Social Worker’s Guide to Social Media


In the past year, I’ve been asked by many colleagues about where they can find materials related to the use of social media by social workers, especially for social work students. Many of the materials that I have seen developed by schools of social work don’t seem to address the professional use of social media, they mostly caution about private social media use. So we decided, at the University at Buffalo School of Social Work, to develop this infographic, with our partner, 12-Grain, who were the creative geniuses on the project. I like infographics as a way to share information, because they get shared much more than text-oriented posts (see Why Visual is the New Black).

Downloadable pdf copies of this infographic are available from the UB Social Work website (on a Creative Commons license) and by the end of April 2015, people will also be able to order paper copies there, as well. Finally, we hope to have some additional background materials (for more information about some of the guidelines) at that site in the future, as well.

Also, each of the titles now has an embedded short video (which are now all on YouTube, too) to help educate viewers — they provide great short prompts for discussion.

A professional from another field (a notary) commented that she thought that this infographic applies to many professionals who use social media — that was good to hear. I agree that these are generally good principles that could apply to many people who use social media in their professional lives.

Thanks to Melanie Sage, faculty member at the University of North Dakota Department of Social Work, and Laurel Iverson Hitchcock, faculty member at University of Alabama at Birmingham’s Department of Social Work, for their feedback on an earlier version. You can check out their blogs (great resources!) here: Melanie Sage, Social Work Geek and Teaching Social Work (Laurel Iverson Hitchcock’s blog).

Virtual World Avatars Feed Children in Kenya


Feed A Smile stage at Lavender Field in Second Life

Feed A Smile stage at Lavender Field in Second Life

A German woman who declares herself “computer challenged”  is now raising money to feed children in Kenya via live music concerts in Second Life. Musicians play for free and donate their tips to the cause. Second Life residents who attend the concerts also provide additional donations.  A 100 Linden donation (the Second Life currency, equivalent to about 30 cents U.S. currency) provides a warm lunch for a child. The organization, Live and Learn in Kenya (LLK), has been using Second Life as a fundraising venue for their “Feed a Smile” program since 2010.

This inspiring 5 minute video illustrates some cool concepts: Continue reading

Intervention with SMS: What’s Next?


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Transcending Parkinson’s in a Virtual World


Creations for Parkinsons

This video provides a glimpse into what virtual worlds might have to offer through describing the Creations for Parkinson’s project in Second Life, known there as Creations Park. The video touches on a topic I’ve blogged about before, the impact of virtual experience on our physical lives. But just as important, it conveys the sense of freedom that a virtual world can offer someone facing physical challenges or social isolation. Continue reading

What’s Ahead for Social Work This Coming Year?


Crystal Ball

Welcoming in a new year always brings a chance to consider what might be up ahead. Given who I am, many (but not all) of my predictions relate to social work and technology. This is not to suggest that these are the only notable trends for this year, only that this is what I’m noticing and thinking about.

Predictions: What 2013 Will Bring for Social Work

1. More and more social workers exploring how to use the Internet as a way to connect, and more and more non-profits figuring out they need to learn how to leverage the Internet. This trend began accelerating last year with the advent of more social work chats on Twitter (in part, because of the great work from @SWSCMedia). I think we’ll continue seeing more colleagues using Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn professionally this year. And with the start of Google+ Communities I think we’ll see more social workers using them to connect. We already have one thriving community there, started by Jonathan Singer (of the Social Work Podcast fame), called Social Work and Technology. Nonprofits who are looking for some guidance in this world would do well to look at the work of Beth Kanter , including her two books on the topic: The Networked NonProfit, and Measuring the Networked NonProfit, both of which are available on Amazon.

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Mobile Apps and the Savvy Social Worker


Icon from our Savvy Social Worker App

Icon from our Savvy Social Worker App

Last spring I was asked by Lindsey Getz of Social Work Today to weigh in on the topic of mobile applications (apps) in social work — I think they found me through my blog post on this topic. Lindsey wrote a great article, and, per usual, the University at Buffalo (UB) university news service mentioned the article in an university-wide email. A few weeks later a UB staff member, Matthew Stock, contacted me to see if I wanted to develop an Android app for social work. Matt and I had worked together in the past on a committee that I had chaired for one of the information technology university projects. I had really enjoyed working with him — he’s a tech whiz who also has excellent management and people skills. And he’s also just a great guy– so I was intrigued by the invitation and decided to take him up on it. But that then raised the issue of what type of app to develop. Continue reading

Virtual Reality Improves Social Attention in Autistic Kids


Important new research on one of my favorite topics–the power of virtual reality in changing human experience. I’ve excerpted this from Medscape since you have to have an account there to view this(accounts are free though):

Virtual Reality Improves Social Attention in Autistic Kids: May 24, 2011 (Honolulu, Hawaii) — Virtual reality training may help improve complex social attention in school-aged children with higher-functioning autism (HFA), suggests new research presented here at the American Psychiatric Association (APA) 2011 Annual Meeting.

Head-mounted virtual reality apparatus

In the pilot program, 18 children with HFA and 20 healthy controls wore head-mounted displays showing a virtual classroom with 9 “virtual avatar peers.” As the participants gave short speeches about themselves, each peer was programmed to start fading and become transparent if ignored.

Although results showed no difference in the preadolescent HFA and control children in number of looks to the avatars, the adolescent HFA children made significantly fewer looks than did their age-matched controls, signifying evidence of impairment that emerges later in life.

In addition, “the social attention of all children was malleable,” meaning the looks improved dramatically for all groups during the fade conditioning session, report the investigators.”