2013 Jon C. Dalton Institute on College Student Values Keynote Speaker
Academic Counselor, Instructor, & Doctoral Candidate,
M.S. Ed, Elementary Teacher Education, Niagara University, NY
Doctoral Candidate, Applied Technology and Performance Improvement Program
Being the student editor of an online, peer-reviewed journal, the Learning and Performance Quarterly (LPQ), has allowed me to work with a variety of academic scholars and scholar-practitioners. The LPQ journal holds an eclectic mix of scholarly reviews, research methods, and conceptual/theoretical articles. The subjects of learning, training, development, technology, and performance improvement allow contributing authors to share cross-disciplinary ideas. I am a strong advocate for open access and sharing research beyond our academic and professional silos, so I am proud to be part of this endeavor.
As the founding student editor, the inaugural year was very educational, challenging, and rewarding all at the same time. I think the first year was very much like a lean start-up with our small editorial team. It was critical to market our publication and call for submissions to established and emerging scholars, while also finding balance and support for recruiting peer reviewers, copy editors, and setting up guidelines for the LPQ. I learned the importance of supporting the editorial team, managing virtual collaborations, partnering with contributing authors and reviewers, and promoting the new journal while balancing my own academic writing projects.
In looking for a graduate program that suited my scholar-practitioner interests, I found the Department of Learning Technologies at the University of North Texas (UNT) was best suited for my talents and interests. After trying out a course, as a non-degree seeking student and talking to other students in the department, I decided to join the Applied Technology & Performance Improvement (ATPI) doctoral program in spring 2010. I appreciated the blend of evaluation, assessment, and technology application for learning, training and development. It was the interdisciplinary approach and curriculum that interested me the most.
The ATPI field combines technology, human resource management, organizational change/theory, and educational research while connecting with faculty and leaders in the field. The conceptual and theoretical frameworks let me put ideas into action to support the needs and development for education. I like how the interdisciplinary program has provided me with the skills and experience to apply business solutions and research design to investigate issues facing higher education.
Social media use is one of many methods to create interaction and encourage participation at our higher education institutions. It is often organic and grassroots, which allows the campus community to participate without the support and resources of any institution. Higher education institutions need to consider the importance of engaging our learners in both social media and facilitating the development of digital literacy among our student population. There are significant impacts to helping students make connections between their theoretical and applied learning experiences on campus.
Social media can be utilized beyond student recruitment and marketing, as a growing number of institutions are utilizing the social web for community engagement, mentoring, and supporting the academic and student development. A cross-disciplinary approach to program planning and curriculum design is the perfect partnership for student development and academic affairs. Social media can support outside the silo communication, collaborative student mentoring programs, academic to professional career transitions, knowledge sharing opportunities, and enhance traditional, online and blended learning environments. I think student experiences that thread scholarly involvement and campus activities have a greater potential to encourage students to make connections between their personal and professional development.
Last semester, my #UGST first year seminar class shared their career/major exploration as they blogged and tweeted their journey. It was amazing to challenge and engage my students to use social media tools in a different way than they were used to. My learners used the social web to plan study sessions, create presentations, explore campus resources, and teach/learn from one another as they transitioned into their first year at college. More importantly, my students realized the potential of social media tools to help form their own learning community and network that would support their growth beyond our class and the academic semester. Blogging and tweeting gave my students a new way to find their voice, and express themselves as they figure out their direction and purpose for college. I appreciated following their digital narratives, learning from their stories, and seeing them grow over the course of the semester in their writing and personal reflections.
I would not say I’m “addicted” to social media—I think of social media as a way I work, connect, and communicate. The social web affords me opportunities to learn, share, and interact with a number of friends, family, and colleagues. I’m pretty content with my digital engagement, and I try to be purposeful with how I use social media. I am a frequent social media flyer as I am in these spaces for personal, professional, and learning needs; however, I do try to balance my social media use by taking a tech-cation to unplug every now and then.
One of my biggest challenges is the label “expert” and my association with technology. I consider myself knowledgeable, but I know that there is much more to learn. I think that there are limitations with classifying oneself as an expert (a.k.a. Sherpa, guru, ninja or other) when it comes to technology. There is a growing community of professionals and faculty who are engaged in the topic and who have advanced my personal learning network (PLN). One great thing about the field of technology and learning is that it is always evolving and changing at a glacial speed. I think it is critical that we cultivate digital wisdom and intellectual curiosity with how we engage and interact with technology. I much prefer to hold the title as on-going learner than expert any day. As Denis Waitley (1995) said it best, “You must continue to gain expertise, but avoid thinking like an expert” (p. 14).
I have shared reasons why I blog and a bit about #MyTwitterStory; however, the bottom line to why I do both is to learn and connect to others. New learning environments and networks allow higher education students, professionals, and faculty to connect, curate, and collaborate beyond on our individual college campuses and across our varied disciplines. It is exciting to see how online networks afford new joiners in the field of student development, academic affairs, and instruction to access information, contribute to the conversation, and enrich the work we do in higher education.
Much to my surprise, I have learned a great deal from tweeting and blogging. I started blogging to reflect, document, and share what is happening. Blogging and tweeting have provided me with new digital platforms to share stories, experiences, and more. I have gained the opportunity to meet friends, initiate new projects, collaborate with colleagues, challenge my students, develop professionally, travel to new places, and explore new perspectives.
I think universities and colleges can leverage the impact of social media for involvement and community development by modeling effective use and practices on campus. A growing number of students, instructors, and staff are currently tapping into social media resources at our institutions, and universal sharing of these innovations and applications would be advantageous for the field of student develop to grow. I would encourage those in the social media swimming pool to invite others to jump in by discussing suggested practices, offering effective guidance, and supporting social media use on a greater scale.
There are a growing number of higher education institutions who are slowly embracing the potential of social media spaces on campus. It’s great when educational institutions highlight and showcase how social media are being used on campus. For example, the University of North Texas started a social media directory, and we share the core social media beliefs for how our campus community can use it well. Social media have the ability to share our students’ experiences, staff developments, and other activities in a multimedia platform. By sharing the research and involvement on campus in a social format, institutions encourage the campus community to dialogue, respond, and interact.
As social media use is more prevalent in higher education, there a growing number of institutions need to consider guidelines and suggested practices for using the social web. Over the past few years, I have shared some suggested social media policies and strategies that organizations have developed, and recently shared helpful suggestions to guide educators—but really the “etiquette” or effective personal use is rarely shared.
Beyond a laundry list of recommendations, I think the best piece of advice for colleagues and students is for them to ask—how does this social media tool/platform best support my learning objectives or professional/personal goals? Social media platforms are the instruments, and we are the musicians. What sort of music do you want to play? Do you have to have a bunch of social media instruments to accomplish your goals? I think it is important to consider the selection of social media platforms and where you will be present online. You need to meet your needs and develop your own social media plan that allows you to be accessible, active, and authentic in these social, online environments. Think about how your personal learning network can share knowledge and work for you. At the end of the day, the term social media has the word social in it for a reason. Get involved, have fun, share, and explore the social web.
Waitley, D. (1995). Empires of the mind: Lessons to lead and succeed in a knowledge-based world. New York: HarperCollins.
Watch Laura Pasquini’s Hangout on the Institute web page.