Research Question 4: Significant Challenges Impeding Technology Adoption in the Cooperative Extension

What do you see as the significant challenges that cooperative extension professionals will face during the next five years?

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NOTE: The Significant Challenges are sorted into three difficulty related categories based on their appearance in previous NMC Horizon Report editions -- solvable challenges are those that we both understand and know how to solve, but seemingly lack the will; difficult challenges are ones that are more or less well-understood but for which solutions remain elusive; wicked challenges, the most difficult, are complex to even define, and thus require additional data and insights before solutions will even be possible. In your responses to the trends below, feel free to explore why or why not the challenge should be in its specific category.

As you review what others have written, please add your thoughts and comments as well.

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Challenge Name
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Promoting Extension Programs
There are so many good points made here already!
As a digital media program director, I find that our agents and specialists are excellent in their field of knowledge. However, they are lousy at marketing themselves. "Tooting their own horn" is not what they feel comfortable doing. Yet that is the primary way to be found - in the digital world- by new clients, especially young ones. Social media, websites, enewsletters, all of these digital communication devices are how brands with a marketing department reach their customers. Having scarce resources (and in some cases, a skeleton crew of a communications department), our Extension personnel must put on the 'Hey I'm awesome!' hat and get their name known as thought leaders in a world where people with a bigger budget and less information often are touted as valuable information sources.
Someone else mentioned "managing misinformation" as an issue and we all know that once it's written online in a catchy way, bad information can go viral. Making our content visually appealing (translating a fact sheet into a demo video for example) is a great way to get our information to a wider audience. However, many agents are scientists and not necessarily spokespeople. Educating our staff on how to market themselves has been a big challenge for us. - accole accole May 16, 2016 - Stan Stan May 22, 2016 - JonEmigh JonEmigh Jun 5, 2016JonEmigh
Yes, I think a key challenge for Extension is "managing misinformation"- joeyp joeyp Jun 5, 2016
Techniques for self-promoting would be an important tool for all of us. Everyone's taxes are supporting our salaries, offices, etc. -- it is important we use all the means of promotion possible to reach as many people as possible with relevant information. - ahenneman ahenneman May 17, 2016 - Stan Stan May 22, 2016 - amanda.christensen amanda.christensen Jun 2, 2016
IMHO, Extension does a poor job promoting itself. They have much to learn from many of the successful entrepreneurs like Pat Flynn, Amy Porterfield, Tim Ferriss, John Lee Dumas, etc. who are bringing in at least $100k per month. Extension could do a better job by adopting the concept mentioned by Harold Jarche of Working Out Loud. All extension educators should be required to maintain a personal or team blog to help get the word out about their activities. - Stan Stan May 22, 2016 Agree - greg.johll greg.johll May 23, 2016 Agree - May 27, 2016 agree - wolforkt wolforkt May 30, 2016
Totally agree. And part of this is understanding that reaching younger audiences is not about reaching the young people themselves. Rather, we must reach the "influencers" they look to. Also, as competition continues to increase, I believe the need to understand/promote/develop our BRAND will never have been so important - andersonb andersonb Jun 5, 2016.
Agree with this whole section! Two generations ago you could mention Extension and would most likely receive 1) positive feedback and 2) understanding of programs and need. When asking current generations you're probably looking at single digit knowledge of Extension. - michael.macklin michael.macklin Jun 5, 2016
Do we really need better self promotion, or more defined marketing strategies with expertise to implement? I understand and believe in the value of working out loud and the value of self promotion, but I think it often leads to a "spray and pray" marketing strategy in Extension. From my perspective it seems we need to review the organizational structure that is required to run an organization such as Extension, and finally build that capacity within the organization. For example, it is difficult to implement a successful email marketing campaign, and do we want educators that are experts in email marketing, online learning, databases, etc. - or educators that are more focused on education. Organizations of this size generally have teams who only focus on these specialized areas - and we need to define those and better support educators. We need to ensure strategies, resources, and expertise at the brand, team, and educator level work together. - JonEmigh JonEmigh Jun 5, 2016JonEmigh

Balancing our Connected and Unconnected Lives
With technology now at the center of many daily activities, learners must understand how to balance their usage with other developmental needs. To prevent learners from getting lost in the abundant sea of information and new media, mindful use of digital tools should be encouraged and learners should be aware of their digital footprint and the accompanying implications. As education aligns closer with technological trends, instructors will have to promote this balance, facilitating opportunities where learners feel, digest, reflect, touch, and pursue sensorial experiences that are crucial to developing character and integrity. Striking a balance and guiding learners to personal success in their own habits is especially critical for incoming generations of learners that have come to rely on technology. While there are plenty of studies and articles discussing healthy amounts of screen time for children, there are no prescribed or agreed upon models for adults when it comes to learning. Furthermore, educational programs have a responsibility to ensure that when students are connected it is with the purpose of transformation — not just replicating an experience that could easily take place without technology.
With technologically, you no longer have to wait for a letter to reach someone in the mail ... the information is there instantly. It is important to remember, however, that lead time and time to reflect on ideas is still important to the creative process. - ahenneman ahenneman May 17, 2016 - Stan Stan May 22, 2016I feel that the issue of using technology just to "use it", even though it isn't necessary, is a major problem within the classroom as schools push required technology time onto teachers. In the Extension field, we are able to help learners utilize whatever methods they feel comfortable with, whether it is online or off. Some clients may need a gentle push into technology, others may need to see that can be done a different way, but most will make the choices best for them. - May 27, 2016We have been at a point for some time where the Internet is indeed part of "the real world," but not everyone realizes it. In Missouri 4-H, expectations for behavior online is the same as the expectations of a professional when they're "on the job" if they are connecting with 4-H youth in any way (and who isn't?). - andersonb andersonb Jun 5, 2016A challenge is balance high tech and high touch. Some offices in our state don't have any balance all one or the other. - joeyp joeyp Jun 5, 2016
Too Much Technology
As an extension educator that promotes physical activity, when is too much technology in the way of screens unhealthy for the people you teach? Last week (May2-6) was screen free week, where individuals and families are encouraged to use less screens outside of work and school to spend time with each other cooking, talking, and going for walks. In a data driven world, we are using various fitness trackers, making virtual fitness friends, but do consumers know how to use this information to improve their behaviors? - shenley shenley May 9, 2016

Blending Formal and Informal Learning
Traditional approaches to teaching and learning with roots in the 18th century and earlier are still very common in many institutions, and often stifle learning as much as they foster it. As the Internet has brought the ability to learn something about almost anything at the palm of one’s hand, there is an increasing interest in the kinds of self-directed, curiosity-based learning that have long been common in museums, science centers, and personal learning networks. These, along with life experience and other more serendipitous forms of learning fall under the banner of informal learning, and serve to enhance learner engagement by encouraging them to follow their own learning pathways and interests. Many experts believe that a blending of formal and informal methods of teaching and learning can create an education environment that fosters experimentation, curiosity, and above all, creativity. In this sense, an overarching goal is to cultivate the pursuit of lifelong learning in all students and educators. However, formally acknowledging and rewarding skills both educators and students master outside of the classroom is compounding this challenge.
By "working out loud", educators could easily share resources in the moment to not only address the one individual's concern but also help countless others. - Stan Stan May 22, 2016Well said @Stan. There is a great opportunity for Extension to be the catalysis for this conversation as it sits at the intersection of community and formal education. How can LGU's work with Extension to provide prior learning assessments, and credentials for knowledge learned in an informal setting that would lead to a formal credential if so desired? This would allow for community members to stay place bound, but change careers or develop new skills and competencies. - michael.macklin michael.macklin Jun 5, 2016 - alex alex Jun 5, 2016
Competition from Other Models
Other groups (e.g. private industries, for-profit organizations, public education institutions who don't have a land-grant mission but do outreach/service learning) are already providing more and more "Extension" type of services. In some cases they do "our" job better than we do because they don't have the same organizational constraints or funding limitations. While this may necessitate we scale back or stop services that are provided more efficiently/effectively by someone else; it also creates an opportunity for us to partner and program in exciting new ways. Rather than trying to compete, or keep up, with groups that have deeper pockets, less red-tape, and access to better technology, we need to think about partnering with these groups in a way that is a win-win. For example, they get access to our content and in return our content gets extended in new ways through their channels, resources, technology, etc. They get access to our faculty to help them on projects that matter to the outside group, and in return our faculty get access to their staff, technology, resources to help with questions that matter to the faculty. - brian.h brian.h Jun 2, 2016 - Stan Stan Jun 2, 2016 [Editor's Note: Added here from RQ3.]

Continual Progress in Technology, Workflows, and Infrastructure
In many cases, programs may not have the necessary technical infrastructure in place to realize their vision for digital learning and content production. While it is practically impossible not to recognize the value of digital learning in today’s connected world, the reality for programs is that the vast majority of institutions do not have the necessary technical infrastructure to successfully pursue goals for digital learning, and often have little time to dedicate to articulating, much less realizing their vision. Additionally, institutions too often face additional costs to repurpose information created for resource catalogs or even websites as they try to meet demands of content from the growing array of potential media formats. The challenge for content producers is to revamp production workflows and content licenses so that they simultaneously support any possible use. - brian.h brian.h Jun 2, 2016 Yes!- jeff.piestrak jeff.piestrak Jun 4, 2016 - JonEmigh JonEmigh Jun 5, 2016JonEmgih
Who will train people in the new technology and how will they adapt that training to the way people work best? Plus, how will they be able to deliver and support it across county, district and state offices? For example, when Word became the standard instead of WordPerfect ... many offices had to take WordPerfect off Extension computers and force people to use Word. A disproportionate amount of work can be placed on members of a team who have access to technology training and or come with a skill set if a group is to use that technology. - ahenneman ahenneman May 17, 2016In the past couple of months, I have signed up for online courses created by entrepreneurs that are of exceptional quality. Entrepreneurs do not care that Extension as been providing value for 100 years, if we do not take digital education marketing and education serious, Extension will be left behind. - Stan Stan May 22, 2016 - alex alex Jun 5, 2016 - JonEmigh JonEmigh Jun 5, 2016JonEmighAdvancing Technology Infrastructure
eXtension has prepared a pretty comprehensive list of educational technology topics and, personally, I am not familiar with all of the listed terms. What I see that is missing is what I would call "technology infrastructure"; i.e. actions that are taken to enhance technology use. Examples include 1. more formalized technology training on using various tech tools (e.g., how to do a video broadcast using Periscope) instead of expecting educators to just "pick it up," often on their own time; 2. systematic national impact evaluation metrics for educational technology teaching methods, and 3. Funded apprenticeship/mentoring/job shadowing/Boot Camp experiences for Extension educators who are using best practices to teach others.- oneill oneill May 24, 2016
I agree 100% with the above listed items. I also wasn't familiar with all of the listed items but for me what IS missing in my position as a Director of Digital Media is infrastructure and backing by stakeholders to fully train and encourage educators to utilize technology to reach students/clients. Technology comes naturally to some but is very tricky for others, even those with PhDs, to grasp. Those of us in a position of training others who are not 'tech savvy' have a unique challenge to encourage already busy people to learn yet another (albeit important) skill. Funding for new technologies is also often a difficulty as their merit may be difficult for non-tech savvy people to initially comprehend. Some of this blurs the line between challenges and new developments I realize, but often new developments in technology naturally also create new challenges. - accole accole Jun 1, 2016
I also agree with both Oneill and Accole. We need structure for the technology applications that we use. Our educators and staff are highly trained in their own area of expertise but not in the area of technology so the range of technology skills vary greatly. - heyboerg heyboerg Jun 6, 2016

Technology Support for Communication
In the past year our institution has adopted Zoom for both online meetings and webinars. Having the ability to hold meetings using video and being able to easily share applications and work together has changed our dynamic within our organization. It is much more engaging when you can actually see the people you are working with over a conference call. This is very important when the people you work with are located all across the state. This technology also works well with mobile and with low bandwidth which is important as Internet speeds also vary across our state.- heyboerg heyboerg Jun 6, 2016
[Editor's Note: Added here from RQ2.]

Creating Authentic Learning Opportunities
Authentic learning, especially that which brings real life experiences into the learning, is still all too uncommon. Authentic learning is seen as an important pedagogical strategy, with great potential to increase the engagement of learners who are seeking some connection between the world as they know it exists outside of school, and their experiences in training programs that are meant to prepare them for that world. Use of learning strategies that incorporate real life experiences, technology, and tools that are already familiar to learners, and interactions from community members are examples of approaches that can foster authentic learning.
Extension Education has incredible potential for Authentic Learning Opportunities. This ties back into self-promotion and letting clients know what is available, but also enabling them to tell you what authentic learning opportunities are needed within the community. - May 27, 2016I think interactive learning will begin to make a comeback instead of incessant testing in our schools based on available budgets. However, rather than true "hands-on" learning, educators will likely have to utilize new software and virtual learning opportunities to keep up with creative demand. This will spill out of the school systems into the community as well. While 'sweat equity' may be earned running software or through modeling, Extension professionals can realize these shifts and provide the education to the community members on current technologies as an opportunity for authentic learning.- amy.dronberger amy.dronberger Jun 1, 2016

Embracing Change as a Constant
Conservative organizations often lag behind commercial entities and educational institutions in the adoption of new technologies. Money and staff resources are always cited as reasons for not participating, yet in general, the reluctance has more to do with the fear of change. Adopting technologies may well enable organizations to better accomplish their missions and serve their audiences but the community needs to become more flexible in its response to emerging trends. - brian.h brian.h Jun 2, 2016
It will be important to assure that continual new learning curves, products, etc. don't set people and expenses don't put people further behind than they were before they adapted them. This may result from better training, identifying priorities in what to learn, etc. - ahenneman ahenneman May 17, 2016 - Stan Stan May 22, 2016It is important that we learn lessons from the music industry, print media, and television and movies. The ability to digitize content and easily distribute the content must be taken seriously. Extension needs to not only get their content online but also use social media tools to regularly get it out in the eyes of the public. They can not rely just on people searching and finding the content. - Stan Stan May 22, 2016- greg.johll greg.johll May 23, 2016I believe it is vital to embrace change as the constant, but to also carefully consider what change is being adopted in your community and focus on keeping ahead of those technologies instead of trying to "drink from the firehose" and learn all technologies. For example, based on region, it may not be important to keep up with new technologies for the pecan grower, but it may be imperative to keep up with the wine industry. Knowing how those 'customers' like to receive information can help educators digest the rapid change we are all experiencing and determine what the best mode of communication is. - amy.dronberger amy.dronberger Jun 1, 2016

Expanding Access
The drive to increase the number of professionals participating in cooperative extension programs is placing pressure across the system. The oft-cited relationship between earning potential and educational attainment plus the clear impact of an educated society on the growth of the middle class is pushing governments to encourage more and more professionals to seek additional training.
Extension not only needs to place content online and market it, they also need to develop a vast array of online courses. They need to become a leader in their niche. - Stan Stan May 22, 2016 - brian.h brian.h Jun 2, 2016 - wolforkt wolforkt Jun 4, 2016 - JonEmigh JonEmigh Jun 5, 2016JonEmighRegarding expanding access, extension needs to ask "What are the most transformational ways we can use technology to meet the needs of those we serve and increase our ability to work together efficiently and effectively?" We are living in a time of dramatic change. Nationally people are more likely to live in towns and cities than on farms. They are able to access a world of expertise at the click of a button and connect with one another in ways that were unimaginable even ten years ago. At the same time, some things have stayed the same. Communities and people of all ages are still hungry for practical, credible information and relationship-based education and programming. In my opinion, if anything the desire for tailored information, human connection, and trusted advisors has grown. As extension we will need to fully embrace digital technology not only as a tool for disseminating information, but also as a gateway for deeper engagement. To this end we need to make it easy for people seeking information to find us on-line; use digital tools to help people connect with one another; and integrate digital technology as a way to support and enhance our programming. In my opinion, this is not a case of either in-person or digital engagement, but rather a case of both face-to-face interactions and interactions that take advantage of digital resources. It is about using all of the tools now at our disposal to reach people in the ways that make sense to them. - ken.lavalley ken.lavalley May 23, 2016 - wolforkt wolforkt Jun 4, 2016 - alex alex Jun 5, 2016EQUITY AND ACCESS ISSUES I added this at the end of our readings collection process, so most of the team probably hasn't noticed my late contributions. Please check out the article, "Who Will Own the Robots" at There will be great needs/opportunities for Extension to respond to, directly resulting from people's levels of access to tech innovations and the Cycle of Poverty that ensues. - andersonb andersonb Jun 5, 2016
I am glad to see that someone listed this as a challenge. It is indeed a challenge for Extension.- joeyp joeyp Jun 5, 2016 Access to Technology I think we are still faced with a challenge of connectivity with our audiences. Some people in more remote areas do not have reliable access to Internet connectivity. Also, even in places where our educators are teaching they may not have access to the Internet at all times. - heyboerg heyboerg Jun 6, 2016

Improving Digital Literacy
With the proliferation of the Internet, mobile devices, and other technologies that are now pervasive in education, the traditional view of literacy as the ability to read and write has expanded to encompass understanding digital tools and information. This new category of competence is affecting how the cooperative extension address literacy issues in their training/development programs. Lack of consensus on what comprises digital literacy is impeding progress in this area. Discussions among educators have included the idea of digital literacy as equating to competence with a wide range of digital tools for varied educational purposes, or as an indicator of having the ability to critically evaluate resources available on the web. However, both definitions are broad and ambiguous.Until people are required to use common digital tools, there will always be people that decide against using them. - ahenneman ahenneman May 17, 2016 - Stan Stan May 22, 2016- greg.johll greg.johll May 23, 2016 - wolforkt wolforkt Jun 4, 2016I absolutely agree with above. Some have been suggesting a "metaliteracy" framework for building this type of competency. Some concerted effort (with adequate resources supporting) like this is needed if Extension is to continue to be relevant, or exist in any recognizable form.- jeff.piestrak jeff.piestrak Jun 4, 2016 - alex alex Jun 5, 2016Improving digital literacy is absolutely important, but Extension leadership must define a baseline of digital platforms/engagement that Extension is going to own and focus. I fear there is too much technology and it is too overwhelming for educators, teams, and organizations. When Steve Jobs came back to Apple he cut ~70% of products and decided Apple was going to be really great with a smaller, focused, product line. At Penn State we are attempting this with Atlas - defining our core delivery mechanisms (face-to-face and digital) where we will be great - and mixing in strategies and platforms to innovate. Without structure, you have hundreds of people running around in different directions, and you lose economies of scale on development, evaluation, professional development, etc. Much like content, we must be comfortable with not doing everything. - JonEmigh JonEmigh Jun 5, 2016JonEmigh
Network Literacy and Metaliteracy
Perhaps it's assumed that these competencies would be embedded within each technology specific topic, but its worth pointing out the need for broad based, generalized network literacy and metaliteracy/digital literacy.
Our eXtension Network Literacy CoP defines the first as "a continuous process of becoming comfortable and proficient with a variety of tools to use in interactive online environments." Necessary because "A decentralized, global network of interlinked computing devices and the Internet has revolutionized the way we communicate, teach, learn, entertain, organize, conduct research, publish, transact, and promote. Citizenship in the Internet era, as well as full participation in 21st-century economic, social, and political life, demands new forms of literacy."
I would argue that because knowledge and intelligence is increasingly networked by its very nature (part of what some refer to as the "Fourth Industrial Revolution"), very different from the linear/hierarchical mental model many still have, a more general understanding and appreciation of networks is required. Mark Lubell and colleagues at UC Davis have been framing some of this in terms of "Extension 3.0" skills sets, the ability to work within and facilitate networks, not just one technology based.
And, coming from the library world I work from, some are calling for...
“Metaliteracy [which] promotes critical thinking and collaboration in a digital age, providing a comprehensive framework to effectively participate in social media and online communities. It is a unified construct that supports the acquisition, production, and sharing of knowledge in collaborative online communities. Metaliteracy challenges traditional skills-based approaches to information literacy by recognizing related literacy types and incorporating emerging technologies. Standard definitions of information literacy are insufficient for the revolutionary social technologies currently prevalent online,” in “Reframing Information Literacy as a Metaliteracy,” by Thomas P. Mackey and Trudi E. Jacobson, in the January 2011 issue of College & Research Libraries.
I see many folks in Extension struggling in all of these areas, to effectively and efficiently assess and implement technology tools which might dramatically (and appropriately) improve their impact. We need to pay greater attention
to general literacy skills like this, not just for those of us who grew up in the age of the printing press and snail mail, but also those who are quite comfortable using things like social media, but need to do so with a critical eye.- jeff.piestrak jeff.piestrak Jun 4, 2016 [Editor's Note: Added here from RQ2.]

Keeping Education Relevant
As online learning and free educational content become more pervasive, cooperative extension professionals must seriously consider what they can provide to learners that cannot be replicated by other sources. - brian.h brian.h Jun 2, 2016
I agree with this the person's above statement, as many of my co-workers aren't hugely tech-savvy, and even changing from Outlook to Gmail has been a headache for many. - shenley shenley May 9, 2016 - Stan Stan May 22, 2016Extension needs to move forward and dominate the online learning market with niche specific courses; otherwise, someone else will. - Stan Stan May 22, 2016 Agree! - amy.dronberger amy.dronberger Jun 1, 2016 - amanda.christensen amanda.christensen Jun 2, 2016 - alex alex Jun 5, 2016A key to staying relevant is being intentionally nimble and embracing disruption vs. fighting it as a passing fad. As others have mentioned the ability and acceptance of failure as necessity vs the safe status quo approach. - michael.macklin michael.macklin Jun 5, 2016
Lack of Quality Assurance
Similar to the IoT comment, I think quality assurance could become a new content area for Extension specialist related to new technological developments. With the strong societal push for innovations and entrepreneurship, I see a significant lack in the area of quality assurance. While there are ISO classes, etc to actually certify QA people, if a community and Extension program is focused on engineering or increasing STEM activities, I think there will become a shift in the information needed to include what to consider and where to turn for all areas of QA and certifications. - amy.dronberger amy.dronberger Jun 1, 2016 [Editor's Note: This reads like a hearty challenged. Moved to RQ4 Challenges.]

Measuring the Impact of New Technologies
Educational programs are increasingly leveraging emerging technologies such as mobile apps, social media, natural user interfaces, and augmented reality to add interactive elements to learning experiences. With the growing emphasis on the digital realm, some thought leaders fear that use of these tools is superseding the development of sufficient technology evaluation frameworks. While many organizations are astute at assessing their traditional programs, they have yet to cultivate standard protocol for measuring the success of the technologies they deploy. Exacerbating this challenge is the notion that evaluation should occur both before and after technologies are implemented; staff must have a thorough understanding of how the tools correspond with the mission and goals prior to being embraced at scale. Unfortunately, there are not always concrete precedents for the use of new technologies in the informal learning sector, and organizations that are early adopters often gamble when trying them. The hope is that as organizations become more adept at measuring the impact of these technologies and share the results with other institutions, the risk factor will be significantly mitigated.
^ YES I agree 100% that this is a big issue for our agents and specialists. Measuring impact on social media is a huge challenge with privacy issues regarding some platforms. Many platforms also change their analytics model annually making it imperative we have someone on staff to update reporting systems. Some social media platforms have NO analytics so the real measurement cannot be gathered. - accole accole May 16, 2016- greg.johll greg.johll May 23, 2016 - JonEmigh JonEmigh Jun 5, 2016JonEmigh - heyboerg heyboerg Jun 6, 2016This is definitely another area that Extension must master. While some social media platforms have substandard analytics, many have quite robust measurement tools that are underutilized. - Stan Stan May 22, 2016Yes, it is very important to measure the impact of these new aspects of Extension work.- oneill oneill May 24, 2016I think for example, we do NOT have current data on adoption of mobile platforms across the board by our Extension clientele. - jeff.hino jeff.hino May 27, 2016Yes, I agree as well. We often start with the technology, instead of the goals. What are the goals, how can technology help us reach those goals, how do we measure? I think this is why Extension must rely on strong leadership to guide this direction for each organization. - JonEmigh JonEmigh Jun 5, 2016JonEmighYes, this is a big issue in our state as well.- joeyp joeyp Jun 5, 2016Measuring our impact is very important - well said. - heyboerg heyboerg Jun 6, 2016

Managing Knowledge Obsolescence
Simply staying organized and current presents a challenge in a world where information, software tools, and devices proliferate at the rate they do today. New developments in technology are exciting and their potential for improving quality of life is enticing, but it can be overwhelming to attempt to keep up with even a few of the many new tools that are released. User-created content is exploding, giving rise to information, ideas, and opinions on all sorts of interesting topics, but following even some of the hundreds of available authorities means sifting through a mountain of information on a weekly or daily basis. There is a greater need than ever for effective tools and filters for finding, interpreting, organizing, and retrieving the data that is important to us.
I find this one challenging in that we want the latest, most relevant knowledge and content and having effective tools and filters for finding, interpreting, organizing and retrieving it. At the same time, we have many faculty that want that old/obsolete knowledge maintained for historical/future research purposes. Previously content such as paper publications were sent to a campus library. With the ability to generate more content and even taking into account related user generated content, more often now in a digital format, sifting through the content and finding a suitable digital archive is challenging. How do we do this and not lose important content. - greg.johll greg.johll May 23, 2016I agree with you Greg. Our institution requires a review of all publications every three years to remain online. Unfortunately there is less incentive to review a publication than to publish a new one. My concern in digital content creation is are we going to reach a point where we outstrip our ability to keep it reviewed. My solution is to put an expiration date on things like we do milk and bread (and not remove the document) but that idea hasn't caught on. - thurt thurt May 31, 2016

Personalizing Learning
Personalized learning refers to the range of educational programs, learning experiences, instructional approaches, and academic-support strategies intended to address the specific learning needs, interests, aspirations, or cultural backgrounds of individual students. While there is a demand for personalized learning, it is not adequately supported by current technology or practices — especially at scale. The increasing focus on customizing instruction to meet learners’ unique needs is driving the development of new technologies that provide more learner choice and allow for differentiated instruction. Advances such as online learning environments and adaptive learning technologies make it possible to support a learner’s individual learning path. A major barrier to personalized learning, however, is that scientific, data-driven approaches to effectively facilitate personalization have only recently begun to emerge; adaptive learning, for example, is still evolving and gaining traction. Compounding the challenge is the notion that technology alone is not the whole solution — personalized learning efforts must incorporate effective pedagogy and include faculty in the development process.
I think that personalized learning will be a very relevant in the future. This concept is perfect for our audience but the challenge is having access to tools that can do this. Some tools can be very expensive and would need to be something that an institution adopted rather than an Extension program. We are currently looking into cost-effective tools for personalized learning. - heyboerg heyboerg Jun 6, 2016
Privacy Concerns
As individuals allow companies to track their transactions and behavior, often in exchange for convenience and discount or free services, the security of data privacy is an increasing concern. A recent Accenture survey revealed that although 80% of consumers aged 20-40 in the United States and United Kingdom believe total privacy in the digital world is no longer possible, 87% believe that adequate safeguards are not in place to protect their privacy. The survey also highlighted consumer concern about the transparency around how their information is being stored and used. Recent security breaches at Home Depot and Sony Pictures Entertainment help to underscore the vulnerability of personal information. Privacy policies are continually being refined, but they are hardly keeping pace with the rapid acceleration of new data-centered technologies, creativity of cybercriminals, and changing expectations of privacy.

Rethinking the Roles of Educators/Trainers
Educators are increasingly expected to be adept at a variety of technology-based and other approaches for content delivery, learner support, and assessment; to collaborate with other professionals; to routinely use digital strategies in their work with learners; to act as guides and mentors in to promote student-centered learning; and to organize their own work and comply with documentation and reporting requirements. Learners add to these expectations through their own use of technology to socialize, organize, and informally learn on a daily basis. The integration of technology into everyday life is causing many educational thought leaders argue that educational programs should be providing ways for students to continue to engage in learning activities, formal and informal,
Extension educators and specialists work at a multiple of roles, often several in the same day, and in various subject matter. There may be only a few staff in some counties. They answer calls, give programs, work on blogs / websites, and may fill in for support staff that are ill. Somehow, ways to carve out time to work on Covey's Quadrant 2 is becoming increasing important. Perhaps access to centralized systems where support staff type help, people to answer phones, etc. as needed. - ahenneman ahenneman May 17, 2016 - Stan Stan May 22, 2016Organizational structure is critical and the current scope of an Extension educator does not seem sustainable. In many cases, as mention above, they are doing everything. It is time we recognize the need for centralized strategic units in marketing, customer support, finance, technology, etc., to support educators. Educators must have time to focus on education and content, or the entire system breaks down. In no other organization would you ask one person to create the content, teach it, develop marketing, provide customer support, etc. However, this is a challenge, because we have a culture where this is accepted, and encouraged. At Penn State we are trying to make this shift, but it will take time. - JonEmigh JonEmigh Jun 5, 2016JonEmigh

Scaling Innovations
Our organizations are not adept at moving learning innovations into mainstream practice. Innovation springs from the freedom to connect ideas in new ways. Our programs and institutions generally allow us to connect ideas only in prescribed ways — sometimes these lead to new insights, but more likely they lead to rote learning. A pervasive aversion to change limits the diffusion of new ideas, and too often discourages experimentation. - michael.macklin michael.macklin Jun 5, 2016

Teaching Complex Thinking
It is essential for learners people both to understand the networked world in which they are growing up and also — through complex thinking — to learn how to use abstraction and decomposition when tackling complex tasks and to deploy heuristic reasoning to complex problems. Mastering modes of complex thinking does not make an impact in isolation; communication skills must also be mastered for complex thinking to be applied meaningfully. Indeed, the most effective leaders are outstanding communicators with a high level of social intelligence; their capacity to connect people with other people, using technologies to collaborate and leveraging data to support their ideas, requires an ability to understand the bigger picture and to make appeals that are based on logic, data, and instinct. While some aspects of this topic could be framed as similar to or overlapping “design thinking,” for the purposes of this project, the two are considered as distinct concepts. The term “complex thinking” refers to the ability to understand complexity, a skill that is needed to comprehend how systems work in order to solve problems, and can be used interchangeably with “computational thinking.”
And how we might approach the families, farms, communities, etc. we work with as complex adaptive systems, supporting self-organization and emergent solutions, "optimized for complexity" rather than generic solutions "optimized for simplicity".- jeff.piestrak jeff.piestrak

Under-resourced Organizational Infrastructure
Critical organizational infrastructures are under-resourced. Rather than encouraging professionals to build on and extend core resources, leverage shared file systems, and open accessible service APIs, institutions are narrowing their focus to what they perceive as the minimal subset of enterprise services they can afford to sustain. Scarcity Mentality Some people in Extension, unfortunately, have a "scarcity mindset" that is a challenge impeding technology adoption. They use a scarcity of resources (time, equipment, technical know how, money, staff, etc.) as an excuse to not adopt new practices. I suggest replacing the scarcity mindset with a challenge to the system to take 15 minutes per day to learn and/or practice one new technology-related thing. Make it an eXtension campaign called "Just Do One Thing." Before doing this, however, I recommend that eXtension staff prepare a curated list of short tutorial videos and/or one-page tip sheets with foolproof step-by-step instructions with screen shots and arrows to do various tech-related things. For example, as part of a Virtual Communication Camp (VCC) activity the other day, I needed to write an online press release with an embedded web link. I did not know how to embed the link so my VCC coach Bob Bertsch sent me steps to follow and I was good to go. eXtension should also consider scaling the VCC with its assignments and coaching model. Maybe offer different types of "Camps" for different types of technology. Resources won't seem so scarce to people (read: no excuses to do nothing) if they felt that they had more support - oneill oneill May 24, 2016

Managing Misinformation
New technologies have introduced new challenges through the availability of information for ANR that is not scientifically verified. An important new role of Extension is to validate this information and pass along scientifically valid information to the client base. A challenge in Extension education will be providing Agents with the tools to make these crucial judgments and insuring that this information then reaches our client base. - dgeller dgeller May 3, 2016
Agree with above statement very much - ahenneman ahenneman May 17, 2016
I agree too, and suggest Extension (and eXtension) needs to partner much more closely with their Land Grant libraries to address this, rather than trying to reinvent wheels. We have been managing information since the beginnings of civilization! One of the services we can provide are systematic reviews, providing a complete, exhaustive summary of current literature relevant to a research question. Of course we can also organize and disseminate a wide range of materials being generated by Extension through tools like institutional repositories, ensuring their long term discovery and access.- jeff.piestrak jeff.piestrak Jun 4, 2016
Extension needs to become more agile in getting information digitized and distributed. The private sector is not waiting to distribute their information. First to market tends to dominate the conversation. - Stan Stan May 22, 2016

Staff Turnover and Training
Somewhat related to the above comments about retraining, is the crisis/opportunity of dramatic turnover within Extension, as older individuals retire, and younger ones lose interest or get frustrated and move on. Also a lack of resources to attract and retain the best candidates (who in the new networked knowledge world may be less disciplinary focused and more qualified as "connectors". - jeff.piestrak jeff.piestrak Jun 4, 2016 - Stan Stan Jun 4, 2016
Interesting challenge...lack of resources, leading to a feeling or expectation to be and do "ALL" This turnover, then leads to lack of real training as a challenge, as well.- joeyp joeyp Jun 5, 2016
Retraining Staff or Hiring Staff with New Skillsets A common theme I am picking up on while reading through all of the challenges listed thus far is the need for either retraining existing Extension staff to complete new tasks and ways of working, or hiring for different skillsets altogether in order to work differently, reach new audiences, etc. For example, we all know that our Communications and Marketing departments operate at minimal capacity. Should staff be retrained and given new responsibilities? What would a new organizational structure for Extension look like if we did so? Taking a long, hard look at who we currently hire and why, and how that needs to change in order to accommodate the most relevant horizon technologies, is necessary. - seger.23 seger.23 Jun 1, 2016 - Stan Stan Jun 2, 2016 - wolforkt wolforkt Jun 4, 2016
I agree with the above comments, but think it starts with the organizational structure. What is the role of the organization, how does it support educators, and what are the educator roles? For example, at Penn State we are shifting all communications and marketing centrally to a larger group of experts to create digital and direct mail campaigns, manage marketing strategy, oversee CRM/database implementations, etc. It is not that educators don't have a role in these areas, but the roles are complimentary to an organizational strategy. We may have been asking educators to be "all knowing" in too many areas for too long. - JonEmigh JonEmigh Jun 5, 2016JonEmigh
Training and Technology
It is a challenge to train our staff in terms of technology. Especially when our staff members are located all across the state. Some tools are difficult to train/teach from a distance and of course some people learn more easily in person. We need the infrastructure to support not only the applications themselves but also to support our staff. - heyboerg heyboerg Jun 6, 2016

Other Important Points

Miscellaneous Thoughts from the Financial Security for All CoP
Participants: Vivian Anderson (MO); Erik Anderson (ID); Maria Pippidis (DE); Scott Matteson (MI); Andrew Zumwalt (MO); Karen Poff (VA); Elizabeth Kiss (KS);
¨ We are presented with new technology simply because it is “new”. We are provided equipment with no instructions (some people get it; others don’t have a clue). It seems that just by having the newest, latest equipment is enough but in reality more needs to be provided – how to use equipment to start; ways (ideas) to use the equipment; best practices from others who are using the equipment, etc.
¨ A lot of the same old issues still remain the greatest obstacles to technology adoption in Cooperative Extension:
  • o Lack of time for individuals to experiment with and learn new technologies
  • o Lack of financial resources to support and reward innovation
  • o Lack of expertise at the administrative level to provide vision necessary to foster innovation
¨ The funds to keep up with changes in software and hardware
¨ Usable WIFI options in the facilities we teach in. Would love to use periscope and broadcast classes live but the facilities I teach in don’t have adequate service and Data costs are too high. User ability is another challenge. We need more instruction on how to implement new technology and how it can benefit Cooperative Extension as a whole. In addition, we as individuals need to be open and acceptable of change and learn how to step outside our boxes.
¨ Agreements and bureaucracy. We are government entities that seek ‘safe’ options that lower perceived liability for our institutions.
  1. a. Accepting a credit card is a herculean task at a gov’t institution…but a person off the street can setup a square device and take credit cards in minutes. How do you compete with that?
b. Too many flashing light and competing technologies. Some institutions have Adobe Connect, some have Zoom, some have Skype. Some use GApps, some Microsoft, some use inhouse tools. Collaborating is not necessarily becoming easier.
  1. c. Lack of focus. Where does Extension fit in an age where Google can answer your question likely better than any one individual?
  2. d. Money, lack of.
  3. e. People don’t want to. Moving everyone to an online calendar that showed availability would be a huge time saver. Meetings could be scheduled so easily; no more Doodle! But we don’t have the will to make that push.
¨ Some offices are not well equipped
¨ Some Extension professionals are not interested in learning about or adopting new technologies -- this does not seem to be age- or gender-based but rather may be a function of how they prefer to communicate and/or receive information and learn
¨ Don't always have access to adequate training and/or risk-free opportunities to practice with new technologies
¨ Assumption that everyone has access to same technology -- need to consider economic and physical accessibility - oneill oneill Jun 3, 2016 - Stan Stan Jun 4, 2016
Expanding use of Ed Tech
Awesome ideas and discussion! I have written this in another area, but feel it needs to be restated. Ed Tech is a powerful tool, but our extension educators and instructional designers must understand who our audience is for each program/project and which tools would be the most effective. We also have to understand that Ed Tech is best interwoven with other strategies and not just as a stand-alone tool. - cstamper cstamper Jun 3, 2016 - Stan Stan Jun 4, 2016