Academic journal article Family Relations

Integrating Technology and Interpersonal Communication to Prepare HDFS Majors for the Future

Academic journal article Family Relations

Integrating Technology and Interpersonal Communication to Prepare HDFS Majors for the Future

Article excerpt

Integrating Technology and Interpersonal Communication to Prepare HDFS Majors for the Future*

A new Human Development and Family Studies (HDFS) baccalaureate program at the Pennsylvania State University Commonwealth College emphasizes the link between technology and interpersonal communication. Based on results from focus groups, three themes were identified for HDFS-Community Human Service students: (a) basic communication skills and competencies. (b) professional skills, and (c) content areas. New courses in the curriculum were designed to enhance student skills in these areas. Technology and communication skills are developed in two new courses called Leadership and Technology for Human Service Professionals (Parts A&B). Through surveys with students, we found that the program's primary success has been with improving students' comfort level and hence willingness to use technology. Suggestions for others embarking on such a program include having patience, using institutional supportm and having students help each other in the learning process.

Key Words: communication skills. focus groups. professional skills, technology.

In a rapidly changing technological world it is increasingly necessary for employees to be technologically proficient. Davis (1997) found that current employers want college graduates to have skills such as word processing, spreadsheet application, and presentation software skills. Internet publication skills were predicted to be as important as word processing skills in the next few years. Others have also cited computer skills as prerequisites for employment by many employers (Deden & Carter, 1996; Kim. Moore, & Fouhy, 1995; King, 1995; Perry, 1998). Computer and software applications are also increasingly necessary in the human services (Brauns & Kramer, 1987; Hanna, 1995; Nurius, 1995; Rafferty. 1997; Visser. 1995). In fact, international conferences and journals devoted specifically to the use of information technology in human services have been developed (Rafferty, 1997).

In regard to the need of employees to have technology skills, Dusick (1998) strongly asserts, ". . . future employees will either be able to work with technology, or be replaced by it. . . . A summa cum laude student who is technophobic is potentially unemployable" (p. 11). Dusick further argues that it is the responsibility of education to prepare students for this reality, to enable all students access to and training in technology. Without this effort, she suggests, we will create the next generation of "haves" and "have-nots." According to Dusick, to be successful in society today, it is the responsibility of education to help students gain self-efficacy (Bandura,1989) in using computers. Self-efficacy in regard to using computers is defined as having a high expectation to succeed in using computers.

In an educational world of increased competition and rising educational prices, students and parents expect the use of technology in education. Wadsworth (1997) reported that 80% of parents thought that teaching media technology and computer skills was essential in public schools. "It is becoming increasingly apparent that the use of electronic information resources in undergraduate education is not a `luxury item' for a few institutions; it is a sine qua non for any liberal arts college that prides itself on its ability to provide an educational environment of `the highest scholarly standards"' (Ringle, 1996, p. 7). Raven Lee .md Johnson (1998) argue that students will increasingly select '"universities with the best computer facilities and faculty who use technology to provide innovative instruction" (p. 13).

The ability to collaborate and communicate well with others is also an important skill that employers desire in their employees (Beckman, 1990: Bruffee, 1993; Gubman, 1995; Kim, Moore, & Fouhy, 1995; King, 1995). Small group-based instructional methods such as cooperative and collaborative learning have been used to help students learn the skills of working well with others. …

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