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Communication tools are like the tools in a garden shed ...

P1090737.JPGThe past week, we've had some online discussions via our MASTGAR listserv about new - and current - communication tools that we, as Master Gardeners, use to get answers and to build community across our cyberstate. I have been reading and responding, and thinking a lot about how communication has progressed so rapidly from snail mail to websites to email to social networks like (dare I bring it up?) Facebook.

As usual, I wandered around my house and yard, looking for inspiration and a good analogy I could use to explain my opinion about the importance of using a variety of communication tools to reach different audiences with different goals. While in the yard, I decided to cut some dry Hydrangea macrophylla blossoms. As I scanned my variety of tools looking for my pruners - I particularly like pruners - a light bulb went on.

In your garden shed, you store a variety of tools for doing different work in your garden - a trowel, a spade, a fork, a tiller, a pruner, a lopper. Different tools for achieving different goals. You, yourself, may have only a few tools, but you really use them. You may have old favorites you always reach for such as your super-sharp spade with the well-worn handle. It never fails you - the blade stays sharp, the handle is solid. Your neighbor, on the other hand, may have a shed full of tools - some old, some brand new, and some trendy tools like the ones you see on late night t.v. that, in your opinion, are a waste of money. Then one day you borrow one of those trendy tools from your neighbor, and you think "This is pretty great" - and lo and behold, you add one to your shed.

Communication today is like your garden shed: no single tool does everything and you have different tools for different purposes. Some of us have a few, some of us have a regular collection. Communication tools like snail mail, blogs, websites, Facebook, email, and Twitter reach specific audiences, and applications like Google, Druple, Wiggio, Flickr and Delicious offer ways to collaborate and share information. How do you choose? Well, it isn't all about cost in the form of dollars, but also cost how it relates to time, time, ease of use, access, and communication speed. Convenience and popularity of the tool are also important to consider. Our discussion this week: Listserv - 1. Facebook - 0. Other options: maybe. I'll keep trying out new tools.

In summary, no single communication tool is the answer - we need to use a variety - because there is no single tool that fits everyone's communication lifestyle. How we communicate is changing daily. The day will come - I can almost guarantee it - when we look back on email, and say "remember how we used email all the time?" These tools revolutionize our communication choices for better or for worse. I know we don't need to use every communication tool out there, but I like to "borrow" one sometimes and give it a whirl. I may just decide to add it to my garden shed.


Barbara Gasterland said:

Thanks Julie
Great analogy. I hope more folks can think of it that way. I guess I look at change as a chance to learn and isn't that what the MG program is about. Learning.

Thanks Barb - Learning is one of the main reasons people give for becoming a Master Gardener. The program keeps changing and moving to accommodate new ways to teach and learn. In January we'll be releasing the new website and it will have much easier navigation including online education and teaching materials. Thanks for volunteering!

Kirky Otto said:

I'm starting to "get it," Julie! The analogy really helped. I don't know how much work (work is cost, too) is involved in making information available in more than one format, or in training those of us who really are barely computer-literate about new options (I gave up on X-Tension, or whatever it is, because I simply could not understand the terminology to follow instructions). But I'm sure those who are more advanced in computer use appreciate more options. If the instructions are really basic (see "URL" above -- I don't know what that means!), maybe I can even learn to use them! After all, you taught me how to respond in blog format! Best wishes -- Kirky Otto, Hubbard Cty.

Woo-hoo! Good job, Kirky! You're on your way!

The "URL" is the address for a link on the web. The URL for the state MG website is

Amy Chapman said:

And a reminder why we love the garden, a place to think things over...or to forget about "things."
I often use garden anologies - right now the stepkids are young enough to think it's great. Wonder what they'll think in a couple of years!

Amen! I often have some of my best ideas facing the soil.

Pam Schmitt, Sherburne County said:

What a great analogy, Julie. Our world is full of change and when we refuse to change, we quit growing.

Jan Kohout said:

Thanks Julie for the great analogy, mind if I use it? Will give you credit or course. It helped to clarify why we all need to look at new ways of doing the same old thing.

Joyce Hochsprung said:

Kudos to you on the great analogy Julie.I don't remember where I read this but.."To grow is to change, To change often is to have grown much."

Woo-hoo! I LOVE IT - 9 comments! This is exciting! Thanks for commenting everyone! Let's keep this going.

Joyce, your saying "To grow is to change, To change often is to have grown much." is, I think, something from Confucius (spell check). It rings a bell that I read it in a book of his sayings. It strikes a positive chord. Tahnk you for reminding me.

What are some other analogies you can think of?

And aren't we, a s MGs, all about growing? Growing plants, growing people, growing knowledge. It's a noble goal, don't you think?

Jan, I would be honored if you use my analogy. Or is it a metaphor? I need to look that up.

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