Net neutrality is definitely something you should care about.

An internet that’s managed and manipulated by for-profit interests may sound like the reality we live in, but it’s not. Yes, when you access broadband service, you (or your institution or employer) are paying a fee. But the important feature we take for granted is this pipeline is more or less the same wherever we go.

I won’t use this space to tackle the numerous concerns we already struggle with (lack of consumer choice to access the web, even more limited access in rural areas, the fact that the United States is, compared to the rest of the world, suffering from slower bandwidth). What’s at stake is the basic ability to access the web without a myriad of commercial interests gouging you as a consumer. Worse, grassroots organizations, which rely on an open web to get their message out, could very well experience suppression if net neutrality is no longer the standard line.

You can take action: contact your state representatives and demand support for Net Neutrality.

#MacroSW chat 7/13/17: Social Work in a Post-Election Nation

This week’s MacroSW blog:

“The 2016 presidential election left many social workers wondering about the future of the profession and what Donald Trump’s victory would mean for social workers and the populations they serve. Now, more than eight months later, we’d like to hear about what you’ve been doing since the election.

Join us on Thursday, July 13, at 9 p.m. Eastern (6 p.m. Pacific) for the #MacroSW chat co-hosted with Social Work Today (@SocialWorkToday). We’ll explore social work in a post-election nation, share ideas about how to get/stay involved in advocacy and discuss ways social workers can help heal the deep divisions exposed by the election.”

Head over to the MacroSW blog for all the information, as well as how to join the Twitter chat.

 

Podcast Thoughts: On “Missing Richard Simmons” and Ending Relationships

I’m finally starting this new blogging project, where I occasionally comment on popular podcasts, with a social work POV. This first one is…not exactly timely. “Missing Richard Simmons”, finished its short run months ago. I drafted this in April and I promised myself I’d get this out sometime in the summer. So, here it is. 

Richard Simmons wasn’t a therapist, but part of his persona included reaching into peoples’ lives, rather than just simply reaching out. The hit podcast may seem invasive, but I appreciate the reasons for making it, and from a practice perspective, its creator has a point.

I listened to all of the Missing Richard Simmons podcast a couple of weeks ago. I confess I added the podcast to my queue out of morbid curiosity. The premise had less-than-defensible overtones: Simmons, a well-known health guru and public figure (at least to people in their 40s and older), a person who appeared to thrive on public attention, decided to retire from view. Abruptly. Or (this is where the speculation starts) maybe he didn’t make that decision on his own. The media concern for his well-being suggested a story with a low factual threshold: that Simmons was taken out of the public eye by force and exploited for his wealth…or, maybe, something along those lines. It’s a mystery! Simmons eventually made a public statement last year, assuring us he’s fine.

The six-episode podcast series was created, written and hosted by Dan Taberski, who worked for the Daily Show and was a member of Simmons workout studio in Los Angeles. He created the show because he saw Simmons as a positive force, and his retirement seemed too abrupt, just simply too unlike the Richard Simmons he came to know, to be understandable without at least some explanation.

A little personal disclosure: I’m old enough to remember the home exercise craze of the late 1970s and 1980s. Our early-adopter family had a VCR in 1981, and I recall my mother recording The Richard Simmons Show. I was only 10 years old when this show was on the air, but even then, it was clear to me that Simmons was more than a host: this man was clearly motivated by his mission. His motivation to help people improve their lives seemed authentic. For Simmons, this meant weight loss. In the show’s opening credits of his talk show, you see Simmons’ personalized license plate, and as a mission statement, it’s all you need to know: YRUFATT.

Until 2013, Simmons stuck with this mission. Depending on where you start the clock, that’s about four decades. That early show is long gone, but the books, the home videos, the guest appearances, and the workout studio lived on. He’s been there for his fans, particularly people who truly need him to be the force in their lives. Missing Richard Simmons includes an amazing example of how real this relationship with the public manifested: Simmons encountered a woman in Iowa, working at the factory that produced the cookies Simmons was branding. She expressed her need to lose weight. Simmons didn’t just have a single, life-changing conversation with her. He maintained a relationship over time, by phone, for years.

Consider the expectations for a formal helping relationship, and Taberski doesn’t seem the one actively crossing boundaries; in the parallel context of social work practice, he fits the role of client. When Simmons all but disappeared, after failing to showing up to his workout studio one day for a scheduled class, Taberski (and, by extension, anyone who saw Simmons as a leader or a mentor) was concerned, confused, and, understandably, hurt.

Now, of course, let me observe the big caveat with this analogy: Simmons is not a licensed therapist. He’s a public figure, and while he has sought to help people, he was never in a legal contract, nor was he professionally obligated by any Code of Ethics to end relationships in a way that provides people with a sense of closure and understanding of what to expect in the future. That said, throughout his public presence, Simmons built a brand on emotional human connection. The example in Iowa is one case. For Simmons, his professional brand included not just his guest appearances on late night television talk shows, but his willingness to really connect with people over time. When you are calling someone on the phone to extend support to that person, expectations are going to develop.

The NASW Code of Ethics does have language regarding the termination of services (1.16, b): Social workers should take reasonable steps to avoid abandoning clients who are still in need of services. This section of the code states that, should termination be deemed necessary, social workers should be aware of all the possible factors to minimize negative impact on clients, including assisting in making appropriate arrangements.

Again, this is not something Simmons was bound to do. And, quite frankly, we don’t know what led to his decision to withdraw. That speculation is what led Taberski to create the podcast.

What Missing Richard Simmons does demonstrate is the impact ending a helping relationship precipitously has on those being helped. For those of us in social work, it’s worth noting how much power we have when we extend a hand to those who need it, and how we set expectations for when, inevitably, we need take that hand back.

 

Code of Ethics related to this post:

1.01 Commitment to Clients

1.04 Competence

1.16 Termination of Services

References:

Missing Richard Simmons home page: https://www.missingrichardsimmons.com/

NASW Code of Ethics: http://www.socialworkers.org/pubs/Code/code.asp

 

 

This week’s #MacroSW Chat (7/6/17): Disabled Students’ Rights on College Campuses

This week’s #MacroSW blog will take place on Thursday, 9/8 Central, on Twitter.  The discussion will focus on the lack of support for disabled students’ rights on campus, despite the language in the ADA and Section 504.

From the blog post this week:

“As we prepare to celebrate the 27th anniversary of the ADA on July 26th, and the start of the 2017-2018 academic year in a few weeks, it is fitting for students, professors, and social workers to understand the barriers disabled students on campuses experience, and how to advocate for their rights. “

Read the full post over on the MacroSW blog. You’ll find possible discussion questions and further reading. If you’d like to join the chat but aren’t sure where to begin, be sure to check out the FAQ.

 

Social Work and Technology Standards are officially updated (!)

If you’re interested in how social workers engage with technology, you’re probably aware that the practice standards on this subject needed some updating. The previous statement from NASW was published in 2005. This week, the official update was released. Find a comfortable chair, block off some time, and read them here. For what it’s worth, I’ll provide a few thoughts in this space shortly.

Reference:

National Association of Social Workers (2017). NASW, ASWB, CSWE, & CSWA standards for technology in social work practice. Washington, D.C.

Retrieved at:

http://www.socialworkers.org/includes/newIncludes/homepage/PRA-BRO-33617.TechStandards_FINAL_POSTING.pdf

#SWDE2017, Day 3: That’s a wrap!

One more hat tip to Sean Erreger (@StuckonSW) for putting together Day 3 of the #SWDE2017 in Storify. Check it out, as always, as well as Sean’s blog, and follow him on Twitter

Well, that was short and amazing several days. I just got back and now I can write this wrap-up post. (Seriously, American Airlines, no wifi on the plane from Dallas to Des Moines?)

IMG_5879
I suppose I could just look out the window…

Today was a half-day with four sessions. (As you may have gathered, I advise you click on Sean Erreger’s Storify link above.) I was able to take in presentations on helping distance education students become part of the school identity. For many online programs, particularly programs where online/hybrid programming is just starting, this is key theme. Students participating in fully-online programs are at risk of feeling isolated. “On ground” residential programs can’t take any part of what the on-ground experience provides; so, how can we transfer that? Programs have been doing short, intensive “institutes” that last over the weekend or through the week, usually at the start of the academic year, where students in hybrid or fully-online programs travel to the mother campus. The feedback discussed in these sessions suggest this is a highly positive experience for students in online and hybrid programs; I’ll always seek out these presentations to learn how this kind of student orientation and enculturation evolves.

All the sessions I attended throughout the week were engaging and thorough; a couple could have been for any conference, if not specifically one tailored for distance education. At this point, I would support argument that “distance education” may soon require less emphasis as a model for social work students, as the delivery becomes more ubiquitous. I suspect this is the case; at the core of all these presentations and discussions is the passion and focus people have for the social work profession. Another post for another time. Speaking of which…

…while on the wi-fi-free plane ride back (again, c’mon, seriously?) I wrote up a list of things I’ve learned to adapt my conference attendance capabilities. Rather than post that here, I’ll save it for a future post.

A big thanks to the people who made #SWDE2017 happen, especially the hosts, OLLU!  Here’s to #SWDE2018!

 

 

 

 

#SWDE2017 Day 2: The FOMO is real.

FOMO stands for Fear Of Missing Out,  and I’m comfortable admitting that I felt this yesterday. Or, at least, a scaled-down version of it.

FOMO’s intended meaning describes the fear you experience when you think your peers are doing something more interesting than you, which forces you to check your social media constantly to see if you’re being left behind. Scale this to conference attendance: I go over the list of presentations each hour, a select the ones most appropriate for my professional development, and I go to those sessions.  But wait! This is a social work conference, and everyone’s presentations have some meaning to me. I consider myself a generalist; I look at the batch of choices for each other and, well, I do a lot of second- and third-guessing, because it all seems to connect.

Let me use this brief recap to capture what I’m talking out: Yesterday, I learned about how to use GIS mapping to get a better idea of what field placements may work better based on students wants and needs. In another session, I learned how WordPress (the platform I use for this blog) can be woven into a course on macro practice, so that students can engage with an area of interest and actually connect with their community. An MSW student presented on incorporating the use of filmed media (movies) and applying character narratives to key theories in a course on Human Behavior in the Social Environment.

Here’s where the FOMO kicks in: social workers in distance education have a tendency to embrace technology, particularly social media. If you’ve been attending this conference, you’ve seen some participants tapping away on their mobile device. This is likely because they are hash-tagging out key points during presentations using #SWDE2017. It’s a wonderful way to get further insight into what’s going on (check out the Storify link and the end of this post. The downside? For me, it’s not that I want to hop rooms to go to the session I clearly should have attended. Instead, I’d like the opportunity to experience both presentations in full.

Here’s a sample of tweets I saw while I was in other, equally engaging sessions.

The bottom line is, no: I can’t attend it all. What I can do (and hey, this is a conference, and for this moment in time, we’re IRL) is seek, reach out, connect, network with these academics, practitioners, and thought leaders. Social media does bring people into that community that keeps people connected.

Hat tip to @StuckonSW! Check out Sean Erreger’s #storify of Day 2 of the #SWDE Conference here