, especially if some students simply cannot fit within that particular learning framework. What works for most may exclude some from the process of learning. This means that without an inclusive lesson plan, teachers can run the risk of leaving some students behind.

Not only is the aforementioned situation upsetting, but the fact that a myriad of learning styles can exist in the same room makes it hard to assess students’ progress on their report cards. How can teachers mark educational progress fairly? Some teachers know that their students are intelligent and have engaged with their learning material, however this may not be reflected in their marks. Why does this happen? It can be because the testing format is not one in which the child can communicate what they know. 

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Skwirk Online Education is an invaluable resource to solve this problem within classrooms. Now there is a way to create a fairer method of assessing what students have learnt. This is because everyone can have the chance to fully comprehend their classes, and be tested in a way that allows their learning style to flourish. By using Skwirk, it is possible to assign tasks that teach the same information in line with the Australian curriculum, but in different ways to suit different learning styles. Teachers are able to assign individual students or groups of students their own activities, assessments and tasks. This is how Skwirk has been helping students improve their grades for years.

Although it is true that some students require a certain style of learning in order to retain information, it is also true that a blend of teaching approaches give kids a better change of learning as well. This is yet another advantage of this online education system. Revising the same information is made invigorating when kids are able to do so via varied and interactive methods.

Education has come a long way since children got in trouble for not being able to memorise their textbooks. Help your students get the best start and tackle learning from a new angle.  

Skwirk is offering all individual teachers 30% off a Skwirk subscription until the end of December. Simply use the discount code eLearning when subscribing. Click this link to get started.

Australia’s economic health is often linked to China’s appetite for its minerals – but a new kind of resources boom could be set to make its mark with online education as the next big product.

China’s education sector is the largest in the world with over nine million students taking the National Higher Education Entrance Examination in 2015. It accounts for over 4% of the nation’s GDP and is seeing record amounts of overseas investment.

And now, e-learning is rapidly emerging as one of Australia’s biggest exports to China, highlighted by the recent trade trip of 10 education technology companies to Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Shanghai and Beijing in August.

“It is estimated by 2017, the value of China’s online education market will reach A$36 billion so there is enormous benefit to NSW in exchanging knowledge and ideas with China in this sector,” said Minister for Trade, Tourism and Major Events, Stuart Ayres, who led the program that was a joint initiative between Austrade and NSW Education.

The companies met a range of potential local partners to discuss distributing Australian e-learning products across China’s vast and valuable education system. This could lead to the creation of a big new market for Australian business in China beyond the usual commodities and agriculture.

This opportunity is already paying off for Australian education technology company Skwirk, which was selected to take part in the trade trip and is now set to expand its e-learning network to China. Skwirk is an online interactive learning portal for primary and secondary school students. The portal is accessed in over 1400 schools in countries across the world including Australia, Malaysia and Hong Kong.

Skwirk is now adding China’s e-learning sector to that growing list, already hiring a company representative and conducting ongoing discussions with potential business partners.

CEO David Weston said China’s vast appetite for Australian educational products is an impressive opportunity.

“This was a hugely beneficial trip for us at Skwirk. We knew there would be possibilities in China, but we did not predict the amount of interest we have received.

“We have now been back to continue conversations with multiple companies and investors, and employed our first China based representative. This would not have been possible without the help of Austrade and Stuart Ayres.”

The recent e-learning trade trip could be the start of something big for Australia’s economy, and Skwirk is now ideally positioned to take full advantage of China’s big appetite for Aussie e-learning.

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Photo (L-R): Skwirk CEO, David Weston, NSW Minister for Trade, Tourism and Major Events, Stuart Ayres and Skwirk Chairman, Rod Salmon.

In the last ten years Skwirk has evolved again and again to best support the latest teaching methods and the integration of new technologies into the classroom. Now Skwirk is being utilised in over 1400 Schools, by more than 19,000 Teachers and 200,000 students in Australia and we’re growing with new Skwirkers joining from all around the world, including New Zealand, Malaysia, Hong Kong and the UK.

To celebrate we’re giving away 10 XO Tablets, click here to enter our Birthday Competition!

The Early Years

Skwirk was founded in 2005 by company Chairman Rod Salmon. As an entrepreneur and a father, he was frustrated by the lack of high-quality, Australian resources for his children to use as part of their school projects and assignments. The original concept was to create a safe online destination and learning environment for students to use, however after positive feedback from schools and teachers, Skwirk was taken into the classroom, and we have not looked back!

Ten years ago now, schools were installing computer labs and began to bring laptops into the classroom. These were the early years of Skwirk and we want to say a special thank you to all of the schools, teachers and students who have been with us since the beginning and for enthusiastically embracing our resources, your support has helped us become the Skwirk of today!

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(L-R) Skwirk CEO, David Weston, NSW Minister for Trade, Tourism and Major Events, Stuart Ayres and Skwirk Chairman, Rod Salmon

Engaging Students, Enhancing Learning

Taking on-board important feedback from teachers, more options to customise learning for individual students was an important step forward.  

Five years ago, many schools began to use Interactive Whiteboards and teachers were given the ability to customise Skwirk content to personalise their own lesson plans. Suddenly, lessons became media rich experiences incorporating interactive exercises, animations and video content! The feedback from Teachers was overwhelming as they expressed how delighted they were that their students were more engaged, retained more information and had fun in the process!

One of the biggest benefits of bringing Skwirk into the classroom as reported by teachers was that it easily caters to a range of different learning styles, with something to suit every student.

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New Curriculum Aligned Content, Every Week

Week by week Skwirk continues to grow with new texts, interactive activities, animations, videos, games, worksheets, images and podcasts being added all the time! Today Skwirk has over 18,000 resources covering Maths, English, Science, Geography, History and Commerce.

To better use all these wonderful resources tools were developed for teachers to bookmark and highlight sections and a helpful calendar function to assign content so that it is ready to access in class. The feature that made teachers’ lives even easier was the simple Curriculum Code search, displaying all relevant content in just a few seconds. Because all of Skwirk’s resources are aligned to the Australian Curriculum (did you know that you can also search by NSW Curriculum Codes too?), everything on Skwirk integrates into the classroom with ease to enhance lessons from Foundation all the way through to year 10.

Reporting and assessment tools at the end of a topic also help teachers to monitor the progress of individual students. These reports help to inform future teaching and learning so that the appropriate information is assigned to a student to meet their learning needs.

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The Skwirk Team together at a recent training conference

The Future of Skwirk

In the last few years many Schools have introduced individual devices for each student and with the endorsement and ongoing implementation of the Australian Curriculum, Skwirk has evolved again! Since introducing our Home Educator subscription less than a year ago we’ve had nearly 500 families subscribe (watch this space for an exciting announcement regarding our 500th Home Educating family very soon!). We’ve come a long way since those early days back in 2005!

Skwirk’s CEO, David Weston reflects on reaching this milestone –

“I think it is important to remember why we are here. Throughout the changes in technology and the evolving of our resources, Skwirk’s mission has always been to make teachers’ lives easier and support different learning styles. I feel very proud when I think about the thousands of students whose skills and knowledge were improved by our content.

I look forward to future developments in the Education sector and how Skwirk will continue to evolve with these processes.”

Thank you for Skwirking with us and sharing the journey so far – here’s to the next ten years!

We’ve just uploaded some great new animations to Skwirk! Check them all out below, you can click on the image to view the video… please remember you’ll need to be logged in to your Skwirk account to view them!

How does the animal move?

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Created for: Foundation year Physical sciences and Year 1 Biological sciences
Aligned to: ACSSU005 and ACSSU017

 

I like the way you move!

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Created for: Year 1 Biological sciences
Aligned to: ACSSU017

 

Water way to make a living

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Created for: Year 1 Biological sciences
Aligned to: ACSSU017

 

Heating and cooling different substances

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Created for: Year 5 Chemical Sciences
Aligned to: ACSSU077

 

What are chemicals?

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Created for: Year 6 Chemical Sciences
Aligned to: ACSSU095

 

Try it at home!

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Created for: Year 6 Chemical Sciences
Aligned to: ACSSU095

 

20 monkeys in a tree

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Created for: Foundation, year, number and place value
Aligned to: ACMNA001

 

Getting change

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Created for: Years 3 and 4 Money and Financial Mathematics
Aligned to: ACMNA059 and ACMNA080

 

Finding fractions of shapes

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Created for: Year 4 Fractions and decimals
Aligned to: ACMNA078

 

Stay tuned for more updates, we’re adding new content to Skwirk all the time!

To start your free Skwirk trial, click on the title below that suits you best:

 

Happy Skwirking!