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Student Affairs IT

ACPA/NASPA Technology Competency for Professional Development

The technology competency in the latest ACPA/NASPA Professional Competencies(2015) and the corresponding rubric provide student affairs practitioners and administrators guidance on effectively learning and applying technology in their roles as educators and programmers for student success. In addition, the two documents are also useful to the same groups regarding self-directed and formal professional development.

In my role as student affairs IT director, educator, and student affairs administrator, I was very interested in technology competency when it became available and how it could be applied to my organization and for my personal learning. I’ve offered my thoughts in this blog post.

I found the competency and the rubric to be useful for the following reasons:

1) I’m able to identify areas I need to pursue. For example, most of my experiential learning and training has been mostly on “technical tools and software” and “data use and compliance” so when I planned my schedule for the NASPA national conference in San Antonio next week (March 10-15), I purposely planned my schedule to attend sessions on “digital identity and citizenship” and “online learning environments”.

2) As I defined areas I need further development, I began exploring other learning methods. For example, most of my education when it comes to technology over the last three years has been through my job and also through kindle books. This year, I discovered Lynda.com videos and have completed seven data governance and security courses.

3) The techniques and mindset I have developed through the technology competency have also led me to apply them in other development areas beyond technology. I recently completed a 10-course series on people management certification via the University of California online learning system.

4) Given the lessons learned from my experience in applying the competency and rubric, I am developing a training curriculum for our division of student affairs based on the competency and rubric with the support of our Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs.  I hope that by next year’s NASPA conference, we will have implemented the curriculum and presented our experience so other student affairs practitioners and administrators may consider using the competency for their institutions.

Dr. Josie Ahlquist, and I presented via webinar (Infusing The New Student Affairs Technology Competency Into Practice) last month on how the competency could be applied in graduate programs, student affairs organizations, and professional development. Part of the presentation focused on using the competency framework for professional development. I offered how I have used and plan to use the competency and the rubric to guide my learning. Using Excel, I created a template that lists learning activities, when I would pursue them, the format, and which areas of the technology competency rubrics these activities fulfill. The template also provides a link to the rubric.

Attached is the Excel file I developed, and please feel free to modify them for your use. Click on the image to download the file.

personal_plan

I look forward to how other institutions and student affairs professionals apply the competency and rubric. If you or your institution have used these tools, I would love to learn more about them.


Thoughts on ACPA/NASPA Technology Competency Area

Every time I review the technology competency area, one of the newest areas in the ACPA/NASPA Professional Areas for Student Affairs Educators, I develop a greater appreciation of the efforts and thoughts that went into defining the competency and the outcomes. As an advocate for the effective use of technology for student development, learning, and success, I have high hopes that the technology competency area will have a significant impact in shaping how we, as student affairs educators, will adopt, utilize, and assess/evaluate technology within student affairs now and in the future. At the same time, I worry that while the technology competency area finally exists, we don’t know what to do with it. I don’t want them to be just words on some document that folks will look at once and forget they even exist. In a way, it’s ironic, maybe this isn’t the right word, that while technology is an essential part of student affairs, it’s still being treated like an add-on responsibility and qualification. I recently reviewed several jobs posting for Senior Student Affairs Officers (SSAO) positions on higheredjobs.com. Only 1 out of the 21 job postings I reviewed had the word “technology” in the responsibilities and qualifications sections.

While reviewing the technology competency area and the outcomes again this evening, some thoughts and questions came to mind as to how we can effectively use the technology competency as listed below.

  • Developing the different components of technology competency requires continual learning and application. Training alone is not enough. Student affairs professionals must have the opportunities to apply and develop competency in our daily work.
  • No single person has all the skills and knowledge of all components of the competency (theories, technology, practice), so a partnership with campus colleagues (scholars, practitioners, IT professionals) must happen for professional development and collaboration opportunities to develop the outcomes.
  • Senior Student Affairs Administrators (SSAOs) must embrace and promote the ideologies and concepts behind technology competency. Therefore, they must commit resources for staff and their organization to develop competency. They need to model effective use of technology.
  • Stop talking about the competency and start practicing the outcomes.

Questions:

  • How do we as a profession in general and at the national and campus levels effectively promote technology competency?
  • How do we assess and evaluate the level of technology competency? What common tools would be required to do this? How do we perform formative and summative assessments?
  • How do we promote technology competency and show relevance to daily work?
  • How can we integrate technology competency into the daily work of student affairs professionals so they’re not just adding things to learn?
  • Who will be the leaders/educators promoting these competencies, and how will they gain the skills/knowledge to be able to teach these competencies? Are their professors at SAHE graduate programs who have these skills/knowledge/backgrounds? Are technology courses even part of core courses in SAHE graduate programs?

What are your thoughts on the ideas and questions I posed above? How about technology competency in general? What are you doing personally to develop the outcomes for the technology competency?

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Case for Technology Leadership at the SSAO Table

How many IT professionals attend student affairs conferences like NASPA and ACPA? I would guess not too many. When I attended the first NASPA Technology Conference in Rhode Island a few years ago, only a few IT professionals were in attendance. Those who attended expressed frustration with the limited topics at the conference, as most of the sessions revolved around social media. Why is it that while information and communication technologies span student affairs organizations, there seems to be such a big disconnect between IT staff and student affairs practitioners? Let me add another question, how many Senior Student Affairs Officers (SSAOs) have technology backgrounds to make strategic and tactical decisions for effective and cohesive technology investments for their organizations? How many student affairs organizations have IT, directors on their senior directors’ board?

As mentioned in this article about CSAO as Information Technology Managers,  SSAOs don’t necessarily have to have the deep technical knowledge to be able to act as IT managers, as long as they have the technical staff to be able to provide them with the strategic and tactical guidance when it comes to technology investments and usage. However, suppose IT directors (or some technology leadership position) are not involved in strategic discussions held at the highest student affairs management level. In that case, opportunities for valuable input from those with deep knowledge of the opportunities and pitfalls related to enterprise technology implementations and use are missed. As mentioned above, technology spans all units of any student affairs organization. As such, technology investment and use must be approached from a holistic perspective and aligned with the purpose of student affairs.

I had previously advocated for a Dean of Student Affairs Technology position, and I firmly believe this position will need to exist in the future of student affairs. At the core of this position is the understanding of the philosophies, theories, and organizational framework that guide the work of the student affairs profession and the role technologies play within student affairs and the campus.

I have read the goals of the  ACPA Digital Task Force and NASPA’s Technical Knowledge Community and the work they’ve done, and I am so grateful these two groups (as well as other similar groups) exist and for their work. I think these groups are framing the right questions and leading the profession towards better use of technologies for student development and learning. I wish more IT leaders were involved in these important strategic discussions. This lack of involvement of IT leadership in conversations being held at the national level mirrors what I think goes on at the campus level.

The gap between technology professionals and student affairs practitioners needs to be eliminated, starting at the top of student affairs organizations. There needs to be a better understanding of how student affairs as an organization can best effectively serve students through technology and better partnership. Hence, technology implementations result in effective use. Technology leaders need to understand what student affairs is about so they can, in turn, influence their organization to think in the right framework. This understanding must go beyond business processes. Unfortunately, I think this gap will persist as long as technology leaders are not included as a member at the highest level of student affairs management and leadership.


Nowhere I’d Rather Be Than in Student Affairs

It is during the most challenging times of my job when I think how blessed I am to have my job in student affairs, specifically as an IT leader within student affairs. The sometimes convoluted nature of higher education bureaucracy, the pressure of delivering critical technology services with limited resources, and juggling competing priorities make it challenging some days. But, even with these challenges, actually, because of these challenges, I feel blessed to have my job. I can easily look beyond the day-to-day frustrations because I know that at the end of the day, what matters is that my colleagues and I, the work we do, have a very important purpose – to help students succeed.

My wife and I were watching a tv show this evening; it might have been Dinners, Drive-Ins, and Dives on the food network. The host asked a chef, “how much of what you do is work and how much is love?” My wife asked me the same question. My immediate answer is 100% love. That may sound corny and overly sentimental, but I truly believe it. Yes, my job provides my wife and me with income to live a life we enjoy, but frankly, if I were paid the same amount working outside student affairs, I don’t think I would have the same personal and professional fulfillment. The public may hear and read about UCSB at times that we are a party school. The reality is that I know many students who came from challenging backgrounds growing up, and they have had to fight through some adversities to get to the university. I also know that these students take their studies seriously as they have the burden of creating a future for themselves and their families. These students drive me. They motivate me to do my part to make sure they succeed.

I don’t think about this often, but from time to time, I look at our portfolio and the body of work our team has done through the years, and it’s amazing how technology impacts the lives of our students way before they even step on to our university. I think about how our online disabled student program system enables our students with disabilities to get accessibility resources (note-takers, proctors, adaptive devices), how our student health service and counseling and psychological service information systems help our clinicians and psychologists provide timely and effective service to our students, and how our other systems and applications assist our students from the application process and after they graduate. When I think about the value of these systems,  I realize how important our roles are to the success of our students.

Sometimes I read/hear others complain about the demands of our jobs as student affairs professionals, and I think I can sympathize with some of these complaints. But, personally, if one is to think about the amazing opportunities we have to make a difference in the lives of our students and their families, how blessed are we to be working in student affairs?


Some Random Thoughts About “Student Affairs Platform”

I read Eric Stoller’s post about Connecting Technology Buckets in Student Affairs. It reminded me of some random thoughts I had a couple of months ago about what a “student affairs platform” would look like. I use an iOS mind mapping mobile app called iThoughts to document my ideas, and below is a pdf with my random/not-so-complete thoughts on what would be included in such a comprehensive/integrated platform. I would love to read your thoughts on this topic.

Student Affairs Platform

Student Affairs Platform


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