Social Work and Using Technology


Yesterday, I was reading the ‘Social Work Tech Blog’.  It’s a blog which, as Roy Walker would say, does what it says in the title (forgive the Catchphrase reference  – I expect you have to be ‘of a certain age’ to pick that up!).
Bare bones computer

It focuses specifically on the use of technology for social workers as practitioners although I expect the uses can be a lot broader for professionals in many branches of work.

It made me think about the ways in which my own uses of technology not necessarily in the workplace but around and about it have developed.

I am slowly shifting from a paper-based diary system to logging all my visits on Google Calendar. I log them on my phone and it them pulls through to my home PC and Outlook. The idea generally being that I will never double-book appointments again. It doesn’t ALWAYS work and at the moment, I’m having to double-log in a paper diary (for the purposes of having a document and record keeping)  but I find it may well make my life easier as I streamline a little bit.  I can also use my beautiful Android phone to insert appointments which will carry across to all the information sources I use.

I’m scatty by nature and have a fear of ‘forgetting things’. I just need a way to work out how all my training days can be, in the future searchable and logged automatically. I’ll get there eventually.

I have to be careful what I write as log. I’ll only write in visits by initials anyway. One of my biggest worries was leaving my diary somewhere previously due to the names and addresses that it had in it. I now have a separate (paper) address book – a nice little Moleskine one for reference. It tallies my initials to addresses and yes, there are thousands of crossings out as people are allocated and deallocated  but some things shouldn’t be committed to online databases!

Talking of my beautiful phone – I think I’ve written about it before but there is an application available for an MMSE ‘on the go’ which has helped me out for a rough idea when I’ve left paper versions behind.

And I would literally be lost without the Google Maps and GPS on my phone. Helps me out with visits on a day to day basis. I’ve saved a lot of trees in the amount of maps I used to print out!

I like the suggested idea of using Google Documents for an online resource document – perhaps for students coming into the team and for ‘new starters’ although at the moment, the thought of there being any new starters at all in the current decade is something of a pipe dream.

If I ever get more time, I will try to do something about putting together a current resource documents. I have a small resource pack I developed with use of online tools, sites and educational material which I wrote about at the time that I compiled it. I like the idea of extending it to more localised information and with more information that would be useful to professionals in the area.

My pride and joy (I know, this classes me as VERY sad) is an Excel document that sits on my desktop at work (not online!) and contains all useful telephone numbers. It was actually put together by someone in an office I used to work in about 5 years ago and he emailed it to me. I still use it and update it. I’ve sent it around to a few colleagues. Simple and undeniably useful.

The thing with technology is that the use in professional and personal life overlaps. Of course the information available on blogs, websites, forums has increased many times over in the last five years or so.  I don’t necessarily use them at work (because,  of course, I’m so busy working when I’m at work!) but they are used around work and to improve my knowledge of the work environment. One of the greatest joys is that I have a far better understanding of social work around the world, and particularly in the United States simply by being able to key into the writings of practitioners in different places. These are the ties that will make the profession as a whole and as far as it exists grow.

Twitter is another quite fine use of technology. As well as allowing me to pass the time while sitting on various buses from one visit to another and keeping up with day to day news that would never otherwise have been possible in a work day, it has allowed me to gain insights into different lives and different types of lives and more importantly to make connections in ways with people I would and could never have had any interaction with otherwise. I have two ‘Twitter’ streams. A personal one and a ‘blog face’ one although to be honest, sometimes the ‘personal one’ gets a bit ignored because most of what I want to say is either work-related or political.  For anyone that hasn’t given it a go or doesn’t quite ‘get it’, I’d say, try. It’s hard to explain why it is so appealing until you give it a go for a week or two.

Facebook I tend to use wholly for personal purposes. The people I know on Facebook are, by and large, people I ‘know’ or certainly people I know well enough. I still retain a background thought of ‘this is information I should be happy for anyone to read’ which, although I’ve locked down my profile regarding privacy settings is a factor I am constantly aware of. That’s why I am less likely to enter discussions about professional matters (and I mean broadly of course because I would never discuss particulars) on Facebook.

On of Ignacio’s posts refers to ‘Digital Storytelling’ and the use of audio materials. I don’t run groups and although potentially in my job there could be a role for me to develop some groupwork, at the moment, it hasn’t been my priority on the basis of time available. I do listen to podcasts constantly though – like the author of that post – I much prefer audio information to video – because I can listen while going to work.

I tend to use podcasts for personal development, information and entertainment but there is fantastic material ‘out there’ if you go looking for it. I’d love to use audio a bit more  – talking through theoretical approaches. It may be a project I work on in the future although if I do, because of tedious stuff like ‘recognisable voices’ it is more likely something I’d make available by request rather than openly.

At work a colleague of mine has made CDs for a service user who cannot read and send him ‘audio letters’. He listens to these sometimes when he is feeling over-anxious. It has been a great use of audio in a therapeutic setting. It wouldn’t work for everyone but there is a place in some situations.

I think I’ll come back to podcasts specifically in another post. I have a lot more to say about audio than I thought I did!

I know a lot of colleagues shy away from the overuse in technology in ‘downtime’ but it is something that is being incorporated increasingly into our lives.

For me, it is important that I keep learning, keep developing and keep improving both in my work and in my knowledge base which often I have to grow outside the work day. Technology is vital for that. It might not be something that is necessarily welcomed  but the use of information should be invited in all its forms.

I’d recommend going to look at the Social Work Tech Blog. It’s both an interesting concept for developing professional practice but it is also has a lot of good ‘how to’ guides for those who might not be familiar with some of the software available.

I’d be interested to know about other peoples’ uses of technology in general and how it has worked for you. Please do leave comments if you want to share..

Meanwhile, I might try to develop to ‘resource’ posts which collate some of the information gathering that I’ve been occupying myself with through various sources over the years!

12 thoughts on “Social Work and Using Technology

  1. Say what you see! I loved Catchphrase

    Oh, this is my pet topic – 🙂 I think we don’t utilise the power of technology anywhere near enough, either in our professional or personal lives.

    My diary is entirely electronic – I have a work issues Blackberry and everything goes on there and it syncs automatically with my Outlook. I also receive emails on it – this saves massive amounts of time as I can respond whilst I am on the bus/train etc. You just have to be disciplined and try not to look at it outside of work hours! (although as I can also ‘push’ my personal email to it I always keep it on).
    Having a wholly electronic diary also means that other team members can access my Calendar, therefore potentially avoiding that to-and-fro when trying to set meeting times (it also technically means they know what you are meant to be doing at any time, but there are ways around that 😉 )
    I am currently experimenting with carrying a netbook with me and using it to write service user notes ‘on-the-go’. This could mean writing the notes with the service user so that they have much more input, it’s also another good use of that travel time. I am careful not to use any identifying information of course. Then I can save it to a flashdrive and upload it onto the systems at work.

    I, too, have a blog-related twitter which I use mainly for posting blog links etc, and a personal one where I spout random nonsense. I must admit that I don’t think I use Twitter anywhere nearly as effectively as I could do yet.
    My Facebook is entirely personal, I use it for keeping up with friends who are scattered all over the place and for posting pictures etc. I do have a page that is for my blog and I use this to post links and occasionally talk professional issues.

    Using technology with service users is something I am really interested in. There is a lot out there and we really need to explore it and see what would be beneficial. We are looking at running more groups and with my client group it is certainly something that may help with information retention etc.

    In a more general service way we are currently trying to implement text message reminders of appointments like they do at some of the acute hospitals. Not sure how well this is going to work but it’s an extra tool. We are also using tech to gather patient satisfaction info through touchscreen equipment – again it has it’s issues but the potential is there.

    Podcasting is something that I have yet to get into. Have you any good recommendations?

    Sorry for the ultra long comment! I may have to do a post on this issue myself!

    • Thanks for that! I think there is massive scope to use some of the technology we have and implement it more in work – the problems I see are some of the utter distaste for new ways of working in some of the departments apart from when it is centrally mandated.
      I’ll probably come back to the podcasting at the weekend…

  2. I have been desperately trying to get my office to embrace more technological ways of dealing with things. They’re just about up to receiving phone calls and sending emails. 🙂 At the moment our recording is all done on a system which I cannot access from outside the office, very restrictive and annoying. I can access emails, but the system is hit and miss at best.

    I’d love to be able to buy an iPad and justify it’s use in my work, really I would! There are systems available which have been demo’ed to us which are 100% online working, but the higher ups have turned them down citing budget cuts. So we’re stuck with a broken system which barely works and which we can’t access from outside the office. 🙂

    Saying that I have an iPhone 4 which I use constantly. I would also be lost without googlemaps! I don’t drive so I’m on the public transport system and the google maps app with all the bus times and nearest bus stops is a lifesaver. There have been a couple of times where it’s been wrong, but it’s still much better than I would have been on my own.

    I use text messaging a lot in my job. It’s handy for the carers I supervise to get in touch with me easily, especially when they know I’m on another visit/in a meeting. Then I’m not sat there with lots of missed calls and more often than not I’m able to quickly dash off a reply before addressing it with them later on.

    I wish that my office would embrace technology a little more, but hey ho… at least we have work mobile phones now. Or would have if the budgets hadn’t just been cut… 😉

    • Your office sounds a bit like mine! I actually prefer online recording systems that we use now rather than the paper files we had. My work mobile is almost comically ancient!

  3. Although I’m early retired as a carer, in a previous work life I was responsible for ‘assistive technology’, things that helped give disabled people more control over their own lives and reduced their risk. These ranged from simple tech things like well positioned grab rails and the ‘magic plug’ that stopped the bath overflowing (for short term memory problems), to high tech Steven Hawkinge type computer communication devices and ‘proximity’ door locks/openers (for people unable to manage keys/doors). They can be great fun and are often very useful but there are also pitfalls – generally speaking the simpler it is the better (it’s easy to get taken over by the technology) and being sure that the technology augments and doesn’t replace human contact. (Lots of ‘telecare’ falls into this category – providing risk reducing smart smoke alarms etc. is all very weel but if it means the ‘warden’ stops calling in for a cup of tea, it may be counterproductive.)

    I’ll stop rabitting on now as it’s the sort of thing that can take over.
    Ned Ludd, carer (PS I don’t want to smash all these things!)

    • We actually have quite a lot of ‘assistive technology’ that we use. I probably need a post all to itself. It’s amazing what can be done although I worry that sometimes it is about cost-saving and removing a person from the role where human contact can’t be replicated – just as you say.
      There is a discussion about the use of GPS tracking for people with dementia as well and some of the ethical issues that arise. I see a new blog post emerging 🙂

  4. Have you considered using Evernote (https://www.evernote.com/)? It’s brilliant for capturing all sorts of notes and ideas, and then having them available on every computer, phone or mobile device you use and having them completely searchable. I use it and it’s ace! (And free, for the standard version anyway.)

    • Hi 🙂 I have heard of it and dabbled but I need to try again because I’m not sure I was using it in the best way possible. I’ll check it out, thanks 🙂

  5. Pleased to see someone in the Health and Social Care sector aware of the information security/privacy issues associated with using Google ‘tools’ for work-related tasks. 🙂

  6. Hi

    Ive started using Sugarsync on a personal level. It backs up all of your hard drive online. It automatically backs up any thing that you save online and syncs it with any device – mobile phone, I-pad etc- that you own. You can also access any file from the online backup from any computer that is not your own; very useful when in and out of uni. Its obviously is a leap of faith to trust this much information to go onto the net but you can choose which files to upload and sync. Also computers are almost always online which makes means they can be just as vulnerable as something stored “online” such as sugarsync; the lines are blurring i think. A detached hard drive, i believe, is best for storing things that are confidential.
    I up loaded Sugarsync a month ago and was glad I did when my hard drive went ping. All I needed was a new hard drive and then downloaded all my personal files back from sugarsyncs back up. It all seemed easy compared to what i would have lost had this not been the case.
    Also well worth using are web directories such as Delicious.com and pinborad.ie. They allow you to save webpages by recording the url, title and give a short description. Its useful as you can, again, access from any computer but its power is in the tags. I personally save sitess i think relevant and tag all e-journals under the essay title for easy reference. You can also let other people see your home page and share your directory.

    PS. I wonder what happened to mr chips?

    • Oh, I’ve never heard of Sugarsync, I’ll check it out. I use Delicious although I heard it might be dying a death. I’ll check out pinboard though. Thanks 🙂

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