Archive for the ‘network literacy’ Category

Goodbye AleX

Monday, July 7th, 2014

The eXtension Network Literacy Community of Practice (CoP) will no longer be tweeting using the @AleXNetLit twitter account.

In a blog post explaining AleX, we wrote:

“AleX NetLit is an experiment. She is a new tool for learning in the changing knowledge and communication landscape. Will she make an impact? We’re not sure, but we will keep trying to use new and innovative tools to help people understand and harness the power of online networks.”

After careful consideration, the CoP steering committee, with input from the broader community, decided that our use of AleX was not making a significant impact, and that our efforts would be better directed elsewhere.

Members of the Network Literacy CoP remain active on social networks and use the hashtag #netlit to signify posts of interest to the community. Please look for that hashtag, or visit our page https://www.rebelmouse.com/NetworkLiteracy/, where we aggregate #netlit posts from across social media sites.

Where we went wrong

While we firmly believe that using a persona to communicate and help focus our message via social media was a worthwhile endeavor, there are things we could have done better:

  • AleX was crafted to help us think about one of our target audiences – Military Families’ Service Professionals. However, we never gained traction with that particular audience, and are now working to help them get started in social media instead.
  • We rotated the responsibility of tweeting as AleX, but most of us simply channelled what we would normally tweet through her account. AleX never developed her own personality and lacked consistency in style and content.

We’re open to the possibility of using a persona when we feel it will help build engagement and communication with others. Any future use of a persona will be informed by the lessons we learned while tweeting as AleX.

 

Stephen Judd – UNH Cooperative Extension and Chair, Network Literacy CoP

Bob Bertsch - North Dakota State University Extension, frequent AleX contributor, and Engagement Coordinator, Network Literacy CoP

Peg Boyles - Network Literacy CoP member and frequent AleX contributor

 

This article (Goodbye AleX) was originally published Monday July 7, 2014 on the Military Families Learning Network blog, a part of eXtension.

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Twitter: Rules of Engagement

Thursday, May 22nd, 2014

keep-calm-and-tweetTwitter is a lot like caring for a goldfish. It doesn’t require the same level of commitment required for a child — or a dog, for that matter — but building a strong Twitter presence requires some commitment, even a daily commitment, if you plan to establish an exceptionally strong presence.

How far you want to pursue this commitment is entirely your call.

What follows is not intended to be a comprehensive guide to Twitter, only a few rules — a few rules of engagement that hopefully will help you articulate your commitment, and along the way to make this initiation into the rather arcane world of Twitter a little easier.

Rule of Engagement #1: You Don’t Have to Engage

Lots of people lurk on Twitter. In other words, they only read other people’s tweets without tweeting themselves.

That’s okay. Some people find Twitter interesting solely for the enormous amounts of dialogue and graphic- and link-sharing that occurs. Twitter has proven to be a great source for professionals and hobbyists who simply want to enhance or refine their knowledge.

Rule of Engagement #2: Find Your Center of Gravity

On the other hand, if you have signed onto Twitter with the goal of building a presence, your first priority should be finding your center of gravity. By center of gravity, we mean the traits that define your place in the Twittersphere — those special passions, interests, insights and skills you bring to the table and that will help you grow your Twitter presence. Likewise, you should reflect on the audience you wish to reach. What is the best way to connect your messages with your audiences? To put it another way, how do you package your tweets? What is the best way to phrase your tweets and what kind of graphics should you use to enhance some of them?

Rule of Engagement #3: Share, Share and Share

Twitter is built on a foundation of reciprocity. You build a successful Twitter presence not only by providing your followers with interesting tweets, but also by retweeting the best of theirs.

There’s a knack to this, one that can be gained only by close observation. Spend some time lurking and observing how others tweet and retweet before you wade in yourself.

Rule of Engagement #4: Build Lists

These aren’t lists of enemies — of people who have snubbed or insulted you — far from it. Lists are essential for managing the immense volumes of tweets generated daily on Twitter. Building lists will help you identify and learn from those on Twitter who are also building interesting and engaging presences. Learn from them. Equally important, use these lists to identify the best daily tweets and retweet them. You will be surprised how quickly your own Twitter presence grows.

Free applications such as Hootsuite and TweetDeck provide convenient means for building these lists.

Rule of Engagement #4: Make as Much Hash as You Can

You can extend the reach of your tweets using hashtags — in other words, marking key words or topics with the #symbol.

Popular hashtags include #followme #happy #picoftheday and #funny.

While it’s important not to get carried away with hashtags, they increase the likelihood that you will connect with the audiences you’re trying to reach. (Note: The Network Literacy Community of Practice uses the hashtag #netlit to tag tweets and other social media posts related to network literacy.)

Rule of Engagement #5: Mix It Up!

It’s a good idea to stick to a general theme on Twitter. But don’t get too set in one’s ways. Mix it up every now and then. Don’t hesitate to venture off topic occasionally. Weave humor and other unexpected elements into your tweets.

Other Twitter users appreciate you more when they realize you are a normal human being with genuine interests and passions.

Rules of Engagement #6: There are No Hard and Fast Rules.

Building an effective Twitter presence is an art, not a science.

Any experienced twitter user will concede that there is no Magic Book of Twitter, no proven way to ensure that what you tweet will gain traction. A lot of success comes from closely observing others and learning from experience

It calls for developing a sixth sense. That comes with time — not to mention, practice and patience.

 

Author: Jim Langcuster ()

This article (Twitter: Rules of Engagement) was originally published Thursday May 22, 2014 on the Military Families Learning Network blog, a part of eXtension.

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Big Data

Tuesday, January 7th, 2014

This is part of the “Hi, AleX” series — advice to AleX NetLit about enhancing her levels of network literacy through day-to-day personal and professional social networking. AleX Netlit is a fictional persona created by Network Literacy Community of Practice to serve as a guide to Military Families Service professionals, Cooperative Extension educators and others seeking to learn more about using online networks in their work.

@AlexNetLit on Twitter
More about Alex NetLit

Hi, AleX:

In this digital era, there are so many changes swirling around us. At the top of the list is a phenomenon called “Big Data,” a trend with tremendous implications and that likely will have deep influences on the remainder of your career.

La tecnología de big data revolucionará la seguridad de la información

infocux Technologies – Used under Creative Commons license
http://www.flickr.com/photos/infocux/8450190120/

Big data is a term to describe the colossal amounts of information that are being generated by digital media, sensors, and metadata and that are presenting many entities with all sorts of challenges in the course of storing and assimilating all this data.

In mental terms, it’s almost impossible to grasp just how big Big Data really is. Here’s is a weak attempt at putting this bigness into perspective: If the data now stored across the planet were printed in books, these books would cover the entire surface of the United States some 52 layers deep, according to Viktor Mayer-Schonberger and Kenneth Cukier, authors of a new book titled “Big Data: A Revolution That Will Transform How We Live, Work and Think.”

What do the implications of Big Data hold for you and millions of other young professionals across the planet?

For starters, it has the potential of providing you with work tools and ways of looking at things that were scarcely imaginable even a decade ago. Within a larger context, it will provide companies and other large entities with a stunning level of clarity about how their clients respond in everyday life and how they relate to the products they provide.

In terms of your work as a professional, Big Data will shed deeper insights into the needs of your clients and your profession that you previously never anticipated. Likewise, your understanding of the wider aspects of your work will grow more refined. You will come to understand your profession less as a something comprised of distinctly different parts, more as a something in which all the parts interrelate. To put it another way, in professional terms, Big Data will afford you a considerably bigger picture.

You will also learn that while your face-to-face interaction with your clients is no less valuable, the time you spend in your office reviewing the growing volumes of work-related data and how it can help you better understand your clients’ needs will be of equally immeasurable benefit.

In time, Big Data will also afford more diversity in the workplace. There will no longer be a cooker-cutter or one-size-fits-all approaches to how people do their jobs. You will notice greater differences in the way you and your peers tackle day-to-day challenges. You will come to appreciate these differences, and in the course of noting and discussing these differences among your coworkers, your career will become even more challenging and engaging.

Granted, Big Data will be no panacea by a long shot. Big data mining of customer Internet surfing and buying habits presents all manner of privacy risks.

Likewise, your intuition — all those insights you’ve gained working for years with clients — will be as vitally important as ever, though you will learn that the information you gain from data will work to enhance these intuitive insights.

But make no mistake, AleX, there is no turning away from the implications of Big Data. It is the new normal in the workplace. To remain a successful professional, you will have to embrace the challenges that it poses. There is no opting out. Failing to rise to these challenges will put you at a distinct disadvantage among those peers who accept these changes with an open embrace.

 

Author: Jim Langcuster ()

This article (Big Data) was originally published Tuesday January 7, 2014 on the Military Families Learning Network blog, a part of eXtension.

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The Passion Revolution in Learning – and What It Means for You

Wednesday, November 13th, 2013

This is part of the “Hi, AleX” series — advice to AleX NetLit about enhancing her levels of network literacy through day-to-day personal and professional social networking. AleX Netlit is a fictional persona created by Network Literacy Community of Practice to serve as a guide to Military Families Service professionals, Cooperative Extension educators and others seeking to learn more about using online networks in their work.

@AlexNetLit on Twitter
More about Alex NetLit

 

 

Hi, AleX:

Two Alabama 4-H educators participating in a networked learning seminar at the Alabama 4-H Youth Development Center in Columbiana.

Two Alabama 4-H educators participating in a networked learning seminar at the Alabama 4-H Youth Development Center in Columbiana.

Pardon this deep immersion in storytelling, but no three accounts better illustrate the kind of world in which we are now living — not to mention, navigating, as 21stcentury professionals.

We’ve already introduced you to Frank Kovac. He is the determined individual whose father instilled him with a deep, abiding love of the stars.  From an early age, Kovac dreamed of becoming an astronomer and planetarium operator.  Unfortunately, taxing college math courses stymied that dream.

Note that I used stymied instead of prevented, because Kovac never let the lack of a conventional educational credential stand in his way of his goal.  You recall the rest of the story: Supporting himself as a paper mill worker in rural Wisconsin, Kovac used his free time to access books and online sources about astronomy as well as the design and construction of planetariums.

In time, he built his own hand-operated planetarium, which he touts as the largest one of its kind in the world.  For all intents and purposes, Kovac is a planetarium director in the fullest sense of the word.  His small facility has even become a local Wisconsin tourist attraction from which visitors not only leave impressed with Kovac’s immense knowledge of the stars but also imbued with a measure of his infectious passion.

Passion: Kovac’s life speaks volumes about what a powerfully emotive force it an be in shaping lives.  Educators are taking note of this essential truth, too.  Some, including Dr. Sugatra Mitra, to whom you have also been introduced, are calling for the end of the industrial age educational model, partly for the reason that it does such a lousy job instilling passion.

As Mitra has learned, passion is the key to learning — actually, it always has been, only now, the power of digital media is underscoring that essential truth.  As you recall, Mitra got his own taste of this after installing a computer in a wall in an impoverished Indian village near the corporate headquarters of a software company where he worked as a chief scientist.

Sugatra Mitra, world-renowed proponent of emergent learning

Sugatra Mitra, world-renowed proponent of emergent learning

What he discovered based on experimentation with similar wall computers within the next few years challenges conventional education but also threatens to drive a stake into its heart.

The children quickly learned how to use the embedded computer.   This prompted more experimentation on Mitra’s part.  A few years later, he uploaded information about molecular biology onto a computer in a southern Indian village.  After informing a group of 10- to 14- year-olds they would find something interesting on this computer, he turned and walked away, not returning until a couple of months later.

During that time, the children not only learned how to work the computer but also were able to answer one in four questions on the computer about molecular biology.

Within few more weeks, the children, inspired by the encouragement of a friendly local, got every question right.

Through all this experimentation, Mitra has gained a heightened appreciation not only for emergent learning but also for the values that underscore it: innovation, creativity, independent thinking and, yes, passion.

These insights have led to something equally significant: a global dialogue about the learning as an emergent process.

Quoted recently in an online version of Wired, Mitra observed that “If you put a computer in front of children and remove all other adult restrictions, they will self-organize around it like bees around a flower.”

To put it another way, “if you’re not the one controlling your learning, you’re not learning as well,” Mitra contends.

Word of these insights is spreading to a growing number of educators around the world, many of whom struggle to reach students in the most disadvantaged of circumstances.

An article published Oct. 15 in the online edition of Wired highlights the efforts of Mexican teacher Sergio Juarez Correa.  Juarez Correa has desperately searched for ways  to reach his students at the Jose Urbina Primary School, an impoverished school located near a dump in a sun-drenched northern Mexico border town little more than a stone’s throw from American schools where tablets, Ipads another other online learning tools are almost taken wantonly for granted.

Until he discovered Mitra’s emergent learning practices, Juarez Correa employed the same hidebound teaching methods as virtually every other Mexican teacher — lectures, memorization and lots of busy work — ones that had secured the same frustrating results year after year: low test scores.

Juarez Correa determined to put Mitra’s insights into practical use in his classroom by allowing his students, in Mitra’s words, to “wonder aimlessly around ideas.” The change that took hold of Juarez Correa’s class not only astonished him but also his principal upon discovering how this new teaching method produced a dramatic turnaround in test scores.

Previous test scores revealed that 45 percent of the class had essentially failed the math section of the test, while 31 percent failed Spanish.  The latest results revealed that a mere 7 percent failed math and 3.5 percent failed Spanish.  Equally significant, sixty-three percent of the class garnered excellent scores while none had in the previous test.

These new insights are not only receiving a receptive ear in materially disadvantaged countries such as Mexico.  For example, the Wired article reports that in the 1990s Finland, in addition to reducing its math curriculum from 25 pages to four and the school day by an hour, also began focusing on independence and active learning.  By 2003, Finnish students had ascended from lower ranks of international performance to first place among developed nations.

Americans classrooms, despite being equipped to the teeth with all manner of laptops, tablets and iPads, should draw a lesson from this dramatic change of thinking.

As the Wired article reports, currently almost a third of U.S. high school graduates are not academically prepared for the first year of college courses.  Equally disturbing, the United States now holds a dismal ranking of 49th among 148 developed and developing nations in the quality of math and science instruction.

Equally significant, the article also reports that the top three demanded skills in the 21st century will be teamwork, problem-solving, and interpersonal skills. We need schools that are developing these skills.

AleX, we have stressed to you before how you and millions of other professionals were trained to think about and deliver information in linear terms — through programs such as lectures, seminars, and workshops, with your students serving more or less as passive recipients of this instruction.

The ways you serve you clients have been defined by those methods for the bulk of your career.

All of this is changing — quickly and inexorably, Alex.  The ways people connect to knowledge — education almost seems too constricted a term to describe what is taking place — has become more open and democratized than ever before.

And, frankly, we should all revel in and celebrate that fact.

 

Author: Jim Langcuster ()

This article (The Passion Revolution in Learning – and What It Means for You) was originally published Wednesday November 13, 2013 on the Military Families Learning Network blog, a part of eXtension.

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Implications of social media “endorsements” for knowledge workers

Monday, October 14th, 2013

On October 11, 2013 Google announced a change to its terms of service that will allow the company to include a user’s (for users age 18 and over) profile name and photo, reviews, and ads they +1’d in advertisements on Google web properties (e.g., Search, YouTube, Play store). These “endorsements” will potentially be shown to the people the user has chosen to share content with.

Example from Google support page (https://support.google.com/plus/answer/3403513)

Example from Google support page (https://support.google.com/plus/answer/3403513)

Users can change the options on the Shared Endorsement setting page to prevent their name and photo from being used in advertisements.

Implications for professionals

If you are using a Google+ profile in your professional work, you will want to consider the implications of your name and photo being used to endorse products and services in Google advertisements. Many organizations, especially Extension, have policies in place which govern employee endorsement of products and services.

For example, the University System of New Hampshire Conflict of Interest Policy as it applies to Extension employees (Section 7.10.1) states:

“Each employee must exercise extreme caution and professional judgment, deliberated with diligent care, when using any brand name in any service, work product, or program resulting from performing the responsibilities of the position of appointment. As a general rule, promoting or endorsing brands of commercial products is prohibited.”

If you are governed by a similar policy, you will probably want to disable the shared endorsements setting.

Google’s handling of change

Google has been very forthright about the policy change and has been presenting users with banner notifications and Google+ notifications regarding the new terms and how users can change their settings:

A banner displays on Google search, alerting the user to the terms of service changes

A banner displays on Google search, alerting the user to the terms of service change

Google+ users receive a notification, alerting them to the terms of service change

Google+ users receive a notification, alerting them to the terms of service change

Other social media networks have similar policies

According to the New York Times:

“Facebook has been aggressively marketing social endorsements, which it calls sponsored stories. For example, if you post that you love McDonald’s new Mighty Wings on the chain’s Facebook page, McDonald’s could pay Facebook to broadcast your kind words to all your friends.

Facebook does not allow its users to opt out of such ads, although users can limit how their actions on the social network are used in some other types of ads.

Twitter also enables advertisers to show public tweets in their ads, but requires advertisers to get the permission of the original author of a message before using it in an ad.”

Understanding how each network can use your information is a critical network literacy skill. It is important to be proactive, and ensure that your information is shared in the way that is most appropriate for you.

 

Author: Stephen Judd (@sjudd)

This article (Implications of social media “endorsements” for knowledge workers) was originally published Monday October 13, 2013 on the Military Families Learning Network blog, a part of eXtension.

Creative Commons License This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.

Ignoring Networks at Your Professional Peril

Tuesday, August 27th, 2013

This is part of the “Hi, AleX” series — advice to AleX NetLit about enhancing her levels of network literacy through day-to-day personal and professional social networking. AleX Netlit is a fictional persona created by Network Literacy Community of Practice to serve as a guide to Military Families Service professionals, Cooperative Extension educators and others seeking to learn more about using online networks in their work.

@AlexNetLit on Twitter
More about Alex NetLit

 

 

Hi, AleX:

You have always been a dedicated professional. Your work has always been about serving your clients, building one-on-one relationships grounded in trust.

British Coffeehouses in the 17th century provided raucous places where ideas could be freely discussed and exchanged.

British Coffeehouses in the 17th century provided raucous places where ideas could be freely discussed and exchanged.

It’s reflected in the way you regard network literacy. Admit it, AleX: Deep in the back of your mind, you still harbor this fear that any significant investment in social media will work to dilute these close relationships.

That’s understandable. Just be warned: By ignoring emerging social networks, you’re imperiling your professional future.

It’s important for you to come to terms with that fact, AleX.

Granted, a handful of CEOs pointing to a clutch of online infographics, some specious at best, stubbornly maintain that networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter are not only eroding the minds of young people but also costing the economy some $650 billion a year.

Don’t buy into it, Alex.

Truth is, the benefits of social networking have been apparent for a long time, a very long time — in fact, for as long as 500 years.

Rudimentary forms of social networking have been traced as far back as 17th century English coffeehouses, raucous places in which people shared ideas freely and openly and that bore an uncanny resemblance to the emerging social media platforms of the 21st century.

Many of the exchanges that grew out of these boisterous meeting places provided the basis for intellectual and material advances that have benefited countless millions of people and that are still being felt today, almost half a millennium later — a theme explored by famed science and technology writer Tom Standage in a recent article in the New York Times titled “Social Networking in the 1600s.

Proponents of conventional wisdom of the day derided these coffeehouses as venues of idle chitchat, much as their 21st century counterparts do with social media today.

To be sure, lots of idle chitchat and gossip occurred in these haunts. Yet, something remarkable happened too. In addition to consuming copious amounts of coffee and indulging in idle gossip, not a few of these coffeehouse patrons read and shared the insights from the latest pamphlets and news sheets, many of which dealt with the prevailing scientific, literary, political and commercial themes of the day.

In a diary entry dated in November, 1633, renowned diarist Samuel Pepys observed that discussion covered such diverse topics as how to store beer, the implications of a certain type of nautical weapon, and speculations about the outcome of an upcoming trial.

Conventional academic leaders of the day heaped scorn on the low caliber of discourse that purportedly prevailed in these coffeehouses.

“Why doth solid and serious learning decline, and few or none follow it now in the university,” Oxford academic Anthony Wood plaintively asked. “Answer: Because of Coffee Houses, where they spend all their time.”

They were misinformed. Lots of serious discussion and learning ensued in these coffeehouses.

Borrowing Standage’s picturesque term, these coffeehouses turned out to be “crucibles of creativity” — environments in which people representing diverse backgrounds and perspectives met and exchanged ideas. Many of these ideas, in the course of meeting and mating, provided the basis for new ways of thinking, which, in turn, spawned new concepts and inventions. Some ended up changing the course of history.

One of the more noteworthy examples of coffeehouse exchanges: Lloyd’s of London, the world-renowned insurance firm, which grew out of Edward Lloyd’s coffeehouse, a popular haunt of ship captains, ship owners and maritime traders.

One coffeehouse served as the nursery of modern economics: Adam Smith passed early drafts of “The Wealth of nations” among his acquaintances at the Cockspur Street coffeehouse, where many Scottish artists and intellectuals of his time gathered.

Yet, why should we be surprised by this? For his part, Standage cites modern research demonstrating that students learn more effectively when they are interacting with other learners.

Coffeehouses provided 17th century entrepreneurs, journalists, scientists and philosophers with highly generative, open-source platforms — foundations on which many of the predominant ideas, concepts and technologies of the modern era took form.

This brings us back to the present-day, AleX. As Standage stresses in his article, the emerging social media platforms of the 21st century are providing us with the same kinds of highly generative platforms — places where people, in the course of exchanging ideas and sparking new ones, have the potential of improving the lives of countless millions of people for generations to come.

Under the circumstances, is there any reason why you shouldn’t join into this conversation, AleX?

 

Author: Jim Langcuster ()

This article (Ignoring Networks at Your Professional Peril) was originally published Tuesday August 27, 2013 on the Military Families Learning Network blog, a part of eXtension.

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.

I downloaded what?

Thursday, July 18th, 2013

As computer users, we often run into situations where we need an additional program to accomplish something, and it often happens at the last minute. Beware of what additional software may be hitching a ride with that nifty little program!

Watch the first fifteen minutes or so of the embedded video to see this in action:


Scenario

An educator, Chris, wants a copy of a YouTube video to show to a class while not online (we’ll disregard the copyright caveats today). The educator next door suggests that Chris download a YouTube capture program to save the video locally. Being a saavy user, Chris goes to a site like download.com because they screen for malware and are owned by CBS.

Chris finds the program and clicks the download link. Since there’s only an hour until the workshop, Chris clicks that they’ve read the user agreement and accepts all of the install defaults. Chris captures the YouTube video and uses it in the presentation and is quite pleased.

The next day, Chris’ homepage and default search engine have been changed, and there are all sorts of links and ads on pages where there shouldn’t be.

What happened?

When Chris installed the program, the installer included a bunch of “helpful” applications (most in the form of browser add-ons) that modified the browser. These changes result in special affiliate links and ads that generate income for the company that created the installer.

While small software utilities are often “free” to the end-user, they do cost time and money to develop and maintain. Developers realize that users like Chris may not be willing to pay for an application that only gets used a handful of times. So the developer works with a company that packages the installer for their app, and in return gets paid for each download.

Now Chris isn’t happy, and the IT department probably isn’t either. These tag alongs can be difficult to remove and can ruin the user experience on the web.

Takeaways

  • Don’t just accept the defaults, be aware of what other programs are being installed
    • You don’t really need a toolbar, coupon reminder, or the like.
  • Don’t install free applications from the Internet without understanding what else may be installed (if at work – make sure it’s permitted by your organization’s policy)
  • Even commonly used applications (e.g., Flash, Java) may install additional programs – make sure you deselect the option to install the “promoted” apps.

If you already have one of these applications or toolbars how do you get rid of it?

If you find you have installed something you didn’t want, you’ll need to uninstall it manually. The first place to check is the Programs or Add/Remove Programs application within the Control Panel (on Windows). You may also need to look at the add-ons or extensions within each browser and remove from there, and possibly reset your homepage and default search engine if they’ve been changed.

Author: Stephen Judd (@sjudd)

This article (I downloaded what?) was originally published Thursday July 18, 2013 on the Military Families Learning Network blog, a part of eXtension.

Creative Commons License This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.

Farming Lessons for 21st Century Professionals

Wednesday, July 10th, 2013

This is part of the “Hi, AleX” series — advice to AleX NetLit about enhancing her levels of network literacy through day-to-day personal and professional social networking. AleX Netlit is a fictional persona created by Network Literacy Community of Practice to serve as a guide to Military Families Service professionals, Cooperative Extension educators and others seeking to learn more about using online networks in their work.

@AlexNetLit on Twitter
More about Alex NetLit

 

 

Hi, AleX:

In several previous communications, we have used real-life examples to illustrate how online media are changing the workplace.

As far back as three decades ago, futurists such as Alvin Toffler warned of the challenges people would face wading through and making sense of all the data being generated by computers and other technological devices.

Many professions already are at the front line of these challenges. In fact, a sector of the economy that many people would seldom associate with fast-paced technological change — farming — is undergoing sweeping change. This wrenching change is not only affecting farmers but also a group of professionals long associated with farming — Cooperative Extension agents and other educators.

The data generated by technologies such as precision farming is challenging farmers in a way they never expected. There are lessons here for all 21st century professionals.

The data generated by technologies such as precision farming is challenging farmers in a way they never expected. There are lessons here for all 21st century professionals.

Within the last generation, farmers have increasingly begun to rely on highly sophisticated technological devises, such as yield monitors and light bars — devices attached to their tractors, sprayers and other equipment — to make pinpoint applications of things like fertilizer, insecticides, and herbicides.

Why are these pinpoint applications so important? Because these enhanced levels of accuracy not only save farmers money but enable them to become more effective stewards of the land by reducing chemical applications required to grow their crops.

But farmers have discovered something else. These technologies generate data, lots and lots of data, much of which they have not even begun to assimilate.

Like a growing number of other professions, farming increasingly is about data management, not only collecting and managing the immense amount of data associated with every facet of farming but also determining how all of this interrelates.

“Basically, it all boils down to this: How do we take all this agronomic data and process it and, by gaining knowledge from it, make informed farming decisions,” asks Dr. John Fulton, a precision farming expert and Alabama Cooperative Extension System professional who has been on the frontline of efforts to help farmers cope without this new data challenge.

“Right now, data management is the challenge — about the biggest challenge we face,” he adds.

This pretty much expresses the challenge for Extension professionals.

In the past, Extension work was mostly about quickly responding to their farmers’ needs. But this new data issue is challenging them to reassess the ways they interact with their farmers.

They’re learning that while quick response is as important as ever, so is the need to help farmers to see the bigger picture— to understand farming not only as a system of interrelated parts but also to anticipate trends before they morph into full-grown crises.

This has challenged Extension professionals to become more multidisciplinary in their thinking. Increasingly, their in-service training explores the linkages among all facets of farming, such as insect and weed control and plant and soil science.

They’re also developing a keen appreciation for how their work is best served through building strong social media presences among their clients.

There is a lesson here for you, AleX, and for legions of other professionals. The flattened knowledge landscape that forms the basis of professional life in the 21st century has also created a special set of opportunities for those professionals astute and enterprising enough to sieze on them.

To put it another way, this new information order is crying out for professionals with a special set of skills: people capable of drawing big, overarching pictures of their professions and showing the people they work with and serve how to make sense of all of it.

It underscores the value of two skills we’ve discussed on earlier occasions, AleX: aggregation and curation, namely learning how to gather and organize information in ways that your audiences can derive practical use from it.

But remember, AleX, this involves more than simply aggregating and curating information.

As many Cooperative Extension professionals are learning through experience, the most effective 21st century professionals will be those who learn how to use social media to focus and refine online discussion and, when the need arises, to help correct faulty information.

 

Author: Jim Langcuster ()

This article (Farming Lessons for 21st Century Professionals) was originally published Wednesday July 10, 2013 on the Military Families Learning Network blog, a part of eXtension.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.

Next Steps towards a Connected Organization

Monday, July 1st, 2013

Last week Extension was incredibly fortunate to have Dave Gray talk with us about how Extension could become a more “Connected Organization”. Even if you missed the live event, you can still join the conversation. The video, along with the comments and questions posted during the talk can be viewed at the Google+ event page.

During “The Connected Organization,” Gray  helped us see how we might transform what from what he calls a divided organization into a connected organization, where autonomous teams, called ‘Pods,” can handle the dynamic environment together creatively, providing better service in changing environments.

With over 3000 counties nationwide, and Extension offices in most, Gray says we have a network of pods, but our next challenge is to do a better job of connecting them together through platforms to achieve our common purpose. These connections would enable improved coordination, collaboration, and idea-sharing.

Gray discussed how purpose, pods, and platforms help to glue the connected organization together, where the purpose guides the team and guiding rules for platform development, and the platform serves to connect the pods so they can know what’s going on (i.e., situational awareness). By providing such platforms, people and pods can find each other more easily to solve a problem or create something new.

Purpose, promise, performance

 

Platforms are Like Extension: They Help People to Help Themselves

Gray says platforms have a similar function to the extension mission. Platforms, like Extension’s mission, “help people, help themselves”.  He urges Extension to think past its role as an information provider in the era of Google to one of helping others know what questions to ask and connect with each other.

Extension Mission

Extension’s Mission since 1914

The Extension Mission must go beyond providing information in the era of Google

Today Extension’s mission must go beyond providing information in the era of Google

Platforms connect people

Gray provides a number of hopeful ways Extension might utilize platforms to connect with its clientele and also internally, or across the nation-wide organization.  Gray highlights Jim Langcuster’s  Mission Extension  blog, and his work with Network Literacy as an example explaining platform use and building within Extension work.

Gray points out that platform sites help people connect and exchange value, pointing to examples such as Airbnb, Uber, Amazon services. Gray notes these platforms don’t own the product – they help other people exchange money or information, such as ratings about the services provided.

Platforms to connect people in communities

Extension Challenges

Extension Challenges

So, how can Extension use platforms to connect with clientele in its communities? Gray provided examples of platforms and tools that Extension could use to help communities gather, connect or overcome some of our common challenges, like tighter budgets.

  • Meet up – aimed mostly at local communities. It’s a way to find a group near you.
  • IGivefirst – for non-profit institutions. You can get a “give” button on any webpage. Grays says this can be especially effective to do when you are telling your story.
  • Kickstarter – a platform that can be used to raise money for a project (big or small)  that people care about
  • Ushahidi –  Ushahidi can help people find each other and tell stories about what is going on. Ushahid’s crowdmap allows you to create a map and tell stories inside the map.

Platforms to connect across the (internal) organization

Gray said organizations also need to have internal conversations with each other to discuss something that may be private, sensitive or to work on something  for which they are not ready to set expectations.

Gray pointed to the tremendous potential that could come from 15,000 Cooperative Extension professionals sharing information with each other, and provided some ideas of platforms that might provide the ability for ‘Extension pods’ to connect.

(The Network Literacy CoP has established an open community for Extension on Google+. It’s not private, as Gray suggested, but could become a great place for Extension profesionals from around the nation to connect and share.)

Gray stresses, invest before it’s too late!

Gray says, you can’t build the dike when the floods comes….

Gray stressed that the right time to change your business model and to invest in social networks is BEFORE there’s a problem, such as a budget cut or stakeholder support issue. If you wait until the crisis comes it’s too late — the social network that helps you out, or goes to the politicians to help you out, won’t be ready.

Consider storytelling in new ways

Gray also urged Extension professionals to consider storytelling, but went one step further by asking:

“How do you get the people you serve to get excited to help them tell your story to their friends?”

He recommended Extension professionals think about how to encourage others to share and tell our story in social networks like Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.

Tools to help change to organization model

In closing, Gray left us with some service design tools and resources that can help organizations shift their business models to become more connected organizations:

  • Business Model Canvas - a strategic management tool allowing you to describe, challenge, or reinvent your business model
  • Service Design Tools - a customer journey map, which provides or a way to map how you serve customers
  • Culture Mapping – provides a way to understand your organization’s culture so you can identify where to change it

Meeting Gray again in March 2014

Will Cooperative Extension be a more Connected Organization in March 2014 when we Gray speaks at the National eXtension Conference (March 24-28, 2014)? If so, how will we know and what will be different?

The tools (platforms) created within the eXtension initiative have connected many of us, but probably only a small portion of Extension professionals. How much more connected could we be with the many people doing important work if these platforms had wider adoption and participation. How can we use social networks to forge new connections with our peers, colleagues, and communities?

- Karen Jeannette

(+KarenJeannette@kjeannette)
eXtension Community of Practice Support – Consultant
Network Literacy Community of Practice Member

Videos and images are courtesy of and should be attributed to Dave Gray. This article was originally published on the Military Families Learning Network blog, a part of eXtension.

Creative Commons License This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.

Get Ready for Dave Gray’s “Connected Organization” Virtual Keynote

Monday, June 24th, 2013

Eventually every customer will be a connected customer, adopting new technologies faster than companies can keep up. This causes current organizational structure confusion and disarray. – Dave Gray, author of The Connected Company

This applies not just to companies, but to Cooperative Extension and other organizations.

Dave Gray, author of  The Connected Company,  will discuss how to transform your organization into the “The Connected Organization”. The free webinar, being held Thursday, June 27 @ 1 pm ET, will provide opportunity for questions and discussion.

Why You Should Attend

Many of us working within large organizations feel the tension brought about by rapid changes in technology and social networking. Gray’s work illustrates how we can become more agile and innovative by becoming more connected to each other and the world around us.

Communicating visually

As you can see, Gray is a visual communication genius. If you follow Gray, you’ll see he knows visual thinking is a language unto itself.

His work has been instrumental to me and others in bringing Extension professionals together to work as teams and eXtension Communities of Practice. For example, I’ve seen how drawing (instead of verbally explaining) how groups are related to each other can help them leap from, “OK, how are we related?”,  to “OK, maybe we could work together like this…” (See Gray’s “How to Know What to Draw” video for great ideas on how to draw relationships and connections).

Working in cross-disciplinary teams

Gray has seen how to draw out the best from cross-disciplinary teams through collaborative meeting games he calls Gamestorming. In The Connected Company (pg 159) he calls this a pattern language for cross-disciplinary design, which helps teams to connect around collections of common standards.

Colleague, Amy Hays and I found out firsthand how productive using Gamestorming techniques could be at the first Feral Hogs team content meeting. We did not know if this “meeting game” would veer us off the course or help us complete the task at hand.

Using a few sticky notes, and insights from team members, we assigned about 75 unique article titles to 15 members in about 75 minutes.

Not only did the group leave feeling productive, they assigned themselves articles they were most qualified (and empowered) to write. They then took this energy one step further and added a list of videos and webinars that would meet their clientele’s needs. (For information on our game methodology, click on the photo to see the notes on Flickr).

Meeting Games for Content Development with Feral Hog CoP -1

Amy Hays uses Gamestorming at the Feral Hogs CoP Meeting (Photo: Karen Jeannette)

Tapping into “Connected Company” Insights For our Connected Organizations

So, how do these great and productive ways of communicating and teamwork actually help us transform to a connected company or organization?

In Connected Company, Grays transforms nebulous network ideas into tangible insights by visually articulating otherwise difficult-to-explain concepts (see Gray’s The Connected Company sketches).

Gray stresses that being connected and the diversity of the connections are important, that strategies must adapt and evolve (not become new processes), and leadership must act as pollinators of change. Netweavers can be agents of change, but will not make connected organizations.

Gray offers suggestions for building structures for more agile and innovative work, helping those hesitant to let go of control grab the power of the network.

Customers are connecting. Are you?

Customers are connecting. Are you?

Let’s Discuss Being Better Connected

The front line is the boundary between the company and its customers

Join us at the line of interaction for Dave Gray’s virtual keynote, The Connected Organization

Having supported two nationally collaborative blogs and social media efforts, here at Military Families blog and at the Extension Master Gardener blog, I’ve seen the effects of when teams, partners and organizations do or do not connect.

While insights from Gray’s books have certainly been helpful. I’m looking forward to hearing Gray discuss connected concepts during the The Connected Organization Virtual Keynote Thursday, June 27 @ 1 pm Eastern via Google+.

I’m also looking forward to exchanging insights at the front line of communication from other organizations wrestling with how to be better connected too…so please show up, bring your questions, and invite others that may be interested!

- Karen Jeannette
(+KarenJeannette@kjeannette)
eXtension Community of Practice Support – Consultant
Network Literacy Community of Practice Member

Videos and images are courtesy of Dave Gray via Creative Common licenses, unless otherwise noted. Click on videos and images to see the original source and exact terms of use.

This article (Get Ready for Dave Gray’s Connected Organization Keynote) was originally published Monday Jun 24, 2013 on the Military Families Learning Network blog, a part of eXtension.

Creative Commons License This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.