Technology in Social Work Practice
Guest Blog by Deona Hooper
I’d like to introduce Deona’s blog. I’ve guested several times myself on other blogs and I know it’s good to hear different opinions from time to time, even if they are like minded. I have regular guests on the podcasts so it seemed logical to invite someone to guest blog. Deona’s attitudes echo mine on the uses of technology in social work, I hope you enjoy it.
There are lots of resources for individuals who are concerned about the fears and ethical use of social media in practice. However, there does not seem to be an equal amount of resources teaching the practical uses of social media in social work, and how they both can be combined for effective networking and online advocacy strategies. Technology gives us the ability to remove geographically boundaries and connect with others in way that is still very new to us.
However, this same technology has been exploited by the criminal element which has created many fears in using technology for its full capabilities. Also, practitioners have used social media in a way that has led to termination or public ridicule, and these components continue to nurture a cycle of fear within our profession. Our profession continually asks whether technology “should be used” instead of asking, “How do we use it, manipulate it, and leverage it to meet our needs”?
How can our profession begin to adopt the technological tools utilized in other disciplines, adapt them to increase our ability to be more effective on all practice levels, as well as educate the public and politicians on the value of social work? There are instances where social work and social media, depending on your job descriptions and direct practice with clients, must adhere to a stricter standard due to safety concerns for the social worker and client confidentiality. For those who are working on a policy and community practice level, social work and social media is essential in carving one’s self as an expert in your field, create awareness, as well as provide the ability to mobilize resources quickly.
Despite our slow pace in comparison with other disciplines, social workers and students are shifting in their attitudes toward technology, and there appears to be a yearning to have more technology integration within their coursework and learning. Technology has the ability to create new ways of communication that has been previously denied to those without privilege or wealth such as the ability to self-publish, communication with someone abroad in real-time, awareness campaigns, and gather/organize resources quickly.
So far, I have looked at technology from the aspect of being a practice tool, but I also believe we should be using its capabilities to better promote the profession, educate the public, as well as to advocate for better policies to advance the profession. Most people in this profession would agree that we have some major issues to solve in educating and training new social workers, current social work practice, public perception, and austerity cuts that threaten our ability to provide services.
Why are we not looking at successful models outside of social work to adapt in an effort to create solutions? For instance, police department, schools, and hospitals have communications officers/person to deal with the media in times of crisis and they also help to create awareness on the services their agency provides. Then, why do social service agencies/local authorities leave social workers who are not trained in communications and technology to fend for ourselves during a time of crisis or when educating the public on what we do?
In my role as Editor of Social Work Helper, my goal is not only to promote social work as a profession, but sometimes this may mean challenging existing paradigms within the profession. I believe having difficult conversations and providing a space for those without a dominate voice within the profession is necessary to move the conversation forward. In addition, I believe the profession’s limited embrace for learning and incorporating communications technology in education and practice retards our ability to engage in arenas social workers need to be heard. Part of me believes, a major contributor of social work’s woes is our own isolation and lack of engagement using interdisciplinary approaches.
Social Work has utilized an enormous amount of effort in creating fear among our students, educators, and practitioners when using technology, engaging on social media, and writing for media outlets instead of teaching how to properly use these tools while minimizing risks. We teach how to assess a client’s risk, but what about assessing our own risks when presented with opportunities to engage or increase efficiency when using technology?
The Social Workers is a radio talk show at the University at Albany in New York created by their School of Social Welfare, and I would like to share my interview with them on social work and technology.