WISPLAN Computing Service
Univ. of Wisconsin-Extension
302 Hiram Smith Hall 1545 Observatory Drive
Madison, WI 53706-1289 USA
v: (608) 262-4552
f: (608) 265-2530
Education, continuing or distance
Innovative or improved ways of doing things; More equitable access to technology or electronic information; Creation of new ideas, products, or services; Volunteer contributions of time and energy
Training & Support Spec.
Penn State University
405 Ag Admin
University Park, PA 16802
v: (814) 863-3449
f: (814) 863-7209
PENpages is an Internet-accessible, extension-based information service which contains more than 11,000 nationally-contributed documents on family life, finances, children, nutrition, aging, 4-H and youth development, agricultural education, agronomy, dairy and animal science, engineering, entomology, food safety, forest resources, horticulture, pesticide education, plant pathology, poultry science, rural development, veterinary science, water quality, and many others.
To determine the impact that Internet access to PENpages has on the attitudes, productivity and programming of community-based extension educators and campus specialists, Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences and the University of Wisconsin-Extension’s WISPLAN Computing Service entered into a Training Partnership.
This training partnership had the following objectives:
Teach agents and specialists from Wisconsin to productively use PENpages and adapt and extend its information
Help them learn and collaborate via Internet electronic mail with a veteran PENpages user chosen from Penn State’s county and state family life faculty (an electronic “PEN-pal”)
Invite Wisconsin family life specialists to register for further training on how to contribute information to PENpages and thereby reach an international audience of family life educators.
Benefits of the partnership to the Wisconsin participants:
Help them stay on top of their subject-matter due to access to comprehensive collection of resources
Spend less time to produce media-items like newsletters, news columns and radio scripts
Produce more-diverse media-items due to access to larger collection of resources
Provide more-diverse programming due to access to previously-unavailable resources
Increase creativity through collaboration with other family life educators and their program ideas
As part of the Partnership, a representative from Penn State’s Computer Services department and a Penn State County Extension Agent went to Wisconsin and held a one day training session. During the day, the Wisconsin participants learned how to connect to and use the PENpages system. Special emphasis was placed on how to use electronic information services as resources for their daily work activities such as writing newsletters, planning programs and finding answers to client questions.
We also set up an electronic network of PENpals. Each participant from Wisconsin was matched with a Penn State partner who was doing work in the same subject area. The participants were taught how to use Internet mail to reach their partner and were encouraged to used electronic mail as an additional resource for their program ideas and projects. To help them see the value of e-mail partnerships, we set up a listserv so that all the participants could share group ideas and questions. Once a week, the project leaders placed a question for discussion on the listserv. Participants from both Wisconsin and Pennsylvania had the opportunity to use these questions as a starting point for an electronic discussion.
To date, the project is a success — Wisconsin participants are using PENpages regularly and most are collaborating via electronic mail with their new-found colleagues in Pennsylvania. We hope to interest other state Extension services in similar projects.