Modeling Social Justice through Innovative, Low-Cost Textbook Options for Social Work Students

Dr. Becky Anthony

Dr. Victoria Venable

Both Dr. Victoria Venable and Dr. Becky Anthony (@becky_anthony)  and are assistant professors in the Department of Social Work at Salisbury University. In this blog post, they write about designing and self-publishing a course workbook for a generalist level basic interviewing skills practice course. They also share results from a pilot evaluation the workbook and supplemental materials.

The cost of textbooks is problematic for many students at American colleges and universities. College textbook prices have increased by 82% from 2003 to 2013 (Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2014). This economic injustice causes students to miss out on educational opportunities because they have to prioritize paying for their basic needs over textbooks. According to a 2014 study, over 65% of students reported they did not buy a textbook because the cost was too high (Student PIRGs, 2014). If students are not purchasing the book, they cannot read for class – this revelation caused us to brainstorm creative ways to engage students by lowering the cost of textbooks, in hopes of increasing their reading. As social workers, the NASW Code of Ethics asks us to challenge social injustices. We viewed the price of textbooks as a social injustice and explored options that would allow our students to better participate in their learning experience.

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Social Media Toolkit for Social Work Field Educators – Get your Free Copy!

We are pleased to announce the availability of the Social Media Toolkit for Social Work Field Educators.  This toolkit provides Field and other Social Work Educators with tools and resources to help social work students and field instructors assess, develop, and maintain an online identity for professional purposes.  There are two parts to the toolkit – an Educator’s Guide and a PowerPoint Slide Deck.  The Educator’s Guide provides directions, descriptions, and handouts related to the content of the toolkit while the Slide Deck includes pre-formatted slides with selected content for presenting n the classroom or a workshop. Content in this toolkit can be easily adapted to agency-level continuing education.

The content of this toolkit is divided into five different topics centered on how to use social media professionally as a social worker:

– Reflecting on Social Media Use in Social Work Practice
– Engaging and Self-Assessment with Social Media
– Professional Practice with Social Media
– Case Studies for Students & Field Educators
– Social Media Learning Activities for Field Education

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Teaching Technology-Mediated Practice in a Clinical MSW Program

Janet Vizina-Roubal, DSW, MSW, is an Associate Professor of Social Work at Ferris State University in the Department of Social Work. In this blog post, she writes about her inspiration for a technology-mediated practice assignment with MSW students.  Assignments like this one will be increasingly valuable for social work students preparing to use technology with clients while meeting professional and ethical practice standards such as the NASW Code of Ethics and the NASW, ABSW, CSWE & ACSW Standards for Technology in Social Work Practice. If you have questions about the assignment, you can reach Dr. Vizina-Roubal on Twitter at @jvizina.

I started teaching my first clinical MSW course the fall of 2014 with excitement and nervousness. With almost eight years of clinical experience in school social work and outpatient therapy, I had a great toolbox of practice tips to share with my students.  Adding to the excitement was the idea of creating a technology-based assignment where students could learn and practice technology-enhanced therapy skills.  Because I had completed and presented research with a colleague about the benefits of using iPhones in child welfare work, I was curious about how I could create a technology-based assignment for MSW social work students.

Clinical MSW social work classes typically rely on a vast amount of face-to-face role-plays, requiring students to play the part of client and social worker. This experiential learning is challenging, however is very effective at teaching students critical clinical skills.  I was interested in stretching this experiential learning process into role-plays for a technology-mediated learning environment, with the goal of helping students learn how to engage with clients via technology-based communication tools.    Based on this idea, I worked to structure assignments that would allow students to learn how to use technology within clinical social work.  As I embarked on this journey, I searched for curricula or assignments on how to teach online therapy along with best practices. Bewildered, I found almost nothing (Cardenas, Serrano, Flores, & De 2008). I did stumble upon research that showed promising findings that online therapy might be as effective as face-to-face therapy (Chester & Glass, 2006; Dowling & Rickwood, 2013; Holmes & Foster, 2012).  This finding legitimized my interest in pursuing this course of instruction and compelled me to develop assignments where students gained experience within online therapy; practicing as the client as well as the therapist.

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FERPA & Social Media: Thoughts for Social Work Education

Laptop computer with yellow caution tape wrapped around itWhat about FERPA?  This is one of the most common questions I hear when presenting about using social media in the classroom.  FERPA, the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, is the US federal law that protects the privacy of students’ educational record, and ensures that students have some control over their records.  Examples of what is included in an educational record at the post-secondary level include grades, transcripts, class lists, student course schedules, and student financial information.  Social work educators are often very aware of privacy and disclosure of personally identifiable information because of our practice backgrounds and the NASW Code of Ethics, so FERPA makes sense to us.  It is understood that we should abide by FERPA and our professional standards of privacy and informed consent while modelling appropriate ethical standards for our students.  However, this does not mean that social media is off-limits as an educational and professional development tool (Drake, 2014).  Rather it means that as social work educators, we can use social media with students as long as we do so in ethical and legal ways (Rodriguez, 2011).

The purpose of this post is to provide some examples and best practices for FERPA-compliant social media assignments based on my understanding and experiences, and insights from colleagues.  As with any ethical challenge, there are no black or white answers, but it is my hope that information in this post will provide insight on how social work educators can embrace the benefits of social media assignments while being mindful of the risks.  And there are many benefits to using social media as social workers such as contributing to public conversations, building relationships with other practitioners, and staying current on news and research.  Further, helping social work students develop the values and skills to professionally and ethically use social media is included in Council of Social Work Education’s 2015 Educational Policy and Accreditation Standards.

Here are ways I work to ensure that I am being ethical and professional with social media in the classroom:

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Day Two of #SWDE2017 – Integrating Technology-rich Assignments in the Curriculum

From April 12-14, 2017,  the third annual Social Work Distance Education Conference was sponsored by Our Lady of the Lake University’s Worden School of Social Service in San Antonio, TX.

Melanie Sage & Todd Sage of the University of North Dakota, Ellen Belluomini of Dominican University, and I participated in a panel discussion about incorporating technology-based assignments in the social social work curriculum.  We talked about three different types of technology-based assignments that can be incorporated into almost any classroom: Twitter Chats, Technology Assessments, and Infographics.

You can access a copy of the slides here: https://www.slideshare.net/laurelhitchcock/integrating-technologyrich-assignments-in-the-curriculum.  We also have some assignment specific resources:

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#BPDNOLA17 – Visualizing Data: Infographic Assignments across the Social Work Curriculum

Today is the third day (Friday, March 3rd) of #BPDNOLA17, and I am presenting with some of my favorite #swtech peeps, Dr. Nathalie Jones of Tarleton State University and Dr. Melanie Sage of the University of North Dakota, at 1:45pm in Bayside C at the Sheraton in New Orleans.  We will be talking about an infographic assignment that we jointly developed and implemented with students at each of our campuses. The use of infographics for classroom assignments is becoming commonplace in higher education, although less is known about its use in social work education. Our workshop will review how we collaborated to develop, implement and evaluate an infographic assignment for courses across the social work curriculum.

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