Reflections on the 2009 ResNet Symposium: Part 2

Kevin presenting at the 2009 ResNet SymposiumThe next session that I “attended” was the program I presented on Monday morning.  The program was entitled Playing Well With Others: Understanding ResLife, Housing, and Student Affairs.  Its abstract:

ResNet professionals work hand-in-hand with residence life, housing, and student affairs professionals. These professions share common histories, traditions, and professional and personal cultures. Learning about these professions and their cultures, particularly their specific histories and relationships with technology, will make your work easier, more efficient, and more effective. Attendees will learn how to interact with, collaborate with, and better understand these non-IT professionals.

The program was relatively well-attended and it seemed to go pretty well.  I left a lot of time for questions and discussion and the amount of time I left seemed just right.  I could tell that some of the attendees were a bit bored but I know that this topic isn’t one that speaks to all of the ResNet Symposium attendees, particularly those who are more focused on technical issues such as network management. But it’s important and often overlooked.

I believe that not only are there different personalities attracted to technology and student affairs but that the two groups have very different histories and cultures.  For these two groups to work well together, they should have some understanding of the history and culture of the other group, something that many successful professionals pick up on informally and through hard-earned experience if not through more direct training and education.  This program spoke to the technology professionals, introducing student affairs to technology professionals.  (In part spurred by a question asked by an attendee at my program, I’m currently working with several other members of NASPA’s Technology Knowledge Community to put together a program that does the opposite: presenting the culture and history of technology professionals to student affairs professionals so they can more effectively collaborate.)

The Board of Directors listens to comments and questions at the ResNet 2009 Town Hall MeetingThe second event on Monday was the Town Hall Meeting.  Dee Childs stepped down as President and handed over her duties to Sheila Crowe.  A few other positions were shuffled around before I was handed the floor to give a brief plug for the RARG, the symposium’s research arm.  Afterward, the meeting was devoted to discussing the future of the symposium with questions and comments being taken from the floor.  I had hoped this would be an expansive discussion but the entire conversation focused on whether or not there should be a membership fee.  I really didn’t understand or follow the discussion, particularly as it seemed to go round in circles with no firm conclusion or consensus. The proposed “membership fee” seems to be an ill-defined solution in search of a problem.

The remainder of the symposium was dedicated to the vendor fair, t-shirt exchange, and closing ceremony/dinner.  They all went over very well and were enjoyable.

I wonder about the longevity of this organization and its annual event.  Attendance was down significantly this year and while that is probably largely reflective of the economy I don’t see that (the lower attendance or the economy) changing in the next year or two.  Moreover, now that many of the bigger challenges of residential computer networking have been solved (standards are more developed, equipment is more prevalent and standardized, successful support models are in place and easily copied and modified, etc.) I’m not sure that the event as it exists has enough to offer attendees, particularly newcomers.  Much of the draw seems to be based on friendship and community, conditions that are difficult to advertise and extend to those who have not attended multiple times and become familiar with those involved in the event.  I believe that the ResNet Symposium must shift or widen its focus, perhaps taking as its purview a broader view of student technology support and student supervision, if it is to remain relevant and viable.

Reflections on the 2009 ResNet Symposium: Part 1

A few weeks ago I attended and presented at the 2009 ResNet Symposium. Held at St. Cloud State University in Saint Cloud, Minnesota from June 26 through June 30, the symposium was smaller than in previous years with only 134 registered attendees. However, the programs, activities, and interaction were all wonderful, interesting, and useful so the lower number of attendees didn’t seem to significantly hurt or change the nature of the conference.

I took detailed notes for most of the sessions I attended but I feel that too much time has passed for me to write detailed descriptions of each session.  I like to do that right away to help me reflect on what I learned.  But this time around I made more of an effort to socialize, network, and enjoy time with my colleagues and friends so I spent more of my time doing that and less time on my computer engaged in solitary activity.  Of course, having my own presentation on the last day of the conference and spending time each night to continue preparing for it also significantly impinged on the amount of time available for reflection and writing.

As I become more experienced and professionally mature, I find my interests and ideas changing.  Those changing interests led me to pay more attention this year to trying to ascertain the maturity of the programs and services represented at this year’s conference.  In particular, I was interested in seeing (a) the maturity of the assessment activities carried out by ResNet programs and (b) the levels of strategic planning and how well those plans are integrated with other plans (campus-wide, divisional, etc.).  In general, it seems that even the most mature of the programs represented at this conference are still in a relatively early stage of performing assessment as they are still heavily rooted in measuring opinion and input/output (number and type of computers, number and frequency of computer lab logins, amount of bandwidth consumed, etc.).  Learning outcomes seems to have not penetrated to many of these programs, perhaps because many seem to see themselves primarily as service centers with minor auxiliary educational responsibilities.  On the strategic planning side, it’s hard to gauge the level of depth and integration of these programs’ plans given the focus of many of these programs and the interests of the participants.

Brief reflections on some of the specific sessions I attended:

  1. Keynote address: Leading Geeks

    Paul Glenn, Computer World columnist and author of How to Manage and Lead People Who Deliver Technology presented the keynote address at 9:00 a.m. on Saturday. His talk focused on explaining how “geeks” are different from other people and how to lead geeks in an organization. I’ve become a complete academic snob so I didn’t really enjoy this talk as the depth of his research was very shallow. Luckily, much of what he said is relatively close to what the real research says (yes, there is actual research into the social and cultural phenomenon of “geeks” … and “nerds”). If you’re interested in learning more about Glenn’s thoughts about leading geeks, he maintains a website at leadinggeeks.com.

  2. Session 1: From Labs to Learning Space: Enabling Student Use of Technology

    Beth McCullough, Learning Spaces Manager for Stanford’s Academic Computing group, led a practical discussion of learning space concerns. Much of her discussion focused on her attempts to maintain and rehabilitate computer labs in Stanford residence halls. I greatly liked how much of her presentation and the decisions she has made are tied to data collected from and about Stanford residents as too often we make decisions in a void (see above regarding the current state of assessment in most ResNet shops). The most interesting discussion related to working with housing professionals in understanding and trying to reconceptualize how they understand (and use and fund and label and maintain and…) study spaces that happen to have computers.

  3. Session 2: Strategic Planning: Transforming Ideas Into Reality

    The second session I attended was presented by my good friend from Northern Illinois University, Jan Gerenstein. Jan is an Associate Director in their housing department and a former colleague in the ResNet Applied Research Group (RARG). She discussed with us how her group – Residential Technology – is participating in and integrating themselves into their division’s strategic planning process. This was a very interesting session for me as I strongly suspect that it would have been very different if Jan’s group were housed in a technology division instead of student affairs. Based on several years of observation, the cultural differences between these two groups – ResNet operations housed in central IT vs. those in housing – are clear (a topic that was the basis for my own program at this year’s ResNet Symposium and a potential program for NASPA’s 2010 conference). But I wonder if the different planning and assessment skills and emphases and driving these two groups farther away in terms of their goals and services. The reason why we ask about the program’s parent group (central IT, housing, etc.) on the ResNet surveys is because we – or at least I – strongly believe this to be one of the key lens through which we can and should examine and understand residential computing.

  4. Session 3: Millennial Misconceptions: How to Work Successfully with Generation X

    I didn’t take very many notes during this session. Karen McRitchie of Grinnell College did a great job with this program but I struggle mightily with programs that seem to arbitrarily lump together so many people and draw conclusions about those people from limited and flawed data (is my bias and academic snobbery showing?). During my darkest, bleakest moments in these sessions, I want to bludgeon Howe and Strauss with their own book. Karen was very complimentary of the students with whom she works and I was very happy that this was explicitly not a session that bemoaned the fate of the world today with Generation X taking the helm. I was most interested in this session as it closely mirrors so many (so many!) programs at student affairs conferences I’ve attended.

  5. Session 4: Adventures in Cyber Security: Tufts and Yale

    Judi Renni from Tufts and Loriann Higashi from Yale are ResNet old timers and they presented a wonderfully entertaining and informative session describing their latest efforts at getting students interested in and aware of better security practices. Unlike most ResNet Symposium programs, this one was not videotaped; the presenters showed us several videos that made fair use of copyrighted material and they (and their lawyers) didn’t want those videos to be recorded and distributed. Judi and Lori also took advantage of the privacy offered their session by sharing with us frank (but not disrespectful, disparaging, or unprofessional!) evaluations of their entire processes from start to finish. We very much appreciated their honesty, particularly when they were brave enough to share with us their challenges and failures. Some of the Tufts materials can be viewed online as can the Yale materials.

SIGUCCS Web 2.0 Preconference Worskhop

Yesterday afternoon, I presented a 3-hour pre-conference workshop at this year’s SIGUCCS fall conference in Portland, Oregon. The conference is a rather small one with about 350 participants and it focuses on IT support in higher education. My workshop was entitled “Web 2.0: Social Software Foundations and Implications;” for this audience I think that my session fell more into the “professional development” category than the “help me solve an immediate problem” category. Attendance was light (9 signed up; 8 attended) but I know that my approach is a bit “out there” for this audience. There aren’t many workshops or programs at this and similar conferences that are as heavy on theory and history as mine but I view those as incredibly important and necessary, particularly in the context of pre-conference workshops as many of those are explicitly devoted to professional development topics.

The PowerPoint slides from the workshop can be found here. My speaker notes, good and bad, are there too. I removed the videos from the file due to both copyright concerns and to keep the file size manageable. The file is still a bit large (7.3 mb) probably because there are 70 slides and some of them have large images culled from Flickr. Of course, the original content I developed for the workshop is all available under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 United States License (I forgot to include that in the actual session) so if you’d like to use this for non-profit work then you’re free to do so.

The content of the workshop was broken into 3 sections:

  1. Web 2.0: We discussed common perceptions of Web 2.0 and then worked to come to a common definition of Web 2.0. We then compared our ideas with those of Tim O’Reilly. I then presented John Suler’s ideas about Online Disinhibition as important ideas in understanding the draw and success of Web 2.0 tools.
  2. Social Network Sites (SNSes): This section was an update and compression of a pre-conference session I presented last year at ResNet. This time, however, we had several new pieces of research upon which to draw: boyd and Ellison’s JCMC article Social Network Sites: Definition, history, and scholarship and the book Youth, Identity, and Digital Media, particularly boyd’s chapter. Older research that is still informative and used in this section of my workshop includes Brett Bumgarner’s research (first an undergraduate thesis and now a First Monday article) and Matthew Vanden Boogart’s 2006 Master’s thesis.
  3. Technical Foundation and Examples: The final section was an attempt to extract some technical foundations from the previous discussions and present some examples. I’m afraid this section was the weakest of the three, particularly the “technical” part. The examples are okay and I know that attendees here at SIGUCCS will have the opportunity to see many more examples of much more recent vintage at presentations here at the conference. Some of the examples were drawn from NASPA’s Tech Tools program.

The pre-conference workshop itself went well. Although the group was small the discussions were great and we all interacted very well. It was particularly interesting that in this small group over one-third of the participants were from countries other than the United States; one attendee was Canadian and two were Norwegian. I felt bad that my perspective (shaped by my experiences, education, and attention) was so American but our Canadian and Norwegian colleagues were fantastic in helping us out and sharing their experiences and perspectives.

I’m hanging out in Portland for the next few days and attending some of the programs here at SIGUCCS in between reading, writing, and other classwork (no sight-seeing for me unless those sights are in or right next to the hotel). The topics of discussion here at SIGUCCS are not challenges I face in my current position but I am about to start performing some research on full-time higher ed staff who supervise student employees so there is still a lot here for me to pick up and absorb.

First Amendment and Online Issues in Higher Education Webinar

NASPA and ASJA (the Association for Student Judicial Affairs) are presenting a webinar in October entitled “The First Amendment and Online Issues in Higher Education.”  The abstract:

College and university student use of online technologies and forums can present challenges for student affairs administrators at every level.  The expanding terrain of cyberspace brings forth questions about student conduct, attitudes and freedoms in online forums such as social networks.  Participants of this Webinar will explore how the law applies to administrators monitoring and responding to online student misconduct.

The event is scheduled for October 10 from 1:30 to 3:00 Eastern.  More info, including pricing, can be found on NASPA’s website.

I’m disappointed that the webinar costs as much as it does (early registration would cost me $75 as a student member of NASPA; that’s $75 for an hour-and-a-half webinar!) but I might try to fit this into my schedule and budget.  I would be interested not only in what the presenters have to say about the law but also in what they choose to discuss as a measure of what technology and legal issues are important to student affairs and higher education.

NASPA Tech Tools Done and Open to Everyone

I know that I’ve been neglecting this blog for quite some time.  I’ve spent my time blogging over at the NASPA Tech Tools program.  That program is now formally completed so my time and attention will now swing back over to this blog.

More importantly, we’ve opened up all of the material in that program (an 8-week series of blog posts introducing different technologies to student affairs professionals) to everyone; it was previously limited to NASPA members.  All of the original content is licensed under a Creative Commons license so we hope that others will be able to save time and energy by reusing some of the content we developed.

Overall, I am very pleased with how the program turned out.  I am most pleased with the support we received from NASPA throughout the entire program.  The format is a new approach for NASPA and I don’t know if it will be tried for other content but it seemed to make the most sense for this content, particularly as using a blog to present the material was a visible and ongoing demonstration of one of the technologies introduced.  It also fed right into other technologies we discussed such as RSS, tagging and folksonomies, and videos (God bless Lee LeFever and his “… in Plain English” videos!).  NASPA was also completely open when we told them that we wanted to register a new domain name and hosted service.  I was a bit apprehensive to ask to do that but the technical requirements dictated that approach.  It was the right move as it not only allowed us to easily conduct this program (mad props to Christina Dulude who wrote the custom WordPress plugin that made the blog accessible only to logged-in NASPA members!) but it also gives the Technology Knowledge Community a platform for continued experimentation.

I am also very pleased with the content and how it all turned out.  I am particularly fond of how we covered blogs and RSS and I hope participants got a lot out of those two topics as they seem to be the ones that can most immediately make their jobs and lives easier and more interesting.  There were some topics that were more difficult than others to cover because they’re a bit hard to cover in just one or two blog posts.  And, of course, there are topics that we couldn’t cover during the program.  I dearly wish we could have found some way to look at mobile technologies.  I also wish we could have spent more time exploring the cultural changes intertwined with many of these technologies.

In terms of how popular the program was, Awstats and Google Analytics both tell me that there were only a few hundred unique visitors.  I’m curious to see how and if that will change now that non-NASPA members can access the content.  And even “just a few hundred” participants is still a good turnout for such a unique kind of program and larger than many other programs!

More Online Summer Professional Development

Another online summer development opportunity: StudentAffairs.com’s “Face the Facts: Online Communities Are the Way College Students Communicate” begins next week. Registration closes soon so if you’re interested you need to jump on this! I don’t know the instructor (Maureen McGuinness Clouse at the University of North Texas) but the topic sounds very interesting and pertinent. I know that we here at NSSE spend a lot of time talking about and pondering (and occasionally worrying about) how effectively institutions are communicating with students, particularly using multiple media and electronic tools.

Today also marks the launch of NASPA’s Tech Tools. If you’re a NASPA member, please feel free to log in and participate in this 2-month program. If you’re not a NASPA member, we’ll be opening the content up to everyone at the conclusion of the program. It’s all being licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike license so you can reuse the content at your own institution or in your own (non-profit) educational programs.

Two Upcoming Online Student Affairs Technology Educational Programs

Over the course of the next few months, both major student affairs professional organizations will be offering online training/education about technology.

ACPA and ResLife.Net are hosting a three week course titled “Contemporary Technology Issues for Student Affairs Professionals.” It will focus on online social networks, copyright, and administrative efficiency. The program is open to non-members although the price is higher ($150 for regular ACPA Members, $75 for student members, and $175 for non-members). The course sponsored and endorsed by ACPA’s Commission for Housing and Residential Life.

NASPA is presenting a much longer and free program titled “Tech Tools for Student Affairs Professionals.” The eight-week program scheduled during June and July will cover: blogs; photos and images; RSS and newsreaders; tagging and folksnomies; wikis, podcasts, video, and audio; online applications and tools; and social networking. Each topic will be covered using 2-3 blog posts with lively and practical examples and exercises. Participation in this program is free and open to all NASPA members; we plan to open the entire contents of the program to non-members once the program has run its course. We also plan to release the material under a license/copyright that will allow others to reuse the content on their own campuses and in their own organizations. The program is being presented and organized by the NASPA Technology Knowledge Community.

2008 ACPA Technology-related Presentations

Although many of my co-workers will be attending ACPA’s Annual Convention next week in Atlanta, I will be staying here in Bloomington to hold down the fort. But I’ve looked at the conference program and it looks quite nice. Each of the past two years, NASPA’s Technology Knowledge Community has compiled a listing of technology-related programs for the NASPA conference. I’m not sure if it would be appropriate to compile such a list for the ACPA conference and place it on the NASPA Web site so here’s a similar list of technology-related programs for any who are lucky enough to attend ACPA’s conference:

I hope to be able to contact the presenters of these programs in a few weeks after the dust has settled after the conference to get more information from them about their program and how well it was received. If you are planning to attend any of these programs, I’d love to hear from you afterwards, too!

2008 NASPA Conference: Technology in Student Affairs & Higher Education Master’s Degree Curriculum

The first program I attended on Tuesday that had a strong technology focus was a presentation of original research into the technology components of student affairs Master’s programs. The program was entitled “Technology in Student Affairs & Higher Education Master’s Degree Curriculum” and it was presented by two persons from Hillsborough Community College and one from the University of South Florida. It led to significant discussion of the topic among a very diverse group of attendees; as with many programs, the discussion itself was of a high enough quality that it was worth attending the program for the discussion alone.

The presenters began by citing some facts from large national surveys and research that attempted to measure the prevalence of technology use in America. The researchers cited these facts to attempt to establish the importance of technology literacy. I think they would have been better off skipping it as this audience didn’t need to be convinced and the time could have been better spent on their original research and related discussion.

The research they next cited, related to student affairs preparation programs and their priorities and effectiveness as it relates to technology, was much more appropriate and effective. For example, in his 2006 article Waple reported that of the 28 skills and competencies identified, “Use of microcomputers in Higher Education” was ranked by respondents as the 7th most important skill or competency but also the one in which they gained the least competency in their Master’s program. The presenters also briefly discussed the role of the CAS standards, particularly the fact that the only mention the standards make of technology (outside of distance education) is in relation to ensuring faculty have adequate technical support and resources.

The original research they conducted seemed to have two aims: explore the prevalence of technology in the Master’s curriculum and begin to explain those findings. To accomplish this, they employed two methods. First, they looked at the available Master’s programs and their publicly-published curricula. Second, they administered a brief web-based survey to faculty in those programs to see if their responses would match with their publicly-published curricula and ask why technology is or is not integrated into the curriculum.

150 programs were included in their research. Of those 150 programs, the review of publicly-available information indicated that only 5 programs require students to take a technology-related course in the major with other programs providing an elective course in the major or addressing the topic in other courses. The majority of the programs either do not address the topic in their publicly-available information or only address the topic through elective coursework.

The survey results largely supported the review of publicly-available information. The most interesting information came from the question that asked the faculty to explain the rationale for the inclusion or exclusion of technology-related coursework in their program. Those who include the material expressed that technology competency is simply required for their graduates to become effective professionals. Those who do not include the material seemed to believe that there simply isn’t any room in the curriculum for this “additional” topic. The presenters wondered aloud if some of these responses may indicate resistance to the idea of including technology in the curriculum.

The researchers presented several sets of recommendations to address this topic. Of course, “conduct more research” was among their recommendations. Also included was a listing of recommended knowledge and skills that Master’s students should gain or be made knowledgeable of through their graduate work. The list of specific skills generated significant discussion among the audience members and presenters as there always exists a tension between teaching specific skills  that may quickly become out-of-date and more generalized foundational knowledge that may last much longer but be more difficult to teach and understand.

One audience member explained that he sees three different suites of skills that need to be addressed:

  1. Practical use of technology (for practitioners)
  2. Management of IT as a resource
  3. Student use of technology and its impact on student development

Several current Master’s students in the audience also discussed their viewpoints with one expressing how difficult it is to be the youngest professional in the office with the natural expectation that she is the most tech-savvy. Another expressed how it has difficult to map his desired skillset, including competency with technology, onto the course offerings at his institution.

One touchstone referenced throughout the presentation and discussions was Prensky’s concept of digital natives and digital immigrants (I recommend reading Henry Jenkins’ criticism of Prensky; it also includes several informative links to both the Prensky’s original formulation and other discussions of it). One of the most powerful assertions made by an audience member is that student affairs faculty will always be digital immigrants, at best, given their personalities and interests (in the interests of full disclosure, it was Will Barratt who made the assertion during the presentation, the same person who wrote that article).

The final point made by the presenters is a very powerful one: If we believe that technology competency is a necessary skill for student affairs professionals (and the literature seems to indicate that we do) AND we’re not teaching that competency in our Master’s programs (and this research seems to indicate that we aren’t), then how do we expect new professionals to acquire this competency? Are they expected to arrive at grad school with it? Learn on their own time? Or is this simply a glaring hole, a mismatch between our expectations and reality?

I asked the presenters if they would be willing to publish or share the results of their research in a more widely-available format, particularly the results of their survey of publicly-available information. I am hopeful they will do this as it would be a very valuable resource and I hope to see them publishing the results of their work soon. It’s interesting, informative, and very important to the future of the profession.

2008 NASPA Conference: Facebook, Blogs, and Other Electronic Communication: How Students Construct Learning Environments through Social Networking Sites

The final technology-related program I attended on Monday was entitled “Facebook, Blogs, and Other Electronic Communication: How Students Construct Learning Environments through Social Networking Sites” and it was an extremely well-attended session; every seat was filled with some people standing in the back and I would guess there were over a hundred attendees. The presentation focused on survey results from the University of Michigan that asked Michigan students about their use of tools such as Facebook and blogs. The PowerPoint file for the presentation can be found on their Web site.

The general tone of the presentation – this is what our students are doing and we must be aware of its many effects instead of being fearful or controlling – is the right message. That we are still having to work to get that message out is disappointing but at least it seems to be getting easier to get that message out.

The presenters began by discussing CIRP data specific to Michigan students but they quickly moved on to data specific to their original research. I refer readers to the PowerPoint linked in the first paragraph for all of the specific data points.

The major findings of their research into students’ use of online communities generally echo the findings of other researchers who have focused on college students’ use of Facebook. In particular, they discovered that the top two activities of respondents to their surveys were messaging people they know and viewing profiles of people they know. The researchers further asserted that the two areas most impacted by online communities is community and identity development. They arrived at these conclusions by navigating and using multiple frameworks, including Tinto’s persistence theories and a community psychology perspective. Other specific results of the UM surveys also support or are very similar to others’ findings that one of the primary uses of online communities is for keeping in touch with high school friends.

Despite the prominent use of online communities by respondents to form and maintain social connections, the respondents largely disagreed with statements that implied or outright stated that it would be more difficult to meet new people or stay connected without online communities. These questions were discussed in the context of negating the perception that use of or participating in online communities detracts from or takes the place of face-to-face communication.

Not all of the questions UM asked on their surveys focused on online communities. They also asked about blogging and media-sharing communities, including video- and photo-sharing communities. These results, although interesting and informative, generated no discussion.

The researchers then discussed their assertion that use of online communities ties in with identity development, specifically Chickering’s “developing autonomy” and “establishing identity” vectors. This is similar to qualitative research performed by five IU Master’s students done a couple of years ago analyzing the interplay of Facebook use with Chickering’s “developing mature interpersonal relationships” vector. Similar to the IU results, the Michigan results did not appear to support the tie between online community use and participation and Chickering’s vectors.

These results seem counterintuitive to me, particularly in the case of the UM results related to identity. In particular, it seems that if the presentation accurately reflects the UM survey then there are some pretty serious methodological issues. Self-identity is much more complex than simply asking someone if you “believe who you are is reflected in your [Facebook] profile” or if “by using online communities I can better express myself.” I’m not even convinced that exploratory research in this area on these topics can be adequately done using surveys. They seem to be topics that require personal interaction – interviews, focus groups, etc. – to capture and explore the intricacies and ambiguities of human interaction and identity development.

Throughout the presentation, the presenters addressed issues of how and whether administrators should use Facebook. They recommended that administrators use peer educators in many cases rather than creating Facebook profiles and using those profiles to seek out and connect with students. Similar to others who have made recommendations regarding administrator use of Facebook, the UM presenters recommended that administrators only form online relationships with students when the students initiate them. Further, they insisted that administrators view Facebook tools such as groups, events, and fan pages as complementary tools to use alongside other tools such as Web pages. Much of the discussion after the formal presentation during the question-and-answer session focused on those Facebook tools.

Another question from the audience asked about the advertising in Facebook and how the UM administration viewed the advertising in relation to official and unofficial UM use of Facebook and Facebook tools. They are not happy with the advertisements but it’s out of their control. The question, however, was very insightful and indicative of the kinds of questions and concerns we should all be exploring as we move forward with commercial tools and environments.

Others described their experiences on their campus and with their students. One described how students on his campus viewed as “cool” compared to other administrators because of his use of Facebook. Another described how students on his campus attacked, defended, and then discussed policy changes made by campus administrators.

When one audience member asked about the danger of students creating unofficial groups or fan pages misrepresenting the university, other audience members replied by advising against creating new policies aimed specifically at Facebook. One audience member reminded the original questioner that existing policies almost certainly covered such a situation. Other audience members suggested that a high level of control over students’ use of Facebook is impossible.

Other audience members discussed using Facebook groups for and during new student orientation. One use is to create Facebook groups for each orientation group well before the actual on-campus orientation session. Discussion questions were created for each group were posted along with events.

The session was packed to the gills and there was a ton of excellent discussion after the formal presentation. Other topics of discussion not fully documented here included one anecdote about a conduct case involving harassment on Second Life, (positive and negative) use of Facebook to select roommates, and education of students about their profiles and how others view them.

The lack of methodological details makes it very hard to evaluate the quality of the original research.  In particular, the discussion was couched in the language of inference where the responses and characteristics of the respondents were assumed to reflect those of the entire population. Without knowing the particulars of the methodology, it’s impossible to evaluate if this can be done with the results of these surveys.

On the one hand, it was somewhat disappointing that some of the questions during the session were extremely basic; I had hoped that we had gotten past that point already. However, many of the questions and observations were very interesting and insightful. More importantly, the answers to the questions from both the presenters and audience members were often right on mark and consistent with current research. Despite the problems with their research, these researchers are on the right track.