April 2007
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Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for Help

By Robert Spencer

No matter what the subject matter, more and more people are relying on the Internet for information. I could make the assumption that most goat producers do the same, but I know that is not accurate based on my interactions with many of them.

In addition to utilizing the Internet, there is a variety of resources relevant to goat production. As I continue to access the Internet for valid information, I am amazed at how much information can be found. It is almost overwhelming.

However, when talking with others I realize not everyone utilizes the Internet for one reason or another. I recently did a search on Internet usage and found the following information: according to the U. S. Census Bureau (as of 2003) the majority (54.7%) of American households have access to the Internet. The actual numbers were seventy million American households. I’m sure the numbers have increased substantially since that time, but that made a good reference.

In the same census it was determined that sixty-four percent of adults (18+) use computers and the Internet. Another figure that did not surprise me but was interesting was eighty-six percent of children (under 18) use computers and the Internet. To me that is interesting for several reasons: (1) it implies that youth are more computer savvy than adults, which is no surprise; (2) knowing young people more readily use this technology, it offers the possibility for older people to utilize help through the younger generation.

In the same census the question was asked why households chose not to access the Internet. The top three answers were: (1) don’t need it, not interested; (2) costs too high and (3) no computer or computer inadequate. I found these responses interesting because during my interactions with individual producers and during meetings when the topic of accessing the Internet is brought up, it is not unusual for people to respond that they do not use computers and the Internet, or they do not know how to access the Internet for information they seek. I understand their situation; after all, I have only been using computers and the Internet for ten years, which is not very long compared to many people.

I have an appreciation for those who choose not to and do not know how to use this technology. But, I strongly believe this should NOT prevent them from seeking assistance from others. For those who choose not to use computers and the Internet, there are some easy resources for assistance that include: a friend, neighbor, or family member; your local Cooperative Extension Office; and the local library. There is nothing to be ashamed of when seeking help finding information on the Internet; everyone needs assistance in some form at some time. The sad part would be missing out on valuable information just because one chooses to avoid the abundant sources of information. After all, learning is fun.

Libraries and Cooperative Extension Service are public service agencies, and the people working at these institutions are there to help those in need. From my perspective, I enjoy taking time with a client to show them the wealth of information in Cyberspace, and how to find it. If nothing else, I enjoy seeing someone depart from my office with a handful of printed materials that addresses the needs that person came in with.

Need information on an Enterprise Budget relevant to Meat Goat Production? Call your local Extension Office and ask them to print and mail them to you. Looking for information on health care for your rabbit? Call or visit your local Extension Office and inquire about sources of information on rabbit healthcare issues. Visit your local library and ask someone to show you how to use the Internet to access the Alabama Cooperative Extension website. Begin your learning experience from the Guide, then call you local Extension Office and request one be mailed to you.

I previously mentioned youth, computers, and the Internet, and the fact that fewer adults utilize these technologies. When an older person is in need of information from a computer or the Internet, I cannot think of a better opportunity for time spent together than helping and learning from one another. Young people are generally eager to demonstrate their knowledge, and older people generally enjoy time spent with youth.

These days when family members interact it is called "quality time" or "bonding." Friends, neighbors, and family should be about helping each other. After all, it’s the right thing to do!

Grandparents, shy about using computers, yet need some information? Visit with your grandchild and let them show you what they know. They will be amazed to discover their highly intelligent grandparents don’t know everything. There is nothing wrong with limited knowledge, not knowing how to use computers, or being unable access the Internet.

However, there is something wrong with not asking for help when it is readily available. When someone says the information is on the Internet, and you don’t have access to such technology, then ask that person to print a copy of the information and mail it to you – mail it the old fashioned way, with an envelope and a stamp.

Robert Spencer is the Urban Regional Extension Specialist in the Urban Affairs and New Nontraditional Programs Unit & The Urban Centers in North America for the Alabama Cooperative Extension System.