Category Archives: Uncategorized

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

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 👌

@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.