Thursday, August 26, 2010

Thoughts On My Son's First Day Of School

As I walked my son to his first day of school, pre-school, I couldn’t help but contemplate the state of our educational system and the potential impacts it is and will have on society.

During my short 40 years, I have seen the transition from a focus on cursive handwriting, to printing, from typing to keyboarding, from writing out mathematical solutions to graphing calculators and party lines with rotary dial phones, to digital phones with answering machines, to cell phones, to smart phones that are used more for texting, tweeting, posting and emailing than talking.

These transitions of focus included a transition away critical thinking and in my humble opinion have resulted in the following:

1. People rarely write thank you cards or letters anymore. Instead, the cards are pre-printed, digital or email is utilized. People no longer have to think about how to say what they feel and then legibly put those words to paper. Humanity is lost. Let us return to the days when a “rough draft” for an essay meant writing it on paper. Would this not improve critical thinking and reduce the temptation to “cut & paste” from an electronic file?

2. People are unable to compute mathematical problems without a calculator or computer, let alone run a proof to determine if the given answer is truly correct. “Experts” working for regulatory agencies rely entirely upon computer models without any regard for the quality of the data entering, whether the data was entered correctly, whether the data was utilized properly and are unable to “prove” the outcome is accurate without utilizing multiple runs on another computer, using the same files and same model. Start putting it back on paper people!

3. People become agitated when responses to questions are not answered in a timely manner via social media or email, when a phone call could give an immediate reply. I fear cell phones, if not already, will soon be utilized more for digital communication than speaking. Will this lead to the inability of individuals to communicate effectively vocally and introduce classes on texting instead of speech?

Do not take this the wrong way, I appreciate technology and utilize all forms that help me to be more efficient. However, I do think that we need to re-introduce some of the basics back into schools. Teach students how to write again, legibly and grammatically correct. Require students to show ALL of their work in math, not just answers and bring back speech and debate classes.

While I am looking forward to my son’s future experiences in his educational endeavors, he can rest assured that what he does not receive in school, will be waiting for him at home. Until then, it is back to changing water and ranch work alone, two days a week. At least I get to be weaned from him in phases. :-)

Saturday, August 21, 2010

A Cowboy & A Dairyman Experience SFO

I recently had the opportunity to attend the San Francisco #140 Conference with Ray Prock (@RayLinDairy) through the gracious invitation of Jeff Pulver (@jeffpulver). This was the second twitter conference Ray and I have attended, the first being a #140tc in Seattle, Washington, hosted by Parnasus Group. Both events were extremely well organized, very informative and everyone was gracious, receptive and a bit intrigued by a cowboy and a dairyman in attendance.

There are a couple of points I would like to make in reflection of my experience attending these conferences. First, I would highly encourage anyone who has the opportunity to attend, to do so. There is something of value for everyone to gain through the presentations, speakers and panels. Listen to what is being said; forget what sector you may be from. Value can be found in every presentation. Nuggets that can be utilized and interwoven into your use of social media, no matter what who is doing the sharing.

Second, the networking opportunity is truly amazing. Ray and I have met some folks that I am certain will be friends for ever; individuals who I would never have believed meeting a year ago. Everyone attending these conferences is there for at least one common purpose: how to communicate more effectively and build communities by maintaining the humanity of the interaction.

Finally, there is much for agriculture to learn from sectors that have been utilizing social media since the beginning. There is also much for other sectors to learn from agriculture as I have discovered. It is important for people from all walks of life to connect, communicate and learn from each other. Bridges are being built that will last generations.

In closing, thank you very much to Jeff Pulver for the opportunity to speak and a very gracious thank you to all of those Ray and I met and talked to in San Francisco. It was especially nice to finally meet Frank Plughoff (@Earthnik) whom I have been tweeting with for the past year. It is always fun to meet tweeple in person.

About Me

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Jeff Fowle is a fourth generation family farmer and rancher from Etna, California. He and his wife Erin and son Kyle raise registered Angus cattle, Percheron draft horses, warmbloods, alfalfa and alfalfa-grass hay. They also start and train horses for riding, jumping, and driving. Their family run ranch has incorporated many environmentally beneficial and water efficient technologies and management strategies. Jeff attended college at Colorado State University for two years and Cal Poly San Luis Obispo for four and earned his Bachelor of Science degree in Animal Science. Following college, he worked in Washington State for a year as a herdsman for BB Cattle Company and then returned to Etna, California in 1995 to own and operate KK Bar Ranch and Siskiyou Percherons. The latter was started by his grandfather, Clarence Dudley, who devoted much of his time to the Percheron Horse Association of America, specifically to developing their youth education program.