Could you tell us a little about your professional background and how you got into the field of instructional technology?
I was a middle school mathematics/physical education teacher for 10 years (five in Illinois and five in Puerto Rico). When I was teaching at Fort Buchanan in Puerto Rico, the school district offered some inservice computer courses for teachers. I was impressed with the potential that technology could offer to education, and upon returning to the states, I searched for a program in technology that offered a Master's degree.
As soon as I received my Master's degree, I knew that my goal was to become a professor of Instructional Technology. Because this is such a diverse field, I felt I needed experience in academic, industrial, and military environments. Therefore, as I pursued my doctorate, I worked for two years at Martin Marietta (as a Senior Instructional Designer); one year at the University of Central Florida (as a Visiting Assistant Professor); and the last year at Analysis & Technology (as a Principal Scientist/Instructional Designer on primarily military projects).
I have been teaching in the Instructional Technology Program at the University of South Florida for the past six years. However, I continue to consult with industrial and military clients to keep abreast of the developments in these areas.
What is the Florida Center for Instructional Technology and what are your duties as Director?
The Florida Center for Instructional Technology is sponsored by the Florida Department of Education. The Center provides instructional materials and workshops to help teachers integrate technology into the classroom. As Director, I have been responsible for the design and development of many products, including:
The Teacher's Guide to the Holocaust
An Educator's Guide to School Networks
Technology Lesson Plans
The Internet: Ideas, Activities, and Resources
The Center currently employs approximately twelve graduate students who serve as Webmasters, graphic artists, editors, instructors, and managers. Visit our Web site at http://fcit.coedu.usf.edu for more information.
What areas of research and scholarship are you most interested in?
My current research centers around the design and development of Web-based training (WBT) and instruction. I am interested in this field both from a K-12 perspective and from an industrial perspective. The Web offers unlimited possibilities for the delivery of instruction, and it is very interesting and important to assess which of the design principles that were developed for CBT are also applicable to WBT.
My scholarship also encompasses both the K-12 and higher education/industrial environments. The books include:
Barron, A. E., & Ivers, K. S. (1996). The Internet and Instruction: Ideas and Activities. Englewood, CO: Libraries Unlimited.
Barron, A. E., & Ivers, K. S. (In press). Multimedia Projects for Education: Design, Development, and Assessment. Englewood, CO: Libraries Unlimited.
Barron, A. E., & Orwig, G. W. (1995). Multimedia Technologies for Training: An Introduction. Englewood, CO: Libraries Unlimited.
Barron, A. E., & Orwig, G. W. (1993; 1995; 1997). New Technologies for Educators: A Beginner's Guide. Englewood, CO: Libraries Unlimited.
Barron, A., & Lyskawa, C. (1997). Microsoft FrontPage97: Brief Edition. Cambridge, MA: Course Technology.
Barron, A., Lyskawa, C., & Vodnik, S. (1997). Microsoft Internet Explorer 3: Brief Edition. Cambridge, MA: Course Technology.
Barron, A.E., Tompkins, B., & Tai, D. (1997). EducatorUs Guide to Creating Web Pages. Lancaster, PA: Wentworth Worldwide Media.
Salkind, N. J., Barron, A., & Lyskawa, C. (1997). Microsoft Windows NT 4 Workstation: Illustrated Series, Standard Edition. Cambridge, MA: Course Technology.
Tennyson, R. D., & Barron, A. E. (Eds.). (1995). Automating Instructional Design: Computer-Based Development and Delivery Tools. Berlin: Springer-Verlag.
You are on the Editorial Board of several journals...what do you think are the main differences between a quality, publishable article and an average article?
I serve on the Editorial Boards of The Educational Forum, Journal of Educational Multimedia and Hypermedia, Journal of Educational Computing Research, and Computers in Human Behavior. I am also the Executive Editor of the Journal of Interactive Instruction Development. The focus of each of the journals is different. For example, the Educational Forum provides practical information for classroom teachers; the Journal of Interactive Instruction Development showcases innovative and effective approaches to the design of multimedia projects; and Computers in Human Behavior provides empirical research studies. A "quality, publishable article" must first of all fit within the framework of the journal and provide relevant information for the targeted audience. A second criteria is the ability of the author to convey his or her message in a coherent manner. Many of the "average" articles include good, relevant information, but the structure of the article is not easy to follow.
What do you think are the essential skills that someone entering the field of instructional technology absolutely has to have in order to be successful?
The field of instructional technology is very broad and includes may roles (such as instructional designers, graphic artists, programmers, etc.). For all roles, an essential skill is teamwork, since everyone must work together to create a quality product. In looking more closely at the skills required for instructional designers, refer to the Competencies and Skills for Instructional Designers at http://www.coedu.usf.edu/design/competen.html.
If you had unlimited time and money to do any research project you wanted, what would you do?
If I had unlimited time and money, I would focus my research on investigating the design and effectiveness of distance learning alternatives. All areas of education (K-12, higher education, industry) are being propelled into distance learning with the Web, satellite, videoconferencing, and other technologies. There is very little research and very few guidelines to help teachers and trainers design and deliver effective instruction with these new paradigms.
What are your professional plans for the next couple of years?
I love to teach, and I plan to stay in a university setting where I can teach instructional design, multimedia, and telecommunications. However, I also plan to take a sabbatical in the near future to work full-time with the design and development of commercial multimedia projects. (I will be the Chief Technology Office/Vice President of Interactive Media Corporation.) The experience I gain in the design and development of "real-world" projects is extremely beneficial to the classes I teach.
There are also several books that I will be writing in the next couple years. With technology, the updates are continuous. I am currently working on the second edition of The Internet and Instruction: Ideas and Activities, and will soon begin the fourth edition of New Technologies for Education: A Beginner's Guide.