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MACKINAC ISLAND, U.P. STUDENTS GET COURSES VIA FIBER OPTICS

 MACKINAC ISLAND, U.P. STUDENTS GET COURSES VIA FIBER OPTICS
 DETROIT, Oct. 26 /PRNewswire/ -- Mackinac Island high school student Tawna Urman thinks she'd like to be an exchange student in Peru someday.
 So this semester, she signed up for Spanish I.
 No big deal, except that no one at her tiny school of 72 kindergarten through 12th-grade students has ever had the opportunity to study Spanish before.
 Resources at the school -- located on Mackinac Island in the deep, cold straits connecting lakes Michigan and Huron -- are limited.
 Courses like Spanish, accounting and calculus -- commonplace in larger schools -- simply haven't been economically feasible for a school serving a population of less than 600 year-round residents.
 Until now.
 Michigan Bell recently connected Mackinac Island Public School into a fiber-optic, "distance learning" network with five other schools, Lake Superior State University and the Eastern Upper Peninsula Intermediate School District offices. GTE North also is participating.
 At the touch of a button, students and teachers scores of miles apart can interact almost as if they're in the same room by using a video network with the quality of broadcast television.
 Tawna and her classmates, for example, now take a Spanish course by connecting their classroom to Engadine High School, about 50 miles away on the mainland.
 Educators on Mackinac Island, which during winter is accessible only by small plane or snowmobile, welcome the new technology.
 "This can give us a curriculum that is equivalent to much larger schools, and I see that as a big advantage," said Bruce Wolck, superintendent of the school.
 Distance learning networks are becoming a rapidly growing trend in education, as school districts look for ways to maximize their resources.
 "All schools, and especially those in rural areas, can benefit by sharing educational resources," said Jack Thompson, director of the Regional Education Media Center for the Eastern Upper Peninsula Intermediate School District. "Now, instead of moving students in buses, we can bring teachers and students together electronically, at the speed of light. Fiber-optic technology in the telephone network has great potential for education in the future."
 Steve Balbierz, Michigan Bell's Upper Peninsula public relations director, agreed.
 "Michigan Bell's fiber-optic telephone network is one of the most extensive state networks in the nation," Balbierz said. "We hope that we'll be able to connect more and more schools together and help them bring the best education possible to all students, no matter where they live."
 Eastern U.P. educators are using the Michigan Bell network to teach five courses this semester and plan to add more in the future. Spanish, accounting and calculus are among this semester's offerings.
 Lake Superior State University also is contributing a political science class that high school students can take for college credit. Teachers will use the network for workshops and conferences to continue their own education.
 In addition to the island, the university, and the intermediate school district, the network connects schools in Engadine, Sault Ste. Marie, St. Ignace, Newberry and Rudyard. Rudyard's fiber-optic connection was built and is maintained by GTE North, the local telephone company serving that community.
 Schools at Brimley, DeTour, Les Cheneaux, Pickford, Paradise and Bay Mills Community College will be added to the network in 1993.
 -0- 10/26/92
 /CONTACT: Dave Ellis, 313-223-7192, or Phil Jones, 313-223-7194, both of Michigan Bell; or Jerry Gallagher of Eastern Upper Peninsula Intermediate School District, 906-632-3373/ CO: Michigan Bell; Eastern Upper Peninsula Intermediate School
 District; GTE North ST: Michigan IN: TLS SU:


SM-MI -- DE012 -- 4849 10/26/92 13:34 EST
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Date:Oct 26, 1992
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