All posts by Dr A. M. L. Taylor (-Beswick)

iactivism in, and for social work

This blog is largely a note to myself. It marks a moment in time for me as a tech interested social worker and tech critical social work academic. It is written because of the frustrations I feel about having little in the way of helpful solutions to digital platform exploitation and dangers, and due to the thoughts I have about the role of social work in the push back necessary. It is about my choice or indeed my possible failure to continue with an act of digital resistance – an iactivist stance to technologies that mine, scrape and misuse data. Whilst I am aware of and acknowledge that there are many equally unethical platforms and platform designers, it is Zoom I have been avoiding. This is due to its pretty abysmal track record in this area, and due to the overwhelming use of this platform across human services professions. The latter I acknowledge is largely associated with the level of digital dependency required in response to the current global pandemic, and the ‘ease’ [baked into the design] of use that makes this platform so ‘attractive’. It is a reflection on what I do or where I go now in terms of my attempts to raise awareness of the implications of platform capitalism, surveillance and data mining and what this means for us all, and more importantly for those human service professionals serve, and often have a responsibility to and for. It is in part too an acknowledgement of the pains associated with my self-imposed exclusion from events that involve this particular digital platform, events where the ethics and data implications of platform usage are often left unexplained, are unknown or can’t be explained at all.

A brief comment on how I got here: In my role as a social work educator I have been interested in the use of new and emerging social type technologies for a significant amount of time. Initially it was the pedagogic gains and flexibility or the affordances that #edtech seemed to offer that caught my eye. Seeing students connect on platforms such as Twitter with the wider #socialwork community, to develop their network, their knowledge and their academic voices was a real source of joy. I too have benefited from connecting virtually and widely on this platform, and continue, most of the time, to enjoy and benefit from the connections I have made. Conversely, a short time after dipping my toe into the #edtech pond, I began to see and experience things that I felt less comfortable with and clear about. I have never (thankfully) felt at ease with the use of Facebook as a pedagogic device in social work education. Indeed, it was the boundary blurring that can occur through purposive algorithmic design that contributed to a number of practitioners making choices that lead to behaviors that are in conflict with professional expectations. Indeed, some of the most alarming incidents of social work professionals coming unstuck online have involved this platform. I continue to feel wary of inviting students into ienvironments and ispaces – where they too might feel uneasy, find themselves compromised or unknowingly fall foul of interconnectivity online.

Continuing on with what had been started long before: For over 30 years my @husITa.org colleagues have been advocating for social work to engage more judiciously with technologies. How slow social work has been to respond is well documented, that was until social distancing measures and physical restrictions were put in place to control the spread of the COVID19 virus. Since that time social work, more out of necessity than out of choice, made a dash into the online. It was this very dash that led to my iactivism, an act of resistance positioned to make visible my angst about the implications for services-users, or indeed students, when being invited into ienvironments that are ‘free’ to assess, in terms of privacy, rights and information safety. I remain unclear, and to a larger extent unconvinced, about how consent can be outlined or communicated in accessible and digestible terms as per data protection legislation given that platforms continue to be exposed and sued for data and privacy infringements. An issue made clear through the #CambridgeAnalytica scandal and the nonsense those in the tech industries attempted to feed the American senate.

So what now? What do I do given that to engage fully with my professional groupings (social work and social work education) means the use of Zoom? I could ask for a full explanation about how entering that environment might impact on me short, mid and longer term? I could ask for a full explanation, informed by data protection law, of how my data is being processed and where it is being stored? To date however when I have asked Q’s of this nature I have been met with less than reassuring responses [such as: everyone is using it, chill out, its not a big deal, it works] – that means I remain unconvinced or even unaware of who will have my data, where it will be stored, or if I should really care. I am currently finding it harder and harder to continue with my iactivism anti-zoom stance.

Whilst this blog is mostly a note to myself – I guess I am hoping that someone might reach out with some advice, guidance, help or even just in solidarity. Even though I am fully aware that individual level iactivism is not going to make a dent in the socio-technical problems of our time, I am a hoping that each time I have brought the issue of platform ethics to the fore that someone somewhere has paused to consider or reconsider their digital choices and or their data and person-in-environment professional responsibilities. It feels like there is so much riding on each of us, and particularly a profession like social work, taking a stance – because the risks to privacy, rights and the welfare state are high – for us all – but mostly for those we serve.

@amltaylor66

*I also should have mentioned, amongst many other things, the above blog is also likely to have felt more urgent to write after having watched IHuman https://www.theguardian.com/film/2020/dec/08/ihuman-review-doom-laden-documentary-about-the-future-of-ai This documentary added to my growing angst about living in a #postprivacysociety

** also this paper might too help articulate the problem as I see it

The Urgency in a Moment: A Call for Critical Self–Reflection And Action

Social work has often been reluctant to recognise the part we play in the sustaining of societal injustice. We have preferred to address racism and other discrimination at a practice level. Whilst this is important, we also need to address the systemic and institutional pathways within our profession. The responsibility for working to address the harms of racism within social work continues visibly to be held by Black leaders. Yet as Tedam states,

‘If anti-racism is concerned with identifying, challenging and changing the values, structures, and behaviours that perpetuate systemic racism, then It is crucial that all social workers show commitment and are involved in this process’ (2020: 104).

In Shattered Bonds, published in 2002, Professor Dorothy Roberts wrote specifically about black children in ‘care’ in the US and the experiences of their families. Shattered Bonds demonstrates how racism and poverty function to create a ‘child welfare’ system that can is harmful to individuals but moreover causes harm to whole groups. When, for example, every pregnancy in a family is scrutinised by professionals, every child grows up understanding their family, their community, themselves as fundamentally deficient. In this way group-based harms and injuries are sustained.

The analysis Dorothy offers can be seen to apply far beyond the African American experience. Dorothy engages at the end of Shattered Bonds with the Native American experience, and with the way that child removal very deliberately contributed to the piece-by-painful piece dismantling of indigenous Aboriginal communities and culture in Australia. The argument applies to many communities in the UK today. Including Roma and Gypsy communities in the UK who have been met and continue to be met with high levels of supervision, discipline and interference from the state. Black families in the UK have suffered from insensitive and inappropriate social work responses. As Professor Claudia Bernard and Professor Anna Gupta wrote over a decade ago, ‘the complex social circumstances experienced by many African families pose challenges for parents and children, as well as professionals working to safeguard and promote children’s welfare’ (2008: 486).

The catalyst for considering Shattered Bonds as the text for a possible reading group was an exchange on Twitter that evolved into a conversation between Dr Amanda Taylor-Beswick and  Dr Ariane Critchley. This arose from the crossover between Professor Roberts’ work and that of Ruha Benjamin, Professor of African American Studies at Princeton University. Professor Roberts and Professor Benjamin are both critical scholars engaged with the social dimension and foundation of aspects of society. Whereas Professor Benjamin has been lauded for her consideration of technology and AI in relation to race, Professor Roberts’s work has focused on how race is constructed and racism is perpetuated within medicine, reproduction, and child welfare. Both gave a talk for Haymarket Books in July 2020, which was of interest to the team who organised the Shattered Bonds book group, since it brought together all of our different specialisms.

Social Work Book Group was chosen as the most suitable mechanism for an event that would bring social work together to discuss this book, and the issues within it pertinent to UK Social Work Education and Practice. Social Work Book Group is a collective reading group, created and maintained by Queens University Belfast (QUB) Social Work academic Dr Amanda Taylor-Beswick. Amanda notes that the Shattered Bonds event is the largest book group event to date. Social Work Book Group was designed several years ago by Dr Taylor-Beswick to share and consolidate learning between students, practitioners, researchers and academics in social work and related disciplines. Laura Farling a Learning Technologist within QUB’s Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences (AHSS) provided the digital expertise necessary to host an event of this size and kind. Over 200 people signed up for the event, which was planned to occur simultaneously on an audio-video platform and the Social Work Book Group book Twitter feed. Laura provided book group participants with a virtual tour of QUB, whilst everyone settled into the virtual spaces before setting off on what was an explorative and grounding learning journey.

Shattered Bonds deals with issues of racism within the American child welfare and ‘care’ system. This topic provoked lively debate and discussion before, during and after the event, with social work practitioners, students, academics and people who have life story experience in diverse settings discussing the extent to which Professor Roberts’ analysis holds. You can catch some of the key points by clicking on this link #ShatteredBonds. Essentially what participants were grappling with is the central question: is social work complicit in sustaining racist practices within society? This naturally provoked a follow-up question: if so, what are we going to do about it? This question really is at the heart of this event and this subsequent blog.

Professor Roberts opened book group with a short reading from her opening chapter; a reading that despite our physical distance, created a powerful and emotive atmosphere in the shared space. This space allowed for free discussion of the potential harms created by social work for families who are marginalised.

There are so many moving parts here in the UK, in terms of child poverty, white privilege, the past and ongoing harms of the concept of ‘Empire’ and our difficulties in facing up to these. So, the task we have in addressing the deep-set problems within social work, and especially in the child protection and criminal justice systems, can feel overwhelming. However, it is open to us to acknowledge and build on the work of Black scholars across the world, to better understand how racism, and other inequalities, are creating problems for the families we serve. As Wayne Reid has highlighted, ‘social work must continue to promote anti-racism long after the media focus on Black Lives Matter has gone.

Black families, minority ethnic communities, and the individuals within them need and deserve safety and freedom in our society and are simply not experiencing those basic rights in relation to child welfare and criminal justice in particular, but also in relation to their access to culturally sensitive social care support when needed. No amount of anti-oppressive training of White social workers who benefit from White privilege will address this unless we are also prepared to begin to dismantle the manifestations of that privilege at a structural level. Responsibilising individual practitioners and Black leaders covers up the continuing harms of the system, and also harms them.

Given that White leadership and influence continue to dominate in social work, despite the diversity of our profession at the ‘frontline’ level, and naturally the diversity of the communities we serve, we believe this requires us to stand together. It requires us to be willing to analyse and change racist aspects of our institutions, systems, services and training. It is important to emphasise that Social Work Book Group has no political or activist agenda, beyond upholding the social work values and social justice aims defined by the International Federation of Social Workers.

Following the main Social Work Book Group event, and Dorothy’s readings, three small discussion groups were hosted to allow for reflection. The following is a snapshot of the views that emerged – which highlighted a number of significant issues and gaps research data. The argument for action is as follows:

  1. There is sufficient data to demonstrate clear inequalities in the UK system, and researchers in this field, most prominently the research group led by Professor Paul Bywaters are continuing to make the most of the aggregate data available to demonstrate trends in social work intervention.
  2. Useful comparisons are possible with the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand where further good quality research has shown inequalities in social work intervention, decision-making, and differential outcomes. Calls for change have been evident in all these contexts.
  3. A body of work by Black scholars, including Professor Claudia Bernard, has demonstrated how race and social class intersect in the UK social work context, showing how the structures of power operate within systems.
  4. Links between poverty and inequality are well established by research. In the UK we are facing major recession and the impact of this on poor families is already being felt.
  5. Alternative ways of approaching social work that engage with and recognise the problem of poverty and inequality have already been offered in the UK, for example within child welfare the ‘Social Model’ advocated for by a group of academics including Professor Anna Gupta and Professor Brid Featherstone is well-known within the field.
  6. Research funding is itself highly politicised and continues to operate in ways that side-line Black and minority academics and their work. Furthermore, much research knowledge created within the academy continues to sit behind a paywall, and is under-democratised. The research we do need is co-created research from the perspective of people experiencing social work services.
  7. There continue to be tangible harms involved in growing up and being Black in the UK; the harms of racism and also the harms of dealing with racism. Research into these harms is much less audible in the current practice and policy landscape.

Whilst Social Work Book Group offered a hugely valuable opportunity to connect and join together in reflection, we also shared our collective responsibility to act. Our perspective is that we have sufficient evidence to demonstrate a need for change and to provide directions for change. Certainly, we need better data, but waiting for more data only allows the problems we know exist to be sustained. We need change.

Please make a start by purchasing Professor Roberts’ book Shattered Bonds.

Social Work Academics it seems remiss of us not to have Professor Roberts’ book on every reading list across the five nations of the UK & Ireland.

We are interested to continue the conversation and welcome ideas about how we might. We are also keen to think about how as a collective we can work together better towards the changes we need to make.

Dr Ariane Critchley, Dr Amanda Taylor-Beswick, and Beverly Barnett-Jones, MBE.

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Here, There and Everywhere: The Arrival of the Digital Professionalism ‘Interactive’ Mapping Tool for Social Work Students, Practitioners and Academics

* Please note that this blog was updated (Jan 12th 2020) by a social work student colleague, and again by me on April 19th, 2021 – with updates to the Digital Professionalism Mapping Tool and the CoActEd Learner Personal Learning Network Mapping Tool

Please scroll below to read a well considered reflection on the use / usefulness of the mapping tool by Cheryl 

This short blog outlines an update to the Digital Professionalism Mapping Tool for Social Work, previously discussed here, here and here.

Those who have already read the blogs and publication (highlighted above) will know that I developed the Digital Professionalism Mapping Tool (based on the work of David White) to enable social work students, practitioners and educators to review their technology usage and presence online; as related to the professional standards and ethics of the profession. The tool has been received positively across the profession, and indeed by other professional groupings as they think about what Turner describes as the ‘brave new world’ (2015). Regardless of the enthusiasm expressed about the usefulness of the tool, I had never been quite satisfied with how it was or could be accessed. I had always been niggled by the fact that it was predominantly a paper-based activity that ironically reviews presence and activity online. And whilst that has been ‘ok’, I wanted to offer a more accessible alternative.  Something that I had never got around to sorting out until now.

I was recently introduced to Laura Ridings, a new appointment to the University of Central Lancashire, located within the TELT team. Laura is a graphic designer and a former teacher, turned e-learning developer. A wonderful combination of creativity, pedagogy and technological skill; and the most pragmatic ‘nerd’ (her word not mine) that I have ever met. Within hours of me sharing my ‘wants’ she had produced a more realistic version of my ‘needs’; in other words taken the Digital Professionalism Mapping Tool online and turned it into an interactive tool.

I am sharing the updated version of the tool here … in the hope that it will remain useful as social work education and practice continue to navigate the issues and possibilities of the digital shift.

As you can now use the tool here, there and everywhere please let us know what you think in the comments box below or on Twitter @amltaylor66 and @LRidingsUCLan

AMLTaylor-Beswick

*Update:

My name is Cheryl Bardell and I am a student on a BA (hons) Social Work degree apprenticeship, and was introduced to the Digital Professionalism ‘Interactive’ Mapping Tool as part of my Introduction to Social Work Practice module. Having worked with Children’s Services for over four years, and worked with children and young people for the last fourteen years, all my previous training around the use of technology was centred on how young people use social media, and heavily biased to it potentially having a negative impact on them by exposing them to possible grooming and exploitation, and poor self-image and mental health. I had never really considered, let alone reflected, on how my use of digital technologies fits in with, and impacts, my practice.

As well as recording ‘what’ I use, I realised that the tool allowed me to think about the ‘size’ of my use and how this is divided between both personal and professional use. I chose to draw a box around each site/application to visualise what my use “looks like” and the breadth of functions each site fulfils for me. The best example of this would be Facebook; I had always thought that my use of Facebook was strictly “personal”: keeping in touch with friends and family, news from my community and the wider world etc.; but a quick scroll through my newsfeed highlighted that I am following a large number of pages directly related to my work including local services and resources, charities, and blogs thus impacting on and informing my practice. Also, considering whether I’m a visitor or a resident enabled me to consider the time spent on the site and how active my participation is. My use of WhatsApp is polarised; I use it as a Professional to communicate with some of the families I work with, particularly young people, but my use of it is limited whereas my personal use of it is far greater, for this reason I chose to plot it on the quadrant twice to clearly differentiate its two functions for me.

Moving forward with my studies and as my practice develops, it would be interesting to repeat this tool to see whether there are any changes. I’d hope that the range of sites and technologies I use grows and evolves in a way that enables me to become a knowledgeable practitioner better equipped and informed to support the people I work with and for.

Thank you Cheryl. I very much appreciate the time you’ve taken to reflect further on your use of the digital professionalism mapping tool. I really like the way you’ve used colour and shape to illustrate usage. It adds an interesting aspect to the visual representation of choices and presence online.

Once you’ve completed your comparative mapping you might like to sole author a blog post on your digital learning and development. I’d be more than happy to host that blog here.

Thank you once again for this very well articulated piece of work 👌

Professionalism, Social Work and The Connected Age

This blog outlines my digital journey and why it is that I am committed to finding ways for social work in England to engage more fully with the digital shift.

My initial interest in digital technologies arose out of a need to keep in touch with my family and friends when I left Ireland in 2008 to pursue a career in social work education in England. I experimented with a number of platforms and apps until I found those most suitable for maintaining my connections back home. At that time choices were fairly limited. I used Email, Facebook and Instant Messenger (IM). My usage was largely dictated by both my communication requirements and the functionality of the tools. It wasn’t long however, having ‘felt’ the benefits of these tools, before my mind drifted to the affordances of new technologies for teaching and learning in social work education. I began to notice how conscious I was becoming about my ‘presence’ (Rettie, 2003) online. This shift in my awareness was, in part, due to my role as a social work educator, tasked with the responsibility of professionally socialising students for contemporary social work practice. I became increasingly curious about professionalism, linked to the digital shift and began to explore human existence more broadly within the context of place and space (Hubbard and Kitchin, 2010). More recently my attention has shifted, to concerns about why it might be that an increasing number of colleagues are being called to account by the professional regulator for behaviours on social media (Schraer, 2014; Stevenson, 2014; McNicoll, 2016, Stevenson, 2016) that weaken the credibility of the profession and threaten public trust.

Since my journey into the online, and indeed to a greater degree the unknown, began I have taken the opportunities available to me to raise the profile of digital technologies in social work education, in a bid to highlight their relationship to professionalism in social work more broadly. I have embedded various methods into my teaching approaches to increase the digital awareness and capabilities of students, underpinned by the current professional standards for practice. An example of which is @SWBookGroup, an approach that incorporates the use of the microblogging platform Twitter to connect the profession in a global discussion for the purposes of consolidating learning through prompting reflection. The population of the group, both numerically and geographically, is testimony to its success. Another is @SWVirtualPal , a medium through which social work students, practitioners and academics can identify and connect with like-minded colleagues across the world to share interests and ideas. My social work virtual pal Laurel Hitchcock  and I have recently blogged about this work at the request of the Chief Social Worker for Adults in England. You can read the blog here… Local Practice with Global Connections.

Even though I felt like I was progressing my teaching methods and engaging in some really interesting work I remained dissatisfied about my understanding of the use of digital technologies in social work education. In some respects I felt like I was doing social work education ‘to’ and not ‘with’ students and had a deep desire to explore their digital experiences whilst engaged with their professional training. This need to know led me to design a study aimed at ‘examining the contribution of social work education to the digital socialisation of students in readiness for practice‘. Due to the rapidity of technological change I have been sharing the progress of my study as it evolves on my professional social media channel.  I have also blogged about this work and have just this week had a paper accepted for publication in Social Work Education: The International Journal entitled ‘Social Work and Digitalisation: Bridging the Knowledge Gaps.

There is still much to unpack and learn about social work in the connected age. I am often challenged about why I prefix the term professionalism with the word digital. My rationale for this is explained in the pending paper mentioned above, but in short it relates to the ongoing struggles that, as a profession, we seem to be experiencing in online spaces. The answer, as I see it, is quite simple; we need to account for the digital in everything we do. We need to reconsider the Professional Capabilities Framework in a way that reflects the digital shift, and we need to develop more pointed guidance that enables the profession to become more equipped and confident in online spaces. If we are to convey the complexity of the work and truth about who we are we need to do this ethically. Social media offers so many possibilities for this, so many opportunities to promote social justice and to tell the true and messy story of social work. A profession committed to the greater good.

My need to stay connected personally has led me down a path of connecting professionally. It is hoped, if you haven’t already, that you might join me on this journey, of connecting the dots between the professional and the digital so that we can exploit the affordances that new technologies offer to do social work and to tell our story in a better and much more informed way.

 

Hubbard, P. and Kitchin, R. eds. (2010). Key thinkers on space and place. London: Sage.

McNicoll, A. (2016). Social worker who used Facebook to communicate with service user suspended. [Community Care] Retrieved from http://www.communitycare.co.uk/2016/11/30/social-worker-facebook-messaged-service-user-suspended/  

Schraer, R. (2014). Social worker who sent ‘offensive’ tweets to David Cameron found fit to practise. [Community Care] Retrieved from  http://www.communitycare.co.uk/2015/08/11/social-worker-sent-offensive-tweets-david-cameron-found-fit-practise/  

Stevenson, L. (2014). HCPC sanctions social worker over Facebook posts. [Community Care] Retrieved from http://www.communitycare.co.uk/2014/09/10/social-worker-given-conditions-practice-order-disrespectful-facebook-posts/   

Stevenson, L. (2016a). Was decision to expel social work student for Facebook posts draconian or deserved? [Community Care] Retrieved from http://www.communitycare.co.uk/2016/03/02/decision-expel-social-work-student-facebook-posts-draconian-deserved/  

Stevenson, L. (2016b). Social workers ‘not equipped’ to identify risks of social media, reviews say: Serious case reviews into the deaths of two teenage girls found that social media played a “very significant” role in the girls’ vulnerability. [Community Care] Retrieved from http://www.communitycare.co.uk/2016/09/15/social-workers-equipped-identify-risks-social-media-reviews-say/

Taylor, A.M.L (2015).  Examining the Contribution of Social Work Education to the Digital Socialisation of Students in Readiness for Practice. [Google Docs] Retrieved from https://drive.google.com/open?id=0B2Q7-K-y7OQhVkxielVpYWY5ZWM 

Taylor, A.M.L (2017). The Unintended Impacts of I  Daniel Blake. [Blog] Retrieved from https://amltaylor66.wordpress.com/2017/06/02/the-unintended-impacts-of-i-daniel-blake/ 

The unintended impacts of I Daniel Blake

I Daniel Blake first came to my attention whilst scrolling through the local theatre listings, on what was a fairly drab Saturday afternoon, set aside for data analysis. Many of you will recognise and maybe even appreciate the avoidant behaviours of this early stage researcher. However, in my defence, I am sure that I’ve heard it argued that it is within these avoidant moments that the most useful unintended happenings arise… and arise they did.  There was little in the brief synopsis of the Ken Loach  film that suggested an epiphany of any kind could occur, or that justified the abandoning of my analysis. In truth I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. I just remember being quite curious and booking tickets for what looked like an interesting watch.

Interesting it was. The opening scene (I Daniel Blake Trailer) included a series of intrusive questions, delivered in a manner that even the most saintly amongst us would struggle to ‘hear’. This set the tone for what was an incredibly challenging watch. The story that unfolded stopped me, literally, in my #digitalbydefault tracks! A term that I had become so familiar with through the writing of The LearningWheel Book.  Indeed on reflection perhaps far too familiar with.

My encounter with Loach’s work forced me to revisit my responsibilities as a social work academic interested in digitalisation, and to reexamine the idea of knowledge impact relating to my current research project. The study outlined, stemmed from anxieties about the preparedness of the profession to contain and respond to the digital shift, and ironically here I was faced with its realities. Cue justification for my doctoral tardiness. As I navigate this study I remain, more now than ever, acutely aware of the speed of digitalisation and the UK Governments drive to default to the digital by 2020.

As I travel around England working with Local Authorities at various stages of their digital journeys , I am frequently reminded of the need to provide opportunities and methods through which digital knowledge gaps can be explored. As a result I have developed a Digital Professionalism Mapping Tool for Social Work.

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Click on the link to access and download the tool: Digital Professionalism Mapping Tool.

This mapping tool has been adapted (with permission) from the work of David White  , who is keen for his original method to be used across disciplines for the purposes of reflection – as noted below.

“You can find out about the ‘standard’ V&R mapping process here which is an effective method of making visible individuals’ engagement online. This process has been used by people in various contexts globally with one of my favourites being by Amanda Taylor with Social Work students. This starts from the principle that if we now, at least in part, live online then Social Workers need to be present in online spaces (or at least understand them as somewhere people are present)” White, (nd). 

David provides this example of mapping digital usage and presence online  

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As you can see, David’s use of technologies and online presence bridges both the professional and personal, but as an academic this is less likely to be cause for concern. For social work the implications of blurring professional boundaries has always been acutely felt, however how often do we consider how worlds might collide in the online, or the ramifications of this?

Social work as profession is starting to see and feel the impacts of the digital shift. Therefore the social in social work, once again, needs re-thought. We need to think more about how technologies are permeating our lives and therefore the lives of those we serve. I Daniel Blake outlines a set of circumstances that are becoming increasingly familiar in practice.  In addition to this, are issues such as  sexual abuse, bullying or scamming that need considered in past, present and future terms, to enable us think about what has changed due to the involvement of technologies.  Furthermore, to enable us consider what might constitute an appropriate practice response to issues emerging in the networked age.

Practitioners are set to see a steep rise in the use of technologies, both as tools of the trade but also influencing how issues present. Before we can even begin to deal with the practice issues, like and similar to those mentioned above, we need to address the digital capabilities of the profession. The Digital Professionalism Mapping Tool is one viable option. It is designed to assist students, academics and practitioners to chart or as White explains ‘make visible’ (nd) the range of tools and online platforms they use and the various purposes for which they use them. It helps to identify those practices that may maintain or perhaps blur professional boundaries.  The Visitor – Resident axis provides a context in which to define the tools that are being used, with the Professional – Personal axis positioned to consider where the tools, platforms or technologies are being used. Reflecting on their own digital maps, students, academics, and practitioners can then consider if said usage might in any way impact upon perceived professionalism and public trust.

It appears, from the Twitter Hashtag #IDanielBlake, that a significant proportion of the social work profession have now seen the film. If you are a social work practitioner, an academic, a student social worker… indeed linked to social work in any way and haven’t seen, it I would suggest that you do… and you do so as a matter of some urgency. I would also urge students, academics and practitioners to consider their own digital journey as related to the requirements and standards for practice so that attention to digital professionalism can be evidenced as part of ongoing professional development.

Reflective prompts to help populate your map:

  • Which technologies do I use and for what purpose?
  • Which do I use in my personal life?
  • Which do I use in my professional life?
  • Is there any crossover between the professional and personal and if so what are the benefits or ramifications of this?
  • What has this mapping of my online behaviours and practices shown?
  • How might I address any knowledge gaps?

I hope you find this tool as useful as I have. I have found it particularly helpful to thinking out how to make best use of my doctoral studies. Please feel free to share it and to get in touch @amltaylor66 should you have any questions or ideas for developing it further.

AMLTaylor

 

 

Social Work: the stories we tell …

This week in social work there has been many references to ‘story’ and calls for us to continue to rewrite it ‘with’ and for those we work with and for the profession itself.

I was reminded of this through Twitter and a post from @ProfJScourfield who was quoting @Brigid39  at the Child Welfare Inequalities Project @CWIP_Research Conference this week in the UK #cwipconf17 

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Jonathan’s tweet struck a chord with me, and prompted me to reflect upon my contribution to the ‘story’ of social work. I pondered how if the story of social work were to be told what it might look like, who might it include and what people might think and feel if they knew it in its fullness. I wondered about where it began and unsurprisingly, amongst many others  Olive Stevenson  sprung to mind. I thought about how little I actually know of this story myself.

Well that was until this morning when this…

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kind and unexpected (I had been meaning to order it for a while) gift dropped through the letterbox. The ‘Social Work in 40 Objects (and more)’ book captures the stories of students, practitioners, academics who have contributed to the story of social work thus far. Mark Doel has done an incredible job of collating part of our story in this book (you can purchased it by clicking here Kirwin Maclean Associates ) and through his blog which continues to grow.

Mark explains in his blog how the

“127 objects in the book are a gift to social work from all those who have proposed them. The book is also a gift: when you buy it, be aware that all royalties and profits from sales will go to NGO TARA Homes for Children in Delhi, India, to support work with street children” (2017)

As I leafed through the pages the hope, the compassion, the tenaciousness of my colleagues was palpable.

Social work, I am humbled by you and the stories you tell.  Often these are difficult, painful and tragic stories… frequently told by those outside of the profession who negate the context in which social work exists. That being said I love the way social media can and does communicate and connect the story. It illustrates the complexity and uncertainty of the story… mirroring, to a greater extent, practice realities. It shines a light on diversity… which makes me even more sure that it is within our differences that our strength lies.

I am honoured to have earned my right to practice as a social work professional. I am going to keep pondering the story, in the hope that I can make a useful contribution to it. I will of course be mindful of ‘how’ I communicate my contributions having carefully read the steely advice of Warren Belcher aka @ermate .

Amanda

 

 

 

 

 

@SWBookGroup live from A Shoe that is the @itsmotherswork Shoe!

So as one does on the first morning of one’s annual leave, one reads all one can about one of the things one loves (in my case @SWBookGroup ) and it turns into a mini project! Yes? Well in fact probably not but anyway here’s what happened.

I was tweeting about and from @SWBookGroup this morning as I was catching up with articles, blogs and the like about the benefits of reading fiction and other related pieces that I had just not got around to.  As I was reading I was posting tweets to my fellow #swbk er’s so that they too could have a read at their convenience. It then dawned on me that it had been a while since I last actually caught up with my fellow @SWBookGroup er’s and I was wondering what they might be reading over the summer, a term I use loosely for many reasons! Following on from this I had yet another idea (I am hoping that anytime soon I might run out of bright ideas) which was to collate a reading list of what Book Groupers had chosen to read over the holiday period and to share any tweets that I might get with #socialwork #socialcare and fiction reading colleagues and communities.

Luckily for me, a fabulous tweep friend @itsmotherswork shared some really interesting tweets about a book The Homecoming of Samuel Lake she had been reading. The rest now, it is hoped, will make some history! But we can’t do it alone, nor would we want too! In fact Jarlath. F. Benson Working More Creatively With Groups: Third Edition talks about the numbers required to make a group in his wonderful works.  So this is where you all come in. We are keen to hold an online Book Group for anyone who might be interested. @itsmotherswork has most kindly, without any kind of pressure *coughs*  agreed to host the session but before we go into full on planning mode we wanted to find out how many of you would be interested? The Book Group would be online from the @SWBookGroup feed, on a week night evening and we will be using #bookinashoe as our hashtag. We can send out the date and time once we establish if there is enough interest in what will be the first of its kind kinda Book Group.
So please tweet @SWBookGroup using the hashtag #bookinashoe to let us know if you are in!

Many thanks for reading and we do hope that there might be enough of us to read, think and share together.

@amltaylor66 from @SWBookGroup HQ with the most wonderful @itsmotherswork who will be our host for the evening!

https://twitter.com/itsmotherswork

Using Book Groups in Social Work Education – Where we started, where we went and where we are going

Last night saw the last session of the Using Book Groups in Social Work Education Pilot, marking the end of an incredible journey and one that began with a few @UCLanSocialWork students in the library @UCLan.   The final session of @SWBookGroup @UCLanLIS looked slightly different in that we were joined by four Professors of Social Work, @Junethobu,  @Harr_Ferguson who lead the session and @AidanWorsley, @ivornadir, some #socialwork2014 academics, around 14 students, a practitioner and 1344 @SWBookGroup followers, a number of whom connected with us on-line.

 

 
We read the Olive Stevenson Book ‘’Reflections on a Life in Social Work: A Personal & Professional Memoir’’  providing us with time to look back on and think about  Olive’s words and works. http://www.olivestevenson.com/  It was a fabulous learning space as you will see if you follow the Book Group hashtag #swbk.  It was nice to hear June talk so fondly about Olive and how she remembered the times when Olive had used literature in her teaching.  We also discovered that June tutored our Executive Dean Aidan Worsley and examined the PhD of Nigel Thomas. So not only was it an evening where we shared thoughts and reflections about social work but also one where we thought about our history and learned more about our connections.

 

 
The live streamed meant that we were able to connect with @AngieBartoli leading a group of students in @UniNorthants ; @MartinK55 and @pearsemac with their students at GCU; @katekarban @GeraldineG3 and their students at @BradfordUni and a new group @CCCUSocialWork. Throughout the course of the pilot @ProfJScourfield has worked with groups of students at @CardiffMASW ; @KatharineDill with a group @QUB_DRN and @HannahnagroM with students @SWLancs.  We have had authors’ @Deb_M_Morgan and @_LisaCherry come along and share their work and thoughts with students and we have been incredibly well supported by @APSWUK with @ProfJScourfield, @Brigid39, @ProfSueWhite and @NEStanley all giving their time and energy to the project travelling to @UCLanSocialWork  to facilitate @SWBookGroup events.

 

 

So as you can see @SWBookGroup has gone from strength to strength but why you might ask? I think I will leave the tweet feedback #swbk and video links attached to answer that question:

 
Student Feedback:

 

 

 

 

 
A Storify capturing the History of Social Work Book Group:
The Use of Book Groups in Social Work Education

 

 

 

 

 

So what now? Book group continues to grow and in many forms within the #socialwork14 world. Here @UCLanSocialWork colleagues have just introduced the model into modules of learning, @CollegeofSW through @AnnieHudsonTCSW are taking this initiative forward as a CPD activity for its members and I am working with Principle Social Workers from across the UK to develop a template that they can use within their organisations with practitioners.  I am also working on another piece of writing further to my thoughts about Book Groups as a practice approach started in the Social Media in Social Work Education text
http://criticalpublishing.com/index.php/browse-by-subject-1/social-work/social-media-in-social-work-education.html Social Media in Social Work Education

 

 
@SWBookGroup will continue but this time around each University involved will host an event like we have @UCLanSocialWork.  Information about these events will be posted on the Book Group Twitter feed @SWBookGroup and if you want to get involved please get in touch.

 

 
Can I just finish by thanking EVERYONE, in whatever capacity, known to me or not, for any contribution you have made to this project; one that aimed to provide a unique way of teaching and learning but more importantly one that has hopefully gone some way to further connecting the #socialwork profession.

@AMLTaylor66

Social Care Curry Club up North

Social Care Curry Club has landed Up North,
27 in numbers who’d a thought.

How did this happen, why are we here,
Well again it’s a result of our digital sphere.

Two tweeting enthusiasts, George and Matt Knew how to nurture social care chat.

And starting from this dynamic two
Their great idea just grew and grew.

Now lovers of curry and social care
Tonight are meeting everywhere.

All major cities in the UK
And as far afield as  Vancouver way.

So make your choice then tuck right in
And tween each mouthful wag your chin

To share your views on social care.
Informed discussion and tasty fayre.

I did not win this years National Teaching Fellowship / Award Scheme (NTFS). I did however learn a lot about myself and my teaching practice

In recent times, at various events, attended by a range of people, I have been asked about my teaching style, my approach to social work education and why I ‘do it’ the way I do. If you attended the recent JSWEC 2013 conference you may have got a taste of the randomness that is me and hopefully the basic humanity I try to embed when sharing understandings with student social workers. A colleague asked me to consider writing a blog about my ‘approach’ so here I (slightly uncomfortably) am. I thought that it might be interesting to share a piece I was required to write for the National Teaching Fellowship Scheme 2013 that details the criterion I was attempting to evidence in a bid to state my worthiness for this nomination.

I did not win the award and I am not actually sure if it ever has been won by a social work academic? Actually, the winning does not really matter. What does matter is that it provided me with the time to truly reflect upon my current professional position and the things I need to do to progress in this respect.

I found the seeking of feedback from students, colleagues and peers deeply disturbing on many levels and a tad sycophantic on others. It was however incredibly nice to be felt worthy of nomination.

Why I am doing this? Hmmmmm, I was asked and the asking prompted me to think about what it might offer those who might read it. I concluded that there might be a little nugget or two of learning within the content that you might take away and either apply or avoid 😉

See what you think

Amanda

Amanda Taylor Senior Lecturer UCLan

ps. Please be aware the claim is written in a particular style and manner that could be interpreted or misinterpreted as ‘blowing ones own trumpet’ I hope you might see past that and consider the true message I wished to convey to the HEA panel.

”Social work academics should practice in a manner that reflects the core knowledge, values and skills of the profession. A profession I am incredibly proud to be a part of.”

School of Social Work UCLan
Claim for National Teaching Fellowship

Criterion 1: Individual excellence: evidence of enhancing and transforming the student learning experience commensurate with the individual’s context and the opportunities afforded by it.

I offer this claim to fellowship from a reflective position and begin by explaining that my pursuit of a career in higher education was as a result of my passion for and commitment to the development of the social work profession. A profession whose benchmark for qualified practitioners is the acquisition and direct application of a knowledge, values and skills framework. On entering higher education I considered the social work qualifying framework from pedagogic perspective to enable me situate my own abilities and address those areas from where authenticity and creativity could arise. I commenced and continue this professional journey by positioning myself as the learner; noting the teaching and learning parallels as they presented. This reflective positioning has resulted in an insightfulness that I utilise as I continue to pursue an experiential sense of the student as partner in the learning process. An outcome reflected in recent student feedback which explains, ‘Amanda never forgets what it is like to be a student.’ Furthermore, the contemplative junctures that continue to surface as I reflect foster a much more contemporary emphasis to my teaching practice; within these reflections is the on-going recognition of how pertinent my own progression is to that of student engagement and academic success.

My continued professional development, through the successful achievement of the Teaching Toolkit, PGCert in Teaching and Learning in Higher Education and SD2 Mentorship, were frameworks that assisted me explore, experiment and apply; something that has become the norm within the learning spaces I construct and occupy. I progressed through these experiential learning processes, adopting and adapting various teaching methods grounded within the Blended Learning approach; an approach which continues to be most congruent to the facilitation of progression.

The afore mentioned methodological stance, alongside a knowledge of the evolving nature of the student, continues to motivate me to challenge the standard delivery of social work education. I have trialled and instigated change; incorporating music, discussion boards, media, literature, reading groups, poetry and metaphors aligned with the arts and philosophy into the knowledge exchange. I have developed lecture playlists that lyrically and within the musicality aim to set the tone; discussion boards that are designed to support classroom learning; I read subject related poetry to accentuate significant learning points and offer philosophical materials that prompt students to search for meanings in a professional located within the human condition. I wish for and pursue a vibrancy and depth in the learning space; one that leaves the learner impassioned, curious and wanting more. Combining interchangeable methods results in the range of learning styles being attended to almost naturally. Recent student evaluation makes reference to effects similar to those I aimed to achieve, ‘I felt inspired and impassioned about the subject’ and another who states, ‘Amanda`s methods and passion for her subject interests are second to none, due to this passion, enthusiasm and knowledge it has enabled me to be inspired about social work matters in a way that has surpassed my expectations.’

From the outset of my progression theoretical notions of relationality and connectivity enabled me to appreciate and maximise the potential within the learning environment that would emulate key areas of competency; those which Student Social Workers are required to incrementally achieve over the course of their professional training. Therefore, how I impart social work knowledge, convey social work values and utilise social work skills remains crucial to a student’s comprehension of the qualifying requirements within social work education. A further example of these considerations is evidenced in a current research project in which I consider ‘What is Social Work Education’s contribution to the Use of Self in Relationship Based Practice’; this is an additional body of evidence that has and will inform lesson and curriculum design. My keenness to test this hypothesis derives from the necessity to provide proof of that which works; all of which is aligned to my aspiration to further progress the nature of delivery in social work education.

Subsequently, when yet again re-defining that which should be core to my teaching approach, in the development of a profession that interfaces with the human condition at its most vulnerable, I concluded that it had to be understandings located and demonstrated within the relationship. The teacher / learner relationship I would construct and forge with the student, the subject matter, and the environment; an approach that interestingly reflects that of the professional social worker / service-user relationship. On this occasion I returned to Social Work theory, drawing from Humanistic Psychology and a Rogerian approach that is based upon creating core conditions (Congruence, Empathy, Unconditional Positive Regard) in which development can occur. Recent student feedback suggests success in my approach, ‘Amanda shows a tremendous amount of compassion and empathy, she respects other opinions and is genuinely interested in what students have to say, she does not dictate her views, she is transparent and congruent,’ and another who explains ‘Amanda instilled me with confidence by helping, not giving the understanding, but enabling me to find it with her powerful examples and all-encompassing explanations,’ all self-actualisation at its best. Additionally, a colleague’s view, ‘Amanda plays a crucial role in modelling professional behaviour. Students comment on the way she recognises and respects them, and the way she helps them to develop and form mutually supporting networks and learning communities. (colleague name removed) Programme Lead.

Having been invited to speak at the launch of the University of Central Lancashire World Class Teaching and Learning Event prompted me to cogitate with even greater conviction upon how and why I command teaching spaces the way I do. It was during a gallery and museum type vacation that I discovered my teaching parallel; which interestingly, but not surprisingly derives from my interests in the Freud lineage. Three generations of male within this family (there are others) had excelled in their chosen professions; Sigmund being the Father of Psychoanalysis, his son Ernst an Architect and his son Lucian the pronounced Artist. I immediately thought about the educators who will have shaped and forged their convictions in the creation of their curiosity, understanding and ultimately their works. Lucian, had been cited to enquire of his art, ‘What do I ask of a painting? I ask it to astonish, disturb, seduce, convince’ and it was in that moment that I asked myself, ‘What do I ask of my teaching? Concluding that, ‘I ask it to be engaging, progressive, stimulating, inspirational.’

Yet another self-appraising juncture arose which led me to examine the possibility of implementing learning activities additional to timetabled events; those which could stimulate engagement and supplementary progression due to the distinctiveness of their presenting construct. This consideration came at a time when I was developing my role as BA (Hons) Social Work 1st Year Lead. I understood the role in terms of professional development, academic attainment and retention but sensed there were real opportunities available to convey, from the outset of the degree course, the requisite skills of professionalism which correlate with those necessary for qualification and subsequent employment. I utilised numerous mediums to raise professional awareness; the most effective was that of the University’s virtual learning environment Blackboard and the social networking site Twitter.

Given the increased usage of social networking sites for the development of networks and the sharing of practice knowledge I facilitated student familiarity with the system through Blended Learning structures and clarified the manner in which both the academic and professional profiles could be advanced. Students were asked to introduce themselves to myself and peers during induction on Blackboard and to set up a Twitter account. The subsequent knowledge and skills made available and achieved through this simple engagement led to the emergence of student confidence with public communication, a consciousness of the risks in online behaviours, an ability to use technology in the development of their career and the provision of links with the wider social work world. Student feedback highlights the multifaceted benefits from an approach that speaks to academic progress, professionalism and the employability agenda, ‘her encouragement to students to engage with the ‘digital shift’ has prompted me to join twitter and following some fascinating professionals – without this I would not have access to additional resources and professional contacts,’ and ‘utilising learning environments and social media technology such as twitter and Skype, Amanda shares a wealth of experience and knowledge.’

Further claims to success with this medium are described by a colleague I encountered online, with whom I am now engaged in a research project where we are exploring student social workers use of social networking to supplement classroom based learning. (colleague name removed) Glasgow Caledonian University School of Social Work offers this account, ‘I noticed that your Twitter bio described you as an “enthusiastic” lecturer, this would seem particularly apt, and there is a sense of your enthusiasm and commitment that is clear in your virtual self. I also think there is an innovative approach, the social networking being an aspect of that but most notably the use of new learning and teaching environments and the ability to adapt environment like these (book and film clubs) to have a relevance to the work of the social worker. Finally I get a sense of thoroughness, you seem clear about what the aims of your teaching are and equally determined to ensure that the teaching activities reflect this. Innovative, enthusiastic, creative and thorough.’

Not satisfied that I had exhausted all potential possibilities I again I found myself setting about devising supplementary learning activities that would support events outside of those timetabled. Whilst researching Collaborative and Communities of Learning my attention was captured due to the idea that these teaching constructs enhance the likelihood for critical thinking. As a result the BA (Hons) Social Work Programme Book Club was born The Use Of Book Clubs in Social Work Education. Student engagement with this activity was roused by providing explicit explanations relating to the connections between reading and practice learning. I decided to recruit a student body to the book club process, with students being drawn from each year of the Social Work Course School of Social Work UCLan. This resulted in supplementary promotion of events and interest generated through peer curiosity.

The book club has drawn national interest via its Twitter feed @SWBookclub and my own personal Twitter presence @amltaylor66. As a result a number of renowned Professors have requested involvement given the uniqueness of the process and because it is not something that they have encountered within Social Work Education to date. The next event is will take place in a physical teaching space, with a Twitter debate and live stream to the actual room being offer as a link to all the wider social work education network. In terms of this innovation one such Professor comments, ‘Amanda’s social work book group encourages students to read literature which has a social work theme but is not in the category of core academic texts, including autobiographies and fiction. It also helps develop critical appraisal skills. Perhaps above all it facilitates learning which is really enjoyable and helps to create bonds in a student group. Book discussions have also been attended by invited external guests, include the author of the book in one case. The added bonus of publicising the book group via Twitter and allowing others outside UCLAN to participate via social media is the cherry on the cake.’ (colleague name removed) Cardiff School of Social Sciences.

The actual Author being referred to attended the Book Club in person having connected with myself through our respective Twitter feeds, and she had this to say, ‘Amanda Taylor is committed to providing learning experiences for her students to enable them to become the best possible practitioners that they can be. In creating the book club at UCLAN, she has connected fiction and reality in a unique way, which has proven to be a huge success. Students are engaged in a programme of problem-solving through collaboration, an important skill needed in the modern workplace. She is to be applauded for her efforts. Deborah Morgan (Author) Disappearing Home

All of the above is a work in progress and hopefully as I manoeuvre through this criterion you will perhaps get a sense of my belief that innovation, motivation and determination are each and together prerequisite to the development of 21st century teaching environments.

Criterion 2: Raising the profile of excellence: evidence of supporting colleagues and influencing support for student learning; demonstrating impact and engagement beyond the nominee’s immediate academic or professional role.

I have been said to be a driving force behind the uptake of the digital technologies within the School of Social Work on many levels, developing and using various digital platforms to support conventional teaching methods. Alongside these teaching advancements lay my ambition to progress these techniques across social work education as a whole given the prominence of social networking proficiency within the social work profession. The impetus in regards to these innovations was spurred even further by my understanding of the opportunities and effectiveness that exist within online engagement and the knowledge that the expectations of students have increased in this respect. Therefore, it was significant to address these evolving areas and deliver to student expectations to ensure that we were doing all that we could in terms of providing learning platforms that would further support both academic and professional successes; all of which speaks to the change in the landscape and what is now determined as a key employability skill.

Increasingly learning technologies are significant in the development of the curriculum across higher education and the combination of interactive online technology and enthusiastic academic staff, willing to engage with this type of concept, can provide students with unique learning experiences. An IT colleague I have partnered with in the progression of my understanding and skill has this to say, ‘over the past 12 months Amanda has ensured that her high profile professional standards and aspirations take full advantage of the collaborative learning platforms that are available, being one of the first staff in the School of Social Work to delve into the world of online learning. The flexibility and mobility of this style of engagement has created a catalyst of interest that is now being felt throughout the School. Through the work Amanda has pioneered, students in the School of Social work are taking full advantage of the diverse range of support, learning and discussion opportunities available to them both physically and virtually. The success of the work Amanda has undertaken has featured prominently in the University’s organisational change initiative support by the Digital Shift strategy.

Through the excellent pioneering initiatives Amanda has created in the School of Social Work we have been able to develop academic collaborations with other Schools with regard to their e-learning endeavours. Keen to learn and keen to share, Amanda has initiated discussions for innovative developments through the School of Psychology within UCLan to provide access to an online journal club where students are able to discuss up to date material pertinent to their studies with prominent experts from the field of Social Work. (colleague name removed) Learning Technologies Coordinator LIS – Digital Services.
As acknowledged the potential for technology to enrich the learning environment is more than pertinent in the forefront of my mind as I considered the overall student experience in my various academic roles. Conversely, I am also delicately aware that not everyone is as enamoured as I am in this respect and reflected on how I might encourage colleague participation; with the aim of balancing and conveying the advantages against the possible difficulties. Using technology does require a certain level of perseverance and equal amounts of confidence. I reflected upon a notable preconceived aversion if one had experienced complications with an IT system. I pondered this phenomena at length and concluded that there can be an almost conceptual deficit in the way we initially perceive digital unknowns. Consequently, when establishing the BA (Hons) Social Work Programme Blackboard space, I invested additional time and energy to ensure that this system was fully effective for the task in hand and offered coaching for colleagues to develop the afore mentioned confidence. All of which I recognised would be essential to confident and proactive engagement. One such colleague, who would freely admit to a digital aversion reflects, ‘Amanda, models debates about the professional presentation of self in not only in her direct teaching but also in her commitment to elearning (message boards, blogs, tweets) in her reflections and disclosures.’ (colleague name removed) SW Programme Lead.

Both, locally and nationally, my willingness to support colleagues with digital platforms has become widely known, acknowledged and sought; not only in relation to internal technology but also for my development of Twitter as a learning tool, retention aid and professional development platform. Locally, Associate Head of School Pharmacy and Biomedicine University of Central Lancashire explains, ‘Amanda was extremely helpful and enthusiastic about the use of Twitter. She explained how they have been using it with students in Year 1 within SW and provided me with her experiences of initially setting up the account and then subsequently the approach to engage students. I could see from the twitter feeds that students were readily engaging with Amanda I was very impressed with the fact that it wasn’t a one way dialogue and that students were sending tweets about what they had read and were asking opinions of lecturers. Since my discussion with Amanda I have taken the points back to my School.’
To coin a phrase, in relation to my use and successes with technology, in particular Twitter, it all went ‘a tad viral.’ Since my virtual inception I have been contacted by colleagues within Social Work / Social Care Education across the UK who request to consult on my use of this social media space to extend the learning potential. Two such colleagues explain, ‘I first ‘met’ Amanda via Twitter it was clear she was student focussed, creative in her approach to teaching, grounded in values of human rights and a sense of fun. I became intrigued in the ‘Book Club’ work that she has developed at UCLAN with her social work students. It is hoped that in the future we will be able to collaborate between the two universities so that students from UCLAN and Northampton might develop these discussions and debates further, again by using social media. This is an exciting venture, which Amanda has grasped with enthusiasm.’ (colleague name removed) Programme Director and Teaching Fellow University of Northampton School of Social Work and (colleague name removed) who had this to say, ‘I initially became aware of Amanda through her creative use of Twitter, which she uses to good effect to enhance her own Dept.’s profile and that of her colleagues. She has been extremely supportive of my own Dept.’s efforts to establish a weekly online Twitter ‘chat’ for Education and Social Work PhD candidates and other interested parties. Amanda has involved her own colleagues and advertised the talks on Twitter as well as agreeing to be a ‘Guest tweeter’ answering questions on her own use of social media in enhancing student learning. I have had a telephone conversation with Amanda to discuss her appearance as ‘guest Tweeter’ she is obviously highly committed to providing a really rich and engaged environment both for students and her colleagues. My own awareness of what UCLan has to offer has been almost entirely through contact with Amanda – such is her effect!

Within in three months of my social work academic virtual presence I had been voted as one of the top sixty Social Care Tweeters in the UK by Community Care Magazine; a widely known and read publication in the field. This again developed my professional profile and the manner in which the School of Social Work at the University of Central Lancashire was being understood and discussed for the innovative methods employed not only to teach but also in terms of pastoral care.
This publicity and visual effectiveness on Twitter has recently led to invites from the Joint Social Work Education Conference (JSWEC) to deliver a keynote speech using a digital platform; and Lancaster University who are hosting a Teaching and Learning Conference and wish to capture what they note as, ‘the dynamic and progressive style to the delivery of social work education that you offer’ (colleague names removed) Lancaster University. I aim to model and facilitate a journal club, based upon my book club initiative, with social work students from across the UK and the academic audience, in an experiential manner at both events. I have suggested that the delegate list is contacted to prior to the event to set up a Twitter account and offered a list of key Social Work / Social Care Tweeters to follow. They will also be expected to read a short and relevant article in preparation. A further aim through this process is to offer students access to learning, the conference, a range of educators and to provide evidence of the potential that requires exploration from the current academic community through this mini journal club event.

Criterion 3: Developing excellence: evidence of the nominee’s commitment to her/his on-going` professional development with regard to teaching and learning and/or learning support.

As I have written this claim for fellowship the contemplative nature of my teaching and approach to innovation has come into even sharper focus; reminding me of my professional social work practice which was embedded within notions of reflective ability and resultant proactive activity. As discussed, I set out on this journey with openness to change, an appreciation for adaptability and a strong sense of the currency of the student experience as it exists today. I reflected upon my own experiences of higher education and knew with immediacy that even though they drove my ambitions they should not be reflected in my approach. I am often known to cite that the words, ‘in my day’ are not relevant to higher education; particularly at this quite tentative time for it as an institution.

As previously evidenced in criterion one, I am in the fortunate position to be employed by an organisation University of Central Lancashire that promotes professional development and drives these processes forward in a fashion that sits creatively within my aspirations not only for higher education but also for social work practice. Working through and achieving the afore mentioned professional teaching qualifications, alongside progressing into mentoring roles within the University Learning Development Unit remain central tenets of my evolution as an educator.

The first time that I mentored a teacher new to higher education I was keen to explore and embed the effectiveness I had found within the humanistic approach that I had adopted with students in general. This relationship based perspective appears to offer validity in approach which is reflected in my first ever peer review feedback, ‘I was somewhat surprised with the length of discussion we had prior to the learning session (30 minutes), which I think emphasises the importance Amanda pays on understanding the colleagues that she is working with. I was encouraged – not so much asked – to articulate learning outcomes, why I had opted for a particular method of delivery, how I had planned the session, and my strengths/weaknesses or gaps in knowledge about the ability and make-up of the students I was engaging. This was something that I have never really been asked to do before but I found it affirming to be able to have a conversation where I was open about some of my anxieties (e.g. not knowing the students I was teaching particularly well) and also to get some tips as to how I might remedy this (e.g. something simple like asking the students to put their names on pieces of paper in front of them). A method of thinking about on-going issues surrounding the joys and frustrations of classroom based teaching delivery. The focus was subtly shifted from something that was a pressurised focus on me and my abilities as a teacher to how my struggles or successes are actually part of a wider teaching community that encompasses the students and other colleagues. (colleague name removed) University of Central Lancashire Teaching Toolkit Student and Dr of Geography.

Further to my development as a peer reviewer and within my mentoring position I have recently initiated an experiment that considers the peer review process from a cross school perspective as opposed to the current within school system. I linked with a law colleague who reviewed my teaching methods in a lecture environment; the topic of my session was loss and grief. I choose a colleague from law given the polarity in our respective areas of speciality and found that this method evoked much more authentic and constructive feedback for us both. This is my peers feedback on her knowledge of me an educator and the peer process, ‘I observed a 3 hour session which was a lecture and a workshop all rolled together in to one. There were approximately 120 students. I was interested to see how Amanda would engage the students over this period of time and also how interactive the session could be with that number of students.

I was impressed on both counts. Amanda used a range of media (starting and ending with a DVD, both of which had a huge impact) in order to provide variety in the learning experience for students. The session was very interactive, helped by the fact that Amanda knew the names of all her students so despite the large group, she gave the impression that she was communicating with each and every one. The session was also clearly focussed on professional practice with numerous anecdotes from Amanda’s own time in practice and a lot of discussion about how students might use what they were learning when they went in to practice themselves.

It was hugely beneficial to observe a member of staff from another School. The focus of the observation was entirely on teaching method, rather than on the substance of the material covered. It enabled me to observe as an entirely objective bystander. It was interesting to see that there were a lot of similarities between Amanda’s approach to teaching and my own. The benefit of some of these, which may be done incidentally when taking a class, are really highlighted when you are an observer and so now form part of my clear teaching plan for each session e.g., anecdotes from practice. In addition, it showed me how I could use different teaching methods, such as video clips, in order to ignite student’s interest and hold their attention through the session.

One of Amanda’s key strengths is the relationship that she develops with her students. She clearly nurtures them through the learning experience but balances this with an ability to empower them to reflect upon ideas themselves and form their own views. Amanda really does create an excellent teaching and learning environment’ (colleague name removed) School of Law University of Central Lancashire. This innovative approach I have proposed to the University Senior Executive Team as part of staff feedback into the current World Class Teaching & Learning Culture initiative; which has received encouraging levels of interest.

On a frequent basis I attend subject relevant seminar workshops to provide me with current and research based knowledge that I can utilise and impart within teaching spaces. It is these contemporary and topical findings that I glean and bring not only into traditional teaching spaces but also into digital spaces. I am currently evaluating discussion boards that I have incorporated into two BA (Hons) Social Work 1st Year modules as I means to again forging, supporting and maximising learning potential. Student feedback indicates the benefits, ‘If there were to be one thing I would change about modules I would have to say that having more discussion boards would certainly be an advantage to students. The discussion boards allow all students to actively take part in the learning experience. They are a great way of engaging all students into discussions and having an insight into other people’s views, as we all tended to have different perceptions on things,’ alongside that of a recent module feedback report, ‘I particularly liked the discussion board with relevant and searching questions posed by the academic team to assist students’ active engagement with the 2 chapters of directed reading. This seemed to be well utilised by students and is a useful vehicle to enhance their learning’ (colleague name removed)External Examiner University of Canterbury.

Recently, I began my fourth year of teaching practice in higher education and believe that I have creatively and authentically consolidated the foundations of my professional profile. I am now approaching a phase where further development is required if I am to put my stamp on the world of social work and higher education teaching and learning practices. Winning the Vice Chancellors Award for Outstanding Practice in Teaching & Learning: Excellence in teaching delivery and intellectual stimulation of students at School and University Level and being nominated for all six categories in the Student Lead Lecturers Awards did not, as you might expect, leave me believing I had arrived.

It simply generated further aspirations to cultivate additional approaches that would shape student education in a manner conducive to their academic success. Something I will never cease to strive for. I am enrolled to commence my Phd early next year once I complete the two current research projects mentioned and complete a book chapter. The subject matter clearly will be related to innovative teaching and learning and how this is a lifelong project as opposed to a fait acompli!

So there it is – my claim to fellowship and my honest reflections on what I ‘do’ and how I ‘do’ it. I do not get it right all of the time, in fact this recount could be based upon lots of deluded ideals and as I often say to students ‘what would Freud say.’ What I do know is that I am committed to social work and social work education and aspire to progress through the forgiving students and colleagues I have the pleasure of engaging with on a daily basis – virtually as well as in person.

Regards

AMLTaylor66

* Consent was sought to share comments throughout the claim to fellowship process