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Rey Junco, Lock Haven University

Editor’s Note: Rey will be the opening Keynote Speaker at our Annual Conference in Orlando in October.

Rey Junco.jpgI am always interested in trying new things, especially in the domains of technology and education.  That's why, when I agreed to write this article, I thought I'd try writing it completely on an iPad. I really don't know what that’s going to be like; however, I'm willing to give it a shot. And that idea segues nicely into the major point I'd like to make: don't be afraid to experiment with new ways of using technology and social media in educationally relevant ways.

 

My research focuses on using emerging technologies to help engage students and enhance their success in higher education. Some people who learn about my research before meeting me think I'm going to be a digital evangelist. On the contrary; I prefer to be engaged with my students in realspace ( i.e., the classroom) and realtime. That being said, I am interested in meeting students where they are using technologies that are meaningful to them in order to enhance our face-to-face interactions.

 

In the early days of the Web, the primary activity was Web surfing—an oftentimes solitary experience. Then, we saw the development of personal publishing tools such as blogs and the interactivity of the Web blossomed. Fast forward to today, where we live in the time of the social Web. The social aspect of today's Internet is expressed through the popularity of social media and content creation websites like Twitter, Facebook©, YouTube©, flickr, Last.fm, and blogs.

 

As the Internet has expanded to reach more of the population, I have been curious about the power of technology to bring people together. I've long theorized that social networking Web site use was not a 'waste of time,” but an important vehicle for student self-expression and connection. We now have evidence that this is the case. Both Heiberger & Harper (2008) and the Higher Education Research Institute (2007) found that time spent on social networking Web sites was correlated with indices of student engagement. Additionally, Ellison, Steinfield, and Lampe (2007) discovered that Facebook© use was related to an increase in engagement with students’ supportive social ties. I've recently completed an experimental study of using Twitter in the classroom and found similar results.

 

What does this mean for advisors? I believe there are three major issues that impact the use of technology in educationally relevant ways. First, we aim to engage our students in the advising process and hope that they will remain engaged and thinking about their academic trajectory when we are not around. Consider the advisees who come to their advising meeting having 'done their homework' and present us with a list of courses they are thinking of taking that shows they have researched general education requirements, prerequisites, etc.  Now consider the students who come to their advising appointments, sit down, and wait for us to tell them what courses to take. Clearly there is a difference in engagement level between the two.

 

Second is the reality of the economic hardships faced by our institutions. Even before the current economic downturn, many of us did not have enough resources to provide quality advising to all of the students in our caseload. Advising is a resource-intensive task, yet resource allocation for advising has diminished steadily over the last decade.

 

Third, and most importantly, is our desire to meet our students 'where they are.' In today's interconnected and wired society, meeting them “where they are” means engaging our students in their online spaces. A significant barrier to this has been the gap between advisee and advisor adoption of new technologies. Luckily for us, the last few years have seen a normalization of the adoption curve, especially among older Internet users. This has led to a more general societal awareness and openness to using social media, and the institutional resistance to using social media with students has been replaced with a desire to connect with them using these technologies.

 

The convergence of these three issues presents a call to action to integrate technologies into our repertoire of effective advising tools. With the tools we have at our disposal, we can help students maintain a level of engagement with their advisors that provides an unparalleled student experience. For example, we can employ YouTube© video introductions to advisors, maintain wikis that explain the details of the advising process, and leverage Twitter feeds and Facebook© pages to broadcast important information, respond to student queries, and develop a realspace to digital relationship with our students.

 

I hope that this brief introduction to using new technologies in educationally relevant ways inspires us to be curious about how we can leverage these technologies for student good. In the same ways that we push ourselves to develop our professional advising skills, we need to push ourselves to explore fresh ways to reach students through newer virtual formats. I look forward to continuing the conversation in a few weeks in Orlando.

 

I ended up writing this article entirely on an iPad. Here is what I learned: While the iPad provided a good amount of screen real estate, it is difficult to view large portions of the document and to toggle between multiple documents. The keyboard is a bit cramped and is incredibly sensitive to the touch, making typos common. There is no keyboard feedback (the clicks and resistance provided by a traditional keyboard), and it is difficult to type if you are someone who doesn't typically look at the keyboard while typing. I suspect that as tablet devices become more popular, we'll all become more comfortable typing on virtual keyboards the same way that we have become comfortable participating in virtual social spaces. Until then, I’ll stick to my physical keyboard for writing projects longer than a paragraph.

 

Rey Junco
Associate Professor
Director of Disability Services
Department of Academic Development and Counseling
Lock Haven University

 

References

 

Ellison, N. B., Steinfield, C., & Lampe, C. (2007). The Benefits of Facebook “friends:” Social capital and college students’ use of online social network sites. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 12(4).

 

Heiberger, G., & Harper, R. (2008). Have you Facebooked Astin lately? Using technology to increase student involvement. In Junco, R., & Timm, D. M., eds. Using emerging technologies to enhance student engagement. New Directions for Student Services Issue #124. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, pp. 19-35.

 

Higher Education Research Institute (2007). College freshmen and online social networking sites. Retrieved from: www.gseis.ucla.edu/heri/PDFs/pubs/briefs/brief-091107-SocialNetworking.pdf

Cite this article using APA style as: Junco, R. (2010, September). Using emerging technologies to engage students and enhance their success. Academic Advising Today, 33(3). Retrieved from [insert url here]

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