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Abstracts of Volume 25 (1-2) (3) (4) of the Journal of Technology in Human Services

Volume 25 (4) General Issue

Mapping Service Networks by Peter S. Hovmand, Melissa Jonson-Reid, and Brett Drake


KEYWORDS: service networks, system dynamics, child welfare, juvenile delinquency


ABSTRACT:  Most social work services rely on networks of referrals, yet tools for accessing and utilizing information technology across agencies is unavailable.  This puts decision makers at a disadvantage when it comes to program evaluation, planning, and policy design.  In this paper, we describe state-transition analysis (STA) as a set of techniques for mapping service networks across multiple agency databases.  We then demonstrate the application of STA to a child welfare longitudinal dataset (N=3,883 children) spanning 18 different types of services.  The results include a simplified map of the service network from child welfare to juvenile justice, and an improved Cox regression model based on the service network map.  Implications for information technology and knowledge management applications spanning multiple agencies and evidence-based practice are discussed. 


Usability Study of a Distance Continuing Education Website for Human Service Professionals by Joanne Levine & Barbara Chaparro


KEYWORDS: website usability, distance continuing education, human services website, website usability testing, website design


ABSTRACT: A usability test of a distance continuing education website for human        service professionals is discussed. The website’s purpose was to help meet the continuing education needs of human service professionals in a largely rural Midwestern state.  The purpose of the usability evaluation was to assess the website’s ease-of-use, efficiency, and user satisfaction in a representative sample of human service professionals. Users completed eleven basic search tasks with the site and report their impressions of the information presented. In addition, performance data including success, time on task, and efficiency were gathered. Implications of user satisfaction and performance data highlight the importance of stakeholder’s involvement in the early stages of website design.


 SEQ CHAPTER \h \r 1Using Client Information Systems in Practice Settings: Factors Affecting Social Workers’ Use of Information Systems by Terry E. Carrilio


KEYWORDS:  information systems, effectiveness, attitudes towards data


ABSTRACT:  There is increasing pressure on social service agencies to produce ‘results’, and often agency computer information systems are associated with efforts to do so. The current study explores worker characteristics that may interact with organizational factors in influencing data system utilization. A survey of 245 community social workers serving as field instructors was conducted. Worker skill and experience with computers accounted for a large part of the variance on the utilization of information systems followed by the user-friendliness of the system and the workers’ beliefs that data are useful in their work. The findings suggest that organizations seeking to increase worker utilization of information systems will need to focus on enhancing worker’s computer skills as well as assuring that the information is easy to use and is perceived as useful by workers.


Facilitating online learning communities: A comparison of two discussion facilitation techniques by Mary E. Hylton


KEYWORDS: Internet, online instruction, web-based courses, distance education


ABSTRACT:  The advent of the twenty-first century has brought a proliferation of web-based courses in higher education. While prior studies have examined the comparability of online and traditional courses, a better understanding of effective pedagogical strategies to enhance online learning is needed. This study compared two distinct approaches to facilitating discussions in relation to participation rates, interaction patterns, depth of cognitive processing, and learning outcomes in two sections of an online course. Significant differences were found between sections (N=41) in the frequency and types of interaction among students as well as in learning outcomes.


Wherefore Wikis? By Dale Fitch


KEYWORDS: wiki, organizational memory, knowledge management, explicit & tacit knowledge


ABSTRACT: This report outlines the components of wiki technology and its possible applications in the human services. Wikis have the potential to manage the detailed internal and external information and knowledge that is ubiquitous in the human services. For example, a wiki would be an ideal tool to store the knowledge of how things actually work in agencies with high staff turnover or many retiring of baby boomers.  Wikis offer the opportunity for veteran staff to disseminate their expertise by hyperlinking knowledge about a certain operation to other operations or procedures. Furthermore, since wikis can be updated by all users, the knowledge can be easily and instantly updated as the human services environment changes.  Wikis also offer the capacity to track and manage user changes.  The report describes a specific external wiki application for capturing and disseminating community referral information.

Volume 25 (3) General Issue

The scope and future trends of gerontechnology: Consumers’ opinions and literature survey by Jiska Cohen-Mansfield and James Biddison


KEYWORDS: gerontechnology, elderly persons, activities of daily living


ABSTRACT: This paper reviews the advances in gerontechnology and describes determinants of interest levels in new technologies among older persons and their caregivers.  The first section presents a literature review of new technologies.  We then examine the result of two focus groups we conducted on technology, one with elderly people living in an independent living apartment building, and one with caregivers in a special care unit.  Focus group results revealed that the elderly participants had mixed attitudes towards technology, although most participants had interest in specific technologies for everyday use.  Caregivers were similarly interested in specific types of technology, especially to assist with activities of daily living.  Finally, barriers to use of technology are described and include lack of interest, need for training and consumer assistance, and design problems.  We conclude that more attention needs to be paid to the tailoring of technology to the preferences of this older age group.


Agency-Based Social Worker’s Attitudes and Behaviors Regarding Service-Related Unsolicited Email by Jerry Finn and Judy Krysik


KEYWORDS: email, unsolicited email, ethics, information technology, policy


ABSTRACT: A survey of 470 social workers in 17 agencies in central Pennsylvania explored attitudes and behaviors related to receiving unsolicited email (UE). Results found that receiving unsolicited email is not an uncommon occurrence, with more than one half of social workers receiving UE from strangers and one in six receiving UE from consumers. Social workers differed in their responses to unsolicited email, with approximately three-fourths answering UE from consumers and one-fourth answering UE from strangers. Responses to UE were related to individual attitudes as well as to agency policy. There is considerable variation in agency policy and only 60% of the social workers in this study knew whether their agency had an email policy and only 15% knew if the policy included UE. Implications for agency policy and further research are discussed.


Personality and Gender as Predictors of Online Counseling Use by  Jack Y. Tsan & Susan X Day


KEYWORDS.  Telehealth, computer mediated counseling, Internet, online counseling, help seeking behavior, personality, gender


ABSTRACT:  Extraversion, neuroticism, and gender as predictors of online counseling help-seeking behavior were investigated.  One-hundred-seventy-six college student participants, 30 men and 146 women, were given the NEO-PI R and ATSPPH-S that assessed, respectively, their personalities and attitudes toward seeking professional psychological help through different modes: traditional face-to-face counseling, video conferencing, e-mail, instant text message, and microphone.  Results were analyzed using MANOVA and MANCOVA.  Subjects were grouped by scores on personality variables: low, medium, and high.  Findings suggest that attitudes toward different modes of seeking counseling were associated primarily with gender and extraversion but not with neuroticism.


An Alternative Database Table Design by Dale Fitch and Jason Shaffer


KEYWORDS: database table design, normalization, user interface


ABSTRACT: Social workers oftentimes experience a disconnect between the work they do and how that work is captured by agency databases. The database design described in this article attempts to remedy some of those issues--specifically, having to enter identical client information more than one time, not having a way to capture complex family relationships, and not having a way to capture evolving client relationships over time--while being mindful of ideal database design principles, particularly the concept of database normalization. This alternative design grew out of an ongoing research project and is discussed within the context of one of the involved agencies.  


Developing a Virtual Community to Prevent Teen Substance Abuse:  Lessons Learned by Dick Schoech


KEYWORDS:  Virtual community, computers, games, online exercises, substance abuse prevention


ABSTRACT:  SubstanceAbusePrevention.org, a virtual Community, is a 3.5 year project initially funded by the US Department of Commerce, Technology Opportunity Program.  Its purpose was, “to determine what proven components of substance abuse prevention in ‘real’ communities can be effectively transferred into ‘virtual’ communities.”  Teens in drug treatment helped university researchers translate resiliency-based prevention practices into a web site that would appeal to their peers.  The twenty-four strategies tested fall in the categories of prevention exercises, games, multimedia, and information.  This article describes the development process along with the lessons learned and future directions.  The information is useful for those wanting to design and develop interactive web sites that address human service problems. 

Volume 25 (1&2) Papers from HUSITA7

Preface by CK Law


Object lessons: a ‘learning object’ approach to e-learning for social work education by Neil Ballantyne


KEYWORDS. e-learning, learning objects, digital repositories, web-based learning


ABSTRACT.  Learning objects are bite-sized digital learning resources designed to tackle the e-learning adoption problem by virtue of their scale, adaptability, and interoperability. The learning object approach advocates the creation of small e-learning resources rather than whole courses: resources that can be mixed and matched; used in a traditional or online learning environment; and adapted for reuse in other discipline areas and in other countries. Storing learning objects within a subject specific digital repository to enable search, discovery, sharing and use adds considerable value to the model. This paper explores the rationale for a learning object approach to e-learning and reflects on early experiences in developing a national learning object repository for social work education in Scotland.


Pedagogical and Policy Challenges in Implementing E-learning in Social Work Education by Alan J. Knowles


KEYWORDS. Online learning, social work education, technology integration, implementation framework, program and policy development.


ABSTRACT. This paper provides a summary of the findings from in depth interviews with thirty social work educators and administrators involved in developing and offering e-learning in their programs in Canada. Using qualitative data analysis four interrelated categories were developed: Professional Challenges, Pedagogical Challenges, Faculty Challenges and Administrative Challenges. A large number of issues were identified in each of these categories. Six themes emerged from the study. These themes form a two-part framework for examining policy issues and implementation tasks. The findings have pedagogical and policy implications for social work educators who are implementing e-learning in their programs.


The relationship between technology content in a Masters of Social Work curriculum and technology use in social work practice: A Qualitative Research Study by Eric Youn


KEYWORDS.  Technology, Education, Curriculum, Field Work, Students


ABSTRACTIn the past several years, Masters of Social Work (MSW) programs around the nation (USA) have been adding technology courses to their curriculums, suggesting the need for more technology education in MSW programs. Literature reviews of attitudes of social work faculty and social workers indicate a historic trend of resistance to use of technology in the field.   In order to better understand the purpose of technology content in MSW curriculums and how it relates to social workers’ use of technology in the field, this research project does a qualitative study among faculty and MSW graduates working at local human service agencies to answer the following exploratory research questions:  1) What is the technology content of an MSW Curriculum? 2) What is the purpose of the technology content in an MSW Curriculum? 3) What is the amount of technology use in human service agencies by MSWs? 4) When MSWs first come to human service agencies, do they have the technological competence needed?  5) What skills are they lacking (if any?) This exploratory study used three series of interviews and a syllabi and job description review in its methodology.  The first set of interviews was with human service agency administrators that hire MSWs.  The second set of interviews was with human service agency staff members who graduated with an MSW degree.  The third set of interviews was with select faculty members in order to find out what the technology content and purpose is for MSWs.   Syllabi from technology classes were analyzed.  Job application descriptions from human service offices were also analyzed.  To ensure the validity of the data, interviews with all sets of interviewees were tape-recorded. 


Lessons Learned in Chat Room Teaching Internationally by WONG, Yu Cheung and Dick Schoech


KEYWORDS. Online education, chat room teaching, cross-cultural teaching online, multinational teaching


ABSTRACT. Web-based teaching opens new opportunities for international collaboration in offering courses to students. It also allows students to attend courses offered by teachers situating outside their own country. This is especially beneficial for students residing in developing countries. They can be exposed to teachers in overseas countries without traveling long distances and spending large amount of money. Part-time students might find web-based courses fitting their tight schedule even better. This paper presents the lessons learned from one such course offered by instructors located in Texas and Hong Kong titled “Information and Communication Technology for Social Service Organizations” to students residing in Shanghai studying in a collaborative Master of Social Service Management Programme (MSSM) between HKU and Fudan U. The course has been offered twice in the past two years (2002-03 and 2003-04) using an Internet-based class chat room supported by tools such as internet phone, web cam, and course website. This paper presents a literature review and a discussion of learning outcomes followed by the experiences of the instructors and students using a lessons learned format.  The final section presents an analysis of student papers to help understand the current situation of human services information and communication technology (ICT) in Mainland China.  For a more thorough discussion of the course, evaluative data from the first offering, and the cultural issues involved, see Wong and Schoech (Wong & Schoech, 2005).


The Forgotten Dimension in Learning: Incorporating Emotion into Web-Based Education by Robert J. MacFadden


KEYWORDS. Online learning, web-based education, emotions, affect, learners’ perceptions


ABSTRACT. This paper explores the neglected role of emotion in education and particularly of emotion in online education. It presents some historical considerations concerning emotion, and some recent findings on brain research, emotion and learning. A CEO model that incorporates consideration of emotion in web-based education is presented along with recent findings from an e-focus group that asked participants who had just completed a web-based course, about their perceptions of emotions in online education. It concludes with a summary of early findings and suggestions for those developing and conducting web-based courses on how to incorporate emotions into web-based learning.


Including Indigenous Knowledge in Web-Based Learning by Gary C. Dumbrill and Jacquie Rice Green


KEYWORDS. Web-based learning, colonization, Indigenous knowledge, anti-racism


ABSTRACT. This paper explores differences between Indigenous knowledge and Western/European ways of knowing, and considers the pedagogical implications for Web-based learning.  Moving beyond a simple examination of the nature of Indigenous knowledge, this paper explores ways that “education” has been used by colonizers to subjugate Aboriginal peoples. Outlining ways to avoid colonization, this paper contends that rather than simply being sensitive to the nature of Indigenous knowledge when designing Web-based education, instructors need to be sensitive to ways Western/European knowledge subjugates other forms of knowledge by situating itself as “the” way of knowing rather than “a” way of knowing.


Web CT – an administrative tool by Bruce D. Friedman


KEWORDS:  Web CT, Course delivery system, online course management system


ABSTRACT.  Web CT (Web Course Tools) is a leading software of integrated e-learning systems for higher education.  It was designed as a tool to enhance classroom teaching and learning but the question is could it be used for other purposes? When a breakdown of department communications occurred, other interventive strategies were developed that included Web CT to improve communication strategies.  Utilizing the same criteria to enhance classroom teaching was used to promote intradepartmental communications and cooperation.  Results of this experiment were mixed but not a reflection from the use of the software as a tool, rather from resistance to its use.  Web CT proved to be a good tool for improved management and communications.  In addition, other management applications for the software also emerged.


The Use of Information Technology to enhance the Quality of Teaching and Learning in Social Work Practicum: An Example from the City University of Hong Kong by Tak-yan LEE


KEYWORDS.  Practicum, Assessment, Practice Teaching and Learning, Web CT


ABSTRACT.  One of the thorny issues in social work practicum training is how to maintain fairness in assessment. To address this issue, a grade moderation system was set up. Digital practicum portfolios and on-line assessment were used through the Web CT platform. Two amendments were made: (1) password control to protect access rights and privacy; (2) assessment data transfer through Common Gateway Interface (CGI) to conduct automatic descriptive statistical analysis for monitoring possible deviations from the grading standard. A feedback system was built to enhance the quality of teaching using students’ survey data. To promote the quality of learning in this individualized teaching mode, the Social Work Practice Teaching, Learning, and Research.


The Reality of Social Inclusion through Digital Government by Mehdi Asgarkhani


KEYWORDS.  Electronic government, social inclusion, digital inclusion, digital divide, digital service delivery, effectiveness


ABSTRACT.  Over the past few years, there has been much debate over the effectiveness of digital government. This paper addresses the strategic value and the effectiveness of digital government where it concerns enhancing citizen participation and social inclusion. It involves examining four specific facets of “effectiveness” - including: the view of management and ICT strategists; social and cultural implications; the implications of digital inclusion/exclusion and e-readiness upon social inclusion; and the citizens’ view of the success of digital government in enhancing public access to information and transparency - based on a pilot study of digital government initiatives by local government in New Zealand.


Redefining Assistive Technology, Accessibility and Disability Based on Recent Technical Advances by Gregg Vanderheiden


KEYWORDS.  Accessibility, future, Interface, assistive technology, disability 


ABSTRACT. Recent advances in information technology, networking and interface research have provided new tools, which will allow us to completely redefine the concept of interface. Rather than just being able to use the interface that comes with a product, we can now predict interfaces that adapt themselves to the user, and the ability to use alternate interfaces and devices in lieu of the interface that ships with the product. Also, since accessibility is essentially a human interface issue, the entire area of disability access, including the definition of accessibility and of assistive technology will need to be rethought as will the strategies that have been used in the past to create access. These concepts will not go away, but their character will change substantially as well as their potential. Note:  This paper is based on a Keynote speech delivered at the HUSITA7 Conference which was held in Hong Kong, August 2004


Investigating the Role of Internet Self-efficacy in the Elderly’s Learning of ICT in Hong Kong, China: A Two-part Study by

Jolie Lam  and Mathew K. O. Lee


KEYWORDS. Digital inclusive society, digital divide, digital inclusion, internet self-efficacy, usage intention

ABSTRACT.  This paper discusses the role of Internet self-efficacy and outcome expectations in the elderly’s usage of the Internet through a two-part study.  The researchers conducted this study by collaborating with three non-government organizations (NGOs) for which funding was received from one government unit and a large local charitable organization.  A new theoretical model was developed to examine the influence of Internet self-efficacy and outcome expectations on usage intention and perceived user competence.  Behavioral modeling training courses were offered to matured adults aged 50 and above in two separate studies over a year.  Questionnaire surveys and cognitive knowledge assessments were conducted.  In general, the findings in the two studies validated the impacts of Internet self-efficacy and outcome expectations on usage intention.  Limitations and implications of this study are discussed.


Web-based Disability Information Resource in Japan by Iwao Kobayashi


KEYWORDS.  WWW, Internet, disability


ABSTRACT.  In this paper, the author reported information regarding a Japanese website which was named "SenSui". It was established in 1995 and has been managed since then to provide Japanese disability information to Japanese and other global citizens in a bilingual form. Results of the access to the site, e-mail consultation, and collaboration with other web-master and researchers for about 10 years showed the effectiveness of the site, especially the importance of interactive and worldwide exchange of disability-related information.


Knowledge Management in Social Work – Towards a Conceptual Framework by Zeno C. S. Leung


KEYWORDS: Knowledge management, social work knowledge


ABSTRACT. Knowledge management (KM) is receiving increasing attention in the human services such as social work. Social service organizations have started to use information and communication technology for knowledge management purposes with the aim of improving service efficiency and effectiveness. Existing KM studies, particularly in the commercial or industrial sectors, mainly focus on the reductionistic “knowledge-as-object” view, while other perspectives such as “knowledge-as-process” are less discussed. This paper argues that these mainstream conceptions of knowledge in KM do not fully fit with that of social work knowledge, and that a spectrum view may be more useful for future practice and inquiry in the area.


Sanyog: A Speech Enabled Communication System for the Speech Impaired and People with Multiple Disorders by Samit Bhattacharya, Sudeshna Sarkar, Anupam Basu


KEYWORDS. Augmentative Communication, Iconic Communication, Natural Language Generation, Indian Languages, Text to Speech


ABSTRACT. The paper presents a multi-lingual communication tool that has been designed for helping in the communication needs of people with Severe Speech and Multiple Disorders. The system accepts icons, selected through special access switches, as input and can form natural language sentences, which can be spoken out using in-built text to speech synthesizer. The system has been deployed and is being field tested at the schools for the children with cerebral palsy in India.