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UBC Reports | Vol. 48 | No. 11 | Sep. 5 , 2002

Burning the Midnight Oil in the Land of the Midnight Sun

First class includes students from around the world

By Cate Korinth

Burning the Midnight Oil in the Land of the Midnight Sun

Northern teacher works nights for new online degree. By Cate Korinth

For Patrick McDermott, attending a class at UBC would mean a 12-hour flight over 3,100 km of icy wilderness, but thanks to UBC's first on-line master's degree, he can learn how to enrich the lives of 256 Inook students without ever leaving town.

McDermott teaches high school social studies and computer application courses in Pond Inlet, Nunavut, a tiny community accessible only by plane. Perched on top of Baffin Bay across from Greenland, it's the kind of place where glaciers are visible from town and icebergs float by even in summer.

A friend in Pond told McDermott that UBC's Faculty of Education was pioneering a Masters of Educational Technology (MET) program in partnership with Tec De Monterrey, Mexico.

The program's courses - all on-line - teach educators how best to use technology as a teaching tool. The classes explore ethics, accessibility and diversity issues, and include plenty of interaction with other students.

McDermott expects the program will help him use technology to deal with the special needs that arise in a small school (where class sizes range from three to 45 students and different grades are often combined) with a largely Inook student population.

"My biggest teaching challenge is finding effective ways to reach students from a traditional native culture whose first language is Inuktitut," McDermott says. "Students are trying to adapt their traditional skills to Western technological skills and demands. The web, computers and multimedia can help bridge this gap."

"One of the reasons I enrolled in the MET is to enhance my abilities and versatility as a teacher. I want to learn to deliver course material in a way that will enhance student learning."

He also hopes to foster school policies that will guide his colleagues in the area, as most do not have a lot of experience using technology in the classroom.

The on-line courses mean McDermott's studies will fit neatly into an already-busy schedule. "Late in the evening after I put my two-year-old son to bed, I'll go back to the school to use the Internet for my UBC classes," he says.

Originally from Nova Scotia, McDermott and his wife, also a teacher, landed on the tip of Baffin Island six years ago and haven't looked back.

"The North is a fantastic place to teach and live. It's an adventure, both professionally and personally," he says.

Cate Korinth is the communications coordinator for the Faculty of Education.

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Last reviewed 22-Sep-2006

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