February 1995 // Volume 33 // Number 1 // Ideas at Work // 1IAW1

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4-H on the Internet

One hundred eighty-six 4-H educational manuals, with graphs, line drawings, or photographs were placed on the University of California, Davis, information server (ucdavis.edu) in a joint experimental project by the University of Tennessee and the University of California for world-wide distribution.

Penny Risdon
Cooperative Extension
Internet address: plrisdon@ucdavis.edu

Mina Ostergard
Computer Specialist
California Cooperative Extension
Division of Agriculture and Natural Sciences
Internet address: mmostergard@ucdavis.edu

University of California
Davis, California

The 4-H program has had a distinguished tradition of experiential educational practice. This learning methodology was employed in a pilot project to place 4-H educational materials on the Internet and make these educational materials available to anyone who has an Internet connection, even if it is just by e-mail. Technical barriers were encountered and corrected as the pilot project's team "learned by doing." The project advanced the technology field by embedding visuals in educational text and making these available over Almanac, Gopher, and ftp information servers to a variety of different computer systems.

Visuals in the form of graphs, charts, line drawings, or photographs are necessary in educational material to convey specific concepts. This was accomplished by embedding graphic files within word processing files. This pioneering endeavor also opened the door for 4-H members to keep computerized accounts of 4-H achievements as well as animal and/or crop performance records.

This joint experimental project was conducted between the University of California Cooperative Extension and the State 4-H Program at the University of Tennessee--Agriculture Extension Service to test the limits of electronic technology in disseminating research information to the public. Tennessee team members provided the educational materials, while California team members converted the 4-H printed materials to electronic format, coordinated editing and updating of the material, and provided the technical services necessary to make the material accessible on the Internet.

The 4-H project materials were developed by Extension subject-matter specialists at the University of Tennessee-- Knoxville and Tennessee State University, based on research knowledge. Tennessee and California Extension subject-matter specialists volunteered their time and knowledge to assist young people by serving as subject-matter contacts. Their e-mail and university addresses are listed in the individual project manuals for follow-up contacts and/or additional information. There are presently over 185 projects in 22 subject areas from beef to wildlife.

An Extension professional or school teacher in Oklahoma, Calgary, Sidney, or Timbuktu can receive the materials from the Internet. If they have a postscript printer, they can print the material. With the aid of a computer word processing program, portions can be extracted to use in educational presentations.

There have been requests for these educational materials from places and organizations such as San Jose, Costa Rica; Wellington, New Zealand; the Peace Corp; and the Ministry of Research, Science, and Technology to assist learning of basic agriculture and family resource information.

The 4-H educational materials are accessible through the Internet's information delivery system by way of the University of California--Davis Almanac, Gopher, or ftp server. The 4-H projects are available in postscript format or as MS-DOS self- extracting WordPerfect 5.1 files. Instructions on how to access these files can be requested by sending an e-mail message to: . In the body of the message enter: send extension 4H-youth catalog.

This pilot project exemplifies the benefits of using electronic technologies to capitalize on existing cooperation between institutions and then, in turn, maximizing the outreach potential.