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Title:Outfitting and incorporating: The social effects of computer technology in the restructuring of the Illinois CES
Author(s):Easdown, Warwick John
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Osborne, Edward W.
Department / Program:Agricultural Education
Discipline:Agricultural Education
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):Education, Agricultural
Education, Technology of
Computer Science
Abstract:Because of long-term reductions in Federal funding and changing rural demographics, the Illinois Cooperative Extension Service (CES) began a process of restructuring its field services in 1991. This involved the creation of specialized teams of "Extension educators" to develop educational programs for communities across the state and "Unit leaders" to administer county educational programming and fund raising. Restructuring also involved a large investment in an upgraded computer infrastructure to provide standardized equipment to field offices and connect them all to the Internet.
Between 1991 and 1994 a qualitative research study using a Constructivist approach was conducted to determine how computers were affecting the work of CES field staff and what beliefs were held about computers. The work of Martin Heidegger and Jacques Ellul provided the framework for the study. Data was gathered from 57 semi-structured interviews with CES field and campus staff and from participant-observation in a dozen state and national CES meetings.
The results showed that the new computer infrastructure enhanced trends associated with organizational restructuring. The old hierarchical relationship within the CES between campus and field staff based on subject matter expertise reasserted itself among the field staff based on their computer use. Unit leaders continued the old pattern of computer use by delegating most of it to their secretaries. Educators developed more active use of computers and those teams involved with family, youth and community issues used e-mail twice as much as those involved with agriculture. Greater e-mail use was associated with active encouragement by the team leader, a history of independent teaching by Educators and a subject matter where personal experience counted for as much as university research in developing educational programs.
The installation of the computer infrastructure expanded the influence of CES computer support staff, but it was very rushed and little provision was made for expanding training and support needs. These services remained centralized and field staff increasingly turned to their peers for support. Those most adversely affected by the changes were the secretaries in more isolated county offices whose workload expanded, while available support diminished.
Issue Date:1994
Rights Information:Copyright 1994 Easdown, Warwick John
Date Available in IDEALS:2011-05-07
Identifier in Online Catalog:AAI9512351
OCLC Identifier:(UMI)AAI9512351

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