Saturday, 15 January 2005 - 4:00 PM
This presentation is part of: Social Work Education
Integration of Technology in Social Work Education: Important Lessons for Social Work PracticeAbbie K. Frost, PhD, Simmons College School of Social Work and Gianna Gifford, MA, Simmons College School of Social Work.
Purpose. Technology and the use of computers can be effective tools for our profession. While our profession has successfully used these tools in research and evaluation, they play a less active role in other areas of social work practice. “How-to” resources on technology are more readily available. How can these tools be applied to social work practice? Unfortunately, little is written about “best practices” of integrating technology into the learning and doing of social work. This study examined: (1) how has technology been integrated into the curriculum at BSW & MSW programs, (2) what are the “best practices,” (3) what student competencies have been identified, and (4) how were these competencies assessed?.
Methods. Fifty schools of social work comprised the nationwide sample. Schools were selected who were: “early adopters” in the use of technology in social work education, “recent users” of technology in students’ learning experience, and schools with “faculty experts” who have written on technology use in social work education or practice. Telephone interviews were conducted with one or two faculty from each school who had first-hand knowledge about technology use in the curriculum. Study questions included: (1) what curricular areas have integrated technology, (2) what factors promoted or detracted from the use of technology, (3) how are student competencies measured, and (4) how has technology been transferred beyond BSW/MSW training? Content analyses (qualitative data) and descriptive analyses (quantitative data) were used to address these questions.
Results. Curricular areas most commonly integrating technology were research (95%) and policy (60%). Also identified were social action and advocacy courses. Less frequent was the integration of technology in practice courses (15%) or field education (25%). A trend common to all schools was the increased use of technology in communication between students and faculty and among students. Some schools (10%) used technology to communicate with clients. Factors promoting technology integration were comprehensive university/college training centers, administrative support from school deans, and faculty incentives or “buy-outs.” The primary detracting factor for the integration of technology in courses or field work was the school/program administration’s lack of understanding or acknowledgement of time that faculty needed to learn technology and design ways of integrating it in their courses or advising. Few schools had designed ways to assess student competencies; of these schools, most emphasized the learning of actual procedures or “buttons” rather than the understanding of underlying concepts that inform the use of technology.
Implications. Study results highlight the opportunities that technology can have in social work education and practice. Aside from research and policy, technology use in social work schools is at a formative stage. Uses in other areas represent creative applications that can be exemplars in efforts to further integrate technology in social work practice. Findings also underscore the importance of careful consideration of the benefits and drawbacks of using technology. Recommendations are given for principles to consider in the adoption of technology and issues to evaluate future technology integration efforts.
See more of Social Work Education