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(Photo by With Luv (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0))

I believe everyone is a learner and everyone is a teacher. That each of us has expertise of our own lived experiences, and that coming together to share those experiences helps us find patterns and co-create a way forward.

So it's not surprising that I was drawn to the work of Michigan State University's Julie Doll, Cheryl Eschbach and James DeDecker when I read their article, "Using Dialogue to Engage Agricultural Audiences in Cooperative Learning About Climate Change: A Strategy with Broad Implications," in the Journal of Extension.

Their use of the Fishbowl method (inspired by "Fishbowls in the Field: Using Listening to Join Farmers, Ranchers, and Educations in Advancing Sustainable Agriculture")  to allow participants to drive the conversation about climate change demonstrates the potential of a more democratic approach to Extension work to address complex issues.

We've Tried That Before Book and Gift BoxThis is the last in a series of podcasts featuring the new book, "We've Tried That Before: 500 Years of Extension Wisdom." The book, inspired by T.J. Talbert's "Extension Worker's Code" (1922), features the insights of 30 Extension professionals from 15 states (including me!). You can order the book in a gift box at https://wttbgiftbox.eventbrite.com.

In this episode, we hear from Bradd Anderson, State 4-H Leadership & Communication Specialist with Missouri University Extension. Bradd wrote 5 sections of the book, “Valuing Others’ Opinions,” “Be Loyal and Always Speak Well of Others,” “Be Virtually Professional,” “Present Simply & Establish Context,”  and “Don’t Send That Emotional Message.” We'll also hear what role lead authors Paul Hill and Jamie Seger hope the book will play in Extension's future. The episode ends with a bit about "bumping the lamp."

We've Tried That Before Book and Gift Box

This is the 3rd in a series of podcasts featuring the new book, "We've Tried That Before: 500 Years of Extension Wisdom." The book, inspired by T.J. Talbert's "Extension Worker's Code" (1922), features the insights of 30 Extension professionals from 15 states (including me!). You can order the book in a gift box at https://wttbgiftbox.eventbrite.com.

In this episode, we'll hear from 2 co-authors talking about change. First, Michelle RodgersAssociate Dean and Director Cooperative Extension and Outreach at the University of Delaware, talks about her section, “Be Flexible. Adjust to Change.” Then, Danae Wolfeeducational technology specialist with Ohio State University Extension, talks about the section, “Reach People Where They Are.” Danae talks about reaching people and setting them on a path of engagement.

We've Tried That Before Book and Gift Box

This is the 2nd in a series of podcasts featuring the new book, "We've Tried That Before: 500 Years of Extension Wisdom." The book, inspired by T.J. Talbert's "Extension Worker's Code" (1922), features the insights of 30 Extension professionals from 15 states (including me!). You can order the book in a gift box at https://wttbgiftbox.eventbrite.com.

In this episode, Some of the book's authors discuss being energetic, avoiding jaded colleagues, finishing what you start and collaborating. You'll hear from Hunter McBrayer from Alabama, Daphne Richards from Texas, Scott Matteson from Michigan, and Eric Stafne from Mississippi.

We've Tried That Before Book and Gift Box

Paul Hill and Jamie Seger are the editors and co-authors of the new book, "We've Tried That Before: 500 Years of Extension Wisdom." The book, inspired by T.J. Talbert's "Extension Worker's Code" (1922), features the insights of 30 Extension professionals from 15 states (including me!). You can order the book in a gift box at https://wttbgiftbox.eventbrite.com.

This conversation with Jamie and Paul kicks off a series of podcasts in which we'll hear from several of the book's co-authors and discuss some of the important themes the book addresses.

I'm a white male who has worked in technology and media for years. I see myself as someone who challenges systems that undermine our pursuit of equity and justice, but that view of myself has to be colored by the fact that I have benefited from those systems.

That tension, among other things I struggle with everyday, is why my conversation with Jane Crayton was so important to me. Jane is an Extension agent for Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math in 4-H Youth Development at Colorado State University Extension in Pueblo County. She wrote an important commentary in the Journal of Extension titled "The Event Horizon for the Horizon Report: Inclusivity in Extension Programs." In it she calls out the Horizon Report that eXtension  commissioned in 2016 for ignoring issues of diversity and inclusion in their call to embrace emerging technologies.

I hope you can hear me thinking, struggling and learning in this conversation, and I hope it gives you a new perspective on Extension's innovation and technology-adoption efforts.

I have been teaching in a way that suggests I believe learning is episodic. I’ve been designing learning events as discrete points in time with a beginning, middle and end, as if the learners had been intellectually born into this one particular session and with my final Powerpoint slide they will pass peacefully away never to be thought of again.

My actual belief about learning is that it is continuous and interconnected, that it is collaborative and subversive, but my actions have not lived up to that belief. This inconsistency between my philosophy and actions has been highlighted in my mind by “Bojack Horseman,” the animated series on Netflix.

I watched the first couple of episodes when the show debuted in 2014, but I never really connected with it. I think I expected something different from an animated show for adults, possibly something more pointedly “joke-y”, like “Archer.” I went back to the show last year on the recommendation of my son. What I found, after sticking with it for more than a couple episodes, was funny, dark, beautiful, sad and thoughtful.

In his excellent video essay about the show, Will Schroder argues that one of the things that makes “Bojack Horseman” so good is the fact that it is serialized, not episodic. Instead of resolving the problem or question of each episode in that same episode like most sitcoms, it “shows life going on with all its complexity and uncertainty.”

Schroder, using “Bojack Horseman” creator Raphael Bob-Waksberg’s own words, makes the case that stories that give us fully-resolved endings lead us to chase endings of our own where everything will make sense. Instead of endings, life gives us a series of positive and negative moments in time.

By focusing on those positive and negative moments, Schroder says, “Bojack Horseman” asserts that “happiness is ephemeral. There is no one thing, or experience or person that is going to make us permanently happy. The best we can hope for is temporary happiness.”

I think it’s the same with teaching and learning. There is no one course or workshop that will result in us achieving our learning goals or in us becoming a better or more learned person. Teaching and learning are a series of positive and negative moments to be experienced, connected and leveraged in an effort to take better care of each other.

So, how can I practice teaching and learning in a way consistent with this philosophy? I’m not exactly sure, but I can take another lesson from “Bojack Horseman.”

“It gets easier. Everyday it gets a little easier, but you’ve got to do it everyday. That’s the hard part, but it does get easier.” - Jogging Baboon

Featured image: "Lisa Hanawalt" by Rachel Lovinger CC BY-NC

On the last podcast of the year, regulars Jamie Seger (Ohio State University Extension) and Paul Hill (Utah State University Extension) of the eXtension EdTech Learning Network join us to look back on 2017 and forward to the new year.

Paul and Jamie spent a lot of time this year encouraging innovation in Extension. We talked about the innovation challenge or as Paul called it the crisis Extension faces. We also touched on the upcoming eXtension Designathon One events, the Ed Tech Learning Network tweet-ups and the new book, "We've Tried That Before: 512 Years of Extension Wisdom."

Happy New Year!

I found out about the "Get Engaged! A Guide to Getting Involved in Your Community" program on Twitter. Eric Walcott, a State Specialist with Michigan State University Extension’s Government and Public Policy programs, was sharing his experience offering the program in Grand Traverse County, Michigan. Here are the 2 tweets that prompted me to reach out to Eric.

Our conversation for the podcast covers the "Get Engaged" program, but also Eric's work talking with local governments about real engagement. As we talked, I was reminded of this Gapingvoid illustration:

A post shared by gapingvoid® (@gapingvoid) on

Eric referenced the Public Participation Spectrum from the International Association for Public Participation as a resource for increasing public engagement. I think it's a great resource, not just for governments, but for Extension programs. Eric wrote a series of articles on the public participation spectrum. This is the first article in the series: http://msue.anr.msu.edu/news/public_participation_beyond_public_comment_at_open_meetings and here's the last onewith links to all the prior articles: http://msue.anr.msu.edu/news/engaging_the_public_in_local_government_decisions_empower.

Listen to the podcast

Alex Chan, University of Maryland 4-H Youth Development Educator for Prince George's county, is teaching high school students about healthy romantic relationships. He's a great example of bringing one's whole self to Extension work, bringing his experience as a marriage and family therapist to his current work.

I found out about Alex's workshops through this NPR Education article. Here's our conversation.