Education Technology

Developing Digital Citizens and technology ambassadors


  • Peter Mosinskis (PS), Director of IT Strategy, CSUCI
  • Dawn Canfield (DC), Manager of User Services, CSUCI
  • Tara Hughes (TH), Interim Manager Administrative Services, CSUCI
  • Michael Mcgarry (MM), Instructional Technologist (lead), CSUCI
  • Wendy Olsen (WO), Learning & Development Specialist, CSUCI

We started with some PollEverywhere questions, who’s here, what is digital citizenship. This gauged the sentiment of the room before we got rolling.

Wendy Olsen: my role is kind of as an ambassador, training people on how to use our applications, what it means to be a responsible digital citizen, etc. so that our colleagues get what they need.

Dawn Canfield: I used to work at UCLA in a highly decentralized environment. In that kind of environment it’s easy to experience friction. At UCLA we called our group “BruinTech”

Michael Mcgarry: I train our faculty on our LMS, but that scales beyond faculty. I’m big on knocking down silos and making tech less intimidating.

Tara Hughes, I manage our campus help center and function as a liaison between many areas. Our help desk is 90% students, so I start with the student perspective.

What do you feel are the primary components in building digital citizenship?

DC: we marketed our efforts as “tech talks,” focused around a particular product, i.e. Zoom. We’d use a “speed dating” approach to teaching attendees how to use the tools, like tips, shortcuts, basic features, and so on.

WO: we made it fun and engaging. They always asked for more of these sessions, and that they’d be longer. They wanted “right away” jolts of info they could take back to work with them.

MM: we started with SMEs, but we were able to bring in previous attendees to allow THEM to talk about how they’ve been using the product(s). They often become the ambassadors for learning how to use the tools.

TH: having people who are not “technology leaders” provide feedback as ambassadors has been wonderful. We developed our training in our LMS using student feedback, which provided highly useful feedback that’s more friendly.

What are the attributes that make a great tech ambassador and how do we engage with them?

WO: reach out to your HR and development folk, academic and staff trainers first. It comes naturally to them to brainstorm on a variety of areas. Folk who do the work and use the tools on a regular basis are great candidates…especially students! Getting them to talk about tech in a fun way is effective.

Lots of questions from the audience:

  • Did you have a sponsor for the program?
  • Did you apply for an innovation grant?
  • Was this a collaboration effort across departments?
  • Are these TED talks open to students too?
  • What kind of duties/responsibilities do your student assistants have?
  • Are there any in leadership or supervisor roles (student team leads etc)?

DC: Peter and I are the only IT folk on this panel. We couldn’t do the work we do without colleagues like we have on the stage here with us.

MM: the collaborative work we do has to be done together. We have a strong culture of sharing and that’s the way it has to work, in my opinion.

TH: our re-org split areas out of IT and put them into different areas like HR and academic affairs. This is not a bad thing though…it’s allowed IT to be invited to the table in contexts that they may not have been involved in before.

We use our students as our first line of support. A lot of what we do isn’t necessarily scripted, so we really work to develop critical thinking skills. I have a majority female student staff, and this has helped to develop them into careers that they might not have considered previously.

MM: students are the ones we can count on to provide brutal feedback (laughter at this). Our SAs work with faculty all day, and their diverse backgrounds keeps us grounded as we work with faculty.

DC: anyone can come to our talks! We allow folk to do product reviews like new computers, printers, mobile devices, and so on.

MM: we also developed “EchoTech,” a self-paced course in the LMS on how to use the different products we use. We did ones on DropBox and Zoom, Google Docs, with more on the way.

TH: when Dawn came, we developed the EchoTech newsletter, which we send out monthly, including updates, outages, training, and more.

How do we ID technologies to include in this?

DC: free or freely available tools are the ones I wanted to focus on.

MM: the tools that are focused on the widest number of people, like the LMS. We prefer to over-communicate.

TH: for Zoom, our academic advising has opened up scheduling.

WO: online/on-demand needs to be backed up by in-person training.

If you were interested in starting up a digital citizenship program, what’s the one thing you’d do?

DC: you’re already doing it, so keep doing it!

MM: take a look at the people you have on campus and the champions you can leverage to push further across campus beyond your core team.

TH: most of us have SAs, even if we don’t directly oversee them. Look for students from a range of different majors, and create a pathway for diversifying your team.

WO: keep up on training opportunities, consider what digital citizenship means. Say it out loud: “you can be a tech ambassador yourself!”

Q: How did you go about marketing the tech talks?

DC & WO: we have campus-wide staff development communications; we’ve also done flyers and web marketing. Pictures were helpful in getting the message out. We’ve also had some vendor sponsorship.

By Paul Schantz

CSUN Director of Web & Technology Services, Student Affairs. husband, father, gamer, part time aviator, fitness enthusiast, Apple fan, and iguana wrangler.

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