In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Technology Adoption in Social Work Education

  • Introduction
  • Books General Overview
  • Journals General Overview
  • Specialized Organizations General Overview
  • Instructional Techniques and Strategies for Incorporating Technology in the Classroom

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Social Work Technology Adoption in Social Work Education
Jennifer Parga, Sara Schwartz
  • LAST MODIFIED: 28 March 2018
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195389678-0265


The social work profession has taken intentional steps to adopt technology and launch new innovations to streamline administrative functions, monitor program outcomes, and improve the overall delivery of services. Historically, however the profession of social work has been reluctant to embrace technology as a type of service delivery intervention at the micro, mezzo, and macro levels. This hesitation has largely been related to the costs associated with creating and onboarding new systems, a lack of conceptual understanding of the ways that technology can improve services, and challenges associated with implementation and training. The profession is now committed more than ever to technology that it focused one of the twelve Social Work Grand Challenges on Harnessing Technology for Social Good. This Grand Challenge calls for the establishment of innovations in the ways that the profession integrates technology into its mission and vision to benefit society and emerging social work professionals. Students in schools of social work have been fortunate to see some positive impact from technology, specifically in the delivery of social work curriculum. Social work educators have been providing distance education (DE) to hard-to-reach communities for decades; however, the 21st century has witnessed an unprecedented growth and expansion of virtual learning options. Schools of social work around the country are rapidly designing and implementing unique platforms to deliver a combination of asynchronous (self-paced, online, web-based content) and synchronous (live sessions with video streaming capabilities) content which transforms the way that social workers are trained and how they interact with their professors and colleagues. This annotated bibliography explores how social work education has adopted technology, considers the implications of these advances, and includes articles which compare outcomes for different delivery formats. The authors will default to the language, asynchronous or synchronous, described above to provide context on the level of consumer interaction the technology provides. It is worth noting that there are not many sources on this topic; however, the sources included (albeit from a technology standpoint, some are outdated) are organized by where the technology is coming from: technology in a campus-based classroom for all courses except actual field work, technology being utilized in community-based organizations, and technology utilized to deliver social work courses asynchronously or synchronously. Because of this distinction, some sources provide a detail in the application of technology (i.e., hardware, software programs) while others consider implementation effectiveness (i.e., consumer and user benefit, client impact). It is anticipated that both views will introduce new considerations for intersectionality of social work and technology and prepare educators to train the next generation of tech-savvy social workers.

Books General Overview

The books in this section explore the utilization of technology in the social work field like Coe and Menon 1999 Part 1 or Martin 2009 Part 2 and educational institutions like Coe and Menon 1999 Part 2 or Martin 2009 Part 1. These books also capture a significant point in the digital age and identify where social work curriculum and community-based agencies are at this moment in time and provide insight on where we could be in the future. Abels 2005; Taylor, et al. 2016; and Hill and Shaw 2011 provide a DE overview from inception through the present to the future. Teaching pedagogies and considerations in Raymond, et al. 1998 are still relevant through the exploration of the impact of technology on learning communities and ethical considerations. MacFadden 2005 discusses asynchronous opportunities only, while Regan and Freddolino 2008 provides a holistic approach and includes synchronous, asynchronous, and blended technologies. Martin 2009; Menon and Brown 2001; and Vigilante, et al. 2016 are organized into separate parts: typically education (teaching while utilizing technology, fewer about teaching students how to use technology, or the technology used for course delivery) and/or practice (technology utilization in the field domestically, internationally, or interdisciplinary). Please note that because the majority of the books in this section are collections of articles with varying emphasis, they contain the most inclusive collections on the topic of technology in social work; however, it must be noted that the pre-2007 sources included still provide practical application strategies and concepts which can be applicable today, although the technology might have been updated.

  • Abels, P. 2005. Distance education in social work planning, teaching, and learning. New York: Springer.

    Historical account from multiple social work contributors (including inaugural DE program contributor and University of South Carolina Dean Emeritus and Distinguished Professor Emeritus Frank Raymond) who have worked in and continue to implement, maintain, and expand access to DE. This book looks at the utilization of interactive television (ITV) programs (i.e., synchronous). Contributors provide transparency on what being involved in DE could be like for faculty and schools of social work considering DE programs.

  • Coe, J. A., and G. M. Menon. 1999. Computers and information technology in social work: Education, training, and practice. New York: Haworth.

    Book is broken up into two parts: Part 1 focuses on technology out in the field of social work with examples in the United States and internationally. Part 2 focuses on technology in social work education with an emphasis on shifting teaching pedagogy and includes technology implementation examples with web-based instruction (asynchronous) and video conferencing (synchronous), specific instructional strategies, and one article on the student perspective as a consumer.

  • Hill, A., and I. Shaw. 2011. Social work and ICT. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE.

    UK perspective on benefits and “ills” between social work and information and communication technology (ICT) in modern-day social work education and practice. Examples look beyond administrative (e-mail, scheduling, communication) application (although included) and specifically look to identify “best practice” in aspects of service delivery (i.e., agency infrastructure, end user contribution, tools, implementation, etc.) and in social work education (general or social work–specific ICT training, European Computer Driving License, LeaRNS, etc.).

  • MacFadden, R. J. 2005. Web-based education in the human services: Models, methods, and best practices. Vol. 23. New York: Haworth.

    All Canadian or US articles included in this book are about online delivery or web-based education (nothing referring to a physical campus or face to face), where the curriculum is delivered online (asynchronous). Multiple articles recommend educators or content creators to consider a constructivist emotionally oriented approach which identifies the emotional needs of students as imperative to student success.

  • Martin, J., ed. 2009. Information communication technologies for human services education and delivery: Concepts and cases. Hershey, PA: Information Science Reference.

    Focus of Part 1 of this book includes practical application, using blended and asynchronous approaches, of specific technology (CoNote, TechWEBCT, social media) in social work education, and three articles also look at how to foster connection and build community in an online environment. Part 2 is related to technology applied in the social work advocacy, case management, health promotion and policy fields with specific software listed: e-MAVINISM, Centrelink, e-BARIO, e-WRAP.

  • Menon, G. M., and N. K. Brown. 2001. Using technology in human services education: Going the distance. Vol. 18. New York: Haworth.

    Multiple articles for faculty in pre-course or curriculum design phases and looking for teaching pedagogy, including one around creating a shared culture and another advocating for a “Virtual Classroom Pedagogy Strategy,” which addresses how to incorporate GIS. Faculty already teaching will benefit from learning about strategies like e-mail technology and integrating discussion forums.

  • Raymond, F., L. Ginsberg, and D. Gohagan. 1998. Information technologies: Teaching to use—using to teach. New York: Haworth.

    Although from 1998, the emphasis on how faculty and student technology perceptions impact technology adoption and utilization is still applicable. There are specifics provided like “Computer Attitude Scale,” MicroCase, and Paraphrase, which might not still be in existence; however, they can provide insight on what might be comparable in the early 21st century.

  • Regan, J. A. R. C., and P. P. Freddolino. 2008. Integrating technology into the social work curriculum. Alexandria, VA: Council on Social Work Education.

    Ideal for faculty who would like to understand best practices on how to integrate synchronous and asynchronous technology into human behavior in the social environment (HBSE), research, policy, clinical/macro practice, and field courses. Chapters provide specific discussion points, resources, and additional readings for practical application in a variety of classroom environments. The authors are thorough in exploring existing and emerging technology tools and ethical/confidential concerns along with benefits and challenges of specific technology.

  • Taylor, I., M. Bogo, M. Lefevre, and B. Teater, eds. 2016. Routledge international handbook of social work education. Abingdon, UK, and New York: Routledge.

    Taylor and colleagues combine contributors’ predictions on the future of multicultural, macro, ethical, etc., social work. Although the entire book is not focused on technology, there are three chapters which are specific to technology in social work education; two focus on teaching strategies including simulation and integrating social media and one is an overall evaluation of “web-based” social work education.

  • Vigilante, F. W., R. L. Beaulaurier, and M. F. Haffey. 2016. Technology in social work education and curriculum: The high tech, high touch social work educator. London and New York: Routledge.

    Part 1explores innovative uses of technology like WebCT, video conferencing, Computer-Assisted Qualitative Data AnalysiS (CAQDAS), electronic advocacy, and discussion boards with social work courses (field seminar, group, social welfare, policy) and includes teaching/course design approaches (constructivist, FEASP [Fear, Envy, Anger, Sympathy, Pleasure] Model, emotionally sound instruction). Part 2 explores how to integrate technology into traditional campus-based classrooms including video simulation and asynchronous learning networks. Part 3 looks at concepts to consider prior to implementation: agency demand/need, student anxiety around tech, etc.

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