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ACPA + NASPA + Student Affairs Technology

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ACPA and NASPA and Student Affairs Technology

ACPA recently sent out an email announcement calling for applications for the ACPA Technology Advisory Committee:

The ACPA Technology Advisory Committee (TAC) is a member-driven advisory committee charged by the Executive Director of ACPA with developing the association’s long term Information Technology strategic plan and evaluating and recommending technology initiatives aimed at furthering the association’s strategic initiatives. In addition, the TAC is tasked with evaluating large-scale IT project requests to determine their applicability to long- and short-term association goals and, when necessary, to priority rank IT initiatives.

The TAC description made me feel quite hopeful about the state of student affairs technology…and then I read the following:

You don’t have to be a technology expert to apply. We are looking for committed ACPA members with an interest in technology who are not afraid to voice their thoughts.”

Why, oh why, does membership in the TAC, which will drive the long term information technology strategic plan for ACPA, not require that someone be a technology expert? How can you evaluate IT projects, further strategic initiatives, and recommend technologies if you are not an expert? Is ACPA saying that there are not student affairs practitioners who are technology experts?

Not to be outdone by the ACPA Technology Advisory Committee notice, NASPA Tech Tools recently posted a word-for-word copy of a 2 month-old article about Google Wave from the Chronicle of Higher Education without really attributing the article. The NASPA Tech Tools site was created to “bridge the gap between student affairs and technology.” Unfortunately, it seems like a chasm at the moment…

What is going on with the state of student affairs and technology? 3 years have passed since I last wrote about ACPA, NASPA, and technology and it’s hard to tell if anything substantial has happened.

  • http://utodd.com Todd

    I have never relied on a Student Affairs professional organization to help show me the way in regards to technology. Would be like asking an auto mechanic about heart surgery. I think there are plenty of pros out there blending SA + tech, they just don’t require a membership in an organization to do it, instead they soak up blog posts, twitter conversations, face to face interactions via skype/tinychat, and attempt to make it work on the campus they serve.

    A small social network of Student Affairs professionals who play/learn/collaborate with technology is way more powerful than a knowledge community or advisory committee serving an outdated model of information sharing.

  • http://www.christinadulude.com Christina Dulude

    Actually, to me the “You don’t have to be a technology expert to apply” verbiage sounds more like the inclusive language of Student Affairs in general, than downplaying the importance of technology. So I guess I don’t read this as a bad thing, necessarily. While I certainly agree that there aren’t enough IT professionals in Student Affairs, perhaps involving folks with an interest, expert-level or not, is the first step to bridging the chasm?

  • Cindy

    I agree with Todd that we don’t expect student affairs associations to show the way with technology.

    I do, however, expect that there would be active conversations about how we do what we do through the help of technology. Some folks out there are doing great things using technology platforms… online advising, use of Twitter for event promotions, teaching students about professionalism in online presence, etc.

    I would hope that ACPA and NASPA would understand their obligation to find these innovators, recruit them to write and publish, and utilize the associations as a mechanism to share the good practices. Unfortunately, it looks like they have chosen a spectator role and think telling us about the article about Google Wave in the Chronicle takes care of it.

  • Jason Mellen

    At this point, I agree that student affairs associations do not serve as guides for technology use. But that seems to be the point of this post. If they failed to provide up-to-date information about leadership or diversity we would consider that a big problem. Technology, while deserving of it’s own field of study, has become a big part of the profession and needs to be treated that way in terms of professional coverage.

    In terms of the “No Experts” clause, I’m torn. I like that we are being inclusive. People who are not experts should certainly be invited to join the discussion and to learn more. However, the opinion makers and discussion leaders need to be IT experts. Asking anyone for there opinion on an area that does require background knowledge of both tech and SA is just asking for trouble.

  • ML Sugie

    Problem: neither you nor ACPA defined technology expert. Would they have to know css? ‘nix commands? How to repair hardware? Code their own website? It’s an important question, I think.

    And then… take a moment and imagine a “technology expert.” What is the ethnicity, gender, income, and age of the person you think of? What skills do they know?

    I think immediately of a 25+ white dude, middle-to-upper class background, knows his way around websites, is connected to social media, and has a few computers. Probably uses some flavor of Linux.

    As much as I want to pretend that’s not the image that comes up, that’s the image reinforced by nearly every damn media outlet. I don’t think I’m the only one who makes that image in my mind. Maybe ACPA used the statement “don’t have to be a tech expert” to encourage people with organizational/decision-making skills and an interest in technology to be a part of the process.

    And, perhaps there are some communities that hesitate to identify as a tech expert, even if they have similar skills as those that do identify that way. Considering you wrote about gender disparity in web conferences, I’m surprised you wouldn’t connect our images of technology and tech experts with how women are/are-not included in those images. I suspect (drag queen’s intuition!) that women may be more hesitant to label themselves as tech experts, even with similar skills.

    And finally, remember that you don’t have to be a technology expert in order to be affected by technology. Most people will have some sort of stake in the decisions made by our techno-priests, even if they don’t understand them or had no say in them (for reference, take a look at any engineering project, ever).

  • http://edcabellon.com Ed Cabellon

    Eric, thanks for writing this. I also saw this and just shook my head as well…. Will you be applying to the ACPA TAC?

  • http://www.chadnuttall.com Chad Nuttall

    ML Sugie has some very interesting arguments. Certainly the definition of IT expert would be different inside Student Affairs – rather than outside Student Affairs. I also believe there is room for varying levels of tech knowledge in a group like this.

    C

  • http://ericstoller.com/blog/ Eric Stoller

    @Todd, Christina, Cindy, Jason and Chad – Thanks for commenting! I appreciate your thoughts.

    @Ed – The ACPA TAC members have already been selected. I did not apply due to a lack of time. I’m already heavily invested with NACADA right now.

    @ML – I’m glad that you pointed out that I did not define what makes someone a “technology expert.” I started thinking about a generic list of competencies…and then the list became so big that my head almost exploded. I guess for me, self-identifying as a technology expert is important. I don’t think that there are enough people in Student Affairs who identify as tech experts. I would hope that TAC members would come from the technology interest groups/commissions. People who have been leading and learning from within ACPA…I think that a new professional may not have had enough experience to be a leader on a committee that is going to make high-level technology decisions.

    I do think that racial, gender, sexual orientation and age diversity are different in Student Affairs compared to the corporate world…at least at the national association level. I think that this is due to the fact that student affairs associations have committees/commissions/communities formed around issued of race, gender, age, class, disability, and sexual orientation. The people that I happen to collaborate with most often within Student Affairs and Technology are women…so for me, I was not surprised to see that there are 3 women on the TAC (6 total people).

    I think I also took umbrage with the “you do not have to be a tech expert” clause because I have seen vendors taking advantage of a general lack of technology competency within Student Affairs as a profession. It’s very easy for a vendor to sell their product when the customer does not have the background or experience to ask the questions that they should be asking. I want the ACPA TAC to be an extremely tech savvy group so that they can assist in educating the membership of ACPA as well as providing knowledgeable leadership for the organization’s technology needs.

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