Monday, June 25, 2007

Internet Security Presentations

As the result of great response from our internet security presentations during ACE/NETC 2007, we have posted the PowerPoint presentations to Slideshare. In keeping with the theme of the conference, we named them: "Dark Alleys of the Internet, Part 1" and "Dark Alleys of the Internet, Part 2--Do the Right Thing".

If you want to teach your own clientele and staff about internet security, you may want to use all or some of Part 1.

Part 2 gives suggestions to network administrators to make it easy for users to use the Internet securely.

Enjoy, edit, add, and share these presentations.

In case you are wondering, we have also sent these presentations to ACE to be post on their site.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Extension in Web 2.0

The Virtual Extension Specialist in Journal of Extension is a good start to introducing the change in Extension's role on the Internet. According to Charles Ray, the virtual Extension specialist creates a web site that serves a focus, takes on the identity of the website, uses a web site as the primary contact, abandons paper print focus, becomes a lead of navigator of information for clients, and continually builds the web site as the Extension program.

Charles Ray and his colleagues should be congratulated for producing a comprehensive web site that provides continuous changing information that is meaningful and helpful to the wood products industry. In describing the virtual Extension specialist, Ray's most important points are that:

  1. we do not guard our information,
  2. we generate our information for the web, not for print media, and
  3. we should not we depend on ourselves to generate information.

Extension is Not the Only Expert
Jason Young describes this last point best by saying it is impossible for us to know everything.

"There is always someone that knows more than I do about a given subject. And only by those sharing what they know am I able to successfully accomplish many of the tasks placed before me. Sure, I have to know a fair amount, I have to have the fundamentals, but I can no longer be successful in the business I’m in based solely on what I know.

...Information always finds a way to be known."

Jason ends his post with a reason that local agents should also join the Web 2.0 world with "It isn’t about what you know, it’s about what you can figure out."

Content can be created and is created by anyone. Content creation is about inclusion. We are not the only experts. Seeking knowledge from other Extension professionals, other land grant faculty, other University (non-land grant) faculty, other experts--such as health professionals, community leaders, horticulturalists, bankers, etc., and citizens is imperative for keeping our knowledge current, solving problems, and providing education.

Sharing and Collaborating in Web 2.0
Rather than carefully controlling the flow of information, we should be willing (and able) to open information systems so we can both 1) seek knowledge from various sources and 2) "share far and wide our knowledge".

Sites like Penn State Wood Pro (I could name several others, including the eXtension web sites) have produced valuable information and become a central hub for information in a topic area. Today, there are many technologies that provide Extension professionals (not just specialists) to develop web sites like Penn State Wood Pro.

But, more importantly, there are new web technologies that can move Extension into a more collaborative and community presence, adding value and depth to our knowledge and our ability to share knowledge. Extension colleagues (and a few government professionals) around the nation are using eXtension's wikis to collaborate and mesh information. A few Extension professionals have edited entries in Wikipedia. The eXtension web sites also include opportunities for online communities to communicate through chats and "ask the experts".

Many Extension web sites are "come to me sites". Most Extension web sites produce information in a way that was intended for print. The Web 2.0 era has created an environment where internet users are more social and find useful information through their social contacts on the web. They expect more interaction, more linking, and more dynamic products. They expect to get information in any form. They want learning that is interactive and inclusive. They too want to share their knowledge. They want conversations.

Listed below are some popular, and useful, social networking tools, that Extension professionals should be learning and using:
(Note the technologies marked with an * are ones that I and several other Extension professionals are participating in.) There are others. Leave a comment for those I have left out.
These web technologies provide opportunities to share knowledge, receive feedback, learn, have conversations, and build relationships in multitude of ever-changing online communities. This way of sharing and creating knowledge creates a "go to them" web presence.

The web now is no longer about directing our information, it is about collaborative augmentation, remixing and assembling information into forms that the original authors never pictured (paraphrased from Jason Young). A product that has been added to, changed, and remixed by many is a better, more easily understood, and richer product than its original.

Although there are many examples, the YouTube video Shift Happens and its Slideshare version which is a presentation on the globalization from an educational standpoint is an excellent example of a product of inclusion and sharing. Karl Fisch created the original as a presentation for in-service training for teachers at a high school.

As the result of sharing and repackaging the product (by many), the video and presentation is extremely effective, informative, and useful. It has been viewed 2 million times. AND, it still can be remixed, changed, and specialized for your specific needs. Karl Fisch has announced that there is now a wiki where people can reference materials, add more facts, improve the information, and continue the conversation about Shift Happens. (If you have not watched the video --watch it!). This is a wonderful example where one person had an idea, produced it, shared it, and through the process of sharing it, the product became more meaningful and useful.
Information AND knowledge are commodities.
To fully participate in Web 2.0--in the flat and seemingly chaotic web structure--we have to remove some of the constraints we have, like the traditional modes of operation of controlling our content, communications, and presentations. The traditional form of teaching from one instructor to many students does not effectively work with Web 2.0 participants. To try to control communities by feeding them information is futile. We are wasting our time to create only "come to me" environments. We, Extension professionals, will be much more effective by joining, participating, contributing, sometimes leading, and forming online communities.

Extension in Web 2.0
Larry Lippke asked a few months ago, how do we deliver education in the flat world? and how can we make sure that we satisfy the structure of higher education and the new opportunities of the non-hierarchical structure of the flat world? We have to change our philosophy about controlling our information. Learning Management Systems, evaluations and assessments have their place in Web 2.0. We have to rethink these systems and change them so that they fit our needs in the flat web world. We cannot change the flat world to fit these systems.

The future is where virtual Extension professionals have an online identities and Extension has online presence in organic-forming online communities.The Extension professionals contribute through many different social networks their knowledge of unbiased, research-based information. The Extension professionals are sometimes leading, always sharing, and always learning.

The Web 2.0 is not about a change in technology, it is about a change in philosophy and a change in the way we operate. It is about openness, communicating in flat sense, linking, sharing, and participating in a "go to them" kind of world.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Extension's Wikipedia Entries

The Alabama Cooperative Extension System (ACES) is the first Extension state program to have an article on Wikipedia. Check it out at The article covers the program areas, structure, and history of Alabama Extension. While extensive, the article remains a work in progress.

Additionally, if you have not already seen it, you may want to glance at Cooperative Extension in Wikipedia.

Jim Langcuster who wrote the article tells me that he has also created a Wikipedia article on the historical panorama of Alabama agriculture.

Friday, June 8, 2007

Explaining Web 2.0

Many times I am not able to articulate Web 2.0. to my Extension friends. Recently, an Extension administrator asked how these tools are beneficial to our local agents. Unfortunately, in my short meeting with him, I was not very convincing.

Part of the problem of explaining benefits is that I also have to explain the change in structure of communications and delivery. Dr. Moira Gunn of TechNation interviewed David Weinberger author of Everything is Miscellaneous on June 3.

Weinberger explains how digital content has many meanings and it is futile to try to create order "before hand" because someone has to make decisions as to the order. With more and more information, any person can order the content in a fashion that becomes meaningful to that person, rather than trying to order the content at the beginning of the process.

Also, knowledge becomes social knowledge--social knowledge becomes more reliable than single-source-expert knowledge. Additionally, Weinberger addresses trust in social environments and how giving up control of content is beneficial.

This 21 minute interview is a very good reference and explanation to share with those who understand how we distribute content linearly, but do not understand how knowledge is spread in a chaotic, unplanned, and unstructured way.

Connecting, Engagement, and Productivity

The Gallup Organization's Workplace and Leadership Consulting's Tom Rath, c0-author of How Full is Your Bucket? and Vital Friends: The People You Can't Afford to Live Without, presented "Four Foundations of Everyday Leadership" on the last day of the American Society of Training and Development Conference in Atlanta, Georgia.

Using data from 20,000 workers around the world, Rath found that an individual who made a difference to workers was someone that workers have known a long time and was local, like a co-worker or a manager, not a CEO. To workers, influential people were people who:

1. cared about them.
2. always spoke the truth--have integrity.
3. made them feel secure.
4. gave them hope.

Workers who are engaged in the workplace are much more productive than workers who are not engaged. Having friends at work is important in creating productitivity at work. Rath challenged us to consider what is important to workers. Workers want to be:

1. put in the right job--matching talent to task.

2. given a great manager--a manager who is connected and engaged to the workers.

3. focused on their skills.

Focusing on their strengths, rather than weaknesses, leads to more satisfaction and organizational engagement.

4. helped to build strong relationships.
When workers' best friends are on the job, they are seven times more likely to be fully engaged at work.

5. kept engaged in everyday interactions.
Workers are most engaged when they are given positive feedback. Negative feedback makes them less engaged. Workers who are not given any kind of feedback are much more disengaged than those workers who are given negative feedback.

6. measured progress regularly.
Workers want to know where the stand.

7. led toward a positive future.

What are we doing, individually and as an organization, to ensure that our workers are engaged, connected, and productive?

Friday, June 1, 2007

A Summary of Advantages of Facebook

When I needed to best describe why Extension professionals might want to join Facebook, John Dorner suggested that I looked at Harvard Professor Andrew McAfee's post on the benefits of Facebook. From Professor McAfee's article, I found these aspects that would be useful to Extension professionals:

1. Facebook is social software. Of course, it is, which is the reason Facebook and Myspace is so attractive to teens and college students. These students constantly communicate openly about their lives, their opinions, their interests, and their academics. Although most of us working adults are uncomfortable sharing information in open environments, the social aspect of Facebook is what makes it fun and speeds the learning process.

2. Facebook gives you the opportunity to decide what you want to share, what you don't want to share, and what you want to share with selected friends.

My daughter "friended" me in Facebook. She allowed me to see her status and photos, but she does not want me to see what her friends have to say....hmmm that makes me wonder. But, the point here is that she controls what I see on her space. Likewise, I can control how much information I give out about myself and I can limit certain portions of information to certain friends.

3. The structure of Facebook emerges over time. Users can create groups and discussion topics. These groups can grow, or be left alone to die, depending on the users and their participation. Kevin Gamble created a Cooperative Extension group. If you create a Facebook account and you work for Cooperative Extension, "friend" me and I'll make sure you are invited into the Cooperative Extension group (Kevin and others can do this, too).

4. From the teenagers' and college students' perspectives, not using Facebook is a "social liability". For some professionals, not having an online presence can also be a professional or career liability.

5. Facebook is a one-stop shop for sharing media, blogging, calendaring, communicating, sharing information, etc. Facebook can give Cooperative Extension capabilities to collaborate and build our networks in one place by providing one place to easily share information and discuss topics of interest.

6. Facebook brings together several online tools. In addition to being able to share information and photos, you can add applications (some examples are: Twitter, Flickr,, your blog, news feeds) to your Facebook home.

7. Facebook is mobile. Having facebook on your phone keeps you up-to-date with statuses, posts, and discussions. This feature, like many others, is optional.

8. After you get a feel for the layout and what is where in Facebook, using Facebook is easy. If you don't know how to do something, ask a teenager.

So what is the downside of social tools, like Facebook and MySpace? Sharing too much information could become a problem so share only what you are comfortable with sharing. Remember, you can control what you share.

Some say that social networking wastes time. It can be, but it does not have to be. And, it does not have to be perceived as a time-waster. Facebook allows us to learn from each other and build relationships with each other which takes time. If you are working on building relationships locally or maintaining relationships locally, you must take time to do that. You talk with folks and you have coffee or lunch with them. You maintain those relationships by continuing to talk with, catch up on news about them, check on them, etc.

Facebook is an online activity that will take some time. In doing so, we will learn about each other, learn from each other, discuss issues and methodologies, and challenge each other.