Technology in Social Work Education: Educators’ Perspectives on the NASW Technology Standards for Social Work Education and Supervision

In 2017, newStandards for Technology in Social Work Practice were issued to address the intersections of professional social work practice and technology. The National Association of Social Workers (NASW), along with the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE), Association of Social Work Boards, and the Clinical Social Work Association cosigned the Standards, developed by a committee of primarily social work practitioners. CSWE clarified that the standards are not part of the 2015 Educational Policy and Accreditation Standards competencies and are not part of the accreditation process (Council on Social Work Education [CSWE],personal communication, June 30, 2017). The authors of the Standards also offered brief interpretations of each of the Standards and sub-standards.

Hearing a call for more thorough guidance, the editors of this document reached out to social work educators and supervisors with specialized knowledge of teaching and supervising with technology and asked them to help us think about Section 4, Social Work Education and Supervision.  In the early Fall of 2017, twenty-five people responded to the request to contribute their best practice and research wisdom.  We used technology to crowd-source (obtain input of a number of people online), which allowed us to co-create, co-edit, and get rapid feedback on this document over the course of a month. The result of this effort is a document (see end of this post to access a copy of this document) that includes the original standards published by NASW, followed by interpretations developed by the group of twenty-five social work academics and supervisors.  It offers considerations for decision-making related to the benefits and risks of technology use in teaching and supervision, developed by those who have direct experience in these arenas.

We extend our appreciation to the contributors, and to all social work educators and supervisors who strive to see all the potentials and benefits of technology, innovate while holding up our professional values and ethics, and understand and educate about risks of technology while working with and on behalf of people who are the most vulnerable.

Thank you,

Editors
Laurel Iverson Hitchcock, University of Alabama at Birmingham
Melanie Sage, University at Buffalo
Nancy J. Smyth, University at Buffalo

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Using Technology for Social Work Scholarship: Creating and Sharing your Work

This post was written and edited by Nancy J. SmythMelanie Sage, and myself as part of our collaboration on our forthcoming book, Teaching Social Work with Digital Technology, to be published by CSWE Press in 2018.

Social and digital technologies offer many tools and opportunities to create and disseminate scholarship in social work.  For example, social work educators can use blogs, podcasts, videos, and infographics to create and share content for professional purposes.  To see an example of how to use infographics, please see Harnessing Technology for Social Work Scholarship (Hitchcock & Sage, 2017).  This blog post describes two social work academics are using social media to share their research with others.

Dr. Jimmy A. Young, an Assistant Professor of social work at California State University San Marcos, shares how he uses social media to disseminate his research:

Social media technologies offer exciting opportunities to disseminate scholarship with a broader audience and share your research with others. A few examples include using Twitter to share a quick highlight or quote with a direct link to the article, a blog post with a longer quote or summary and direct link to the article, or some sort of video message on YouTube or Snapchat that also shares a summary and direct link. Today’s social media users enjoy rich content and video is an engaging way to share articles with others. I have also been successful in using professional academic social networks such as ResearchGate or Academia.edu to host articles, post summaries and links, as well as to connect with others working in a similar area. The great thing about these websites is you can get some analytics that can be useful for demonstrating your scholarly impact. For example, I have open access articles on ResearchGate that have garnered thousands of views and many of these articles have found their way into other scholar’s work as citations. GoogleScholar is another great way to manage your academic profile online and keep track of your scholarship and citations. Remember that some publishers do not want their articles shared on these websites for copyright reasons, but more and more are beginning to allow academics to post pre-print copies and even full online print versions. ResearchGate has been very useful because they are establishing relationships with some publishers to ensure that your work is freely available to share with others. Also, remember that many publishers provide a number of free copies for authors to distribute, and these copies can be great to share on social networks and increase your citations, online presence, and maybe even make you famous. Perhaps just moderately famous.  (J.A.Young, personal communication, November 3, 2017).

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#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 

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Using Technology for Productivity: Managing the Academic Workload

This post was written and edited by Nancy J. SmythMelanie Sage, and myself as part of our collaboration on our forthcoming book, Teaching Social Work with Digital Technology, to be published by CSWE Press in 2018. 

Today’s academic work environments are fast-paced and rely on digital technologies to handle the flow of communication and information such as email, digital calendars, and electronic to-do lists.  In this blog post, we asked social work educators and practitioners to share their best tips for using technology as a tool for productivity.

Managing email can be a difficult and time-consuming task.  Andy Berkhout, the Data Quality Coordinator from the St. Patrick Center in St. Louis, MO shares his guidelines for managing email:

Clients and colleagues will notice if you are paying more attention to checking email on your phone than you are to them.  Instead, set a dedicated time at the beginning or end of the workday to catch up on electronic communication.  When it is time to pay attention to the person in front of you, do just that; put your phone away and give your complete focus.  Your text messages and email will be still be there later, but the chance to connect with a client or provide meaningful input during a meeting might pass if you’re not giving the present moment your full attention (A. Berkhout, personal communication, September 6, 2017).

Shelly Richardson, an Assistant Professor and Director of Undergraduate Social Work at The College of St. Scholastica in Duluth, MN, uses her prior practice experience to cope with her email:

In my role as an associate professor and director of an undergraduate program, I only check emails twice a day and spend no more than 45 minutes doing so. This forces me to prioritize activities and responses quickly. I only “touch” things once. If I need to take care of something or respond, I do it immediately upon receiving the request. I also have files with names of my frequent contacts (such as co-workers, dean, chair) emails that are initiated by those individuals are easier to find. I also use folder titles for activities I am responsible for (advising, to be graded, coordinating, and committees). These folders allow me to clean up my inbox as I read through emails, I flag emails that are in progress or I need to follow up on and review the flags once a week (usually Monday or Friday). These flagged items stay in my inbox and I work to keep this number around 15-.  I also have a rule, if I have to respond more than twice, I make a phone call immediately or schedule a face to face to follow up, this is usually indication that communication has broken down somewhere and needs to be resolved (S. Richardson, personal communication, September 20, 2017).

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Harnessing Technology for Social Work Scholarship: #CSWResearch Day at Ohio State University

The blog post was written by myself and Melanie Sage of the University at Buffalo, and we describe our visit with the College of Social Work at the Ohio State University in August 2017, where we talked about how social work faculty can harness technology for their social work scholarship.  We also interviewed two of our OSU colleagues, Drs. Bridget Freisthler and Holly Dabelko-Schoeny, about our presentation and how it supports their use of technology for scholarship. This is cross-posted at the Human Services Information Technology Association’s (HusITa) Blog: http://www.husita.org/harnessing-social-media-for-social-work-research-and-scholarship/

Dissemination to the right stakeholders is a crucial part of social work research.  However, as social work academics, we are often trained to think that publication in peer-reviewed journals is the pinnacle of sharing our research with our peers and the academy.  But for our work to have substantial impact, we want it to reach service providers, communities, and consumers, too.  Access to peer-reviewed journals can be challenging due to cost,availability, and complexity. Increasingly, academics and research scientists are turning to social media platforms as a way to disseminate and engage with others about their work.

One of the early studies looking at the value of social media in research dissemination was an article by Darling, Shiffman, Côté, and Drew (2013) titled The role of twitter in the life cycle of a scientific publication. Based on a survey of 116 marine biologists, they found that scientists who used Twitter for professional reasons could rapidly develop new research ideas and easily share works-in-progress for pre-reviews.  Additionally, these researchers found they could communicate their findings not only with other academics, but also with broader audiences such as decision makers, journalists and the public in a way that could amplify the scientific and social impact of publications, and that sharing in this way increased their citations too.  Here is an infographic of the article’s major findings.

So how does this translate to social work research?  Melanie Sage and I present to multiple audiences, from peers to conference attendees, about the role of social media in social work scholarship. For years, we have been using social media and technology tools to connect with colleagues, share research, and collaborate.  Based on our expertise in this area, we were invited to lead a discussion about the role of technology in social work scholarship at the Social Work’s Grand Challenge Initiative Conference (#GC4SW) held at the University of Southern California (April 25-28, 2017). In this discussion, we shared the ways in which social media can be a tool to help social work academics and practitioners to discover and share knowledge, as well as build relationships for collaborative work. Social media platforms are well-placed to allow social workers across the professional continuum to engage with each other, creating communities of learning and practice that bridge the gap between practice and research in social work. We suggested four practices with social media for advancing the Grand Challenges for Social Work; you can read about them here.

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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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