Monday, October 22, 2007

Finding Feeds

A week or two ago, I wrote "Blogs of interest to Extension Agents" where I collected a handful of blogs that I know about and thought Extension agents might find useful in getting started with an RSS Reader.

Last week Brain Webster wrote an article "Finding Feeds in Google Reader". I had seen this feature, but never used it. This is a great way to find feeds of articles in your areas of interest.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Blogs of Interest to Extension Agents

A good first step into the world of blogging is to start following some good feeds. Subscribe to them in an RSS reader of your choice. (See: RSS For Beginners)

This article was started months ago and I just kept adding links to blogs and categorizing them. Then Anne Adrian's (from Auburn Extension) PageFlakes sparked an idea. A better way to share feeds that might be of interest to the people I work with. So, I created my own PageFlakes page for you to use to find some feeds to get started. As you surf the internet, look for the RSS Logo icon on the page or in the location panel or button bar. When you see this logo, look at the page and ask yourself, "is this the type content I want to keep abreast of?" If so, then add it to your feed reader. Before long, you'll be keeping up-to-date in your field and know more about what's new and what's going on than most of your peers.

If you know of a feed that would be of interest to Extension Agents, please add a comment to this article or email me.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Google Docs

Google Docs is a GREAT way to share documents (word processing files, spreadsheets and now presentations) and work with other people. If you haven't used it yet, you owe it to yourself to take a look! All you need is a Google account.

The key to working smarter is working together. Today, there are lots of tools that can help you do this more efficiently and Google Docs is one of them. I'll write about others I use in future articles.

I have been using Google Docs for about a year now. Now, I save very few, if any, documents to my hard drive. They all go into Google Docs. The straw that broke the camels back and pushed me into using Google Docs for just about everything I do happened one day this spring. I needed to see the budget my secretary kept on her computer and she was out of town for a week. There was no way I could get to that file (legally). When she got back, we put that spreadsheet into Google Docs where we could both access it and work on it. I've heard of many others having similar experiences.

Reasons I love Google Docs:

  • I can access my files from any computer connected to the internet. Very nice if you use more than one computer.
  • Other people (I choose who) can be invited to edit - this is the REAL power
  • Other people (I choose who) can be allowed to view
  • Documents can be published to the web to share with a lot of people with two clicks
  • Every change is recorded - along with who made the change
  • Integrated with Google Mail (if you use gMail)
  • Post directly to your blog
  • FREE
  • EASY
  • FAST

Reasons Google Docs is not perfect:
  • It is not a desk top publishing (DTP) application. For the rare occasion when I need to format a document for paper beyond the capabilities of Google Docs, I save it to my computer and use the appropriate application for DTP. I use Google Docs to create, get others' input and help and then do any final layout using a DTP app on my computer.
  • I find it easier to move around and edit a spreadsheet using Excel or Calc. So, if I'm going to be doing some major work on a spreadsheet, I'll work on it locally and then upload it when I'm done.
  • Presentations doesn't allow me to edit the background or add animatation.
  • Presenations doesn't allow me to save as a PowerPoint file.
  • It does about 95% of what I need a word processor to do, about 90% of what I need a spreadsheet application to do and about 80% of what I need a presentation application to do. What I lose in functionality, I more than make up for in other ways.

Over the last year, Google Docs has made a lot of improvements and new features are being added at a fast pace. If it doesn't do what you need today, keep watching.

For a quick overview of Google Docs, see: Google Docs in Plain English.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

In BSA WoodBadge Training they taught us to teach the youth leaders how to teach using the "EDGE Training" techniques.

This is a simple four-step process used for teaching any skill.

  • Explain—The trainer explains how something is done.
  • Demonstrate—The trainer demonstrates while explaining again.
  • Guide—The learner tries the skill while the trainer guides him through it.
  • Enable—The learner works on his own under the eye of the trainer.
From The Youth Leadership Training Continuum
A more detailed explanation at the October 5 Scoutmaster Blog

This applies to teaching adults as well as youth.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Paradigm shifting tools

The world is changing. I really enjoy finding or identifying tools, trends, etc. that I think will effect the rate of change. Finding those things that have the potential to cause global paradigm shifts.

I saw several this morning. All in a 20 minute talk by Hans Rosling.

1. The obvious one was the topic of his talk. How money and political leaders have changed and are changing the health of their countries. Making the public aware of these trends is a great first step towards making changes.

2. Less obvious: new software (at least new to me) can be used to present complex information in easy to follow and understand formats. I had never seen animated graphs like his before. He used it to show global trends, but it won't be long before it will be used in K-12 classrooms to show how much food is wasted in the cafeteria.

3. He concludes his talk about freeing and making understandable the information that is paid for by the public. This requires that the information be ANIMATED, LIBERATED and SEARCHABLE. Gapminder and Google are working towards this end. Reminiscent of Kevin's article "Open Access In Scientific Publishing".

4. PowerPoint presentations (or Google Presentations) will become better (less boring and more infomative) in the future (woo hoo!!!)

5. Social networking tools work. I found out about this when reading my RSS feeds (subscribed to rconlon's feed) You are discovering it by reading this blog directly at in your own feed reader or it might have been delivered to your email by FeedBurner or other similar service. Those who aren't using at least some of the new social networking tools are getting left behind.

What's really cool - is that you can play with the same software and dataset that Hans Rosling used in his presentation at:


Just ran across this site today - LifeSmarts -

Looks like it would fit in with 4-H perfectly. Competition started 9/17/07, so you need to hurry.

"LifeSmarts… the ultimate consumer challenge is an educational opportunity that develops the consumer and marketplace knowledge and skills of teenagers in a fun way and rewards them for this knowledge. The program complements the curriculum already in place in high schools and can be used as an activity for classes, groups, clubs, and community organizations. It is free and open to all teens in the US in the 9th through 12th grades. LifeSmarts competitions are run as gameshow style matches. Teams of four to five teens compete in district and state matches with the state winners going to the national competition to vie for the national LifeSmarts title. LifeSmarts is a program of the National Consumers League."
LifeSmarts is operated by the National Consumers League, founded in 1899, is a national nonprofit organization that identifies, protects, represents, and advances the economic and social interests of consumers and workers through education and advocacy.