Managing Students in the Tech Age Part 3

Posted by on Sep 12, 2013 in News | No Comments

Managing Student Programmers in The Tech Generation

Managing students and programming for students in this techno-age poses as many problems as it provides opportunities.  Technology is a blessing and a curse…while we can connect with more people faster than ever, we lose that necessary dialectical way of reading and understanding each other; looking people in the eye and communicating.  Just as the kind of short-hand communication and ease of gathering and editing information contributes in the classroom to the focus on grades versus actual learning, in day to day interactions, it minimizes interdependency.    Dependency on the Internet encourages academic laziness, plagiarism and a lack of credibility when relying on online sources.  In programming, it can encourage that same laziness and diminish ethical behavior in dealing with Artists and agents.

      We’ve gone (or need to go) from pushing students with a guiding hand to reeling back false confidence with a pulling hand.

The major shift for advisors and even experienced students is that many students approach their jobs with a false confidence that leads to costly mistakes.  The apparent problem is that students are making choices from questionable sources.  In the past, our role as advisors or mentors often meant empowering students through education, guidance and pushing them to risk making educated choices.  We found ourselves providing our years of experience and expertise along with a guiding hand, pushing students along until they could stand on their own.

Nowadays, many advisors are finding it necessary for that guiding hand to be firmly reeling in over-zealous or over-confident students.  Because a large percentage of students were raised on technology in a way more seasoned advisors were not, they often believe that they know more than the person managing them.  The danger is that most haven’t been through the countless number of real experiences to understand what to look for, what questions to ask, and how to really assess an artist’s appropriateness and marketability for their campus.   When you understand where you’ve been and what can go wrong, you are in a unique position to guide your students to utilize reliable resources.    Students who use the billions of sources of information on the web, with little regard to expertise or preparedness for the unique skills and education it takes for an Artist to draw and engage college audiences.

Anthropologist Ruth Benedict said “The trouble with life isn’t that there is no answer, it’s that there are so many answers.”  This has never been more true.   Providing tech-savvy students with a framework for finding the best answers and how to judge them, before we cut them loose is the greatest gift a seasoned, but not as tech-savvy advisor can give.

Students or advisors don’t have the time to educate multiple Artists every year on appropriate behavior, appropriate supporting material, and how to engage a college audience.  A knowledgeable agency spends countless hours educating and working with their artists, as well as carefully screening them from hundreds of submissions.  But more importantly, a strong agency can hold Artists accountable for things like cancellations, tardiness, inappropriate language/ flirting or alcohol/drug/tobacco use.  An Artist that stands to risk losing the support of someone driving their income will follow that agency’s rules if pushed.  That same Artist may not proffer the same respect to a student at one individual school without incentive.   Websites are a tool in searching for options, but you can see that they are not a good tool in final decision making.  Advisors need to push their students early on to forge relationships with reliable sources and focus their searches to meaningful resources.

Often advisors approach these new tech-savvy students without confidence in their own history and expertise.  An understanding of which buttons to push does not necessarily give students a magical finger on the pulse of programming for your campus, but less tech-savvy advisors often lack the confidence they need to effectively manage their own students.  They “let them go” with little guidance and fail to “reel them in” when they race forward with decisions based on questionable resources.   Certainly, a strong manager can open themselves up to learn from their students, and together, they can make infinitely smarter decisions.

The added benefit to mutual learning is that students learn best what they teach.  There are few better opportunities for growth that someone taking up a position and having to do the homework to intelligently defend it.

Finally, next week…programming ideas