Satellite Network Enhances Lifelong Learning

Article excerpt

What clues in behavior should alert case workers that children are being psychologically abused? How can child care providers create safe, fun, but inexpensive places for children's play? What environmental risk factors are likely to be associated with breast cancer? What can be done to reduce the skyrocketing incidence of teen pregnancy?

These are just a few of the questions addressed by faculty from the college's five departments and Family Life Development Center - along with Cornell Cooperative Extension educators at 46 sites throughout New York State - during last year's eight videoconferences for the College of Human Ecology, transmitted to New York State via the Cornell Cooperative Extension Satellite Network. (An additional four were done for Cornell Cooperative Extension and eight for the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, all produced by Media Services at Cornell University.)

The satellite videoconferences provide an alternative way for the college and extension to connect with people, nurture critical thinking, provide applications of recent research, and promote community leadership in the tradition of lifelong learning, says Carol Anderson, associate director of Cornell Cooperative Extension and assistant dean of the college.

"Education throughout the life course is important for successful participation in the social, cultural, civic, and economic life of a democratic society," Anderson says. "Continuing education is essential for a productive workforce and an engaged society. Today's learners seek knowledge from diverse - and convenient - sources."

When it comes to the college's mission to serve the public in this way, satellite videoconferences stand out. Through the use of electronic technology, they extend the boundaries of the campus to the corners of the state as well as the nation and the world. This medium allows the public to access faculty research and interact with others in a guided learning environment. What's more, the participants need never leave their local community.

In this year's first videoconference alone, nearly 1,400 people - many professionals from the state's Departments of Social Services and Child Protective Services - saw presentations by internationally recognized experts from the Department of Human Development and the Family Life Development Center on how to recognize and prevent the undermining effects of psychological maltreatment in children. Participants updated their knowledge base and looked at options for being more effective in their work roles and responsibilities.

In addition to employees of state agencies, audiences for the videoconferences ranged from men and women who provide child care in their homes to directors of large not-for-profit social service organizations. School nurses and the coaches of women's sports teams attended as did county legislators and public health commissioners. Parents of teens participated, along with local business owners and public assistance examiners. They came, all of them, because in just a couple of action-packed hours they can learn practical information that helps them do their jobs better.

Take, for example, the county legislators and executives, Department of Social Service commissioners, county youth board chairs, public health commissioners, United Way executives, and not-for-profit agency heads responsible for updating services for children and families in response to the new federal welfare reform legislation. They gathered late one afternoon in October at 30 downlink sites across the state for the videoconference "County Planning for Welfare Reform: Programs for Children."

Co-sponsored by Cornell Cooperative Extension, the College of Human Ecology, and the Community and Rural Development Institute at Cornell, the videoconference was organized by Josephine Swanson, a senior extension associate and program leader. Swanson brought together a panel of experts in the campus broadcast studio; the panel included faculty members Moncrieff Cochran, John Eckenrode, and Jennifer Gerner and officials from two state organizations and two county-based programs intent on improving the well-being of children. …