August 2010 // Volume 48 // Number 4
Getting Better All the Time: JOE Site Enhancements
"Getting Better All the Time: JOE Site Enhancements" describes recent improvements to the JOE site. "August JOE" highlights four of 32 excellent articles and describes a few of the themes running through the issue.
Extension's Role in Preparing Youth for the Workforce: A Challenge to Extension Professionals
During the first decade of the 21st century, much as been written about the knowledge economy, implications for work, and concerns about a widening gap between the skills employers need and the capabilities of employees. An intentional focus on workforce preparation will improve the impact of 4-H programming by more clearly demonstrating a return on investment to stakeholders, better preparing future leaders for the workforce and life, and helping fill a gap for employers. A call to action and five questions (e.g., "Why 21st century skills?") are presented with initial thought from the authors.
Participate in the JOE Discussion Forum on "Extension's Role in Preparing Youth for the Workforce: A Challenge to Extension Professionals"
Ideas at Work
Dealing with Extension's Partners: What's Ethical?
A 90-minute staff development session was created to examine ethical issues of working with Extension's external partners. The session used a two-part case (included), as well as small and large group discussion to frame issues related to working with funders and partners outside of Extension. The participants in the session worked out ideas and guidelines for dealing ethically with external partners. The case discussion technique was rated highly on evaluations of the session.
A 10-Step Process for Environmental Scanning
This article presents a step-by-step process used in North Carolina Cooperative Extension that provides a practical guide for conducting environmental scans. While easy to use, the methods are grounded in best practices from the current literature and provide a mechanism for gathering triangulated data from both primary and secondary sources that reflects a consensus, if you will, of high priority issues upon which relevant Extension programs can be built. In addition, this process also includes identifying individual and community assets that can be used collectively with Extension efforts to address the issues more comprehensively.
Local Area Agency on Aging Supports In-Home Nutrition Education for High-Nutritional Risk Seniors
Area Agency on Aging (AAA) and University of Idaho Extension created the Senior Extension Nutrition Program (SENP) to help high-nutritional risk seniors understand the importance of using food to better manage their health and/or health conditions. Paraprofessionals from Food Stamp Nutrition Education are funded using AAA funds and provide in-home visits to at risk seniors. Paraprofessionals receive oversight from UI faculty and a registered dietitian. A retrospective pre-test survey indicates behavior changes in fruit, vegetable, dairy, and water consumption and food frequency intake. The program gives these seniors an increase confidence in how to manage their health.
Building Blocks to Fun in the Sun
Building Blocks to Fun in the Sun is an educational applied research project that was implemented in Ohio. This article shares the process of the research, findings, and results that were implemented. The research could be duplicated in other geographic areas. The findings should enhance the educational endeavors of Extension educators.
The Black Belt Environmental Science and Arts Program
The goal of the Black Belt Environmental Science and Arts Program (BBSEAP) is to enhance classroom instruction in the environmental sciences for students in grades 5-8 of selected counties in Alabama's Black Belt region. BBSEAP differs from traditional outreach activities in that public school students come to off-campus, outdoor sites for instruction. The Auburn University Environmental Institute (AUEI) administers the program with support from local Alabama Cooperative Extension System (ACES) representatives. Since 2005, more than 2,000 students have participated in the program. Funding for BBESAP comes from government and corporate grants.
Can Blogging Benefit Staff & Youth in 4-H Camp Programs?
An "Edublog", is an educational weblog used by people with a stake in education. This article examines the usage of edublogging in three different 4-H camp programs to create relationships, promote trust, create new conversations, and filter and disseminate knowledge amongst adult and teen camp staff, and middle school aged campers.
Tools of the Trade
Tracking the Impact of Your Web-Based Content
Google™ Analytics is an easy-to-use Web analytics program that gives you insight into Web site traffic. Many Extension programs use the Web to distribute information. Extension program impact has traditionally been assessed through surveys or by the number of publications sold or requested, whereas tracking Web impact has been more difficult. Although site visits and page views could be tracked with previous Web analytics technology, Google™ Analytics allows for tracking of additional useful information. This article highlights a few useful features of Google™ Analytics and demonstrates how to track the impact of Web-based content.
Simple Steps to Making a Web-Based Video
Online videos can be used to disseminate educational information to the global community. While video production can be daunting, a simple method based on the development of PowerPoint slides can serve as a simple method of video creation. A slide-produced video can be easily be uploaded to an online video-sharing website, such as YouTube. Viewer data can be tracked using YouTube's Insight tool.
Cornell Cooperative Extension Gains Efficiencies and Increases Capacity with a Central Database
Cornell Cooperative Extension (CCE) has developed a central database system that replaces many manual processes and streamlines many other administrative procedures. The history of the Central Database Project is provided, and major accomplishments are described. These improvements have increased CCE's ability to comply with state and Federal regulations and with human resources policies. Daily operations are improved with easier access to data and analysis and administrative overhead is controlled, allowing staff to focus on program development and delivery. Finally, the improved technological capacity should increase technological credibility.
Tools for Schools and Communities: An Online Toolbox for Enhancing SCHIP Outreach and Awareness
Covering Kids & Families-Wisconsin (CKF), a program supported through the University of Wisconsin-Extension, has developed an online toolbox to better serve individuals in need of and eligible for public health insurance coverage. Lack of health insurance coverage is an increasing concern nationwide, yet information to access public coverage programs is disparate and confusing. When in need, uninsured individuals may turn to familiar organizations in their communities for assistance. The CKF toolbox can serve as both a resource of relevant information and as a template for community leaders who assist the uninsured but who are, themselves, unclear of the details.
2008 Farm Bill Decision Tools
This article describes a tool developed by Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service to aid in the decision to enroll in a new commodity program contained in the 2008 Farm Bill. Producers have the option to enroll in the Direct Counter-Cyclical Payment (DCP) program or the Average Crop Revenue Election (ACRE) program. The choice between ACRE and DCP is an important decision for farm profitability. The ACRE program is complex, and the calculation of potential ACRE payments can be quite daunting. The ACRE decision tool was developed to perform the calculations necessary to estimate potential ACRE payments for the 2009-2012 crop years.
A Beef Calf Retention Decision Tool
This article describes a calf retention decision tool designed for use by Extension educators and by cow-calf producers. Cow-calf producers in the U.S. Southern Plains have multiple options regarding post-weaning marketing strategies for beef calves, due in part to the availability of fall and winter grazing. This software tool aids cow-calf producers in estimating the profitability of marketing weaned calves at various decision points. The tool allows producers to choose from marketing and retention scenarios based on ranch resources and price forecasts. It is available to Extension educators and cow-calf producers in a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet.
Timber Supply Fundamentals for Extension Forestry Professionals
Timber supply is a term forestry professionals often misuse. It is not the same as timber availability. Competing uses for timber, like bioenergy and carbon credits, make a proper definition important. Timber supply has three subsets: biological potential and physical and economic timber supplies. Plus, there is a temporal aspect that creates a relationship between stock and short-run and long-run timber supplies. A change in stock supply automatically triggers a long-run timber supply response in the opposite direction. Timber supply is a complex issue, and this discussion may help Extension professionals educate landowners and avoid mistakes when using the term.
Building and Sustaining Small Acreage Programs
Living on the Land (LOL), a Western Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education curriculum for small acreage landowners, has been successfully used in Southwest Idaho for 8 years. During that time, Extension organizers have built and sustained a small acreage learning community using systems thinking, team teaching, alumni participation, and community partners. These concepts could be applied to other small acreage and natural resource Extension programs to keep the programs relevant, useful, and functioning for an extended period of time.
Small-Group Workshops Develop Participant Commitment for Nutrient Management Planning
Eighty small-group workshops were organized over 3 years to lead crop and livestock producers through preparation of two-field nutrient management plans using their own farm data. Follow-up surveys quantified the adoption of recommended manure management practices and completion of nutrient management plans resulting from the workshops. The small-group format combined the effectiveness of one-on-one contact and coaching with the staff-time efficiency of group presentations of background information.
Incorporating Volunteer Mentors to Strengthen Extension Programs
The University of Kentucky Volunteer Administrative Academy established a Volunteer Mentoring program that can be used in all program areas throughout Extension. The program is designed to assist Extension professionals and to provide tenured volunteers an opportunity to use and engage their own leadership talents and skills. The mentoring program is a tool kit that includes a planning aid, position description, and supervision strategy to assist in implementing the program.
Creating the Capacity for Organizational Change: Personnel Participation and Receptivity to Change
In a climate of continuous change, Extension organizations must find ways to navigate immediate challenges while developing capacity to thrive as future challenges and opportunities arise. To find ways, personnel's participation in planning was encouraged to increase openness to change as OSU Extension created and implemented its new Strategic Plan. Findings indicate that personnel from all levels of the organization who participated in the planning process were more receptive and less pessimistic about the plan and more motivated to make the plan a success. These findings suggest participation may help personnel cope with current changes as well as build capacity for future changes.
Building Teamwork into an Integrated Extension Program: Faculty Perspectives on Area of Expertise Teams
In today's Extension environment of budget cuts and restructuring, the emphasis on building team programs has become greater than ever. We review the Area of Expertise team structure approach that was initiated at Michigan State University for Extension programming in 1994. Goals were to strengthen integration between campus and field staff, between research and Extension, and between disciplines. We provide an update on team-building within this structure and describe two faculty approaches to joining these, now ongoing, teams. Common experiences and lessons learned are highlighted to guide others in the process of joining diverse team environments in an effective way.
Extension Mentoring: Steps Leading to Greater Program Effectiveness
Mentoring is frequently used by many Extension programs as an ongoing methodology for helping new educators better understand their roles and responsibilities. This article is based upon a longitudinal mentoring study to determine value, benefit, and steps towards greater effectiveness. The population included mentors, mentees, and immediate supervisors, and the methodology is based upon focus group research conducted over an 18-month mentoring period. The results of the study reported here are focused on the areas of mentor selection, training, pairing, interaction, and recognition. Recommendations are widely applicable to other Extension programs looking to improve their mentoring programs.
Latinos Safety Behaviors Related to English Literacy as Reported by Dairy Producers in Kewaunee County, Wisconsin
Safety issues related to low English literacy levels of Latinos on dairy farms are a potential concern to employers. A survey of safety behaviors was completed by 19 dairy producers who employ Latinos in Kewaunee County, Wisconsin. At least two-thirds of the respondents rated five of the 10 safety behaviors as of moderate, high, or extreme concern due to their employees' ability to read, write, speak, or understand English. At least half of the respondents reported providing assistance to employees in functional areas such as housing, law enforcement, and schools. Recommendations for dairies, Extension education, and literacy organization were determined.
Food Safety for 4-H Youth: A Survey of Interests and Educational Methods
Improper food safety practices cause numerous illnesses and cost Americans billions of dollars each year. The study reported here addressed food safety issues by analyzing data from surveys with 4-H youth about their food safety attitudes, behaviors, and preferred methods of educational delivery. Analyses of gender differences indicate that males and females have distinct attitudes, behaviors, and preferences, necessitating more tailored educational approaches. Youth are most interested in food safety information that is fun, interactive, and built around cooking demonstrations. 4-H staff and others in Extension can optimize youth learning and practice change by approaching food safety from this experiential perspective.
Later Life Farming: Retirement Plans and Concerns of Farm Families
Many farmers are approaching retirement age and need to take advantage of critical planning years preceding this transition. Farm families often differ from other workers. Many are emotionally attached to their primary investment (farmland), and they don't expect to retire (i.e., stop farming) as much as reduce work hours or the scope of their operation. There is a need for information that addresses the unique retirement planning concerns and mindset of farm families. This article discusses findings from focus groups held with New Jersey farm families (N=13) in 2008 to inform development of an online retirement planning course for farmers.
The Viability of Podcasts in Extension Education: Financial Education for College Students
The article examines the viability of podcast use to provide financial education for college students by Extension educators. A focus group study of college students was conducted by a team of Extension educators from the University of Minnesota Extension related to the potential use of podcasts. Eight focus groups were conducted at a variety of colleges throughout the upper Midwest. Researchers found podcasts are not a stand-alone educational approach, but potentially a tool in a blended learning approach. Implications for using podcast and other technologies in Extension education are discussed.
Using Web-Hosted Surveys to Obtain Responses from Extension Clients: A Cautionary Tale
Surveys are important tools for Extension professionals. Given the development of Web-hosted surveys, two important questions are "When can they be used?" and "How does the data differ from those collected by other methods?" The study reported here compares three modes of delivery: mail only, mail/Web choice, and Web preference with a mail option. Data showed the response rate for the mail-only mode was highest (64.5%), followed by the mail/Web choice mode (59.2%) and the Web preference mode (52.6%). The evidence indicates a need to consider how the results might be affected by methodological decisions to use the Internet.
Research in Brief
Looking at Extension as a Learning Organization
This article shares an understanding of how Extension at a major university serves as a Learning Organization and its capacity to address change. The study examined how to assess the capacity of staff members to promote organizational learning. The researcher administered a 43-item survey instrument, the Dimension of the Learning Organization Questionnaire (DLOQ), designed by Watkins and Marsick (1997) to Extension employees. As a strategic planning tool, the survey identifies organizational learning strengths and challenges at the individual, team, and organizational levels.
Motivational Orientations of Adults Participating in a Cooperative Extension Master Gardener Program
The purpose of the study reported here was to develop a better understanding of adult participation in the Master Gardener Program in Putnam County, Tennessee. Eighty-nine participants were surveyed, and 66 participants returned their completed survey, for a 74.16% response rate. Adults participated "to obtain a practical benefit," "to feed an appetite for knowledge," "to satisfy an intellectual curiosity," and "to satisfy an inquiring mind." MG Coordinators should market their programs as opportunities to learn and share specific gardening knowledge. More comprehensive research is needed to determine if adults are primarily interested in the MG Program strictly for knowledge.
Enrollment, Retention, and Activity in an Online Master Gardener Course
An online version of the OSU Master Gardener training course was launched in the fall of 2006. Student retention in the online course was comparable to retention in on-site trainings. Students who were most active in the course, measured as the number of optional assignments and quizzes completed, were more likely to score higher on the final exam. Online courses have the capacity to broaden the reach of Extension and to allow individuals who traditionally could not take advantage of programs to become a part of the Extension community.
Non-Industrial Private Forest Landowner Use of Information Sources Concerning Management of Their Woodland on the Tennessee Northern Cumberland Plateau
Recent studies have pointed towards non-industrial private forest landowners being underserved. This article presents data collected on the Tennessee Northern Cumberland Plateau in 2005 by the University of Tennessee to assess landowner use of information sources and employs an econometric model to assess landowner characteristics and how they affect what sources of information landowners are most likely to use. Results reveal that landowners have mostly used friends, family, and neighbors as information sources. Multinomial logistic regression results reveal that landowners may be motivated to actively manage their forestland but are not necessarily interested in Extension information.
Street Tree Resource Evaluation and Education Trust (STREET)
An educational and applied research project, Street Tree Resource Evaluation and Education Trust (STREET), was conducted to train Master Gardener volunteers to identify and inventory Bucyrus street trees, to educate city government and citizens on street tree benefits, to secure funding and city approval for new street tree planting, and to compare citizen and landscape contractor tree planting by tree planting depth. Outcomes of STREET included: identification and inventory of 1,797 street trees, grant funding of $5000, 194 new trees planted, and citizen tree planting depth higher than tree professionals.
Effects of Queen Source and Age of Colony on Nosema (Nosema, apis) Spore Load in Honey Bees (Apis mellifera)
Bee colonies are being decimated by new diseases and by older diseases that have become more virulent. Nosema is a disease that contributes to these losses. Many recommendations concerning queen type in the past have focused on honey production. Extension educators need information on how queen source and colony age can be used to manage disease. Results include: bee colonies headed by queens selected for their increased hygienic behavior exhibited reduced nosema spore loads. This effect lasted during the early spring and was not detected at a later date. Older, over-wintered, hives exhibited higher spore loads than newly made colonies.
The Cooperative Extension Service as a Boundary Organization for Diffusion of Climate Forecasts: A 5-Year Study
This article compares responses from two surveys in Florida to estimate how climate literacy has evolved as a result of the partnership of the Southeast Climate Consortium with the Cooperative Extension Services for diffusion of climate information. A 32-question survey was developed and posted to the Internet in 2004 and again in 2009. We found that climate knowledge evolved over the 5-year interval in two principal ways. Knowledge and willingness to use and provide information to end users increased on average, and agents had refined what types of climate information are actually useful and to what extent for their clients.