The Scope of Technology

by Kristen Abell

I am often a bit befuddled by talk of technology in student affairs, as it so commonly focuses on social media – which uses technology, but isn’t necessarily technology in and of itself. I also find it interesting now that I work on website development the number of people that assume I work in IT because obviously, websites = technology (note: I don’t work in IT). Also true, and yet not.

The other day I was talking with one of our IT staff in the hallway. She commented how she could set up new computers for people all day, but she had no idea how to train them to develop or maintain websites. I countered with the fact that I could train them, but when it comes to the hardware, please leave me out of it. It’s a commonly accepted fact outside of technology that if you work in computers, you know everything about them. When the reality is quite the opposite. The more I learn about technology, the more I recognize that I don’t know about the broader field of tech.

I believe that one of our biggest challenges in student affairs is recognizing the scope of technology when we’re discussing it. It is hard to say, for example, that technology should be a competency area without defining what we mean when we’re talking about technology. Do we mean coding? Do we mean learning management systems? Do we mean social media? Or do we mean some combination of all of these things?

More importantly, how do we get away from defining just one of these things – i.e., social media – as technology in student affairs?

At some point, I think we need to define just what are the important areas of technology in which student affairs professionals need to have some competency. I don’t believe we necessarily need to have a cross-sampling of all of them, and I don’t even believe we need a deep understanding of some of them. But as a field, we need to develop standards for what we do need to know and how we might use it. I think there has been some headway in this between NASPA and ACPA, but I’d be curious to know what you believe is important for student affairs professionals to know when it comes to technology.

What should we include in a base level for technology knowledge for student affairs professionals? In a more advanced level? I hope you’ll share some thoughts in the comments below.

The Scope of Technology

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