Information technology (IT), which encompasses tools and prescribed actions, has begun to substantially impact social work, given 50 years of impressive developments. This entry looks at IT trends and their impact on society and social work. The trends covered concern rapid IT development, connectivity, globalization and outsourcing, intelligent applications and devices, centralization and distribution of power and control, and distance education. Issues and challenges for social work are also discussed.
Philip M. Ouellette and David Wilkerson
The growth in technological advances in recent years has revolutionized the way we teach, learn, and practice social work. Due to increases in educational costs and the need for students to maintain family and work responsibilities, an increasing number of social work programs have turned to today’s advances in technology to deliver their courses and programs. This change has resulted in the creative use of new multimedia tools and online pedagogical strategies to offer distance web-based educational programming. With increases in technology-supported programs, recent research studies have identified a number of areas needing further investigation to ensure that quality distance education programs are developed.
Mary Pender Greene
Sociologists and social workers have long been invested in understanding the role of communities in shaping identities and influencing behavior; however, the study of virtual communities is still new despite the dramatic ways in which online social networks have replaced traditional, geographically bound conceptions of community. The present article briefly reviews some of the early theories of community that have influenced practically all scholars studying computer-mediated virtual communities. The focus then shifts toward an analysis of early, important theorists focusing on virtual communities. The article concludes by examining contemporary research and practices utilizing virtual communities in social work, with a particular emphasis on ways to integrate virtual communities into professional practice.
David A. Patterson
Social workers across fields of practice now have a wide array of technology tools and applications for the conduct and augmentation of practice tasks. This entry is intended as a primer on information and communication technology computer hardware tools and software programs. It describes the essential features and practice utility of an array of information and communication technology hardware, including desktop and laptop computers, tablet computers, and smartphones. Software applications are described with a focus on their social work practice functionality in the capture or retrieval, analysis or synthesis, and presentation or dissemination of information. Described are many emerging Web-based applications with noteworthy practice significance.
Jo Ann R. Coe Regan
Higher education continues to undergo a period of rapid change with the rise of new technologies and learning modalities. The increased use of technology applications, computers, the Internet, and course management software systems has resulted in the development and widespread implementation of technology-supported learning environments in social work education throughout the world. New terms and abbreviations, such as online learning, web-based learning, blended learning, e-learning, learning management systems), computer-aided instruction, computer-supported instruction, technology-enhanced learning, internet-based training, and virtual learning environments are impacting the delivery of higher education for both distance and on-campus modes of instruction. The massive open online course (MOOC) movement and use of data analytics about students has pushed more faculty to experiment with technology and new pedagogical approaches. The article provides an overview of current technology applications and how they are being used in social work education. Implications of using technology in social work education include educational quality issues, pedagogical, and philosophical concerns, and future trends and challenges will also be discussed.
Maria Rodriguez and Jama Shelton
Social media are defined as applications and websites that allow users to share content, usually of their own making. Social media users include individuals and organizations across a broad range of social strata. Key social work organizations, such as the National Association of Social Workers and the Association of Social Work Boards, have begun noting the proliferation of social media usage in education and practice and have begun developing guidelines to govern their use. The American Academy of Social Work and Social Welfare, in their Grand Challenges of Social Work initiative, highlighted social media as an important area of growth for research and education. Despite the field’s nascent enthusiasm, practical and ethical concerns persist. This article defines social media; discusses its usage in social work practice, research, and education; and discusses the ethical and practical considerations in each domain.
John G. McNutt
Information technology has had a profound effect on social work practice with larger systems. These tools improve traditional practice and allow new forms of practice. This entry reviews the use of technology in macro social work practice. It examines the role of technology in social administration, community practice, and social policy practice; discusses current practice and tools and discusses the challenges faced in the use of technology in macro practice.