The Outer Islands Teaching and Learning Collaborative



The Outer Islands Teaching and Learning Collaborative connects isolated schools and enhances access through technology

What does the model look like?

  • Outer Islands Teaching and Learning Collaborative connects students and teachers spread across five island one-room K-8 schools using an array of technology resources

How does it work?

  • The five schools employ a common curriculum; students connect on video conference and collaborate on projects

How is it used?

  • Schools use online tools to connect students with others at their own grade level, to create shared learning, and to improve resource access for all students and teachers

What is the background?

  • Began as a teacher support network between five island schools in 2008
  • Integrated technology to support students starting in 2009; currently serves 26 students in grades K-8 in 5 schools
  • Supported by assorted grants and the local Island Institute

The unique setup of the five schools in the TLC has enabled the flexibility to put technology resources into place

  • Scheduling

    • All five schools aligned their schedules to concurrently teach subjects that require synchronous learning and teaching
  • Staffing Model

    • Each school has one teacher (the largest has two) historically responsible for all students in the room K-8; using technology teachers can split responsibility for individual grade levels during breakout groups
  • Physical Space

    • Each classroom serves all students in the school; they have been partitioned to enable individual learning and instruction over video conference
  • Procurement

    • Technology purchased through USDA Rural Utilities Service grants, the Maine Learning Technology Initiative and local philanthropy

What's New



Outer Islands TLC has employed simple technology tools to connect extremely isolated schools, enhancing learning opportunities

  • Previously isolated students connect to their peers for synchronous and asynchronous learning
    • Students do not have peers at the same grade level in their own schools; technology enables reading groups and other shared learning activities
    • Students complete tasks independently and share results online (e.g., joint science lab books) and are able to provide input on peers’ work (e.g., blog comments)
  • Teachers are able to concentrate on specific areas by sharing tasks through technology
    • All island schools share a common curriculum, enabling each teacher to develop content for specific grades rather than full K-8 class simultaneously
    • Teachers can take on small group instruction with students in their own classrooms and with students over virtual tools (e.g., teach a specific grade level group)
  • Schools are able to create opportunities for students that never could exist previously
    • Students voted on and formed an interisland student council, which meets over video conference with representation from all schools
    • Students are able to mentor younger peers through new modes of connection



What's Working


TLC has effectively addressed many of the issues facing an isolated school and created a new and enriched learning environment

  • Students are more connected to their peers, which has improved learning and self-confidence

    • For many students, the TLC is the first time they have ever worked with students at the same grade level – a new opportunity for collaboration and shared experiences
    • They feel like they have peers and like their work is valuable” -Teacher
    • It’s not about a kid working alone on a computer; it’s about having another kid on the other end, sharing the experience” –Teacher
  • Teachers have an enhanced support network and shared working group

    • By adopting a shared curriculum and dividing lesson-planning responsibilities, teachers have more time to work with students and design new technology-based projects
    • Teachers are less isolated and have a support system for troubleshooting and collaborating 
    • The sense of isolation and frustration made it really hard to teach as a lone teacher on an island” -Teacher
    • What makes it work is that teachers first built a community online and then understand how to bring collaborative tools to their students” -Teacher 
  • TLC has fundamentally changed the student experience

    • This is the closest thing we’ve ever had to an after-school club” -Student
    • No island student will ever grow up truly isolated again” –School board member



  • Content

    • Schools use a variety of web platforms to increase access to each other and to content generated by other students
  • Assessment

    • Students are able to work independently, with other students in a variety of computer-aided modalities, with instructors in their own classroom and instructors in another school
  • Personalization

    • Students take some formative assessments using computer-based programs. Collaborative student work is housed and assessed on online platforms
  • Development

    • Teachers share lesson planning and curriculum development asynchronously; work together on cross-classroom issues via video conference
  • Delivery

    • 1:1 laptops for middle school students and additional classroom computers enable cross-school work and communication; video conference equipment connects classrooms