Extension Educators as Public Intellectuals


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Extension Educators as Public Intellectuals Presentation made at the PILD 2012 April 2012

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  • Permission was given from Frank Kovac to use these photos
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  • Farther along as PI than the other two. By far the oldest of the three, Ron Smith, a renowned cotton entomologist and 40-year veteran of Extension work, now official retired, still essentially works as full-time entomologist through his new role as crop consultant. Early in his career, Smith kept his growers abreast of changes in one of two ways: Through face-to-face contacts with growers or through the printed word, typically through weekly bulletins he wrote, copied and bulk mailed to county Extension offices, which, in turn, distributed them to local growers. For more than a decade, Smith also wrote a weekly column for the Southeast Farm Press . During the 1990s, Smith also pioneered the use of an 800 number to keep farmers fully apprised of insect outbreaks and recommended control measures. Through it all, though, Smith has always remained mindful of the need to tweak and, in some cases, to scrap entirely practices that have become outmoded. Several years ago, Smith started the Alabama Insect Blog to keep Alabama growers abreast of specific insect threats throughout the state as well as the measures they can take to control them. Smith, who remains a self-described computer illiterate, often dictates dispatches directly from crop fields to his technologically savvy departmental secretary, Zandra DeLamar, who posts them to the blog. There ’ s a measure of irony to this because while Smith is a comparatively recent convert to social media, he is arguably the closest among the three to assuming a public intellectual role. Smith has written several opinion editorials that have underscored the absolutely critical role transgenic adoption played in securing a future of Deep South cotton farming after a devastating outbreak of beet army worms in 1996. He also written and spoken extensively on the evolution of cotton insect control over the past century, stressing how these evolving practices have lent themselves to a greater emphasis on sustainable farming practices.
  • Broadly speaking, a public intellectual is someone who deals with ideas and knowledge within the context of public discourse, usually within a mass media context, though, following the advent of the Internet and Web 2.0, this role has evolved somewhat. Multi channels “ Public intellectual ” is admittedly a rather grandiose term. Even so, we contend that an understanding of public intellectuals and the role they must serve in the future within our ranks is critical to our organizational survival. “ Public intellectual ” is admittedly a rather grandiose term. Even so, we contend that an understanding of public intellectuals and the role they must serve in the future within our ranks is critical to our organizational survival. Public intellectuals often serve an indispensable role bridging the gap between the general public and the nation ’ s leading thinkers, whether these happen to be formal academics or independent scholars. Public intellectuals typically are characterized as passionate, opinionated, highly literate and scholarly, though not necessarily academic. A good example of a scholarly, nonacademic public intellectual is David Brooks, who has used his columns and a recent book, “ The Social Animal, ” to acquaint ordinary mericans with the immense insights researchers are gaining into the ways the human psyche works and is expressed in our everyday human interaction.
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  • As a Moral Obligation Extension educators at all levels have a moral obligation not only as scholars but as public servants to help put highly complicated, even controversial issues, into sharper perspective on behalf of their clients with the goal of improving their lives. “ … no scholar, historian or anyone else is — merely by being a scholar — ethically excused from their own circumstances. We are also participants in our own time and place and cannot retreat from it… ” Extension educators are now struggling to navigate their way across an increasingly steep, jagged divide between techno-skeptics, who harbor a deep mistrust of technology and its long-term implications, and techies, who, despite some misgivings, generally believe that each technological advance ultimately works to secure a better life for all of us. But why should we be surprised by this? Science, after all, is as much a process of refinement as it is of discovery. With this refinement has come a clearer understanding of the environmental costs associated with scientific and technological progress. Scientific farming methods have proven to be no exception. Back to Kevin Kelly ’ s premise: A new farming model inevitably will be constructed that incorporates elements of scientific and sustainable farming practices. Building this model, though, will require people who possess the requisite training and insights to bridge the gap between the mutually hostile camps of techno-skeptics and techies. This inevitably will call for more technological conciliators. Who is better equipped to serve this role than Extension educators and particularly public intellectuals? This new role of technological conciliator will not only be confined to the farm sector. There will be an increasing need for public intellectuals from many different disciplines within Extension to explain how this new farming model will be expressed and how it ultimately will affect them. Herein lies an enormous opportunity for Extension — an opportunity for profound organizational transformation.
  • Extension Educators as Public Intellectuals

    1. 1. Extension Educators as Public Intellectuals Jim Langcuster, Communications & Marketing Specialist, Alabama Cooperative Extension System, @extensionguy Anne Mims Adrian, Social Media Strategist,Military Families Learning Network-eXtension, @aafromaaNatalie Hummel, Associate Professor and Entomologist, LSU Ag Center, @nathummel April 2012 #PILD2012
    2. 2. Who is Frank Kovac?
    3. 3. "Worlds largest rolling,mechanical globe planetarium"
    4. 4. TheFrank Kovac Effect "To be a planetarium director, you need college, but if you build your own, you can run it!" Frank Kovac
    5. 5. Transformed Educator
    6. 6. Consumers vs. ProsumersPassive vs. Active
    7. 7. Extensions and Educators ChallengesOverwhelming and ever growing amount of informationDemocratization dialogueCacophony of voicesUser generated content, filters, & distributionMedia mediating human relationships (Mike Welsch)
    8. 8. Extensions and Educators ChallengesInstantaneous CommunicationsUbiquitous Communications and Pervasive Proximity (UCaPP-Mark Federman)
    9. 9. We arethe musicians,the instruments,andthe music itself.Mark Federman
    10. 10. What is Extensions Function Today?
    11. 11. Post Morrill Act ChallengesFewer people know of Cooperative ExtensionA need to continue making ag production more efficientPublic challenges to technological advances in ag is growingThere is a growing need to make sense of trends and what seems to be conflicts and misapplying research
    12. 12. Tale of Three Extension Educators
    13. 13. Aggregators and Curators
    14. 14. Natalie Hummel, PhD
    15. 15. John Fulton, PhD
    16. 16. Aggregators and Curators
    17. 17. Ron Smith, PhD
    18. 18. What is a Public Intellectual?Someone who deals with ideas andknowledge within the context ofpublic discourse, usually withinmass media.
    19. 19. What is a Public Intellectual?Op-ed pieces, magazinecolumns, Sunday morning Social media, annetwork news interview important addition, mayprograms, interviewed on be the front door to thepublic radio/TV. mass media presence.
    20. 20. A Public Intellectual bridges the gap
    21. 21. Traits of Public Intellectualspassionateopinionatedhighly literatescholarly, though not necessarily academic
    22. 22. A Public Intellectual:David Brooks author of TheSocial Animal
    23. 23. Why Extension as PublicIntellectuals?Have understanding of current scientific models and scienceCan bridge the divide between opposing opinionsArticulate the elements of scientific modelsExplain importance of science in context
    24. 24. We have always functionedas public intellectuals at thegrassroots leveli.e. Weekly Column
    25. 25. Public IntellectualsDevelop and support spokespersons at national, state and local levelListen and understand debatesAggregate, curate and make senseBuild reputation for providing valueBe active in online social spacesPractice disruptive messaging
    26. 26. A Cadre of Public IntellectualsSocial mediaOp-ed writersEffective and compelling speakersDevelop disruptive messagingSupported (Extension administration andCommunication Units) as spokespersons
    27. 27. Extensions Public IntellectualsA vanguard of educators engaging with other public intellectuals within national channels of discourseProviding insights within deeply enriched contexts
    28. 28. Moral Obligation as Public Servants“…no scholar, historian or anyone else is — merely by being a scholar — ethically excused from their own circumstances. We are also participants in our own time and place and cannot retreat from it…” Tony Judt
    29. 29. Photo Creditshttp://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Wisconsin_in_United_States.svgFrank Kovac gave us permission to use photos from the Frank Kovac’s planetariumhttp://www.flickr.com/photos/quinet/120170865/http://www.flickr.com/photos/mikecogh/6616044067/http://www.flickr.com/photos/jonnygoldstein/3650745193/in/photostream/http://www.flickr.com/photos/donabelandewen/3584154214/http://www.flickr.com/photos/mfobrien/3382977725http://www.flickr.com/photos/vanderwal/3092468625/
    30. 30. Extension Educators as Public Intellectuals by Jim Langcuster, Anne Mims Adrian, and Natalie Hummel is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.When using photos from this presentation, please note and adhere to their CC license.