Getting (More) Competent with Technology

New student affairs technology competency arrives.

August 27, 2015
The Future of Student Affairs Technology is a Competency

It's official. Student Affairs via NASPA/ACPA now has an official technology competency. They say that good things come to those who wait. Thankfully, the wait for this inevitable outcome is finally over. I have been advocating for this initiative for quite a while.

In 2003, while presenting at a regional NASPA conference, I talked about web-based customer service, online accessibility, content creation, web analytics, and strategic communications. I remember thinking that I might have been a bit too ahead of the field during my presentation. However, I knew that this was going to be an important area for the profession in the near future.

In fact, when NASPA eliminated the Information Technology Knowledge Community (the precursor to today's Technology Knowledge Community) I took it upon myself to call Kevin Kruger and ask why such an important group was being disbanded. Kruger was second in command at NASPA during that time and he's been a good friend ever since. I've always appreciated that he took my call back then. As a relatively new professional, I'm sure I came across as far too enthusiastic about technology and the future of student affairs. Thankfully, Kruger and NASPA have become exceptionally savvy when it comes to recognizing the importance of technology in student affairs. Additionally and in parallel with NASPA, ACPA has also furthered technology as being necessary for the student affairs profession.

In 2004, I went to graduate school at Oregon State University. As a self-declared "student affairs techie," I taught technology workshops, blogged my grad program experience, and worked as the student affairs web specialist for the division of student affairs during my assistantship. OSU's CSSA is a competency-based program and I frequently advocated for the creation of a technology competency. One of our assignments was the creation of our own student development theory. In 2005, with Facebook still called Thefacebook and social media still in its early stages, I created an online development theory. It's pretty basic, but it's easy to see how that document formed the early stages of the work that I do to this day.

In 2006, Leslie Dare, a superb student affairs technology professional, wrote an article about re-establishing a technology knowledge community within NASPA. "Technology in Student Affairs: Seeking Knowledge, Craving Community" was a wonderful read and it sparked conversations and tech-friendly momentum within the profession.

While Dare's article caused some of us to dare of a new tech-rich conversation in student affairs, the overall pace of technology adoption, experimentation, and competency was still in need of a nudge. When I wrote in 2008 that "the student affairs technology bar has been set far too low," I was being charitable. As a profession, our technology efforts lacked direction, focus, and cohesion.

Kevin Guidry's "Reflections on the Current State of Technology Organizations in Student Affairs" painted a good picture of where things were in 2010.

That same year, the first-ever joint competencies for student affairs professionals came out. Labelled as a "thread" that would be woven throughout the list of professional competencies, technology was included in the original document. At the time, I hoped that we would eventually transition technology from a thread to a competency. In fact, I would end up writing about that particular "thread" on more than one occasion.

Five years after I got up on my weathered technology soapbox to push for a formal competency, technology is now a professional competency for student affairs practitioners. It feels good to write those words and I am thrilled that the field has grown so much in terms of its overall technology fluency and use. It took a major effort by a lot of people to move the technology competency from dream to reality and I'm happy to say that it's been worth the wait.

The ACPA/NASPA Professional Competency Areas for Student Affairs Practitioners provide guidance, leadership, and direction to countless student affairs practitioners and graduate preparation programs. As a framework for the field, the technology competency will evolve and grow and continue to provide practitioners with valuable concepts, insight, and standards.

Looking ahead, things look quite bright for the student affairs profession. When it comes to technology, we're always evolving, always learning, always adapting, always adopting, and always experimenting.


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