#APM17 – Harnessing Technology for one’s own Good: Professional Learning Networks in Social Work

On 10/22/17, the last day of CSWE’s 2017 Annual Program Meeting, at 10:00 AM in the Dallas Ballroom A-2, Nancy J. Smyth, Melanie Sage, Jonathan Singer, and I are presenting about how social work educators can use technology for career-long learning.  Nancy, Melanie and I introduced the idea of professional learning networks (PLN) to a packed room at Social Work Distance Education Conference in April, and wanted to bring the practice to the #APM17 crowd.   A PLN incorporates technology-based tools and processes in a way that allows individuals to stay up-to-date and share information about current news, practice knowledge and current research findings.  We will be talking about the mechanics, advantages and disadvantages of establishing a PLN. One resources we will be sharing is our Professional Learning Network (PLN) Worksheet, which takes a social worker through the steps of creating their own PLN.  You can get your own copy here: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0ByR_E-iQH7PdT2t1WV9YYnlZV00/view?usp=sharing

You can access a copy of the presentation slides here: https://www.slideshare.net/laurelhitchcock/professional-learning-networks-for-social-work-81048022 

Here is our abstract with the learning objectives:

 By the end of the session, participants will:

  • Describe what a Professional Learning Network (PLN) is and why to use one
  • Demonstrate how to establish their own PLN and how to incorporate
  • Appreciate the role of theory in adopting technology tools for social work practice

 One of the 12 Grand Challenges for social work is Harnessing Technology for Social Good. We cannot achieve this goal unless social workers are able to harness technology for their own professional good.  Competent and ethical social work practice requires practitioners, educators and students to be lifelong learners who stay up-to-date and share information about current news, practice knowledge and the latest research findings (Council on Social Work Education, 2015; Jivanjee, Pendell, Nissen, & Goodluck, 2015; National Association of Social Workers, 2008).  While there are many strategies, one robust strategy is connecting with a network of people who share interests and information that can advance professional knowledge, skills and values. This type of network is well-established in the field of education (Richardson & Manacebelli, 2011) and is commonly referred to as a Professional Learning Network (PLN).

A PLN exists when a social worker uses social media to collect information related to professional interests, shares this information with others, and also collaborates with others on projects (Richardson & Manacebelli, 2011). For example, a social worker’s PLN might include the use of email alerts from online newspapers, blogs and scholarly journals to receive updates about child welfare research, which the social worker then shares this information with employees, colleagues or students via Twitter or a curated list on Diigo, a social bookmarking tool.

There are several advantages to online PLNs including 24/7/365 access to resources, information, consultation and referrals (Hitchcock, 2015; Michaeli, 2015); opportunities for collaboration across geographic and institutional boundaries (Chen, Ritter, Manning & Crofford, 2015; Smyth, 2016); opportunities to learn about and develop skills with established and emerging technologies; and knowing how to create and maintain their own PLNs as a way of modeling this essential skill for students and new professionals.  Additionally, the 2015 CSWE educational standards include the statement, “Social workers recognize the importance of lifelong learning and are committed to continually updating their skills to ensure they are relevant and effective” (CSWE, 2015, p. 7).

This panel will provide an introduction to PLNs for social work educators wanting to create their own network or who want to incorporate PLNs into their classroom or across a curriculum.    First, social work educators who attend this session will learn the basics of establishing a PLN that is grounded in digital literacy and the learning theories of Connectivism, Connected Learning & Peeragogy (Belshaw, 2014; Corneli, Danoff, Ricaurte, Pierce, & MacDonald, 2016; Ito et al., 2013; Seimens, 2005).  The presenters will share examples from their own PLNs as well as PLNs from other social work educators and other disciplines such as teaching, medicine, and counseling.  Second, the presenters will share example assignments and learning activities for social work courses that promote student understanding and use of personal learning networks as a tool for social work practice and lifelong learning.  Strategies for modeling PLNs across multiple courses will be discussed and numerous resources will be shared.

 References :

Chen, Y.-L., Rittner, B., Manning, A., & Crofford, R. (2015). Early Onset Schizophrenia and School Social Work. Journal of Social Work Practice, 29(3), 271–286. https://doi.org/10.1080/02650533.2015.1014328

Corneli, J., Danoff, C. J., Ricaurte, P., Pierce, C., & MacDonald, L. S. (2016). The Peeragogy Handbook. Retrieved December 6, 2016, from http://peeragogy.org

Council on Social Work Education. (2015).   Educational Policy and Accreditation Standards. Washington, DC: Author.

Belshaw, D. (2014). The Essential Elements of Digital Literacies. Retrieved from http://digitalliteraci.es/

Hitchcock, L. (2015, July 1). Personal Learning Networks for Social Workers. Retrieved from             http://www.laureliversonhitchcock.org/2015/07/01/personal-learning-networks-for-social-  workers/

Ito, M., Gutiérrez, K., Livingstone, S., Penuel, B., Rhodes, J., Salen, K., … Watkins, S. C.            (2013). Connected learning: an agenda for research and design. Irvine, CA, USA: Digital Media and Learning Research Hub. Retrieved from http://dmlhub.net/

Jivanjee, P., Pendell, K., Nissen, L., & Goodluck, C. (2015). Lifelong Learning in Social Work: A Qualitative Exploration with Practitioners, Students, and Field Instructors. Advances in Social Work, 16(2), 260–275. https://doi.org/10.18060/18407

Michaeli, D. (2015, November 15). Personal Learning Network Twitter Cheat Sheet. Retrieved  July 29, 2016, from http://www.socialwork.career/2015/11/personal-learning-network-  twitter-cheat-sheet.html

National Association of Social Workers. (2008). Code of Ethics of the National Association of  Social Workers. Retrieved from https://www.socialworkers.org/pubs/code/code.asp

Richardson, W., & Mancabelli, R. (2012). Personal Learning Networks: Using the Power of  Connections to Transform Education (3rd edition). Bloomington, IN: Solution Tree Press.

Siemens, G. (2005). Connectivism: A learning theory for the digital age. International Journal of Instructional Technology and Distance Learning, 2(1). Retrieved from     http://www.itdl.org/Journal/Jan_05/article01.htm

Smyth, N. J. (2016, October 14). Online Connections for Professional Learning. Retrieved from             https://socialworksynergy.org/author/njsmyth/

How to cite this blog post:

Smyth, N. J Hitchcock, L. I., Sage, M. &. Singer, J. (2017, October 21). #APM17Harnessing Technology for one’s own Good: Professional Learning Networks in Social Work [Blog post]. Retrieved from http://www.laureliversonhitchcock.org/2017/10/21/apm17-harnessing-technology-for-ones-own-good-professional-learning-networks-in-social-work/

Author: Laurel Hitchcock

Dr. Hitchcock served as the editor for this blog post. The author is the Guest Educator.

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