February 2010 // Volume 48 // Number 1
JOE by the Numbers 2009
In "JOE by the Numbers 2009" I report on the 2009 submission and readership rates and announce JOE's current acceptance rate: 34%. I also highlight the Top 50 Most Read Articles lists, pointing out that three of the entries are articles fist published in 1984. (All JOE articles still "live" and can still "speak" to us.) In "Keywords Are Key" I explain that we've provided new information to help authors choose the most effective keywords and key phrases for their articles. In "February JOE" I spend just a few more words urging you to read this month's issue.
Change, Who... Me?
As we approach our 100th birthday in 2014 as a National Cooperative Extension Service, we would like to spark discourse around our collective identity as agents of change. We present an argument in the spirit of promoting a self-reflective debate to move our organization—and ourselves—forward. As all agents of change know, awareness is one of the first steps in the change process (Rogers, 1963).
Participate in the JOE Discussion Forum on “Change, Who... Me?”
Ideas at Work
Civic Ecology: Linking Social and Ecological Approaches in Extension
Civic ecology refers to the philosophy and science of community forestry, community gardening, watershed enhancement, and other volunteer-driven restoration practices in cities and elsewhere. Such practices, although often viewed as initiatives to improve a degraded environment, also foster social attributes of resilient social-ecological systems, including volunteer engagement and social connectedness. Civic ecology education refers to the learning, as well as the social and ecosystem outcomes, that occur when young people and other novices engage alongside experienced adults in civic ecology practice. As Extension considers its role in civic ecology education, there will be opportunities for both participation and leadership.
Idaho Robotics Opportunities for K-12 Students: A K-12 Pipeline of Activities Promoting Careers in Science, Engineering, and Technology
4-H youth development programs nationwide are responding to the 4-H National Science, Engineering, and Technology (4-H SET) Initiative to involve more youth in Science, Engineering, and Technology activities. The goal is to increase the numbers of youth choosing to pursue SET careers. This article describes a program that is having great success engaging many more youth through robotics programs that meet the National 4-H SET program criteria. In addition, the article argues that in order to keep youth focused on SET careers, we need to build programs that provide contiguous, K-12 support to nurture the development and encouragement in SET.
A Science, Engineering and Technology (SET) Approach Improves Science Process Skills in 4-H Animal Science Participants
A new Science, Engineering and Technology (SET) approach was designed for youth who participated in the Minnesota State Fair Livestock interview process. The project and evaluation were designed to determine if the new SET approach increased content knowledge and science process skills in participants. Results revealed that youth participants not only increased both knowledge and skills, but specifically enjoyed learning through technology. Results of this pilot project suggest that using a SET approach for animal science programs, specifically utilizing technology as a learning tool has considerable merit.
Training Sessions Provide Working Knowledge of National Animal Identification System
One in-service and two train-the-trainer workshops were conducted by University of Idaho Extension faculty, Idaho State Department of Agriculture personnel, and allied industry representatives to increase Extension educators' knowledge and awareness of the National Animal Identification System (NAIS) and related topics. Training sessions included a number of NAIS-related presentations and the distribution of NAIS materials. The percent increase in knowledge of these topics ranged from 6.5 to 140.6%. As a result of the train-the-trainer workshops, 100% of attendees indicated they were better equipped to handle questions related to the NAIS.
Applying New Diabetes Teaching Tools in Health-Related Extension Programming
In response to the emerging global diabetes epidemic, health educators are searching for new and better education tools to help people make positive behavior changes to successfully prevent or manage diabetes. Conversation Maps® are new learner-driven education tools that have been developed to empower individuals to improve their health outcomes. While the tools were originally developed for clinical settings, this article describes a model Extension health outreach program that uses Conversation Map techniques to teach diabetes awareness and healthy eating in community group settings. These techniques can be used as a model for teaching other health topics to adult learners.
Using Education, Exposure, and Environments to Increase Preschool Children's Knowledge About Fruit and Vegetables
Because children's eating habits predict their adult eating habits, educating children about healthy foods is essential (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2000). A Midwest Extension Service created and delivered an educational experience for preschool children to increase knowledge of fruits and vegetables. The knowledge assessment scores (range of 0 to 7) increased from 3.5 (± 1.8) to 5.9 (± 1.9) (p < 0.001, n = 19) following the program. Analysis concluded that the children learned about fruits and vegetables through this experience. Other educators can readily adapted the program for a range of age groups and settings.
Enhancing Knowledge and Agreement Among Ethnically and Economically Diverse Couples in Stepfamilies with the Smart Steps: Embrace the Journey Program
Because of unique challenges associated with stepfamily living, couples in stepfamilies have distinct educational needs. Smart Steps is an innovative program that teaches relational knowledge and skills for couples and children in stepfamilies. Results from 195 ethnically and economically diverse participants attending Smart Steps classes at 11 different sites suggest that Smart Steps is effective in enhancing knowledge and agreement on stepfamily issues such as finances, parenting, and co-parenting with ex-partners.
Tools of the Trade
Eat Smart, Move More, Weigh Less: A Weight Management Program for Adults
Eat Smart, Move More, Weigh Less (ESMMWL) is a 19-week weight-management program that is delivered by local educators. Published research data were used to identify strategies that would lead to weight loss and/or weight maintenance. The program uses the Theory of Planned Behavior, informing, empowering, and motivating participants to live mindfully as they make choices about eating and physical activity. The program provides opportunities for participants to keep a journal of healthy eating and physical activity behaviors. ESMMWL is offered at worksites and at other sites for people interested in eating smart, moving more, and achieving a healthy weight.
Working Smart: Increasing the Reach of Extension Programming Through Media Advertising
A successful Extension program requires effective marketing strategies. Extension educators commit extensive time and resources to prepare an educational program, but who will attend the event? A well prepared program with poor attendance frustrates the presenter and wastes precious Extension resources. As county programs work within the financial constraints of lean economic times, ineffective program marketing is unaffordable. This article shares the results of a study conducted to compare the enrollment numbers for FCS education programs that were promoted using either free and then paid advertising methods. Paid advertizing resulted in sizeable increases in enrollment for FCS Extension programs.
A Powerful Teaching Tool: Self-Produced Videos
Video—once complex and expensive to create with high distribution costs—has become more affordable and highly accessible in addition to being a powerful teaching tool. Self-produced videos are one way educators can connect with a growing number of on-line learners. The authors describe a pilot project in which a series of video clips were produced on home gardening and cooking. Tips are offered on how educators can prepare themselves to produce their own videos.
Cooperative Extension Training Impact on Military Youth and 4-H Youth: The Case of Speak Out for Military Kids
Extension needs new venues to promote their programming skills to unfamiliar audiences. One new audience Extension is currently reaching is military children. By partnering with Operation: Military Kids to offer a Speak Out for Military Kids training, Extension supports military children and document changes in the behavior of this audience. Measuring perceptions of both military and nonmilitary youth who participated in a Speak Out for Military Kids (SOMK) training highlight the benefits of such a program. Results indicated that SOMK was an effective tool for Extension to use to reach out to military youth and communicate their message.
The Sky's the Limit: Integrating Geospatial Tools with Pre-College Youth Education
Geospatial tools, which include global positioning systems (GPS), geographic information systems (GIS), and remote sensing, are increasingly driving a variety of applications. Local governments and private industry are embracing these tools, and the public is beginning to demand geospatial services. The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) reported that the pool of geospatial professionals is unable keep up with demand. It is important that pre-college educators begin implementing these tools in the classroom to stimulate the educational pipeline. Twenty-four teachers from Fairfax, Virginia were involved in an educational approach that integrates GIS with civic and environmental education.
Operation Cleansweep in Florida: Extension's Role in an Environmental-Friendly Program Opportunity
Operation Cleansweep is a free pesticide disposal program that has operated in Florida since 1995. The program is open to commercial facilities, including agricultural production establishments, golf course operators, and pest control companies. Since its inception, the program has had more than 1,700 participants and collected more than 1,000,000 pounds of unused pesticides. University of Florida Extension's role with the program has been to serve as a member of the steering committee and promote and market Operation Cleansweep through normal Extension channels.
A Review of The World Is Flat: A Brief History of the 21st Century
This article reviews a book that focuses on the leveling or elimination of some of the barriers to globalization. The author's thesis is covered in three particular contexts: identification of the 10 forces that flattened or are continuing to flatten the world; how societies, particularly the United States, businesses, organizations, and individuals will survive the flattening process; and a discussion of the constituencies, forces, and problems impeding the flattening process and how might we, as human beings, collaborate better to overcome them. The implications to Extension are many and will undoubtedly affect present and future Extension programming.
Community Strategic Visioning as a Method to Define and Address Poverty: An Analysis From Select Rural Montana Communities
Community strategic visioning is a citizen-based planning process in which diverse sectors of a community collectively determine a future state and coordinate a plan of action. Twenty-one communities in rural Montana participated in a multi-phase poverty reduction program that culminated in a community strategic vision process. Research on this process was guided by alternative definitions of poverty and place attachment literature. Results from the qualitative survey data show many descriptions of poverty outside of traditional economic definitions and illustrations on the significance of place. Implications and recommendations on the use of visioning in other contexts in Extension are discussed.
Extension Specialist Roles in Communities of Interest and Place: An Example from the Agriculture-Wildlife Interface
The role of land-grant university Extension specialist originates in a community of place, enters into communities of interest to leverage resources or partnership opportunities, and returns to the local level with more effective outcomes than possible by operating solely within the community of place. A case study describes synergistic specialist programming roles that moved Wisconsin farmers and communities of interest toward a common goal of protecting corn fields from sandhill crane damage. Outcomes reinforce the concept that specialists are most effective when they forge seamless relationships between communities of place and interest, as "honest brokers," to solve unique practical local problems.
Cooperation with Commodity Groups and Hands-On Demonstrations Improve the Effectiveness of Commodity-Focused Educational Programs
Wheat and soybean producers pay a small amount per bushel produced as a check-off. Funds are used for research, outreach, and crop promotion. Commodity organizations and Extension joined forces to develop multi-state educational outreach on spring wheat and soybean production. Participatory planning involved producers in developing these educational events. The financial resources and availability of contact information from the commodity groups combined with the knowledge base and teaching skills from Extension resulted in well attended, valuable educational events. "Speed" hands-on demonstrations were well received. Extension working together with commodity groups can be a model for other Extension programming efforts.
The Influence of Type of Contact with Extension on Client Satisfaction
This article analyzes the variability in quality and outcomes of clients' experience with the CES in Florida. Its purpose is to explore this variability, within a Total Quality Management framework, across different types of contact, namely telephone calls, office visits, and planned programs. Customer satisfaction data collected from 2003 to 2007 was used for the analysis. Type of contact had a statistically significant effect on both the quality perceived by the clients and the outcomes from their experiences. Recommendations are made to improve the relevance and timely delivery of the information provided by Extension through different types of contact.
Self-Efficacy for Resolving Environmental Uncertainties: Implications for Entrepreneurial Educational and Support Programs
Using a unique sample of rural Kentucky residents, we demonstrated that, in the domain of operational and competitive environmental uncertainties, self-efficacy beliefs are significantly higher among nascent entrepreneurs than among non-entrepreneurs. We employed the hierarchical logistic regression analysis to demonstrate that this result is robust across gender and marital status. Contrary to previous studies, we found that married females with high self-efficacy in the domain of financial uncertainties are less likely to start a new business than females with low self-efficacy in that domain. Based on our results, we offer suggestions for entrepreneurial educational and support programs.
Long-Term Impact of the Farm Financial Analysis Training Curriculum on FSA Borrowers in Pennsylvania
The Farm Financial Analysis Training (FFAT) course covers fundamental skills and concepts in liquidity, profitability, solvency, and efficiency. The research reported here identifies and measures the impacts of FFAT on participants including: 1) perceived gains in knowledge, 2) changes in management behavior, 3) changes in specific farm assets and profitability, and 4) changes in attitudes regarding farm finance. FFAT is demonstrated to provide new and at-risk producers with effective educational materials that will significantly increase: their knowledge about financial statements, their use of financial management tools, and farm profit and net worth, and improve their attitudes when dealing with agricultural lenders.
Robots, GPS/GIS, and Programming Technologies: The Power of "Digital Manipulatives" in Youth Extension Experiences
The study reported here examined the effectiveness of educational robotics combined with GPS/GIS technologies used as "digital manipulatives" in the teaching of concepts in science, engineering, and technology. Based on the success of previous summer camps, the study also examined a scaling-up of the intervention from 38 participants to 147. The 147 youth (ages 10-15) participated in one of six summer camps held in Nebraska during 2008. Results indicate that participants scored higher on the content posttest than the pretest. The study further examined the differential results. The article makes recommendations for further studies, while acknowledging the potential power of digital manipulatives.
Research in Brief
What Influences Agents to Pursue a Career in Extension?
The qualitative study reported here explored why agricultural agents pursue an Extension career. A purposive sample was used to select twelve Florida agricultural agents. Interviews investigated positive and negative influences that affected agents' employment decisions. Grounded theory was used as the primary data analysis method (Strauss & Corbin, 1998). The selective categories most influential on agents' decisions to enter into Extension were: agent background, career contacts, service to agricultural community, nature of Extension work, position fit, and university-supported education. A grounded theory was developed to explain the findings. Results are useful for Extension to practice proactive agent recruitment.
Workplace Issues in Extension
Using the Delphi technique, expert state leaders in Extension determined and prioritized those workplace uses in Extension that are most important to attract, motivate, and retain Extension educators/agents over the next 5-7 years. The problem addressed is one of determining the leadership imperatives in Extension that will be required to populate the field with talent as current educators/agents retire and new employees are needed to populate the field.
Opportunities and Threats Created by Extension Field Staff Specialization
Public expectations are rising, and budgets are falling for many public services, including the Cooperative Extension System (CES). Economists suggest specialization of CES educators is one means of handling this dilemma. This article examines changes in the opportunities perceived by Minnesota educators of moving from a cluster-county form of specialization to a regional/county model. The initial results are encouraging, suggesting statewide specialization generates opportunities for greater teamwork, better needs assessment, and higher program quality. Additional research, which includes other stakeholders and other forms of specialization, could benefit states as they face increasing public expectations and fiscal constraints.
Retirement and Attrition Trends of Extension Professionals in North Dakota
The "graying" of the baby boomer generation and their pending mass retirement raise concern about job turnover in the Cooperative Extension System. The study reported here examined selected demographic data of North Dakota Extension professionals and the length of time they intended to continue working in their current positions. The Extension professionals' responses to an online questionnaire indicate that, along with rising retirement trends, attrition is a major concern. Recruitment of new employees to fill the ranks of those who leave their positions, due to retirement or attrition, must be a priority.
Can Adults Accept Youth as Equal Partners in Communities?
Communities benefit from meaningful involvement by individuals of all ages, but adults don't always perceive youth as legitimate, crucial contributors to community decision-making processes. The purpose of the study reported here was to determine if adults who participated with youth in the Horizons program changed their attitudes, opinions, and behaviors when working with young people on community issues or projects. Results indicate a positive change in adult attitudes, opinions, and behaviors when working with youth following the Horizons program community conversations and leadership training.
How to Target Extension Resources to Different Age Groups: Segmenting the Public According to Interests and Information Search Strategies
This article suggests targeting Extension resources according to consumers' interests and information search strategies of different age groups. Survey data were used to describe topics of interest to consumers in a Midwestern state, to group consumers according to their involvement in information search, and to assess the influence of age on the information search of consumers. Respondents exhibited four intensity levels in their search for consumer information, which differed by age. Nutrition and health topics emerged as the most important consumer topics across age groups.
Participation in "Handwashing University" Promotes Proper Handwashing Techniques for Youth
A study was conducted to assess the effectiveness of the Handwashing University on teaching youth the benefits of proper handwashing. The Handwashing University is an interactive display with several successive stations through which participants move to learn necessary skills for proper handwashing. Upon completion of the Handwashing University, 87% of youth completing a program assessment survey indicated they felt handwashing was more important. The majority of youth surveyed (66.7%) indicated specific changes they would make in their handwashing behavior. Overall, results indicate participation in the Handwashing University prompts youth and their families to practice proper handwashing techniques.