NAVIGATING GLOBALLY MICRONESIAN STYLE

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By Jean Thoulag Pacific Newsnet – Pacific Newsbytes

October 1999

Students, faculty, and staff at the College of Micronesia-FSM are following in the tradition of their Micronesian ancestors. Known for their traditional navigation and seafaring skills, they sailed far beyond their tiny islands across vast stretches of open ocean in sailing canoes. Nowadays, the students at the College of Micronesia are becoming skilled navigators in a new way—using modern information and communication technology to navigate globally.

The college comprised of a five-campus system is spread out across thousands of square miles of open ocean. Timely communications between campuses and the outside world via phone and fax is extremely costly. Over the past decade, the college's PEACESAT Radio and Single Side Band HF radio system have provided direct communication with the outside world. Students and staff use the PEACESAT radio system for many purposes.

In the Spring 98 semester, funded from a National Science Foundation Initial Internet Connectivity grant, the college introduced the Internet to students and faculty, expanding communication access around the world. Beginning with single dial-up connections in faculty offices, student computer labs, and the Learning Resource Center, the college established campus-wide Internet access and email capability. The state campus branches on Pohnpei, Yap, Chuuk and Kosrae also provide students and faculty Internet access. Currently, the national college campus is in the last mile stages of implementing a wide area network with 24-hour Internet connectivity. A new locally housed Web site now is available at http://www.comfsm.fm.

In 1996, the college was awarded a U.S. Department of Post Secondary Education "Title III Strengthening Institutions" grant. Grant funding provided for additional hardware, software, and specialists to assist the faculty, students, and staff to improve teaching and learning at the college. In 1998, through an AusAID grant from the Australian government, a set of Teaching Technology Tools was provided for college faculty to develop Web pages and course content.

One of the main activities these days in the labs seems to revolve around the Internet and Web page creation. Teachers and students both work together towards improving Internet skills. Last Spring, Jonathan Gourlay, Chair of the Language and Literature Division took his first leap into the 21st century with his 12 poetry students right by his side. They created a Web site called the "Small Island Review" located at http://www.smallislandreview.com. This site is comprised of student created Web pages filled with poetry, links to other poetry sites for student writers, and submissions reviewed by COM-FSM poetry class students. Other instructors in the department are beginning to create their own Web sites for students to access syllabi, handouts, and helpful class content links. This has created a flurry of activity in the labs as students begin to use the Internet for coursework related projects.

The State Campuses seem to be just as busy. Last year, the Intensive English Programs (IEP) on the four State campuses produced well-written and informative newspapers. They too, have caught the Internet bug and have big plans for this semester. One IEP in Pohnpei is already writing, gathering data, and interviewing folks on Pohnpei about their education, business, and lifestyle. They will use all these resources to create a Web site about Pohnpei. Other campuses are using the CNN Web site to create Internet-based quizzes to help improve language skills.

The CALL Specialist, at COM-FSM national campus, is assisting with Internet education using distance learning. She has developed activities that integrate Internet training with corresponding weekly themes. Teachers and students can download worksheets from the Internet that help them surf the Web, looking for information on topics such as education, business, and lifestyle around the Pacific area. For more information on this, visit http://www.duffypotpourri.com/iepwebsite.htm.

The Math Science Computer lab provides a variety of support software for students taking mathematics courses. This year support software for science courses will be being added. In addition, instructors and students have access to LiveMath, formerly Theorist/MathView, to build mathematical notebooks. College LiveMath notebooks created by COM-FSM faculty can be found at http://ourworld.compuserve.com/homepages/danaleeling/math.htm.

The Title III Math/Science specialist is working with faculty and students to create a MicroScience Cyber science library. Students in project-related science courses have collected a wealth of information about the natural world of Pohnpei. The students' work is globally accessible and can be found at http://www.geocities.com/TheTropics/Cabana/4705/Botany.html.

The Learning Resource Center (LRC) is currently working to put their catalog online to share with the world. The college's Micronesian Pacific collection holds many unique titles that will be in the online catalog in the near future. Through Title III grant funding, the library now offers students and faculty a periodical index with full text of over 200 journals and magazines as well as ERIC abstracts. Over 300 CD-ROM titles provide reference materials to support all subject areas and majors at the college. Training in computer basics, using CD-ROM references, and research on Internet are ongoing for students and faculty. Both faculty and LRC staff conduct training for students. Student trained lab monitors and "Internet coaches" help fellow students learn to navigate the world of Internet.

Students and faculty at COM-FSM are in touch with peers and colleagues around the world sharing experiences, messages from home, and new ideas. The PEACESAT radio combined with Internet access allows everyone at the college to navigate far beyond the islands to communicate, share information, and learn from others worldwide.

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