#APM19 Social Work Education Conference

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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.

Top Ten Schools/Programs of Social Work on Twitter

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Remember the old Top Ten lists from Late Night TV? I remember loving some of those lists and since I have been engaged in some research to understand how Social Work Programs use Twitter, I decided to go ahead and create my own Top Ten list of Schools or Programs on Twitter. But first, you should know that I currently have this list under review for publication with a journal and that this list could be subject to change over time given the shifting variables or factors embedded with my methodology. This begs the questions, What was my methodology?

Well, I utilized some of the principles from Data Science to gather over 26,000 tweets during the period of 2017 to 2018. I follow all, at least I think it’s all, of the social work education programs and schools on Twitter. The list below is not indicative of all programs currently on the list because some have just joined Twitter. I think the list still has merit given my methods because newer programs on Twitter have not yet gathered the number of followers and other factors used to create the list. After downloading all the tweets, cleaning and organizing the data set, I ranked each program/school based on a composite score of 1 to 100 that I created from key metrics like number of followers, number of likes, how many Twitter users each program follows back, most @ replies, greatest use of the hashtag (#) in tweets, and overall number of tweets included in the sampling period. I get that it’s not perfect, but David’s research from the home office probably wasn’t perfect either 🙂

So…without further adieu.

Top Ten Social Work Schools and or Programs on Twitter! 

Rank

1

School

University at Buffalo School of Social Work

Score

49

2

San Diego State University School of Social Work

45

3

Case Western Reserve University Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences

25

4

University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work

22

5

Columbia University School of Social Work

20

6

Florida State University College of Social Work (tied)

University of Utah College of Social Work (tied)

17

7

University of Pennsylvania School of Social Policy & Practice

16

8

University of Southern California Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work

12

9

The University of Texas at Austin Steve Hicks School of Social Work (tied)

Tarleton State University Department of Social Work (tied)

10

10

Arizona State University School of Social Work

7

 

I know there are more than 10 programs represented and I was a little surprised to see a tie at numbers 6 and 9. However, the top schools on this list have a couple of things in common. First, they are active on Twitter and do a fantastic job of engaging with their online communities. For example, U. of Buffalo consistently engages in the #MacroSW Chats and thus has a lot of tweets under their profile. Second, the top schools have a lot of followers but they also follow back, which can be a good indicator that they understand how to use Twitter to build relationships. I will save the rest of the interpretation for until my article is published, fingers crossed 🙂

Let me know what you think or if you have any questions. Of course, you can always follow me on Twitter. Thanks for taking the time to read through this post and stay tuned as I hope to update this list within the next year.

Council on Social Work Education #APM18

Wow, I can’t believe I haven’t written anything on this blog since March. Sorry to my regular readers, all two of you, but life has been pretty busy. I will try to post something about that later.

Here I wanted to post about the 2018 Council on Social Work Education Annual Program Meeting, taking place in Orlando Florida. I am presenting a poster on how Schools of Social Work use Twitter. IMG_6487.jpg

In case you weren’t able to stop by to see the poster I thought I would link to it here and write a little more about this project. Please Retweet #SocialWorkEducation: A Content Analysis of Social Work Programs on Twitter has been a project in a process now for over a year. It all started by tracking the schools or programs of social work on Twitter that I know about. I created a List and then used If This Then That (IFFT) to track all the tweets and download them to a GoogleDoc. There is a much easier way to do this with Python and some Programming but I’m still learning Python 🙂 Plus Twitter seems to change their API often and so this was an easy way that got the job done, even though it took forever!!!

I just want to know how schools and programs use Twitter, what they share, and who they might interact with. Take a look through the slides below for a bit more information.

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I do actually have more tweets to analyze and I am currently working with one of my grad students on developing a coding scheme to apply to a larger dataset. I hope to have this other project done within the next several months so you might be interested in checking back here to see my progress. Or you can always follow me on Twitter 🙂 imgres

The Annual Program Meeting is always fun and informative. I hope I am able to meet you there or catch up with old friends. Stop by and say Hi during my poster presentation.

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.
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 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.

Student Documentary Movie Night 2-25-2016 with #MacroSW Chat

Dr. Laurel Hitchcock and I are once again partnering with #MacroSW to have a discussion about Income Inequality in America. We have used this innovative assignment and engaging documentary for a couple years now and even published some of our findings in Social Work Education: The International Journal. I hope you will join us this Thursday at 9pm Central, 6pm Pacific Time as we organize around the #MacroSW hashtag on Twitter to talk about this important issue. Also, please go and checkout the MacroSW blog for more information.

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#2015APM Council on Social Work Education, Denver, Colorado

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The Annual Program Meeting of the Council on Social Work Education takes place in Denver, Colorado this year and I am excited to be attending this wonderful conference. This conference affords me the opportunity to meet new colleagues, catch up with old friends, and begin new collaborations. Yes, I am also presenting some of my research and scholarly activities regarding the use of social media in social work education, but I mostly look forward to networking with others.

 

At this years conference I will be participating in two different presentations, one a panel regarding online social work education and another regarding the Twitter Chat Assignment developed by myself and Laurel Hitchcock. I have written many times before on these topics here on this blog as well as published several articles on the broad topic of social media, but more on that later.

The first presentation is all about engaging students in online education. I am presenting with several colleagues; Melanie Sage, Andrew Quinn both of the University of North Dakota, and Dale Fitch from the University of Missouri. We previously present on this topic and I also shared a blog post regarding that presentation. I hope to add in a bit more regarding the use of social media to further engage students in online learning in unique and innovative ways. I hope you can attend, but if not, I will try and get another blog post up after the conference.

The second presentation is focused on using Live Twitter Chats to meet macro/policy social work objectives. Laurel and I have been working together on this assignment for several years now and currently have a piece in the process on evaluating this assignment. Students have really engaged in this and we are excited to continue working to refine and improve the assignment, more to come on that as well.

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If you are in Denver during the conference, I hope to see or meet you. If not, you can always reach out to me via Twitter @JimmySW if you have questions or want to say hello. One of these conferences I do think we need to set up a Tweetup to get all the social workers on Twitter together at one time. That would be fun.

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.

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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.

#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!

iPolicy: Evaluating iPads in social welfare

In the Spring of 2013 I authored a couple blog posts on my social welfare policy course that was designated an iPad course. You can find the posts here and here as well as a post about an iPad specific assignment.

I also took the opportunity to conduct a small study on the experience and now you can see the full write up in the Journal of Technology in Human Services. The first 50 people to follow this link can download a free copy of the article “iPolicy: Exploring and Evaluating the use of iPads in a Social Welfare Policy Course.” The iPad was/is a great tool and I am still teaching an iPad required course, although the course is focused on social media, digital activism, and eCitizenship. The exciting thing about this class is that I teach it both online and face-to-face. This summer I am developing an iBook for the course in the Fall and so far using iBooks Author has been relatively easy and even Fun. Yes I dare say fun. I will try to come back to this journal to share my iBook and the experiences I have with this technology throughout the summer but I have a few things to finish up first. I hope you have great plans for the summer and be sure to stop back by this blog again in the future or sign up for email alerts. You can also follow me on Twitter 😀

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