Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Let Us Be Your Guide

I was at the gym the other night, stretching in the corner after my run, when I noticed the gym trainer come in with a woman. Now, normally, I don’t take much notice of the gym trainer but my gym is small and the area where I stretch is adjacent to one of those of multipurpose Cybex gym machines. You know the kind, with the various handles that can be changed to accommodate a variety of exercises. Well, that machine was their destination and as they approached, I overheard the woman tell the gym trainer, “Thanks for showing me how to use this machine. I’ve never used one before and I didn’t want everyone to look at me funny if I did it wrong.”

Initially, I didn’t think much of this conversation. It is a new YMCA branch that opened in my neighborhood so there’s a number of people joining each week. However, as I sat down to write this post, I noticed how that experience provided a parallel to social media and online technology use. The woman, let’s call her Susan, was ready to try something new. She was new to the gym and wanted to make the most of what it had to offer; for Susan, that meant learning to use the Cybex machine even though she was a little intimidated by it. However, during this exploration she wanted someone to provide her with some guidance so she wouldn’t feel ashamed or ridiculed if she was using the machine incorrectly.

Time cover by keepthebyte (license)
When we first use social media or online technology, we probably all feel a little like Susan. I know I did when I first started using Twitter. I thought it would be a great tool for collaboration and information sharing, but I didn’t really understand it. What did it mean when a word was proceeded by a # symbol? I knew I had no interest in telling the world what I had for breakfast so what would I post, or tweet about? Who should I follow? Who would I tweet with? Can you even tweet “with” people? In other words, I wanted to know the rules and more importantly, I wanted my own “gym trainer” to guide me on its use. So I turned to my good friend, David.

David is the Digital Media Director of The Sun, an independent, ad-free monthly magazine and one aspect of his job is creating and monitoring the magazine’s use of social media. He walked me through the rules of Twitter, explained that the # symbol is called a hashtag and used for keeping up with conversation themes, encouraged me to write a bio and extolled the virtues of TweetDeck. Now I find myself a happy (though not prolific) twitter user who is learning a lot of new information through my online twitter connections and by following a few important hashtags (such as #acadv for academic advising information). I attribute much of my twitter success to his tutelage and great advice.

by mountainbread (license)
So that’s why we thought these Tuesday Tech Talks on the blog would be a good idea. We hoped that if we were willing to provide our colleagues in Region 2 with some guidance on technology and social media use, some of you might be willing to give some of them a try. As a conference committee, we’ve started the process of reaching out to you both as a group through this blog and individually by listing our social media “connect with me” options on the About page. This is your chance to be like Susan, brimming with curiosity and ready to experience and make the most out of these exciting new forms of digital collaboration and sharing. Let us be your trainer.

We know that collaboration and engagement with our colleagues is beneficial to us professionally (that’s why we attend conferences, right?) and research is just beginning to show the positive impact social media engagement can have on our students’ performance (from the NY Times: Twitter: The New Rules of Engagement).  So why should we limit these important conversations and connections to specific events? With that in mind and in keeping with our conference theme of moving forward, we hope you will join us in forging these relationships and continuing the dialogue online by commenting on posts in this blog and utilizing some of the social media tools we’ll be introducing. Through the use of these tools, we think you’ll have a more rewarding and enriching conference experience and posting a comment couldn’t be easier. Just select the “Comments” link at the bottom of a post, type in your comment and either select one of the profiles listed (if you have one) or “Name/Url” and provide your name. Let’s see who channels their inner Susan and is the first to comment, shall we?

In the weeks leading up to the conference, we’ll be featuring and explaining a variety of online technology and social media. At this point, based upon the feedback we received from the region survey that was sent out late last year, we’ll be featuring the following:
  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • Blogging
  • Online Document Sharing/Collaboration
  • Podcasts
  • Webinars
Now, that’s not enough to get us to the conference, so we’d like to hear what else you want to learn about. Leave us a note in the comments section or send us an e-mail at nacadaregion2+tuestech@gmail.com. Until next Tuesday!

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