eXtension Awards Nine Innovation Grants; 49 Proposals Submitted

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The eXtension Foundation has identified nine projects that will be funded as part of its 2015 Innovation Request for Proposals. Funding ranges from $29,000 to $150,000. Forty-nine proposals were submitted. The granting period runs from July 1, 2015 to June 30, 2016. Grantees will be required to provide quarterly written reports along with face-to-face meetings with the eXtension Foundation to gauge impact, conduct at least one professional development session on the project and list it in Learn, and make a presentation at the 2016 National eXtension Conference next March. Awardees [project title, lead institution and principal investigator] are:

Building Personalized Learning Experiences for Adult Learners through Adaptive Learning Techniques, Michigan State University, Ellen Darnell and Gwyn Shelle. This project will evaluate and pilot adaptive learning tools for future Cooperative Extension programming. The team of experts will research several existing adaptive learning tools and consult with experts in the field of online learning who are currently implementing adaptive learning into their programming. They will design and deliver adaptive learning activities within existing online courses through several selected pilot projects. [Project page]

Elevating of the Role of Spatial Reasoning in Communication and Decision Making in the Cooperative Extension System, University of New Hampshire, Shane Bradt. This project will empower CES staff to create interactive, online maps to collect and share spatial information, as well as, tell compelling stories. It will provide CES staff and administrators with access to relevant spatial data layers (i.e., census, political boundaries, watersheds, natural features) for their geographic region. It will advise Communities of Practice (CoP) and Learning Networks (LN) in the effective use of geospatial technologies in projects and grants. [Project page]

Extending Reality: Instant Access to Extension Resources Using Augmented Reality Innovations, University of Tennessee, Heather Wallace and Emily Tipton. This project will explore Augmented Reality (AR) to engage consumers in a manner that will revolutionize daily life and transform research-based information access. This project is an innovation incubator to test augmented reality in consumers’ daily lives and will serve as a pilot in development and use of augmented reality software and existing content from eXtension and land grant institutions. While virtual reality “tests” possible scenarios, augmented reality applies solutions in real-time by projecting layers of data onto real world environments, creating deeper and more meaningful experiences for users. [Project page]

eXtension Geo-Citizens Design Forest Farms, Virginia Tech, John Munsell. This project accelerates Cooperative Extension’s use of virtual high performance GeoDesign computing to improve the precision of farming systems in a changing climate. The project advances Cooperative Extension citizen science 2.0 by bringing programmers, geospatial experts, land management specialists, and citizen scientists together in a customizable, collaborative, and convivial virtual workspace to create a precision agriculture computer application. The project enhances flipped and interactive Cooperative Extension remote training methods over broad geographical regions through novel synthesis of videography and problem solving scenarios. The project strengthens Cooperative Extension inclusivity with a multi-institution, multi-state physiographic data collection and aggregation partnership. The project also demonstrates lasting NEW eXtension partnerships where computer simulation supports land use precision and citizens support computer simulation. [Project page]

Lighting the Education Fire with Virtual Environments and Oculus Rift Technology, University of Idaho, Joey Peutz, Brian Cleveley and Lori Wahl. This project proposes to extend Cooperative Extensions’ outreach via 24/7 public experiential learning tools using the Oculus Rift virtual reality headset, web browser-based virtual environment (single and multi-user) and an app accessed through mobile devices supporting 3D virtual worlds. The primary demonstration project is a simulation to learn about home safety when threatened by a wildfire. The project offers the opportunity to experience a wildfire safety experience as an immersive 3D simulation with participants customizing the experience variables. The ability to access the same simulation content across three different platforms is also a new way of delivering knowledge making it more flexible and adaptable to meet the changing needs of Extension and their constituents. [Project page]

Track that Crop: A Mobile App to Aggregate Crop Variety Data in Alaska and Beyond and to Increase Citizen Engagement with Cooperative Extension Service, University of Alaska, Heidi Rader. This project will create a mobile app to conduct citizen agriculture research. Alaska Master Gardeners will help test the app followed by recruiting additional citizen scientists statewide and nationally. Extension’s roots are in “extending” research-based information to the public. This project turns this traditional model upside down by asking the public to conduct and share research (also known as citizen science). The project proposes developing a mobile app to aggregate location-based crop variety research conducted by Master Gardeners, gardeners, and farmers. [Project page]

NeXT Talks: Igniting Innovation in Extending Knowledge, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension, Holly Whitaker. This project expands a platform designed to inspire innovation in Cooperative Extension program delivery by quickly connecting educators to material on emerging topics. These “talks” are timely, proactive, interactive and position educators nationwide with information to position them as front line resources in their communities. Using streaming video and social media, NeXT Talks allow audience members to engage with subject matter specialists within and outside the land grant system. [Project page]

Spark Lab Innovation Center, Ohio State University, Mark Light. This project will instill that inspiration or “spark” that youth and adults need to learn, discover, and grow in a creative environment. This goes beyond just setting up a “makerspace”. It will be an overall center of innovation framed through the education lens of a land grant university system. This project will transform a local Extension office beyond the traditional into the innovative by bringing entrepreneurship, university education opportunities, and a technology and maker space together in a dynamic and still to be explored relationship. The project will connect local businesses, residents, and educators to promote innovation, learning, and creativity in a hands-on space. It will also create a physical space model that can be reproduced by Extension in other states nationwide. [Project page]

Virtual Communication Camp, North Dakota State University, Becky Koch and Bob Bertsch. This project will prepare educator teams to focus on key messages and use innovative communication skills to plan a communication strategy to help bring about behavior change. This project moves a traditional face-to-face model to a virtual learning experience especially designed to encourage teams to incorporate new and innovative technologies that meet their target audience’s needs. [Project page]

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