|Nutrition education for the public. Discussion papers of the FAO Expert Consultation (Rome, Italy, 18-22 September 1995) - FAO Food and Nutrition Paper 62 - (1997)|
|New developments in nutrition education utilising computer technology|
Several issues are beyond the scope of this paper, including: (i) specific hardware and software requirements needed for nutrition education programming; (ii) specific computer skills needed by the nutrition educator; and (iii) selection of an appropriate computer consultant. There are organisations and agencies dedicated to the development of educational multimedia and distance education. They should be consulted for answers to those questions. For example, OMNI (1995) described hardware and software requirements for users of micronutrient databases as well as capacity and skill for application and use. The Board on Science and Technology for International Development (BOSTID) also has relevant fact sheets for the novice computer user. Johnson (1992) describes keys to sustainable microcomputer-based information systems in developing countries.
Professional groups are beginning to identify what the term computer literacy means for its profession. For example, the Society for Teachers of Family Medicines Working Group on Computer Applications in Medicine recently proposed computer skills that should be acquired by all medical students before they complete their training. The tentative list includes working knowledge of e-mail, word processing, spread sheets, computerised medical records, and data management programmes such as SPSS or SAS. A similar set of skills needs to be developed for nutrition educators.
Most individuals develop computer skills by reading manuals; viewing videotapes; trial and error at the computer; conferring with a colleague or a computer tutor; learning from men-children; or attending workshops and classes sponsored by employers, community colleges and commercial companies. There has been little specific computer skills training for nutrition educators.
Some organisations, such as the Association for Progressive Communications, the Clearinghouse on Infants and Maternal Nutrition, SatelLife, BOSTID and the Society for Teachers of Family Medicine, have developed fact sheets and articles as introductions to understanding terminology and these tools. These materials are appropriate for nutrition educators to use in their personal computer skill development. The Clearinghouse on Infant Feeding and Maternal Nutrition has held workshops for capacity building and strategic development of communications.
The Society for Nutrition Education (SNE) has included programming to increase awareness about technology in nutrition education for several years. SNE has sponsored a session at its annual meeting where software authors interacted one-to-one with meeting participants to discuss the software they authored, the resources needed to develop the programmes, the acceptability to the intended audiences, evaluation data, and the trials and tribulations of developing computer-based applications. Several on-line applications have also been demonstrated at the SNE meeting. In 1995 SNE offered its first all day hands-on multimedia development workshop. All of these activities have been well received by participants. More hands-on training activities need to be supported at the meetings nutrition educators attend. Organisations have been reluctant to schedule these type of sessions because of logistics and expense.
Nutrition educators planning to create computer programmes have either needed to identify an instructional designer and computer programmer to work with them or personally develop those skills. There are how-to books on creating all types of software programmes and Home Pages. Most programmes described in this paper were developed by teams with the nutrition educator as the content specialist. Kolasa (1994) has described the roles and responsibilities of the multimedia team developing nutrition education materials. She assumes that nutrition educators do not have the time, interest or skills to develop these programmes. The talents and roles of other professionals, including the instructional designer and computer programmer, in the development of software programmes must be respected. The nutrition educators time is best spent in determining the food and nutrition message and then ensuring its accuracy when delivered.