Technology is no longer an optional part of social work practice. Videoconferencing, online social networking, social robots, digital documentation and storage, texting, mobile apps, and other forms of technology are used in many realms of social work practice. The recently published Standards for Technology in Social Work Practice offers a roadmap to think critically about our social work roles in relation to how we use technology now and in the future.
Join us on Thursday, July 20, at 9 p.m. Eastern (6 p.m. Pacific) for the #MacroSW chat with Dr. Allan Barsky (@drbarsky), a member of the Social Work and Technology Practice Standard Task Force and an ethics expert. We’ll explore our views about the new technology standards, share ideas about implementing them in social work practice, and discuss what might be added to the standards at a later date.
Allan Barsky is Professor of Social Work at Florida Atlantic University. He chairs the NASW Code of Ethics Review Task Force and was a member of the Social Work and Technology Practice Standards Task Force. For more information, please visit www.barsky.org and follow on Twitter @drbarsky.
Questions to Explore:
How do you think the standards will be useful in your work?
Which macro issues do the standards deal with effectively, and which ones could have also been addressed?
How do you think the standards deal with ethical issues such as confidentiality, dual relationships, free speech, and boundaries?
What are the ongoing ethical issues that the social work profession should address as the use of technology grows and changes?
How can the standards be used to more effectively adapt and deal with issues related to technology?
As a profession, we can hope the technology standards will spur on tech adoption and guide social workers to be conscientiousness as technology transforms areas of practice. At the same time, we could think about the ways that our professional associations could be doing more to encourage social workers to explore the full potential of new and emerging technology.
The art of the possibility is vast and wide in terms of what technology can help social workers accomplish. This chat aims to be yet another starting point for continued conversations about how the technology we use in practice will continually evolve.
The Standards for Technology in Social Work Practice was developed by representatives from National Association of Social Workers, Association of Social Work Boards, Council on Social Work Education, and the Clinical Social Work Association, as well as consultations with social workers from various backgrounds. In the summer of 2016, the Task Force solicited feedback and comments from the social work community. This feedback contributed to many changes that were incorporated into the final version that was approved by all four national associations.
(Note: The post that is reblogged below is by Laurel Hitchcock. Laurel is one of the nine #MacroSW partners who rotate as host of our weekly Twitter chats. Her blog post below is a good introduction to our July 14 chat, hosted by @ubssw and @officialmacrosw. We find it especially useful due to her use of a specific example – one of the standards on social work education – and the NASW interpretation of the ethical use of technology. This example underscores the importance of feedback to NASW on the draft for these standards.
The task force that wrote this draft of the standards includes the National Association of Social Workers (NASW), the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE), Clinical Social Work Association (CSWA), and the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB). This is the first update on Technology Standards since 2005.
Please join us for the July 14th chat. Your comments and tweets will be included in the comments that our #MacroSW Chat group submits to NASW before the deadline on the 20th.)
I am so pleased that the draft Technology Standards for Social Work Practice have been released for public review. NASW, CSWE, CSWA, and ASWB developed a task force to collaboratively draft these technology standards, which you can access the draft standards here.
I am working with several groups to provide comments to the task force and, I also plan to submit my own comments. Once adopted, these standards will be considered a model for best practice in social work. Given the important legal and ethical role that practice standards have in the professional lives of social workers, I believe it is essential to offer constructive and timely feedback on this document. I want to encourage everyone in the social work community to review and submit their feedback. You do not need to be a member of any group to offer feedback. The timeline is short for submitting comments – the one-month comment period closes July 20th.
Here are some highlights about the document. The draft standards and their interpretations are 82 pages. If you do not want to read 82 pages, you may want to know that these standards cover the following:
Section 1: Provision of Information to the Public
Section 2: Designing and Delivering Services – Part A: Individuals, Families, and Groups and Part B: Communities, Organizations, Administration, and Policy
Section 3: Gathering, Managing, and Storing Information
Section 4: Communication with and about Clients
Section 5: Social Work Education (especially distance education)
Overall, I applaud the effort to revise standards that are over a decade old and no longer relevant to many forms of technology commonly used by social workers in their professional lives. It is a challenging task to write effective and informative standards that will help social workers navigate the use of technology in practice with the fast pace of change in digital and social technologies. A definite strength of the committee’s work is that the standards strongly reflect the NASW Code of Ethics, with multiple references to the Code throughout the standards.
However, these standards are also very specific, providing detailed directions on how social workers should use technology in an ethical and professional manner. For example, under Standard 5.10: Educator-Student Boundaries, the interpretation of the standard recommend that “to maintain appropriate boundaries with students, social work educators should avoid the use of personal technological devices and accounts for professional (educational) purposes.” As a social work educator, I agree that all educators should maintain appropriate ethical and professional boundaries with students and colleagues, but I should have the choice and autonomy in how I establish and maintain those boundaries. I’d like to see the evidence that using my personal smart phone to answer calls or texts from students violates an ethical boundary. In fact, I believe it makes me more accessible to my students. I started using text messaging with students many years ago, after working for a semester with a student who had a hearing disability. Texting was easier for the student to ask me questions, and allowed us to communicate outside of class without an interpreter. As a result of this experience, I developed guidelines for texting with students which I still follow today.
Further, many of the standards address the use of technology in practice settings without recognizing the parallel situations such as the “in-person” equivalent or the use of more commonplace technology. Considering Standard 5.10 as described above, this would suggest that social work educators should never give out their home phone to students or call students from their home phones. Further, this interpretation would suggest that educators not answer emails or access their institution’s learning management system from a home or personal computer or tablet. All of these options are impractical to me, and would result in an undue burden for the educator, especially adjunct educators who often use personal technology to communicate with students.
I would like to see these standards modified to offer practical, clear, and realistic guidelines that can be adopted and operationalized by both social workers and social service agencies across all practice settings. One of the groups I am working with to write group feedback has drafted this statement, which I believe provides an ideal general recommendation for how the draft standards can be re-framed:
The guidance provided by these technology standards should support aspirational goals related to technology use in our profession (including access, innovation, and consumer protection and voice), and encourage thoughtful and professional judgment related to technology use, while not directly specifying how one should carry out their use of technology in social work practice. To do so, limits innovation and will cause those who already practice outside the scope of these standards (or will in the near future as these standards become dated) to seek identity alignment outside of social work.
While you may agree or disagree with my interpretation of the draft standards, I urge you to read through the standards and give your feedback. This is your opportunity to join the conversation and give back to your professional community.
If you are interested in working with a group to provide feedback, here are two options:
Participate in the #MacroSW Twitter Chat on July 14th at 8:00 PM CST/ 9 PM EST when we will discuss the draft standards from a macro social work perspective. We will share the transcript with NASW.
Here are the details about how and when to submit your individual feedback:
TECHNOLOGY STANDARDS IN SOCIAL WORK PRACTICE – Draft released on 6/20/16
Description from NASW: The draft Technology Standards in Social Work Practice were developed jointly by the National Association of Social Workers, Association of Social Work Boards, Council on Social Work Education, and the Clinical Social Work Association to create a uniform set of practice guidelines for professional social workers who incorporate technology into their services. The draft standards were developed by a task force comprised of representatives from each of these social work organizations.
Request from NASW:
Your comments and feedback are requested to help make the technology standards a model best practice document for social workers. Please consider the following questions as you review the standards:
Are the standards easy to comprehend?
Are there any concepts that require clarification?
Are the standards applicable across social work practice levels and settings?
How relevant are the standards to current social work practice?
Submit your comments no later than July 20, 2016. Comments regarding the content of the draft standards are preferred rather than edits.
Here are two additional questions specific to the July 14th #MacroSW Twitter Chat:
What are ways you think macro-level social works should use technology?
What perspectives do social workers bring to the use of technology in the 21st century?