Online Opportunities Open Doors for Rural Kids

– By Pushpa Sathish, Staff Writer

This ATM has nothing to do with the banking system, but there sure are a host of kids who are banking on it to get themselves an invaluable education. The Asynchronous Transfer Mode (ATM) is an interactive video classroom network that is being leveraged by the Maine Distance Learning Project to provide children living in rural areas access to quality courses and classes.

Having tasted success in the four years since its inception, the educational endeavor which operates through a network of 91 sites across the state is a lifeline for K-12 students. Teachers in participant schools are able to simultaneously teach those in the classroom and those miles away at another location through video cameras that follow movement with their electronic eyes, screening devices that allow any document to be scanned and viewed at all locations, and big-screen televisions that facilitate socialization between students at different schools.

Besides solving the problem of a dearth of teachers for certain subjects, the venture allows children to choose from a large pool of available courses instead of restricting them to those taught at their own schools. No wonder then that the project, which is funded by the Department of Education, has been described on its website as β€œan unprecedented instructional and communications system.”