Telling Stories

It’s been a busy week for student affairs and technology. On Friday May 31, seen two more Student Affairs Technology Unconferences ran in Texas and Michigan. Following both #satechTX and #satechMI, I was struck by a frequent and powerful theme – using technology to write and share stories.

Storytelling is an ancient art, a historical holdover that implies an evolutionary need to retain and pass on information to new generations. The advent of technology has turned cave wall scribbling into digital bits and bytes.

I have always been an advocate for authorship (as well as awesomeness for those who know me well). Story is a vital part of our work in student affairs; we share in the stories of our students and watch as they take metaphorical pen, paint or crayon to the canvas of life. What results may be messy and hard to interpret, but for each and every student we work with, it is the most beautiful and priceless work of art they will ever own.

At numerous conferences and in a staggeringly large amount of articles, we read about the ‘dangers of social media’. We are told to warn our students (and to heed these same warnings ourselves) about sharing too much at the wrong time, about sharing the wrong things and, somewhat ironically, about not sharing at all. The formerly unwritten rules of communication are now laid out in policies and procedures built out of fear and mistrust. As technology, especially the proliferation of social media, makes it easier and faster to share a lot in very little time we are warned to think first and think critically about sharing our stories with the world.

Of course, I am not advocating for a ‘throw caution to the wind’ or ‘bare it all’ approach to story telling and technology. It is equally selfish, in my mind, to share nothing, as it is to share everything. What matters is the paradoxical mix of having the courage to share a story with the grace and humbleness to share, as often tweeted during the unconference, ‘the right story at the right time’. Right, in this context, is not the opposite of wrong. Rather, it implies patience in reflecting on our own story and understanding the context that we share in. Technology creates infinite possibilities for a story to spread – if everyone could hear your story, what would you want them to know?

– Lisa Endersby is the Manager, Student and Campus Life at Seneca College 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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