Category Archives: network literacy

Addressing Complex Problems Within Networks

“Our responsibility is to really facilitate that across the entire state to start thinking like a network rather than an organization, and then our role as a statewide that we get to think like a movement.”

Think about it. Not Extension as an organization, not Extension as an institution, but Extension as part of a movement.

It’s been about a year since Steve Judd shared the book “Connecting to Change the World” with me. At the time I had been thinking about networks for years. I believed, and still do, that Extension professionals should be using networks to fuel their professional development and reach out to the people they serve.I didn’t fully understand, however, that Extension could be involved networks working to address complex problems.

Problems like climate, obesity, food security are difficult or impossible to solve because the knowledge around them is incomplete or uncertain, they are interconnected with other problems, and the situations around these problems keep changing. The traditional “expert” model and Extension’s dominant theory of change, diffusion of innovation, are inadequate to deal with these problems. Networks are particularly suited to addressing the issues around complex problems because they generate more solutions, more quickly; they are resilient, quickly filling voids when a person leaves; and they provide a way of approaching these problems from many different angles.

“Connecting to Change the World” tells the stories of collective action networks that are making a difference. It also includes information on why these diverse, decentralized networks were able to accomplish things no single organization, even Extension, could. Most importantly, the authors share strategies for building and strengthening networks that can collectively do meaningful, impactful work.

This book launched a conversation within the Network Literacy Community of Practice and the Military Families Learning Network. It also led me to seek out more information on collective action networks and Extension professionals who were working within them.

Which leads me back to the quote above from the conversation below. Some Extension professionals are already working within collective action networks and thinking deeply about what that means. I had the opportunity to talk with four of them. Jamie Bain, Noelle Harden and Stephanie Heim of University of Minnesota Extension are working within networks around food systems. They are also authors of the report, “Cultivating Collective Action: The ecology of a statewide food network.” Jeff Piestrak of the Alfred R Mann Library, Cornell University, has worked within networks to promote resilient agriculture and healthy food systems in New York state and beyond. Our conversation focused on why Extension should work within networks, what roles Extension professionals could play within networks, how Extension professionals could start thinking and behaving more like a network, and more.

Please share your thoughts, reflections and questions in the comments section below.

Download audio version

Bob Bertsch seeks and shares insights on weaving collaborative networks. He’s currently a web technology specialist with North Dakota State University Agriculture Communication and engagement coordinator for the eXtension Network Literacy community of practice. You can find Bob, @ndbob, and engage in this conversation using the hashtag #ExtCAN, on Twitter.


It’s 2016: Is Your Organization Moving From Training to Social Learning

Bob Bertsch, Steve Judd and I presented at the National Association of Extension Program and Staff Development Professionals (NAEPSDP) in December 2015. Our topic of discussion was Building Networks for Organizational Learning. This post is a recap of my conversation on why organizations need to move from training to social learning.

Autistic Services Team Development (72)

Social Learning is not a new phenomenon, but rather it is based on the social learning theories of Albert Bandura, Lev Vygotsky, Jean Piaget, and others. These theorist posit that learning does not occur through repetition as behaviorists propose, but rather learning occurs through individuals constructing knowledge through observation or their real world experiences. In essence social learning is learning as we always have, but with utilizing social media tools for access and scalability.

In support of social learning, the 70:20:10 Model holds that 70 percent of what people learn occurs from real-life and on-the-job experiences, 20 percent from people in our network, and 10 percent from training events. This model supports the position of organizations moving to social learning not as a replacement for training programs, but rather as a complement in organizations development programs.

Today, organizations must be vigilant in continuous social learning that is not possible in traditional training. Jane Hart, Founder of the Centre for Learning and Performance Technologies, points out that “workplace learning is no longer something that is wholly owned and managed by L&D; everyone now has access to resources and tools to solve their own problems”. Furthermore, the late Jay Cross gave an excellent illustration of comparing traditional training and development to social learning. In his illustration he summarized it by comparing organizations of the past as worker-centric and individual focused to organizations of the future who are group-centric and work group focused.

Organizations have to transition from training and development to social learning organizations. Doing this requires organizations to embrace social learning tools and networks for knowledge transfer. Organizations that continue to practice the hierarchical control of knowledge will soon find that they are no longer relevant

Author: Terrence Wolfork (+Terrence Wolfork,@trwolfork )

This post was published on the Military Families Learning Network blog on January 12, 2016.

Photo from Flickr user Michael Cardus (Autistic Services Team Development) (CC BY 2.0)

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

Talking about Slack with Rich Phelps

On Tuesday, October 20, 2015, I had an online conversation with Rich Phelps, eXtension Project Manager, about Slack. Slack is “a messaging app for teams” that can facilitate collaboration, particularly for distributed teams.

The conversation, which was presented as a webinar, focuses on why you might want to use Slack and how it is different than other communications tools. Since this was a discussion, rather than a show and tell, I’m posting the audio recording here, in case you are interested.

Download MP3

Thomas Vander Wal has a great post about what makes Slack different: Slack is more than chat: Why it is the trojan horse to better enterprise that is worth reading if you want to know more about Slack.

Author: Stephen Judd (@sjudd)

This article (Talking about Slack with Rich Phelps) was originally published Tuesday October 20, 2015 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.

Deepening Connections in Social Media

By Bob Bertsch, NDSU Agriculture Communication and MFLN Network Literacy

Make Emotional Connections
Photo by sorokti:Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0)

After co-presenting the MFLN Family Transitions “Engaging Military Families with Social Media” webinar with Bruce Moody, I have received a few emails from people wanting to learn more about social capital.

I’ve been talking about social capital since I first learned about it in Tara Hunt‘s book, “The Whuffie Factor: Using the Power of Social Networks to Build Your Business.” Recently I’ve begun thinking about it more deeply.Hunt describes social capital as the currency of your reputation, specifically your online reputation. In sociology, social capital refers to the “collective or economic benefits derived from the preferential treatment and cooperation between individuals and groups” ( I like to think of social capital like monetary capital, except with valued actions replacing money.

Here’s an example. Let’s say you need someone to help you move some furniture. There are many people you could ask; from a stranger on the street to your closest friend. The likelihood of someone agreeing to help you (without paying them) increase based on how much you have helped that person in the past. It’s the favor economy.

In social media, social capital matters. If you dive into social media and begin asking for favors (e.g., like my page, share my post, come to my event), you’re making withdrawals on your social capital. If you haven’t spent any time making social capital deposits (e.g., thanking someone for their post, suggesting your followers follow another page or account, answering a question), your withdrawals will give you a negative social capital balance, which negatively effects your online reputation.

In the webinar I mentioned earlier, I talked about social capital at the ground level to begin building a relationship with people. Now I’m starting to think beyond that to building the kind of social capital needed to deepen existing relationships.

I’m currently reading John Stepper‘s book, “Working Out Loud.” Although the term “social capital” does not turn up in the book, the concept is definitely present. The book helps individuals build a network that will serve them professionally, establishing and improving their online reputation.

Stepper touches on some of the initial social capital strategies I have spoken about, but also goes beyond those initial deposits to the kind of interactions that will deepen relationships.

According to Stepper, two keys for working out loud are generosity and empathy. I think both are also key to building enough social capital to deepen online relationships. As you try to make meaningful connections with those you serve on social media, I suggest you ask yourself these 3 questions (adapted from “Working Out Loud”):

  • Who is this for?
  • Why should they care?
  • Why am I doing this?

These are critical questions to ask when making social capital deposits.

Asking “Who is this for?” helps you be intentional with your posts. Having a specific person or group of people in mind can help you create posts with value – social capital deposits.

Asking “Why would they care?” requires empathy. The answer to that question should not be  “because I say it’s important” or “because I want them to know.” You need to put yourself in the mind of the specific person the post is intended for and sincerely imagine why they would care.

Asking “Why am I doing this?” speaks to generosity. If the answer is “to get more likes/shares/comments”, STOP. Approach social media in the way you approach your work with military families, with generosity and a sincere desire to help.

These questions will help you avoid treating social media as mass media. By focusing on a specific person, putting yourself in their mind, and sharing out of generosity, you can avoid using social media as a bullhorn and begin to use it in a way that can have the most impact, to deepen connections with people and connect people with each other.

Bob Bertsch has worked in communications, education and web technology for more than 20 years. He’s currently a web technology specialist with North Dakota State University Agriculture Communication and a member of the eXtension Network Literacy community of practice, which works to engage professionals in a community built around learning in networks.  

The archived webinar “”Engaging Military Families with Social Media” can be viewed at  Learn more about the Military Families Learning Network Family Transitions at

Security Practices Reviewed

Do you really know the best ways to stay safe online? A recent post on the Google Online Security Blog showed that average web users focus on different tactics than those favored by security experts.

In the blog post, Iulia Ion, Rob Reeder, and Sunny Consolvo highlight the results of two surveys they conducted. One was with security experts and one with users of the web who weren’t security experts. The two groups were asked to list the three best practices for remaining safe online. As the graphic (from the original post) below shows, the opinions of the two groups diverged, although both had recommendations about password usage.

Image from Google Online Security Blog post - New research: Comparing how security experts and non-experts stay safe online
Image from Google Online Security Blog post – New research: Comparing how security experts and non-experts stay safe online

I thought it would be useful to look at these recommendations and provide some of my thoughts:

Install Software Updates

Experts’ top recommendation was to install software updates – why? All software is prone to bugs, and many of these can be exploited by “bad guys” to compromise a user’s computer. As these bugs are discovered and the exploits employed, vendors provide patches for their software which fix the bugs. If you don’t keep your software up-to-date, you are unnecessarily exposing yourself to the risk of being compromised.


Experts advise using strong, unique passwords, while non-experts only advised strong passwords. By using unique passwords for each site, you can reduce the impact of a single site being compromised or your password exposed. Think about it this way – if you use the same strong password for every site you visit, what happens if one site gets hacked and someone finds out that password? Now, the “bad guys” have your password for all the sites you use.

Using strong, unique passwords presents challenges, like, how do you remember all those passwords, especially if they are non-memorable? That’s why the number four recommendation of experts is to use a Password Manager. Most reputable password managers keep your passwords encrypted, so they can only be unlocked with a master password or fingerprint – now you only need to remember one strong password, and the rest can be unique and non-memorable.

Non-experts recommend changing passwords frequently, but that really only provides protection against passwords being exposed and used long after the fact. This recommendation is likely made because many enterprises encourage (force) their users to change their passwords every six months.

Two-factor Authentication

Experts also advise the use of two-factor authentication. This means that, in addition to your username and password, you must have something else to prove who you purport to be. Many services, like Twitter, will send you a text message with an additional authentication code, if you configure it that way. This means that even if someone has your username and password, they wouldn’t be able to log in as you from a new device (most two-factor authentication can be set to only prompt for the second factor every 30 days, or when logging in from an unrecognized device.)

Anti-virus software

The number one recommendation of non-experts was to use anti-virus software. Why didn’t experts recommend the same? Since new bugs and exploits are being discovered all the time, anti-virus software often doesn’t catch the latest problem. If you believe that having anti-virus software will protect you from all threats, then you may be less cautious and let your guard down.


Being an active participant in online communities and using online services entails some level of risk that your personal information will be misused. Adopting some of the expert-recommended practices outlined above will make it a bit harder for the “bad guys,” and doesn’t impose a large burden on you.

Author: Stephen Judd (@sjudd)

This article (Security Practices Reviewed) was originally published Thursday August 27, 2015 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.

Inventory Your Digital Assets

By Barbara O’Neill, Ph.D., CFP®

Last year, my brother-in-law passed away. A pretty tech savvy seventy-something, he used computers a lot for online bill-paying, online shopping, and financial account access. As family members gathered from points all across the U.S., I observed his sons trying to make sense of missing or illegible usernames, passwords, and security questions. It was a real “teachable moment” for me as I saw first-hand what happens when people pass away without a list of their digital assets.

Photo by Wilson Hui (Creative Commons License 2.0)
Photo by Wilson Hui (Creative Commons License 2.0)

The term “digital assets” refers to personal information stored electronically on either a computer or an online “cloud” server. Anyone who uses e-mail, has a password protected cell phone or iPad, uses social media, makes online purchases, or pays bills or does banking online has digital assets. Like all Americans, military families have many digital assets that often need to be accessed far away from home. Digital assets generally require a user name, password or PIN, and/or security questions to access and can be difficult or impossible to retrieve if someone is incapacitated or passes away.

Encourage service members to take the time to record their digital assets using the Rutgers Cooperative Extension Digital Assets Inventory Worksheet that I developed. They should then keep this information in a safe place and share it only with a power of attorney, executor, and other trusted person who would need to have it. Writing everything down will also help them keep track of their digital life by itemizing account access details in one place so this information is available when needed. Below is a list of categories:

  • Electronic Devices- This category includes all of a person’s electronic gadgets including a smart phone, tablet, laptop computer, desktop computer, and external hard drive.
  • Benefit Accounts- Examples include airline miles, Amtrak railroad miles, hotel rewards program points, and online accounts for retailer reward/loyalty programs.
  • E-mail Accounts- Specific examples include Yahoo!, Google Gmail, AOL, Outlook, Hotmail, Juno, and an employer’s E-mail account.
  • Financial Accounts- This category includes bank, credit union, and brokerage accounts, and online access for mutual funds, retirement savings accounts, credit cards, employee benefit accounts, PayPal, and Social Security.
  • Online Merchant Accounts- Included here are accounts that someone creates to make online purchases from any retailer. Specific examples include Amazon, Blair, Chadwicks, eBay, Etsy, Zappos, and Wal-Mart.
  • Organization Accounts- Include here access information for professional societies, membership organizations, and personalized charitable organization donation web pages such as those for American Cancer Society fundraisers.
  • Photography and Music Accounts- These are web sites where people store often irreplaceable family photos and music. Examples include Instagram, Snapfish, Flickr, and a digital music library.
  • Publication Accounts- This category includes online access to newspapers, magazines, and blogs.
  • Social Media Accounts- In this category are various types of social media that often include intellectual property and personal photographs. Examples include Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn, and Google+.
  • Video Accounts- This category includes web sites, such as YouTube and Vimeo, that are used to store videos that people create for personal or professional use.
  • Virtual Currency Accounts with Cash Value- Many people have digital currency with real U.S. dollar currency value stored in web sites such as Bitcoin, Farmville, Second Life, and World of Warcraft.
  • Web Site Accounts- This category of digital assets includes domain names, hosting services, online business accounts, and cloud storage sites such as Dropbox, Google Drive, and Apple iCloud.

Once military families have inventoried their digital assets, they are not quite done. The final step is to include specific language in estate planning documents (e.g., will, trust, and power of attorney) that authorizes a fiduciary to handle digital assets, as well as tangible assets, in the event of their death or incapacity. Digital assets should be referred to in a will, as someone would similarly do for a list of untitled personal property. However, do not include them in a will. A will becomes a public document when someone dies, which will not keep digital asset data secure.

This post was published on the Military Families Learning Network blog on August 11, 2015.

VLE #MFLNchat recap

The Personal Finance Virtual Learning Event, held June 2-4, featured daily Twitter chats focused on the topics discussed in that day’s webinar. The webinar speakers were on hand to answer questions and to dig deeper in to the topics discussed in the 90-minute sessions. Here, you can view all the tweets shared during these daily chats, including great discussion on promoting positive financial behavior change and resources to share and use with clients.

Twitter Chats: A Professional Development Tool


By Barbara O’Neill, Ph.D., CFP®

Rutgers Cooperative Extension

In early June, as part of the 3-Day Virtual Learning Event (VLE), the Military Families Learning Network (MFLN) held a series of three Twitter chats using the hash tag #MFLNchat. The eXtension VLE Learn page with archived webinars is  located here. The purpose of the Twitter chats was to extend conversations in the “chat” section of the webinars about encouraging positive financial behaviors through motivation, coaching, and counseling. A Storify summary of the three Twitter chats can be found here. Storify is a free online application that allows people to create “stories” from the text, links, and photos found within in tweets and Facebook and Google+ messages.

Prior to the three Twitter chats, a “Lite” Twitter Cohort was held to introduce chat participants to the basics of using Twitter. Each day for two weeks, cohort 36 cohort participants received e-mailed messages about using Twitter. Materials for the cohort are available here. Participants used the hashtag #twittercohort to hold asynchronous conversations with one another.

Twitter chats, on the other hand, involve synchronous conversations. As the number of Twitter users has grown since its inception in 2006, so has the use of Twitter for financial education. An increasingly outreach method is Twitter chats, which use the hashtag (#) symbol to hold a “conversation” through an organized stream of tweets from people interested in the same topic (e.g., credit).

The formatting convention used to organize Twitter chat threads is Q1 for Question 1 and A1 for participant responses to that question, with 8 to 10 different questions per one-hour chat. All users have do is log in to a Twitter application such as or at a designated time and time zone, type in the hashtag for the chat, and start responding to and/or asking questions to engage with others.

The MFLN plans future professional development Twitter chats and encourages Personal Financial Management Program (PFMP) staff to participate. Feel free to “lurk” for a while, if you’d like, and then jump in. Another good idea is to observe, and then participate in, these regular personal finance Twitter chats: #creditchat (Experian, 3 p.m. ET on Wednesdays), #wbchat (WiseBread, 3 p.m. ET on Thursdays), #cashchat (@MsMadamMoney, 12 noon ET on Fridays), and #mcchat (Money Crashers, 4 p.m. ET on Fridays).

Below are some screen shots that further explain how to navigate a Twitter chat:
  1. Go to as
  2. In the top, right corner click on “Sign In”
  3. If you are already logged into your Twitter account, this box will prompt you to “Authorize TweetChat…to use your account”. You then click on “Authorize App”


  1. If not it will ask you to log into your Twitter account. Log in with your Twitter handle and password.


  1. Then, in the top left hand corner, type in the hashtag you are following and then press, “Go”


For Example:
  • Experian Tweetchat’s hashtag is “#CreditChat”
  • Wisebread Tweetchat’s hashtag is “#WBchat”
  1. You will then be taken to a stream of Tweets, only with the hashtag you typed in during the last step.


  1. You can then Tweet or Retweet whatever you wish, and the application will add the hashtag on for you so that you too can join the conversation!




Use these icons when you are tweeting:

 RespondThis allows you to Tweet at, or respond to, someone directly.

RetweetThis allows you to ReTweet someone else’s tweet; i.e., send it to your Twitter followers.

FavoriteThis allows you to Favorite someone’s Tweet; i.e., indicate that you like what they have shared.

Happy tweeting! I hope to see you on a personal finance Twitter chat soon.

Twitter Cohort Lite

By Molly C. Herndon , Social Media Specialist

The Personal Finance and Network Literacy teams will again be joining forces to create a learning opportunity for folks interested in Twitter. The 2-week event will begin May 18.

This year’s event will focus on asynchronous activities that participants can complete at their own pace. The event’s guides have assembled resources and homework for participants that will teach new skills and broaden existing networks. Watch videos and view last year’s syllabus here.

The Twitter Cohort Lite promises to be an easy way to get your feet wet and start tweeting with a supportive and encouraging network of professionals. By participating in this year’s event, you will:

  • Twitter-CohortBuild your Twitter personal learning network centered around your interests.
  • Engage in conversations with a Twitter community that starts with your fellow cohort members and reaches across the world.
  • Start online relationships that will last into the future.
  • Begin to see how Twitter can be used for teaching, learning, and connecting.

So if the Twitterverse seems intimidating or if you’re just learning to enhance your own personal learning network, register today for this immersive learning opportunity.

This post was published on the Military Families Learning Network blog on May 5, 2015.

A Guide to Mobile Payments – Security and Fraud Prevention

By HLundgaard (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons
By HLundgaard (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons
With the recent news of credit card fraud, the mobile phone industry has made a big push to get behind mobile payment. Mobile payment has been touted as a way to reduce credit card fraud because the cashier doesn’t have access to a physical card that would contain an individual’s name, credit card number or security code.

If you are thinking about beginning to get in to the mobile payment system, but still concerned about security and fraud, here’s what you need to know.

The two major smartphone platforms, Apple (Apple Pay) and Google (Google Wallet) have implemented their solutions in order to address credit card fraud. Apples system launched in 2014 while Google’s launched in 2011. Following are the details of how each addresses security and fraud.

Apple Pay implementation of mobile payment security is to combine near-field communications (NFC) technology for payment processing and the iPhone Touch ID fingerprint reader or passcode for security. Your bank payment network creates a unique device account number specifically tied to the phone and to the credit card added. In the event of theft or a lost phone, you can place your phone in lost mode to suspend Apple Pay transaction. Apple Pay is reactivated once you unlock your phone with your pin code.

Google Wallet implementation of mobile payments also uses NFC technology for payment processing but instead of a fingerprint reader like the Apple Pay’s implementation, you use a PIN that only you know. Google stores your credit card information on its server and transmit the encrypted data using secure socket layer technology. Google Wallet Fraud Protection covers 100 percent of all transactions. In the event of theft or a lost phone, you can go to the Google Wallet website and remotely disable your phone.

Both Apple and Google offer similarities in how they address credit card fraud. They both use NFC which means that the phone and the receiver have to be very close to each other in order to begin the financial process transaction. They also implement security on the phone through the use of either fingerprint reader and/or passcodes. Both companies utilize tokenization which allows the credit card number to be unique and transaction specific. With the mobile payment industry expected to account for up to 50 percent of all U. S. digital commerce by 2017, these companies are aggressively promoting their platform as a way to provide consumer confidence in mobile payments as a measure in increasing security and preventing fraud.

Author: Terrence Wolfork (+Terrence Wolfork,@trwolfork )

This post was published on the Military Families Learning Network blog on April 30, 2015.

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