Showing posts from March, 2009

Academic technology dreams

While thinking about the stack of 34 laboratory reports that sat at home waiting to marked for data tables, graphs, analysis, quality of conclusion, format, grammar, vocabulary, organization, and cohesion, I was explaining the capabilities of to a colleague. I run a writing intensive physical science course. As any expository instructor knows, marking essays is a long process. And at full capacity I have 32 essays to mark each and every weekend of the term. I believe that the ferocious turn around pace that I demand of the students provides both lots of opportunities to write, and an immediate opportunity to correct in the next lab the errors of the previous lab. A lab is handed back on Monday, the next lab is due that same Thursday. I see concrete improvement in the writing capabilities during the term. I see fewer sentence level errors, more consistent use of tense, and better vocabulary choices as the term progresses. The students also expose their thinking and reasoni…

Photographic evidence of learning and the cloud

I have used photographic evidence along with other measures to provide assessment insight into SC 130 Physical science.

Learning in the field of physical science, scientific understanding, is constructed out of interactions among a peer group using tools that measure the physical world as guided by the structures designed by the instructor. I would argue that this image provides evidence that this is occurring in the course. Indirect evidence, but when triangulated with laboratory reports and course tests, valuable evidence.

I think the photographic evidence is even more relevant when we look at articulation of courses via student learning outcomes. A college can produce student learning outcome outlines, but how to prove to other colleges that the student's are actually learning the material? That the course is "real"? Item analysis of test items aligned to the outline and sample student lab reports are part of the "picture" in physical science, but photographic…


Day one with the SMART TechnologiesSMART Board 600i interactive whiteboard system in the mathematics and science computer laboratory at the College of Micronesia-FSM Palikir site. The SMART Board replaces the decade old 36" Destination large screen monitor which had showed signs of impending failure on 20 January 2008 and again on 29 September 2008.

Students in MS 150 Statistics were entertained by an arm waving dance by their professor in front of the interactive white board.

An Calc spreadsheet can be seen on the screen above.

The special "markers" draw in computer ink, the results can be saved as a portable network graphic. The above scrawl was merely a trial run. Clearly I could now also open professional looking t-distributions.

An office with a view of the outside world

My brilliant friend rigged a mirror on top of his cubicle so that he can see out a window in the office in which he works. I too work in what was a cubicle, but the furniture that created the cubicles has been moved around. There used to be fabric covered panels that separated cubicles, but they disappeared at some point.

The view out my window is in the direction of a small tropical mountain, really a large hill, in Palikir. The pine is a Norfolk Island pine - Araucaria heterophylla.

I opted to use a flash in order to properly expose the drapes my wife made.

Lelu water

Kosrae is now bottling and exporting water under the Lelú name. Certainly the rains of Kosrae have to be some of the cleanest on the planet just based on oceanic remoteness. The product is unusual in one respect - a decision was made to try to carve out a market niche using a distinctive bottle and labeling.

The water is named for the municipality of Lelu, spelled on the website as Lelú but the bottle uses a character more akin to a ǔ. The current alphabet in use in Kosrae intentionally eschews accent marks in order to make the language more "keyboard" friendly. The letters "c" and "h" used as a marker to change the tone or length of a vowel, as in "Puhsra sasuc ke sipacl sasuc ke kahs Kosrae ma orekmakihn lacta c ac h ke kahs paclahng in tuh welah ac tuhkuh tukun oacna sie faol in tuh oracluh sie kahs."

Certainly if you are looking to put water on a table where appearances will count, Lelú water would be a good choice.

Dien on a Thursday evening

2009 is the year of the bottle, cups are a thing of the past. The small bottles hold the equivalent of a plastic cup and can be consumed in market or as take-out. Dien remains a good place to be at sunset.

The brochure on the table is a Clidemia hirta brochure.

SC/SS 115 Ethnobotany pulls Clidemia hirta

SC/SS 115 Ethnobotany spent a class period pulling the recently identified invasive species Clidemia hirta. Joining the class were Richard Womack, Konrad Englberger, BJ, and Dickson. Rich teaches science methods, Dickson is a student in the class. Konrad directs Plant Protection Micronesia and provided positive identification of the pest plant. BJ works for Conservation Society of Pohnpei which is coordinating the effort to map and eradicate Clidemia hirta.

Rich and Ruth look over a sprawling patch of Clidemia hirta (Koster's curse).

Konrad joins in the pulling.

Clidemia hirta is a melastome. A local melastome, Melastoma bathicum var. marianum(pisetikimei), has a larger purple flower, a thicker and smoother leaf, and does not form the sprawling bramble that C. hirta forms. C. hirta has a distinctive leaf and a small white flower.

Maybeleen and Marla pull a virtual carpet of C. hirta.

Simple linear regression in optics

Physical science laboratory ten continued the emphasis on seeking linear mathematical relationships between two variables. In the first part of this two part laboratory students measured the object and image distance for a bolt as seen in a mirror. Chersea holds the mirror while Breechlyn adjusts a second bolt behind the mirror. The bolt behind the mirror is positioned at the imaginary location of the image.

Yasko uses a protractor to ensure that the mirror is perpendicular to the table.

Elsieleen, Zillafaith, and Arleen use a pair of meter sticks to improve their accuracy.

In the second part students measured the apparent depth (image depth) for a coin underwater versus the actual depth (object depth). For small angles away from the vertical, the slope should be close to the index of refraction for the coin. Simson and Welianter work with a graduated cylinder which naturally constrains the viewing angle.

Material culture: what was traditionally worn

If we taught in the clothing that Pohnpeians wore in the past, this would be a common site on campus. In SC/SS 115 Ethnobotany, in part to drive home the extent of the change and loss of Micronesian material culture, I come to one class dressed in a Pohnpeian koahl. This always attracts a lot of attention, and that is the point. Other facets of plant culture do not attract the attention that wearing a koahl attracts. In their dress, most of our students resemble college students elsewhere.

Running in Stumptown

There are no junk running kilometers at 30° Celsius, 80% humidity, under a direct equinoxal tropical sun. Friday evening I put in ten kilometers during a sixty-two minute run on the new END Stumptown 12 oz. The shoe was designed from blank sheet to minimize the use of materials and in what materials are used, to maximize the use of recycled materials.

My running shoes all die the same death: delamination of the dozens of colorfully fancy layers of rubber and plastic in the outsole. The Runner's Footprint, an article in Runner's World, that the Environmentally Neutral Design Stumptown had fewer parts than other running shoes. Fewer parts should mean fewer small pieces that will delaminate.

As an overpronator who enjoyed the ASICS Gel MC+ series despite their mass, I was reticent to move into a shoe which was not specifically designed for an archless overpronator. In 1996 a shift to a non-motion control shoe coincided with if not contributed to plantar's faciitus that side l…

Environmentally neutral design

How well will an Environmentally Neutral Design Stumptown 12oz running shoe hold up in 100% saturating humidity and equatorial rain? I am about to find out.

First impression - light. Too light for an over-pronator who typically wears motion control shoes such as the Mizuno Wave Renegade 4 or ASICS Gel Evolution. The number one cause of shoe death out here: delamination of the multi-layer outsoles due to heat, humidity, and immersion in tropical rain.

On my budget shoes have to last two to three years. The END Stumptown shoes will be an alternate pair to the Renegade 4 shoes I bought in July 2008. Although I try to have two pairs in case of the sudden failure of a pair, since December and the delamination of the Mizuno Wave Renegade 3 shoes, I have been on a single pair. I tried glues of all kinds, to no avail in this climate.

Speed of Sound

Students in physical science lab seven measured the speed of sound by synchronizing the clapping of boards with the echo off of a building. Timing a set of multiple claps and measuring the distance the sound traveled out and back permits determinations of the speed of sound.

Breechlyn measures the "echo flight distance."

Josita times, Divine Grace counts, Georgie claps. Other students sitting across the road used hand signals to help the clapper know if they were in synch or not.

Confering on the results.

Ethnobotany of Pohnpei released

Ethnobotany of Pohnpei was released with Iso Nahnken en Nett presiding over the release ceremony. The book is a comprehensive look at the ethnobotany of Pohnpei. Twelve years in the making, the book is the culmination of a joint effort by the traditional leadership of Pohnpei, the New York Botanic Garden, Conservation Society of Pohnpei, and many other supporting partners such as The National Tropical Botanic Garden, The Nature Conservancy, the College of Micronesia-FSM and many more.

Speakers included Bill Raynor (seen above), Patterson Shed, Dr. David Lorence, Dr. Michael Balick, Wayne Law, Adelino Lorens, and Iso Nahnkehn en Nett.

Dr. Michael Balick of the New York Botanic Garden had the original vision to create the book. Iso Nahnken awarded him a high title in Nett in recognition of the work done.

Director of Science at the National Tropical Botanic Garden, Dr. David Lorence, along with a team of collectors including Steve Perlman, has identified the presence of Clidemia hirta, an a…

Two hundred minutes: one month after pedometers

February 2008 brought me pedometers that would withstand the rigors of tropical running and tallied correctly while running. March 2008 showed that my daily average was 8500 steps. In April, however, my running became increasingly sporadic and my average fell to 7800 steps per day.

On the eighteenth of May my cumulative daily average fell below 8000 for the first time since I began daily records on 25 February. That day also saw a record low of 657 steps for the whole of a Sunday, and capped off a dismal month in which I ran only six times.

Alarmed that I was headed the wrong way from the recommended 10000 steps per day, and that my running was in a state of free fall collapse, I pushed myself out the door 21 times in the next 30 days, averaging 11300 steps per day for the same period.

The pedometer had been an important motivator - seeing the numbers collapse, and the specific trigger of the fall below 7000 for my cumulative daily average, had gotten me out the door. I was running again…

Statistics: Item analysis of spring 2009 midterm

Overall performance on the MS 150 Statistics midterm was strong with a course wide average success rate on the questions of 72%. That is, 57 students correctly answered 72% of the questions posed. The individual item analysis indicated strength in basic statistics, frequency tables, and calculating the slope and intercept for two variable data.

The students had more difficulty when called to make an inference, such as determining whether a z-value was an extraordinary z-value or whether a two-variable relationship was linear or non-linear.

qnTest two spring 2009corrperc1level of measurement430.752sample size560.983minimum571.004maximum571.005range571.006midrange560.987mode560.988median571.009mean480.8410standard deviation571.0011coefficient of variation480.8412width500.8813frequency table420.7414frequency histogram300.5315shape of histogram360.6316probability150.2617z-score160.2818inference160.2819inference130.2320slope510.89

The Night Before

A sad Saturday evening in Nahnpohnmal awaiting the return of the body of a loved one who died abroad. Sinser Anson Salvador passed away in the states. As is tradition, the family gathered for sakau and the comfort of each other's presence.


At the Rotary 5k on Saturday my eldest was the first 12-and-under across the finish line in about 36 minutes. The coconut drinker rolled in about ten minutes later at about 47 minutes. Thursday evening caused some remaining lack of coordination, coupled with a strong cross-wind I dropped my tennis balls three times. Despite this I finished in 28:33 on the upper route that takes the runners up through Dolihner.

The Rotary club run included trophies:

Sunset near a stone

Thursday evening sitting with friends along a road in Dien, Kitti.

Peering across the end of the table.

Sunset in Kitti by the side of the road is a good place to be.

Earth Girth

For laboratory seven, the physical science students set off with a surveyor's wheel and global positioning satellite receivers to measure the number of meters per minute along the 6° 54.551 north latitude line. The students walked due west for about 700 meters, covering 0.358 minutes of longitude. Knowing the number of minutes in a degree, and degrees in a circle, the class could calculate the circumference of the earth at 6° 54.551 north.

The GPS units provided measures in both minutes and meters, which were checked against the surveyor's wheel measurement. The class later also used Google Earth and the ruler capability in Google Earth to make a third measure of the distance. The surveyor's wheel indicated that the distance was 688 meters. The four GPS units had an average of 712 meters. The Google Earth ruler indicated 658 meters.

Given that the terrain was fairly flat, and that a small diversion around the corner of the gym may have added a couple meters, the surveyor'…