Teaching and working in a virtual world

Expanding Extension’s reach in the 21st Century through innovative technology.

I was fortunate to go to a wonderful conference in Sacramento, CA in March 2014. The conference was sponsored by National eXtension, which is the virtual version of Land Grant Universities around the globe. Michigan State University Extension is one of those Land Grant Universities, established in 1914. I am proud to be a part of the MSU Extension mission of “helping people improve their lives through an educational process that applies knowledge to critical issues, needs and opportunities.”

The focus of this year’s National eXtension Conference was all about connecting our programs to help people improve their lives using the latest technology. My colleague, Carolyn Penniman and I presented a program authored by MSU Extension called RELAX: Alternatives to Anger, which is available as an online course through eXtension Campus. In addition to presenting, we were able to attend some wonderful sessions where experts from Land Grant Institutions around the world shared how they have implemented technology to enhance the work they do.

The first day I attended a session called Building Connections – Social Media in Extension. I was all a Twitter with my new knowledge of apps and social media connections. I did download and sign up for a Twitter account, however, still not sure what the purpose is. I even have some followers. I learned how to “tweet” links to things, and how to “re-tweet” and like other people’s “tweets.”

Some sessions were even “live-streamed,” which is sort of like what television broadcasts used to be in the old days; raw, uncut and well, live. They were also recorded, in case you missed the live show. Our presentation was not, which is fine with me, because the camera adds 10 pounds and who needs that!

I always thought that Yammering was a bad thing, but according to the keynote speaker David Gray, author of The Connected Company, now it is a good thing. Organizations can connect virtually through a social media site called Yammer, which is only open to people with shared email addresses. It is like other social media sites, but you can share more than photos and chat. You can also share documents and projects you are co-currently working on. If you do a lot of collaborative projects, this site may be helpful.

Believe it or not, there was even a session on “pinning” your educational blurbs. Pinning is an interesting phenomenon to me. I remember when pinning meant you were either going steady with a boy or you were joining a sorority. Now “pinning” has a whole new meaning. I do have a Pinterest account, or link – or whatever it is called. I scroll through sometimes, however I still don’t know how to “pin” something myself. I did go to a session at the conference on Pinning for Success by Amy Hays from Texas AgriLife Extension and Sarah Baughman from Virginia Tech Extension.

Now, all I need is a good six month period of doing nothing else but getting a handle on all the new technology thingies. Even if I did, in six months something new would come along that I would need to learn. Did I hear someone mention something about Zoom? Oh dear, here we go again.

In conclusion, I do encourage you to explore some of my colleagues links provided in this article, as they serve as wonderful online opportunities.

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