Cool Tools & Apps for Education

Anyone who has frequented this blog knows I like technology, and I really like technology that helps with education. I don’t really think technology gets in the way, well maybe it does sometimes, but I think technology can really enhance learning and help students apply their knowledge in a variety of ways.  To that end, I have been trying to collect tools as I use them or experiment with them during my teaching. I have collected a few that I think are pretty cool tools, but I would like help in finding more.

I have created a GoogleDoc where anyone can add tools they use in the process of education or work. I’m particularly interested in education, but you will see there are some tools that help with workflow management and productivity as well. Take a look, but better yet, ADD your own apps and tools to the spreadsheet so we can create a master list of the best tools out there for education.

https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1vFbAvoBnmAHpJDMeRBk3E33btFeSZqshGd-UifoF4R0/edit#gid=0

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#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!

My Philosophy of Teaching… I think?!?

Media LiteracyIt’s a new semester and new academic year. I can’t believe this is now my second semester at CSUSM and that I have effectively been teaching for over 5 years. I like to think I have learned a lot about teaching, learning, and education in that time but I think the more I have learned the more I understand how much i DON’T know or just when I think I have an assignment figured out, something changes requiring me to adapt and change with it. Some of my friends think that as a professor I spend most of my time sitting around doing nothing. HA! Little do they know about the hours of planning and adjusting assignments and policies to ensure that I am meeting certain learning outcomes. I get it, that sometimes it seems like things I do (or educators in general) don’t make sense. In reality, you have to remember the big picture and understand that much of learning is a process and that things do build upon each other.

To that end I have been thinking about my own philosophy of teaching. I actually wrote a blog post about this as a doc student many years ago if you are interested you can read it here. Essentially, my philosophy of teaching tends to be student-centered. I realize that students bring a lot of knowledge and experience into the classroom. The challenge I have is getting students to recognize that they have something to bring and they can make such a meaningful contribution to our learning if they share. Along with knowledge and skills the students bring, I have realized they also bring anxiety or trepidation about sharing and being shut down. I understand that students need to feel comfortable (something that the University of Chicago just negated so to speak) before they can share. I try to empathize with students and let them know that my classroom is a safe space and I try to make it so that they can share. But I realize that the message does not always come through. I hope to keep on trying to communicate this as I move forward.

Being student-centered to me is about making students comfortable but also understanding that it can be challenging to wrestle with tough topics like racism and oppression or statistics. What I try to do is set students up to feel empowered to take on those challenges in a way that they know they can try, even if they fail or get a B-…But at least they can understand they are learning. For me it is about thinking critically and valuing the process of learning, respecting one’s peers, and keeping an open mind. I tend to use digital media in my classes because of my research interests but lately I question the use of those mediums as students appear to be overly distracted. I know that my teaching philosophy is going to change and it will continually change over the course of my career but I hope students will always know they can come to me if they have questions. That connection is important and feeling empowered is critically important to the learning process.

So for this new semester I do plan to try a couple of new things both using and not using technology. If I have any students reading this blog I hope they will understand that I may not have all the answers but at least I can help them find what they are looking for and to do so in a way that helps to transform the way they look at education and interacting with people. Best of luck to everyone with the new semester and if you have any good ideas, tips or tricks. Please consider sharing.

Thanks!

End of the Semester Reflections, Spring 2016

My students sometimes give me the roll-eyed look when I talk about our profession being one of self-reflection. I know it’s true and I am confident that you can find many programs across the country that also have some sort of reflection-based assignment in one of their courses. Self-reflection is critical to the learning process. There is even a great journal focused solely on this subject called Reflections: Narratives of Professional Helping. Full disclosure, I have a recent publication in this journal 🙂  To this end I thought I would reflect a bit on the second semester of my first year at Cal State San Marcos.

This semester has been full of working with students on their culminating experience, which is either a capstone project or Thesis. I had the opportunity to chair several projects and be part of others. These projects focused on veterans, homelessness, and social media in clinical social work practice. I’m sure the students might share a different perspective, but I enjoyed the opportunity to work with them. It was challenging at times and yes I am exhausted but that could be due to the fact that I haven’t read that much paper since my dissertation phase.  These projects turned out rather well and gave me a renewed sense to pursue some avenues of research I was becoming dis-interested in. For example, one group focused on developing an advocacy campaign around homelessness. See the trailer below. I was truly amazed at how well this project turned out and extremely pleased with the learning demonstrated by these, and all students.

 

 

Another example of some great student learning through reflection happened in my macro practice course. I employ a critical thinking presentation assignment and pretty much leave it open to the students to create a presentation that demonstrates their learning as it applies to one or more of the course learning objectives. These objectives are also tied to the learning competencies set forth by CSWE. Students did an amazing job this semester thinking critically and reflecting on their learning. I use twitter in this class and I had students create presentations that used some of the twitter assignment that they completed in class.  One particularly creative use of this was developing a word cloud of the course hashtag from the semester’s tweets and talking about how it related to their learning.

word cloud

If you are interested in creating word clouds you can use a number of different web-based platforms such as http://www.wordle.net/ or applications like TweetRoot. I really like the word clouds because they also represent a form of data visualization where the larger words represent the number of times those words were used. It is reassuring to see my students tweeting messages, links, and other content related to community, awareness, and change. These are things that definitely make up Macro Social Work practice.

I can honestly say this semester has been fun and challenging. I thoroughly enjoy teaching students about macro social work and positive social change. I am looking forward to teaching research this summer and to my other class in the fall. But I’m wondering what you do to help students reflect, be mindful, and engage in otherwise formative learning activities?  Maybe you, as a student, have participated in a learning activity that was especially meaningful. I hope that you will leave a comment and let me know so I can think about using my class the next time 🙂

#BPDTX16 Annual Conference for Baccalaureate Program Directors

The annual conference for the Baccalaureate Program Directors is taking place this week in Dallas, Texas. Unfortunately I am not able to attend because I maxed out on my allotment of conferences for this academic year but I wanted to call your attention to the conference hashtag #BPDTX16 on Twitter because you can follow the conference and get some great updates from various social work educators, students, and practitioners who are in attendance.
dallas-tx-skyline

 This conference is really geared towards social work education at the undergraduate level but still features some great research presentations and teaching workshops. One such workshop I was meant to be apart of was put on by Stephen Baldridge of Abilene Christian University and Laurel Hitchcock of the University of Alabama at Birmingham. The workshop was titled “Social Media Technology Basics for the Social Work Educator” and featured some great content related to using social media in social work education. Dr. Hitchcock wrote a great blog post about the presentation, which also included the presentation abstract. The three of us regularly use social media in our classes and have found it to be useful to students. Be sure to go check out that blog post and if you have questions, you can always leave me a comment or reply to me on Twitter.

#MacroSW Chat October 8th at 9pm EST

Inequality for All: Student-Focused #MacroSW Twitter Chat on 10/8/15

Laurel Hitchcock of University of Alabama at Birmingham and I (Jimmy Young of the California State University San Marcos) are working with the wonderful folks at #MacroSW Chat to host a live Twitter chat for social work students in March. While the chat is designed with students in mind, anyone is welcome to join us. Here are the details:

 

Topic: Inequality for All – we recommend watching the documentary by Robert Reich before the chat.

 

Date & Time: October 8, 2015 at 8:00 PM CST/6:00 PM PST

 

Hashtag: #MacroSW

 

Hosts: Jimmy Young and Laurel Hitchcock

Questions:

  1. What is happening today in terms of distribution of wealth? Why is it happening? What do you see happening and what are the causes?
  2. When do you think inequality becomes a problem?
  3. If the government sets the rules for how the market functions, who do these rules benefit or hurt?
  4. Who is looking out for the American worker? Who do you think should be and what could be done?
  5. After watching the film, do you agree/disagree with the idea of equal opportunity and the American Dream?
  6. What do you think most Americans don’t realize about income Inequality?
  7. What single word best describes how the film made you feel?
  8. What’s next? How do we as social workers address inequality or move forward?

If you are an educator wanting to incorporate this chat as an assignment into your class, please click here for details. We hope you can join us!

Please contact us (by clicking on our names below) if you plan to have your class or maybe a student group participate in the chat. We also welcome questions.

 

Jimmy Young

Laurel Hitchcock

 

 

#Reflections on Fall 2014 Semester

Blogging seems to be one of those things that ALWAYS gets put to the back burner. It’s funny actually, because I think that blogging has a vital place in academia and the world of research, but I just still can’t manage to find the time. Keeping this in mind, I though I would post a couple of thoughts from this semester where I knew I should have posted those thoughts here. The thoughts center around my research interests in the use of social media in social work education as well as the social media course I teach.

First things first, this semester Laurel Hitchcock and I had an amazing experience with our Live Twitter Chat. We partnered with the #MacroSW folks to promote the chat and had students from all over the country, and even a few participants from across the pond, participate in the one hour event about income inequality. Laurel provides a great follow up to the event on her blog, but I would definitely echo here statements about getting students involved and excited about policy/macro issues. Students not only participated in the chat but also were required to write a one page reflection on the experience of being involved in the chat. The reflections were fantastic with many students expressing their astonishment at how they could engage with so many people in different locations from very diverse backgrounds. The civility of the chat was also noted when students politely disagreed with statements and mentioned in the reflection how they felt like it was nearly impossible to have a “political discussion” in this day and age without it turning into a negative battle of seemingly intellectual wit. You probably know what they mean if you have ever engaged in a Political Facebook discussion with your uncle Jerry.

IMG_2055-1

 

Other students noted that they now see value in social media, Twitter specifically, and understand how they could possibly use it to augment their learning. For me, this is one of my foremost goals of integrating social media into the classroom. Students today are bombarded with selfies, viral videos, or other content that has little to no value other than for the ephemeral moment that may or may not bring about a smile. They don’t understand that there is a treasure trove of information on various social media platforms and that once they understand how to use social media in a professional context, they can connect with others to learn and expand their knowledge. Naturally, of course, we need to teach students crucial digital literacies such as judgement because not everything is accurate or trustworthy.

Screen Shot 2014-10-15 at 2.30.29 PM

But the point is that information is readily accessible and if you know how to search and use critical thinking then you can find a lot of very useful information. This is another one of my main goals in using social media in the classroom, that is teaching students critical digital literacies and how to research information or topics by connecting with experts online.

I have operationalized this in my policy class when utilizing collaborative learning groups or CLG’s. Breaking students into small groups and having them work on various questions related to the social security act left some groups wondering where to start. Yes, there is always the book but I knew that at least 2 students in each group had either a tablet or laptop to access the internet. I encouraged them to find any information they could related to their questions dealing with the social security act. I then put Twitter on the big screen in the classroom and simply searched “Social Security” to see what people were sharing and discussing about online. It didn’t take long to find an individual I follow who had actually tweeted a link to a news piece from NPR. The piece directly related to some of the questions and I encouraged the group with those questions to use this source and share it with the class.

I want to reiterate that it is important to use critical thinking and digital literacies when finding information online, whether through social media or that Google machine. Part of my argument for using social media over Google lies in connecting with experts. A small example from my social media class this semester involved tweeting to Beth Kanter and Allison Fine, authors of the Networked Nonprofit and the textbook I use in my social media class.  Beth and Allison are expert social media users so it’s almost no wonder that they responded back but it is still great to connect with individuals online.   Screen Shot 2014-10-15 at 3.27.51 PMI brought this up in class and also had several students throughout the semester share how they thought it was cool when experts or celebrities favorited or Re-Tweeted their tweets. It does feel good and it can be great to connect with these experts to engage in a conversation about a specific topic and then have that conversation impact your research.

One other thing that happened this semester in my social media class was getting our course hashtag #SOWK388 trending nationally on Twitter. It took place when the class was viewing the documentary Pink Ribbons Inc. and live tweeting their reactions to the film. I have written about tweeting with documentaries previously and I have an article that will be published based on this blog post sometime in 2015. I was probably more surprised than the class was when I got the notification in our Twitter feed and I shared with the class. Although they did immediately turn to Twitter to see…

Screen Shot 2014-11-04 at 10.28.27 AM

This is a screen shot of the Trends, along with an arrow to our course hashtag. I was alerted to the hashtag trending because of a service on twitter that provides these notifications and some basic stats. Here is another screen shot:

Screen Shot 2014-11-04 at 10.29.27 AM

 

A hashtag trending on Twitter means that it is one of the most tweeted about topics at that time. It’s being tweeted about so much so fast that Twitter picks it up in the trending pane. This was never a goal of tweeting documentaries but there are some potential educational benefits of having the course hashtag trend nationally and it can actually relate back to how I use live twitter chats. Because the hashtag was visible, we could have had a broader conversation on the topic of Cause Related Marketing, which is part of what Pink Ribbons Inc. is all about. We did not actually have anyone chime into our live tweets that morning but I think it could have been valuable to process with students and others on Twitter the reactions to this film and the topic of the week. This is essentially providing the application of theoretical learning that typically takes place in the classroom. In other words, using social media provides for an actual avenue where students can apply their learning.  I appreciate the opportunities afforded through connected learning and students have really begun to see the importance of social media in their lives. Especially beyond the selfies.

Now it’s time for the Holiday break and because I have a new prep for next semester I am going to unplug and enjoy my kids and everything that goes with the Holidays. Thanks for reading my blog and see you next year.

 

Engaging Students in Online Learning #2014APM

UPDATE: Thanks to those of you who came to the session and if you missed it, no worries. Much of the information is below along with this link to Dr. Melanie Sage’s handout.

 

The Council on Social Work Education Annual Program Meeting takes place this weekend (October 23- 26) in Tampa, Florida. I am fortunate enough to be involved in three different presentations and hope to see many people in attendance, please say hello if you attend.

This post is largely to serve as a placeholder for a panel discussion I am part of entitled “Engaging Students in Online Learning.” I, along with Andrew Quinn and Melanie Sage from University of North Dakota and Dale Fitch from University of Missouri will be discussing this topic.

Here is our abstract for more information.

Although online social work programs and courses are growing, many critiques exist relative to online social work offerings. Critiques often are focused on the ability to engage and assess students in the absence of physical presence . Although research related to learning outcomes often demonstrate no differences dependent on whether the course is offered online or in person (cite), the online environment requires a change in teaching methodology, perhaps especially related to strategies for maintaining active student engagement.

Student engagement in online environments has unique characteristics that set it apart from the face-to-face classroom. Traditional methods such as ice breakers or arranging the desks in certain configurations present challenges in the virtual environment. Other methods such as using our bodily presence to greet students with a handshake are simply not possible. Nevertheless, there are still numerous techniques an instructor can employ in order to effect engagement with students in the online synchronous and asynchronous classroom.

During this online panel, three educators who have expertise in teaching online share the techniques that they use for engaging students.   Each will present engagement strategies that have been found effective based upon their course evaluations and student feedback. The panelists will offer strategies for using course management tools, role-play, break-out groups, conversational discussion, and the virtual world to simulate and accentuate the types of engagement that occur in an in-person classroom.

The first panelist will address engagement by examining classroom authority, using Course Management Software (CMS) such as groups to manage discussion board logistics, building assignments around problem-solving projects, the use of audio and video files by both the instructor and students for presentations, the use of automated course participation reports, matching communication strategies, i.e., lecture, announcements, discussion boards, emails, with the communicative intent, and, most importantly, methods to provide technical support for students who may not be tech savvy.

Media LiteracyThe second panelist will address challenges in providing a rich and engaging learning environment to help students expand their knowledge and develop critical thinking skills while maintaining quality education. Strategies include using social media, course management systems, mobile technologies such as smartphones and tablets to engage students in the learning process. He will discuss pedagogical principles of course design and how he has made choices in determining what methods will help to meet the course objectives (Youn, 2007; Vernon et al., 2009). One method that will be offered in discussion involves using collaborative learning groups and creating an overall learning community that encourages participation and creates social presence online so that students do not feel disconnected.

The third panelist will focus on strategies for engaging students in online clinical courses. Clinical courses taught online are especially vulnerable to critique (Ayala, 2009; Coe Regan & Youn, 2008; Reamer, 2013), although research on distance education in clinical social work courses (Cummings, Foels, & Chaffin, 2013) supports the “no significant difference” hypothesis in which learning outcomes are the same between online and in-person courses. This panelist will describe the ways in which she adapted commonly used classroom strategies such as role play, break-out sessions, guest speakers, discussion design, as well as Web 2.0 technologies such as the use of avatars (McBrien, Cheng, & Jones, 2009; Rockinson-Szapkiw & Walker, 2009; Sage, 2013; Wilson, Brown, Wood, & Farkas, 2013).


 

As I mentioned above, I wanted to provide a place where attendees can access the information I am discussing. Truth is, you can never rely on conference technology and since I’m not exactly sure how this panel will proceed, I like the idea of giving something for individuals to take away, which will ultimately bring them here, to this post. Here is what I plan to (or did) share during the panel.

Engaging students online in a quality way where they are gaining knowledge and developing skills requires a lot of time and energy. I strive to create a learning community high in social presence with good structure to help keep students on task, engaged, and focused on learning. First, I think course design is very important! I use the course learning management system, which is Blackboard at my institution, and use the available tools as much as possible because I know that students are pretty familiar with this platform because of other classes.

Organization is crucial. A layout that is intuitive helps students find information they need. I also do simple things with due dates by including the Due Date in the Heading of the section or areas where we talk about the Assignment.

Screen Shot 2014-10-21 at 11.16.28 AMThis way students have had this come to their attention at multiple places throughout the platform. I also provide my syllabus in a Word Document and in PDF format in an area where they can expect to learn about the expectations and policies of the course.

I use video extensively in my online courses to help instruct, model, and create social presence. Social presence is extremely important to help students feel connected and engaged in their learning. “Essentially, social presence supports the notion that students see the faculty (and each other) as real people in their online class.” Within the course LMS, I have a welcome video, an introduction video that takes students through the various aspects of the course. I also have other videos explaining assignments and I often post summary videos to provide feedback after the learning unit is finished.

One fun way to help create social presence and get students to interact with each other is with an online ice breaker. There are different ways of doing this from using a Wikipage to share photos of who you are, what you are interested in, or what you think defines you. I have done a more interactive version of this by having students make videos to share this information.

Along with video I use social media to help students obtain new media literacy and enhance their critical thinking skills.

imgres

Learning is a social endeavor. The online environment does not have to create silos where students are left alone. Instead we can use technology to learn together. Using social media is probably the best part of my social media course (more on this course here), that is helping students recognize that all their tweeting, facebooking, and social networking has practical significance for their future. Also helping them to realize that they can use social media for research and to help them gain knew knowledge and skills through collaboration.

One way I do this is through a Social Bookmarking assignment using Pinterest. I create a Private Board and invite all the students to “Pin” Infographics, websites, videos, and other information they find on the web to this board as long as the information relates to the course.

LEGO-infographicEffectively I am crowdsourcing the class to find great information I can share in future classes but I am also helping students to realize there is a vast amount of information available online. In this process I teach about the New Media Literacy of Judgement, or Crap Detection and explain that students should not just post random information, but that they first should judge it’s value and also explain how it is valuable.

I use Twitter to extend conversations outside of the class. I often show video documentaries, and in an asynchronous course where students typically complete the assignments by a certain deadline but at almost any time of day or night, this means students can still participate with their peers or myself as the instructor. I typically do not tweet after midnight, which my students understand as I discuss course policies and expectations in the beginning, but I do respond to them the next day. I have a course hashtag #SOWK388 that students use to tweet their thoughts and reactions to the documentaries and other course content (more on tweeting with documentaries here). I provide specifics about participation and expectations on how to Tweet and engage with others using the hashtag. I will often ask follow up questions on Twitter to get students to think deeper about an issue related to the content in the course.

Another important part of engaging students in my online courses is the use of Collaborative Learning Groups or CLG’s.

Collaborative Learning Groups allow students to work together to

  • Gather resources
  • Problem solve questions
  • Process and explore ideas
  • Develop and implement group projects
  • Complete course assignments

The Theoretical foundation of CLG’s is informed by Dewey:

  • Learning is achieved within a social context
  • Learning results from conceptual change in the mind of the learner
  • New knowledge is based on preceding knowledge
  • Student is at the center of the learning experience
  • Learning occurs within authentic, real-world learning tasks

Collaborative Learning Groups help students interact in the online space, collaborate, problem solve, and provide a way for myself to manage grading because with 35 to 50 students in an online class, grading 50- 10 minute videos can be an extremely daunting task and I would still like to have a summer 🙂 But it really is more than that, it is recognizing that on a theoretical level, using CLG’s supports learning in a social context, which is what using social media is all about. The CLG’s allow students to process and explore ideas in the pursuit and development of their Capstone Projects for the class. As part of the CLG, students also develop technical skills that are more implicit. This happens by learning new technologies that help them to collaborate such as using GoogleDocs, Wiki’s, Hangouts, and other social technologies that allow them to accomplish tasks online without meeting Face to Face. This also supports one of the course objectives, specifically developing New Media Literacies.  The big question is, How is this done?

Each group is free to choose the technologies they want to use to accomplish the assignment. The assignment is to create an advocacy or awareness campaign using social media for a specific cause and or nonprofit organization. The students are required to write a paper, per the general studies course requirements, but then they use this information as the foundation for their presentation. The presentation is around 10 minutes and students are to include visual content that helps to provide some background on the cause or organization, supporting literature, and then identify a strategy for using social media to raise awareness. I provide the students with the basic tools that are available in Blackboard but encourage them to use tools outside of the course LMS to help them complete the project. Many students have used tools such as YouTube, VoiceThread, or even Powerpoint and a combination of visual mediums to present their final project. During the presentation, students are encouraged to share a worked example of how they see the implementation, monitoring, and evaluation of their social media strategy. This includes discussing social media platforms, methods of sharing information (such as through Infographics), methods of getting others involved to support the cause, and how they would determine the success of their strategy.

Here are some screen shots from a presentation completed by students.

The Issue About Save the Children Transparency using social media Raiseing awareness at unk Take Action

 

The feedback from students has been overwhelmingly positive with many indicating that it feels good to be learning about a topic that directly relates to their life. Students also expressed frustrations with learning new tools and collaborating online, which requires more time management and organizational skills.

I have enjoyed this class immensely and although I understand some of the frustrations I think this represents how much of the professional world is being shaped today. Professionals are increasingly working in teams, collaborating on cases, and using technology to augment everything they do in practice. I will continue to work on this class, the delivery, and the assignments as new tools and methods evolve. For instance, to help with social presence in my next online class I am going to use an iMovie trailer to welcome the students in a fun and engaging way. Once it’s finished I will be sure to share it here on my blog. Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions.

Social Media, Digital Activism, and eCitizenship

Cyber-activismTwo years ago I developed a new General Studies course for the University entitled “Social Media, Digital Activism, and eCitizenship.” I have been teaching this course online and face to face for several semesters now and I thought I would share with others how I conceived of this class and how it has been evolving as I continue to teach it. I think some things work great and other things not so great.

From my syllabus it states:

The purpose of this course is to examine the role of social media in the human service and nonprofit sector and how to utilize social media for a variety of purposes. The course will identify what social media is and how it can be used for marketing, communications, and advocacy within human services in addition to how social media promotes civic engagement. Students will learn about participatory culture and new media literacies through the discovery of social media platforms as well as how to apply this knowledge, which promotes critical thinking skills, encourages collaborative problem solving, and acknowledges the role of social media in forming networks and affiliations that can strengthen civic engagement. The Capstone project enables students to employ social media to creatively design, organize, and evaluate an integrated strategy that promotes an organization, critical issue, or assists with marketing and communications.

Students are required to complete a Capstone project that requires them to evaluate information from more than one academic discipline, formulate logical connections between disciplines as they relate to the topic, employ the approach of more than one academic discipline in completing the project, synthesize knowledge related to the topic, and communicate effectively in the medium chosen for the capstone project. This is achieved by focusing on marketing and promoting as well as on advocacy or activism. The learning units and assignments are contextualized around the nonprofit sector and more specifically human service organizations.

There are four learning units:

  1. What is social media?
  2. Marketing & Communications in Human Services & the Nonprofit Sector
  3. Advocacy & Digital Activism
  4. Developing an Integrated Strategy

The funnest thing about this course is that because it’s a general studies course I often have a diverse array of majors. Many students have stated on the teaching evaluations that when they first enrolled in the class they did so to complete the Capstone Requirement and thought they already knew everything about social media because they use it everyday. I initially thought this would be and so I start of the course with a history of social media and try to present a different perspective on social media that many students may not have seen before. It’s fun, engaging, and students are usually surprised to learn they actually don’t know that much about social media. I really enjoy the lecture on identity development and how that identity is portrayed online where users can create an image of themselves that may be less than authentic.

Slacktivist or Activist

Unit two and three dig deeper into social media strategies and methods along with some discussions on appropriate or ethical use of social media and how organizations can use social media more effectively. The final unit brings it all together and I usually show several best practice examples of organizations strategic communications, advertising, or raising awareness using social media. In addition to these units and assignments geared towards social media, when I teach the class face-to-face during the semester I also bring in a focus on New Media Literacies and Participatory Culture. I have blogged about New Media Literacies several times but I always link back to this post. I incorporate the 12 New Media Literacies into class by using several of the skills to help students learn and master the content.

For example, one of the New Media Literacies Skills is Play, or the capacity to experiment with one’s surroundings as a form of problem solving. I use games in class to help students get their brain activity up, which can be especially good for early morning classes. Once I have done this then I can move onto focusing on a specific skill, such as Collective Intelligence. This semester I use the Jelly Bean experiment to demonstrate how Collective Intelligence works. If you don’t know what the Jelly Bean experiment is, watch the video below. Collective Intelligence is the ability to pool knowledge and compare notes with others toward a common goal, much the way Wikipedia works. But I was interested in getting students to engage rather than just simply talk about Wikipedia. Using the video below as inspiration, I grabbed some jelly beans and put them into a jar. During class I asked students to guess how many jelly beans were in the jar. Then I asked them to share a photo of the jar to their various social networks in hopes that we would get a higher response rate. In the end, the experiment didn’t work as well as in the video but students were able to understand the wisdom of the crowd, and it was fun to engage their social networks in the lesson as well.

The not so great things about this class include some of the things I have written about before in regards to having an iPad required course. Specifically, the distraction that can exist because students are seemingly more engaged in their iPads than in the class. Fortunately for me, I am easy going enough that it doesn’t bother me, unless it is clearly distracting at which point I talk to that student. But this is also the reason to have a discussion or policy in the beginning outlining the expectations of the course. I do this every semester and remind students that they are adult learners, responsible for their own education. If they want to waste the class checking Facebook or playing Candy Crush, then they should have no misunderstandings as to why they did not receive the grade they expected. More importantly, I think this motivates or even mandates that I become a more engaging instructor. I try to have interactive lectures and videos that draw the students in from Candy Crush and into my lectures. This doesn’t mean everyone is awe struck by my lectures but at least some students seem very interested 😀

Overall, I think this is one of my favorite classes. Not just because I designed it from the ground up or because it is one of my substantive areas of research, but because the topic is extremely relevant. It’s also fun but can be serious when needed. I don’t know exactly where it will go in the future as I have several ideas for improvement, but I recognize that the improvement must take place within the confines of the course requirements. If you have any questions, feel free to email or reach out to me on twitter. I like to keep some of these posts short so I’m sure there is something missing!

 

 

#husITa14 and The Joint World Conference on Social Work, Education, and Social Development

I recognize that the title to this post is rather long and I hope it transfers to Twitter well. I have actually been back in the States for some time and meaning to follow up here in this space about my experiences at this amazing conference.

husITa14 Session

First, Australia.What can I say other than I love Australia and was so happy to be able to return to a country I love. It was great seeing old friends and meeting new acquaintances. I loved being able to taste the food, see the sights, and interact with the people. It was more than fun, it was truly spectacular. If you follow me on Google+ I will try to add some photos later 😀

 

The conference was my first international conference and first time presenting at #husITa14 and I must say I completely over-prepared. Ten minutes is not nearly enough time to discuss the topic of New Media Literacies and my specific research.  I simply ran out of time and did not get to discuss my results, which if you were in attendance at the presentation, I’m sorry and hope that this blog will suffice. There is also a post over on the husITa website with my powerpoint slides and abstract.  I have submitted a manuscript for this study to the Journal of Technology in Human Services and with any luck it will be published soon. I just wanted to share quickly what I didn’t get to during the short 10 minutes I had in Melbourne.

Accessing the link above about New Media Literacies (NML) really gives you the context for the study. What I actually did was replicated a study produced by Ioana Literat who is a doctoral student with Henry Jenkins. I wanted to replicate the reliability and validity of the instrument they created to measure self-reported New Media Literacies skills. You can still take the survey to see your New Media Literacy Score here, and if you feel so inclined it would be great if you shared your score with me via Twitter @Jimmysw. But it is totally up to you. I also wanted to assess the levels of NML’s of social work students and educators and see if there is a significant difference between the two groups when it comes to new media literacies.

Results….

The results indicated that the survey instrument had adequate reliability and that between this study and Ioana’s, seven similar subscales of new media literacies emerged. There was a significant difference between the new media literacies levels of social work students and educators where students had higher levels of NML’s. Examining the number of hours engaged with media may also explain why students scored higher than educators in new media literacies as students spend more time playing games online or on their phones. Despite the argument for distraction with this type of media, the NML’s theoretical framework and concept of participatory culture illustrates how students are learning differently in a digital environment. They are using the skills of multitasking, play, appropriation, and performance to achieve some desired outcome and the reality is that there are tangible skills being learned in gaming and digital environments. Naturally there are some limitations with this study, such as the need for a better recruitment strategy and sample because the current strategy relied heavily on using technology, which could imply an inherent bias towards individuals that may already have higher levels of media literacy.

The social work literature is replete with arguments for increasing the information and communication technology competency of students as well as educators. These digital competencies are important, but I think we also need to include the topic of participatory culture and specifically new media literacies. As social workers we respond to contexts that shape practice, use critical thinking skills augmented by creativity and curiosity, and engage in research-informed practice and practice informed research. These are skills that compliment the concept of participatory culture and new media literacies, and this study provides a starting point to discuss the place of NML’s in social work education.

Lastly, a common misunderstanding of technology is the focus on what the tools do and do not allow. The conversation on digital technology and learning needs to include a focus on the participatory aspects of this new digital culture and how increasing knowledge around new media literacies can address the challenges we face in an ever increasing digital world. Expanding our view of new media, digital technology, and understanding participatory culture will help us to build upon the skills students bring to the classroom. This is an exciting time with the opportunity to empower students to build upon those skills by incorporating new media literacies in a way that will expand knowledge, create opportunities for collaboration, and prepare students for practice in a new and diverse society.

Some of that last part was taken from the manuscript now currently under review. I hope that if you like what you see, you will visit this blog more often or follow me on Twitter, and seek out the manuscript IF it gets published. Fingers crossed!

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