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Learning to harness technology for social good

By Alison Laurio, News contributor

Melanie Sage is part of a suicide special interest group that meets on Twitter, where she said “the medium helps get us out of our silos and see problems from multiple perspectives.”

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In 2014, Stephanie Berzin was given a Teaching with New Media Award by Boston College for outstanding uses of technology in teaching for using the Canvas learning management program.

She said she “used it with expanded functionality including photos, videos, discussions and online activities,” and it made better use of time between classes.

Jonathan B. Singer started the Social Work Podcast in 2007. It won the first NASW Media Award for best website in 2012. Loyola University, where he teaches, says his episodes have been downloaded more than 2 million times.
Claudia J. Coulton is working on big data and its use for tackling the problems of health, poverty and development in urban areas to help low-income children and families.

As four of the co-leaders on the American Academy of Social Work and Social Welfare’s Grand Challenge to “Harness Technology for Social Good,” Sage, Berzin, Singer and Coulton are viewing the importance and the benefits of technology not only to meet their challenge, but also as essential in achieving success in the other 11 grand challenges and the future of the social work profession.

Technology and Social Work

“Harnessing technology is incredibly important for the field of social work,” said Berzin, BA, MSW, Ph.D., and associate professor at Boston College’s School of Social Work, where she also is assistant dean of the doctoral program and co-director of the Center for Social Innovation at the graduate school.

“We have reached a point where the majority of the world is connected through technology,” she said. “This presents opportunities to reach new populations, develop distinct interventions and access people in new ways. This challenge not only is compelling in terms of magnitude, but it also represents the possibility for radically different solutions to social problems. Technology-based solutions have the potential to change who we serve and how we serve.”

Technology already is rapidly changing everything about the way people live, said Sage, BSSW, MSW, Ph.D. and assistant professor at the State University of New York at Buffalo. Most people already use technology, and many use wearable devices that track their vital signs or count the number of steps they take, she said. “We need to be involved for the public good,” Sage said.

The social work field has reacted to technology rather than understanding it or developing it, said Singer, BA, LCSW, MSSW, Ph.D. and associate professor at Loyola University in Chicago. “We tend to consume rather than create,” he said. “We need to be creating content, creating apps, creating uses of technology to enhance practice and improve quality of life for people who receive social (work) services.”

From the September 2017 NASW News. Read the full story here.

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