Dr. Chelsey Ahrens: A WDinExt Podcast

We’ve been flirting with Snapchat at NDSU Extension Service. We’ve created some on-demand geofilters for events, but we don’t have ant NDSU Extension Snapchat accounts.

Dr. Chelsey A. Ahrens, Specialty Livestock/Youth Education Specialist with University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service,  has fully embraced Snapchat for her Arkansas 4-H Livestock program. I talked about how she is using Snapchat and other social media to reach 4-H participants and their families.

Dr. Keith Smith: A WDinExt Podcast

A few weeks ago on the podcast, I talked with Jamie Seger and Paul Hill about their experience on the Extension Committee on Organization and Policy’s (ECOP) Innovation Task Force. On the latest episode, spoke with Dr. Keith Smith, who chaired that task force.

Dr. Smith is Professor Emeritus at The Ohio State University. He served as the director of Ohio State University Extension for more than 20 years.

It was great to get a former director’s perspective on innovation in Cooperative Extension. Dr. Smith is frank about Extension’s need to innovate. He referenced the Innovation: An American Imperative, the call by industry leaders for policies and investments to ensure the U.S. remains a global innovation leader, in asking if its imperative that the nation innovate, why should it not be imperatve for Extension?

Dr. Smith also mentioned the book Collective Genius: The Art and Practice of Leading Innovation by Linda Hill, Greg Brandeau, Emily Truelove and Ken Lineback. He had his cabinet read this book while at Ohio State University Extension.

Dr. Smith is a respected leader in Cooperative Extension. Here’s hoping the system hears his call for innovation.

Citizen Science and Extension: A WDinExt Podcast

The increasing public distrust of science is one of the indirect threats to the future of Cooperative Extension. Obviously, an organization founded to diffuse research-based information and innovation would have an extremely hard time functioning in a country that had stopped trusting science.

Citizen science has the potential to rebuild trust in science by engaging people in the scientific process. It could also engage people in improving their own lives and communities, sharing in the work Extension often aims to do. Citizen science benefits Extension, and so Extension should be working to encourage it.

Katie Stofer, a research assistant professor at the University of Florida in the Agricultural Education and Communication department, has spent a year researching the state of citizen science in Cooperative Extension as part of an eXtension Fellowship. She shared some of what she learned on the latest episode of the podcast.

Innovation Task Force: A WDinExt Podcast

Jamie Seger, Educational Technology Program Director at The Ohio State University, and Paul Hill, County Educator and Extension Associate Professor (4-H) at Utah State University, co-lead the eXtension Educational Technology Learning Network (EdTechLN).

They join us periodically on the podcast to discuss the emerging technologies and issues in Cooperative Extension, and what’s going on in EdTechLN. In the conversation below, we focused on the Extension Committee on Orgaization and Policy’s Innovation Task Force, which Paul and Jamie both served on.

WDinExt 100th Episode Ideas

On November 3, 2016, I’ll post the 100th episode of the Working Differently in Extension podcast.

I started the podcast with my former colleague Julie Kuehl back in December 2010. The first 16 episodes featured Julie and I talking about technology. When Julie left NDSU, I re-imagined the podcast as an interview show with the first episode in that style, an interview with Dan Cotton, being posted in January of 2012.

Since then, I’ve recorded more than 75 interviews with Cooperative Extension folks across the country.

What do you think I should do for episode 100? Is there a guest you’d like to hear? Do you have ideas for a special 100th show?

I’d love to hear what you think. Thanks!

Shared Use Kitchen: A WDinExt Podcast

When I set up my interview with John Ivey, North Carolina Cooperative Extension agent in Guilford County, I was interested in the shared use kitchen he helped set up because it seemed innovative that Cooperative Extension would offer a facility where they might have only offered education.

That was just the tip of the iceberg. When John described how the shared use kitchen brought together much of what Extension has to offer: agriculture, entrepreneurship, community development and food safety. Add that to the impetus for the project, a finding that Guilford County was among the lest food secure counties in the nation, and you can see that Guilford County’s shared use kitchen is a much more significant innovation than I had thought.

Soybean Science Challenge – A WDinExt Podcast

Science Flash MobThe University of Arkansas Soybean Science Challenge is a multi-faceted effort to engage high school science students in “real-world” scholarship around soybean production.

Karen Ballard, Professor of Program Evaluation at University of Arkansas, Division of Agriculture, Cooperative Extension Service joined us to talk about the virtual field trips, science fair awards and online courses that make up the Challenge. In addition, Karen shared her insights into how Extension can reach young people and be more innovative.

I hope you enjoy the conversation.

Does Extension’s Research Base Extend to Your Facebook Feed?

This morning I came across the video below in my Facebook news feed. It had been shared by one current and one former Extension educator. You can watch it if you wish, but let me save you some time. It is a highly embellished version of the story of how Francis Scott Key wrote the “Star Spangles Banner,” the first verse of which became the lyrics of America’s national anthem. It is riddled with half-truths, stretched truths and outright fabrications.

I didn’t get very far into the video before I began to wonder about its veracity. When the narrator referred to Fort McHenry as “Fort Henry,” my internal alarms went off, and I started some cursory Internet searches to check the facts of the video. It did not take long to find credible sources that contradicted many of the points of the video.

I think everyone, especially educators, and especially educators representing an organization that defines itself as research-based, has a responsibility to do at least a little work checking to make sure something is true before sharing it on social media (Assessing the Reliability of Online Information).

I understand some people want to keep their personal lives separate from their professional lives. I know it can be a serious burden for county agents to be always on duty, whether they are in the office or at the grocery store, but that’s the job. Even when you are sharing on a personal social media account accessed by only family and close friends, your role as an educator is part of your persona. My mother-in-law spent her whole career in dentistry. I expect that when she shares something with me about tooth and gum care, even in a personal context, that it is based on research or the evidence she has observed in her experience.

Many Extension professionals are generalists and all are representatives of universities, so the expectation of sharing research or evidence-based information extends beyond our particular specialties. We can’t just click the retweet or share buttons if we like a headline or a video fits our personal view of the world. When we do, we are not only reflecting on Cooperative Extension and our universities, but also reflecting on the importance of science, research and the truth.

Nebraska Extension Director Chuck Hibberd: A WDinExt Podcast

Chuck Hibberd, dean and director of Cooperative Extension at the University of Nebraska – Lincoln, speaks off-the-cuff about learner engagement, social learning and other subjects key to Extension’s future like no other administrator I’ve met.

Earlier this year, I was assisting with a workshop for Nebraska Extension leaders. The workshop opened with a video message from the director. I thought it would be a standard welcome. Instead Chuck Hibberd spoke, unscripted, about conversational vs. transactional programming, addressing complex issues and the importance of networks.

We talked about some of those things, as well as learner engagement and the future of Extension on the latest Working Differently in Extension podcast.

Focus on What We Share, Not Our Differences

This Labor Day weekend, I read Sebastian Junger’s new book, Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging.

The book’s central idea is that we have lost our tribal connection, our opportunity (willingness?) to sacrifice ourselves for the sake of others, and that loss has negative psychological impacts. The idea and Junger’s argument in support of it are fascinating. I highly recommend the book.

One point that stuck with me is that our veneration of veterans and active service members might be hindering their reintegration into society. Junger writes about how “shared public meaning” of a war helps reduce the alienation soldiers feel when they return home by providing a context for their sacrifice that is acknowledged by most of the public. He goes on to say that the constant thanking of veterans and service members and the recognition they receive at large sporting events does not develop “shared public meaning,” but may further alienate those who served.

Junger writes, “These token acts only deepen the chasm between the military and civilian population by highlighting the fact that some people serve their country but the vast majority don’t.”

Junger also points out that the American public is disconnected not only from the military but also from other jobs that directly support our culture of consumption, including farming.

Farming is like any other job only you punch in at age 5 and never punch out.

Do messages like this help connect people with farming or further widen the disconnect?

As I read that, I was reminded of Facebook posts that read, “Farming is like any other job, only you punch in at age 5 and never punch out,” or “During harvest farmers give up meals at their table, so we can have meals at ours.” Given Junger’s argument, do posts messages like those above help connect the public to agriculture or further widen the gap?

I think it’s the latter. If we want to reconnect consumers and producers, service members and those they protected, or those who have become alienated in our communities, we need to focus on what we share, not on our differences.