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2016 eXtension Fellows

eXtension Names Four eXtension Fellows and the First eXtension/GODAN Fellow for 2016

The eXtension Foundation proudly introduces the four new Fellows in its seventh annual eXtension Fellowship program and the first new eXtension/GODAN Fellow. eXtension Fellows come from eXtension Foundation Premium Member Institutions and spend one year advancing knowledge on applied innovation in their topic area for the benefit of all Cooperative Extension professionals.

The 2016 topic areas focus on new approaches to Makers, Social Media, and Big Data. Following are the 2016 eXtension Foundation Fellows, their projects, and the focus of their plans.

Seventh Annual eXtension Fellows

Dave Francis, Extension Associate Professor, Utah State University
Maker Movement, Horticulture Fusion

Within the Maker Movement, there is a new trend developing with a tie to agriculture and gardening. Known as “geek gardening,” it refers to gardening enhanced with technology-focused methods to increase the production of plant products or to solve issues such as irrigation or pest control. Geek gardening is of particularly attractive to gardening enthusiasts interested in local, small-scale agriculture and growing in small urban environments. A related interest among these makers is “slow tools”–appropriately scaled, lightweight, affordable and open-source tools for small-scale farmers. The focus of Dave’s work will be to identify and showcase a variety of innovators, projects and solutions in the geek gardening arena and, using eXtension’s outreach technologies, to introduce their innovations to gardening enthusiasts and small-acreage producers–and also to tech enthusiasts to encourage them to turn their hand to horticulture topics. [Project Page]

Daphne Richards, County Agent and Educator, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service
“Expediting Social Media Campaign Management with Evergreen Content Development and Distribution”

By now, most Cooperative Extension professionals have tried one or more social media platforms to promote programs or share educational content. Many have also created videos, infographics, webinars, and more. Each project is surprisingly time-consuming, requiring strategic planning, content development, project management, posting and curating. What is mounting up in Extension is a good deal of duplication of offerings on both emerging issues and timeless topics that could be addressed with a single video or infographic designed to be “evergreen” and applicable to a broad geographic area. Daphne’s project is to investigate topics ripe for creation from an “evergreen-content” perspective and create top-tips, how-to videos, seasonal advice and more to share with peers locally and, where applicable, regionally and nationally.  She will also evaluate social media sharing platforms to help individuals and teams manage their posting of evergreen content via social media.

Christian Schmieder, Qualitative Research Specialist and Lecturer, University of Wisconsin Cooperative Extension (Program Development and Evaluation Unit)
Responding to the ‘Data Imperative’ in Extension:  Developing a National Online Qualitative Analysis and Analysis Software Learning Platform

Big Data is a big challenge for Cooperative Extension and its partner organizations. Increasingly Extension is expected to produce strong, data-driven insights for a variety of audiences from ever larger, more diverse and complex data sources. How are Extension institutions and professionals to build the capacity to analyze large to massive amounts of qualitative data on the national, regional, state and team level? At all four levels, large qualitative datasets exist in such forms as impact statements, annual reports, research reports, results narratives, and more. The challenge is not collecting the data, but analyzing it in a consistent, methodologically and procedurally sound way that facilitates using it. Christian plans to assess the scalability of analysis-focused software training required to build proficiency among Extension professionals in using Qualitative Data Analysis Software to analyze large qualitative data sets. Building on the model developed in his unit at his home institution, University of Wisconsin, he proposes to develop a working prototype for this training, including online materials and teaching modules that might be disseminated for national use. [Project Page]

Laura Thompson, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Extension Educator, Cropping Systems and Agriculture Technologies
Data Visualization in Publications, Live Presentations, and Recorded Data Videos

The world of Big Data is exploding with our increasing ability to generate and collect data in all the sectors Cooperative Extension serves. In addition to the challenge of how to store and process this data, equally important is how to make it meaningful for Extension’s many audiences. In short, how can data be distilled and presented so that the intended audience can interpret it, remember it, and apply it to change behavior. Data visualization tools are now available so most Extension professionals can develop the capacity to collect and process large quantities of data to produce effective charts, figures and graphics for their various audiences. Data visualization is an important skill to expand in Extension’s toolset. Laura will focus on data visualization and presentation for written publications, oral presentations and recorded presentations and develop best practices, drawn from examples at her home institution, University of Nebraska, for dissemination throughout Extension through eXtension’s technologies and professional development outreach capabilities. [Project Page]

First eXtension/GODAN Fellow

Justin G. Smith, Ph.D., Director, Mason County Extension and Assistant Professor, Community Economic Development, Washington State University
Unified Knowledge Translation Framework for Integrating Interdisciplinary Research and Scholarly Activity Related to Climate Resilience and Food Security.

For Cooperative Extension, a growing Big Data challenge is the need to address issues supported by a collective ability to organize, link, retrieve and translate cross-disciplinary data, research and action. Addressing this need requires that Extension begins the work NOW on shaping the next-generation information architecture for Extension professionals, partners, and the broader communities related to Extension work. Working with eXtension and GODAN leadership, Justin plans to develop a prototype “Unified Knowledge Translation Framework” that will demonstrate a model for integrating interdisciplinary research and scholarly activity related specifically to climate resilience and food security. By leveraging innovations in cognitive computing, open data, artificial/collective intelligence and more, he plans to develop a general structure and formal technical specifications to inform designing a semi-autonomous (self-labelling, self-organizing) metadata labeling and indexing/search API for Extension and GODAN partners. This work is a first step toward developing a metadata-labeling protocol and production-level indexing system that can organize and link relevant information from diverse domains of knowledge, institutions, and other sources for ultimate use by Cooperative Extension and its partners

About the eXtension Fellowships Programs

The eXtension Fellowship program is offered in partnership with USDA-NIFA and dedicated to developing projects on applied innovation in U.S. Cooperative Extension settings. The eXtension/GODAN Fellowship is offered through a partnership with Global Open Data for Agriculture and Nutrition (GODAN), and it focuses on testing and demonstrating protocols, including the use of competency frameworks, to make eXtension and Extension information more open, accessible and linked to open research and data.

For more information on the Fellows or eXtension Fellowship programs,please contact Jerry Thomas, Director of eXtension’s Innovation Lab.