Blog post! #SWDE2018 Conference notes, Day 1.

We’re back in San Antonio for the 4th annual Social Work Distance Education conference. It’s been a beautiful day here, and for many of us, it’s been great to see friends and colleagues. I had the pleasure of doing just that, gathering for lunch along the river walk.

I wrote about #SWDE2017 conference last year, and I reflected on how the sessions moved from the general discussions of program design and useful applications to more focused sessions. Last year’s theme of social justice and most of the presentations were anchored accordingly. This year the theme is advancing social and economic justice through innovation, and the focus is clear: this first day, in particular, the final session oI attended, created a “think tank” environment of big-picture conversations. This may be where this conference may be headed: a stronger focus on futurism, where we are headed, and how social workers can (and should) be leaders.

As always with a conference like this, hard choices need to be made…I wish I could be everywhere. Here’s a sample of what I learned today:

Keynote: Kaye Shelton, Ph.D.

Dr. Shelton is an Associate Professor of Educational Leadership in the Center for Doctoral Studies in the College of Education and Human Development at Lamar University. She’s a prolific writer on the subject of online education. After this presentation, An Administrator’s Guide to Online Education. After this presentation, I decided I need to read this book in its entirety.  Dr. Shelton covered a range of techniques instructors can use to engage students meaningfully. (I found myself reflecting on the need to be more active and attentive to my online student discussion boards.) Dr. Shelton pointed us to a couple of resources she developed: OLC Quality Scorecard, where many free resources for improving online teaching and learning can be found; and Tip and Tricks for Teaching Online .

Session 1: Dr. Christie Mason of Loyola University spoke on principles and strategies for fostering community in online classes. She communicated the fundamental need to make sure our students feel safe to learn online. This can be assisted by strategically using informal discussion, developing meaningful approaches to introducing ourselves to the class. I learned a lot about using the tools on online education (#edtech) to encourage this community building in the online classroom environment.

Session 2: Matthea Marquart of Columbia University presented on methods and approaches to engaging in-real-life (IRL) students and online students in the same space. I am grateful Prof. Marquart presented on this topic, as I’ve seen how technology has helped move these historically partitioned student groups into the same general space.

Session 3: The end of the first day was a perfect time for a “big picture” presentation and Dr. Ellen Belluomini of Brandman University came through with a future-focused discussion on innovation through disruption. Dr. Belluomini didn’t shy away from giving examples of the perils of groupthink and made clear social workers must be leaders in research and practice, even if that means looking outside the traditional models of tenure-track promotional steps.

Reception:

This year we were on the rooftop. The weather was beautiful. I traveled from the Midwest to be here, and within a few minutes of the reception, I’d forgotten all about the snowstorm we’d endured there just a few days ago.

I’ll have more tomorrow. Unfortunately, Storify is no longer available to bring together the numerous social media posts out there…I’m looking for a solution and I’m open to suggestions.

 

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