Monday, November 11, 2013

Leveraging Crowd-Funding through Technology to Total Student Success in Supervised Agricultural Experiences - A submission to the Alpha Tau Alpha Essay Contest

Recently at the National FFA Convention collegiate students participated in the Alpha Tau Alpha Conclave. There were a variety of events such as parliamentary procedure, quiz bowl, debate, outstanding chapter and essay. Here is an essay that Penn State's own Jillian Gordon a 2015 student teacher wrote in response to the following prompt:

With the changes in traditional agriculture and the innovative technologies of the present and future, describe the potential of SAE in school-based Agricultural Education. Use current agricultural research to support your position

We are very proud of her essay and wanted to make it available on our blog for our reader. 
Author Jillian Gordon (on the right) worked the National Teach Ag Booth during National FFA Convention

Leveraging Crowd-Funding through Technology to Total Student Success in Supervised Agricultural Experiences

Potential is defined as having or showing the capacity to become or develop into something in the future (Merriam-Webster, 2013). Potential is what drives agricultural education across the country, pushed forward by the notion that every student is capable of developing into something larger themselves.  The potential of students is limitless, but the reality is that potential has barriers, mostly in the form of resources. This is ever true in agricultural education, specifically when looking into Supervised Agricultural Experiences. While not true in every case, some of the most effective and educational SAEs require monetary resources. Students can be limited in their outcomes of SAE through school based Agricultural Education simply due to lack of funding. Whether it be a research, placement or even entrepreneurial project, the cost is there and limits students in their potential to receive a truly complete agricultural education experience.  A study done by three professors from Texas A&M University showed evidence that among the factors influencing a student’s participation of SAE was that of resources, specific the need for monetary resources (Lewis, Rayfield, & Moore, 2012). Conversely, while resources may limit, technology has the ability to expand potential.  If the burden of finances was taken off the table through the use of technology, SAEs would have the potential to be the leading force in the advancements of agricultural innovations as well as school based agricultural education.
The evolution of SAEs from Rufus Stimson and the beginnings of “home-project” concepts of vocational agriculture to John Dewey and today’s SAE has been a captivating one (Boone, Doerfert, & Elliot, 1987). The advancements of technology within SAE have assisted students in going from the traditional applied “home-projects” to developing 21st century skills such as financial literacy, global awareness, and initiative and self direction (Partnership for 21st Century Skills, 2013). Innovations such as The Agricultural Education Tracker help further advance these said skills. However, technology has not fixed the barrier of funding student projects. As for any individual who is in the market for seed money to start their own business or project, students have the option to take out loans. Almost always, due to lack of substantial income and credit history, students rely on their parents to get that loan for them. The additional financial burden to parents is not ideal, and unfortunately the student is simply out of luck. But what if technology advanced to help students with this barrier as well? The solution could potentially be just around the corner.
“Crowd-funding” is an up- and-coming trend that is taking entrepreneurship and personal projects by storm. Defined as “the use of small amounts of capital from a large number of individuals,” (ValueClick, Inc, 2013) there are many companies and organizations out there that are utilizing this new trend. One example is Kiva, a nonprofit, tax-exempt organization founded in 2005 with the mission of connecting people through lending to help alleviate global poverty (Kiva, 2013). The organization works with micro financing- a financial service for those who do not have access to typical banking systems- and pairs lenders with borrowers to provide short-term loans. This allows low-income individuals and families the opportunity to make an investment, earn the money back to return it to the lender. The family is able to continue to thrive, and the lender can help with no personal cost to them. Imagine the wealth of possibilities that could be available if micro financing was available specifically for Supervised Agricultural Experiences. Not everyone out there can necessarily give $1,000, but what if every single person could give just $1 to help fund a student project? Additionally, students could add even more 21st Century Skills to their arsenal by having the ability to help micro-finance projects of other students and see their investments come back to them.
When technology is incorporated in the classroom, students are more apt to fully dive into the learning experience. It has been shown that students who actively participate in FFA and Ag Education in high school have a 97% chance of returning for their sophomore year of post-secondary education; while only 60% of their non-FFA peers return (Aschenbrener & Dodson, 2010). In order to facilitate the best possible experience for these students, having the ability to give them minimal limits is vitally important. The technology of crowd funding has the potential to advance SAE projects exponentially and in return, impact the agricultural futures of tomorrow.

Aschenbrener, M., & Dodson, B. (2010). Impact of FFA and Supervised Agricultural Experience on Student Retention and Academic Success. AAAE Research Papers.

Boone, H. N., Doerfert, D. L., & Elliot, J. (1987). Supervised Occupational Experience Programs: History, Philosophy, Current Status and Future Implications. The Journal of AATEA , 8.

Kiva. (2013). How Does Kiva Work? Retrieved 10 12, 2013, from

Lewis, L. J., Rayfield, J., & Moore, L. (2012). An Assessment of Students' Perceptions Towards Factors Influencing Supervised Agricultural Experience Participation. Proceedings of the 2012 American Association of Agricultural Educators Research Conference.

Partnership for 21st Century Skills. (2013). Framework for 21st Century Learning. Retrieved 10 12, 2013, from Partnership for 21st Century Skills:

ValueClick, Inc. (2013). Crowdfunding. Retrieved 10 12, 2013, from Investopedia:

To learn more about starting on the path to having a career that makes a positive impact on the lives of students across the globe by becoming an agricultural educator, please contact the agricultural teacher education program at Follow us on Twitter at TeachAgPSU, on Facebook, or on our blog!

 Ms. Jillian Gordon
Student Blogger
2015 Student Teacher

2013-2014 National Teach Ag! Ambassador

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