Cyber-Community for Housing, Consumer Economics Created

Article excerpt

The University of Georgia and Fort Valley State University joined together, with support from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Higher Education Challenge Grant program, to create a curriculum resource database for housing and consumer economics educators. This database, along with message boards, an event calendar, and discipline-related articles, is available at www. GetYourFACtS.com (Sweaney, Manley, Valente, & Black, 2002). Given the overwhelming volume of information available on the Internet, this cyber-community was developed to facilitate access to resources, curriculum materials, and teaching aids in housing and consumer economics. A variety of resources are available for primary and secondary school teachers, college and university instructors, vocational teachers, and extension agents.

The main goal of this project was to improve the quality of preparation for educators in family and consumer sciences (FCS) in the core areas of housing and consumer economics. Four areas were targeted. The first two areas were curricula design and materials because FCS educators are forced to "reinvent the wheel" when curriculum materials are not made widely available or when prepared curriculum materials are prohibitively expensive. Existing Web sites and materials are found in the databases organized by area or type of resource (such as "housing," "consumer economics," "curriculum resources," and "energy conservation").

The remaining two areas of focus -were faculty preparation and enhancement for teaching. To reach students more effectively, FCS education faculty must be familiar with technology and innovative learning resources. Higher education faculty can use the Web site in teaching students who are majoring in FCS areas including education, and, FCS educators in the field (primary and secondary school educators, vocational teachers, and extension agents) can use the modules in their teaching environments. The interactive aspects, including the online community of FCS educators through message boards, allow undergraduate FCS education majors to interact and communicate with others more experienced in the field. Additionally, professionals can create a supportive community to share ideas and solve problems. Online communities are becoming very important as schools reduce the number of FCS teachers, making professional interaction more challenging. One of the most important aspects of this resource was the 24/7 access to all materials without charge or registration. Many FCS teachers have been forced to do more with fewer resources, making free resources with easy access increasingly important.

The project plan included: (a) a thorough investigation of information sources, data, and curriculum materials in housing and consumer economics; (b) development of a home page on the World Wide Web; (c) identification of aspects of housing and consumer economics in which educational modules are needed; (d) promotion of the Web site through presentations, mailings, and linking to search engines; and (e) several stages of evaluation. …