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#SAtech profile: @JeffLail - Podcasts, Cloud Computing
February 7, 2011 - 10:00pm

The #SAtech community is full of a wonderful array of practitioners who work within every functional area of student affairs. I'm compiling a list of folks to interview/feature and cannot wait to share their stories. Student affairs professionals are using technology in new and exciting ways and I am thrilled that folks are letting me bombard them with emails/questions.

Jeff Lail (@jefflail on Twitter) is the Coordinator for Programs at the Office of Campus Activities & Programs at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG). While I've never actually met Jeff, we have frequently interacted via Twitter and I've been a guest on a podcast that he co-hosts. When Jeff recently tweeted that he was selected by Google to beta test the new Google Cr-48 Chrome Notebook, I knew that I had to find out more about Jeff and his love of technology.

I asked Jeff some questions about students affairs, #satech, and his thoughts regarding the Google Cr-48 laptop:

What was your major in college?(I love the diversity of educational backgrounds that are represented among SA professionals!)

Chemistry with a minor in biology

How did you end up in student affairs?

I was appointed as entertainment chair of our college SGA in my junior year, and was elected student body president my senior year. I spent a few years after school trying to figure out what I wanted to do with my life and settled on student activities. A couple years of grad school and here I am.

Is there any "tech" in your job description?

At this point, not directly. There is some mention of marketing through social media, which I view as tech, but it doesn't explicitly go into technology elsewhere.

Where do you go for professional development as an SA techie?

A big resource for me is just staying up to date with tech oriented SA folks I've met through Twitter like Ed Cabellon, my CTC cohosts - Laura Pasquini and Jeff Jackson; Becca Obergfell, Pete Pereira, among others. Other than that, I keep up with tech blogs like Engadget and Lifehacker. I'm a member of ACUI, and, to their credit, they do a great job of providing experiences for folks to learn about the cutting edge of tech in our field with a healthy dose of avoiding gimmicks.

Are you a member of any of the SA associations? Why/why not?(Jeff will be attending both the ACUI Annual Conference and the NACA National Convention.)

I'm a member of ACUI and will be participating in my first NACA this year. I was briefly a part of ACPA, but I felt that the focused associations fit my needs better given that I'm very focused on student activities and student unions.

What's the Campus Tech Connections podcast? Why do you do it?

CTC is one of the podcasts produced by Jeff Jackson and Jeff initially asked me to cohost with him and he will tell you that he saw us just sitting around chatting about tech news once a week; we added Laura Pasquini to the show, who brings a different perspective than Jeff and I. Within a few weeks, the show had evolved to something very different than what we expected; we had guests like Stian Haklev, founder of P2PU, and Anya Kamenetz during our first two weeks and we've continued to have some top notch guests on to talk about what's going on in the tech world. I do it because it forces me to keep up to date, I get to meet some great people doing great stuff, and I genuinely just like talking about what's cool, cutting edge, and what it can do for us.

You were selected by Google to beta test the Cr-48 Chrome Notebook. What are your initial impressions?

To give you and your readers a brief breakdown of what this technology is all about, it's all centered around Google and the Chrome web browser; the computer is basically not operational unless you have internet access. If you're familiar with the Chrome browser, the operational learning curve is essentially zero. I've been a Gmail user and admitted Google apologist since about 2002, and my job also uses the Google suite, so my life is essentially perfect for this operating system. I like the computer, the interface is clean and simple and the hardware seems to work well. I think this computer is what a netbook should be - light, portable, convenient, and web-centric.

What do you like/dislike about the Chrome OS? Favorite apps?

Not surprisingly, there are some challenges inherent of an entirely web and browser based OS. Even for me, a person who believes himself to be living essentially a web-based computer life, sometimes we don't realize how much we use applications that are based in the non-web-based OS world. Skype doesn't really play nice even though I do like Imo so far as a replacement. Netflix and Chrome don't get along. Being a believer in our ability to work around challenges with tech, I think these are temporary issues though. I have found myself getting acclimated quickly to having a web-based OS and slowly have seen this computer taking the place of my other computing options. I had not been a major user of the extensions and apps in the Google web store, preferring the stripped down simplicity of Chrome overall. That being said, near as I can tell, the apps and extensions in the Chrome OS and the Chrome browser are essentially the same.

Apps I like:

  • News - Huffington Post app, NPR for chrome, New York Times
  • Social Aggregators - Layers, PostPost (if you've tried flipbook on the
    ipad, these are similar)
  • Productivity - ScratchPad - a quick notepad
  • Social Media - Tweetdeck, - provides a way to aggregate social content from major events
  • Diversions - Isle of Tune - game where you build beats using houses,
    trees and plants, GoodFood - fun cooking app.

How do you think cloud-based computing will impact student affairs / higher education? Any specific functional area uses come to mind?

The cloud is all about having data and information accessible any time, any where, from any computer. I think it's going to impact our whole society and not just student affairs. But with regard to student affairs in particular, our whole operation is supposed to be about being able to serve the students where they are. With cloud computing, that becomes quite literal. I'm no longer bound to my desk for advising meetings, instead just needing an internet connection and a computer that can access it, and the need decreases for toting around your primary office computer (wouldn't that be fun for us desktop users?) to be functional. Frankly, I think this applies across functional areas.

In addition to posting interesting tidbits on Twitter and participating on the CTC podcast, Jeff likes to blog about student affairs, higher education, social media and sports at

I'd like to thank Liz Gross for her thoughtful comment on last week's #SAtech profile. Liz wrote a great comment about why I keep referencing the # sign in my posts. The # provides a searchable marker to find tweets that mention the #SAtech hashtag.

Do you tweet? Let's connect. Follow me on Twitter.


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