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Food safety training gets boost in video iPod study

image image GROWING NATIONWIDE concern over food safety is leading Texas Tech University to test the possibility of using video iPods for food industry worker health and safety training. Since its introduction six years ago, the iPod has dominated the portable media player industry.

Its simple interface, navigational scroll wheel and iTunes software program make it relatively simple to use. And, it’s precisely those easy-to-use features that have now drawn the interest of safety instruction experts.Sponsored through a grant from the International Center for Food Industry Excellence, researchers have spent the past year testing the potential of using the sleek, high-tech units to deliver certification curriculum to those working in the food industry such as hazard analysis for beef packing plant employees.

Training On Demand
“Our ultimate goal is to be able to certify people at a distance,” said Todd Brashears, an assistant professor with the Department of Agricultural Education and Communications. “Portable electronics like iPods are perfect in situations where instructors are unavailable to do onsite instruction and workshops. They’re also good in instances where there isn’t ready internet access.”

In such cases, safety workshops could simply be loaded onto the iPod’s large hard drive and sent to the business where employees could complete their safety training requirements using the iPod alone, and then return the unit after course completion.

“We’ve started the testing phase in three of our graduate classes – both on campus and at a distance – to determine if they’re educational equivalent to face-to-face or internet-based instruction,” Brashears said. “In these iPod-enabled classes, we’re looking at teaching effectiveness, as well as individual enjoyment and technical issues.”

Staying In Sync
In evaluating the project’s 100 iPods, instructors are able to monitor downloaded courses, lectures selected, viewing times and frequency of viewing, as well as other iPod features including music and video. “We want to know if they’re really adopting the technology, or just using it for the class,” Brashears said.

iPods vary greatly in feature capability. Models the Texas Tech researchers chose for their project were high-end units with audio and video capabilities. In most instances, class instruction was presented in form of a PowerPoint presentation of lecture notes with an audio background. Presentation length varied, depending on the topic, from a five-minute demonstration to an hour lecture.

Researchers expect to complete their iPod analysis this summer, and results should be incorporated into ongoing food industry safety instruction programs by next fall.

“I really enjoyed using my iPod,” said Laura Lemons, a Texas Tech graduate student studying agricultural education. “You can study anywhere. I’ve listened to it while I was riding the bus, walking across campus, even when I was working out.”

-Written by Norman Martin

Contact: Todd Brashears, assistant professor, College of Agricultural Sciences & Natural Resources, Department of Agricultural Education and Communications, (806) 742-2816 or


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