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What can Texas Hold 'Em Teach Me About Technology?
November 2, 2010 - 9:45pm

I'm playing in a poker tournament next week for an association's foundation fund. Apparently I will be playing something called "Texas Hold 'Em." I've never played poker before. I've watched it on television. Several of my friends frequently play the game. I am participating mostly so that I can "lose" my money for a good cause. I hope I can last for a few minutes at least as I do I have a basic understanding of cards. I mean, I played Hearts a lot as a kid. How hard can it be?

While conversing with a friend (who is ironically in Texas) earlier today, I started thinking about how my overall lack of knowledge of the rules of poker related to how I approach this blog and its subject: student affairs and technology. Here are some similarities that popped into my head:

  • Emerging technologies / The learning curve of poker: Every time I read about an emerging technology, I immediately start thinking about its possible applications within the student affairs functional areas. Similarly, I'm certain that my mind will be spinning as I try to absorb the basics of poker. I have a week after all to figure out how to play.
  • My peers / It's the community: I often find myself asking my colleagues for their thoughts regarding various technologies. The community of experts that I am connected to knows a lot more collectively about technology than I do. My fellow poker players will have to endure a countless barrage of questions next week.
  • Experience matters: The amount of practitioner knowledge that I have accumulated over time gives me a unique view when I look at new technologies. I have always identified as a student affairs generalist. I try to know as much as I can about every functional area. When I lose all of my chips at the table, I am certain that I will have lost to an experienced player.
  • We play with the cards that we are dealt: Sometimes we don't have an unlimited budget or additional staff to take on technology projects in student affairs. We have to "play" with what we are dealt. We often tack on additional technology responsibilities to our usually overloaded "hat rack." Wouldn't it be great if technology in student affairs was seen as a functional area? Talk about a stacked deck!
  • Be patient: It is really easy to spend a short amount of time with a new technology and quickly cast it aside because its value is not easily ascertained. I never will forget that it took me over a year before I realized the value of Twitter. It's been a great "technology life lesson" for me. I hope that I can wait for just the right cards next week.
  • Know when to fold 'em: I've worked with various web technologies long enough to know that some things come and go. They seem extremely exciting and useful at first and then they quickly fade away. It's okay to crumple them up, place them in the bin, and start again. I plan on folding a lot during my first Texas Hold 'Em experience.
  • Going all in: Creatively using technologies to foster student success, retention and engagement can require that you "go all in." You commit resources, staff time, work on assessments, and see how the cards fall. It's okay to bluff sometimes, especially when it's a strategic decision. How else do you think I'm going to advance to the final table? ;-)

I don't know a lot about poker. I'm sure that I am going to have a fun time and isn't that what this is really all about?

I think it is crucial that we enjoy the experience and the ever-evolving journey of student affairs and technology. We have so much to learn. Let's go sit at the table and learn how to play.

I'm sure I missed a few dozen more analogies that could have related student affairs + technology with Texas Hold 'Em. Feel free to leave your ideas and poker advice in the comments.

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