#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 ūüôā

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 ‚Äúthe ability to access, analyze, evaluate, and communicate messages in a wide variety of forms‚ÄĚ (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. ‚ÄúParticipatory 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‚ÄĚ (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 ūüôā 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.

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‚Äôs 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 ūüėÄ

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 ūüėÄ

 

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‚Äôs 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!

My Problem with the 2012 Nonprofit Social Networking Benchmark Report

Well I guess that something had to ignite the fire enough within me to finally come back and write a blog post again in the midst of dissertating. I’m nearly done with the dissertation and plan to post many results here on my blog. This is also the reason for this post, or the fact that NTEN/ Blackbaud/ Common Knowledge just released their 2012 Nonprofit Social Networking Benchmark Report. There is a wonderful Infographic, which sums up the report nicely and the link will also help you download the full report.

I have to say that the information is great. I am so glad that this data is being compiled and I have built a survey instrument using similar questions to these folks for my dissertation. I also compiled my data during the same time period, but with a much smaller sample that was focused on Nonprofit Human Service Organizations. I focus on these unique organizations because of their important roles in society and NO research has looked at how they use social media.

The Benchmark report and my dissertation have many things in common. This makes me smile because it indicates that my findings are generalizable. However, I do have some problems with the recent Report. The main problem is around their methodology. I understand they only solicited and primarily reported descriptive data, but they do not explain this in the report. They have a small section on their methods but nothing beyond that. This is critically important because of how the data is being used in practice. For all we know, the methods they used could be based upon incorrect statistical principles which would nullify all of the findings. I don’t think this has happened, but in a sector which promotes transparency I would think they would have no problem in divulging their methodology.

This is also important considering the new statistic they are reporting around the cost of a follower on Twitter and a Like on Facebook. They indicate that these numbers are based upon self-report and that respondents have different ways of calculating this cost. I would be extremely cautious when looking at this statistic and thinking about basing some budget decisions around this because there is no clear indication of how the number was developed. It is a good statistic, just not one I am very confident in.

I am defending my dissertation in a little over a week and will likely begin to disseminate my own findings after that date. This is mostly to help the community where I collected my data, but it will also help many other nonprofit human service organizations think about their own social media strategies, planning, and implementation.

Conceptual Framework

I just tweeted that I would write this blog update and so I thought I better get it done now or I might forget about it. So I wrote a paper for a doctoral seminar last year that I have decided to come back to, tweak, and try to submit for publication. The paper is about organizational identity and the use of social media to manage/maintain that identity. In short I have done some research and I continue to see from the blogosphere that many nonprofit organizations use or are trying to use social media for a host of different things. I have always wondered if any of these organizations, and some have, ever took the time to think critically about the organization’s identity and how that will take shape in the social media environment?

The paper I wrote is more of a conceptual paper and I am having trouble flushing out my framework. Here is a Rough draft of my framework with the concepts/ideas I plan on using. Conceptual Framework SM NPO Identity

I am basing the framework in Identity Formation theory, using a bit of symbolic interactionism, and calling for nonprofit organizations to critically think about three areas as they utilize social media. Those areas are Transparency, Accountability, and Authenticity. But I also don’t want to neglect the whole point about interaction, as this is crucial both in the use of social media, and in how image/identity is constructed. So I hope you take a minute to provide some input as I try to untangle my brain and provide something useful for nonprofit administrators to use.
Thanks.

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