"The next generation of social services will rely on a backbone of new technology and confident, IT-savvy social care and health specialists."
... I smiled as I read through my undergraduate dissertation. It was written many years ago and was about the internet, and its implications on social work practice. Yes, I was a geek even back then! So much has changed since I wrote it... but there were things that I wrote that are still topical today.
One of the things that has taken off has been the advent of social media - such as Facebook, Twitter and many more. While the technology and the tools might be relatively new, the concept of social networking has been around much longer than the internet or even mass communication. People are naturally social creatures. That's what makes social media such a powerful concept. Social media allows human beings to sort themselves into groups and factions seamlessly, and maintain intimate relationships at greater distances than ever before.
Our ability to work together in groups, creating value that is greater than the sum of its parts, is one of our greatest assets (Weaver and Morrison 2008, p.97), and social networks are valuable because of their ability to build committed communities where individuals support each other in the pursuit of common goals (Smith, 2009).
We can find people with similar interests, we can share knowledge and experiences, we can learn from each other and we have an opportunity to develop ourselves personally and professionally. Indeed, this book was itself initially conceived through social media.
Membership in positive social networks can help teach learners trust, tolerance, acceptance, and collaboration. Recent statistics suggest that 96 per cent of students with internet access report using social networking technologies, and that three in five use these tools to talk about educational topics online. In another survey I read recently, educators are using social media more in 2014 than they did in 2012.
That's maybe not a huge surprise given the rise of blended learning, but by any measure, social media has revolutionised education. When used correctly, it can have a positive impact on learning.
This book is a timely and hugely useful contribution to the debate about social media and its impact on social work education, as well as the continuing conversations about professional boundaries in a digital age. It will be of interest to a wide range of people with an interest in the education of the social services workforce. It should be on your reading list.