From the Outside Looking In

I’m an avid Husker football fan….yep, and I was there last weekend too!  I stayed until the last second.  It didn’t matter that we were behind….I was going to be there no matter what!  And, yes, I sat there from my vantage point clearly seeing missed receivers, and missed blocks.  After all, everyone around me saw the same things from our vantage point….I know this, as they were loudly screaming and pointing.  But this blog post isn’t about football, it’s about how sometimes you can see what needs to be done from a vantage point, but it’s not so easy to implement as it appears from the outside looking in.

I’m sure that I see a lot of stuff from my vantage point on the bleachers, that if my 5′ tall frame was standing on the field with 200+ lb players running at me, would miss!!!!  In fact, there are very few of us that “give advice” from the bleachers/blow up social media that actually ever stepped foot on the field during a live game…let alone at the college level.  …I think that’s just wrong!

In Extension, we have a lot of people telling us what to do and when, calling play after play, and watching what happens from box seats.  After all, they are just asking us for a “couple hours of teaching time”.  I’ve reflected on this for several years now.  And, I realize now that from the outside looking in, the time investment they are requesting they believe is just the two or three hours they are asking for a workshop on (fill in the blank).  And, yet, as Extension educators, we know that the two or three hours they are asking for doesn’t allow you to do (fill in the blank) well.  You have time figuring out a safe location, available time, coordinating with competing events, reserving the location, marketing the offerings, taking registrations, reserving equipment, getting keys, finding funding, purchasing materials, figuring out if you need to have refreshments and if any of your participants have food allergies, how your going to evaluate impact…and not to mention…if you are in a really rural county, having to travel hours to get supplies….before you even begin to prep whatever the content of your workshop is.  You typically field countless questions about whatever the topic is both before and after the workshop.  And, when working with youth, you also may field questions about who legally can pick up the child and/or take home any artifacts that the child produced in the workshop, and whether or not it’s okay to post pictures of the event and participants on social media.  This all takes time, and it takes a lot of time if you intend to really have your ducks in order and do it correctly.  I keep going back to advice my adviser in college gave me…it takes three hours of studying for every hour in class in order to attain a satisfactory grade.  …Confusing concept to relatives if you are a first generation college student.  …And, I suppose, confusing concepts to campus faculty and administrators we collaborate with as they have staff to help them do these things, and just about anything they might need right down the street….including a UPS office!

I know that you Extension educators know this, and I know that you are all doing your best to make sure you have done all of the things you have to do along with all of the things you are supposed to do….but as I watched the Husker football team, I felt a strange sensation of allegiance with Scott Frost.  You see he needs time to build greatness, and I’m certain he doesn’t just invest 3 1/2 hrs per week to the endeavor.  Neither do Extension educators.  It takes more than a couple hours for us to implement a great program, let alone get a sense of the capabilities of our team members (both on and off campus) and how we can collaborate with them to capitalize upon their unique skills and abilities to provide the best possible (fill in the blank) workshop. Each year team members will change, so the skills and abilities shift as well…but I look forward to what UNL is building, both on the football field and off!

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Helping Stakeholders Understand and Embrace Evaluation Data

Engaging stakeholders in evaluation data can be difficult. Yet we know that understanding and utilizing data is a critical vehicle in improving program outcomes and practices.  This workshop will introduce the idea of “data parties” which consist of fun, engaging methods to review evaluation data and engage stakeholders in analysis. The session will give an overview of a data party conducted with the California statewide camping program evaluation. Participants will come away with understanding how to engage stakeholders in analysis and ownership; new tools for sharing data and creating conversation with lay audiences; and how to engineer the experience for clientele.


Kendra Lewis, University of New Hampshire Cooperative Extension

Marianne Bird, University of California Cooperative Extension, Sacramento County

Here’s the link for today’s recording: You will need to login into Box to access this recording.  If you would like to access it outside of Box, please shoot me an email at

Link to slides in Google Drive.

Posted in Evaluation, Scholarship/Creative Work | Leave a comment

Why Higher Order Learning is Important

Many of you know that I teach 3D CAD design for Extension.  Recently I was working on developing a 3D CAD design and within the design I needed to bend plastic….and the PLA I was working with is not flexible.  Now there are several methods out there for putting a bend in the PLA of a 3D print…and I was researching all of them.  I could just design it so that the hard plastic had a bend in it.  Or I could put a hinge, ball joint, or other type of connector in the print so that it would be bendable…and perhaps even posable…but that would require very specific tolerance calculations…and well, I wasn’t that invested in the project.  And, then it occurred to me…I could use the method that woodworkers use to bend wood.  Yep…that would be perfect….I would simply create a rectangular shape, then place little relief cuts into the rectangle so that the remaining plastic layer could be bent.  Why am I telling you about this?  Well, I was applying a concept that I had learned in woodworking to another discipline…that is one of the highest levels of learning possible.

My goal in Extension is to teach…but a more refined goal is to teach at a level where conceptual understanding is achieved.  My clients won’t just be able to follow the recipe I shared with them in a workshop…but rather, understand the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) concepts well enough that they can be applied to new projects, new disciplines, and in new contexts.

Why is that important?  Because we don’t have the resources to be there to tell them the right answer when they need it, and it’s not enough to help people understand only one solution to the problem, but rather help them understand that every problem has multiple facets and multiple solutions, and being able to analyze the problem from all facets and selecting the best solution in each instance demonstrates the highest level of understanding (learning).   The best solution in one instance may or may not be the best solution the next time you encounter similar problems.

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Non Sequitur

This morning I would like to start with a personal conversation that my husband and I had several weeks ago…because well snippets of this conversation have been rumbling around in my head for several weeks.  It was pertaining to the term non sequitur.

So here’s how it went down.  I can’t remember what we were talking about, but I spoke my opinion and my husband told me that was non sequitur.  To which I responded, what does that mean….because in that space and time, I had no idea!!!  🙂  Now those of you that know me, know that typically I share a lot, but I have a bad habit of not sharing every last detail of my thought process…so sometimes the thoughts that I do share are not linear in their thought process.  And, well, non sequitur means that it’s a conclusion or logic that doesn’t follow along, or well, doesn’t make sense.  🙂  My husband, however, knows me very well…and when he said that that was non sequitur, it stopped me in my tracks.  At that very moment in time, I had no idea what non sequitur meant.  I know, I’m not the most linguistic, and well, I don’t use many $10 words when a $1 word works just fine….so non sequitur was just stumping me in my moment.

His response though was “what do you mean you don’t know what non sequitur means” as he went on to explain that non sequitur meant not following a logical track, and I had heard the term used hundreds of times in Star Trek.  Apparently in Star Trek the computer would frequently tell the crew that their request was non sequitur.  I, however, having heard hours and hours of Star Trek episodes had no recollection of that having happened at all…however, here’s the really interesting part, I had always thought that the computer had told the crew that their request was “illogical”.  Randy told me, no, that’s what Spock would say, and that Scotty would say “Jim, I can not change the laws of physics!”  ….a quote that we use all the time in our house!  🙂 Now, you Trekkie fans, probably know both of those sayings inside and out.  Anyway, that was pretty much the end of the conversation, as I went back and explained my thought process and then we proceeded to fast forward through a lot of Star Trek episodes trying to catch just one “non sequitur” response from the computer.

Fast forward to the next day and a conversation with my daughter.  Cassie, my daughter, is trying to learn Spanish.  Anyway, she was saying that in her quest to learn Spanish that several language experts suggested that she carry a Spanish dictionary with her and literally look up any Spanish word she heard that she didn’t know.  She went on to explain that when she immersed herself in the language though that wasn’t her strategy that instead she triangulated the meanings of words.  Meaning, when she heard a word she didn’t know, she used her understanding of the rest of the sentence to help her define the word/words she didn’t know.  And, that when she heard the word again, she could then refine her understanding of the meaning or rebuke the definition and redefine the word altogether.  And, I had an epiphany.  I realized at that moment that when I had heard the computer on Star Trek say non sequitur, that I had “heard” “illogical”.  Meaning, I was triangulating on the fly the meaning of what the computer was saying…so much so, that I totally had not picked up on the actual words at all.  Isn’t that interesting?  I had contextualized the meaning for non sequitur so completely, that when the term was isolated, I had no idea what it meant!  At that moment, I felt an experiment coming on!

The next day I was in Weeping Water teaching Code Camp.  I was explaining how while that day we were going to be talking about how coding is used to program computers, that coding, as a concept, was used in every walk of life.  And, like so many times before, I used a driving example.  Typically most, if not all, of the kids in the class are not old enough to drive, however, they still know many of the codes of driving.  And, I demonstrate this, as I say out loud, “pretend that I’m driving down the road and I see a red light”…and the kids at Weeping Water shouted out “stop”.  And, I stopped walking.  Then I say “oh look, now the light is green”, and the kids will shout out that “it’s okay to go now”.  Then we talk about how they know that….well, the answer of course is that there is a code associated with driving…and that in order to drive well, you have to be able to understand the code.  But Weeping Water was different that day, as one of the kids shouted out that “driving is opposite of a watermelon”.  My response, “non sequitur”, …because I had just recently, so thoroughly explored the term.  I explained the meaning of non sequitur, and he explained to me that when eating a watermelon, you go when it’s red, and you stop when it’s green….so in fact, driving is opposite of a watermelon!  I apologized as now I understood his thought process, and indeed it was not non sequitur….and my second epiphany of the week happened.

Perhaps sometimes we all get “quick” to judge something as non sequitur as perhaps most people triangulate meaning from bits and pieces of conversation(s).  We all carry a bit of baggage, in that we all have had prior experiences that we mentally draw upon to “explain” or “give meaning” to the current situation.  Now we can’t carry everyone with us so that they can participate in every experience that we have so that everyone would of course triangulate exactly the same.  So, it seems human to triangulate meaning.  I’m not saying that triangulation of meaning is wrong…it certainly may be the fastest way to learn in many instances…but perhaps sometimes it leads us down a road of misunderstanding just as quickly.  And, I’m not saying that we should all stop triangulating meaning…because well…our minds might just be wired that way, and it would be a pointless endeavor.  Perhaps instead, we just need to be prepared to pause when we are hit with a moment where we are thinking that the conversation is non sequitur….ask questions…seek meaning!  And, don’t be embarrassed to ask when you don’t understand what is happening or what is being said….there is not anyone who understands everything…we just all are human computers…triangulating and decoding as fast as we can!

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Mobile Web Applications for Everyone

Looking for a quick and easy way to to collect data or distribute information to the masses?  Mobile apps have become the tool of choice for many, yet development can be difficult and expensive.  This presentations will demonstrate how to bring together Google Sheets with GlideApps to develop a free yet effective mobile web app.  We will step through the process of creating a web app as well as discussing some applications for this program.

Our clinician will be Christopher Fletcher, Technology Coordinator for Nebraska City Public Schools.

Join us Tuesday, July 9 at 10:00 CT at

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Backwards Design

If you missed today’s session on backwards design, here is the link:

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Do I need an IRB review for this?

I know I have been in these conversations before….ones where we were discussing whether what we were doing was human subjects research or just assessment-based program improvement. As researchers we want to make sure that we are conducting research in a responsible way where we are not harming any of our human subjects….so sometimes this is a tricky question.  Anyway, a while back, I contacted Rachel Wenzl from the University of Nebraska’s Institutional Review Board (IRB) to try to figure out if a research project that I’m embarking on was in fact research (because the participants are fellow extension educators and the intent of our project was to improve educator practices), and she provided me this great link to help us decide.

Thought I would share it with all of you!  ENJOY!!!!

Posted in Institutional Review Board, Scholarship/Creative Work, Translational Research | Leave a comment