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 😀

#SWpolicy410 & Twitter Chats in Social Work Education

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

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

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

New Media Literacy Score

If you follow me on Twitter then you know that I have already sent out a link about this study I am conducting. However, I also wanted to share this brief blog post as it relates to my sampling strategy for this study. You may recall a post several months back about Participatory Culture and Web 2.0 for Social Work Education. This study is the next phase of my work so I hope you will join in.  Here is some more information with the link below.

You are invited to participate in a survey entitled, Assessing New Media Literacies in Social Work Education. The purpose of this study is to understand the relationship between media literacy and digital participation among social work educators and students. Specifically, this study will increase understanding regarding the use of information and communication technologies such as social media, while testing the validity and reliability of a newly developed assessment tool for self-reported media literacy levels.

Your participation is very important and the survey should not take more than 15 minutes of your time.  You are being asked to complete an online questionnaire asking about basic demographics, digital participation, civic engagement, and new media literacies. You will be presented with a series of statements about media use, which will help determine your media literacy skills. At the completion of the survey, you will receive a score indicating your level of new media literacy.

Your participation is in this survey is completely voluntary and your consent will be assumed by your participation. You are free to decide not to participate in this study or to withdraw at any time without any adverse effects or penalties. Your decision about whether to be in the study or not is completely voluntary, and confidential. This study is not collecting any personal or identifiable information and risks to participants is minimal. The alternative to this study is simply to not participate. If you have any questions about the survey, feel free to contact the investigator at the contact information provided below.

To access the survey and find out your New Media Literacy Score, clink the link.

UPDATE: The survey has closed and you can read more about this work on my blog. Be sure to check out this link here.

Thank you again for participating in this study.

Jimmy.

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