Civility (or the lack thereof) and New Media Literacies in the 21st Century

I often write on this blog about New Media Literacies, Social Media, Education, and a pretty wide array of other topics related to my interests. Today, post-2016 Election, I am struggling with the results.

Honestscreen-shot-2016-11-09-at-11-19-32-amly, I never believed that this great country I live in could elect a person so clearly unfit to be President! To be fair, I was not super interested in the prospect of another Clinton Presidency either after learning what happened to Bernie Sanders by the DNC. I think the whole thing is indicative of a larger problem that impacts both parties. A problem that is now getting glossed over by the “Let’s get behind our President” talk. This talk is fine to have and it is important for civil society but we have to at least acknowledge how corrupt the system is and that it needs changing. Before one goes on to assume or think that, Yes the system needs change and that is precisely why Trump needed to be elected, let’s examine some of how we got here, or at least follow along and see what I think has contributed to this outcome. It doesn’t matter what side of the political continuum you are on because this really isn’t meant to be a political post. I have decided to move on.

Regular readers and those that know my work understand my deep interests and belief in social media, but they also know that it is more than that. It is about new media literacies and participatory culture. You can search my blog for more on these concepts but suffice it to say that Participatory Culture has dramatically expanded because of the Internet. Some may say Social Media is to blame for the election results…They are not wrong. Some will say the mainstream media is to blame…They are not wrong. But what I am interested in understanding at this point in time is that we had very high hopes for the Internet and how it might contribute to new ways of learning, connection, and opportunity. In large part, we have seen those positive outcomes and we have also seen examples of the dark side. I posted a Quote from Media & Communications scholar Marshall McLuhan up above where he stated, “We shape our tools, and thereafter our tools shape us.”

There is some disagreement about what this phrase actually means but I feel it is particularly important in the current context of today’s results. To say social media has not played a major role in the election is simply wrong. Even looking back to 2008 we can see how it has transformed the electoral process. But my point is that social media is not necessarily to blame because it is simply a tool. A tool that we have collectively shaped, which now shapes us. We as a nation may have succumbed to the effects of too much reliance on social media, alternative news, or other information sources rather than sitting back and thinking critically about what we are consuming. Henry Jenkins explains that Participatory culture is a culture with relatively low barriers to artistic expression and civic engagement, where strong support exists for sharing one’s creations, there is some type of informal mentorship taking place where knowledge is being passed along from experienced to novices. A Participatory Culture is also one in which members believe their contributions matter, and feel some degree of social connection with one another. Participatory Culture is a culture that shifts the focus of literacy from one of individual expression to one of community involvement.

I think we have missed a few things in our current election cycle based on this definition of Participatory Culture that could contribute to increasing our own Media Literacies or our ability to think critically about the media content we consume and share. We missed opportunities for making a deeper connection, for dialoguing in a civil manner, for keeping our minds open to learning new things, for the possibility of more. We need to do better at learning critical thinking skills, analyzing information online and judging its credibility or usefulness, and we need to be kind when we disagree.

It is interesting because about 7 years ago an anthropologist named Mike Wesch from Kansas State University gave a talk at the Personal Democracy Forum on some of these ideas. What struck me the most back then and also rings true today is his idea of Connection without Constraint and the cultural tension that I see happening online, primarily on Facebook. Dr. Wesch describes this cultural tension as being the fact that we as a culture express individualism but want community, express independence but seek out relationships, and express commercialization but value authenticity. So in the middle of all this is that idea of connection and we all want connection, clearly, if this was not the case then social media would cease to exist. However, we see connection as inherently constraining. It takes time to have meaningful conversations, so why not just tweet? It is discomforting when I disagree with someone in person, but online the anonymity of the internet prevents one from facing that emotion.  Wesch goes on to explain, much like McLuhan, that media mediate relationships and when media changes, relationships also change.  You can see Dr. Wesch discuss this more with some great and humorous examples in the video below.

Do not misunderstand that I am simply blaming social media for the outcome of the election and a woefully misinformed electorate. I mean I guess I am, but hopefully I am putting some of it into context with the aforementioned discussion of Participatory Culture and Cultural Inversion because this leads me into thinking about the question,

where do we go from here?

I wish the answer were simple but that would be disingenuous. I do think the answer still involves social media, because what kind of social media researcher would I be if it didn’t, right? We can still rely on social media for our news but we really owe it to ourselves to do better in developing media literacy and knowing that just because we have discussions through screens that we should not be so narcissistic to believe that we MUST be right or that the other person is simply an idiot. We don’t have enough information to fully understand their logic nor do they have enough to understand ours. It’s kind of like fighting with your partner via text message. You have to know that it doesn’t matter what kind of emoji you use, the other person is likely not going to understand your implied sarcasm or other messages you are trying to convey. Instead, give them a call or better yet try to have a meaningful discussion in person.

We need to understand the difference between opinion and journalism.

We need to be comfortable in agreeing to disagree.

We need to better understand the issues and possible outcomes as they apply to our lives but more importantly to our communities. You have to live in the community after all.

We need to become comfortable in rooting out social and economic injustices online and off.

All of this, at least to me, relates to the idea of increasing our media literacies. We can contribute to the Participatory Culture of social media and we can do it in a fun, meaningful, and civil way. We can encourage young people to learn from others that have the kind of knowledge that will help us become more than what we are now. We can learn from our mistakes and know when it is time to turn off and re-center ourselves in a way that allows us to contribute to a culture of hope rather than fear. We already have the tools, but we as the public need to take them back and use them in positive ways. Civility in the 21st century still requires authenticity, accountability, and in some sense transparency. We should not let algorithms and monied interests dictate the narrative or co-opt it in a way that only benefits them. I am re-committing myself to work harder with educating my students about media literacies and how they impact all facets of life and I hope many others will do the same.



Participatory Culture and Web 2.0: Bringing New Media Literacies to Social Work Education

This post is largely to serve as a follow up to some information I presented at the 2012 Council on Social Work Education Annual Program Meeting. If you stopped by my poster and are now stopping by my blog to get more information about this topic, THANK YOU. Here you will find more information in regards to what Participatory culture is and how the New Media Literacies are critical skills that people should be aware of in their pursuit of social media. I encourage you to watch the videos, follow the links, and seek out more information on this topic as I believe it holds extreme potential to impact social work practice.  For those of you who have stumbled upon this blog via some other way, thanks for stopping by, and below is a brief introduction to what I presented at the Conference.

The Abstract:

Social media has transformed the way society is connected and interacts. Government, businesses, and nonprofits are adopting the use of social media by large numbers (Barnes & Matteson, 2009; Kaplan & Haenlein, 2010). However, much of social media in social work centers on the tools and technology of what may or may not be possible. The interaction these tools allow is important but the interactivity is merely a property of the technology. Participation is a property of culture (Jenkins et al., 2009), and is preferred. As one actively participates, one is able to learn new skills and expand critical thinking (Jenkins et al., 2009). A focus on expanding access to new technologies is important, but it only carries us so far if we do not also foster the skills and cultural knowledge necessary to deploy these tools toward more positive ends (Jenkins et al., 2009). Social media can be used to impact social work education by exploring the concept of participatory culture and how new media literacies (Jenkins et al., 2009) can be adopted into the social work curriculum. Results on what nonprofit human service organizations are currently using and doing with social media provide the foundation for why new media literacy should be part of social work education.

Overview of the Literature:

The nonprofit sector has outpaced the public and private sectors in the adoption of social media (Barnes & Matteson, 2009; Barnes, 2011; LaCasse, Quinn, & Bernard, 2010; Young, 2012). Social media is used to demonstrate accountability, engage the community, advocacy, promote the organization and services, as well as for marketing and fundraising.  To date, nonprofits have had relatively little success using the internet and many have made recommendations on how to use the internet and social media more successfully (McNutt & Menon, 2008; Sargeant, Saxton & Guo, 2011; Waters, 2007). One study with a large and broad sample indicated 11% of nonprofits identified no goals for using social media (NTEN, 2012). Another study (Young, 2012), highlighted that 62% of human service organizations identified no goals for using social media.

This is really a scant overview of the literature and there is much more to be reviewed.  However, you can also read more about my own research, which I have posted here and a follow up here, or you can simply read my dissertation by visiting Virginia Commonwealth University here.

The issue I am trying to discuss with social media and social work is the idea of Participatory Culture and more specifically the New Media Literacies as identified by Henry Jenkins, Ph.D. You can find Dr. Jenkins on Twitter here or view his blog at  Confessions of an Aca-Fan.

What is Participatory Culture? Essentially Jenkins defines Participatory Culture as a culture with relatively low barriers to artistic expression and civic engagement, where strong support exists for sharing one’s creations, there is some type of informal mentorship taking place where knowledge is being passed along from experienced to novices. A Participatory Culture is also one in which members believe their contributions matter, and feel some degree of social connection with one another. Participatory Culture is a culture that shifts the focus of literacy from one of individual expression to community involvement.

I am a visual learner and I value Rich Media Content. You can view the video below to see Dr. Jenkins explain in a much more effective way, what Participatory culture is and how it relates to civic engagement.

Although that video focuses more on civic engagement than new media literacies, I think you begin to get more of an understanding about what Participatory Culture is all about. The next video then outlines the New Media Literacies as identified by Henry Jenkins in is white paper Confronting the Challenges of Participatory Culture: Media Education for the 21st Century. A copy of this paper is available for download here.

The New Media Literacies (for those who choose not to watch the video) include:

  • Play– the capacity to experiment with one’s surroundings as a form of problem solving
  • Performance– the ability to adopt alternative identities for the purpose of improvisation and discovery
  • Simulation– the ability to interpret and construct dynamic models of real-world processes
  • Appropriation– the ability to meaningfully sample and remix media content
  • Multitasking– the ability to scan one’s environment and shift focus as needed to salient details
  • Distributed Cognition– the ability to interact meaningfully with tools that expand mental capacities
  • Collective Intelligence– the ability to pool knowledge and compare notes with others toward a common goal
  • Judgement– the ability to evaluate the reliability and credibility of different information sources
  • Transmedia Navigation– the ability to follow the flow of stories and information across multiple modalities
  • Networking– the ability to search for, synthesize, and disseminate information
  • Negotiation– the ability to travel across diverse communities, discerning and respecting multiple perspectives, and grasping and following alternative norms
  • Visualization– the ability to translate information into visual models and understand the information visual models are communicating as a key method for coping with large data sets and being able to make sense of the complexity of our environment

Again, this framework comes right out of the white paper, which can be accessed via the link in the previous paragraph. You can also access the Project New Media Literacies blog for more information.

The New Media Literacies help us as social workers to further understand the place of social media in our lives. I would also agree with Dr. Jenkins when he explains that it would be better for us to take an ecological perspective regarding this new digital environment. The ecological perspective resonates with us as social workers because it is part of the foundation of our profession. However, I would step back a minute and try to understand this through the lens of Media Ecology, which I briefly touched on in my dissertation research. Neil Postman (1970) explained that media ecology looks into the substance of how media affect human perception, understanding, value, interaction, and whether media facilitates or impedes chances for survival. “The word ecology implies the study of environments: their structure, content, and impact on people” (Postman, 1970, p. 161).

Of course this sounds familiar to us as social workers because we understand how the environment influences our clients, community, and world. I believe that as we take hold of these new digital technologies (specifically social media) that we can use the New Media Literacies as a framework to increase the knowledge of our students and educators. Ultimately, I would view this process as something that happens through collaboration between student and teacher. I think the teacher would essentially act as a guide, while recognizing that students bring valuable experience and knowledge to the process. In fact, this is a process through which I am developing a course for and hope to have going live next fall. Should you know of any social work educators using social media in this way, please leave a comment on this post. I would love to talk with them about their experience.

The question remains, what will this look like in social work education? THE ANSWER: I don’t know! I have an idea, but to be honest my idea could totally flop. I think that it is part of what makes this process exciting, the idea of learning from mistakes is incredibly important. However, I do have an example of how the New Media Literacies and Participatory Culture apply to social work education. Essentially my plan is to take a somewhat experiential approach to learning and use the framework to help orient assignments that contribute to the foundation of social work knowledge. These assignments can take on many forms so I will start with an easy example: Advocacy and Awareness. About two months ago, the National Association of Social Workers sent a tweet that contained a link to a document showcasing the 2012 Presidential Candidates position’s on several important areas. You can download a copy of the PACE chart here.

I have to say I was excited that someone had taken the time to put together information from the Candidates on key issues so that I could be a more informed voter. I followed the link and downloaded the chart only to discover several pages of text. Go ahead, download it and see what I am talking about.
Knowing what  I know about the Internet, I figured people would not be as interested in reading this lengthy, albeit important, document. I wondered why they couldn’t put in a format that was easier to understand, like an infographic. After waiting for a couple of weeks I decided to take the candidate position chart and create an infographic to visually display the information in a more dynamic way.

As you can see, I utilized the skills identified under the New Media Literacies framework to help me design and create this new chart. Unfortunately, I have yet to tweet it out because I have been to busy to finish it. The fact is I do not have extensive knowledge in Photoshop or even in design. I simply used the Internet to get some ideas (networking), experimented (play) with some software on my computer, and translated (visualization) the document into a graphic that captures the eye and draws interest.  The next steps, upon finishing, would be to share my creation with others via Twitter, Facebook, or any other social network. Participatory culture, namely a culture with relatively low barriers to artistic expression and civic engagement, support for creating and sharing creations, and the belief that this contribution matters motivated me to engage in this effort. The informal mentorship took place when I watched YouTube videos on how to use a software program to organize and create my Infographic. This is precisely the type of activities that students can easily engage in using digital technologies and more specifically social media. In fact, many students and other individuals already do this.

I understand there are still challenges to engaging in the new digital environment and I’m sure that many will comment on this post highlighting the dark abyss of the Internet and social media that accompanies such unscrupulous activities like cyber-bullying or the anything else that perpetuates negativity. I do not wish to minimize those challenges at all but I do think that if we begin to educate our students about New Media Literacies that we will see positive outcomes. I also believe that as we begin to educate the next generation of social workers who have grown up using social media, we will help them to understand how to use these tools in a way that promotes social justice. Furthermore, just because students have grown up using social media does not necessarily imply they understand how to use it for learning, positive social change, or social work practice. Anecdotally,  I have talked with numerous individuals in the human services sector that tell me they need social workers who have a diverse skill set including how to use social media within their organization. We as social workers are ethically obligated to be aware of the changing trends of social practice and to continually learn new ways of helping our clients. We should not shy away from social media, in fact we should embrace it; but only if we can do so using a framework that increases our understanding of how these new skills can help positively impact our practice.

Research is beginning to develop frameworks on how to best use social media, and the normative literature has numerous books and blogs devoted to the subject.  The response to social media has been positive and negative. However, social media is not going away as it presents another communication channel to connect with many others. Human service organizations are also beginning to adopt social media and social work educators need to understand how to prepare social work students with the necessary skills for effective social media practice. The key premise is that using social media in the classroom or in the field should not be so focused on what tools to use or what those tools allow, although this is important. Educators need to understand the participatory nature of social media and how new media literacies can compliment social work practice.

But beyond this, my hope is that people will begin to understand the importance of social media, which many have. However, I really think we need to focus more on the critical learning that these tools allow and help our students to use these tools to engage, promote learning, and promote positive social change. But if you still only want to share photos of your last vacation with friends and family, that’s okay too.

If you really want to get an idea of why I think social media can impact social work practice, perhaps I should share with you several of my favorite Ted Talks that have influenced my view of the Internet and what is possible with social media. I created a blog post about this awhile back, which you can access here. I should also include the work of the “Great Explainer” himself, Dr. Mike Wesch, and his Anthropological Introduction to YouTube.

Dr. Wesch also talks about Media Literacy here, but by now I am thinking you have plenty with which to explore 😀


Barnes, N.G., & Mattson, E. (2009). US Charities’ Adoption of Social Media Outpaces All Other

Sectors for the Third Year in a Row. Retrieved from

Hackler, D. & Saxton, G. (2007). The Strategic use of information technology by nonprofit organizations: increasing capacity and untapped potential. Public Administration Review, 67(3), 474-484.

Jenkins, H., Clinton, K., Purushotma, R., Robison, A. J., Weigel, M. (2009). Confronting the challenges of participatory culture: Media education for the 21st century [white paper]. Retrieved from

Kang, S., & Norton, H. (2004). Nonprofit organizations’ use of the world wide web: Are they sufficiently fulfilling organizational goals? Public Relations Review, 30(3), 279-284.

Kaplan, A. M., & Haenlein, M. (2010). Users of the world, unite! The challenges and opportunities of Social Media. Business Horizons, 53, 59-68.

Kietzman, J. H.,  Hermkens, K., McCarthy, I. P., & Silvestre, B. S. (2011). Social media? Get serious! Understanding functional building blocks of social media. Business Horizons, 54, 241-251. doi: :10.1016/j.bushor.2011.01.00

Mansfield, H. (2011). Social media for social good: A how to guide for nonprofits. United States: McGraw-Hill.

McNutt, J.G., & Menon, G. M. (2008). The rise of cyberactivism: Implications for the future of advocacy in the human services. Families in Society: The Journal of Contemporary Social Services, 89(1), 33-38. doi: 10.1606/1044-3894.3706

NTEN, Common Knowledge, & Blackbaud. (2012). 4th Annual Nonprofit Social Network Benchmark Report. Retrieved from

Postman, N. (1970). The Reformed English Curriculum. In A. C. Eurich’s (Ed.), High School 1980; the shape of the future in American secondary education (pp. 160-168). New York, Pitman Publishing Corp.

Sargeant, A., West, D.C., & Jay, E. (2007). The relational determinants of nonprofit web site fundraising  effectiveness: An exploratory study. Nonprofit Management & Leadership, 18(2), 141-156.

Saxton, G. D., & Guo, C. (2011). Accountability Online: Understanding the Web-Based Accountability Practices of Nonprofit Organizations. Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly, 40(2), 270-295.doi: 10.1177/0899764009341086

Saxton, G. D., & Guo, C., & Brown, W. A. (2007). New dimensions of nonprofit responsiveness:The application and promise of Internet-based technologies. Public Performance & Management Review, 31(2), 144-173. doi 10.2753/PMR1530–9576310201

Scearce, D., Kasper, G., & Grant, H.M. (2009). Working wikily 2.0: Social change with a network mindset [Electronic Version]. The Monitor Institute website. Retrieved October 9, 2009 from,

Waters, R.D. (2007). Nonprofit organizations’ use of the internet: A content analysis of communication trends on the internet sites of the philanthropy 400. NonprofitManagement & Leadership, 18(1), 59-76.

Young, J. (2012). The Current Status of Social Media use among Nonprofit Human Service Organizations: An Exploratory Study. (Doctoral Dissertation). Retrieved from

Social Work Health Futures Lab

I realize that it has been since April that I have written anything on this Blog and I wish I had some really great excuses. Although, I guess a Global Pandemic is a pretty good excuse but I’ve also been engaged in a few projects. Since my last blog post I have published an article in the Journal of Social Work Education entitled #SocialWorkEducation: A Computational Analysis of Social Work Programs on Twitter and you can find it here. I’ll actually be presenting this at the Society for Social Work Research in January.

I was also fortunate to collaborate with the one and only Jonathan Singer of The Social Work Podcasts on a short article about the analytics of a peer-reviewed blog post as compared to an article, which you can also find here. This is actually part of a larger Peer-Reviewed Blogging effort by Drs. Melanie Sage and Laurel Hitchcock with the Institute for Healthy Engagement and Resilience with Technology. So far the Social Work with Digital Technology blog is just getting started so I’m sure a larger more formal announcement will be made soon.

I was very excited to see my book chapter titled Social Media and Digital Literacies for Nonprofit Educators and Professionals published in the Teaching Nonprofit Management book, edited by Drs. Heather Carpenter and Karabi Bezboruah. This book is essential reading for anyone teaching nonprofit courses, macro social work, and it’s also relevant for practitioners in the field.

One other project that I have been working on for the last decade, and have written about previously on this blog, is related to the Hugs and Kisses Child Sexual Abuse Prevention and Awareness Play that is Virginia’s comprehensive CSA program in kindergarten through fifth grades. I, along with two of my colleagues, were invited to write up an article for Social Work Today about this history of the play and some data that we have collected over the years. You can find this article here.

Perhaps one of the things I am most grateful for in 2020 is the new opportunity to have been selected as a Social Work Health Futures Lab Fellow. This Fellowship is sponsored by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, hosted by Portland State University, and lead by Dr. Laura Nissen. More about the Lab can be found at the Social Work Health Futures Lab website. This is an 18-month fellowship where I will receive training in Foresight and Futurist Frameworks. I will be able to collaborate with other Fellows on a number of different projects and develop some of my own ideas as they related to digital and new media literacies in social work. I am really excited about this opportunity and hope I can find the time over the next 18 months to blog more about my activities.

Professional Collaboration Networks #PCN

I have spent a lot of time writing on this blog, publishing in the literature, and teaching about New Media Literacies. I’m not going to go into why these skills are so incredibly important right now, even though they are, but instead I wanted to share just a bit about how I have been working with a fantastic group of scholar/educators on the concept of a Professional Collaboration Network (PCN). We just published our fourth blog post in a series where we define what PCN is, how to develop one, and why PCN’s are important. The fourth blog post focuses on Academic & Professional Blogging and discusses the idea of how blogging can help develop and nourish your PCN. I hope you go visit Laurel Iverson Hitchcock’s blog and read the entire series because it is really amazing information.

I did want to tie in the idea of PCN’s to digital and media literacies because so many of the skills we use today relate to the development and of rich PCN. Creating and curating content to share with your network. Offering support and leaning on others. Engaging in informal mentorships to learn and share knowledge. The participatory culture of a Professional Collaboration Network is important and necessary to achieve personal and professional goals. It’s incredibly exciting to be able to have these tools that we can leverage for positive social change.


ORCID Profile: Jimmy A. Young, PhD, MSW, MPA

Peer-Reviewed Journal Articles

Young, J. A., & Brady, S. R. (2022). Re-Imagining digital and new media literacies in social work education: A critical framework for overcoming #FakeNews, divisiveness, and injustice. Advances in Social Work, 22(2), 270-286.

Keeney, A. J., Lee, A., Jayyousi, S., Young, J. A., Guarino, J., & Turner, K. B. (2022). Social work students’ self-efficacy toward direct practice skills in field education using virtual simulations and scripted role plays. Advances in Social Work, 22(2), 303-317.

Lin, A., Young, J. A., & Guarino, J., (2022). Mother-daughter sexual abuse: An exploratory study of the experiences of survivors of MDSA using Reddit. Children & Youth Services Review, 138. Advance online publication.

Young, J. A., & Ronquillo, R. (2022). Enhancing new media literacies of social work students through a participatory learning environment. Journal of Technology in Human Services, 40(1), 58-78.

Young, J. A. (2022). #SocialWorkEducation: A Computational Analysis of Social Work Programs on Twitter.  Journal of Social Work Education, 58(2), 215-226.

Keeney, A. J., Byrnes, E. I., Young, J. A., & Beecher, B. (2021). Beyond COVID-19: What’s next for skill assessment practices in social work education? Social Work Education: The International Journal.  Advance online publication.

Young, J. A., & Singer, J. B. (2020). What are the analytics of a peer-reviewed blog post as compared to an article? Social Work with Digital Technology.

Sage, M., Hitchcock, L. I., Bakk, L., Young, J. A., Michaeli, D., Jones, A.S., & Smyth, N. J. (2020). Professional Collaboration Networks as a Social Work Research Practice innovation: Preparing DSW Students for Knowledge Dissemination Roles in a Digital Society. Research in Social Work Practice.

Young, J. A., McLeod, D. A., & Brady, S. R. (2018). The Ethics Challenge: 21st Century Social Work Education, Social Media, and Digital Literacies. Journal of Social Work Values and Ethics, 15(1), 13-22.  Retrieved from

Young, J. A. (2018). Special Section Introduction: Multimedia in Nonprofit Education [Editorial]. Journal of Nonprofit Education and Leadership, 8(1), 2-3.

Young, J. A. (2018). Preparing Future Nonprofit Professionals with Digital Literacies for the 21st Century. Journal of Nonprofit Education and Leadership, 8(1), 4-15.

Brady, S. R., Leisey, M., Coles, C. D., Lee, J. S., Monico, C., Mann-Williams, A., Netting, F. E., O’Connor, M. K., Perkins, N. H., Rotabi, K. S., & Young, J. A. (2017). Letter to the Editor: Respecting Multiple    Epistemologies in Social Work. Journal of Social Work Education, 53(2), 1-4.

Young, J. A. (2017). Facebook, Twitter, and Blogs: The Adoption and Utilization of Social Media in Nonprofit Human Service Organizations. Human Service Organizations: Management, Leadership, & Governance, 41(1), 44-57.

Young, J. A., Lee, J. S., & Kovacs, P. J. (2016). Creating and Sustaining an Experiential Learning Component on Aging in a BSW Course. Sage Open, 6(4), 1-7.

Vaterlaus, J. M., Barnett, K., Roche, C., & Young, J. A. (2016). “Snapchat is more personal”: An exploratory study on Snapchat behaviors and young adult interpersonal relationships. Computers in Human Behavior, 62, 594-601.

Hitchcock, L. I., & Young, J. A. (2016). Tweet Tweet! Using Live Twitter Chats in Social Work Education. Social Work Education: The International Journal, 35(4), 457-468.

Brady, S. R., Perkins, N. H., Shadik, J. A., Monico, C., Young, J. A., Mann-Williams, A., Sawyer, J. M., & Klein, M. (2015). The Meaning of Cohort Community in Social Work Doctoral Education. Reflections: Narratives of Professional Helping, 21(1), 64-71. Retrieved from

Brady, S. R., McLeod, D. A., & Young, J. A. (2015). Developing Ethical Guidelines for Creating Social Media Technology Policy in Social Work Classrooms. Advances in Social Work, 16(1), 43-54. Retrieved from

Roche, C., Vaterlaus, J. M., & Young, J. A. (2015). A foster care alumna’s past and present technological experience: A feminist case study approach. Sage Open, 5(2), 1-9.

Brady, S. R., Young, J. A., & McLeod, D. A. (2015). Utilizing Digital Advocacy in Community Organizing: Lessons Learned from Organizing in Virtual Spaces to Promote Worker Rights and Economic Justice. Journal of Community Practice, 23(2).

Young, J. A. (2015). Assessing New Media Literacies in Social Work Education: The Development and Validation of a Comprehensive Assessment Instrument. Journal of Technology in Human Services, 33(1), 72-86.

Vaterlaus, J. M., Patten, E. V., Roche, C., & Young, J. A. (2015). #Gettinghealthy: The Perceived Influence of Social Media on Young Adult Health Behaviors. Computers in Human Behavior, 45(1), 151-157.

Young, J. (2014). iPolicy: Exploring and Evaluating the use of iPads in a Social Welfare Policy Course. Journal of Technology in Human Services, 32(1-2), 39-53.

Young, J. (2013). A Conceptual Understanding of Organizational Identity in the Social Media Environment. Advances in Social Work, 14(2), 518-530. Retrieved from

Young, J. (2011). Review of the book CauseWired: Plugging in, getting involved, changing the world, by Tom Watson. Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly, 40(3), 591-594.

Book Chapters & Contributions_________________________________________________

Young, J. A., & Glennon, A. (2021). Social media in social work: Research, education, and practice. In A. González, A. A. Astray, & A. A. Puelles (Eds.), Social work in digital societies (pp. 95-113). McGraw-Hill.

Young, J. A. (2020). Social Media and Digital Literacies for Nonprofit Educators and Professionals. In K. C. Bezboruah & H. Carpenter (Eds.), Teaching Nonprofit Management (pp. 237-253). Cheltenham, UK: Edward Elgar Publishing.

Young, J. A. (2019). Twitter Chats. In L. I. Hitchcock, M. Sage, & N. J. Smyth, Teaching Social Work with Digital Technology (pp.473-475)Alexandra, VA: CSWE Press.

Young, J. A. (2019). Live Tweeting for Social Work Education. In L. I. Hitchcock, M. Sage, & N. J. Smyth, Teaching Social Work with Digital Technology (pp. 462-428)Alexandra, VA: CSWE Press.

Hitchcock, L. I., Sage, M., & Smyth, N. J. (Eds.). (2018). Technology in social work education: Educators’ perspectives on the NASW Technology Standards for Social Work Education and Supervision. Buffalo, NY: University at Buffalo School of Social Work, State University of New York. {*Contributing Author}

Young, J. A. (2015). Live Tweeting Documentaries in the Classroom: Engaging Students and Enhancing Discussions with Social Media. In R. K. Morgan, K. T. Olivares, & J. Becker (Eds.), Quick Hits for Adjunct Faculty & Lecturers: Successful Strategies from Award-Winning Teachers (pp. 45-46). Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press.

Other Publications & Contributions

Young, J. A. (2021, September 16). The Future of Authenticity [Blog Post]. Retrieved from The Social Work Health Futures Blog website:

Young, J. A. (2021). Expert advice for aspiring graduate students. MSWOnline. Retrieved from

Young, J. A., Miller, H., & Mann-Williams, A. (2020, April 24). Hugs and Kisses: A Model for Child Sexual Abuse Prevention. E-News Exclusive for Social Work Today.  Retrieved from

Hitchcock, L.I., Bakk, L., Michaeli,  D., Young, J.A., Sage, M. & Smyth, N.J. (2020, March 12). Using Twitter at a Professional Conference [Blog Post]. Retrieved from Teaching & Learning in Social Work website:

Sage, M., Hitchcock, L.I., Michaeli, D., Young, J.A., Bakk, L. & Smyth, N.J. (2020, February 14). How do you do relational Twitter?: Developing your Professional Collaboration Network [Blog Post]. Retrieved from Teaching & Learning in Social Work website:

Michaeli, D., Hitchcock, L.I, Young, J. A., Sage, M. Bakk, L. & Smyth, N.J. (2020, January 31). Twitter for your Professional Collaboration Network (PCN)[Blog Post]. Retrieved from Teaching & Learning in Social Work website:

Hitchcock, L. I., Sage, M., Michaeli, D., Young, J. A., Bakk, L., & Smyth, N. J. (2019, December 18). What is a professional collaboration network and why do you need one? [Blog Post]. Retrieved from Teaching & Learning in Social Work website:

Young, J. A. (2019, January 17). Master Your Privacy Settings in 2019. Web Exclusive for Social Work Today. Retrieved from

Young, J. A. (2018, June 23). The Golden Age of the Internet and Social Media is Over [Blog post]. Retrieved from

Young, J. A. (2017). Teaching Social Media for Nonprofit Managers: ARNOVA Teaching Section Mini-Grants Program. Association for Research on Nonprofit Organizations and Voluntary Action, Indianapolis, IN.

Young, J. A., & Hitchcock, L. I. (2017). Inequality for All: Live Tweeting in Social Work Education. CSWE Curricular Guide: Introducing Economic Well-Being Resources in Social Work Curricula. Alexandra, VA: CSWE Press. Available at

Battista-Frazee, K. (2017). The High-Tech Social Worker – Myth or Reality? Social Work Today, 17(1), 10. Retrieved from  *(Interviewed about this topic for the article with a quote in the article)

Young, J. A. (2015, October 6). Social Work Education Twitter Chat [Blog post]. Retrieved from

Young, J. A. (2015, February 15). New Media Literacies and Participatory Culture [Blog post]. Retrieved from

Young, J. A. (2013, November 25). Interview with Dr. Jimmy A. Young on Social Media in Social Work Education. Retrieved from

Young, J. (2013, May 9). Social Media: What is your New Media Literacy Score. Retrieved from

#APM19 Social Work Education Conference


Once again I find myself attending the Council on Social Work Education’s Annual Program Meeting in Denver, Colorado. I really enjoy this city and all it has to offer, but the main purpose of this post is to highlight some of my research and give more context to the work I am presenting at this conference. I have already written one blog post about this conference and my poster presentation, which you can view here.

This post is mainly to highlight my two other presentations during the conference. One related to my work to better understand how Social Work Schools and Programs use Twitter, and the other to illustrate how to teach Digital Literacies. The first presentation is based on a research paper that is currently under review. The title and proposal are below:

#SocialWorkEducation: Using Data Science to Understand How Social Work Programs use Twitter

Social media can be a valuable tool in social work education to help collaborate with others, promote programs, engage with alumni, or promote interprofessional education. Social media are defined as an array of digital technologies that allow for the creation and exchange of user-generated content (Kaplan & Haenlein, 2010; Kanter & Fine, 2010) and include digital platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Snapchat. There is a growing awareness that social work practitioners, students and educators need to be adept at using social media and information communication technology as part of their practice and interaction with clients and organizations of all sizes (Coe Regan & Freddolino, 2008; Getz, 2012; Hitchcock & Young, 2016; National Association of Social Workers [NASW], 2017). As more and more organizations adopt social media to promote their services (Goldkind, 2015; Young, 2017), social work education programs have also utilized social media for a variety of purposes.

The purpose of this paper is to examine how social work education programs use Twitter by leveraging the principles of data science. Data science allows for the analysis of big data sets that can be structured or unstructured to develop understanding, extract knowledge, and formulate actionable results (Cariceo, Nair, & Lytton, 2018, p. 1). Specifically, a text and sentiment analysis of 26,000 tweets, collected over a 10-month period, was performed utilizing the Information, Community, and Action framework (Lovejoy & Saxton, 2012). The author first coded a sample of 2,000 tweets with graduate research assistants utilizing the framework to help identify keywords that could be used in performing a larger text analysis. The sample of tweets also helped to establish more rigor and validity for this study as the author was able to obtain an inter-rater reliability score of 72%. Disagreement within the sample of tweets was addressed and discussed to help identify the most meaningful keywords and categories that could be used for the larger database of the 26,000 tweets. Utilizing the Lovejoy & Saxton (2012) framework categories and keywords, Microsoft Excel along with Microsoft’s Azure Artifical Intelligence Software was utilized to analyze the larger database to identify how social work programs use Twitter and what kind of tone, or sentiment, their tweets contain. Sentiment analysis identifies tweets as positive, neutral, or negative based on the frequency of words within the tweet by using a lexicon. This data mining analysis helps to illustrate how programs engage with other Twitter users to promote their respective schools or programs.

The findings suggest that programs tweet primarily to share information about a variety of topics and opportunities, categorized as Information. Programs also tweet calls to action and try to engage with their online community but not at the same level of sharing information, categorized as Action. A smaller sample of the tweets did engage in more of a dialogic connection between users to promote conversation or interaction, categorized as Community. A majority of the tweets have a neutral sentiment with some also being identified as positive or negative. Interestingly, larger programs were able to produce more tweets and engage with a larger audience. Tweets by larger programs often received more likes and retweets than other smaller programs. A possible reason for this could be the number of staff available in larger programs, but more research is needed to have a definitive conclusion.

Social Work programs can play a pivotal role in helping students to become lifelong learners, increase their digital literacies, and model ethical and appropriate technology use through their curriculum and online presence. However, technology in social work education has been adopted sporadically with moderate degrees of success. This paper supports this notion by evaluating how social work programs use Twitter for a variety of purposes. Attendees will understand how programs are using Twitter and gain ideas for their own programs and efforts regarding the use of social media. By examining the past usage of Twitter, this presentation will help participants look forward to understanding how to use Twitter in more effective ways.

This research project has been fun and challenging as I have had to learn how to use new software to capture and analyze Big Data from Twitter. I mainly used Microsoft’s suite of tools but also supplemented with Rstudio where needed. Computational social science is a new area for me and I still have so much to learn but my hope is that this project will launch some important conversations and future research. One specific aspect that came out of this research was the development of the Top Ten Social Work Schools/Programs on Twitter. Be sure to click the link to find out more 🙂

The second presentation in Denver is related to my ongoing work around New Media Literacies or Digital Literacies, which I have written extensively about here on my blog and in the literature. This presentation has been a few years in the making and something that I myself have even had challenges with, which is why the title of this workshop is so pertinent.

What if there’s no WiFi? Teaching Digital Literacies in Social Work Education

Over the past several years social media and digital technologies in social work education and practice has exploded with books, articles, and trade publications being devoted to the topic (Goldkind, Wolf, & Freddolino, 2018; Hitchcock & Young, 2016; Hitchcock, Sage, & Smyth, 2018). The expectation among students to become digitally competent professionals has been discussed in the literature and many recognize the need to infuse these technologies into the classroom in ways that can build technical competence, social and cultural competencies, and digital literacies (Perron, Taylor, Glass,  & Margerum-Leys, 2010; Young, McLeod, & Brady, 2018). Digital literacies has become essentially an umbrella term that covers many forms of literacy (Considine, Horton, & Moorman, 2009). Media literacy generally refers to “the ability to access, analyze, evaluate, and communicate messages in a wide variety of forms” (Hobbs, 1998, p. 16). The emphasis of media literacy is learning and teaching skills related to the process of critically analyzing and creating messages in a variety of print or digital forms (Hobbs, 1998).  There has been an emergence within the literature regarding the use of social media and digital technologies for the acquisition of specific social work skills that mirrors the forms and methods of media literacy (Hitchcock & Young, 2016; Jones, Sage, & Hitchcock, 2019; Sage, Singer, LaMarre, & Rice, 2018; Young, 2015). The challenge with digital literacies in social work education is that the concept is too broadly defined, and it has not been thoroughly developed, discussed, or researched enough to provide specific guidance on what conceptual framework of digital literacies is suited to the development of professional social work skills. Teaching digital literacies needs to move beyond the skills of critical analysis to building the capacity for engaging, understanding, and communicating with others in a genuine, authentic, and ethically appropriate manner.  Digitally literacies are as much about understanding the how as they are about understanding the why.

The purpose of this workshop is to differentiate between the concepts of digital and media literacies (Belshaw, 2011; Hobbs, 2011; Jenkins, Clinton, Purushotma, Robison, & Weigel, 2009; Rheingold, 2012) as they apply to social work education. Participants will learn about leveraging the participatory culture of social media through the pedagogical framework of Connected Learning to create applied learning activities that motivate students to learn. “Participatory culture is a culture with relatively low barriers to artistic expression and civic engagement, strong support for creating and sharing creations, and some type of informal mentorship whereby experienced participants pass along knowledge to novices” (Jenkins et al., 2009, p. 3). The Connected Learning framework rests on six principles: it is interest driven, peer supported, academically oriented, openly networked, production centered, and maintains a shared purpose (Ito et al., 2013). The essential part of Connected Learning and Participatory Culture comes down to the idea of epistemology, or how one comes to know what one knows. It is important to be able to use knowledge, skills, and values in the participatory culture of social media to better understand how to function, participate, collaborate, and ultimately achieve some task or goal. Fortunately, bridging all these ideas together in the classroom is relatively easy and educators can accomplish multiple objectives in their quest to enhance the digital literacies of their students.

The specific digital literacies that will be covered in this workshop stem from the 12 New Media Literacies Skills identified by Jenkins et al. (2009). These skills include appropriation, performance, judgement, simulation, transmedia navigation, multitasking, distributed cognition, collective intelligence, play, networking, negotiation, and visualization. Participants will understand what each term means and explore specific strategies to teach each skill using technology when appropriate, or not using any technology at all if there is no WiFi for instance. It is important to consider which digital literacies to utilize in the classroom because a careful review will ensure that the educator has matched the literacies appropriately to their learning objectives in the course. It’s important to remember that social media and digital technologies are just tools and should not be used to replace sound pedagogy (Young, McLeod, Brady, 2018). However, building applied learning activities around the ideas of new media literacies can help students to realize the potential of social media and digital technology for solving complex issues and developing tangible skills that will be incredibly useful during the course of their professional career. Through the demonstrations in this workshop educators will be able to help students develop the requisite technical, social, and cultural competencies to be ethical and effective social workers.

This workshop will be very hands-on, which is good because it is early early Sunday morning 🙂 Hopefully social work educators will come away from the workshop understanding that digital literacies are critically important for our students and that while we can teach them the necessary skills, knowledge, and values to ensure they are competent ethical professionals, we don ‘t necessarily need to rely on technology to get the job done. This may sound weird, especially coming from a technology advocate like myself, but in the real world, we may not always have access to the latest technologies or even the fastest internet. We should not let that slow us down in terms of preparing our students for the vastly digital world we now practice in.

Teaching Social Media for Nonprofit Managers

https:/In 2017 I was fortunate enough to receive a teaching grant from the Association for Research on Nonprofit Organizations and Voluntary Action. This grant allowed me to develop some materials to help other educators teach social media and aspects of digital literacies to nonprofit managers and students alike. I have decided to share that presentation, a Prezi below, in hopes that more people will be able to access it and share or use it how they see fit. I do have a book chapter built on this presentation forthcoming, so hopefully I will have another announcement about that soon 🙂

Apologies that the prezi doesn’t appear to want to embed. Perhaps I should update my WordPress theme 🙂


Feel free to let me know if you have any questions.


A Whole New Semester & Perspective

Media Literacy I can’t believe summer has come and gone. Actually, I can’t believe I haven’t written a blog post since March, WOW. To be fair I have been super busy editing a special issue of the Journal of Nonprofit Education and Leadership, which I hope will be out sometime in the beginning of the next year…AND we added a new addition to the family. Charlie is sure getting bigger and his brothers and sister love having him around. I would just like to get more sleep 🙂

This semester I am teaching courses on social work law and ethics as well as program evaluation and research. The latter course is going to fun and interesting because research is always fun and interesting, right!?! I have a couple ideas so I’m going to try my best to share them here and report on how well they went over in the class. This is part of my attempt to get back into the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, where I have published several pieces on digital technologies, digital literacies or new media in the past. By making this claim, that I plan to share more here, I am hoping it keeps me more accountable but time will tell.

The other day, the wonderful @Melanie Sage asked on Twitter how we are teaching digital literacies this term. There were some great ideas from having students evaluate an app for social work practice to using the new Social Work Tech Standards to create an infographic. I continue to use my new media literacies instrument to assess student’s level of digital literacies, which I have written about here and also provided the survey if you wish to use it here. But in my research class, I am going to talk specifically about the idea of judgment, or crap detection, and critical consumption. We now live in a very dubious society, some contend it’s because of social media and the proliferation of garbage content, but as the internet and social media continue to evolve I think we need to take a step back to reflect and consider several things. This is the critical thought aspect of judgment, where I think we can consider varying viewpoints and empathize with those opinions. The challenge, however, will be politely disagreeing with opinions and helping some to understand facts. I will use my example of cloaked websites but I will also have students try to find their own examples as well. Be it friends on Facebook sharing questionable news pieces or simply blogs that are completely opinion based.

This could be very hard, and I think some students may initially feel it is a waste of time, but my hope is that they learn more about critical consumption of content and the skill of judgment, but more importantly the skill of engagement. The idea of listening to another person’s opinion, empathizing with them, but (if the situation calls for it) providing some fact based education. I really don’t know how this will go, but that lends itself to me being accountable to come back here to share my experience. Wish me luck, and if I have any new ideas between now and then, I will try to share them on this blog as well.

But what about you. How will you be engaging students and developing their digital literacies? Let me know on Twitter or in the comments section.



Are you a Social Media Master?

Social-media-masterI was recently visiting a colleague’s blog and reading through some possible assignments that social work educators can integrate into their curriculum. One of the assignments was about finding an online quiz to assess digital literacies. I am happy to report that I have written about this topic in the academic literature and utilized such a tool. I am now offering that tool here just for the amusement of anyone who wants to see what their New Media Literacy score is. Enjoy.

I had to add a password to the quiz so find me on Twitter and I’ll be happy to share.

#APM16 Council on Social Work Education Annual Conference

screen-shot-2016-10-31-at-2-51-53-pmLater this week I am headed to Atlanta, Georgia to participate in the 2016 Annual Program Meeting of the Council on Social Work Education.  I have attended this meeting every year for the past 6 years and I still get excited to go, mainly to see old friends and meet new colleagues. This year I am continuing my work by presenting the ideas of Student Engagement in Online Education and Digital Literacies. I have previously participated in a panel at other APM’s and I have written about Student Engagement on this blog here. I am also presenting on Digital Literacies, a project I created an entire course around when I worked at my previous institution and I am still analyzing data from. I presented a variant of what I am doing at APM this year at another conference and also wrote about that here.  I will be tweeting lots from the conference so feel free to connect with me via Twitter, but I hope to see you there in Atlanta. Travel safe!

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