Reflections on NASPA ’13

The NASPA Technology Knowledge Community (KC) enjoyed an exciting and fruitful opportunity to meet, connect with and learn from new and returning KC members. Our team is gearing up for an exciting year ahead, and the NASPA Annual Conference in Orlando, Florida was one of our first opportunities to share and pilot ideas.

In reflecting on our time in Orlando, thoughts and questions emerged around what technology was all about at NASPA 2013, and what it was for. What were the issues, challenges and ideas being discussed at the conference, and how was technology being used to support a better conference experience?

What’s technology all about?

The Tech KC sponsored five technology unsessions at this year’s conference, discussing online communities, digital identity development, technology in student affairs graduate programs and managing information overload.

Throughout the many engaging conversations sparked by these unsessions, two important questions emerged:

How do we teach technology?

Recognizing the far from emerging trend in the use of technology in student affairs, many conference discussions centered on how to teach important skills in technology to emerging professionals while also identifying innovative ways for all professionals to continuously develop skills and gain new knowledge. The ‘how’ quickly became a broader conversation about the ‘what’ of technology we’re teaching. Are there core competencies in technology we should be teaching and, if so, what are they? The Tech KC has started documenting some potential competencies in a recent blog post. Have a look and share your feedback with us here.

How do we know the technology we’re using is working?

This isn’t as simple as turning it off and turning it back on again. Technology has offered and expanded new ways of teaching, but, at its core, remains the fundamental question of whether or not these new tools help or hinder the learning process. We use technology in assessment, but how do we assess the technology?

        What are we using technology for?

The conference in Orlando featured a Social Media Hub, a space that served as a venue for the KC sponsored Tweet Up as well as a gathering place throughout the event.  This physical space served as an important reminder of the power of connection and conversation in the digital realm, serving as an in person reminder that there is always space to spark and share ideas – if only we can find and fill it.

An excellent example of the merging of these two often starkly divided spaces began with a single Facebook status update and culminated in an engaging Tweet Up activity. Out of curiosity, and more than a little hopefulness, I shared a question on my Facebook profile a couple of weeks before the conference. Was anyone planning on recreating the NASPA BINGO game that was such a hit the year before? In yet another nod to the reach and power of technology, my single status update created #NASPA13 BINGO, with special thanks to Stephanie Wintling, Deb Schmidt-Rogers  & Matthew Brinton, as well as Torry Bruce for sparking the idea at last year’s conference. NASPA BINGO , the tweet up and all of the random spaces and places for connecting during the conference emulated the enduring opportunities for professionals to meet and share in the digital space.

NASPA 2013 was an important first step for some and middle of the road for others as we travel together in charting a new course in student affairs technology. Now that the dust has settled and the temperatures are (unfortunately and still) a little bit cooler, what ‘tech lessons’ from the conference are you using back at your home institution? Where will you go from here?

–          Lisa Endersby is the Student Development Coordinator with the Student Experience Centre at the University of Ontario Institute of Technology (UOIT) in Ontario, Canada. She is also working to connect and engage NASPA technology friends and fans in her role supporting Community Engagement in the NASPA Technology Knowledge Community.

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