Online IST: A Quick Project Overview

Kristin Camplese
October 25, 2002

“The overarching goal of Penn State’s School of Information Sciences and Technology (IST) is to pursue an agenda that focuses on the theoretical, application-oriented, and educational issues facing a digital global economy. Our research focuses on building an understanding of how information and technology fundamentally impact (and are impacted by) people, organizations, and the world community. The teaching and learning environments we offer are designed to build leaders for a rapidly evolving information-driven world. Because of the seriousness of technology demands faced by business, industry, and government, Penn State’s School of IST has moved aggressively on a broad front. One of the keys to these efforts was the development of the IST Solutions Institute (SI), an administrative arm of the school that is the driver of higher education institutional cooperation, knowledge transfer, and educational program development and delivery.” (School of IST,

A primary focus of the Institute is the Online IST Project, which began in October 1999. The project presented a unique challenge: to create an online, problem-based, real-world, modular, reusable curriculum for the School of Information Sciences and Technology. One of the biggest challenges would be to flesh out a problem-based, online instructional design model that meshed with other unique, market-driven needs.

What has evolved through our team process is called “Solutions-Based Learning” — a real world model that focuses on teaching and learning within a business-oriented, team-driven process. Solutions-Based Learning not only focuses on students finding solutions to real world problems; it is a solution to the many high level learning needs that universities and schools have today. Solutions-Based Learning relies on presenting students with a real-world problem at the beginning of an instructional module. Within that module, topics support both the traditional instruction, as well as the problem-solving activity. As the students work through the content, they are not only gathering information for the problem solving process, they are participating in traditional online activities such as reading and collecting information in a hypertext fashion, discussing the content with students and facilitators in online bulletin boards, and interacting with multimedia exercises and streaming video events that enhance the content.

The Solutions-Based Learning and Online IST approach transforms the way in which courses are created, managed, accessed, and evaluated. It is innovative in three ways.

1. Online IST modules allow rapid configuration and tailoring of educational material –

Online IST courses are developed in a modular fashion by a team of faculty content specialists, instructional designers, and multimedia experts in the IST Solutions Institute. The School of IST has access to approximately 100 faculty in the information sciences. This enables the SI team to provide the most up-to-date content in information technology. Currently, there are four fully online courses: IST 110: Introduction to Information Sciences and Technology, IST 210: Organization of Data, IST 220: Networking and Telecommunications, and IST 250: New Media and the Web.

2. Delivery via the World Wide Web provides portability and anytime, any place access –

The Online IST courses are delivered through the World Wide Web. Teachers and students can access course content, multimedia exercises, live streaming video events, and lab activities through a simple web browser. In addition, they can communicate with members of their virtual class through synchronous and asynchronous communication tools. The “portability” of the courses enables learning to take place at any location in a “just in time” fashion. Both teachers and students can access the materials 24 hours a day, seven days a week, in any location. In this model, the expertise of the teacher is augmented by instant teacher and student access to a fully designed IT curriculum.

3. Interactive, problem-based courses increase student and teacher skills –

Learning gains are accomplished through activities and media including: team-based, real world problems, multimedia-based interactive exercises, online asynchronous and synchronous communication, and virtual lab activities. The resulting courses focus on developing students capable of understanding the theory, practice, and problem solving of IT. Real world problems are designed by faculty and industry experts in conjunction with Solutions Institute instructional designers to ensure that the problems are challenging, motivating, and aligned with course learning goals. Through these activities, students develop their oral and written presentation skills, professionalism skills, and research skills.

Since the project’s inception, experts within the IST Solutions Institute have designed, developed, and implemented four core online undergraduate courses. In approximately two years since the first course was finalized, approximately 100 sections with 5100 students around the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania have utilized these courses.

The eight-person SI team responsible for the Online IST project is comprised of instructional designers, multimedia and graphics specialists, faculty development specialists, and project managers. Team members work directly with IST faculty members to create and constantly evaluate and improve the innovative Online IST courses. The director of the Online IST Project, Cole Camplese, has an extensive background in online education for both educational and corporate audiences. The Solutions Institute was recently awarded the IST Innovation Award by the students of the School for its groundbreaking work on the Online IST curriculum.

Alignment and Integration of e-Learning Support Mechanisms in Online IST

Cole Camplese, Director, Education and Training Solutions
Kristin Camplese, Manager, Instructional Design and Research

April 7, 2001


An e-Learning course is only as good as the support that is provided to both students and instructors. The School of Information Sciences and Technology (IST) at Penn State University has focused heavily on aligning e-Learning support mechanisms. The approach has been to provide integrated faculty development, student development, and print documentation in the form of the “Roadmap.” This presentation will provide an overview of the Online IST curriculum and detail the support mechanisms that have been pivotal to the success of this e-Learning initiative.

Online IST Background

The Penn State School of Information Sciences and Technology (IST) formally opened in 1999 to develop leaders for the emerging e-world—professionals who put technology to work in any setting, whether it is business or social service, government, or education. Within the School, the Solutions Institute has been responsible for the translation of this innovative curriculum to an online world. The Online IST Curriculum was made real in the fall of 2000 when IST 110, An Introduction to Information Sciences and Technology, was delivered to a Penn State University IST audience. Since this initial roll out, approximately one additional course has gone online every semester. Future plans include online courses for the full undergraduate core and courses for the Professional Masters degree.

Online IST courses are built through a collaborative effort with thought-leaders in information sciences and technology, corporate partners and an experienced instructional design team. All of the courses are founded on the basic principles of Problem Based Learning, where students learn through solving real-world problems in cooperation with course materials, external research and team-based interaction. The courses are designed to be total packages—that is, they are designed from start to finish and can be taught with no additional design effort from faculty, if they so choose.

The Support Problem

As IST began to roll out online course offerings, we immediately realized that — no matter how good the online curriculum was — we needed the support and backing of IST faculty and students. In order to gain this, we needed to support them in their efforts to disseminate the online courses. Faculty members were excited about the new approach, but most had little experience implementing a course like this from both a technological and pedagogical perspective. They needed tools and information to help them in their quests to deliver our courses online. In addition, few, if any, students had experience in an online, problem-based course. The Institute needed to be able to provide teaching, learning, and administrative/ technological support in order to ensure widespread adoption of the courses. Beyond the instructional and technological issues, we had to be prepared to deal with the many change management and institutional issues that are always at the core of information technology projects.

The Support Solution

The support solutions that were envisioned considered all of our various stakeholders: faculty, students, administration, and staff/team members. We also realized that some of the support issues were really marketing issues in disguise. This meant we needed to create positive public relations through marketing materials. Some of these included “online course trailers” which introduced the courses as “coming attractions.” As part of this, a “customer support line” was also established. In short, we had to treat this like a business. However, teaching and learning could not be sacrificed.

Online IST Support Mechanisms

Several support pieces evolved as the delivery of the Online IST Curriculum continued. The Course Roadmap is the most important piece of the offering. The Roadmap is a printed manual (usually about 100 pages long) that walks both faculty and students through the course. It includes information about all course activities, grading rubrics, assignment checklists, technical set up, problem descriptions, and strategies for success in the course. Students are told “all of the answers to their questions are in the Roadmap.” The expectation is that they should consult that document before they go anywhere else. The document is the first line of support and has a nice byproduct—its comprehensive nature reduces the load on faculty members who are generally forced to answer hundreds of emails regarding the same course issues.

Faculty Development is the second key piece of our support puzzle. In anticipation of each semester, a faculty development session is held to prepare instructors both from a technical and learning perspective. In addition, the Solutions Institute holds the Faculty Academy (, which is an event that helps teachers integrate technology into their classrooms. Special sessions at this event focus on Online IST.

Student Development is also important to the Online IST Support effort. The courses are designed to focus the first two to three sessions solely on course familiarization and team building. Called Module Zero and repeated in all online IST courses, these sessions go a long way in preparing students for the expectations of the course and help them immensely with team issues.

The final piece of the support effort is the Online IST Support Specialist whose main job is the support of both faculty and students in the online courses. The Support Specialist is also responsible for maintaining the online Solutions Support Suite, which includes many set up and support resources, as well as just in time training, and contact information on the web.

Beyond Support…

The alignment of these support mechanisms is also a very important idea to consider.

Alignment with Marketing: Along with the actual support events and sites, we provide marketing material to get faculty and students excited about upcoming learning opportunities. The Course Trailers that were referred to previously have been core to this effort.

Alignment with Administration and Curricular Goals: From the beginning of this effort, our Dean and administrative leadership have been in full support of the curriculum and its approach. Faculty and students are encouraged to get involved in the courses, and materials are freely available to the IST community. This support and institutional transformation enables high-level, high-energy, creative work and education.

Alignment with Design and Development Team: Our Instructional Design and Development Team within the Solutions Institute is a highly motivated and talented team. We have a shared vision of creating online learning that is educationally sound, practical, “implementable,” and fully supported for both faculty and students. Without this type of team alignment, our courses could not be successful.

Lessons Learned

We have begun to distill our experiences regarding support into a few “lessons learned.” To summarize:

  • Faculty and students do not want to feel disconnected.
  • Importance of “physical” support pieces (Paper!)
  • Importance of availability (Phone, IM, E-Mail)
  • Importance of some face to face contact (Hybrid Approach)
  • Faculty and students do not have a lot of experience in these types of learning models.
  • Importance of support before the course begins
  • Even with the “perfect” interfaces and ID models, they will still need support!
  • Remember it is a change management issue as well.
  • Technology always brings out the need for support
  • Be prepared to support your users’ technology needs or find someone who will.

The Bottom Line

The Solutions Institute approach has placed faculty and student support at the heart of every instructional design and development project. In addition, support specialists are valued members of every instructional design team. Ignoring the human element in these projects is the first step toward non-adoption. And without adoption, very few projects are successful.

Solutions Based Learning Model: A Model for Online Education and Beyond

September 11, 2000
Kristin & Cole Camplese

Author’s Note: This white paper was written in 2000. The overarching model for Solutions-Based Learning is largely the same, however (as with technology and eLearning in general) it has evolved and our perceptions on some activities have changed.

The History of Solutions-Based Learning (SBL)

A unique challenge was presented to the IST Solutions Institute in the Fall of 1999: to create an online, problem-based, real-world, modular, reusable curriculum for the new School of Information Sciences and Technology. In addition, these courses could not spend years in development. There was a big need to roll them out quickly in order to prove that IST was an asset to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Another slight complication was the fact that this technology-based curriculum would be changing very rapidly—a content management strategy would be imperative. In addition, it would be very difficult to take time from our traditional, tenure-track faculty because they are so inundated with getting the resident curriculum up and running. The online courses would also have to be used in many different delivery methods: hybrid delivery (mostly online, but some face to face sessions) for resident students, asynchronous delivery for resident students and rolling enrollment, and “pre-packaged” delivery for other institutions.

The Education and Training Solutions group within the Institute would be responsible for this initiative. Just to create an online course is a challenge—few people have done it well to date. In addition, adding a problem-based layer in a distant setting would be another layer to the challenge. All of this had to be accomplished in a way that allowed us to roll out courses quickly and reuse/repurpose content in a modular fashion. Many challenges to say the least.

One of the biggest challenges has been to flesh out a problem-based, online instructional design model that meshes with all of our other unique, market-driven needs. What has evolved through our team process seemed to take some of the best elements of many approaches and combine them in a way that has allowed us to make our online curriculum a reality. It is not problem-based learning in its truest fashion. It is Solutions-Based Learning—a real world model that focuses on teaching and learning within a business-oriented, team-driven process. Solutions-Based Learning not only focuses on students finding solutions to real world problems; it is a solution to the many instructional design challenges that universities and schools face today.

Student Need

First of all, I feel it is important to state the educational mission of the School of Information Sciences and Technology. We are striving to create leaders for our new, information and technology-driven society.

Technology is no longer its “own” field; indeed it crosses the boundary of every single domain that exists today. It used to be that a computer science program was the way to educate students desiring a computer-related degree. But now, however, we see every field being impacted by technology. It is not only impacting the person at work, though. Every use of technology has a social impact on an individual’s daily life.

  • Nurses use intranet systems to manage patient care… Patients use internet systems to manage their own care.
  • Libraries maintain their collections through powerful information processing systems… Students of all ages do research for learning, or for pleasure, using those systems.
  • Large retailers maintain their storefronts on database systems accessible through the world wide web… consumers purchase goods by accessing these systems.
  • Online investing systems allow trading without a stockbroker … What do stock brokers do now?

Many of these systems have been in place for quite some time. However, accessibility to the systems because of networks has eliminated the “middle man” in many cases. Not only do students in our curriculum need to understand the fundamentals behind the systems; they need to understand the impact that the systems can have on society and in business. As in the stockbroker example above, our students need to recognize that entire fields and jobs are being redesigned to deal with technology. Now a stockbroker needs to add value to his customers’ buying process because of the ease of trading online. Our students need to see these impacts and be able to analyze them.

So, we are not only giving students the fundamentals to understand the systems, but we are giving them the problem-solving, analytical mentality to understand how these systems impact business and society. We need to train students to be able to work in diverse teams that allow them to have a taste of the real world. In addition, we need to assist them in problem solving as individuals. Most problem solving activities have both group and individual learning components.

Overview of Solutions-Based Learning

Solutions-Based Learning relies on presenting students with a real-world problem or case study at the beginning of an instructional module. Within that module, topics (and lessons that make up those topics) support both the traditional instruction, as well as the problem-solving activity.

IST 110 Course Structure

Modules = Groupings of content topics.
Topics = Groupings of related lessons.
Lessons = Groupings of related content pages.

As the students work through the traditional content, they are not only gathering information for the problem solving process, they are participating in traditional online activities such as reading, responding to discussion questions which are posted to the online bulletin board, and interacting with multimedia exercises which enhance the content.

Comparison to Traditional PBL

This is a difficult piece to write because there is much confusion around what problem-based learning (PBL) really is. Everyone has his or her own view about what it must include and how it must be included. In a review of problem-based learning literature in medical education, it was stated that:

The basic outline of the problem-based learning process is: encountering the problem first, problem-solving with clinical reasoning skills and identifying learning needs in and interactive process, self study, applying newly gained knowledge to the problem, and summarizing what has been learned. (Barrows 1985, p. 15)

Wilkerson and Feletti state that it is crucial that “the problem raise compelling issues for new learning and that students have an opportunity to become actively involved with appropriate feedback and corrective assistance from faculty members.” (Wilkerson and Feletti 1989, p. 53)

Many people have many different views about what PBL is or is not. However, the following concepts are generally held to be true. PBL:

  • Relies on a real world, authentic problem presented up front to students.
  • Is facilitated by an instructor. The instructor must “guide, probe, and support student initiatives” not just purely lecture or operate as a “sage on the stage.” (Kaufman et al 1989, p. 286)
  • Is generally considered to be collaborative in nature.
  • Is assessed in the purest form “in the context of the problem.” (Duffy and Cunningham 1996, p. 170). Rubrics are generally used to evaluate student solutions and very few, if any, multiple choice-like instruments would be used to evaluate learning.
  • Is designed to facilitate deep and meaningful learning. Content coverage cannot be as easily ensured in a true PBL curriculum (as compared to a traditional course).

How is this different from Solutions-Based Learning? In many ways, not very! Solutions-Based Learning, from the standpoint of the model, is really on a PBL continuum. It is not PBL in its purest form, but it does hold many of the same characteristics. We focus on real world problems presented up front. And the instructor definitely acts as more of a facilitator. We all probably agree that a problem-based learning model is the most authentic way to learn—it is how we learn throughout our lives. But it is not always easy to translate into traditional education.

Where SBL is different is in the fact that we feel it is practical and applicable within most traditional educational settings. Our model can be collaborative or individual, depending on instructor needs. Our model allows assessment to take place in a variety of ways. We incorporate instruments that allow for demonstration of learning from a depth and breadth perspective. Let’s face it, most educational institutions, governments, and money granting institutions want to see how an educational experience can be quantified, i.e. what the grades were. They give us curricula that need to be taught, i.e. standards. And most instructors and students alike still focus on tests as skill demonstration. While we feel that this is not necessarily correct, it is still an important component to take into consideration. By including problems, discussion activities, labs and some opportunities for traditional quizzes, we feel that we can ensure the maximum amount of learning from both a depth and breadth perspective. Individual instructors can re-weight activities that they feel are the most important.

Assessment Strategies

Assessment takes place at each level of the course. At the module level, students are assessed within the context of the problem based on their solutions. A detailed rubric is used to evaluate each problem deliverable. In addition, when a team-based component exists, a “teaming” grade is formulated based on the average of each team member’s self and team evaluations.

Also at the module level, we have designed criterion-referenced quizzes. These were formulated to assess content coverage of objectives throughout the course. While this does not necessarily fit with a true problem-based approach, it does fit with a Solutions-Based approach. Problem-based learning does a fantastic job ensuring deep, meaningful learning; however, in introductory courses, especially, we need to ensure that students take away the basic introductory knowledge that all IST students need to have (the basic lingo, definitions, procedures, etc.). For this reason, we have developed short (15-20 item) online quizzes to motivate students to interact with all content, not just the content that is covered in the problems. The quizzes are timed, but not proctored. This means that they could “cheat.” We are not as concerned with that as we are with the students just preparing themselves for such a learning opportunity. Because they are timed, they will have to move through items in a manner that does not allow for extensive use of resources.

In an online or traditional setting, it is very difficult to ensure that students read and interact with the content. Because our content has been developed exclusively for this course (meaning that it is all relevant), students need to interact with it. They need to know (independently) what the definition of an information system is; they need to be able to list the basic steps in systematic design and development; they need to know the basic differences between relational and flat file databases. Employers expect this! Many high level concepts can be covered in problems or case studies; however, many of the IST fundamentals need to be adequately covered as well. Our basic approach is that problems are used to assess high level learning objectives; however, quizzes are used to assess lower level content objectives.

At the topic level, students are assessed through applied Lab Activities. IST 110 is a 4 credit course, so this is imperative. However, other courses may or may not have this component. Lab activities are applied, “internship-ready” activities. Students are required to learn a skill such as Microsoft Excel, but then apply it to a knowledge worker task, such as creating a spreadsheet that evaluates several different hardware systems. These types of skills make our students much more ready for employment than if they were simply asked to create a random spreadsheet with little need for context.

At the lesson level, students are assessed using Discussion Activities. Discussion Activities are based around one page of content and require students to think about it in a deeper manner. For example, when the content discusses the unbundling of hardware and software, students are asked to envision what the computing world would be like if this never happened. These generative learning activities require students to read and respond to the content in a way that makes them reflect and create new knowledge.

Screen Shot 2014-08-09 at 9.01.36 PM

More details around each activity can be found below:

Description of Problem Activity

  • Can be team-based or individual-based.
  • Focus on real world questions and present multiple perspectives.
  • Must replicate the motivation factor that is present in real world problem solving.
  • Do not necessarily have a right or wrong answer.
  • Students need to utilize course content and outside research to construct their answer.
  • Require a “deliverable” and a presentation (if hybrid approach) to defend their solution.

Description of Module Quizzes

  • Individually completed.
  • Criterion-referenced.
  • Ensure more adequate content coverage by students.
  • Can be online or face to face, depending on how facilitator wants to set up the course.

Description of Lab Activities

  • Individually completed.
  • Focus on a topic of information.
  • Require students to read content, perform outside research, and respond by generating a solution.
  • Implemented in Communication Space (e.g. WebCT)

Description of Discussion Activities

  • Individually completed.
  • Thought provoking questions related to course content.
  • Require students to read content and generate a response based on prior knowledge.
  • Lead to active discussion among students and facilitator.
  • Implemented in Communication Space.

Prime Time Crime: A Look at Television Violence

Prime Time Crime: A Look at Television Violence
Cole W. Camplese
Soc. 121
Dr. Agnes Reidmann
December 8, 1993

Will the roadrunner get away, or will the coyote have him for dinner? Sounds like a “National Geographic” special on the rigors of the food chain. But for most young children it is a scenario that is played out every Saturday morning on the “Bugs Bunny Show.” A cartoon that, in scene after scene, shows people and animals getting blown up, dropped off twenty–story buildings, and numerous other forms of violence. All in all, it is an hour’s worth of pure violence. In fact, it was found that “94.3 percent of programs with a cartoon format contained violence in 1967 (Cater and Strickland 32).” How do children react to these images? How do adults react to the same type of violent images they see being splashed across their television sets on a daily basis? There are those who express concern about the possible harmful effects of television. According to Ronald P. Abeles “They raise the specter of its potential for constricting our intellectual and socia l horizons by converting active human beings into passive and highly influenceable ‘vidiots'” (1).

But how does this affect the typical American family? Well, according to Linda Gorden, “In the past 25 years, family violence has appeared as a substantial social problem.” And in this same time period the media has been giving us increasingly larger doses of violence in all forms. Although it is not possible to generalize about every family, I do believe that television violence plays a damaging role in a vast majority of the households across the country. For example, the young boy who set fire to his home and little sister because Beavis, of Beavis and Butt-head, kept repeating that “Fire is cool.” How can this be happening and perhaps more importantly why? Is it really the responsibility of the parents to control what their children see on television or do the networks and censors have to start limiting the number of violent images children see on a daily basis? This paper is goin √g to examine the effect television has on children and attempt to sort out some of these questions. I believe that the portrayal of violence in the media leads to increased violence in both children and adults.

Before anything else, I believe that a working definition of violence should be given. Violence is very hard to define, just as is the word pornography, because of its relative nature. But for the purpose of this paper the following definition will be used: “Physical force exerted for the purpose of violating, damaging, or abusing another person (Morris, 1431).”

Televisions occupy at least 90 percent of American households today and the average viewer watches in the upwards of five hours per day. To many people television is a friend that helps them get through the day (Arons and May 1). This overexposure to television is what tends to pull people into accepting and, more importantly, allowing the violence to take place on the screen and in their homes.

What causes people to watch that much television and act out what they see? One thesis by Mallory Wober and Barrie Gunter called the “Cultivation Theory” tries to answer this question. The cultivation theory explains how people perceive television and its effect on them. It looks at how television has the ability to fool people into accepting what is on the screen as being reality.

The main thrust of their idea is a concept that they call a “reality shift;” that is, people are influenced in their images of the real world by the content of what they see on television (Wober and Gunter 7). For example, a person who watches many hours of programming on the topic of crime may underestimate the complexity of committing crimes and therefore set out to become a professional criminal. Or, a woman who watches “Soap Operas” all day may begin carrying a hand gun, and use it on anyone who looks remotely suspicious, because she now overestimates the possibility of a violent crime towards her.

What occurs is that people learn the content patterns of television shows, draw inferences from them and then generalize this information to their perceptions of the real world. In fact, they reported that:

While 30 percent of all characters and over 64 percent of major characters monitored in prime–time programming over a ten–year span were involved in violence as perpetrators, victims or both. United States census figures during this period indicated that in reality only one–third of one per cent of individuals tend to get involved in violence (Wober and Gunter 11).

The reality is alarming simply because the separation of real events and television events (such as violence) is very large. The gap depicts an on going dilemma that Americans must begin to face.

The group that is seemingly effected the most by media violence is teenagers. According to William A. Belson “The main effect of crime and violence is on the teenagers. They see people get away with these terrible things and they think they can do the same” (160).

In a study done by Edward B. Guy, one hundred young males were observed in relation to television viewing and how it effected social development and violent behavior. All subjects were selected at random and a majority of those studied reported to watching one to six hours of television per day. The shows that most enjoyed watching were war shows, police shows, rock music shows, and boxing. These findings are consistent with a level of interest in violence, crime and the interest in certain types of music (such as hard rock).

In this study a concept known as modeling was the main focus. Modeling takes place when a person sees behavior on television and then repeats it. In some instances modeling is very good, for example when a child watches an educational program and then repeats the lesson as they saw on television. But, most of the time the modeling is negative. If, for example, a child watches a gangster movie in which the hero is wealthy, attractive, and powerful then obviously that child is going to try and model his behavior after the hero’s so he to can become wealthy, attractive, and powerful. Sometimes this involves acting out the aggressive behavior in most of today’s television shows. Going back to the example of the “Bugs Bunny Show,” when a child sees one character shoot another character, that child has a very difficult time separating his reality and that of the cartoon world. So, what does the child do? He gets his fathers gun and in a playful way models his favorite cartoon character and kills his little brother.

In Guy’s study he saw that 44 subjects out of 100 either tried to duplicate what they saw or had seriously contemplated trying what they saw. As young children, all of the men reported wanting to have what they saw on television (adventure, travel, excitement, etc.) but as they got older they began to realize the gap be tween television and their own realities. This led some to model the behavior of some on television to get what they had. This type of reaction almost always was associated with negative modeling. That is, the men who wanted what they could not have went about by modeling successful criminals and not successful business men (Guy 96–152).

What we have seen is the power of the media and its effects on us as adults and on young unsuspecting children. Perhaps Gerbner and Gross said it best when they expla ined television as:

The first mass–produced and organically composed symbolic environment into which all children are born and in which they will live from cradle to grave. No other medium or institution since pre industrialized religion has had a comparable influence on what people . . . have learned, thought, or done in common (380).

But, what do all of these theories have to do with family life? Well, a look at an article that appeared in Ms. magazine looked at the connection between men, sports, and woman bashing. During the 1988 Super Bowel match-up between the Denver Broncos and the Washington Redskins calls of domestic violence dropped way below normal, “‘but the number of calls soared in the first four or five hours’ after Denver’s Defeat.” Do people get that involved in what is going on with their team that they can act out and begin beating their wives if they begin to loose? As stupid as it sounds, unfortunately, the answer appears to be yes. The article goes on to say th at “About 25% of the men referred by courts to the Domestic Abuse Center … tell of at least one incident of battering involving sports … (Ruffini 93).” This is just another example of how the media begins to socialize individuals to violence so they will use sports as an excuse for acting out.

Beyond the Super Bowl, almost anything will create tension between family members and can ultimately lead to violence. Just as Murray Straus and Associates suggest in “The Marriage License as a Hitting License” men don’t need much of an excuse other than their house, their rules. The article goes on to say that, “aside from war and riots, physical violence occurs between family members more often than it occurs between any other individuals (204).” This leads to one question: Do we need any of these violent images being splashed across our t.v. screens like some pre-historic snap-count that jump-starts our violent urges? No, I don’t think so.

Another effect violence in the media has on people is its tendency to be recreated in the home. The effect this has on children has been well documented and is, for the most part, accepted. If you listen to Richard Gelles, Murray Staus, and Suzanne Steinmetz you begin to understand the impact it has on children. “Across the board, children from violent homes are more likely to have personal troubles — temper tantrums … and aggressive and violent flare-ups with family members and people outside the home (330).”

The other side of the television spectrum that can be almost as harmful is the candy-coated side. It is the aspect of television that has led family life to drastically change its the idea of the “perfect” family. There we sit, each and every dysfunctional one of us watching our favorite television families routinely create, attack, and solve problems of monstrous size all in 22 minutes night in and night out. As Elayne Rapping wrote, “To watch American sitcoms … is to enter an America in which adults spend virtually all of their time … worrying over and solving their children’s problems … It is a world in which violence, drugs, racism and sexism barely exist (36).” This led children to believe that there really is something seriously wrong with us and our families. That we were somehow not quite as good as the Clevers or the Tanners. This shows that television can also lead to other types of damaging effects. Many young people grow up thinking that maybe it is their fault that things could never be resolved — especially in 22 minutes.

And then there are the Simpsons and the Bundies, of Married With Children fame, — the anti-Clevers. In these sitcoms, the life that is depicted on screen is said Ä to be realistic in every way (never mind that the Simpsons is animated). Do we need a half our of blue-printed domestic brutality? I don’t think so, and I also believe it sends the wrong type of message. This time, that it is okay to routinely hit, pinch, verbally blast, and downright disrespect every person in your respective households. This would lead you to ask “Are people buying?” Yes, and in a big way. As Richard Zoglin writes, “Still, ratings keep going up, and … merchandise, from T-shirts to key chains, is flying off the shelves (86).” Is this due to the comedy or is it a way for people to justify what they have become in their own lives — “Oh Mom, Bart gets to pick his little sister up by her hair and swing her around.” I believe it has more to do with the latter.

What about the new and never ending video rental world? What can 12 year old Timmy get his hands on at the local video store? Well, according to an article in US News & World Report, just about anything. They sent a dozen kids age 11 to 14 into video rental stores to test the Motion Picture Association of America’s claim to congress during a hearing on media violence that reads: “Video retailers are careful to ensure children do not have access to R, NC-17 or unrated products that contain patently adult depictions of sex or violence.” Guess what? Ten out of those twelve rented just what the Motion Picture Association of America said they weren’t able to rent. Is this what we really want? In world where the average murder rate during prime time is two per night? I would think that video would be more of an escape from the bombardment of violent images. What can be done when a child can just turn on the t.v. at any hour and catch sex, lies, and now, videotape? (Silver 65-67)

Of all of the questions in world, can anyone really fully give an accurate answer? Of course not, but they can rely on research and case studies done by people who have the aspirations to come as close as they can to the answers. Does media violence lead to increased violence in society? Well, it appears as though it does. Would violence exist without the mass media? Of course it would. There were wars before television, people fought before radio, and even before language was established there were squabbles over some things. So, to say that television is responsible for increased violence all–together is a very poor statement to make. However, the evidence is hard to ignore and it would also be a poor statement to say that television does not have anything to with the increa sed violence in society.

So, what do we do and where do we start? We must first come up with a way to bridge the gap between reality and perceived reality. The only way to do that is through education and an increased awareness between fiction and fact. The second thing would be to obviously tone the violence down on television. But, I do not see that happening simply because television has become an incredibly successful marketing device in which advertisers use to sell products. Thus, no one will sponsor programs that no one will watch and violence sells in prime time. Another direction that could be taken includes just simply forbiding children from watching certain shows in which violence is depicted. But, according to Erica Austin, “The program that alarms the parent and is, therefore, forbidden may become far more interesting to the child (359).” This would serve as a drive for the child to watch and maybe even create some feelings of hostility towards the parent.

There are no easy answers, but the issue of media violence and its effects on children and people in general has been debated since the arrival of television with little proof on either sides. I do believe that this violence has had ill-affects on the family and will continue to do so until it is curbed in some way.

Works Cited

Ables, Ronald, P Television and Social Behavior: Beyond Violence and Children. New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. 1980. p. 1.

Arons, Leon., Mark A. May. Television and Human Behavior. New York: Appleton Century–Crofts,1963. p. 1.

Austin, Weintraub Erica. “Parent-Child TV Interaction: The Importance of Perspective.” Journal of Broadcasting and Electronic Media. Broadcast Education Association, Summer 1992. p. 359-360.

Belson, William, A. The Impact of Television. Methods and Findings in Program Research. Connecticut: Archon Books, 1967. p. 160.

Carter, Douglass., Stephen Strickland. TV Violence and the Child: The Evolution and Fate of the Surgeon General’s Report. New York: Russell Sage Foundation, 1979. p. 32.

Gelles, Richard., Murray A. Straus. “The Impact of Intimate Violence.” FR. Family in Transition. 7th ed., Arlene S. Skolnick & Jerome H. Skolnick.Harper Collins Publishers, 1992. p. 330.

Gerbner, George., Larry Cross. “The Violent Face of Television and its Lessons.” FR. Read, Reason, Write. 3rd ed., Dorothy U Seyler, ED., Berkeley: University of California, 1973. p. 380.

Gordon, Linda. “The Politics and History of Family Violence.” FR. Family in Transition. 7th ed., Arlene S. Skolnick & Jerome H. Skolnick.Harper Collins Publishers, 1992. p. 330.

Guy, Edwarfld, B. “Television Viewing, Anti–Social Development and Violent Behavior, An Examination of One Hundred Young Male Offenders.” FR. Studies in Violence and Television. Melvin S. Heller, M.S., M.D., New York: American Broadcasting Company, 1976. p. 96–152.

Morris, William, Ed. The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language. New York: American Heritage Publishing Company, Inc., 1969. p. 1431.
Rapping, Elayne. “A Family Affair.” The Progressive. April 1992. p. 36-38.

Ruffini, Gene. “The Super Bowl’s Real Score.” Ms. November/December 1991. p.93.
Silver, Mark. “Troubling TV Ads.” US News and World Report. February 1, 1993. p. 65-67.

Straus, Murray. et al. “The Marriage License as a Hitting License.” FR. Family in Transition. 7th ed., Arlene S. Skolnick & Jerome H. Skolnick.Harper Collins Publishers, 1992. p. 204.

Wober, Mallory., Barrie Gunter. Television and Social Control. New York: St. Martin Press, 1988. p. 7 and 11.

Zoglin, Richard. “Home is Where the Venom Is.” Time. April 16, 1990. p. 85-86.