Collaboration, Macro Social Work, Supervision

#APM16: A Recap

Last week I had the privilege of attending the Council On Social Work Education, Annual Program Meeting (#APM16). With a continued  interest in teaching, professional development, technology, and social media; I felt like I had to make this conference. In previous years I had been following the conference on social media. This year I decided to attend. I got to meet many people I have connected with me on social media. Some of which we have been “talking” to each other for years.

Most importantly I got to meet Dr. Jonathan Singer (aka Social Work Podcast). We co-wrote the NASW award winning article about language and suicide. It was great to connect with him and many others as I shape my interest in teaching and training,…

It was a lot to take in but there were two main themes, technology and connecting the classroom to social work practice.  These themes overlapped but they also represent complementary opportunities for social work professional development.

Connecting Clinical Practice to The Classroom

As a licensed professional attending an education conference, I wanted to better understand the challenges of this connection. What threads link classroom, to field, and ultimately social work practice? One of the best presentations was on the macro practice side.  Saginaw Valley State University and other colleagues presented on the Flint Water Crisis.

The social work departments of various universities close to Flint have been working together on a variety of issues. In this presentation they developed a syllabus with lessons about policy and community organizing. If you are interested check out the link to the syllabus here. This was a wonderful example of integrating real world practice with education.

This may be intuitive but we should be continuing to think about how to break down silos between research, teaching, and practice. Almost all of the presentations I attended mentioned this at some point.  This is a good transition to the next theme. Technology and use of social media was often at the heart of breaking silo’s down in social work professional development.


On the micro practice side I was impressed with University of Southern California’s tele-mental health training program. USC trains a select group of interns in the using tele-mental health or video conferencing technology. Developing it has certainly been a journey for them but through this they found many opportunities. Learning the technology and developing field supervision around it has been tricky. They also got around challenges of privacy and structuring supervision so this can be a quality training program. What was most exciting is this program has been built, but what’s next?


At the time of this presentation they were developing collaborations with local schools and human service organizations to embed more tele-mental health suites. This is a wonderful example of technology connecting education to practice. Social work educators have the unique opportunity to prepare the work force for technology like this.

I also heard Delta State University and Walden University talk about distance supervision for field education. Providing field supervision in a distance setting presents challenges. The greatest challenges are privacy and having “difficult situations” at a distance. They talked about how the use of video conferencing technology brings the facility closer. They found that a lot of these distance interactions were no different than face to face meetings. They also demonstrated how video conferencing can actually reduce costs for social work programs. Technology is changing the flow of our work and adapting to it has it’s benefits.

I also attended a presentation on the upcoming practice standards for technology from the National Association of Social Workers. Again the theme of this talk was the challenges versus opportunities of technology in social work practice. A great question is what role should social work educators and CEU providers play in learning about technology?

Spoiler Alert… a big one. The take home message is technology is not going away. Social Work educators have a unique opportunity to not only understand the risks but teach the tremendous opportunities that exist for technology.

In spending my days talking about these topics, one could argue it would be unethical of social workers to run the other direction from technology. I continued to hear the challenges of introducing technology into social work but the opportunities are outstanding.

I had the pleasure of meeting some of the leaders in social work education and technology. Many of whom I have “met” on-line and developed collaborations with. Some wonderful colleagues presented on use of technology in the social work classroom. Three of the presenters are helping literally “write the book on it”….


One of the big take away’s was a break down of teaching digital literacy…

This is a great breakdown of learning technology.  I found Belshaw’s 8 elements of digital literacy a great framework for moving forward with technology. One concept builds on the next to not only make learning simple for students but less intimidating for teaching technology related concepts.

In attending this 3 day conference I was inspired by things happening in social work education. The values of our profession, how we teach them, and put them into practice are changing. There is wonderful opportunities for us to break down silo’s in disciplines and use technology to improve education. Check out more of these challenges and opportunities presented by clicking on the below Storify summaries…


img_2428            img_2429


Tagged , , , , ,