Blogging as Social Work Practice
In the spring quarter of 2016, the Western Colorado Master of Social Work (MSW) Program at DU offered a new course entitled: “Contemporary Social Work Issues in Western Colorado.” The course focuses on environmental justice as a core social work practice area and was developed so that students could learn about the disproportionate burdens of environmental injustices in communities across the Western Slope of Colorado. The class provides an opportunity for students to critically explore, analyze, and discuss current environmental justice disparities and relevant social work interventions in their home communities.
As part of their coursework, students reviewed environmental justice theories and perspectives as they bear on place-based case studies from the region—from oil and gas development in Western Garfield County, to the implications of food waste in Grand Junction, to the damming of the Colorado River in Hot Sulphur Springs. The students were then asked to write and record original podcast episodes and blog posts surrounding their research and experiences. You can read the student blog posts: www.westcomsw.com and listen to their original podcast recordings: www.soundcloud.com/westerncoloradomsw.
The purposes of the blogging activity were threefold. The ability to effectively communicate environmental justice concerns is an important skill to cultivate for professional social workers. Staying informed about innovative communication strategies in an increasingly digital age is an ethical imperative for social workers across the world. Additionally, this regional program in Western Colorado, with mainly online and hybrid courses, needed a better way to connect distance students both socially and academically.
In reflecting upon their blogging and podcasting experiences, students agreed they were able to achieve these goals. Brooke Lightner, Western Colorado MSW student and Steamboat Springs resident appreciate the new learning experience. Brooke states: “I really enjoyed writing the blogs…It felt risky putting my voice out there, but the rewards were far greater. I think there is a compelling argument to be made that teaching MSW students about this new technology, how to use it effectively and creating an opportunity to reflect on the ethical issues surrounding those methodologies, is not only essential for the marketability of students post-graduation, but the responsibility of a progressive social work program. This is especially important for those who work with youth – we must be savvy in current means of technology in order to foster the relationships necessary to do good work with our clients. Overall, I want to say how grateful I am for the innovative approach this class took in our learning. Not only was the content extremely valuable, but also the assignments were designed such that we had the opportunity to practice a style of communication that is practical for the 21st century.”
This project was part of a OneNewThing grant from the Office of Teaching and Learning, led by Rachel Forbes, Western Colorado MSW Program Director and Assistant Professor of the Practice of Social Work at DU. The program will offer the Contemporary Social Work Issues class again in Winter Quarter 2017.