Digital Literacy in Social Work Education: A Case Study Incorporating Technology and Social Media Within the Social Work Curriculum

Now published – Digital Literacy in Social Work Education: A Case Study Incorporating Technology and Social Media Within the Social Work Curriculum in the Special Section on Multimedia in Nonprofit Education of the Journal of Nonprofit Education and Leadership. I discussed this work at CSWE APM back in October. Here is the abstract:

To remain competitive and culturally competent, social work education must incorporate digital literacy and technological instruction to prepare students for work with clients and colleagues throughout their professional lives. When instructors offer a grounding in technology skills for modern social work practice and provide feedback to students in a supportive classroom setting, social work students become more confident and poised to handle the complications of technology and social media while interacting with clients, agencies, nonprofit organizations, and society as a whole. The purpose of this article is to present a case study of a social work course on classic and contemporary communication skills that focuses on communication, writing, and digital literacy, designed for BSW students. The article includes rationale for course development, course description, and sample digital writing activities from the course.

I worked with amazing social work writer Kryss Shane on this article. Special thank you to Jimmy Young, editor of this special issue, for your feedback and support to improve this work. To access the article (log in required), head to the journal’s web site. To follow updates on this work, head to my ResearchGate page for the article.

Teaching Resources for Snowy Days

In Boston, it’s currently snowing sideways so hard I can barely see across the street. It’s reasonable to expect at least one or two snow days during the school year in these parts and, having grown up in Buffalo, NY, I enjoy them greatly.

A Twitter conversation with a colleague prompted me to compile resources for staying on top of course material when the weather refuses to cooperate. If campus was closed and I was due to teach a face to face course today, I would hold the class online using the campus LMS discussion board. This is also helpful for situations in which falling behind on course material would negatively impact the rest of the semester (statistics and research courses, I’m looking at you).

Here is the syllabus language I use to communicate snow day expectations to students. We also review it together on the first day of class to address any questions or concerns students may have:

Inclement Weather: In the event of inclement weather and campus is closed, class will be held online using the discussion board in Blackboard. Instructions for class participation will be emailed to you.

Here are resources I have found helpful for holding class online:

The hardest part of a snow day should be making sure you have french toast ingredients and keeping a mischievous cat out of trouble.

Exhibit A: Mischievous Cat

Stay warm and stay safe!

Most Common Student Writing Mistakes and How to Fix Them

Written communication skills are so important for students to learn. As a social work instructor for nearly 10 years, I often gave students feedback and guidance to improve their writing. The following list contains the most common writing mistakes I encountered and suggestions for how to fix them. This list is geared toward social science writing and use of APA Style.

Most Common APA Style Errors

Properly Using the Work of Others


Writing Research and Other Scientific Papers

What is missing? What would you add to this list?

For additional back to school tips for social workers, check out my eBook: Back to School Guide for Social Work Students.

Wishing all the new and returning students (myself included!) much success in the coming year!

Digital Tools for Engaging Writing Assignments #swtech

I created the following Sway presentation for both the Teaching & Technology Center as a Teaching & Technology Faculty Advisor and Writing Across the Curriculum (WAC), a  “faculty development program that holds workshops, hosts guest speakers, runs retreats, awards grants, provides faculty time and space for their own scholarly writing, and supports faculty in their endeavors to improve student writing” at Bridgewater State University. The presentation contains a broad overview of digital tools for engaging writing assignments presented during a series of workshops. It includes many resources and videos with more information that could not be covered adequately during the workshops.

inSocialWork Podcast #210 – Karen Zgoda, Rachel L. West, and Patricia Shelly: Promoting Macro Social Work Through Social Media/Twitter Chats #MacroSW

Podcast macroSWchat_204UBSSW.jpg

Listen to the podcast here: Episode 210 – Karen Zgoda, Rachel L. West, and Patricia Shelly: Promoting Macro Social Work Through Social Media/Twitter Chats

In this episode, our guests Karen Zgoda, Rachel L. West, and Patricia Shelly describe how they are using macro social work Twitter chats to promote support for and education about all forms of macro practice activities. They discuss what Twitter chats are, why they matter, and why social workers are producing and participating in them.

Karen Zgoda, LCSW, is an instructor in the School of Social Work at Bridgewater State University. She starting hosting online social work chats in 2000 and is currently a collaborator and chat host for the #MacroSW Twitter chats, focused on macro social work practice. Karen previously wrote the SW 2.0 technology column for The New Social Worker Magazine and served as an AmeriCorps VISTA member and project coordinator at CTCNet working on digital divide issues. Her research and pedagogical interests include technology in social work and education, macro social work, social policy, and research methods. You can find Ms. Zgoda on Twitter as @karenzgoda.

Rachel West, LMSW, is social media manager for the Association for Community Organization and Social Administration (ACOSA), where she became one of the founders of the #MacroSW Twitter chats. In 2012, she founded The Political Social Worker, a blog dedicated to community practice social work and politics. Providing consultation to nonprofits and private practices since 2013, Ms. West’s consultation focuses on a number of issues related to advocacy and community outreach, including the use of social media as a community organizing tool. Ms. West also works privately as a career coach, coaching and training macro social workers. Additionally, she is an instructor at Stony Brook University, School of Social Welfare, teaching advanced macro social work practice. You can find Ms. West on Twitter as @poliSW.

Patricia Shelly, MSW, is director of community engagement and expansion at the University at Buffalo School of Social Work. She has served as a member of the LGBT Domestic Violence Committee of Western New York for 12 years and the Women in Black Buffalo movement for 15 years. Previously, Ms. Shelly was the associate director for the Institute for Research and Education on Women and Gender at the University at Buffalo. She is the editor of SocialWorkSynergy, the blog of the University at Buffalo School of Social Work. She is a chat partner for the #MacroSW Twitter chats and often serves as a chat host. You can find Ms. Shelly on Twitter as @PatShellySSW.

Direct podcast link here.

APA (6th ed) citation for this podcast:

Episode 210 – Karen Zgoda, Rachel L. West, and Patricia Shelly: Promoting Macro Social Work Through Social Media/Twitter Chats. (2017, February 27). inSocialWork® Podcast Series. [Audio Podcast] Retrieved from

Active Learning Strategies in Data Analysis to Reduce Student Anxiety #SEQuEL2017

Here is the Sway presentation I created for the SEQuEL2017 conference sponsored by Quantity Across the Curriculum (QuAC) at Bridgewater State University. I am serving on QuAC this year and learned so much at today’s event! For more information about QuAC and for regular updates, please reach out to colleague Matt Salomone.

An All-Too-Human Grind: A Review of the Film Grinder

Filmmaker Brandon Ruckdashel has deftly answered the call for #HollywoodMustDoBetter with his film Grinder. I’m certain that it had been included in GLAAD’s Studio Responsibility Index (2016), it would have received a good rating for avoiding many common stereotypes of films dealing with LGBT issues.

It’s too easy for an impressionable teenager searching for affirmation and love to be groomed and manipulated, especially by an abusive, power-driven predator who promises to make dreams of success, love, and admiration come true. We meet 16 year old Luke grappling with his journey of self-discovery, his abusive home environment, and flirting online with Rich. With 50% of gay and lesbian youth reporting they are rejected by their parents for their sexual orientation, it is no surprise that after his father’s homophobia violently erupts, Luke runs away to the city towards Rich and the promise of acceptance and opportunity. He joins the “gays and lesbians [that] make up about 40 percent of all homeless youth.” To watch his innocence methodically taken from him in a myriad of ways is unsettling, and yet, that his story happens daily to many young people in his situation is truly heartbreaking.

When Luke comes to the city, he meets a photographer named Tim employed by Rich. Tim’s identity and sexual orientation struggles are exemplified by his literal running to escape who he is and what he wants:

Model: “What are we looking for?”

Tim: “Something that adds texture…without taking away from the focus.”

Model smokes cigarette. “I’m trying to quit.”

Tim: “I’m trying to take care of myself.”

He photographs Rich’s men for a profitable living. When behind his camera, Tim is at his most comfortable and emotionally intimate with his male subjects, albeit at a distance. Physical intimacy only happens not with his female fiancé, who is always absent, but with his male partners after self-hating and drinking. Tim develops a fascination with Luke, and not unlike many of us feeling the weight of our choices over many years, possibly sees a younger version of himself with all the hope and simplicity in life he still wished he had. Tim fights to give Luke the opportunity and freedom he so desperately wishes for.

The real Grinder here is not the app. Rather, it is overcoming the male meat grinder stuffed with toxic masculinity, homophobia, self-loathing, hatred, identity, power, striving, and finding one’s place in the world. To become successful, how far will you go, and what will it do to you along the way? What are the paths for young men like Luke to grow up with love and support to become the man he wants to be? Or the paths for men like Tim to escape toxic masculinity and embrace his own multifaceted place in the world? How can we help more men find them, and demonstrate support? Unfortunately these men are stuck in the grinder. However, daybreak, and the possibility of new beginnings, await.

Additional Resources: