Speaking of Education

From multimedia classrooms to interactive Internet and satellite courses, the use of technology in education, training, supervision and professional development is growing rapidly. Like many instructors, I found myself making the transition from traditional classrooms with blackboards to multimedia classrooms with white screens and now to virtual classrooms on color monitors. I use the Internet in all my courses.

Educators predicted the Internet would revolutionize academe and, indeed, it has produced astounding changes in the educational system. For example, the National Center for Educational Statistics reports that 44 percent of two- and four-year higher education institutions offered a total of 52,230 distance education courses in 1997­98 compared with 33 percent of institutions with a total of 25,730 such courses in 1994­95. Undoubtedly these numbers are higher today as universities expand their online college offerings and add online high school and middle school courses. Not surprisingly, psychology courses are among the most frequently offered online courses.

Addressing educators' needs

The popularity and potential of Internet-based education raises critical questions for psychology. How pervasive is the use of the Internet in psychology courses? Which courses are suitable for online instruction? What ethical issues must we consider when teaching Internet-based courses? How should we structure online courses so they meet students' needs, facilitate learning, promote critical thinking and writing, encourage interaction among students and instructors and instill a passion for the discipline?

As online courses, scientific and clinical training, and clinical superv ision grow, what are the implications for accreditation of psychology graduate programs? What changes are needed in psychology curricula at all educational levels to ensure graduates have the technological literacy required for the marketplace? What professional development opportunities are needed to improve our use of technology in teaching, research and practice? How can we use the Internet to foster communication and partnerships among teachers from grade school to continuing education?

The Education Directorate and the Board of Educational Affairs (BEA) are addressing these issues in a proactive manner. With co-sponsorship by several APA boards, committees and divisions, BEA organized a 23-hour Miniconvention on Education and Technology at APA's 1999 Annual Convention. The miniconvention featured addresses by Mark Luker of EDUCAUSE and Steven Gilbert of The TLT Group, an American Association for Higher Education affiliate, several symposia and presentations and four interactive demonstration sessions that showcased innovative applications of technology and the Internet in teaching and supervision. BEA will sponsor a similar technology demonstration session at APA's 2000 Annual Convention, in Washington, D.C., Aug. 4­8.

The Education Directorate's Center for Psychology in Schools and Education organized sessions for the two previous conventions that demonstrated how technology can support learner-centered principles. Today, directorate staff members continue to explore models of distance education for the delivery of professional development workshops. Also, BEA's Psychology Partnership Project includes several groups working on Internet projects that will facilitate linkages and sharing of resources among teachers from grade school to graduate education.

This year, BEA's Technology and Curriculum subcommittees are exploring issues related to distance education and its implications for psychology curricula from high school to continuing education, including scientific and clinical training, clinical supervision, program accreditation and instructional pedagogy.

Reaching out to others

The directorate is forging partnerships with other groups and organizations in its efforts to be on the forefront in the instructional technology arena. Representatives from the BEA and directorate staff served on the APA Board of Directors Technology Applications Advisory Group, a group that will offer recommendations to enhance the organization's internal use of technology and the resources and direction APA provides to its members regarding the use of technology. The directorate sent a representative to the 1999 EDUCAUSE conference and will explore opportunities to collaborate with this organization. Working with the Council of Graduate Schools and the Association of American Colleges and Universities on the Preparing Future Faculty project, the directorate is examining curriculum models that include information about and training in the use of technology in education.

APA is looking forward to playing a key role in providing information, resources and training, not only to psychologists, but to educators in all disciplines and at all levels as they prepare for the increasing capabilities of and accessibility to the Internet.

Virginia Andreoli Mathie, PhD, a member of APA's Board of Educational Affairs and a psychology professor at James Madison University, wrote this month's column on education.