Supporting the future workforce

For the past two years, Iriss has supported students of social work at two universities to embed the use of social media in their practice. While we know it can support education – provide them with a whole new world of information and networks – it is the support it provides in the transition from university to professional practice that we’re really interested in. We believe that the earlier these skills, as well as a culture of experiential learning can be fostered in individuals, the more they can bring to their professional roles.

We’ve been working with the University of Strathclyde and University of Dundee to provide online social media learning to their First Year and Masters’ students respectively. The two courses have just completed and both had a good level of engagement.

The course was run over six weeks and covered an introduction to Personal Learning Networks, Twitter, Diigo (a social bookmarking tool), Evernote ( note-taking tool) and Scoop It! ( a news aggregator). The final week is dedicated to personal reflection.

Each course module involve mixed media – video, audio and written texts – with weekly forums for discussion and questions. The mix of media was welcomed by the students and quite a number commented positively on audio – how they hadn’t thought of listening to material for learning before.

The majority of the students saw the benefits of Twitter  – it is probably the most social of the tools, providing easy ways to connect with people, and so really appealed. Some students preferred particular tools over others. It was interesting to see how some students embraced Diigo as a way to save and manage their favourite websites, while others just didn’t recognise its benefits, but really warmed to Evernote or Scoop It! As well as learning about social media, the main purpose of the course is to encourage exploration of the web and develop the individual’s confidence in self-directed learning; there’s no onus on the students to come away using all of the tools that they learn about.

Here are comments from students who participated:

“The use of social media tools as we see nowadays has become important within education and workplace learning because it allows for sharing of ideas, information and knowledge, collaboration, engaging with communities.”

“As social media is often seen in a negative light…, it is helpful to highlight how the use of this can be something of great benefit to ourselves and others.”

“I think social learning can be beneficial in today’s workplace where there is multi-agency working as it is an easier and less time-consuming way of sharing information and learning from other professionals from different organisations and locations.”

“Hart’s podcast has inspired me to use my Twitter account to follow and read more about social work, hopefully learning and challenging myself along the way.”

“I had previously believed that social media was mainly used for personal use and had never believed it had its benefits relating to our own personal learning, development or had information relating to our current practice.”

If you want to try out social media for yourself, sign-up to our 6-week ‘Grow your personal learning network’ course.

Keeping safe on social media

The Scottish Social Services Council (SSSC) has recently updated its social media guidance for the workforce, which provides advice for workers on using social media in a way that meets the SSSC Code of Practice. It sets a supportive context for use of social media, which is much welcomed, and it was encouraging to see Anna Fowlie, Chief Executive at SSSC, talk about her own experiences and champion the use of social media in professional practice. She said:

I’m a keen Twitter user and it can be a great way to share information, connect with people and promote what you do. I hope it gives workers the confidence to use social media appropriately and make the most of it to support their professional practice by connecting with a huge range of people and organisations.

At Iriss we have our own internal guidance on social media use, and on reading through SSSC and other guidance from Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC), there are a number of tips that are universal to individuals and services.

TOP TIPS

  • Think before you post – this is the first thing we ask staff to consider at Iriss. If you react and respond without thinking it risks you saying something that you might later regret. Don’t respond in spur of the moment based on emotion (e.g. anger, excitement, anxiety etc). Stop and think.
  • Be aware of the public nature of social media and assume that anyone can read your post. You should avoid posting information or views that could reflect negatively on you, your employer or your profession.
  • Manage your privacy settings carefully and regularly – be aware of who can see your posts.
  • Maintain professional boundaries. Think carefully before accepting friend requests from people who use your service and don’t use social media to discuss confidential information about people and services.
  • Do not post inappropriate or offensive material. Use professional judgement in deciding whether to post or share something.
  • When in doubt, get advice from colleagues or other professional organisations.

Iriss actively promotes the use of social media in social services for learning and development purposes. We recognise that it can support the development of new knowledge, skills and professional networks. Fancy undertaking a short, six-week online course in the use of social media?

Continuing to grow personal learning networks

On 8 September 2017, we’ll launch a ‘Grow Your Personal Learning Network’ online course for social services staff. This is a course that will be open to anyone who is interested in learning more about the web and social media to support them build personal and professional networks and promote lifelong learning. Given this imminent launch, we thought it timely to share the work we did last year around growing personal learning networks.

personal learning networks animation

AN INTRODUCTION

Over 2016/17, in partnership with both the University of Strathclyde and University of Dundee, we piloted a ‘Grow your personal learning network’ online course. The six-week course aimed to support two cohorts of students of social work – first year and Masters’ students – to use the web and social media to improve use of, and sharing of information and knowledge and to build their own connections, both personal and professional. It also aspired to promote lifelong learning and to support learning in the transition from education to practice.

The idea for running such a course was originally pitched to the Heads of Social Work group, which prompted interest from the University of Strathclyde and the University of Dundee. There was recognition from both of the potential value of social media for improving students’ access to information for education and practice, and for creating their own local, as well as wider networks.

This summary report is based on a follow-up review session with course leads at both universities, as well as feedback from students posted to the online forum of each respective course.

RATIONALE

Personal Learning Networks is different to traditional learning and offers to following benefits to support improved use of evidence:

  • Autonomous and self-directed, with learner controlling how, when and ‘who’ they connect with.
  • Learning is social and adaptable to individuals needs rather than static / prescriptive course content.
  • Continuous part of individuals work flow and not an onerous add on.
  • Bite-sized.
  • Inclusive, supporting connections across sector, professional and non-professional boundaries and hierarchies as well as inclusive of traditional research reports, practitioner wisdom, lived experience and co-creation of new knowledge through interaction.

The learning from the two pilots would be shared to support effective use of evidence and knowledge and will also link into strategic conversations, including the review of Social Work Education and Improving Use of Evidence strand in the Social Services Strategy 2015-20.

THE COURSE OUTLINE

The online courses were set-up on Iriss’ WordPress platform using CoursePress Pro. This provided a closed online learning forum for each cohort.

Every week a set of activities were released, together with tips and tools and links to videos and external readings and resources. Each week focused on a different tool or topic. These included:

  • Understanding Personal Learning Networks
  • Twitter
  • Diigo social bookmarking
  • Evernote
  • Scoop It!
  • Personal reflection

The programme for the two cohorts was slightly different, tailored and agreed with course leads. For example, University of Dundee requested that a module on Evernote be included, whereas, the University of Strathclyde covered Twitter over two weeks.

Activities for each week included engaging with a range of multimedia: written texts, videos, and audio content. It was expected that students would engage with each other using social media they were learning about, such as Twitter and Diigo, as part of the course, and share reflections in the closed online forums as part of the tasks set.

The online format supported a self-directed learning approach, which included time management and prioritising in workflow. It offered each cohort of students an online forum where they could post their thoughts and reflections on each week’s tasks, and support each other. The facilitators also offered comment and encouragement. Arguably, this provides a cost-effective way to provide learning; costs were only incurred for the WordPress installation and update. Facilitation, is ‘extra’ in terms of resourcing this.
Facilitation

The courses were facilitated (online) by an Iriss team member and the university course lead. Facilitators encouraged participation and provided comment where appropriate. The students largely led the discussions, responding to, and commenting on, questions posed as part of the tasks.

By way of introduction to the course, the Iriss team provided a one-hour, face-to-face introductory session to both cohorts.

ACCREDITATION

The courses did not form part of the curriculum at either university and were not formally assessed. On providing evidence of learning and participation in the course, open badges were issued by Iriss in partnership with Scottish Social Services Council (SSSC).

Application for open badges was promoted by the course facilitators and was designed to encourage them to think about CPD and post-registration accreditation of learning, as required by qualified and practising social workers.

UNIVERSITY OF STRATHCLYDE PILOT: FIRST YEAR UNDERGRADUATE PROGRAMME

The course was introduced as part of the ‘Preparing for lifelong learning’ module, which was also six weeks long. This took place during the first weeks of class time in Year 1 of the social work programme, with students on campus. 34 out of 35-student class registered for the course.

The PLN course was pitched by the course lead as a way for students, new to university, to take up new tools that would help them in their current studies. It was also promoted as something that would help them as they moved into practice in several years time.

Participation was generally good with approximately 15 students participating throughout the six weeks. Only through comment and / or completion of tasks could we measure the level of participation. It’s possible that a number of those who didn’t post comments or complete tasks (but took a more observatory or ‘lurker’ approach), did actually read material, watch videos etc and got some learning from it.

Approximately 11 students participated in the Twitter discussion in the second week. A Storify report of the discussion is available: https://storify.com/iriss/grow-your-personal-learning-network

13 students applied for a SSSC open badge at the end of the programme to receive acknowledgement of completion.

Overall the course was well received and feedback was largely positive from students. Regular contact/encouragement from Graham (course lead) was considered to have been helpful in promoting engagement – through weekly face-to-face as well as online contact. It was deemed useful ‘to be directive’, encourage the students and ‘check in.’

Feedback from students:

“People do not need to wait to get taught, and control over learning transfers to individuals”

“I can guarantee that without this gentle push into the social media world I would not have considered it…. This will be invaluable for my further development and education in the years to come as a social work student.”

Student plans to continue using social media to support learning:

  • Build in social media/tools to workflow as a habit
  • Use in fallow periods eg travel time
  • Reflection – consolidate/learn from mistakes/put new ideas into action
  • Identify who/what to read/follow
  • Organise/bookmark useful web links
  • Be proactive online in seeking/asking for help
  • Speak to classmates for recommendations about what’s good online
  • Set up own groups to share ideas and ask questions on topics we are unsure about.

UNIVERSITY OF DUNDEE PILOT: MASTERS’ PROGRAMME

The course was introduced as part of the ‘Leading for change’ module. This was during the second term and final year of the two-year social work Masters programme. It was launched with an introductory face-to-face session, just before students went out on placement. As such, students had no other class contact time during the six weeks of the course. 27 students registered for the PLN course.

The PLN course was also open to Educational Psychology students should they wish to engage. This was with a view to promoting cross-sectoral learning, however, only one Ed. Psych. student engaged.

The course leader (Shona) was keen to use the PLN course to encourage students to take more of a lead in their own learning. This was about encouraging them to make their own connections across professional and sectoral boundaries, and beyond prescribed university course outlines as core values in lifelong learning to be taken into practice.

Unfortunately, participation was generally low, with three or four students actively contributing week to week.

In contrast to University of Strathclyde only one student got involved in the Twitter discussion; only one applied for a SSSC open badge.

Feedback from students:

“This course provided a simple, yet clear overview of some of the apps and tools available to people to help support their learning and manage information.”

“I was encouraged to set up a Twitter account and it has proved invaluable this week as I was unable to attend a national Visible Learning conference with John Hattie on Monday, but could keep up to date with all the latest information and research through people tweeting.”

“Didn’t make me consider my own role as a leader in practice.”

SHARED LEARNING FROM THE TWO PILOTS

For participating students:

  • Encourages not just good or best practice, but also ‘next’ practice
  • Encourages continuous learning
  • Alternative viewpoints to your own/can challenge you to think more critically
  • Provides helpful tips (eg through blogs or articles or groups sharing experiences/advice)
  • Improves digital literacy
  • Links with need for CPD throughout career and SSSC requirements
  • Encourages and supports peer support
  • Builds network of people/organisations to share with and learn from
  • Helped them to overcome ‘bad name’ /stigma that social media sometimes gets by showing it usefulness when used ‘correctly’

For facilitators (Iriss and university leads):

  • It worked best to run the course over class time, where university lead could check-in face-to-face with students, address any issues, and encourage participation.
  • The optional nature of course meant that other pieces of work which were accredited got priority, especially when faced with the demands of placements.
  • Facilitation is a not a huge pull on time and generally involves prompting with questions, and providing own insights and comments each week. Allocating time to this was supportive to students and the facilitators themselves.
  • Format and content of workshops was well received – participating students commented that the video tutorials were helpful in understanding how the tools could be used.
  • Cost-effective way to provide learning – the course was built on an already existing WordPress installation.

Imagining the future of workplace learning

Iriss was a partner in a conference organised for final year students and newly qualified social workers which was held on 26th February 2016 in Dundee. Entitled, Shaping our Future: Making a Difference, it focused on what it’s like to go from university into the world of work as a newly qualified social worker, and how to develop as an effective professional in a world that is ever changing.

Alyson Leslie, who spent many years undertaking inquiries and case reviews across the UK into child protection and mental health fatalities, gave an impressive keynote presentation on the subject of entering the world of social work as a newly qualified practitioner. One of her key points that stuck with me – ‘You don’t suddenly get smart’, pertaining to the continuous and experiential nature of learning in the profession. This chimes very much with what Iriss advocates in terms of building personal learning networks – growing your personal and professional connections through social media to continuously learn and find information and knowledge to improve practice. Here’s a video animation that explains the concept of Personal Learning Networks.

We were really pleased to have Jane Hart, an independent Workplace Learning Advisor, writer, speaker, and the Founder of the Centre for Learning & Performance Technologies (C4LPT), present a workshop at the event. The workshop – Imagining the future of workplace learning – focused on encouraging people to use social media, such as Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn to grow a personal learning network.

We audio recorded Jane’s presentation, which gives a flavour of what it’s all about.

In the coming year, we plan to run an Personal Learning Network course for students in Scottish universities, to support them build their own Personal Learning Networks and to continue to use evidence in practice as they transition from university to the workplace.

A Storify of the Shaping our Future: Making a Difference conference is also available.

Social reporting, personal learning networks. It’s beginning to happen …

According to Scotland’s Digital Strategy:

People need to be creative in their use of technology, innovative in developing services and applications and comfortable using the internet as an everyday, anytime, anywhere technology ….

There are encouraging signs that this is beginning to happen in the social services. We have been promoting Social reporting – the use of digital and social media to record and share thoughts, discussions, opinions and insights from workshops, conferences or training events – and Personal Learning Networks.

In practice …

Partners in Policymaking is a leadership development programme run by In Control Scotland for disabled adults and parents of disabled children. The programme consists of eight two-day courses over eight months. Iriss worked with PiP to build social reporting into the course in order to help participants reflect and review over the eight months.

As much of the discussion is personal, it’s not appropriate to share publicly, on Twitter for example. The group did decide though that a private Facebook group would be useful as many were already Facebook users.

In Control Scotland set up a blog using WordPress to provide access to course programmes, presentation slides and audio recordings of some of the lectures. Interestingly the participants are happy to have photographs from the sessions uploaded and shared. These can provide useful visual triggers to help remember and reflect.

Iriss helped In Control set-up Soundcloud for audio streaming. They have been doing some audio recordings but are learning that editing does require some time. For participant feedback they are using the popular and easy to use Survey Monkey, which really saves time on transcribing paper copies.

Social reporting lessons

In Control have learned the importance of building social reporting into event planning.
It’s important to make space for recording and interviews. It can’t easily be done during coffee breaks. Make decisions about which presentations are to be recorded and make sure there is time to set up. A speaker who knows he/she is to be recorded will wait, rather than starting before recording equipment is ready. Speakers should have a sense that being recorded is important and therefore actively take part.

Check whether the venue has its own PA. If you’ve hired someone to amplify speakers and provide roving microphones, they can probably record as a by product. Organisers have to feel they own the social reporting: there can be a tendency to treat it as something ‘other’, something that other people do.

Social reporting and Personal Learning

Social Media in Social Work Practice was held in Stirling on 8 February 2016. Rachel Wardell, West Berkshire’s Communities Director, offered a really positive view of social media. Tweeting during a conference is like taking notes except you share them. Afterwards you gather all the tweets with the conference hashtag and you have a record of the event. Then use Storify to put them into a coherent order and share with others. In other words: social reporting.

Twitter, she reminded us, is a great way to find experts and follow what they have to say. You don’t even have to Tweet. This is the basis for a Personal Learning Network. It was really heartening to hear a like-minded person in a senior position talk so positively. She was mindful of ethical and reputational problem but kept them firmly in perspective. Professional people already handle these in the analogue world and often it’s a question of applying the same principles.

We also heard from Elaine Dickson and Eilidh Rose of Aberdeenshire Council who challenged opposition to set up a Facebook page for the creation of a network of potential foster parents, which not only saved the council around £250,000, but also gave them control around advertising and recruitment.

The graphic below illustrates how Twitter can widen engagement in conference and events (Source: http://www.symplur.com/healthcare-hashtags/smswp/)

Influencers#smswp

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Celebrating digital scotland

On 16 November SCVO hosted an evening of talk and discussion on digital participation. Chris Yiu, SCVO’s Director of Digital, introduced the evening by asking where we go next with Scotland’s digital participation movement.  Sarah Davidson – Director General, Communities at Scottish Government – gave us an overview of how the digital agenda supports our vision for Scotland’s future. Finally Rachel Neaman – CEO at Go ON UK – explained why digital leadership matters.

It was encouraging to hear Sarah reiterate that digital is not about IT or technology: it’s about people and participation and is a vital part implementing the Christie Report’s recommendations about person-centred services, collaboration and co-production.  If we are to advance engagement and empowerment, people need access to the web and the skills to use digital tools and services.

Rachel Neaman agreed with and amplified Sara’s point that that digital is not the same as technical.  Pondering what we mean by digital leadership she suggested dropping the digital: it’s just leadership. Digital, she argued, will be the guiding principle and we might think in terms of building ‘digital DNA’. In other words, digital is just how we do things, but there are cultural barriers, particularly in enabling the workforce to participate. Digital services, she said, improve customer satisfaction as well as job satisfaction. Yet unless the CEO ‘gets it’ then it will fail, because the digital strategy can’t be left to the IT department.

Readers of this blog will be familiar with this line of reasoning. You don’t need to be technical but you do need to understand the application of technology and the transformational power of digital.

More about the event on Storify

Research Unbound: Finch, open access and social media

This is a summary of a presentation I gave at an Open University seminar on Social Media and Research in Ageing on 30 October 2015.

The emergence of social media during the last 10 years has endowed the web with ever more powerful, accessible and innovative ways of communicating. Social media is really just the natural evolution of the web and the starting point for my presentation was a look at disruptive power of web-based communication, sharing and collaboration.

Bookselling, newspapers, music and cinema have all been transformed in the last 15 years.  Academic publishing has been relatively unaffected, perhaps surprising given that when Tim Berners-Lee created the Web in 1991 his aim was to support and improve scientific communication and the dissemination of research.

In 2012 the Finch report proposed a fundamental shift in how research is published and disseminated: by 2014 publicly funded scientific research was to be freely available to all on publication.  Although Finch acknowledged the existence of social media the report’s recommendations focused on adapting the traditional publishing business model to accommodate open access.  Essentially this involves publishers generating their income by charging authors a publication fee rather than levying subscription fees on readers.  For most of the public, however, journals continue to live behind paywalls.

So what about the commitment to make publicly funded research freely available to the public? Well, the major publishers have supported Access to Research, an initiative equipping public libraries with free access to a number of subscription journal articles. According to open access agitator Cameron Neylon it’s an empty political gesture that fails to meet the needs of the UK public (Improving on “Access to Research”: Restrictive access and licensing fail to meet the needs of the 21st century). Under the scheme the public may look at abstracts online but must visit a participating library to read the article. No wonder Neylon calls it ‘an initiative from a 20th Century industry attempting to stave off progress towards the 21st Century by applying a 19th Century infrastructure’.

Neylon has questioned academic journals’ fitness for purpose, noting that researchers don’t consume articles in the form in which they write them: journals focus on text whereas researchers want data. Publishing data in chunks is something Gary Hall advocates in his notion of the Unbound Book. Hall is Professor of Media and Performing Arts and Director of the wonderfully named Centre for Disruptive Media, at Coventry University. He makes the point that If you talk about what you’re doing on blogs or wikis or share your data on services such as Figshare, by the time you come to publish you have already put quite a lot of your wisdom out there.

Brian Kelly has been blogging for many years as UK Web Focus, advocating the use of social media to get your work disseminated and talked about. He has expressed frustration over the inaccessibility of institutional repositories, which seem to be more of a research audit tool for the institution than a means of dissemination, a view echoed in a research study undertaken by Iriss in 2013 (Improving access to research for the social services – can higher education digital repositories help?). If your stuff is to be findable on the web it needs Google juice (Using social media to build your academic career). In other words your work has to be findable by web search engines.

Research Unbound is Iriss’s contribution to encouraging a more open approach to sharing research. Inspired partly by Gary Hall, it’s both a campaign and a website, built on Wordpress, offering space to blog and take the first steps towards understanding new media and acquiring skills in digitally literacy.  A report from Future Work Skills talks about a new media literacy:

the ability to critically assess and develop content that uses new media and to leverage these media for persuasive communication.
Knowledge of fonts and layouts was once restricted to a small set of print designers and typesetters, until word processing programs brought this within the reach of everyday office workers. Similarly, user-friendly production editing tools will make video language—concepts such as frame, depth of field etc—part of the common vernacular

The need to present research evidence in more accessible formats was discussed in the Guardian earlier this year (see previous post Embedding knowledge in practice and digital participation).  It was argued that organisations should develop a culture that encourages and values reading, discussing and reflecting. In addition it was suggested we consider different ways of presenting content that might be more accessible for those without an academic background: a short animation or video might be preferred to wading through 60 pages of dry text.

What and how we communicate has been explored by the Research Utilisation Research Unit (RURU). Davies and Powell (Communicating social research findings more effectively: what can we learn from other fields?) stress the importance of dialogue in knowledge interaction and suggest borrowing techniques from other disciplines, such as advertising.

Two years Iriss hired a Creative in Residence to help us think about and improve our communication skills and techniques. For three months Andy, with a background advertising and copywriting in the commercial and the public sector, inspired us to think more thoroughly and creatively about what our projects were trying to achieve. He taught us the WWW of communication: not World Wide Web, but Who? What? What?

  • Who is you audience?
  • What do you want them the hear?
  • What do you want them to do?

This simple approach encourages us to think more carefully about our message. Social media encourages brevity (Twitter: 140 characters).  Brevity and precision are useful skills. Applying techniques from advertising, journalism and visual arts we produced this short animation to explain what person-centred means in practice.

 

WHO? (are we talking to)

  • All health and social care professionals working with older people: from care at home worker to hospital administrator to consultant GP

WHAT? (do we want them to hear and understand – and agree with!)

  • That all were doing their best and believed they were person-centred, but that’s not how it seemed to older people.
  • That one profession seeing the problem as someone else’s won’t improve things.

WHAT? (action do we hope for)

  • Think about how to make individual efforts amount to more than (not less than) the sum of the parts.
  • Improve communication at all stages.
  • Understand how improving communication can lead to a better focus on the outcomes for the person.
    Believe that this is possible.

Producing this video required a lot of thought, planning and creativity. A useful rule of thumb is that the average speech rate is 150 words per minute. That means that in a two and half minute video the message has to be delivered using around 375 words. Every word has to count and redundant words removed.  Newspaper style guides are helpful (try The Economist’s). Even if you’re not making an animation, this process of refining your message is a valuable exercise. The Conversation (academic rigour, journalistic flair) is an excellent example of how to present complex subjects in clear language.

What does this mean for older people? A previous post reported on Martha Lane Fox’s Dimbleby lecture in which she argued  ‘It doesn’t matter if you’re 80 or 8, if you’re online once a year or once a minute. Understanding where the internet came from and what it can do will help you make more sense of the world.’  She recounted the story of a woman who is a disabled full-time carer for her disabled husband. She was sinking fast into depression until a local volunteer taught her how to use the internet. She believed it saved her life. She felt her world expanded and that she could experience things she’d never otherwise have been able to do – she was “going on a holiday” when playing around on Google Earth and getting support from new friends she met in online groups.

The web and social media are a fact of life, just like telephone, which was once a novelty (and disruptive of the social conventions of the day). We don’t discuss the telephone and older people. Likewise social media is now mainstream. David Wilcox publishes an excellent blog – Living well in the digital age – which explores all the ways in which digital communication is can reduce social isolation and loneliness.

Digital participation or digital exclusion are of course important concerns, but if social media meets a need people will use it. Social media is experiential – it’s not really something you get trained in. We do need to understand and cope with dangers such as cyberbullying, phishing and identity theft.  But we can’t leave this to others.  Berners-Lee argues strongly that we all have role to play in shaping the web and he has come up with his second WWW: the Web We Want.

The message to academics and researchers, to old people and young people, is don’t stand back and think digital is something other people do. It something you can do.

Finally, where do we find the time to do this?  There is no simple answer but if you’ve put thousands of hours work into doing the research, shouldn’t you factor in the time to make sure people find out what you found out?

Exploring your social work brand

I’m not sure how many people would agree that personal branding is important for social workers, not just entrepreneurs and Hollywood stars. Kristin Battista-Frazee argues that the same principles that entrepreneurs and celebrities use create an image are equally applicable to changing the way people view social work and create a better understanding of what it’s about (How Do YOU Stand Out? Exploring Your Social Work Brand).

In the coming months, The New Social Worker (a careers magazine associated with Cape Western Reserve University) will feature articles about how to create a social work brand by leveraging your values and training. This chimes to some extent with what Davies and Powell say about communicating research: we should borrow techniques from other disciplines, such as advertising.

It might not be for everyone but it wouldn’t do any harm to follow what Battista-Frazee has to say about how social media and personal branding can enhance your personal profile.

It’s all about digital participation

I started this bog some three and a half years ago to encourage the use of social media and campaign for better access to the web at work. Since then we’ve seen a number of developments which support the assertion in that first blog post that social media is really ‘just the web’.

Martha Lane Fox in her 2015 Dimbleby Lecture made the point that it’s not OK not to understand the internet. The Royal Society of Edinburgh’s 2014 report Spreading the benefits of digital participation argued that

every individual, business and organisation must have basic information literacy and digital skills … Scotland must seize every opportunity to develop these skills through formal education, workplace learning, lifelong and community learning

Scotland’s Digital Participation Strategy, published in 2014, states

A world class Digital Scotland will be one in which internet access is considered as a utility on a par with access to electricity and gas, and where digital literacy takes its place alongside conventional literacy and numeracy at the heart of our education system. Access to the internet should not be considered a luxury in a modern country

To help realise this vision over 100 organisations have signed Scotland’s Digital Participation Charter committing themselves to

ensuring that everyone has the access, motivation and basic digital skills required to participate fully in our digital world

So, shifting the focus away from social media specifically, I’ve retitled the blog Just Do It! Digital participation at work. We’ll be looking at the digital literacy skills that people will need in order to be, in the words of the Digital Participation Strategy,

creative in their use of technology, innovative in developing services and applications and comfortable using the internet as an everyday, anytime, anywhere technology ….

These skills will be especially relevant to the evidence informed practice and knowledge exchange elements of the 2015 Vision and strategy for social services in Scotland.

 

 

Social care evidence base

Social care may be the poor relation of healthcare with regard to research funding, but it’s something of a myth that it is not evidence-based, says Research in Practice Director Dez Holmes (How good is the social care sector at building an evidence base? Guardian Social Care Network, 7 July 2015).  Evidence, she notes, is more than just the results of randomised control trials: it comes in many forms, including practitioner experience and wisdom and user and carer perspectives, a point also acknowledged in Scotland’s Strategy and Action Plan for Embedding Knowledge in Practice in Scotland’s Social Services.

Getting evidence and knowledge into practice is another challenge which, according to Holmes, isn’t just a simple matter of giving everyone an Athens password to the journal literature. Former social worker Gerry Nosowska (in the same article) says that social workers need time and space to find, use and share research, and this requires an organisational culture that encourages and values reading, discussing and reflecting:

If keeping on top of research and using it to inform their practice is to become the norm … leaders and managers have a key role to play in creating the kind of environment that encourages research.

Innovative methods to present evidence may also encourage better uptake and use of knowledge.  A three-minute video is often more effective than wading through 60 pages of academic jargon. Here is an example we at IRISS produced to explain what person centred means in practice.

The 2015 Vision and Strategy for Social Services in Scotland acknowledges the need to improve use of evidence, highlighting

 …  the need to breakdown the traditional barriers between stakeholders and find ways to maximise the participation of service providers and ultimately the service users themselves in identifying research priorities. Ensuring collaborative practice in all stages of research and knowledge exchange is also key

In the 21st century collaborative practice and knowledge exchange rely to a large extent on digitally literacy because the web-based digital media offers so much potential for finding, sharing and reflecting (see previous post on Personal Learning Networks for example).  What do we mean by digital literacy? A good place to start is GO ON UK for a definition of basic digital skills:

  • Managing information
  • Communicating
  • Transacting
  • Problem Solving
  • Creating

Scotland’s Digital Participation Charter invites organisations to play their part in ensuring that everyone has the access, motivation and the basic digital skills required to pDigi-Partic-Charter-Signat-rgbarticipate  fully in the digital world. Signatories commit to:

  1. Ensuring their staff have an opportunity to learn basic digital skills
  2. Encouraging and supporting staff to help other people learn basic digital skills, and help other organisations to embrace digital tools.
  3. Contributing resources and practical support for digital participation initiatives.

People working in social care are no less able to acquire digital skills than the population as a whole. The same skills that will equip them to book holidays, shop and complete tax returns, will equip them to exploit the power of the web to find use and share knowledge.

All we need is the cultural change that will allow this to happen in the workplace. The 130 or so signatories to Scotland’s Digital Participation Charter have committed to do this.  It’s a start.