Social Work and Technology: Past, Present and Future

How has technology evolved in social work practice? Where will it go? What does it mean to integrate technology into social work? A chart like this was used for on an education website. I thought it appropriate to use the format for a vision of social work. This may not be an all-inclusive list of these areas, but it is the start of a conversation of where we are headed as a profession.
Work 1.0
Work 2.0
Work 3.0
Letter writing, phone calls, organization of individuals or groups,
protesting, and education campaigns through face to face, posters, or other
literacy avenues promote communication and coordination of causes.
Using e-mail databases, websites, and blogs promote empowerment
strategies for SW populations. List serves create awareness of actions for
concerned groups or communication to law makers. Social media creates
connections between diverse groups for solidarity.
Social media campaigns address disparities. Viral videos encourage
action of populous. Voting through face recognition on phone promotes
advocacy groups to develop “impact” voting online. Media campaigns and online
community groups developed with resources available to all vulnerable
Questionnaires filled out by client or therapist. Face to face
supervision for support. Assessment information available through reference
books or journals.
Electronic treatment records, e-books and journals, online resources
are utilized for assessment of clients.
Evaluations completed at home (through a software program) then
online referral to appropriate therapists from database. Tests are taken online,
all delivered to therapist upon appointment. Assessment computer in office
for use by clients.
Practice standards created by NASW.
NASW practice standards for each area of SW practice.
Collaboration of practice standards across disciplines in an online
format. Searchable database of best practices. Inclusion of technology
practices for each area of SW practice. Online therapy will become more prevalent
needing practice standards.
Client files are maintained in filing cabinets with hand written
notes, referral sheets. SW use phone contact or office meetings for contact.
A yearly (?) resource book printed for referrals.
Databases of clients kept on Excel or Access. Resources collected on
Internet. Some client and program information kept in filing cabinet.
Electronic records are paperless. Online, professionally run support
groups, for use by clients. Communication through text messaging/e-mailing
information. Internet databanks for resources by geographic area/need. Resource
availability in real time online (bed count, openings, etc.).
Change empowered to communities by person to person contact. Government
grants are specific for economic and social development.
List serves created for community action projects. Urban development
focusing on digital inclusion for marginalized populations.
Creating new community through technology centers in-person and online.
Technology training offered. Affordable digital resources offered through
grants and government initiatives. Communities invest in themselves through
technological action plans.
In-services, trainings, and workshops face to face
Audio and video trainings for CEU’s, inclusion of 3 hours mandatory
ethics training each cycle, online training for CEU’s, podcasts
Interactive trainings online offered including virtual role playing
for technique, online recordings, and discussion groups during training.  Mandated 3 hours of technology issues
training every cycle.
All courses face to face, traditional synchronous learning using
lectures, videotaping, audiotaping, and observation for studying and
Courses online or blended, PowerPoint’s included in lecture. Formats
are face to face and online. Learning management systems become standard. Some
schools have one elective course on technology in SW. Start of asynchronous learning,
podcasts, blogs, and online research becoming normalized.
Curriculum seamlessly integrates technology into appropriate uses for
every course; learning combines synchronous and asynchronous approaches. All
textbooks online. Open source data bases, use of smart phones, tablets, virtual
learning modules, in pedagogy. As technology evolves so does curriculum.
Courses discuss relevant topics with other SW schools through technology.
NASW ethical standards sent by booklet.
NASW ethical standards available online, revised as needed,
technology standards are developed.
NASW ethics revised regularly as technology transforms, inclusion of
specific technology issues included. All computer software and applications
will be HIPAA compliant
Based Practice
EBP started to enhance the treatment outcomes with SW populations.
EBP acknowledged, implemented in SW research for efficacy. The beginnings
of transition to Internet and applications use of EBP.
EBP designed for use on tablets or smart phones, free government/non-profit
created computer software programs for EBP, interdisciplinary collaboration
between fields through technology. Programming applications easily
accomplished by SWs.
Donor cultivation through volunteers, direct mailings, newsletters,
events, mainstream media, grants, benefits, auctions, capital campaigns,
matching gifts and tracking data through Excel or Access Databases.
Fundraising software (e.g. ACCESS International,
Blackbaud, Campagne Associates,), websites, e-mails, online newsletters,
auctions available through online programs.
Using market segmentation data to strategize fundraising online,
fundraising integration to social media sources, virtual events, multimedia
presentations to smartphones/tablets, smartphone one click donations. Use of
mobile payment tools during fundraisers.
The start of understanding etic and emic responses to culture and diversity
in SW practice.
Competence of multiculturalism expected in all aspects of SW
education and practice.
Respecting the different aspects of culture when integrating
technology.  The creation of culturally
relevant software and applications advance learning and effectiveness with
diverse populations. Interactive systems, virtual reality, and online
programs will connect many cultures to break down prejudice and increase

Where do you think technology is headed in social work?

© Ellen Belluomini, LCSW

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