Inquiry-based learning about technologies in social work education

Paper presented at #husITa16 in Seoul, Korea, 29 June 2016.


Udo Seelmeyer and Isabel Zorn (TH Koln, University of Technology, Germany).


Background: Digitization, Internet of Things and Big Data Analytics cause big social, political, economic and legal transformations. Assumed that social welfare services have to analyze if, how and under which conditions digital technologies shall be implemented in order to enhance service, technology education is requisite in the curricula of social work education. Well-informed social workers are needed to plan and push both implementation or well-grounded avoidance of technology and on the other hand social welfare institutions demand information and research results on technology`s potentials and risks.
Methods and Results: We suggest using inquiry-based learning in universities to combine technical education and research in collaboration with social work institutions and initiatives.
Two case studies are critically described:
One case study describes an ethnographic approach using participant observation of social work professionals’ practices with digital technologies. The analyses lead to deep insights into the distributed agency between humans, machines and programs as well as the complexity of socio-technical systems.
The second case study describes research and exploration of how digital media can support education and therapy for children with special needs in day-care centers. Students conducted observation as a basis for the development of an educational prototype situation with digital media. This was tested with one specific child, in an action research based method; observations were discussed with day-care center staff as well as in class.
Implications: These forms of inquiry-based learning offer opportunities for combining theoretical, analytical and practical learning situated in praxis and clarify the interrelatedness of technology, management, structural organisation, education, communication, data privacy risks and legal issues. They reduce risks of on taking an instrumental perspective of technology implementation in social welfare and inspire interdisciplinary thinking. Main challenges are the complexity of topics involved as well as the complexity of skills and knowledge needed about technology and qualitative research.




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