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Jonathan SingerJonathan Singer
By: Claudia J. Dewane, D.Ed., LCSW
In recent years, issues of complexity regarding the use of technology in the social work profession have been explored from many angles. There is no doubt that technological advances have had significant impact on social work practice.
Dr. Jonathan Singer is the founder of The Social Work Podcast , a unique learning vehicle. As described on www.socialworkpodcast.com: The Social Work Podcast provides information on all things social work, including direct practice (both clinical and community organizing), research, policy, education... and everything in between. The purpose of the podcast is to present useful information in a user-friendly format. Although the intended audience is social workers, the information will be useful to anyone in a helping profession (including psychology, nursing, psychiatry, counseling, and education).”
I interviewed Dr. Singer regarding the podcast and emerging technological issues in social work practice.
1. What is a podcast?
A podcast is an audio or video file that you can subscribe to and is “pushed” to your computer/media device when a new episode is available. While audio has been available on the Web since the mid-1990s, you had to visit the site regularly to see if there was a new episode. With podcasts, the episodes come to you.
2. What prompted you to develop the Social Work Podcast?
In 2007, I was teaching a practice theories course at the University of Pittsburgh’s school of social work. I knew that the theories and ideas about integrating theory into practice would be really useful for students both in practice and for their licensure exams. I figured that the best way of archiving the material would be through audio recordings. Students wouldn’t have listened to them during the semester, so there was no point in posting them to Blackboard. I talked about the more technical side of how I developed the podcast and the Social Work Podcast Web site in a recent interview: http://www.socialworkpodcast.com/2011/01/behind-scenes-at-social-work-podcast.html.
3. Can you identify the most challenging and most rewarding aspects of the podcast initiative?
The most challenging aspect of the podcast is that it is a time-intensive effort, and I don’t have nearly the time to put into it that I’d like to. The most rewarding aspect is connecting with experts in the field, listeners from all over the world who share their social work experiences, and feeling like I’m making a valuable contribution to the social work profession.
4. What role do podcasts play in social work education and practice?
There is no published research to establish the value of podcasts in social work education. The anonymous surveys I’ve conducted with my students suggest that they really like being able to listen to podcasts, for a couple of reasons: 1) They like the break from reading. Listening to episodes, particularly for students who struggle with reading comprehension, gives them a new way to learn important information. 2) Many podcasts are interviews with leading experts. These interviews tend to bring to life concepts that, on the page, seem to be academic or impractical.
I also have anecdotal evidence from social workers in the field. Social workers say that: 1) they listened to the podcast as a way of studying for the Bachelor’s, Master’s, and Clinical licensure exams, and 2) the podcasts are portable. Social workers do a lot of home visits. The podcasts give them a way of learning something new, or re-acquainting them with ideas they might have learned but forgotten. The ultimate goal is to help social workers provide better services to clients.
5. Have you determined the extent of usage or success of the podcast in any way?
I base the “success” of the podcast on the e-mails I receive and the feedback I get from professors and students about the benefit of the podcast. The data I have tell me a lot about usage, but not much about success. I use Google Analytics and Webalizer as my main “web metrics” to get stats on the podcast. According to Google Analytics, between March 2007 and February 1, 2012, there were 500 million page views, from 200,000 unique visitors. In the past year (February 2011-February 2012) the Web site averaged 446 pageviews per day from 58,306 unique visitors. Visitors were from 166 countries/territories, stayed on the site just over 2 minutes, and 95% of visitors come from English speaking countries. I know that 2% of visitors used mobile devices like tablets or smartphones. The most popular episodes have been Stages of Change, Theories for Clinical Social Work Practice, and The Culturagram. Webalizer suggests that in the past year, I have had about 320 GB of downloads. The Social Work Podcast page on Facebook has more than 2,500 fans, and the Social Work Podcast Twitter feed has 1,600+ followers. What all this means is that since the podcast started in 2007, there has been a lot of interest in the episodes. For that, I’m grateful.