#APM16: A Recap

Last week I had the privilege of attending the Council On Social Work Education, Annual Program Meeting (#APM16). With a continued  interest in teaching, professional development, technology, and social media; I felt like I had to make this conference. In previous years I had been following the conference on social media. This year I decided to attend. I got to meet many people I have connected with me on social media. Some of which we have been “talking” to each other for years.

Most importantly I got to meet Dr. Jonathan Singer (aka Social Work Podcast). We co-wrote the NASW award winning article about language and suicide. It was great to connect with him and many others as I shape my interest in teaching and training,…

It was a lot to take in but there were two main themes, technology and connecting the classroom to social work practice.  These themes overlapped but they also represent complementary opportunities for social work professional development.

Connecting Clinical Practice to The Classroom

As a licensed professional attending an education conference, I wanted to better understand the challenges of this connection. What threads link classroom, to field, and ultimately social work practice? One of the best presentations was on the macro practice side.  Saginaw Valley State University and other colleagues presented on the Flint Water Crisis.

The social work departments of various universities close to Flint have been working together on a variety of issues. In this presentation they developed a syllabus with lessons about policy and community organizing. If you are interested check out the link to the syllabus here. This was a wonderful example of integrating real world practice with education.

This may be intuitive but we should be continuing to think about how to break down silos between research, teaching, and practice. Almost all of the presentations I attended mentioned this at some point.  This is a good transition to the next theme. Technology and use of social media was often at the heart of breaking silo’s down in social work professional development.


On the micro practice side I was impressed with University of Southern California’s tele-mental health training program. USC trains a select group of interns in the using tele-mental health or video conferencing technology. Developing it has certainly been a journey for them but through this they found many opportunities. Learning the technology and developing field supervision around it has been tricky. They also got around challenges of privacy and structuring supervision so this can be a quality training program. What was most exciting is this program has been built, but what’s next?


At the time of this presentation they were developing collaborations with local schools and human service organizations to embed more tele-mental health suites. This is a wonderful example of technology connecting education to practice. Social work educators have the unique opportunity to prepare the work force for technology like this.

I also heard Delta State University and Walden University talk about distance supervision for field education. Providing field supervision in a distance setting presents challenges. The greatest challenges are privacy and having “difficult situations” at a distance. They talked about how the use of video conferencing technology brings the facility closer. They found that a lot of these distance interactions were no different than face to face meetings. They also demonstrated how video conferencing can actually reduce costs for social work programs. Technology is changing the flow of our work and adapting to it has it’s benefits.

I also attended a presentation on the upcoming practice standards for technology from the National Association of Social Workers. Again the theme of this talk was the challenges versus opportunities of technology in social work practice. A great question is what role should social work educators and CEU providers play in learning about technology?

Spoiler Alert… a big one. The take home message is technology is not going away. Social Work educators have a unique opportunity to not only understand the risks but teach the tremendous opportunities that exist for technology.

In spending my days talking about these topics, one could argue it would be unethical of social workers to run the other direction from technology. I continued to hear the challenges of introducing technology into social work but the opportunities are outstanding.

I had the pleasure of meeting some of the leaders in social work education and technology. Many of whom I have “met” on-line and developed collaborations with. Some wonderful colleagues presented on use of technology in the social work classroom. Three of the presenters are helping literally “write the book on it”….


One of the big take away’s was a break down of teaching digital literacy…

This is a great breakdown of learning technology.  I found Belshaw’s 8 elements of digital literacy a great framework for moving forward with technology. One concept builds on the next to not only make learning simple for students but less intimidating for teaching technology related concepts.

In attending this 3 day conference I was inspired by things happening in social work education. The values of our profession, how we teach them, and put them into practice are changing. There is wonderful opportunities for us to break down silo’s in disciplines and use technology to improve education. Check out more of these challenges and opportunities presented by clicking on the below Storify summaries…


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#WhereWereYou: But Also Where Are You Going?

I was just beginning my Master’s In Social Work program and working part-time at local sporting goods store. Work started out fairly routine by doing inventory but then one of my co-workers said a plane just hit The World Trade Center.  My first reaction was, how tragic, must have been someone who just started flying. They hit their tiny plane into The World Trade Center by accident? How could a single engine plane just hit right into a building like that? I thought it was just a minor tragedy and went about taking my inventory. 5 minutes later I then went out to watch TV with everyone else.

Then saw the replay…My heart sunk and I nearly fell over. That was not a single engine plane! It was a commercial airliner!  We all know what happened next.  The ten staff got together for a debriefing and we were told to call our families and head home. My then fiance at the time answered the phone in tears, voice trembling, shaken…

I rushed home… I was angry and was not sure what to think. As events unfolded I feared for all involved. The anger was certainly there. Confusion…how could this happen? What’s next? I was not there and I did not bear witness to the events live but wow did feel close to this.  We all did on that day.

15 years later social media is awash with tributes. 15 years to the day this event is a key part of our history and our narrative as a country. Few things in our day to day have ever been the same since. That’s why I also ask where are you now and where are you going?

Since then I have completed my Master’s In Social Work and have learned a lot about Trauma and Healing. As a country and as communities were are still healing from this event. There is a lot of anger and hatred. There is plenty of confusion and blame to go around too.

I have done a lot of reading to understand how therapists feelings effect treatment. I have learned about shared and secondary trauma. As therapists we often “feel” the trauma we listen to.  In reading about this, one of the most important concepts I have learned about is the notion of  “Post-Traumatic Growth”

The Post Traumatic Research Group at the University of North Carolina define the term as…

“It is positive change experienced as a result of the struggle with a major life crisis or a traumatic event. Although we coined the term posttraumatic growth, the idea that human beings can be changed by their encounters with life challenges, sometimes in radically positive ways, is not new. The theme is present in ancient spiritual and religious traditions, literature, and philosophy. What is reasonably new is the systematic study of this phenomenon by psychologists, social workers, counselors, and scholars in other traditions of clinical practice and scientific investigation.”

This is a fascinating part of the change process in therapy but also relevant to anyone working in and around a traumatic event. Dr. Carole Tosone has done wonderful work interviewing therapists about their experiences counseling people after 9/11. Her work is wonderfully summarized an episode of The Social Work Podcast.  They talk a lot about shared trauma and post traumatic growth within the therapy process.

The beauty of social work (shameless plug) is that we not only examine the micro process but also how communities heal. It is an important exercise to walk though this micro-process but then expanding it to a macro focus. 15 years later how have we shared and potentially grown from this trauma? 15 years later how have communities used these processes or not?

These are complex questions, but these are ones we should be asking. Where was I 15 years ago? I was scared, angry, and confused.  I recognize to some those words are just scratching the service. 15 years later I not only ask where were you, but where have you been with these feelings?  Now I would like to think this was an act of hate and hopefully love will eventually win.

Some still feel the same anger the felt that morning. Some are still grieving and some have healed. My challenge to you is to think about how you and your communities have grown? I have seen wonderful examples of communities coming together but also have seen lots of anger and at times hate. My hope is that with an understanding of shared trauma and post-traumatic growth, love continues to win so we can grow and heal together….