Hash Tag(#): ‘Humble Pie’

Our guest blogger this week is Denise Turner, a Social Work doctoral candidate in the School of Education and Social work at Sussex. Denise shares with us her journey in the world of social media and highlights some of the rewards reaped so far.

I have always considered myself to be part of the ‘lost generation’ technologically – those of us who left school and indeed University, long before computer use and IT became widespread. This has left me with a lingering mistrust of technology and an irrational fear that by pressing the wrong key I will somehow cause irretrievable global damage.

It was with some consternation then, that I greeted a recent suggestion from Andy Cheng, a fellow doctoral candidate, to try and establish a weekly ‘live- chat’ on Twitter. I had met with Andy as part of my remit to support part-time and distance PhD students in Social Work. For those who are working, have other responsibilities or are geographically distant it is much harder to establish links with colleagues and to attend the regular opportunities to build networks. Andy’s idea was to use Twitter as a way of ameliorating this, by allowing students to ‘meet’ regularly in a space where they could discuss topics relevant to their research. He told me there was a weekly Twitter resource similar to this called #phdchat which had proved highly successful, but suggested that ours be specific to education and social work.

Even as an age-old Luddite, this idea did seem sensible – I just wasn’t convinced I was the person to carry it out. Andy may as well have suggested I try open-heart surgery or join the Space programme – I had no idea how to use Twitter and my teenager’s constant fascination with it had led to several arguments. However, I duly set up an account and gingerly interfaced with a few others. We held our first ‘chat’ which helped me at least to understand how the process works. After a couple of weekly sessions, Brian Hudson, our newly appointed Head of School, generously agreed to be a ‘Guest Tweeter.’ Brian was already receptive to the benefits of Twitter and had used it to form contacts within the School prior to his appointment.

Gradually news of our regular #eswphd chats has begun to grow and although participation from our own students is still limited, there is a small but regular group of these. The resource is also being used by students, academics and practitioners elsewhere, with some very positive feedback.

One of the most inspiring outcomes has been in the way other Twitter users have offered to help. For example Steve Moss (@gawbul) archives all our posts from the ‘live chat’ for those who missed it, whilst Paul Brownbill (@paully232000) has just set up a voting system for deciding each week’s topic. Amanda Taylor (@AMLTaylor66) and Joanne Westwood (@JLWestwood) Senior Social Work lecturers from Uclan have also agreed to ‘Guest’ on their highly innovative ‘Book Club,’ which recently appeared in Community Care. Harry Ferguson, Professor of Social Work at Nottingham and a keen Twitter user has also offered to ‘Guest.’

These offers of help, for no financial gain have convinced me of the value of Twitter in building community and thereby demonstrating the values which underpin both social work and education. Choking on a large piece of humble pie, I am now a complete convert to Twitter and aside from its efficacy at building community, I have learned about research; teaching and networking opportunities which would not have been available to me otherwise.

As academics engaged in research, within a competitive environment, we want our work to reach a wide audience and our University Departments to be recognised – Twitter offers a highly time and cost-effective means of achieving this.

Additional information:

Anyone interested in helping us develop the School of Education and Social Work social media strategy we are setting up a small Working Party, please contact Denise at D.M.Turner[at]sussex[dot]ac[dot]uk.

#eswphd chats take place every Wednesday evening 8 –9 p.m and the archive can be found currently at https://www.freeside.co.uk/~gawbul/eswphd/eswphd_tweets_090113.html (cc @gawbul) #eswphd. We are aiming to set up an accessible ‘Wiki page for the chats before too long.

To vote on each weeks topic visit: #socialwork #phd #highered http://twtpoll.com/ie6uka @DeniseT01

The Community Care piece on Uclan’s Book Club can be found at http://www.communitycare.co.uk/blogs/social-work-blog/2013/01/how-were-using-j-k-rowlings-no.html

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January 14, 2013. New media & new technology, Social work education, Social work practice, Social work research. 1 comment.