By: Linda May Grobman, ACSW, LSW
With the rapidly changing technology all around us, it seems that new online social work communities and resources are springing up all the time.
One such community and a leading resource in this area is @SWSCmedia. According to its Web site at http://swscmedia.wordpress.com/, “@SWSCmedia is a knowledge community of practice that brings social work and social care practitioners, organisations, academics, researchers, students, policy makers, users of service and other allied professionals, stakeholders or enthusiasts, and interested parties together, to discuss issues, innovations, opportunities, dilemmas, and challenges, as well as relevant developments in relation to social work and/or social care.”
The UK-based group has about 4,000 followers and has attracted as many as 100 participants interacting simultaneously in some of its Twitter “debates.”
Claudia Megele (@ClaudiaMegele), a Senior Lecturer and Module Leader for MSc Step up to Social Work Programme at the University of Hertfordshire who also holds psychotherapy clinics both privately and at NHS, recognized the power of Twitter to connect people professionally and to enhance learning. She explains, “As a researcher, I was interested in social psychology and psychoanalytic sociology of Twitter, and as an academic, I could see its enormous potential for social learning, knowledge dissemination, and community building. We have used Twitter in creative ways, ranging from debates/chats to case study discussions, speeches, focus groups, mock interviews, and panel discussions.” Megele’s vision was to create an open access community for all, and the network has indeed become a global knowledge and learning community. In addition to being the founder of @SWSCmedia, Megele also started the @MHChat and @U4Change networks.
In October 2011, Megele announced the first @SWSCmedia debate, and the network has grown substantially ever since. @SWSCmedia debates are held Tuesdays (8:00 p.m. UK), often with a guest speaker. A second weekly debate is held every Sunday (6:00 p.m. UK) focusing on case studies, focus groups, student issues, and other activities. The debates have attracted people primarily from the UK and the U.S. and have overall participation from more than 20 countries.
“We started by offering Learning through Sharing, and it has been very well received. We are very proud of the quality of our work and delighted to serve our global community. In fact, our debates will be incorporated in social work curricula at selected universities,” says Megele. “It is an eclectic space and will be even more so as we move to the next level and continue to engage everyone from university professors and researchers to students and practitioners to users and providers of services. It’s a fantastic platform for social learning and knowledge and information sharing.”
So, what exactly is a Twitter debate? you might ask. In simple terms, it is a fast-paced, live, real-time online chat that takes place on Twitter. Through the use of a hashtag (#SWSCmedia, in this case), participants can see what others are saying on the current debate topic.
@SWSCmedia, which stands for Social Work/Social Care & Media, operates primarily through the use of a blog (http://swscmedia.wordpress.com/), Twitter (@SWSCmedia), and LinkedIn group (http://www.linkedin.com/groups?gid=4010412). A brief review of the @SWSCmedia site/blog reveals that recent topics of discussion have included adoption reform, cyberbullying, workplace stress, ethics, professional conduct, social media, and many more.
Megele explains, “One of our main objectives is to bridge the gap between theories; research; and practice of social work, social care, and allied professions. Social media are changing and challenging both the medium and content of communication...and continue to transform our sociality as well as our thinking, being, and ways of relating to one another. In this context, we are leveraging social media to enhance the professional identity and the praxis of social work and social care.”
Megele concludes, “Social media will continue to transform every aspect of our lives, ranging from research and education to systems and services. We at @SWSCmedia aim to seize this opportunity to enhance social work and social care education, research, and praxis.”
The blog’s “About” page provides detailed instructions on how to participate in the group’s Twitter debates.
Follow @SWSCmedia on Twitter to stay informed of upcoming debate times and topics.
Linda May Grobman, ACSW, LSW, is the publisher and editor of THE NEW SOCIAL WORKER magazine.
This article appeared in The New Social Worker, Summer 2012, Vol. 19, No. 3. All rights reserved. Please contact Linda Grobman for permission to reprint.