Using social media to support learning and practice in social work

‘Trying to find the magic’ in practice or ‘trying to write a classic’ social work assignment can be hard….but help is at hand from Christina Perri, The Manic Street Preachers and Lana del Rey (with a little encouragement from Natasha Beddingfield) …… yes, really

Alongside practical experience developing practice in social work also involves a lot of reading.  The problem is, sometimes academic textbooks, research and journals can be quite difficult to understand and seem remote from practice, this can put you off reading in depth.  If you find text books and journal articles really hard to get into, the chances are  something written in a different style would help.  If that sounds like someone you know, or yourself, one way to support learning and professional development can be through the use of social media, for example twitter,  blogs and YouTube, used alongside more traditional academic materials.

Using social media to support professional development and learning is exciting because it enables you to learn in a ‘virtual’  classroom, the size of the world, but from where you are.  Information contained in blogs and on twitter is up to date as they often respond in real time to events as they happen.  The ability to access relevant up to date information has the potential to boost your learning, and your confidence!  Social media resources are often more concise and much more accessible than tradition academic texts,  giving an understanding of key issues quickly, as well as useful links to follow up.  There are many blog and twitter accounts that might be useful, some written by experienced practitioners, or those who use services as well as others, like me, who used to be a social worker but now work in a university.  Reading a range of authors work can help give a different perspective. Try these to start; The Small Places – with a focus on Mental Capacity, and The Not So Big Society – with a focus on anything and everything health and social care related!  Both are really topical and can lead to other useful resources, such as people to follow on Twitter, like Ermintrude2, an experienced social worker and keen blogger, or,  Clare Horton from the Guardian (editor of Society).  Engage with the people you follow on Twitter, where else could you actually communicate with the editor of the Guardian Society section (a must read for health and social care).  Another favourite of mine is Full Fact, which I follow on Facebook, this helps verify the accuracy of statistical information often used by politicians and the media to comment on social issues, for example immigration is always a controversial topic, has an increase in foreign nationals led to a surge in crime in the UK?  Checking out, rather than just accepting headlines, leads to informed debate rather than dogma.

YouTube and iTunes U are also a good resource to supplement your learning.  For example take a subject like social policy, click here, Youtube has short pieces to full length lectures on a range of social care topics, often given by leading names in the profession, and of course you can watch these at a time convenient to you and replay them when you find something difficult to understand.

It is likely technology will be used more in social work education in the future, for example Leeds Metropolitan University has created ‘Learnscape’ a learning platform that attempts to replicate real social work practice in virtual locations. Some will find this helpful, others daunting.  The thing to remember is these are all tools to support you, and you can control how you choose to use them.

Having fun, after all it is called ‘social’ media: an example of blending blogs with YouTube 

Here are three blogs you might find helpful to get started with, they cover adoption, older people’s services and social policy (privatisation of healthcare).  I often link my blogs to song titles or lyrics, so have included a playlist which I hope will help you, or at the very least give you a break from the boredom of studying!  By linking these blogs, and the ideas contained in them, to the songs you hear you will be better able to remember the key issues, however, you really have to actively think about the points made in the blog and explicitly link them to the song, so when you replay the song in your mind you also kind of replay the blog!  (read someone like Tony Buzan to help develop effective learning techniques).  You could also use social media when meeting with your colleagues, student group, practice assessors, supervisors, mentors or tutors to stimulate discussion and/or debate on a particular topical subject.

Finally, write your own blog and engage with Twitter, retweet what you find and become the one providing information to others. Complete the poll at the end of this blog and be part of research, or even better, do your own research using social media!

More will follow next month if you find these helpful.  Good luck.

Blog 1 Social Policy: Lana Del Rey: If ‘money is the anthem of success’ why do I have no confidence in a privatised health and social care system?

The Health and Social Care Act has opened the way for further privatisation of health and social care provision. ‘Care’ is now a commodity, just like iphones’ and cars, if there is enough demand the private sector will provide and consumers can shop around for the best deal. However, is that what happens when ‘consumers’ (service users) buy care?

Blog 2 Older People: Manic Street Preachers – Dignity in the care of older people – “If you tolerate this then your children will be next”

Poor levels of care for older people is a topical subject at the moment.  Sadly there is a problem with the system, however, improving care provision for older people is not just about today’s older population, it is about all our futures, our own and our children’s.

Blog 3 Adoption: Christina Perri – Jar of Hearts, Lost families: “I can’t take one more step toward you because all that’s waiting is regret’

This is quite a personal one from me. You might be thinking about working in adoption services, finding families is all important, however, have you ever wondered what happens to those adopted children when they become adults and want to know more about their natural family? This is my story.

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About digalpin

I gained my social work qualification from the University of Southampton and worked for 14 years in mental health, disability and older people services. I am currently a senior lecturer in post-qualifying social work at Bournemouth University and am conducting research on government and societal attitudes and responses to the mistreatment of older people in health and social care provision for my doctorate. My views are my own.

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