Ease your student supervision speed bumps.

Are you a Digital Explorer, Educator or Influencer? | Foundational Technology Skills in Student Affairs

On Monday, August 24th, 2015, NASPA and ACPA released the second version of the Student Affairs Competencies. I announced these approved changed in a previous post and shared that I would be writing about each skill level (Foundational, Intermediate & Advanced) within the new Technology (Tech) competency.

The Tech competency is described as the following:

(Technology) Focuses on the use of digital tools, resources, and technologies for the advancement of student learning, development, and success as well as the improved performance of student affairs professionals. Included within this area are knowledge, skills, and dispositions that lead to the generation of digital literacy and digital citizenship within communities of students, student affairs professionals, faculty members, and colleges and universities as a whole.

To explore the entire set of competencies, they can be found both at ACPA & NASPA websites.

This post will serve to highlight the Foundational skills of technology for student affairs educators.  I explore this level through a personal lens, providing my interpretation of the competency based upon my professional experience, research and vision for the field. Others may have additional or alternative perspectives. I will do this by walking your through the foundational section of the Technology competency in a video, then offer direction for future action as well as resources.

In these next three posts I invite you to ask yourself:

Am I a digital explorer, digital educator or digital influencer?34573750_ml

I see each of these terms aligning with the three levels of the technology competency. This post will offer guidance to becoming a Digital Explorer in adopting and applying foundational skills.

As defined in the competency document, professional development with Technology addresses,

Professional growth in this competency area is marked by shifts from understanding to application as well as from application to facilitation and leadership. Intermediate and advanced level outcomes also involve a higher degree of innovativeness in the use of technology to engage students and others in learning processes.

The professional competency areas document provides some explanation to assess your level within Technology.

Assessing one’s level of proficiency for a given competency area using these three levels is a complex process. To begin with, the outcome statements are intended to be representative of the scope of the competency area, but are not exhaustive. Individuals who have met the full breadth of outcomes within a level for a given competency area should be reasonably confident that they could  demonstrate proficiency at that level. For each outcome, however, it is important to distinguish between meeting the outcome in a singular setting and mastering that outcome in multiple contexts and situations. Furthermore, it is likely that an individual may begin work on several intermediate or advanced-level outcomes before demonstrating full foundational-level proficiency for that competency area.

But let’s start at a much more basic level: is exploring technology tools something you are not naturally drawn to or currently applying into your holistic practice?

Understanding & Applying Foundational Tech Skills

Please join me exploring the 14 foundational level skills through the video below. I have listed all of these at the bottom of this post. In this video I also include resources and visual directions for how to apply the competency for Digital Explorers.

Next Steps for Digital Explorers

While the 14 items listed under the Foundational level offer direction for Digital Explorers, they are still written fairly vaguely to allow for your own interpretation. Below I simplified the seven actions I recommend you focus on in the next few months.

  1. Find a Digital Mentor. Look for someone active online and established in the profession, who appears to have found a balance of technology use in their campus role. You can have a number of digital mentors, both formally (those you ask questions) and informally (those whose technology and social media use you simply monitor).
  2. Digital Identity. Take a walk down your Digital Memory Lane. Start to write down every online presence you have had – ever. MySpace, Zanga, Twitter and Instagram. Start getting into a habit of searching for all versions of your name on Google, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc – to monitor what comes up and to ensure all accounts are the “real” you.
  3. “Digital” Terminology. There are probably a few new terms listed in the competency, such as “digital citizenship,” with which you may not be familiar. A simple Google search can serve as a resource in getting to know these terms.
  4. Google Scholar. Set up a Google Scholar alert that can send you the latest research pertaining to technology in higher education.  Use terms such as “Higher Education Technology,” “Student Affairs Social Media,” “College Students Technology Use,’ and/or “Digital Leadership.”
  5. Personal Learning Networks. Begin to observe Student Affairs Personal Learning Networks. These can be found on just about every online community; such as Facebook Groups, Twitter hashtags and even on Reddit. I shared a number of these in the video above.
  6. Campus IT. Get to know your campus IT Department. IT is more than submitting work orders. First review the organizational chart and find out if there is one member assigned specifically to student affairs. Sometime in the next two months, offer to take this person out for coffee to learn more about them and their role on campus.
  7. Departmental Online Identity.  At this point, nearly every single department on a college campus has an online presence. From websites to Twitter accounts, departments have online digital identities. However, with the face-to-face work these offices are producing, the past activity online may get forgotten about. Take one week to thoroughly review all past active posts on social media for your department, ensuring you know every page that exists (from Facebook private groups for  student organizations to department-run Instagram accounts). Review these for relevancy, accuracy and needed updates. This is also very important for your website. Every three months you should be auditing your website content. Every six months you should check all hyperlinks and switching out photos or videos.


Below are a few resources that will aid you as a Digital Explorer. These resources will be especially helpful for a student affairs educator on a new digital journey.

Association Activity

Addition websites

My past blog posts that connect with foundation skills



Here is a shortlist of suggested Digital Mentors to follow and learn from. I am purposefully including SSAOs, as well as new and mid-level professionals and faculty.

Final Thoughts

Welcome Student Affairs Digital Explorers to this new journey in technology. I hope you found this helpful as you look to apply the new Technology competency into your lives. The unique part of technology and social media is that these devices and tools stay with us whether we are in the office or on vacation.  Your next major task as you move into an Intermediate level of this competency is finding a balance in your technology use, as well as blending a personal approach of these tools with  your professional life.  

Full description of the Foundational level of Technology

• Demonstrate adaptability in the face of fast-paced technological change.
• Remain current on student and educator adoption patterns of new technologies and familiarize oneself with the purpose and functionality of those technologies.
• Troubleshoot basic software, hardware, and connectivity problems and refer more complex problems to an appropriate information technology administrator.
• Draw upon research, trend data, and environmental scanning to assess the technological readiness and needs of students, colleagues, and other educational stakeholders when infusing technology into educational programs and interventions.
• Critically assess the accuracy and quality of information gathered via technology and accurately cite electronic sources of information respecting copyright law and fair use.
• Model and promote the legal, ethical, and transparent collection, use, and securing of electronic data.
• Ensure compliance with accessible technology laws and policies.
• Demonstrate awareness of one’s digital identity and engage students in learning activities related to responsible digital communications and virtual community engagement as related to their digital reputation and identity.
•Model and promote equitable and inclusive practices by ensuring all participants in educational endeavors can access and utilize the necessary tools for success.
• Appropriately utilize social media and other digital communication and collaboration tools to market and promote advising, programming, and other learning-focused interventions and to engage students in these activities.
• Engage in personal and professional digital learning communities and personal learning networks at the local, national, and/or global level.
• Design, implement, and assess technologically-rich learning experiences for students and other stakeholders that model effective use of visual and interactive media.
• Ensure that one’s educational work with and service to students is inclusive of students participating in online and hybrid format courses and programs.
• Incorporate commonly utilized technological tools and platforms including social media and other digital communication and collaboration tools into one’s work.

ACPA − College Student Educators International & NASPA − Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education (2015).  ACPA/NASPA professional competency areas for student affairs practitioners. Washington, DC.

About Josie

I’m Dr. Josie Ahlquist—a digital engagement and leadership consultant, researcher, educator, and author. I’m passionate about helping people and organizations find purposeful ways to connect, engage, and tell their unique story. I provide consulting, executive coaching, and training for campuses, companies, and organizations that want to learn how to humanize technology tools and build effective and authentic online communities.

My blog and podcast have been recognized by EdTech Magazine, Inside Higher Ed and the Chronicle of Higher Education. My book, Digital Leadership in Higher Education, was published in 2020 and was listed as a #1 new release for college and university student life. I have been growing my consultancy since 2013 and am based in Los Angeles. When I’m not helping clients lead online, you might find me training for a triathlon, spoiling my nieces and nephews, or exploring with my husband and our rescue dogs in our new RV called Lady Hawk.

I’d love to connect! Find me on Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Facebook.

Share this post!

You may also like...

12 Days of Goodness by Doctor Josie Ahlquist.

12 Days of Goodness from 2023

As we begin to wrap up 2023, I’m counting down twelve days by celebrating and recognizing inspiring individuals and impactful projects that made this year so special.

Join me on the journey of gratitude with 12 Days of Goodness.

Read More »
National Hispanic Heritage Month. Hispanic and Latino leaders transforming higher education.

Hispanic and Latino Leaders Transforming Higher Education

In celebration of Hispanic Heritage month, I’m taking the next month to honor Hispanic and Latino leader accomplishments, share their stories, and explore their impact on their institutions and communities. I’ll be uplifting professionals on and off campus, at all levels.

Read More »
Is time up for TikTok in higher education? Here's how to develop a contingency plan, by Josie Ahlquist

Is Time Up For TikTok in Higher Education? 

At the time of writing, more than two dozen states have banned TikTok on government-issued devices and many colleges. As a business or organization that uses TikTok for marketing or communication purposes, it’s important to develop a contingency plan in case of a potential ban.

Read More »

Subscribe to my newsletter

For the latest on digital engagement and leadership and everywhere they intersect.

Rebekah Tilley

Assistant Vice President, University of Iowa Center for Advancement

Rebekah Tilley is the assistant vice president of communication and marketing for the University of Iowa Center for Advancement (UICA). In that role she supports fundraising and alumni engagement efforts for the university, including its CASE Gold winning Iowa Magazine, and serves UICA in a variety of strategic communication efforts.

Previously she was the director of strategic communication for the University of Iowa Tippie College of Business, and the director of communication for the University of Kentucky College of Law. She is a Kentucky native and a proud alum of the University of Kentucky.

Connect with Rebekah

Spark your mission on social media

Sign up for the Digital Leadership Download

The newsletter that brings the latest in digital engagement and leadership right to your inbox

Unsubscribe anytime. Read our Privacy Policy.

Sign up for the Digital Leadership Download

The newsletter that brings the latest in digital engagement and leadership right to your inbox

Unsubscribe anytime. Read our Privacy Policy.