Do social work students find using social media helpful?

The role technology  plays in facilitating or disrupting the education of the sometime called Digital Natives or Net Generation has been extensively promoted, debated and reviewed.

In 2014 and 2015 I undertook, with colleagues, a small survey of students studying  a Level one course in social work at The Open University. We gathered interesting feedback that has helped me think about how social media can be useful in module design, engaging students during their studies and preparing them for use of social media in professional social work practice.

The surveyed students mainly used Facebook – no surprise there – and mainly used it to stay in touch with each other socially, sharing resources and getting guidance from each other. Some of the features of social media- such as ease of access on mobile devices – made it popular.

Some students didn’t use social media during their studies, they were concerned about confidentiality and preferred to just use the University’s online forums to communicate and learn. The University’s VLE appears to retain many advantages for students – many found it the easiest way to communicate with their tutor and the whole tutor group – which meant social media is seen an add on not a replacement for the VLE. Would this change if social media use was embedded in the module design?

Of particular interest to me – as a social worker – were the students’ views about whether social media was appropriate to use in professional practice. While students noted some clear concerns – most notably about personal/ professional boundaries and confidentiality – some students saw an opportunity. Students commented that using social media could be a more effective way to engage with younger service users, that services could share information useful to service users, and that social media created opportunities for professional networking.

Social work professional training now often incorporates teaching and resources to help students understand the risks and opportunities of using social media in their private lives and professional practice. The Social Work Social Media App is a great resource to support this teaching.

You can access the presentation  about the 2014 survey, which I gave at the 2015 JSWEC conference  to view more reflections on the role of social media in social work education and practice.

The lottery of birth & wealth inequality

I am dipping into two FutureLearn MOOCs this month, created by colleagues at The Open University.

The first is a two week course aiming to help people ‘Get Started With Online Learning‘.  The move from being online to learning online can be quite a step and reflecting on this move is key to this course.

The second course, The Lottery of Birth, has been developed at the Faculty of Health and Social Care. Taking a multidisciplinary approach, the course examines the impact of a range of factors on life chances including wealth, education, gender and geography.

Since reading The Black Report many years ago I have always been fascinated by the debates on health inequalities. In many ways my motivation to become a social worker was fired by my awakening to how social and structural factors impact on life chances.

The Lottery of Birth highlights the work of the Inequality Briefing and this animation – featured in the course -shows the growing wealth inequality in the UK.

There is study and then there is #JusticeforLB

Well, studying Technology Enhanced Learning with the OU is not straightforward but this week has been more tricky still. I’ve been attending the Joint Social Work Education Conference (#JSWEC) hosted by the OU and so time has been short.

One of the learning activities I’m meant to be doing is writing a blog about my personal learning environment (PLE) but this week I’ve also come accross two really moving blogs about one family’s struggle to get answers about their son’s death: #JusticeforLB and #107days.

So, my PLE is every expanding as I try new tools but essentially it comes down to blogging, micro-blogging, Pinterest; that sort of thing.

What is more important to me this week is how technology – through other people’s PLEs – can connect so many people behind important causes and press for change.

So the really important blog is not mine (and probably not yours) but the one written by the family, friends and supporters of ‘Laughing Boy’ Connor Sparrowhawk.

Time to Change: the power of real stories to change attitudes

I recently read a piece, published on the The Guardian Social Care Network, by the Care Minister Alistair Burt about prioritising mental health care. I was pleased to read his commitment – although previous ministers have made similar commitments before – but I was also struck by his use of an analogy with physical health: “A broken mind must be treated with the same urgency and care as a broken leg.”

It remains a challenge to get across in the mainstream media what experiencing mental health issues is like and to challenge the negative attitudes some people still hold. I am not sure that comparing mental health issues to physical health issues is always helpful but I can see why it happens.

What I find more powerful is the stories told directly by people who experience living with, and often recovering from, mental health issues. I have been impressed with the ‘Time for Change’ campaign, led by the mental health charity Mind, and in particular the short films made to get the message across:

Check out the YouTube channel too.

Etienne Wenger: Learning in the landscapes of practice

I have been reading this week for H800 about technololgy mediated learning contexts.

It has been interesting to develop my understanding of communities of practice and theories of social learning. Previously, in my social work practice, my understanding of communities of practice, was linked to my professional practice identity: a common bond with colleagues who shared similar values, skill sets and knowledge base.

Thinking about learning theories and distance learning, the role of communities of practice in the construction of knowledge and learning is intriguing. The importance of authenticity in the identity of members of (learning) communities resonates, as does the idea that relatively weak links between community members can still generate shared knowledge and learning.

Eiteen Wenger’s development of the idea of communities of practice is well known and below is a video about social learning, developed with his collaborator Bev Trayner:

Sir Ken Robinson …. gets me thinking every time

Through TED talks I came across Sir Ken Robinson’s work and how he combines original thinking with a  disarmingly simple delivery style. A quick YouTube search always brings up some of his best talks. I really enjoyed the animation below, especially the line about “I’ve never heard a good argument for lower standards!…of course we should raise standards!”

#H800 – Twitter Chat

I’ve been enjoying trying to marshal my Twitter use in recent days to link with my current study of the OU’s H800 ‘Technology Enhanced Learning’. It’s been interesting to expand my contact with other students studying the module but not in my tutor group. Twitter is a key part of my own Personal Learning Environment (PLE) which forms an important adjunct to the affordances of the OU based moodle VLE/LMS. What I love best about Twitter is it’s reach: I link with more people, in more places, sharing more ideas and resources that I do anywhere else online. It also has the the facility to have sychronous contact with colleagues I’m working with and the search function means H800 content is only a click away. Here’s a bit of Twitter history….