#SWpolicy410 & Twitter Chats in Social Work Education

Last night President Obama gave his 2014 State of the Union Address. Because I am teaching social welfare policy, I wanted my students to watch and engage with this event outside of the classroom. I have written on this blog before about the use of technology and social media in the classroom, and specifically about Twitter (Twittering and Documentaries) and how we can use it to develop skills. I see Twitter as a very powerful tool to engage students outside of the classroom, and a tool which requires incredible critical thinking skills. Yes, I said critical thinking skills. But it also helps students develop digital literacy and other competencies that are useful in social work practice today and the future. Twitter is space where individuals can interact and share information. Disseminating information in less 140 characters of text may seem mundane but it actually requires one to organize their thoughts and articulate them in a meaningful way. This requires higher level thinking and may frustrate some, so be patient and remember to learn about Twitter and how to use it properly. There are some great resources to get started, such as Dr. Laurel Iverson-Hitchcock or Dean Nancy Smyth and others.

This post is meant to demonstrate how I used Twitter to engage my policy students in the State of the Union Address. I already require students to obtain a Twitter account as part of another assignment in class, so it was a natural fit to encourage them to Live Tweet during the Address. Live Tweeting is essentially sending out messages via Twitter during a live event, such as the State of the Union. I already discussed proper use of Twitter in the classroom, but I gave students some ideas on what to Tweet during the Address. Generally, I wanted to see their reactions or questions to what the President discussed. One main objective of this activity was to help students identify and begin to obtain an interest in policy and issues that impact the profession and our clients. I also made sure that students included the course hashtag (#swpolicy410) in their tweets so that I could archive the event later. I had about 13 students engage in the Live Tweet and I was amazed at the results. Below is a Storify story of the event.

One of the greatest benefits I see in doing an activity like this is that my students have the opportunity to interact with others from around the country and the world. For example, several of my followers started to engage into our Live Twitter Chat/Event by ReTweeting mine and students’ tweets. I think this gives students an opportunity to later connect with these individuals (like @MikeLICSW) and organizations (like @CRISPontheHill) for a variety of purposes. I hope that as we discuss this in class, students will feel comfortable reaching to these individuals/organizations to help with research and policy advocacy. This activity helps students build skills and become competent social workers.  I am not trying to imply that every social work course incorporate Twitter. That would be ludicrous. Assignments and activities should correspond to learning goals and objectives. Live Tweeting and Twitter Chats represent just one innovative way to engage students and help them learn and get excited about social work and social welfare policy. If you have any questions about Live Tweeting or simply want to leave a comment. Feel free to do so, and you can always follow me on Twitter.
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About jimmysw
Assistant Professor of Social Work with a focus on Social Media, Social Work Education and all things technology.

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