NASPA Technology Knowledge Community: What’s next?

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away … okay, so maybe that’s too dramatic. However, this post is going to be a tad bit nerdy, so I had to come out of the gate with a subtle homage.

March 14, 2012

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…okay, so maybe that’s too dramatic. However, this post is going to be a tad bit nerdy, so I had to come out of the gate with a subtle homage. In 1999, NASPA established an Information Technology Network (ITN). Let’s call this network a new hope (for technology in Student Affairs). With a focal point around the elusively definable term --“technology,” the network was eventually disbanded…alternatively, you could say that it was frozen in carbonite. As a relatively new professional, I took severe amounts of umbrage when this took place. I fondly recall calling Kevin Kruger, who will now be the new President of NASPA*, and voicing my concerns. Kevin’s first question: “Who are you?” I was informed that there wasn’t enough interest in the ITN to sustain it. My memory of the rest of the conversation is a bit hazy, but I do remember how motivated I was at that point in my career to try to be part of the dialogue around technology in Student Affairs.

In 2006, Leslie Dare wrote an epic essay about the potential return of the technology group, now renamed as the Technology Knowledge Community (TKC). The goals of the newly formed TKC were twofold: “Educate student affairs practitioners about technology in student affairs (Knowledge), and establish an organization where those practitioners can collaborate (Community).” The co-chairs of the TKC were Kevin Guidry and Leslie Dare. They did a fantastic job of resuscitating the conversation within NASPA on technology and Student Affairs.

However, it’s now six years later and the focus of the TKC is once again a central concern. At the TKC open business meeting at this year’s NASPA Annual Conference, the mission of the community was shared as well as some of the primary concerns of those present -- mostly around connectivity issues (Wi-Fi and 3G service) at the convention center and the KC’s commitment to collaborating with the Disability Knowledge Community regarding all things having to do with online accessibility.

With technology in Student Affairs being such a broad topic, the rally points for community generation within the TKC are almost always on the move. For example, social media channels have been inserted into the purview of the TKC in large part because they do not have any other knowledge community to align with in terms of overall strategy and web communications integration.

In the room at this year’s meeting were Student Affairs professionals from a variety of functional areas. One of the prevailing themes was that the TKC was “not just for IT pros.” I acknowledge that sometimes talking too much tech can alienate those who are just beginning to participate in the technology and Student Affairs conversation. However, in Student Affairs, the paradigms are changing. We can be both techie and developmental. Our field is evolving and we need to get more high-tech while still maintaining our high-touch sensibilities.

With such a broad focus, perhaps the TKC needs to once again re-write its script. Social media might be better suited as being split off into some sort of Student Affairs Communications/Marketing Knowledge Community. Separate from the TKC, this potential KC would give Student Affairs communicators/marketers of all tech levels a rallying place to generate community, share ideas, and create focus.The focus of the TKC would be much easier to maintain/manage if it was not always the catch-all for all things that involve electricity. A re-focused TKC and a separate Communications/Marketing KC might also align more effectively with the concept of threading technology throughout our profession as mentioned in the ACPA/NASPA Joint Competency Areas document [pdf].

What do you think? Time for a new KC or do we just re-tool the TKC?

*At this year's NASPA Annual Conference, the torch of executive leadership of NASPA was passed from Gwen Dungy to Kevin Kruger. Gwen's leadership of NASPA has been inspirational, visionary, and transformative. Personally, I've been blessed to know Gwen since my first NASPA experience and I am grateful for her outstanding work, care, and love for this profession.


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