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REF NO.: 53

SUBJECT: Mock disaster in cyberspace creates innovative learning oppportunities

DATE: Dec. 11

When "Operation Montserrat Island" swings into action on Dec. 16, it will mark the fulfillment of four weeks of intense - but enthusiastic - study for Grade Nine students at Labrador City Collegiate. For the program's partners, Memorial University's Labrador West Centre for Interactive Learning (LWCIL) and Wheeling Jesuit University's Challenger Learning Center in West Virginia, it's the culmination of an innovative new education delivery partnership. Through the creative application of emerging technologies, a classroom in Labrador will connect via a live virtual link to an E-Mission director in West Virginia who will guide students through a mock disaster, challenging them to bring their science, math and technology knowledge to a real life scenario that will stretch their problem-solving, critical-thinking and communication skills while encouraging teamwork.

Through simulation broadcast directly to them by internet connection, students will race to provide assistance to residents of the tiny Carribean island of Montserrat where a volcano is about to erupt and an approaching hurricane threatens communications links. The 130 students, in "Emergency Response Teams," use the knowledge gathered over the four-week prep period to determine what impact wind and falling ash will have on vegetation, how swiftly the hurricane approaches, and when and how residents can be evacuated.

"This demonstration of creative technologies is an exciting new innovation in 'hands-on' learning and Memorial University is excited to be the facilitator for the very first application of this fusion of education and technology in Canada," noted Ann Marie Vaughan, director of Distance Education and Learning Technologies at Memorial. "The skills these students will learn are critical in a knowledge-based economy. Our LWCIL is a centre of excellence capable of bringing the world and students together regardless of geography."

This past Sept. 27 and 28, teachers received their training from Nancy Sturm, director of the Challenger Learning Centre. To participate in the simulated e-mission, students completed a four-week "pre-flight" curriculum of both in-class and extra-curricular activities to demonstrate their knowledge of math, science and technology.

The LWCIL was established in September of 1998 through funding provided by the Iron Ore Company of Canada when a donation was provided to Memorial University of Newfoundland's Opportunity Fund and earmarked for development of a facility that could enable distance and continuing education for its own employees and area residents. The centre, in partnership with the College of the North Atlantic's Labrador West campus, is equipped with the latest technology and supports self-learning and multi-disciplinary education opportunities.

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