The New Model Extension Educator

Social media adoption is critical to the future of Cooperative Extension.  Without this adoption, Extension will no longer have a place within the 21st century knowledge landscape.

Even so, social media adoption is only the first step toward the even bigger goal of transforming Extension professionals into “New Model Extension Educators” – educators adequately equipped with the insights and skills to compete within this radically new information order. This resource page offers some insights into what is at stake and how these New Model Educators will function in the 21st century.

Building the Case for the New Model Educator

Yes, social media adoption is a critical first step toward our transformation into new model educators.  There are many compelling reasons why we must undertake this transformation but most especially because knowledge is being generated at rapidly accelerating rates.    Some writers and scholars have even speculated that this  acceleration represents the next quantum leap in evolution on this planet.  Whatever the case, this new reality raises profound challenges for Extension – the reason why it behooves Extension professionals to understand these implications and to adjust our outreach strategies accordingly.

More Evidence Why We Must Become New Model Extension Educators

Growing numbers of Extension professionals are taking note of  the serious implications the rapid development of the Web poses to  our outreach model.  Any Extension professionals who still harbor doubts should consider what Newcastle University Professor Sugata Mitra has discovered through extensive observation of Web use among some of the most disadvantaged children in India and other developing countries:  The Web is in an emergent medium – a self-organizing system.  People are now able to use and benefit from it without any outside intervention.

This raises the obvious question: If the Web is indeed a self-organizing system, what does this portend for the future of Cooperative Extension educators – for that matter, all educators?

The Ultimate Goal: Platform Architecture and Construction

The rapid acceleration of knowledge, coupled with the growing evidence that the Web is an emergent medium, is pointing the way toward a new kind of Extension educator: platform architects and builders. This underscores why social media adoption is only the first step.  We Extension educators have immense potential for building human infrastructure in the 21st century, but only if we learn how to build the most open and generative knowledge platforms of the 21st century.

The ability to design and build knowledge platforms will be the defining trait of successful 21st century Extension educators.

Our New Role as Aggregators and Curators

One of the hallmarks of the New Model Extension Educator will be the ability to refine knowledge by providing it with new perspectives.  We will learn to become aggregation experts and curators. By presenting knowledge in more enriched contexts, we increase the likelihood that some facet of this knowledge will be adapted to some wider, possibly even to some entirely new, use.  In the process, we increase the likelihood of innovation, which, in the end, is what all of this is about.

3 responses to “The New Model Extension Educator

  1. Something bothers me with the term “Extension Educator” in the traditional way an educator is considered.
    For example,In agriculture is there a “best” way to do anything? Can extension offer “best practices” as now is often talked about and still maintain the purity and respect once given?

    • MissionExtension

      That’s a very good point. Please see my piece titled “From Normative to Nodal,” where I discuss some of those issues, Ed. Broadly speaking, while I think we will continue to play a highly valuable refining role, I don’t think Extension educators – that is to say, specialists and agents – will continue to set norms as they did 100 years ago.

  2. I appreciate the very few who speak about and are concerned with what has happened to the Land Grant/ Extension system. It’s something I’ve studied from the outside as a farmer and citizen for 40 years. The best insights I’ve found came from the farmers who first considered the concepts and needs for them back in the 1840s. Much of which has not really been considered in proper context since. The last thing they wanted was another “Ivory Tower” institution situation as was and still is a major problem at many Higher Ed. institutions and now at Land Grants.

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