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:
- we do not guard our information,
- we generate our information for the web, not for print media, and
- we should not we depend on ourselves to generate information.
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."
"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."
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:
- Blogs: on your site, Blogger*, Typepad , or WordPress
- News Readers (Google Reader)
- Wikis: on your own site, eXtension*, or Wikipedia*
- Document sharing: (Google Docs and Spreadsheets)
- Photo sharing: Flickr*
- Video sharing: YouTube*
- Slide sharing: Slideshare*
- Bookmark sharing: del.icio,us* or Digg
- Social networking: Facebook* or My Space
- Presence technologies: Twitter* or Jaiku,
- Instant messaging: AIM*, MSN*, Jabber* (chat.extension.org)
- SMS text messaging (text messages on your cell phone)
- Virtual communities-Second Life* Look for Morrill Island
(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.
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.