3 pounds of hevean

It is no hidden fact that I am a Mac fan. As any good designer would be. I am in awe of the new MacBook Air. Only 3 pounds and 1.7inches wide, this is an amazing machine. As with any Mac product it is full of tricks and features. It’s track pad has some of the same features as another Mac favorite of mine, the Iphone. It is a laptop that is fully designed for wireless. A perfect tool for the traveling professional. If I I hadn’t bought a new macbook Pro this summer I would be in line at my local Apple store for this new product.

I’ve been away

Wow, it has been a while. The start of the quarter. Those words breathe fear into every faculty member. Not only does it mean frantic course prep, but students in and out of your office trying to get scheudles lined up and colleauges wanting to start on those projects you put off last qurter. I am happy to report it hasn’t gone bad, just franticly. I have been trying to get some research articles out to our ACE conference. My master’s student and I have done an interesting piece looking at student published agriculture magazines in ag communication curriculum. There are a few out there, and they vary as much as the schools do. I am working on a new professional website. I will share it when it is done.

I have started our first ag comm web design course here at OSU. It is going great! We are not only learning Dreamweaver, but we are jumping full board into exploring best practices of Web 2.0. Students even have an opportunity to do a YouTube promo video for the major. I hope they take me up on it (it is for extra credit).

So True

“The third-rate mind is only happy when it is thinking with the majority. The second-rate mind is only happy when it is thinking with the minority. The first-rate mind is only happy when it is thinking.”
– AA Milne

Second Life… Second Education

Many researchers and instructors (including myself) have been exploring how social networking technology can be successfully integrated into the classroom to enhance students’ experiences. While I am still undecided on the viability and usefulness of education in realms like second life, I am interested in their possibilities. I tend to be worried that sometimes we jump into technology because it is the new cool thing and not necessarily because it is the best thing. A recent article I read talked about a new island being formed in Second Life to help instructors learn to use the new world in their classrooms. I applaud this university for taking charge of the many instructors teaching in Second Life and helping to offer best tips. I can’t wait to navigate my avatar there to explore what they have to say.

Too much of a good thing

It is the end of the quarter and that means frantic students, grading, and the crazy idea I might get a few weeks to catch up. As the calls, emails, facebook messages swarm around me from alumni looking for jobs, friends wanting to connect, colleagues wanting me to work on projects with me, and students finishing the quarter and looking to the next, I must say I am over-communicated. I love communication and technology. I could read about it, research it, and talk about it forever. But for a few hours I want to escape it! So please forgive my absence blogging for a few days.

On the road again…

Well I am on the road collecting data for a research study on critical thinking I am doing with several others from around the country. We are spending three days at the University of Florida doing interviews with over 135 students. I am really excited about this research, it could be pretty groundbreaking.

I travel a lot to conferences and such over the year, and as any good techy I always have my laptop, iphone and such in my bag! I found it funny however that on this trip as my husband was dropping me off at the airport (a place he knows well being in sales and traveling more than I) he asked if I had everything like my laptop and phone. Now, I remember trips of the past, like studying in Prague or flying to National FFA convention when my mother and father, or as time went on my husband, would ask if I packed everything like my toothbrush. But now that isn’t important, it is more important whether or not I can check my email while I am away. Wow the world has changed!

Nothing Changes

Ag communicators are heavily moving online. A study I did of agriculture magazines 5 years ago showed that. Do a Google search for ag media and you will find everything from commodity groups to farm broadcasters all working to spread the message of agriculture and rural life online.

While this is a great thing, we must continue our traditional communication practices. When I started researching new media in agriculture I was driven by the numbers of farmers who were not online. Many people at that point 6 years ago felt that this was changing. While it is to a point, a recent report by Pew’s Internet and American Life Project shows that we still have a way to go in rural America. According to their research in 2007 only 60% of rural Americans are Internet users (they note 73% of urban citizens are users). It is obvious there is still a rural-urban digital divide, even though it is very small. For those followers of Everett Rogers’s Diffusion Theory we still have reached all of those late adopters, let alone the laggards.

Will I be in the “in crowd”

I was watching Grey’s Anatomy last night and it hit me when they were discussing the issue of high school cliques and how they are sometimes still around in our professional careers that I am still in cliques. I know I see it in my students, and could probably iron it out in academic circles if you asked me to.  However how has this changed through our experiences in cyber-space? There are social networking sites for just about everyone today. From the Myspaces and Facebooks of the world to those just for baby boomers, everyone can find a “clique” of their own online. Heck, I even joined one a few months ago for horse owners. Which brings me to my point. We are joining these to be connected socially to others with our own interests (sound like cliques in high-school? I know I was an “ag kid” because they were like me). But we are facing something I never thought I’d face outside of high school. As an “ag kid” I was also torn between my other cliques the “drama kids” the “honor students” and yes even the “cheerleaders.” I remember the struggles of which group to sit with and which group to spend Friday night with. Now I am not looking to spend Friday night or have lunch with my horse friends or Facebook friends, but the decision now is: Who do I spend my time connecting with?  I have a doc student looking at how blogs are forms on online communities, but what about these social networking sites. When is too much community too much. Don’t we also have jobs and “live networks” to mingle with? If I were to keep up with my online groups, I don’t know who would teach my class? Or maybe I will just teach it online in Facebook? I have only logged into my horse social network site a few items, because just as back in high-school I had to pick my favorite groups to play with, and occasion I like to have a conversation with my family in real-time.

Proud of Politics

I hate to admit it but I don’t follow politics all that much anymore. Mostly because I typically disagree with what they are doing. But today I got an email that made me happy. I just received an email newsletter from my local representative. In it he included a survey of what was of importance to us, his constituents. I was really happy to see the top few questions included the farm bill and bringing broadband into rural America. I am in favor of broadband in rural America. My drive to do research on new media has always been fueled by the rural-urban digital divide. I constantly remind my students that there are areas in the world still without phones, let alone computers. I have always been worried that we as ag communicators are jumping online, but many of our readers/listeners aren’t able to join us. I am glad the government and other groups (check out what OSU is doing at http://digitalunion.osu.edu/showcase/vinton/) are reaching out to rural America with access to the technology that drives our world.

On Podcasts

There is a lot of buzz in academia on the use of podcasts to reach our students on their turf. The old adage “If you build it they will come.” But will they? I know several colleagues around the country who are using them to show class lectures, to post information videos on youtube, and to reach new audiences. While I agree we need to be adopting these new technologies and advancing our teaching into realms that excite and engage today’s student, I also wonder if we are. I am working on analyzing some data I just finished collecting with friends at four institutions. From my initial glances it appears that none of these students are seeing podcasting, blogging, wikis, or any such technology in any of their courses. This concerns me. What also makes me wonder is that when asked if they want podcasting used in their courses 72% said they don’t. And while 75% said they use ipods regularly, 85.3% do not want to use them in class. So do they want it? Well these same students felt that technology in their courses made them more engaged, and felt courses using technology had more real-world examples they could use in the future. So do we use the technology they use on an everyday basis in class? Why not? Even if not all are excited about using the technology, studies prove it draws them in. And isn’t that what we want as instructors… to draw them in and excite them about our subject?

Our Future

I teach an intro class and this year I have my students blogging about coverage of ag in the media. They are finding some great stuff… more than I can share with you, so go check it out! http://agrcomm200.blogspot.com/

Beginnings

As a researcher I am very intrigued by how we as ag communicators and citizens of rural America are adopting and successfully (or unsuccessfully) using new technology to get our message out there. I personally not only research blogs and new technology, but I am in a transition generation that has only started being addicted to the technology (as our millennial generations are). I am “techie” by my own definition and can always be found using new technologies and social networking sites. I have tried my own blogs over the last few years, but a dissertation and the battle for tenure has always kept me at bay. So as I watch other ag communicators continue to adopt blogging, I feel I am a hypocrite if I don’t blog myself. So please read on. I hope to share not only my life as a new professor (or semi-new as my chair likes to say), my research, and my thoughts on agriculture and media.