As I write this post on a plane back to Oregon from Philadelphia I am struck by the immense amount of reflection and wisdom sharing that took place at the 2011 NASPA Annual Conference. There were an immeasurable amount of educational moments. Professional connections were made that will last well beyond the four or five days that many spent moving between the Philadelphia Convention Center and the Marriott Hotel. Many of the conference attendees also took part in The Placement Exchange (TPE). Everyone that I spoke with had only favorable comments about their experience as either a candidate or as an employer at TPE. The excitement of thousands of students affairs professionals being at the same place was palpable.
There were several key takeaways for me from this NASPA conference. Having attended NASPA events for 8 years, I am always impressed by the efficiency and care of the NASPA staffers and volunteers. I would especially like to recognize Kaaryn Sanon and Nathan Victoria for assisting me with my press pass as well as for letting me facilitate two social media sessions.
The technological aspects of this year's conference was a highlight for many attendees. Several folks commented about the mobile app as being a terrific way of keeping track of the schedule. I used the app on my Droid X and only briefly looked at my paper copy of the conference schedule. The app really did make it a lot easier to keep track of my personal schedule. Kudos to NASPA for adding this amenity.
Another highlight was the technology session room sponsored by Microsoft. The room was wired for wifi, had two large LCD screens with projectors, and had great sound too. As a presenter in the room, I was really happy that I didn't have to worry about the technology connectivity aspects of the room. It made it a lot easier to focus on content and facilitation.
Several attendees signed up for Twitter for the first time. The #NASPA11 backchannel has been extremely active. The hashtag was followed by several SA pros who couldn't attend the conference. It added a terrific layer for knowledge exchange/access and community building. A quick reminder to the new SA Twitterati, please make sure that you fill out your bio and add a picture to your profile. I eat "eggs" for breakfast, I don't follow them on Twitter!
iPads were everywhere. While I did notice a few Android or Windows 7-based tablets, Apple's slate was clearly the most popular tablet at the conference. I also noticed a multitude of Android-based phones as well as a lot of iPhone 4's.
Interestingly, in my conversations with multiple Senior Student Affairs Officers (SSAOs), the position of a Director of Student Affairs Communications / Marketing was frequently mentioned. Perhaps this is the beginning of a new functional area in student affairs? Communicating our programmatic endeavors, marketing our institutions, and utilizing social media for connection-making has emerged as a core component within several student affairs divisions.
Social media was a major topic of conversation at #NASPA11. For many attendees, this was the first time that they had made connections with how they could utilize social media to enhance their practice. As I mentioned in my Advanced Social Media "unsession," social media requires a holistic approach that is driven by strategy. There isn't one tool to rule them all...this isn't the #LOTR (The social media unsessions were nerd-safe spaces).
Always ask what you hope to accomplish before you select your social media tools. And remember, social media does not cause a common sense lobotomy. While slightly modified, your communication and meaning-making-methods can easily translate to the social sphere. Be comfortable with experimentation. Innovation in the student affairs social media sphere is a unique experience for your campus/area. Make mistakes, grow, learn, and use the tools to enhance your strategy.
I want to include a special thanks to Lisa Endersby from the University of Ontario Institute of Technology (UOIT). Lisa came up on stage and co-presented in the afternoon with me on Tuesday. Her insights about LinkedIn were invaluable. She's definitely an up-and-coming professional to keep on your radar.
Lastly, I would like to thank everyone who came up to me and mentioned that they had watched the first episode of Student Affairs Live. The next live episode will be on March 23rd at 1:00PM PT. My guest will be Laura Pasquini from the University of North Texas. We will be chatting about Personal Learning Networks (PLNs) and the Elimination of Higher Education Silos. When you couple a massive annual conference experience with digital connection-making, your PLN becomes a reliable source for fantastic amounts of professional development opportunities.
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