Technology: seeing the good and the worrisome

Posted on December 26, 2008. Filed under: Uncategorized |

In many ways I feel like technology has been seen as a savior for higher education. It has created a new and rapidly increasing sector of distance education. Technology has lead to upgrades in the campus safety allowing students to have access to up-to-date information in a matter of minutes. It has provided administrators with effective and budget friendly tools to communicate with colleagues allowing for greater and easier  sharing of ideas and creating a world-wide learning community.

Technology has made it easier to communicate with students and provided a vastly quicker mechanism for them to find the services and people they need to succeed. Social networking sites and blogs allow admissions and new student program departments to maintain closer connections with perspective and incoming students. Online assessments have become a standard form of practice, allowing for more accurate date collection and lower costs. Podcasts, webcasts, and instant messages allow students to learn about important polices, procedures, dates, etc. from the comfort of their own residence halls, homes, or simply walking to class. It is absolutely essential for incoming student affairs professionals to be well aware and familiar with these technologies in order to ensure that they can utilize them to best help their students succeed.

With that being said, it is also important that student affairs professionals do not get into the habit of using technology simply for technology’s sake. The threat of technology overload is real and must be recognized. It is becoming hard to reach students by email and online surveys because their inboxes are flooded with mostly “Delete before reading” university emails. While it is great to have online directories and websites for every possible university office, it often takes a face-to-face meeting before any real support or services can be provided- therefore interpersonal skills will always be necessary to balance out technological tools. Webinars, list serves, online journals, etc. are wonderful tools, but professional communities will never be strong without opportunities for professionals to meet and discuss issues, challenges, and victories together. [Not to mention the eye damage from starring at the computer screen reading all those articles!]

It is also important to remember that technology creates divides among our student population. While some students are incredibly technology savvy and have access to high speed Internet, I-pods, blackberries, etc. others have neither the knowledge nor accessories to fully take advantage of these new mediums of communication. It is important that colleges recognize this disparity and make every effort to provide alternative options that allow all students to access such features or afford all students with the technology necessary to access the newest advances.


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2 Responses to “Technology: seeing the good and the worrisome”

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I think you raise an interesting point concerning access to technology. Certainly there is a level of privilege involved, as personal technology (e.g. iPhone, texting, laptops, etc.) ownership is often expensive and a luxury. This summer while interning with a study abroad program, the director and board discussed removing the public desktop computers in the program’s library and requiring students to bring their own laptops. I voiced my concerns about the idea because studying abroad is already an expensive endeavor; to require some students to buy or rent a laptop on top of the tuition and board costs may only put study abroad out of reach from those who are financially unprivileged.

I’ve seen some universities try to make technology more widely available by negotiating and offering special deals with certain computer manufactuers (though that brings up interesting concerns about “endorsing” certain products and encouraging corporate presence on campus, which we discussed briefly in Org and Admin), providing cell phones to all students, and providing free software.

Britt, I really glad that you were able to bring up the concept of technology privilege with your summer internship director and board members. I think that one of the largest challenges that we may face as student affairs professionals is deciding which technologies are absolutely essential for our students to have access to and which ones are either far too expensive for universities to provide or expect our students to own. I think that as technologies go in and out of fashion it will also be hard to decide when certain ones are so obsolete that we should no longer offer them. I think about landlines in the residence halls or even phone line internet access. Sure there are some students who don’t have cell phones or wireless computers but how long do we keep these services around? And what new amenities do we add to take their place?

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