June 2008 // Volume 46 // Number 3

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Editor's Page

Take Pains with Titles (and Abstracts)
"Take Pains with Titles (and Abstracts)" urges JOE authors to do just that. "June JOE" talks about articles on eXtension and the Web and other technology-mediated ways of reaching our audiences. It also points to other articles that illustrate the range and richness of Extension.


Defining a Transformational Education Model for the Engaged University
Blewett, Thomas J.; Keim, Ann; Leser, James; Jones, Larry
Land-grant universities and Extension programs have recently been challenged to be more effective in engaging people and communities in participatory processes that benefit the interests of those being served. The University of Wisconsin Cooperative Extension has refined and adopted a definition of Transformational Education that is now being integrated into its approaches to community-based educational program development. Significant linkages are seen between the definition and practice of Transformational Education and the Kellogg Commission's (1999) recommendations for engaged universities.

Participate in the JOE Discussion Forum on "Defining a Transformational Education Model for the Engaged University"

Feature Articles

Social Learning Through Virtual Teams and Communities
Sobrero, Patricia M.
The advent of accessible electronic communications devices, including the Web, blogs, Wiki development, PC web cam video conferencing, and podcasting, call for each of us to participate in virtual learning. This article explores three modes found in the literature, virtual teams, virtual learning communities, and virtual communities of practice. The article is part one of a three-part series on virtual communities of practice.

County Extension Agents' Perceptions of eXtension
Harder, Amy; Lindner, James R.
In 2006, an Internet resource known as eXtension was launched. The online resource represents the realization of the Extension Committee on Organization and Policy's (ECOP) vision to develop a resource with the potential to increase Cooperative Extension's Internet presence. The purpose of the study reported here was to describe the perceptions of eXtension held by Texas Cooperative Extension county Extension agents. Agents had positive perceptions of relative advantage, compatibility, complexity, and trialability as those characteristics related to eXtension. The findings provide a baseline for studying the adoption of eXtension and offer an explanation of factors affecting the adoption process.

eXtension Financial Security for All: A Community of Practice to Increase Financial Literacy
Pankow, Debra; O'Neill, Barbara
Communities of Practice (CoPs) are networks of professionals with a common interest in a subject or problem who collaborate over time to share ideas and develop innovations. This article describes the mission, history, and deliverables of the Financial Security for All (FSA) CoP of eXtension, the Cooperative Extension System's Internet-based, customer-centered, virtual, and evolving educational environment. Financial security is the ability to meet day-to-day expenses while saving and investing for tomorrow (e.g., emergencies and retirement). Financial Security for All (FSA) provides online financial information 24/7/365 and was among the first wave of eXtension CoPs released by eXtension for public use.

Who's That Knocking at Our Door? Characterizing Extension's Online Clientele
Herring, Peg
Using an online question-and-answer (Q&A) service, communicators at Oregon State University found an unexpected way to characterize Extension's online clients and to measure the impact of Extension's online resources. Over time, the Q&A process provided a database that could be used to query an online audience, which in turn suggested possible directions for managing Extension's expert knowledge and further developing online e-agents.

Using Satellite Broadcasts to Educate the Public About Watershed Issues on a Regional Basis
Mahler, Robert L.; Seago, Jan; Simmons, Robert; Fedale, Scott
The Pacific Northwest Water Quality team developed a series of three regional (Alaska, Idaho, Oregon, Washington) watershed issues satellite downlinked conferences that were delivered in 2002, 2003, and 2004 using a regional steering committee. These conferences were downlinked to a minimum of 38 educational sites each year with an annual attendance ranging from 300 to 1,000 educators, agency and non-profit personnel, and members of local watershed groups. Evaluations indicated that regional programming on certain topics is an efficient and effective alternative to individual state programming when both financial and human resources are limited in individual states.

Disaster Preparedness and Professional and Personal Challenges of County Extension Faculty During the 2004 Florida Hurricane Season
Telg, Ricky; Irani, Tracy; Place, Nick; DeGroat, Abbe R.; Ladewig, Howard; Kistler, Mark; Barnett, Rose
The purpose of the study reported here was to determine how well University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) Extension faculty were prepared to deal with professional demands, job expectations and clientele needs, while coping with personal hardships as a result of the 2004 hurricane season. Results indicate that respondents were not well prepared to deal with professional challenges and the emotional symptoms of clientele during the hurricane season. Respondents reported needing training in disaster preparedness, in applying subject matter expertise in disaster situations, and in assisting coworkers to cope with stress.

How to Ascertain the Impact of Writing a Newspaper Column
Ehret, Mary R.; Kiernan, Nancy Ellen
Shrinking resources and the need to know the impact of programs require Extension to identify an effective means for reaching large audiences with research-based information. Media-focused programming such as writing newspaper columns is a delivery method used by Extension, although there is little evidence of its effectiveness in the evaluation literature. A creative evaluation of the Sunday Dispatch news column identified behavior changes made by readers, indicting that a non-face-to-face delivery method can be successful in influencing large audiences.

Research in Brief

An Assessment of County Extension Agents' Adoption of eXtension
Harder, Amy; Lindner, James R.
Are county agents using eXtension? The purpose of the descriptive study reported here was to determine if agents: (a) had heard of eXtension, (b) understood its purpose and functions, (c) had an opinion about eXtension, (d) had decided if they would use eXtension, (e) were currently using eXtension, and (f) had made a decision about using eXtension in the future. Data were collected from a random sample of Texas Cooperative Extension agents. The majority of respondents had little to no knowledge of eXtension. If eXtension is to gain popularity with agents, more effort must be put into encouraging its adoption.

Extension's Role in Bridging the Broadband Digital Divide: Focus on Supply or Demand?
Whitacre, Brian E.
Broadband access has become increasingly important in today's society. Extension educators have the potential to influence the number of households that adopt this technology, both by working with communities to increase levels of broadband infrastructure (supply) and by demonstrating the benefits of broadband access (demand). Using state-level data from Oklahoma, the study reported here demonstrates that demand-oriented projects would likely find more success because various "digital divides" exist even in areas where broadband access is available. These results agree with current academic research. Methods and successful program applications utilizing this result are suggested to Extension personnel.

Response Rates to Expect from Web-Based Surveys and What to Do About It
Archer, Thomas M.
This article reports research that calculated the response rates of 84 Web-based surveys deployed over 33 months. Response rate varied by survey type: (1) Meeting/Conference Evaluations - 57%; (2) Needs Assessments - 40%; (3) Output/Impact Evaluations - 52%; (4) Ballots - 62%. Having a high survey response rate is critical. When resources permit, reduce non-response error. Considering cost versus benefit, a less than optimum (85%) response rate for needs assessments/conference evaluations may not be critical. A breadth and depth of respondent reactions will provide much information for program development. Dealing with non-response error for program/impact will generate the most value.

Engaging Migrant Families in Extension Technology Programs
Wallace, Michael
Building on a strong foundation of documented successes and Extension research, a community technology center paired youth development with pragmatic computer instruction for migrant Hispanic parents. Data collection preceding and following 32 hours of instruction reveals substantial and significant shifts in self-efficacy in computer use and computer engagement with youth.

Adoption of Computer and Internet Technologies in Small Firm Agriculture: A Study of Flower Growers in Hawaii
Burke, Kelly; Sewake, Kelvin
Small businesses have exhibited increasing use of Internet technologies like email and Web sites in recent years. A question arises as to whether small business farmers use computers and Internet technologies to the same degree as do other small businesses. The study presented here surveyed growers in the Hawaii flower industry. Results indicate a number of growers use the Internet and email, have Web sites, and engage in other online business activities, reporting significant benefits. Results also show, however, that a number of farmers do not use the Internet as productively as they might. Implications for Extension service providers are discussed.

Back to the Future Part 1: Surveying Geospatial Technology Needs of Georgia Land Use Planners
Merry, Krista L.; Bettinger, Pete; Hubbard, William G.
Land use and land cover changes are having a dramatic impact on natural resources across the country. Modeling and visualization tools can help citizens, planners, and decision-makers understand the extent of these impacts. Georgia planning officials were surveyed to determine their land use/land cover issues, capacities, and needs with respect to use of these tools. Opportunities exist for Extension administrators, state specialists, and county/municipality agents to work with the planning community to develop and deliver tools to assist with educating citizens and decision-makers about the impact of land use/land cover on natural resources.

Examining 4-H Robotics and Geospatial Technologies in the Learning of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics Topics
Barker, Bradley S.; Nugent, Gwen; Grandgenett, Neal
The study reported here investigated the use of educational robotics, paired with GPS and GIS geospatial technologies, as a context for learning selected concepts in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics within a 4-H camp setting. The study involved 38 students between the ages of 11 to 15. A pretest-posttest quasi-experimental design was used in the study, with a 29-question multiple-choice instrument targeting various academic topics. The results of the study suggest that the 4-H robotics and geospatial summer camp program is a promising approach for supporting STEM-related learning, as represented by a significant increase of means from pretest to posttest.

Ideas at Work

Supporting Extension via Levies in Ohio
Zimmer, Bruce P.; Gaydos, Beth D.; Lloyd, E. Michael
The article examines the experience of five rural Ohio counties that support local Extension programming through voter approved property tax levies. It describes briefly the current state of Extension funding in Ohio and outlines the option of funding county programs via levies in counties where county commissioners could no longer provide dollars due to state mandates and shrinking tax bases. Suggestions for campaign committees and campaign financing are provided, as are various campaign strategies. Advantages and disadvantages of levy funding are also presented.

MyActivity Pyramid
Ball, Stephen D.; Schuster, Ellen; Gammon, Robin
In 2006, University of Missouri Extension released the MyActivity Pyramid, a new conceptual model (graphic) that parallels the USDA's MyPyramid. The new pyramid is a tool designed to help youth accumulate the necessary amounts and variety of activity. The MyActivity Pyramid is intended for use with youth ages 6-11. The MyActivity Pyramid also attempts to classify activities into four categories: 1) Everyday Activities, 2) Active Aerobics, 3) Flexibility and Strength, and 4) Inactivity. Recommendations for the amounts of each category are given. The MyActivity Pyramid was piloted with over 250 youth ages 6-11 in rural and urban areas throughout Missouri.

About My Families and Me
Recker, Nancy; Clark, Lois; Foote, Ruth Anne
About My Families and Me is a program for children living in a stepfamily. This innovative curriculum addresses stepfamily issues and helps children share, understand, and work through feelings. By participating in journaling, gaming, and discussion, children feel more positive about living in a stepfamily.

Extension Efforts Enhance Lowcountry South Carolina Conservation Forestry
Straka, Thomas J.; Franklin, Robert M.
Conservation forestry involves the use of low-cost forest management practices to enhance biodiversity. It must be accomplished at the landscape level (over large areas of land). We report on a program to encourage conservation forestry on South Carolina's coastal plain. Extension foresters developed three major conservation forestry strategies to encourage conversion to longleaf pine, prescribed fire, and better bottomland hardwood management. Forest owners expect financial returns, so each strategy was analyzed for financial results; all three showed favorable returns. Extension foresters set up demonstration areas and used workshops to educate natural resource professionals and forest owners on these practices.

Training in Reversal: A Fishing Gear Workshop by Fishermen for Non-Fishermen
La Valley, Kenneth J.; He, Pingguo
Increasingly, people without fishing gear backgrounds are involved in fisheries management. While they have strengths in their respective professions, an operational knowledge of fishing gears is lacking. Such gaps can be filled with collaborative learning workshops utilizing industry members as instructors. This reversal training strategy also builds mutual understanding between groups that are usually at odds. Commercial trawlers and gillnetters owned and operated by the industry were used as at-sea workshop platforms for two 3-day workshops. Participants included National Marine Fisheries Service employees, Congressional and Senatorial staffers, State fisheries scientists, Marine Docents, extension professionals, and cooperative research funding organizations.

Supplement Allows Ranchers to Eliminate Hay Feeding and Reduce Winter Feed Costs
Garrard, Richard M.; Glaze, J. Benton, Jr.
Winter feeding of beef cows represents the highest single annual cost to producers across the United States, and more specifically in south central Idaho. Typically, producers utilize hay as the sole source of nutrients for their cows during the winter feeding period. In an attempt to decrease feed costs and maintain animal performance, the utilization of a winter feed supplement consisting of a protein source, ground corn and salt was implemented. Results indicate that the use of the supplement was more economically feasible than feeding hay to cows during the winter feeding period.

Tools of the Trade

Wiki-Based Extension Fact Sheets
Moore, Aubrey; Barber, L. Robert, Jr.
This article explains how to build an interactive wiki Web site to facilitate creating, editing, updating, and distribution of online Extension fact sheets. The wiki is built using MediaWiki, the free, open source software used to build Wikipedia. Key features of the wiki include online editing of fact sheets using a Web browser, integration of high-resolution digital images with automatic thumb nailing, and full-text search capability.

An Online Reporting System for Evaluating Multi-Site Parenting Education Programs
Peters, Cheryl L.; Rennekamp, Denise; Bowman, Sally
Experience from developing and implementing an online reporting system to evaluate parent education programs in rural communities is described. The information we collect from multi-site project coordinators has fostered ownership of the program data and promoted accountability in evaluation outcomes. Coordinators report on parent experiences from surveys and write narratives to characterize their organization's community partnerships on a quarterly basis. Community collaborations and capacity building activities of 18 unique parent education programs are captured in a standardized way. Five important tips are shared for others interested in developing and implementing online reporting systems for evaluation purposes.

An Educational Module for Enhancing Business Strategies for Web Sites of Small Rural Firms: An Experience Economy Approach
Jeong, Miyoung; Fiore, Ann Marie; Niehm, Linda
The project described here introduces an educational module for use by Extension professionals and business owners/operators. The module is designed to help small rural firms build a unique and experiential Web site consistent with their physical stores by implementing 4E strategies. The module presents strategies to enhance the Web site experience and includes an introduction to Pine and Gilmore's (1999) experience economy (4E) concepts and their application to Web site design for small rural retail and hospitality businesses. The module supports a step-by-step approach to assessing firms' experiential offerings and designing experience-rich Web sites.

Livestock Insurance Web Site: A Learning Tool For Producers, Insurance Agents, and Educators
Small, Rebecca M.; Waterbury, Josie A.; Mark, Darrell R.
Since the release of Livestock Risk Protection (LRP) Insurance and Livestock Gross Margin (LGM) Insurance by USDA, University of Nebraska-Lincoln has launched the Livestock Insurance Web site. It contains a number of educational materials to aid insurance agents, educators, and producers in understanding LRP and LGM. The user-friendly Web site allows users to view video Webinars, self study guides, and PowerPoint® presentations. The Web site also shows producers how to evaluate the use of these insurance products under varying market conditions.

Two Simple Steps to Improve Your Web Site and Your Search Engine Ranking at the Same Time
Palmer, Dave
Extension Web sites are not as visible to search engines as they could be. In fact, many are nearly invisible. The search engine optimization technique described in this article, reciprocal linking, can help provide Extension Web sites with increased visibility in the search engines. As a result, millions of searchers will have improved access to Extension's information and services.

Identifying Agriculture and Forestry Educational Needs Using Spatial Analysis Techniques
Bridges, Christopher A.
The development and delivery of effective educational programming requires the identification of community needs. This article introduces a relatively simple method for integrating Agricultural Census data with a geographic information system to summarize farm characteristics at multiple scales. A case study of Tennessee farm and forest data illustrates how this method can help prioritize Extension and outreach efforts to most efficiently address landowner needs. Results indicate the applicability of this method for focusing educational efforts in areas where programs can optimize agricultural profitability and environmental quality.

Procedures That Improve the Interactive Video: Learning Environment
Powell, Pamela; Smith, Marilyn; Davis, Rod
A survey to determine the effectiveness of using Interactive Video (IV) as an instructional delivery method is providing Extension educators with guidance to improve the IV learning environment. Participants from three separate IV classes were asked to complete a questionnaire designed to query knowledge gains and participant evaluation of room set-up and facilitation. The evaluation revealed that the better students at distant sites hear and see the instructor during the class, the higher their reported level of increased knowledge. The survey also revealed the need for pre-planning, including education on using the system for instructors, facilitators, and participants.

Virtual Conferencing in Extension: Reaching Audiences, Saving Resources, and Benefiting the Environment
Hurt, Todd; Mickler, Keith; Abreu, Maria Eugenia; Martinez-Espinoza, Alfredo D.
Travel costs, employees' productive professional time, budget debits, and unnecessary carbon emissions have prompted creative ways to deliver information. Horizon Wimba™ allows interaction between presenters and audiences through real-time presentations, multiple location access, slide viewing, live conversation, and voice and written messaging board. Three hundred forty-nine people participated in the four workshop lunch and learn series in 17 counties. A conservative reduction estimate of only one vehicle travel from each location roundtrip to training venue for each of the four workshops yields a savings of $6,000 in mileage reimbursement, 200 hours of UGA Employee time, and 3,400 fewer pounds of carbon emissions.