Best Practice: SPICE Virtual Learning Center

In discussing family literacy with colleagues lately, I got an email from this awesome program overcoming rural isolation in Maine using a virtual learning center:

“The Students & Parents in Cooperative Education (SPICE) Family Literacy Program is part of the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) database for effective family literacy best practices. I have spoken to various program staff in the world and rural isolation seems to be a familiar theme.

The SPICE program serves a 440-square mile region in very rural western Waldo County Maine. (I’m sure the demographics are quite different where you are from in Cleveland Ohio). We have 70% poverty level here and our program is home-based. However, our families told us that they feel isolation and unconnected from the world. We are in the process of helping to alleviate this issue. We have created a virtual learning center to help our students start to feel connected. Though we have only been up and running since February 2011, our students have been able to talk to people outside Maine, when we presented the virtual center at the National Family Literacy Conference in Kentucky this past April. Our students are still talking about who they interacted with and how much fun that was. We are still gathering data with the use of the learning center, but anecdotal evidence would prove that we may be dealing exactly with the isolation issue that we wanted to work on.

Our demo is out of date, because the world is always evolving. We have two college classrooms upstairs (math and English), so our first generation students can get a taste of college classes, downstairs, we have a GED prep class, PLATO lab, and family literacy classroom. We are going to expand the center and add a Fine Arts classroom and will be opening the center up to Adult Education students this Fall. The demo will show you most of the rest of what it out there, though I can tell you that we have added some interesting sights outside (including a pirate ship, surfing cow, and crashed cargo plane). Those are just a few of the items that we encourage our students to find as they learn to maneuver their avatars in the center.

Below is the demo of our virtual center:

Come and visit us when you can! Enjoy and if you have any questions, please just ask.

Pat Hughes
RSU #3 Adult & Community Education Director
SPICE Family Literacy Program Administrator
577 Mount View Road
Thorndike, ME 04986

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