Sunday, June 28, 2015

#teachagtech -> Social Media and Ag Education

^Image from EWebDesign

Social Media and Education.  To Snapchat or not to Snapchat, that is the question???  The image above is just a glimpse of the many options we have to engage with other people today.  As educators, I believe we are most closely connected to witnessing how young people interact.  We are the neutral zone - we're not quite parents, yet as agriculture educators we connect with our students in learning and activities outside the the classroom, so students engage us on a higher level than most.  According to one survey, teenagers are beginning to migrate away from Facebook simply due to the increasing adult presence - the "grandma effect".  So how do we develop relevant educational learning opportunities that meet our students where they are?  First, we must learn where they are (other than witnessing all the duck and fishy faces - and we can't forget #selfiesfordays - that end up on Snapchat).  This article from the Pew Research Center outlines where our youth are engaged in social media.  It does a great job of outlining motives as well as social-economic trends.  

Over the last few years, I have explored how others interact on social media and the learning opportunities that are out there.  From the usage of hashtags to learning different platforms, one thing remains the same - we all want to be recognized and validated, while meaningfully learning.  What was historically a local community festival is now a Facebook feed, so how can we make the best of it?   One of the platforms I truly struggled to see the educational value in is Snapchat.  (I believe it was the never-ending fishy faces on van rides to conventions with students.)  So, I challenged myself to see how this could be used.  I became inspired by a Snapchat feed from a Veterinarian - Dr. Cody Creelman.  I first found him on Instagram (vetpracticevahs) as I was trying to find feeds to supplement my Veterinary Science class.  I actually encouraged my Honors and CP Veterinary Science class to follow him and others so they could hear industry lingo and see real life.  One day in class, we were actually talking about the disorders of the musculature of the heart and in his IG feed, he had a posting about the same thing - perfect real world application without leaving the classroom.  As it turns out, he also has a Snapchat (creelmancody).  On both social media platforms he shows day-to-day happenings in his veterinary practice.  Everything from interstitial pneumonia, acidosis to problems with the eye; however, he does this in a fun and engaging manner.  After connecting with him on Snapchat, he referred me to the Ontario Vet College (Snapchat & Instagram: ontvetcollege) and Ms. Jane Dawkins, Marketing Communications Officer at Ontario Vet College.  After contacting Ms. Dawkins, she recommend I check out their snap stories on YouTube.   What a great idea!  Ms. Dawkins along with current students and alumni capture their work and produce videos to show the world.  I have been inspired by this creativity and willingness to share.  As we move forward in the Open Source and free education movements, I believe we must be willing to adapt and find new ways to "educate". 

What if we as agriculture educators produced professional Snapchats and began sharing what we know?  To engage with our students and the world on another level and create fun materials that show our students and others we care enough to keep expanding our communication skills, while showing them what they are doing is important.   

^A screenshot of a Snapchat while doing a SAE visit weighing animals #saesnaps (sorry for the chunk out of the emblem - it's on our scales, so it works hard!)

Wouldn't it be cool to Snapchat our SAE visits and than combine them for the end of the year banquet?  The sky is the limit if we are willing to venture out.  I've already begun a fun little project of #saesnaps.....we'll see how it goes.  In the end, we may not all be able or want to adopt all forms of social media or learning systems, but in the end, we can always be inspired by others to constantly transform our educational approach.  {I would like to thank Dr. Cody Creelman and Ms. Jane Dawkins for allowing me to use their information and story for this post.  Your endeavors to educate have inspired others to act.}

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

2015 Teach Ag! Society Essay Contest Special Video Award

We recently shared the results of our 6th annual Teach Ag! Essay Contest by the Teach Ag! Society.

This year we shared a "special award" for most outstanding video!

Watch the great 2:00 minute submission from Emily Bomgardner from the Annville-Cleona FFA Chapter!

Fan, Follow , Like, watch our Program! Penn State Teach Ag! is on the web!
Twitter: @TeachAgPSU

Monday, June 15, 2015

Guest Post: "But Why? A Future Ag Educator Goes to Costa Rica"

But why.....

This is a Cajuela...used to collect coffee beans.  It is
one of the most difficult words I have learned.
I repeated is about 28 times to learn it. 
If you have been following my personal blog or our Spanish for Ag blog, you have realized I don’t always write about the experience I have had touring a Costa Rican farm or the new word I learned.  These things are interesting, but they are not me- they are not what I am really learning.  So why, why would a small town Wisconsin girl studying agriculture education, one of the teaching professions desperately in need of teachers spend time in Costa Rica.  I mean I could take summer classes to speed up my education or work full time, or over time to keep paying my student loans…. there are a lot of options…but why learn a foreign language in a foreign country?  Because it’s worth it.  It is worth it because growth is worth it, my future students are worth it, my future job is worth it, and even my future family is worth it.

Agricultural Education is a profession dedicated to preparing students for future careers and a lifetime of informed choices for a global agriculture industry and world.  Agricultural education has been changing, and in my opinion will continue to and needs to.  Diversity is a topic talked about in most education classes, we’ve all been there, you know when everyone seems to be walking on egg shells.  The list of the differences and unique quirks, qualities and needs my students will have academically, emotionally, physically, spiritually  and mentally could go on for pages, so I will only focus on two.  Language and Culture.  According to the United States 2011 Census 20.8% of the population five and over speak a language other than English at home, 61% of which reported to speaking English “very well”.  From 1980 to 2010, this is over a 150% increase, and this was five years ago. So now what?

Easy answer: Just. Learn. English.  Or just sit in an English speaking class and you will be fine. I beg to differ.  For the past month I have taken Spanish classes four days a week and attended 13 tours all in Spanish, and it is exhausting, but again it is worth it.  Through this process I have realized a few things:

Class may be difficult, but at least I can hear all the birds
through the open classroom set up while drinking Costa Rican coffee!
1.  Feelings Matter. The feeling of failure, confusion and disappointment is common and frustrating, but yet I don’t want to ask for help.  Feeling alone in my need for assistance is a terrible feeling.  The thing is, my classmates are in the same boat, we are all learning Spanish as a second language and about agricultural practices we don’t know in English, let alone in Spanish.  In my future classroom it will not be the whole class that feels like this, more like 1-5 students that feel alone, frustrated and confused…I hope I don’t forget what this feels like.  

2. Be a Guide. I have come to a hypothesis that the tour guides that have learned a language other than there native language seemed to speak a little slower, clearer and ask for clarification.  I hope to be that tour guide for my students. 

3. More than WordsLearning a language is not simply learning words, and traveling is not about seeing new places.  It is about learning about a culture, yourself and our world.  Our agriculture industry is global- shouldn’t our students and teachers be too? 

4. Grow Baby Grow. Experiences where growth happens are the best experiences. These are the ones that change us, the ones that make us better- I want to provide these experiences and reflect on them with my students.

Why go?  Why take on the feelings of failure, smell like deet bug spray, mix up words like soap and soup and get stuck in my own thoughts? Because it’s worth it, because my future students are worth it, because the future of agriculture education is worth it. 

Written by Guest Blogger:
Ms. Kayla Hack, 
2017 Student Teacher Candidate