What have you learned today: COVID forced Mindshifts

I know that many of you probably have spent countless hours trying to figure out how to do our work with our current COVID parameters….some with more success than others.  Here’s another strategy for you!  How about instead of pushing yourself to adapt your materials to online delivery, that you consider seeing how others have been successful with their materials?

Coursera has announced several online certificate programs that are FREE!  Yep, quality online courses that for a limited time will lead to a certificate!  So, if you are sincere about figuring out how to get your materials online and available to the public we serve, now you have a new opportunity….see what others are doing and mimic their strategies.

So whether you have always wanted to learn Psychology First Aid from John Hopkins University, or How Things Work: An Introduction to Physics from University of Virginia, or Communication Strategies for a Virtual Age from the University of Toronto to name a few….here’s your opportunity!  Here’s the full list of free courses.  In case you didn’t know, these are some big names in the MOOC arena, offering their classes up for free until the end of May!

So ….now….you too can enjoy a stayEDUcation!  From living room learning to arm chair professional development…my guess is that you can find something that is just right for you!  My hope though is that you don’t just take the course, but you also take the time to analyze what they are doing and why, and what strategies you can adopt to put your own materials online because while the COVID situation is horrible….there are opportunities for us in Nebraska Extension to learn how to adapt and help our public move forward…the pandemic simply puts us in our clientele’s shoes!



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Wayne Gretzky

A couple weeks ago I heard a great quote from Wayne Gretzky…and I can’t stop thinking about it!

“Skate to where the puck is going, not to where it’s been.” – Wayne Gretzky


In case you don’t know who Wayne Gretzky is, he is a GREAT hockey player.  …And here is what I am thinking about his quote.  In Extension we frequently are conducting needs assessments that assess where our clientele are at this moment, and then we set about developing or presenting materials that are in the moment needs that are identified by our needs assessments.  We also have some smaller groups in Extension that are focused on the next five years or so….ie the 2025 Technology group.  But as I thought about Wayne Gretzky’s quote, I started wondering if that was enough.

I know that many of our groups have talked about trends in our focus areas, and think a bit about those trends…but are we analyzing them enough to determine whether we are programming toward fads or societal trends?  A fad of course in six months or so will be out of date…resulting in development of one and done programming.  A societal trend however is a movement toward or away from something that we will probably never see reversed….ie global communities.  I think it’s time that we start really giving ourselves time to pause and think about what we are doing in the long-term.  Are we developing programming for this season, this year, the next five years…or are we developing programming that puts Extension in the driving seat in 50 years?  We can’t ignore the current needs…but I think we might be doing ourselves a disservice by not thinking about the long-term societal trends that are emerging on the horizon.

Case in point….a couple years ago at our Fall Conference, we identified the idea of developing a Google like platform whose searches would only pull up research based information. I shared with Chuck that Lindsay Chichester, Connie Reimers-Hild and I had talked about that several years ago and that we thought a clever name for it would be NUgle.  🙂  Anyway, now we have had another Fall Conference since, and yet, no movement has been made on this lofty goal…or any of the others we spent a day identifying.  I know this because I remembered thinking that this one goal was what I thought out of all of those generated that would really make an impact on Nebraskans.  And yet this year, I noticed a trend that I think would make this project irrelevant.  You see this year as I have been out working with kids, I noticed that they don’t Google so much…now they all use Siri or Alexa!  Nugle would be a total waste of time now….cause we just couldn’t quite get to the point of development and implementation in a timely manner.  And while all of the individuals of my generation are busy worrying about whether Siri or Alexa are “listening in on their conversations” (they are…we just need to move forward), we are missing yet another opportunity to serve a big audience, in a different way, that truly would be an amazing opportunity for Extension.

For several years now I’ve talked about the tagline of “Living locally, but learning & working globally.” I think that’s more important than ever and today I’m going to start choosing to set aside time at least once a week to work on “skating to where the puck is going, not to where it’s been.”   Will I fail…YEP…but that doesn’t mean that I shouldn’t pop right back up and keep skating to where the puck is going!


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Sleepless in Nebraska

Susan Harris-Broomfield presented on how sleep affects every moment of our daily lives, from how we think and remember to how our bodies thrive or deteriorate.  It determines how we deal with stress, make choices related to safety, and function as human beings.  Sleep is arguably the single most important factor in maintaining a healthy lifestyle, and lack of it causes a significantly reduced quality of life.

If you missed this great webinar today, you can still watch the recording!

Also, here are a couple of Susan’s handouts:

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Presenting with Clarity

If you were not able to join us this morning for Karly Black‘s presentation “Presenting with Clarity”.  Here is a link to the webinar, and here is a link to the slide deck.

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December’s Extension Life Hacks Webinar

Here is the link to the December Extension Life Hacks webinar.  https://youtu.be/pMVA_6w_f0w Enjoy!!!

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Presenting with Clarity

Please join us for another great Next Generation Extension webinar on Tuesday, January 14th at 10:00 a.m. CT. at https://nebraskaextension.zoom.us/j/583999580 

Let’s face it, you likely started working in Extension because of your passion for a particular subject matter and not because you love giving presentations. Like it or not, you often have to give presentations, host clinics/trainings, or workshops. I will be sharing a few simple tips which you can incorporate in your planning to give clarity to your message and presentation for the listener.

Karly Black Karly.black@unl.edu  will be serving as our clinician!

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Thankful for Our Extension Family

As I age I’m getting even more sentimental about the relationships I have with people.  And last week as I spent time/connected with family for Thanksgiving I was struck at how similar the structure of my relationships with my family are to my relationships with my Extension family.  …You know there is always someone at those family dinners that has a different idea about what should be happening because of family “traditions”, and there are always a few that can’t be there because of various other obligations they may have or refuses to do something  a little different because that’s not how they have done it in the past, or wants to do something different because they want something different from the past, and there is always someone there that tells you their opinion about something that’s none of their business or is in a topic area where they are largely uninformed/misinformed, and you know there is always someone there that wants to get into a political (whether public politics or family politics) debate!  🙂

I guess though as I reflected upon the “crazy” that is my beloved family…I was struck at how many of these same things occur with my Extension family, and that sometimes I am the person that everyone is talking about doing one of the aforementioned crazies!  And, I also realize that as much as I am aware of my families “crazy”, I really wouldn’t have them any other way!  And, I feel exactly the same about my Extension family.

So this year, I wanted to let all of you know publicly…that while we don’t always agree or land on the same side of an issue, or get in little disagreements about how things “should be done”, I really like working with all of my Extension family.  I know that just like my blood relatives, you all have my back and have always had my back.  I usually tell my blood relatives that I’ve learned while working with Nebraska Extension that I can have a flat tire in any county in Nebraska, and if I can’t fix it myself for some reason, I have the cell phone number of someone nearby that will come help me out!   …. And I realize that as I say that out loud, there are several of you that secretly hope I have a cell phone disaster that wipes your personal cell phone number out of my phone. 🙂

As I get opportunities to be with each of you and learn your idiosyncrasies and share my own, I am not repelled by your unique story, but rather drawn to those unique qualities.  These idiosyncrasies make each of us unique, which means we bring our own skills, talents, and abilities, that likely no one else in Nebraska has in the same proportions to the issues we address….without which, the world would be simply grey!

The community partners I have made in Extension, the youth I have had the opportunity to work with, and of course, the friends that I have made within Extension whom I have learned so much from….well you all have made my professional life turn from a simple rainbow to a broader spectrum of colors than I couldn’t “see” before working in Extension.

I am deeply, deeply thankful for each and every one of you!!!! For my science friends, you are like Bernoulli’s Principle in that you are pushing a focused stream of wind above my wings with such velocity that you help to give me flight.  You all are just the right amount of “crazy” to make you all very interesting!  Anything more and I would have to report you to someone!!!!  🙂

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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:  https://unl.box.com/s/ietilz78ldhvy4s9942vx71yzie0jg6r 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 deb.weitzenkamp@unl.edu.

Link to slides in Google Drive.

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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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