Archive for category Training and Education

What Do You Want On Your Highlight Reel?

Who are we? Who am I? Who are our students? Who do our students think they are? These and other deeply philosophical questions have coloured many recent discussions around digital identity.  Social media and other tech tools have given us unprecedented access to others and have opened up new and faster channels for sharing our own thoughts, opinions, laments and ideas. We now share more and more often, and spend more time attempting to teach out students the dangers that can arise from sharing too much, too often or too soon. In discussing digital identity, we seem to spend more time on what we share and less on who we are.

A larger discussion about identity and identity development in the aptly named digital age is a subject for another blog post (or, at the very least, a PhD dissertation). Sharing of ourselves, however, has caught my attention as a topic worth exploring as student affairs professionals continue to search for ways to teach students how to responsibility, ethically and safely use social media and other tools. Seminars on personal branding, LinkedIn tipsheets and student conduct cases of cyber bullying have created a strange culture of fear and seclusion, built by individuals that fight to embrace open and authentic sharing. Lives are measured in likes and esteem is held against a yardstick of retweets and shares.

This confused culture of tentative yet overabundant sharing can play games with a malleable identity, still developing throughout the college years. We often compare and contrast what we see on the screen to what we see around us, putting on either rose-coloured glasses when we see images that confirm what we know or darker shades when we see ideals that seem breathtakingly out of reach. Our students, like we often do ourselves, take their cues from peers and seek out success stories to model their own ideal of ‘life’ around.

Discussions around digital identity and the repercussions of both sharing and consuming information always leads me back to one of my favourite quotes. Steven Furtick offers poignant advice for those growing up and finding themselves in the digital age (read: anyone currently living on this planet):

We struggle with insecurity because we compare our behind-the-scenes with everyone else’s highlight reel.”

While this post offers important and eye-opening advice about living in a age where the sheer amount of information and the speed at which it Is delivered has us drinking in insecurity through a fire hose, the concept of a ‘highlight reel’ is important for teachings in creating and sharing one’s digital identity. Each post, picture, like, share and comment becomes our personal highlight reel. It is what we show to the world; what we choose as our best and brightest moments that demonstrate who we are. Perhaps, then, our discussions about the ‘dangers of social media’ and the lectures on appropriate posts should come not from a place of what others may perceive, but rather from a deeper and more thoughtful exploration of our own motives. What do we want our story to be?  As you build a life one post at a time, what do you want playing on your highlight reel?   – what will you story be? What do you want on your highlight reel?

– 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 Community.



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Grazing and Digging: Research in the Digital Library

While I could rant and wail about the seemingly drastic decline in visits to neighbourhood libraries and the waning interest in ‘real’ books (remember, the ones made of trees?), I wanted to focus this post on mining for information online. Whether for strictly academic purposes or to prove a point in a heated argument about who starred in that obscure movie only you and one other friend watched, search engines and keystrokes have begun replacing bookshelves and highlighters in our quest for knowledge. In an increasingly crowded digital library, where do you start?

The ‘drink through a firehose’ metaphor is an apt description of the use of many different online mediums, including Twitter and other social media platforms. A quick search for “student development theory” on Google can net close to 40,000 results almost instantaneously, evoking the same overwhelming feeling. Too often, we rely heavily on Google and other search engines to do the thinking for us. What’s at the top of the page can get clicked on first merely due to it’s proximity, and the short one or two line preview underneath the link can take the place of an article abstract in deciding relevance and interest. In the interest of avoiding the work of digging deeply into the bog of results, we can instead graze through a select field of results.

The Internet has provided an amazing opportunity for access to untold quantities of information, but can still hold ideas, opinions and data of questionable quality. Like sweeping a beach with a metal detector, we may occasionally get lucky in a random search for knowledge, but the real work begins when that information is dug up and appraised. When reviewing information from your digital treasure hunt, how you do you separate the gold from the lead?

Although it seems like a strange catch-22, doing good research on the web means doing good research … on the web (or elsewhere). Grazing through a list of search results should actually be one of the last steps in your research process rather than your first. As with the pursuit of personal development, knowing thyself (and they research topic) is essential preparation for your digital research journey.  This could include reading other papers on the same or similar topics, or even reaching out to colleagues to appreciate a broader perspective on your chosen research focus.

The same tenant to ‘start with why’ that we often subscribe to when discussing missions, visions and learning outcomes is equally applicable to the research process.  The reason why you chose the research topic may be because it was given to you, but the reasons why you choose particular search terms and articles to review rely on good judgment and critical thought. Research before research may sound tedious, but the ‘why’ is just as important here as it is in designing a program, event or activity.

Remember that every word matters. When we teach communication skills, we often say it’s not just what you say but how you say it. In the research process, it’s not just what you search for but where you search for it and what you choose to search for. We have a privileged and timely opportunity in our access to a near infinite amount of knowledge. In mining for gold or grazing through the digital fields, we look for information that, when pieced together in new ways, can create new knowledge that is fed back into the virtual library. Perhaps the rule here is just as Golden: in our own work, create and share information we ourselves would want. Give unto others as we would like to (digitally) receive.

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 Community.


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iTunes U in ResLife?!

What is iTunes U?

Most of you have probably heard of iTunes U. iTunes U is an app created by Apple where faculty and staff can post course content for free. Anything from recorded lectures, podcasts, video clips, homework assignments, readings, etc. can be listed on iTunes U. The best part is that these materials become available to anyone with the app- not just the students taking the class.

How can you use iTunes U in ResLife?

The better question is how can’t we use it! There are SO MANY “courses” available. It’s a great way to get materials for a staff training session, a door to door program, social program, newsletter article and more. You could also create a course on the app and list materials for your staff or students to access.

Here are some of my favorite courses to use with my students and staff:

          The University of Arizona- Social Justice Programs

          University of New England- Diversity Lecture Series

          University of Virginia- I Am Diversity

          UCL- Accomodating Religious Diversity in a Secular Society

          NCPDI Social Studies- Personal Finance Literacy

          Texas A&M- Wired Study Tips

          Stanford- Election 2012 (outdated now, but good to keep in mind for future elections)

        My institution also has several courses available that I’ve used for programming and in outreach to students:

–          UNH Health Services- Reflections Meditation CD

–          UNH Health Services- Video (overview of services available)

–          UNH Housing- several videos

–          WSBE- several courses have materials posted

More information:

Have you found a creative way to use iTunes U in your work?

–     Beth Poling is a Residence Hall Director at the University of New Hampshire and the Publications Coordinator for the NASPA TKC

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SpicyNodes and Flowboard: Adding Bling to Your Story

The two featured apps in this blog post allow you to tell your story with some flare.  SpicyNodes allows you to create interactive features on your website that invite visitors to interact with your content.  Flowboard allows Apple users to create, share, and present visual stories that can be shared on the web. The work from both of these apps is stored in cloud, allowing for anywhere, anytime access to the materials.


Spicynodes is a web-based tool that allows you to create an interactive concept map that can include information about your department, division, or group.  Each node on the map can include information, images, videos and links.  The visual nature of the concept map encourages website visitors to explore the content.  Spicynodes are stored in the cloud, giving you embed code to include in your website or blog.  This enables changes to the main Spicynodes map without having to change your website.  Some interesting uses of this tool within Student Affairs: a visual depiction of the division of student affairs, how to navigate the student conduct process, a presentation with links on how to apply for housing (including images of the dorms and dorm room types).


Flowboard  is an iPad app (Android users—no updates yet on when this will be available for you) that allows you to take images from Dropbox, Facebook, Google Images, Box, and Instragram and create really beautiful image galleries.  Users can add buttons, videos, and captions to create an interactive experience for website visitors.  Once created, you can share the Flowboard URL on a website or a blog.  This tool is great for creating rapid galleries around an event where you have a series of images captured on Instagram or other social media tools.  Additionally, the Flowboard published file can be accessed offline on an iPad to be utilized for presentations.  Imaging having an event where you take pictures the first hour.  The images can be quickly uploaded to Flowboard and become a rotating image gallery that can be displayed throughout the remainder of the event.  The Flowboard tools will make the presentation look polished and professional.

What tools are you using to add bling to your websites or blogs? Please share with links in the comments section below.

– Dr. Jennifer Sparrow is the Senior Director for Networked Ventures and Emerging Technologies.  She works with all departments at Virginia Tech to match emerging technologies with the learning, research, and outreach goals of the university.

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Have you heard about 8-Bit?

8 bit


This past week, NASPA announced a new conference called 8-Bit, and we at the NASPA TKC are VERY excited about it!

“NASPA 8-Bit employs a unique conference structure unlike anything you’ve experienced elsewhere:

  • Two speakers, two locations. 8-Bit will feature two leading thinkers at each conference who will get the creative juices going with an inspiring talk before getting the discussions underway on-site.
  • Syncronous and asynchronous format. Attendees will take part in brainstorming sessions between the two locations as well as with the person right next to them. Don’t worry though, you won’t miss anything! No matter which topic you’re most interested in you’ll be involved, regardless of your location.
  • Engagement. If you’re planning on just taking notes and listening in the back of the room, think again! 8-Bit will challenge attendees with thoughtful group discussions requiring participation from every person there.
  • Actionable. Discussing theory is great, but we want you to leave 8-Bit with a list of items that you can begin implementing the minute you’re on campus.
  • No boundaries. Attendees aren’t just allowed, but encouraged to go beyond the scope of the conference. Break down barriers, cause mayhem, and challenge your peers to think about problems in new and innovative ways.” (NASPA 8-Bit webpage)

For more information, and to register, click here!

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The Identity Laboratory (July 2013)

At the 2013 annual conference for the Canadian Association of College and University Student Services (CACUSS), Hamza Khan  and I began our discussion of technology in student affairs with a clip from Sherry Turkle’s TED talk “Alone Together”. You can view the full talk here .

Sherry’s talk covers many ideas and sparks even more questions. In particular, our session participants began a lively and ultimately insightful discussion about identity and identity development in the digital space. There were “horror stories” about students who had openly and (very) publicly shared pictures or words that predictably made a room of student affairs professionals cringe. There was debate around whether professionals should ‘friend’ students on Facebook or follow them on Twitter. There was a request for successful practices in supporting students after they have made a public “mistake” in their social networking.

The use of social media by our students, and if we’re very honest, by ourselves and our colleagues, has created what Sherry calls an “identity workshop”, a place for identity experimentation, “for trying out aspects of self that were hard to experiment with in the physical realm.” Feedback on experiments in this identity laboratory is instant, timely and, most often, copious. While perhaps not totally analogous to the more traditional scientific method we were taught in grade school, identities become hypotheses on the Internet, allowing for trial and error to occur at breakneck speed.

What does this mean for those in the middle of identity development? (Hint: that’s everyone, at any moment, all the time). Does the speed at which we try on pieces of our identity matter? Can we learn from mistakes when they can, in theory, be so easily erased? While perhaps still enduring in the infinite cyberspace, the adage ‘out of sight, out of mind’ is even more apt with the simple click of a mouse and the deluge of new information ready to cover our digital tracks.

One major challenge with this identity laboratory is just how public our experiments in identity are. Unlike laboratories made of brick and mortar, there are no obvious caution signs or heavy doors barring entry for anyone except those specially trained and carrying letters behind their name. Anyone and everyone in the digital world is a scientist, testing theories and drawing conclusions based on evidence gathered from a series of experiments.

We demand a special level of rigor for scientific study in medicine – but do we expect this same high standard in the identity lab? How strict must our standards be in this privileged space of opportunity, where we can watch, in real time, students and colleagues form an identity from a collection of evidence and theories? If you were writing an experimental procedures manual for identity development, what would you include? More importantly, do we need such a guide at all?


– 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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To Friend or not to Friend…

This week I attended a professional development conference and one of the breakout sessions was on social media. I popped into the session and found a panel of five professionals with extensive experience in all things technology including social media. Overall the session was good, they did some baseline assessments of the group to gauge our social media prowess and then got into some of the basics. The talked about definitions, privacy issues, and the like, but one thing they touched on got me thinking. They suggested that higher education professionals should maintain two lives on social media, their “personal” and “professional” profiles.

There are several schools of thought as to holding multiple accounts, but let’s clear a couple things up first. With over 1 billion active users, Facebook sits at the top of the pile when we discuss social media networks. And they explicitly prohibit any individual from holding multiple accounts. LinkedIn also prohibits multiple individual accounts. Twitter enthusiastically says “Yes!” to multiple accounts and several other sites also approve, although not always explicitly.

Whether or not it’s allowed, I pose the question is it necessary? As the line between our personal and professional lives continues to blur (how many of you check your work email in the evenings or on the weekends?), do we really need to create a separate online existence where we post “appropriate” or “professional” items? In this case, I enthusiastically say “No!”. I’m a strong proponent of managing your online presence in through just one identity; albeit in multiple locations.

Here’s how I make it work:

  • Never friend, follow or connect with students without an invitation. I never seek out students on social media. I ALWAYS wait for them to initiate the connection. This is extremely important, especially for students that work for you or who are in your classes. You don’t want to create a situation where a student feels that ignoring or declining your invitation will come with any repercussions. I’ve developed some incredible relationships with students I am connected with through social media, but those connections were always initiated by the students themselves.
  • Remember that everything you post adds to your digital identity. No matter if you are friends with your students or not, whatever you post is out there for people to find. If you don’t want people to see your dirty laundry, don’t post it! We tell our students that, and should follow our own advice.
  • Having your social media sites connected isn’t always a good idea. It’s fair to say, from experience, that most of your Facebook friends probably don’t want to be involved with the #satech chat you’re participating in, or follow your conference sessions at #NASPA13. There are definitely times when you want to post your in multiple places, in those cases you should use a third-party client like hootsuite or TweetDeck.
  • Measure twice, post once. This old home improvement adage translates well to the social media world. Not only are you making sure this is something you really want to post (measuring appropriateness), you’re also taking time to make sure your information is correct and everything is spelled right (measuring correctness).  If you find yourself in a situation where your judgment might be compromised (angry, tired, etc), consider holding off on the post, or checking it three or four or five or more times.

These isn’t meant to be the end all be all list, but this is how I make it work. Build a strong digital identity for yourself, not one for your “professional” self and one for your “personal” self.

Matt Brinton is the Chair of the NASPA Technology Knowledge Community, and the Assistant Director of Student Activities at the Metropolitan State University of Denver in Denver, Colorado.

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