Rural and island-living students see the world through video conferencing

Wednesday, November 3 2010

Students in some of the most remote classrooms in the country - rural and island school districts on the coast of Maine - have been able to get a lot closer to the rest of the world thanks to new video technologies installed this fall, reports the Working Waterfront.

Thanks to $500,000 in U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Service Distance Learning and Telemedicine Program grant funding, students in 24 schools along the Maine coast now have access to video conferencing units in their classrooms.

Schools will be able to use the units for interactive field trips and conferences with students across the bay or around the world.

But the children and teachers aren't the only ones benefiting from the technology. Schools can also hold inter-island teacher meetings and trainings and offer virtual professional development workshops and classes for members of the community. School boards can also save money as they reduce travel costs. The superintendent of the Matinicus Island Schools, for example, no longer has to make the trek for every school board meeting in order to be present, according to Natalie Ames, chair of the Matinicus Island school board.

The USDA grant was given to the Island Institute, a community development organization that focuses on the Gulf of Maine and the fifteen year-round island communities off the state's coast.