Technology and Entrepreneurship in Social Work

After helplessly watching her sister try to navigate the international adoption process, Felicia Curcuru launched Binti in an effort to reinvent foster care and adoption. Since the launch of the company in 2017, Binti has expanded its network to over 190 agencies across 26 states in the U.S. The software Binti creates helps social workers and others who work in foster care to effectively approve 80% more families and decrease their administrative burden by up to 40%.

Jimmy Chen, a Stanford graduate and the son of struggling immigrants from China, created Propel in 2014 after noticing that Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) recipients needed to call a 16-digit phone number to check their balance. In order to check their balances, some of the recipients would resort to strategies such as buying cheap items such as bananas. Currently, the Propel app helps 5 million households who are eligible for SNAP benefits to manage their finances!

Besides using technology and entrepreneurship to transform human service systems, what do these companies have in common? They were not started by social workers.

Technology and Entrepreneurship in Social Work

Technology and entrepreneurship have and will continue to transform our profession. But social workers have stayed on the sidelines of this creative process for too long. If we are to be successful in effectively disseminating our incredible values and pushing forth the mission of social work, social workers must play a more direct role in embracing the movements of technology and entrepreneurship.

This is not a new concept. Research articles on technology and entrepreneurship in social work have been published for years, and the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) has published reports on technology in social work. Furthermore, universities such as Columbia University in New York have embraced the movement, and have created a minor for social workers called “Emerging Technology, Media, and Society,” which trains social workers to understand the latest developments in the world of technology. Finally, thousands of social workers operate their own private practices and embrace the benefits of entrepreneurial practices.

This slow, yet continuous shift towards technology and entrepreneurship is important, but it must be accelerated. The question still remains: how do we enable social workers to embrace the power behind technology and entrepreneurship? Here are some ideas:

Enabling Social Workers to Embrace Technology and Entrepreneurship

First and foremost, social work curricula must embrace technology and entrepreneurship. The curricula must incorporate mandatory courses on technology and entrepreneurship, and these courses should be taught by experts in these fields.

Social work departments must enable field placements for social workers in technology or startup environments. By being a part of successful organizations in these spaces, social work students can be exposed to this type of thinking and be inspired by the possibilities!

Social workers themselves must take time to explore and learn about these fields. Although it is difficult enough to maintain our mental health while managing our caseloads, we can utilize the time we spend on webinars or Continuing Education Units (CEUs) to take classes in technology and entrepreneurship.

Social workers can become intrapreneurs, or employees that create new projects from within organizations and businesses. For example, during my time at a community mental health organization, I helped launch a social media channel for the organization’s therapists, which allowed us to feel more connected, share resources, and learn from one another.

Moving Forward

As social workers, we uphold an ethical code that enables us to represent the most marginalized members of our society. But we can only do this effectively by embracing the intersection between technology, entrepreneurship, and social work. Although there is no silver-bullet answer, we can help social workers gain entrepreneurial and technological skills by broadening the education available to social work students and ourselves so that we can all better understand the possibilities that are out there.

The Digital Divide is a Human Rights Issue

The COVID-19 pandemic shed a glaring light on the important role that technology and access to high-speed internet play our lives. You would not be able to read this story without an internet connection and a device to read it on. How would you communicate with loved ones, do your homework or pay your bills without broadband?

Cynthia K. Sanders, associate professor and online program director in the College of Social Work, is the lead author of an article published in the Journal of Human Rights and Social Work that argues access to high-speed internet, or broadband, is a human rights and social justice issue. Lack of access disproportionately impacts low-income, People of Color, seniors, Native Americans and rural residents. Sanders joined the University of Utah in July 2021.

“Much of my work is around financial, social or political inclusion,” said Sanders. “The digital divide certainly represents a lack of social inclusion because there are so many things associated with access to broadband in terms of how we think about our daily lives and opportunities, especially highlighted by the pandemic. It creates a clear social exclusion situation.”

At least 20 million Americans do not have access to broadband, according to the Federal Communications Commission. Some estimates are as high as 162 million, said Sanders. While there are federal funds allocated toward addressing access to broadband internet, Sanders and her co-author, Edward Scanlon from the University of Kansas, argue the digital divide must be viewed as more than a policy or infrastructure issue.

“When we know that the people who don’t have it are already disadvantaged in many ways, it should also be viewed as a human rights and social justice issue,” said Sanders. “And it’s also about more than just whether broadband is available in certain areas. Even if it is available, not everyone can afford it or devices available to access it. If they do have the devices or can pay for it, they may not have the digital literacy skillset to effectively use technology and broadband for many of the opportunities it provides like applying for jobs, furthering one’s education, accessing health care or medical records and staying in touch with friends and family.”

In order to reduce the digital divide, Sanders said there are community-based, grassroots initiatives that can serve as excellent models—including one here in Utah.

“The Murray School District used some federal funds to create their own long-term evolution network (LTE) and that’s something no other district in the nation has done,” said Sanders. “It’s a great example and something we can learn from in the absence of a more national strategy.”

The authors also urge social workers to get involved through policy advocacy, coalition building and program development around initiatives such as low-cost broadband, low-cost devices and creating digital literacy programs.

“From a social work perspective, we need to be part of this discussion around ways to help close the digital divide for particularly marginalized groups,” said Sanders. “We can be involved in lobbying and working with legislators and policymakers to educate about the digital divide, who it impacts and the funding needed for some of these grassroots initiatives that can truly impact peoples’ daily lives.”

What We Learned from the IIA’s Webinar on Broadband Affordability

On Monday, September 13th, the Internet Innovation Alliance (IIA) held a webinar entitled Deleting the Broadband Affordability Divide: A Virtual Chat with FCC Acting Chair Rosenworcel. The event was headlined by a discussion between FCC Acting Chair Jessica Rosenworcel and IIA Co-Chair Kim Keenan and featured a star-studded cast of accomplished women, including:

  • Joi Chaney, Executive Director of National Urban League’s Washington Bureau and Senior Vice President for Policy and Advocacy
  • Dr. Dominique Harrison, Director of Technology Policy for the Joint Center
  • Rosa Mendoza, Founder, President and CEO of ALLvanza

The goal of this event was to discuss the FCC’s Emergency Broadband Benefit (EBB) Program’s success thus far, what challenges remain, and ultimately, how the federal government and other actors are fairing in addressing the digital divide in the United States. In the following, we’ll take a look at the key takeaways and information shared in the webinar and assess the current status of the EBB Program in America. But before we do that, we must understand the context and why such initiatives are vitally important.

The Digital Divide

The digital divide has essentially been around ever since the World Wide Web emerged some 30 years ago. The problem has been widely known for decades, but action has largely remained stagnant. The issue started to gain more traction in the last ten years as much of everyday life transitioned to or became intertwined with the digital world. It became clear that Americans across the country were being left behind. Initial policy efforts focused chiefly on accessibility and availability, but we know now that the real issue lies with broadband adoption, i.e., affordability of broadband access.

Following the outbreak of COVID-19 and the vast reliance on the digital world that has followed, it became utterly apparent how strong the digital divide is and how essential it was to ensure no one is left behind. A third of American households have worried about paying their broadband bills during the pandemic. COVID-19 also made it clear how substantial the gap is in broadband availability for under-served communities, with just 71% of African American adults having broadband access. Compared to 65% for Hispanic adults and 80% for White adults.

Given these apparent gaps and severe consequences at hand following COVID-19, the FCC enacted the Emergency Broadband Benefit (EBB) Program to address this critical issue before it’s far too late.

The Importance of the Webinar

Despite the initiative at the federal level from the FCC, such programs cannot succeed on their own. That’s where organizations and coalitions like the Internet Innovation Alliance (IIA) come in. The IIA is a coalition that has supported broadband availability and access for all Americans for the last 17 years. They hosted this webinar intending to increase awareness behind the EBB Program and the work that remains to be done. Given the problems that COVID-19 has so clearly illuminated regarding broadband connections, it was essential to keep the momentum building on the EBB Program. And that’s precisely what the IIA webinar achieved. With that being said, let’s look at what the EBB is and what we learned about it in the webinar.

What is EBB?

The main goal of the EBB Program is to make broadband affordable to everyone and get 100% broadband access in America. It’s the most extensive broadband affordability program in our nation’s history, with initial funding from Congress set at $3.2 billion. The idea is to obviously address the affordability aspect of broadband, mainly to help lower-income households from falling behind, and thus, creating an even bigger divide in our country.

The EBB Program aims to keep those online struggling to afford it and help get those online who haven’t been before. EBB provides up to $50 a month to families who qualify, and that number goes up to $75 a month on tribal lands. The Program also works closely with providers to offer discounts on tablets and laptops. Five and a half million households have signed up thus far. But as FCC Acting Chair Rosenworcel mentioned, this is just the beginning.

Many households qualify but have yet to reap the benefits, and a big reason behind that is a lack of trust. Unsurprisingly, many Americans are reluctant to trust a new federally-run program automatically, so is the case with EBB. To counter this, the FCC has utilized more than 33,000 partners around the world to help them. Whether massive organizations or small, local groups, the FCC has entrusted their partners to help facilitate the Program and make the community connections needed for it to work.

With that being said, let’s look at some of the key takeaways from the IIA webinar.

Key Takeaways

As mentioned previously, perhaps the most significant barriers to success for the EBB Program are trust and reach. However, the FCC has held over 300 events around the country and has worked with other federal agencies and even the National Football League (NFL) to help further the Program. Even so, it’s the local actors, communities, and leaders that’ll make all the difference. In Baltimore, for example, a city impeded by this issue perhaps more than any other, there are local organizations going door to door to spread the word, and the mayor fully supports the Program. The FCC hopes for more of the same in urban areas around the country, which struggle more with broadband connection than previously imagined.

The FCC has even created a detailed yet straightforward outreach toolkit to help local actors get the message out to assist in such community endeavors. The toolkit is available in 13 different languages to ensure messaging is as effective as possible. They also have a mobile-friendly app which has helped a lot of people get started in the Program.

The most important takeaway from the IIA webinar is that this Program’s success will depend heavily on local communities.

Closing Statements

The IIA webinar made it clear that we can be hopeful about addressing the digital divide. This strong group of women, headlined by the confident and passionate Rosenworcel, are highly dedicated to this Program and evening the playing field around the country. There’s no doubt work remains to be done, but the Program is progressing steadily nonetheless. Let’s tackle this problem together to ensure no one is left behind.

Gaming in the Classroom to Boost Engagement

Creating engaging lessons and activities for learning is no easy task. With today’s technology, the Gen Z group has access to the most realistic and stimulating gaming graphics, digital art programs, and communication platforms. Their familiarity and use of technology is practically innate. Therefore, it is no wonder that holding students’ attention in the classroom has become more and more of a challenge—compared to the allure of the glowing screens, our books and assignments do not hold a candle to their preferred methods of entertainment. So, one way for educators to look at it is: If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em!

Ideas for the English, History, & World Languages Classrooms

Create an Engaging Bracket

Consider taking a page from the NCAA and create a March Madness-inspired bracket to lure your students into the current novel, play, or works of poetry. This can work in several different ways. Teachers can have students rank their favorite texts, readings, or chapters from the unit. Then use Google forms to see which work progresses to the next round based on class votes. Students can also make predictions about which characters will come out on top at the end of a tragedy, conflict, or quest. This type of bracket works especially well during a Shakespeare unit and/or when teaching students about various battles during The Civil War, WWI, WWII, etc. The key for engagement is to hype up the bracket to get students invested—consider an Elite Eight winner, Final Four winner, Championship winner with school-related prizes. Teachers should also think about either creating a giant visual bracket on the classroom wall or a website for digital class brackets.

Utilize Simulations or Digital Recreation Technology

For tech-savvy social studies students, challenge them to create a digital recreation or simulation of specific historical events. For example, instead of making a typical timeline, students might choose to show Germany’s progression across Europe with a visual map simulating territory takeover. Similarly, using video programming, students can act out various historical events and arrange or splice the clips with background music, captions, historical photographs, or Google Slides. With these projects, they’re putting their technology expertise to great use while demonstrating their knowledge of the event and/or time period.

Use Social Media to Your Advantage

Students are all about their social media presence right now, so how about utilizing those platforms to demonstrate their knowledge of a major historical figure, author, or literary character. There are hundreds of websites available for classroom use involving fake Instagram templates, Tiktok videos, and pretend Linkedin pages. While these aren’t exactly games, the use of such platforms can be equally engaging for students.

Some ideas include creating a Spotify playlist for a specific character or historical figure. Songs should represent key quotes or important aspects of the person’s life. Recently, a student of mine did a fabulous “Desdemona’s Breakup” playlist using Spotify to write an alternate ending for Shakespeare’s Othello. I’ve also found that mock-dating profile templates can be a great, creative option for students to demonstrate their understanding of a character. Teacherspayteachers.com offers a free “Fiction Mingle” template for this exact purpose!

What About Escape Rooms?

Another engaging activity stems from the ever-popular escape rooms. Students with experience using gaming simulation and other digital animation programs can create and share virtual escape rooms with other students as a way to review foreign language terms and vocabulary. There are numerous websites, apps, and even options for using Google Forms to create digital escape rooms for the classroom. Teachers can create various levels of escape rooms to challenge students based on skill set, level of difficulty, and individual or collaborative groups.

Ideas for Math and Sciences Classrooms

Matific

For many students, learning new math concepts can be especially difficult over Zoom in today’s virtual learning setup. In the classroom, children have manipulatives, hands-on exemplars, one-to-one, and in–person responses from their teachers. However, in the online environment with just the screen and 30 other students, it is often daunting to engage and grasp mathematical concepts. Teachers can use technology to their advantage, however, by prompting children to practice new skills using interactive games offered on various different platforms.

Matific is one exceptional option for students in grades K-6. The website offers tutorials, called episodes, where students can interactively learn about and work through new math concepts and skills. There are also worksheets (which look more like video games than actual worksheets) where students can practice skills using visuals, animations, and feedback/support in real-time. In addition to the various lessons, students can try their hands at multi-step word problems and workshops that are self-paced.

Investment/ Money Management Platforms

For older, more advanced math courses, teachers can utilize principles of investing, money management, and the stock market to get kids engaged. Online resources and platforms such as The Stock Market Game, Student Stock Trader, and How The Market Works allow for safe exploration of the world of global finance using apps, animations, and simulations.

ST Math

Another resource called ST Math, short for the spatial-temporal approach, is based entirely on the idea that visual learning, whether on a screen or in person, is the critical foundation for developing mathematical skills. This program can be used as a supplement to on-level learning, or it can act as an intervention program to provide students with the extra support that they need. Students view and review materials at their own pace through interactive resources, such as videos, demonstrations, animations, and real-world applicable practices.

National Geographic

National Geographic is another great way to introduce students to engaging, educational, online content. While it’s not exactly a gaming platform, Nat Geo Education can provide teachers with a multitude of classroom resources, student learning experiences, photos, videos, interviews, and more. National Geographic’s Explorer Classroom also streams live, student-centered workshops every week for children and teens. The live events involve interviews with animal specialists and scientists, tours of various habitats, overviews of conservation efforts, information about wildlife photography, real–life treasure hunts, and demonstrations of wilderness skills, etc—the list truly goes on and on. The other great thing about Nat Geo’s Explorer Classroom live events is that they can offer streaming in Spanish and American Sign Language as well.

In a time dominated by the digital world and technology, it only seems right that teachers begin to use it to their advantage. With each new generation, we can expect technology to be a bigger part of life, learning, and overall functioning. And like I said at the beginning, If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em!

A 10-Year-Old Girl in Kenya Learns Coding in Milwaukee–Virtually.

The pandemic and a year of virtual schooling had an unexpected benefit for a little girl in Kenya who connected with Girls Who Code at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

“I use the computer for school, and I wanted to understand more about how they work,” said Elsie Maingi, who is 10 years old and lives in Nairobi.

However, computer classes in Kenya were geared to high school students and business people and were usually quite expensive, said her mother, Lilian Wangechi.

So in the fall of 2020, they turned to Google and found the free Girls Who Code program at UWM. Because of the time difference, Elsie got up at 2 a.m. for every class during that semester and the spring 2021 semester.

Encouraging young women

The national Girls Who Code program encourages young women of middle and high school age to get involved with computer sciences, according to Christine Cheng, an associate professor of computer science who launched UWM’s program in 2016.

“When we knew we were going to be online in the fall of 2020, it was a blessing in disguise because it allowed many people who were not living near UWM to attend classes,” she said, “but Elsie was the only one from a different country.”

Sammie Omranian, a graduate student and teaching assistant who manages UWM’s program, said she was amazed at Elsie’s persistence. “It was so surprising for me. I knew that she was from Kenya, but never thought about the time difference until her teacher, Anahita, told me.”

Anahita Qashqai, a graduate student who is one of the program’s teachers, also encouraged Elsie to overcome her shyness about using her English. Qashqai told her that English was also her second language since she grew up speaking Farsi. Another student piped up that her first language was Spanish. By the next class, Elsie had turned on the camera, unmuted, and was chatting away with her new friends and classmates from across the world.

“After that she felt more involved and engaged,” Omranian said. After falling a little behind for the first session because of the language concerns, Elsie quickly caught up. “Elsie was the only student who completed everything 100%,” Omranian said.

‘Awe for the amazing opportunity’

When the second class finished in the spring of 2021, Omranian sent Elsie the certificate and tote bag that all the students received. It took a few months to get to Kenya, but Elsie and her mom were so excited to get it that they sent a photo and a thank-you note.

“Today Elsie received her certificate from GWC and I can tell that it’s one of her best days,” Wangechi wrote in an email to Omranian. “I look back at the year 2020 and am at awe for the amazing opportunity my daughter got at your program. She had always wanted to understand how computers work and her dream came true.”

The UWM program was the perfect answer to their needs, she added, with the only requirements being an internet connection and the ability to go to class early in the morning.

“The program has opened a new frontier for Elsie that is boundless and she knows that her wildest dreams can come true. This is an experience as a parent that I could never have replicated,” Wangechi wrote. “We say AHSANTE (THANK YOU) to everyone who made this possible – the tutors, program coordinators and the donors.”

What is Girls Who Code?

Girls Who Code is a national program designed to encourage young women to enter computer sciences and other STEM fields.

In 1995, 37% of computer scientists were women. Today, it’s only 24%, according to Christine Cheng, an associate professor of computer science who launched UWM’s Girls Who Code program in 2016. The percentage will continue to decline if we do nothing, she told NPR station WUWM in an interview. “We know that the biggest drop-off of girls in computer science is between the ages of 13 and 17.”

UWM’s program attracts between 50 to 60 girls each semester, and offers three levels, depending on the students’ previous experience. The program is open to young women in middle and high school, though the majority are middle school age.

Graduate students in computer science and engineering are the teachers, along with some volunteers. Several young women who have competed the program have returned as volunteers, Cheng said.

While the program hasn’t had the resources to do a formal assessment of its impact, organizers do hear success stories from former students and their families. Makenzie Johnson completed the program in 2019, taking classes from the middle of her sophomore year to high school graduation.

Her mother, Tanika Davis, saw the national founder of Girls Who Code on MSNBC several years ago, but there were no chapters in Wisconsin at the time. She kept checking and eventually found UWM and Marquette had started chapters.

“Makenzie has autism and ADHD, but she was always good with computers and I knew that coding would expose her to see if that was something she was interested in and would do well in. It worked out really well,” Davis said.

Makenzie is now studying IT and software development at Milwaukee Area Technical College, with an eventual goal of becoming a graphic designer. She is also part of a program called Islands of Brilliance that helps people with developmental disabilities.

“Her mentors at Girls Who Code were great and really helped her thrive,” Davis said. “She felt like she was one of the gang. It was just a wonderful, wonderful experience with a diverse group of girls.”

Emma Maertz, a former student who is coming back as a volunteer in the program, said Girls Who Code is where she explored her love for coding and the program gave her the confidence to learn more elsewhere.

“I learned the basics of HTML, CSS, and JavaScript, and dove in a little deeper into Python. Girls Who Code taught me to not give up and to debug instead – problem-solve before you abandon hope. I will forever remember my GWC experiences and am planning on volunteering this year to help out the next generation of young girls who code,” Maertz said.

For this coming fall, Cheng and Omranian have decided to offer a combination of online and in-person classes.

How Real Is Zoom Fatigue

Distance learning is now the norm, at least for the remainder of this school year and for summer school. Now that many students, teachers, and communities have somewhat adapted to this “new normal,” we find ourselves engaging with screens and virtual platforms much more than we would have ever anticipated. Cue the new symptom or side effect of our post-pandemic circumstances—Zoom fatigue.

How is this real?

While it may sound melodramatic, this new form of lethargy can be scientifically explained. Zoom fatigue, as experts are calling it, happens when our day-to-day communications, whether they be for work, learning, or leisure, exist primarily in front of a screen and/or camera. These extended conversations and engagements on screen may seem like a passive form of communication. However, video chats, no matter what the purpose, involve much more than simply sitting in front of the screen.

What causes the fatigue?

Believe it or not, the “face time” can become exhausting. Consider this: In normal social settings and conversations, we do not maintain 100% front-facing, continuous eye contact. As social beings, even when attending a lecture or work conference, we have a tendency to glance around, examine the surroundings, check in and out of the speaker’s presence, whisper to our neighbor for clarification, take notes, etc. We are actively engaged and listening attentively, even when our gaze is elsewhere.

However, with Zoom and other video conferencing platforms, the camera holds our gaze captive. Participants, with a desire to appear 100% engaged, overcompensate while on camera. Am I sitting up straight? Was that a joke? Should I be laughing? Can people see my half-eaten lunch? Are my kids screaming in the background? 

Furthermore, since we are able to see ourselves during these calls, we become acutely aware of where we are looking, how we are looking, and how others are seeing us. It becomes a very inorganic way of communicating that consumes us with this idea that we are broadcasting ourselves in some sense. It is no different for students, either.

In addition to the overwhelming sense of engagement that kids might feel compelled to present, Zoom fatigue is also caused by the multi-tasking nature that the platform affords. While semi-focusing on the teacher’s explanation or instructions, students are likely scrolling through email, responding to texts, chatting in the Zoom chat, eating a snack, and/or listening to the television in the background. This level of stimuli makes it nearly impossible for kids to be active listeners. They may be sitting in the camera frame, but their minds are elsewhere. This is especially the case when Zoom meetings run long or when students sit through multiple Zoom calls throughout the day.

Because of the tendency for students and teachers to experience Zoom fatigue while attempting instruction and learning, its use requires a bit of strategizing in order to ensure full engagement. So what are we to do? Check out part II, where we will discuss strategies for warding off Zoom fatigue. We will also provide instructors and tutors with tips for checking for and maintaining engagement throughout classes and tutoring sessions.

How to combat Zoom fatigue

  • If possible, limit Zoom meetings to 1-2 per day. If parents are finding that their children are attending Zoom meetings consistently throughout the day, it’s time to step in. As a guideline, teachers have been instructed to provide 1-2 hours of “live instruction,” aka Zoom meetings consisting of instructional content, per week. This means that I personally am “live teaching” for two, 30-minute sessions per week. If teachers follow this expectation, students will be spending more time with hands-on, experiential learning as suggested, and less time honed in on a screen or video chat.
  • Parents who notice that Zoom meetings are occurring back-to-back or for prolonged periods of time should reach out directly to teachers and copy administration if necessary.
  • Parents can also suggest that their child only spend as much time as necessary in the Zoom meeting to gain clarity, ask questions, and receive feedback.
  • Similarly, teachers should set the expectation that Zoom participation, while strongly encouraged, is not required for the entire session. This means that students should feel comfortable signing in and logging out as they please.
  • A good suggestion for teachers to make every so often during a Zoom meeting is to remind students that, if they don’t have any questions about the assignment or content being discussed, they shouldn’t feel as though they have to stay in the Zoom meeting. Keeping things fluid allows students to advocate for their needs, while ensuring that time on digital platforms is minimized when possible.
  • To spur engagement during Zoom instruction, teachers should suggest that students take free-flowing, unstructured notes while the teacher is reviewing material or answering questions. These notes, in the form of free writing, have several benefits:
    • Note-taking ensures that students are actively listening and grasping important concepts.
    • Note-taking also helps solidify important information into memory.
    • Students are able to hold themselves accountable with their notes; if the page is bare, they know that they weren’t paying attention.
    • Jotting down rough thoughts or questions during an instructional session allows students to keep track of questions that they want to ask or concepts that require more clarity.

Teachers and tutors can also encourage engagement by enlisting an old classroom technique—random calling. Just as we would in the classroom, teachers can reach out for student comments and responses throughout the session to keep students on their toes and to check for understanding.

Teachers should be sure to provide wait time for student answers and then open the question up to the group if a student falls silent. The point of random calling is to get and hold students’ attention, not to embarrass anyone or put them on the spot with a tricky question.

6 Helpful Webinars and Websites for Social Workers

At this time of uncertainty, it remains crucial that social workers are reminded of the importance of their roles in communities, legislation, and in their profession. After all, social worker employment is projected to grow 11 percent from 2018 to 2028 (Bureau of Labor Statistics, April 2020). The websites listed below are intended to support social workers and other helping professionals emotionally, intellectually, and socially. Although these websites do not offer CEU credits, they serve as valuable resources to improve practice, gain new therapeutic skills, and promote self-care.

The Dibble Institute Web Series

You probably haven’t heard of them. The Dibble Institute is a nonprofit agency that specializes in relationship training for youth. Their goal is to help young people build a foundation for healthy romantic relationships now, and for lasting, positive family environments in the future.

The Dibble Institute is currently offering a 12-Week curriculum, “Mind Matters Online Series” to help the viewer develop skills and coping mechanisms to overcome anxiety and build resilience. It is presented by Dr. Carolyn Curtis and Dixie Zittlow. The sessions are recorded, so being present live is not necessary. Be prepared to gain insight towards the self, laugh, and even dance in this series.

ADDitude Resources for ADHD and helping professionals

This hidden gem has been around since 1998. Even though ADDitude is known for their website, they have a print magazine ADDitude, weekly newsletters, live and recorded webinars, ebooks, and free downloads. The inquisitive side of you will enjoy exploring since there is so much to uncover.

You may not have heard of Bessel van der Kolk, MD. He is recognized for his research on trauma and it’s various impacts at different stages of development. As helping professionals, we could learn a thing or two from what he has to say. In his presentation, On the Global Coronavirus Crisis: Steering Ourselves and Our Clients Through New & Developing Traumas, you will learn how to create and promote connection and community in this crisis and gain activities to share with clients that keep them from re-experiencing past traumas. 

Oregon State University Cancer Institute (OHSU)

Caring for Yourself and Caring for Others During a Disaster/Epidemic OHSU Center for Ethics in Health Care is led by Susan Hedlund, LCSW, OSW-C. Susan is Director of Patient/Family Support Services at the OHSU Knight Cancer Institute. This 25-minute webinar is helpful for not just social workers and social work students, but all health care professionals seeking to manage the stress of the coronavirus pandemic.

Therapist Aid

Therapist Aid provides therapy worksheets on challenges such as anger, self-esteem, CBT, stress, and relationships. These activity worksheets can be assigned to the client as a “homework assignment” or, like most helping professionals, this can be a joint activity with the client. You can also find helpful videos on Therapist Aid to help guide your sessions or use them as a teaching tool with your clients or students.

National Association of Social Workers

Last but not least: The National Association of Social Workers (NASW). This is an obvious choice. However, the NASW is constantly releasing new information, articles, and press releases. Recently, the NASW released a document titled “Anti-racism Resources” that lists books, podcasts, articles, and films to engage in anti-racism in light of the George Floyd protests and advocacy. The NASW website has a job search engine, research library, and offers online events.

There is an endless amount of excellent websites, webinars, and articles for social workers to improve their profession and it can be overwhelming. At the end of the day, self-care also helps us improve our practice and our profession. These are resources to lean on in times like these. 

Social Distancing for Social Workers During a Global Pandemic

Social distancing has become the new urgency for different industries, sectors and corporations around the world. The creative challenge is to figure out how each of us will shape the nature of our work. Many social workers are making home visit remotely or providing therapy via video conferencing, and many in this sector are being forced to find creative ways to provide services that will benefit our clients while also allowing us to maintain our physical and emotional well-being.

This transitioning from in-person services to different forms is leading us to formulate, experience and witness new ways of creativity, resilience and persistence like what we saw with the quarantined Italians singing from their balconies.

Creativity

‘Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it, they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after a while. That’s because they were able to connect experiences they’ve had and synthesise new things’ – Steve Jobs

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

Before we connect our experiences, as he said, there is no better time than now to examine deeply what each of us have in our toolkits. What matters, now, is to consider and believe what we have, to be of significance. What we have in our toolkit is as unique as we are. So, create.

Here is my toolkit. I hope it inspires you to reflect on what you have in your toolkit to utilise it to the best. To add sparks of joy, grace and meaningfulness. Because we are in this together.

My toolkit

“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”- Nelson Mandela

Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash

1) Education

Apart from my Master’s in Social Work certificate from a University, good grades, 1000 hours of unpaid internships, and my other volunteering experiences, I consider the following to be equally significant to serve clients effectively.

2) Vision

I am curious about human potential. To unearth, cultivate and channelise it gently, thoughtfully and effectively. In ways that spread inspiration, positivity. Persevere ahead with patience and empathy for self and others.

3) The Code of Ethics (Australian Association of Social Workers)

A mandatory source of reference that provides insightful principles, responsibilities, values and guidance for social work profession. You should find and become familiar with the guiding code of ethics for your location.

4) Values and Authentic Self

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

‘What if I come across a situation in which I have to manage a caseload where my values are different than the clients I serve ?’ asked by a student to their field education supervisor.

The supervisor responded by saying never feel obligated to work against your own values. ‘One time, I was approached by a client whose values were completely different to mine with respect to the caseload. I politely directed to a different social worker within the same organisation whose values were congruent with the client.’

This is a valuable insight. It was prudent for the student to inquire and confirm before proceeding to engage with the client instead of realising it midway. The significance on having clarity of personal values can enable or inhibit being one’s authentic self while in service to clients.

5) Journaling

This is my third year of loving to journal on a consistent basis, and this practise is teaching me to pay more attention. Close attention to what’s happening within me and outside me. Sometimes it is scary. Other times, enlightening. At the same time, it is consoling. A mixed process indeed.

I deem this exercise to be not only my source of self-care but also helps me to access, name and take the time to feel my emotions and interpretations, during different life events. Going through this process, offers patience and empathy, for myself, which I can then offer to the clients who might it need the most.

Photo by David Iskander on Unsplash

6) Social Work Theories

Everything we do to serve, our clients, are underpinned by theories. We carry and transmit the essence of it, consciously or unknowingly, while we interact, advocate, direct, manage, make decisions, engage or disengage, with our clients, co-workers or managers.

Hence, utilising a post-colonial lens to read, explore, learn, think, reflect and write, social work theories, is a practise that needs to be actively encouraged within the sector, organisations, services, outreaches as well as educational institutions to provide social work services that are inclusive in nature.

This awareness is crucial because clients from diverse backgrounds will have unique perspectives as a result of emerging from cultures that have different ideologies and therefore values different from Western ideologies.

Hence, it is important for a social worker to reflect well in order identify our personal inclinations and to never impose them on clients whose perspectives could be different to us. And often, when I engage and decide to choose a theory, I ask myself these questions:

  1. Is the theory inclusive of the client’s stage of problems/ circumstance?
  2. Am I including/excluding client’s input?
  3. Considerations /possibilities of the theory that can enable or inhibit client’s aspirations/goals/circumstances.
  4. The strengths of the theory
  5. The limitations of the theory

7) Experiences

This is one profession where transferrable skills can be optimised to serve purposes of the job constructively. For instance, I learned a core insight regarding writing from journalism class as well as internship experience during my undergraduate educational phase. Regarding the 5 W’s and 1 H…What, Where, When, Why, Who and How. Social Work involves a lot of writing. Whether, it is writing case notes, assessment reports, project plans, research reports or support plans, writing is crucial. 

This awareness magnifies the significance of having a diversity of skills, educational experiences, perspectives and transferable skills in which to maximise possibilities and opportunities.

Here to create a legacy

Photo by Ian Schneider on Unsplash

“You have no idea what your legacy will be because your legacy is every life you touch”- Maya Angelou

And, I could not agree more. At times when we are bogged down by uncontrollable factors resulting in unfavourable crisis, we need a different point of view and perspective that emanates hope especially now during this global pandemic. As individuals, it is necessary to consciously choose our thoughts, words and energy about the situation within our spheres of influence.

‘Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom’ -Victor E Frankl

Even at times like these, let us choose responses that reflects growth and freedom while promoting goodness to create our legacy individually and collectively.

Please share with us your perspectives, toolkit, and how the nature of your job has changed during this global pandemic in the comments below. It is essential to know the changes, challenges and barriers within our respective sectors in order to help us borrow, adopt and apply what works and avoid what doesn’t work.

New App Could Help Panic Attack Sufferers During Coronavirus Pandemic

Displaying the app are co-developers Ellen and Ryan McGinnis of the University of Vermont. PanicMechanic uses the camera on a cell phone to display the panic attack sufferer’s heart rate in real time.

For the nearly 36 million Americans who experience panic attacks, the coronavirus pandemic is a potentially significant new trigger, a recent story in the Washington Post reported.

For panic attack sufferers facing these new anxieties, there is little recourse. Medication is minimally effective and has side effects. Cognitive behavioral therapy doesn’t work for nearly two-thirds of panic sufferers. And bio-feedback, which has shown promise, is cumbersome and impractical to use outside a laboratory or clinical setting.

A new app developed by faculty at the University of Vermont, PanicMechanic, may be part of a solution. The app adapts biofeedback-like monitoring so it can be used on a mobile phone. The app can work at any time and in any location, the first technology to do so for panic.

PanicMechanic is meant to be used as a supplement to professional clinical care.

“The challenge with panic attacks is that they’re episodic,” said one of the app’s developers, Ellen McGinnis, an assistant professor at the University of Vermont’s Center for Children, Youth and Families at the University of Vermont and a trained clinical psychologist.

“That means they’re not only difficult to treat in a traditional therapy setting, because a panic attack is hard to induce, but also that the one intervention that does seem to work for people—biofeedback—isn’t available when it’s needed.”

PanicMechanic uses the camera on a cell phone to measure the body’s panic response, using an approach similar to photoplethysmography

“Activating the app, then holding your finger against the flash can give you an objective measure of your reaction to stress,” said Ryan McGinnis, assistant professor of Electrical and Biomedical Engineering at the University of Vermont, and a co-developer of the app.

The concept for the app is grounded both in decades of research showing that enabling panic sufferers to observe their body’s reaction to stress reduces panic, and in the clinical practice of Ellen McGinnis.

“I’ve used a low tech version of this technique with a dozen patients,” she said. ‘The panic attack sufferer used just a pen, paper and timer to take their own heart rate and plot it on paper during the panic attack. It was very effective in helping patients manage, take control of and overcome their panic.”

The explanation? Intervening with objective information targets a driving dynamic of panic, she says.

“Panic takes hold and you feel like you’re out of control of your body. By showing someone their patterns of physiological arousal, it helps them gain a sense of mastery over their panic response.”

The app also works because it gives the panic sufferer something to do during an episode.

“One of the worst aspects of a panic attack is that you feel helpless,” Ellen McGinnis said.

In addition to displaying an objective measure of the body’s panic response, the app also asks, in a sequence of screens, “how much sleep and exercise you’ve had, what you ate, what your anxiety level is, and if you’ve consumed drugs or alcohol,” she said.

The screens both occupy the panic sufferer and serve a useful purpose, providing data on behaviors and triggers associated with the attack that could be avoided in the future.

The app also predicts how long the panic attack will last, based on past attacks.

That’s key, Ellen McGinnis said, because one of the most frightening aspects of a panic attack is that “it seems like it will never end.”

PanicMechanic employs machine learning to make sure the data gathered by the user on heart is accurate.

“Our beta testing showed that people can’t always put their finger on their cell phone in free living settings and get an accurate reading of their heart rate,” Ryan McGinnis said. The machine learning functionality corrects for faulty finger placement. In a study that will be published later this year, Ellen and Ryan McGinnis and their collaborators demonstrate that data obtained by the app was as accurate as that obtained in a lab setting.

“PanicMechanic helps panic attack sufferers learn to understand their panic attacks,” Ellen McGinnis said. “When they do that, working in partnership with their therapist, they’ve gone a long way toward stopping them.”

The team that developed PanicMechanic includes Steve DiCristofaro of Synbrix Software, LLC., in addition to Ellen and Ryan McGinnis.

The PanicMechanic app is available at the Apple App store.

How New Tech Can Support Caregivers as They Support Seniors

Up to 42% of Americans over the age of 65 take five or more medications, and in 2018, at least one in every five seniors experienced an adverse drug reaction. Such reactions are more common when seniors can’t properly adhere to the instructions that accompany their prescriptions.

In fact, according to U.S. Pharmacist, nonadherence accounts for about half of treatment failures and a quarter of hospitalizations every year. This, combined with the fact that healthcare providers are largely overwhelmed and overburdened, means caregivers have a unique opportunity to improve senior health outcomes. Caregivers can act as an extension of the medical industry to help seniors overcome the hurdles they face when it comes to medicating themselves properly.

Why Medication Adherence Is Challenging for Seniors

Experts agreed that the therapeutic efficacy of any medication requires an adherence rate of 80% or higher. To medicate properly, seniors must closely follow the instructions on each drug’s label and keep a consistent routine around consuming the right doses to avoid complications.

Unfortunately, the current average for medication adherence for chronic health conditions is only about 50%. For most patients, this isn’t enough to improve or stabilize their conditions — much less boost their life expectancy. But nonadherence is often a combination of hurdles that can be difficult for seniors to overcome on their own.

For example, the instructions on drug packaging may be confusing, and age-related memory loss can lessen the chances of proper adherence. The side effects of certain medications may also be uncomfortable, making patients hesitant to stick with them. Overall, keeping track of when and how to take various medications can be overwhelming for anyone.

The Important Role of Caregivers

Daily routines and medical schedules can be much easier for senior patients to adhere to with the assistance of a caregiver. As caregivers, a patient’s family members, friends, loved ones and volunteers can help ensure seniors take their prescriptions as directed and eat regular meals. What’s more, they can better monitor changing behaviors or symptoms that could indicate a poor reaction to medications.

Because the healthcare system is becoming increasingly overburdened, healthcare providers don’t always have the time or means necessary to devote to helping patients adhere to medications. Instead, the healthcare system should focus on providing caregivers with tools they can use to make senior care more manageable, especially when it comes to drug adherence. This will become even more necessary as the senior population grows.

The following tools can help caregivers address the medication adherence problem plaguing American seniors:

  • Automated medication dispensers: Medication dispensers have come a long way — from manually organized pillboxes to modern, automated dispensers that ensure people get the prescriptions they need. One of the most valuable aspects of automated medication dispensers is that they can sync with a mobile application to alert caregivers of missed doses and low prescriptions.
  • Personalized medication reminders: Medical alert systems and healthcare apps — or even simple reminders on a smartphone calendar — are vital to helping seniors prevent missed doses. Some apps are more detailed than others, so consider whether simple reminders will suffice or whether caregivers should receive confirmations as well.
  • Home delivery of presorted medications: In terms of convenience, having presorted medications delivered directly offers a critical advantage for both seniors and caregivers. Automated delivery systems can be synced with medication reminders to create a convenient, holistic routine that makes adherence more accessible than ever.

When Medication Adherence Is Easier

There are very clear, immediate benefits to practicing better medication adherence — the most obvious being the success of the medication. Data suggests that for every 10% improvement in medication adherence, healthcare costs can be reduced by 29%.

Adherence also has a halo effect on other aspects of a patient’s life, improving chances of eating healthy, exercising regularly and taking one’s own personal wellness journey more seriously. Better adherence is key to improving seniors’ quality of life and reducing the burden on the healthcare system, and caregivers are in a great position to help make it happen when armed with the right tools.

Spot a Scam: How Job Seekers Can Protect Themselves from Online Employment Fraud

Have you ever come across an online job ad for a position that was simply too good to be true? Or, maybe you’ve found a posting that blatantly excluded the employer’s name, website, and other critical information. If so, you may have stumbled upon a fraudulent ad.

While online job boards allow candidates to apply for jobs more quickly and conveniently than ever, they’ve also created new avenues for employment fraud. According to the Better Business Bureau, more than 7,190 employment scams have been reported since January of 2018. For example, this past summer, a pair of graphic designers fell victim to a scammer impersonating a South Carolina company hiring remote employees. After applying for the fake position, the job seekers shared personally identifiable information with the “hiring manager” via Google Hangouts and paid more than $6,000 for “vendor-approved” home office equipment before realizing they had been duped.

Rest assured, today’s leading job boards and talent communities do their best to detect fraud and deter scammers from spoofing their candidates. However, every job seeker should learn how to spot a fraudulent job ad. Here are four red flags to look out for:

1. The job ad asks for money. Steer clear of job postings that ask for bank account numbers, credit card digits, social security numbers, PayPal account details, and other sensitive personal information. If you come across the phrase “wire transfer” in the ad or in any correspondence with the hiring manager, it’s a surefire sign that the opportunity is a scam.
2. The ad is filled with errors. Everyone makes mistakes, but a posting riddled with typos, all caps, exclamation marks, unsightly formatting, and/or spelling and grammatical errors should make you think twice before clicking “apply.”
3. The posting is missing critical information. If the ad leaves out the company name, the job location, and/or a link to the company website, take caution. But remember, even ads bearing legitimate company names could be fraudulent, since scammers can impersonate real employers. Faux job ads may also be extremely short, including only salary information and perhaps mention of how easy it will be to earn money.
4. The contact information includes a major domain name. When contact info listed in an ad includes an email address with a major (or unknown) domain name (such as Company@yahoo.com or Company@gmail.com) rather than the employer’s domain, tread lightly. Similarly, be wary of email communications with the employer that do not include a signature or contact details.

In addition to recognizing red flags, job seekers must take proactive steps to protect themselves when searching for their next career opportunity. Here are four tips for safely navigating the online recruitment space:

1. Read all content in the ad carefully. Again, look for glaring typos, missing information, mentions of wire transfers, and contact email addresses with major or unknown domain names. Double-check for disclaimers or “fine print” at the bottom of the ad. By taking the time to review the posting thoroughly, you’ll also ensure that you’re fully qualified for the position and that you understand the directions for applying.
2. Research the employer. Check the company’s website to verify that the position exists. (And if you can’t find the company’s website, you might want to start running in the opposite direction.) When in doubt of an ad’s legitimacy, call or email the employer directly to see if they are actively recruiting for that role.
3. See what others are saying. Consult the company’s Better Business Bureau, Federal Trade Commission ratings, and other review websites. Even if the company is a “real” employer, you will find valuable insights on these sites that may (or may not) deter you from pursuing an opportunity with them.
4. Take caution with links. Don’t click on links in unsolicited emails that appear to be a personalized note from a hiring manager or recruiter who saw your resume on a job board. If you are unsure if the email is genuine, do a little bit of research (see tips 2 and 3) before moving forward.

Above all, trust your gut when searching for jobs online. If an ad raises any bit of suspicion, don’t apply until you’ve thoroughly vetted the employer or recruiter. Lastly, if the job sounds too good to be true, it probably is – but that doesn’t mean that your dream job isn’t out there. You just have to be smart, savvy, and safe in your search.

How to Turn Your Social Media Followers into Active Donors

In marketing, we know that carefully curated and compelling content moves people.

We see this every day on social media, where viral campaigns compel people to take action every day.

There’s no doubt that well-crafted social media content can turn followers into active donors. Nonprofit fundraising campaigns have raised millions of dollars, such as Charity: Water with $1.8 million and the ALS ice bucket challenge with $115 million.

The good news is that powerful content can be harnessed to activate a nonprofit’s social media followers to take action and give.

The not-so-good news? Creating and curating compelling content isn’t always easy.

But it’s important—even critical—for nonprofits to maintain active and engaging social media accounts not only to raise awareness and build brand, but to also drive donations.

Social is Everywhere and Everything

Experts project that there will be three billion social media users by next year. That’s close to half the global population.

A good chunk of social media users are known to check in sometimes by the hour or even the minute on top sites like Facebook, YouTube, WhatsApp, Instagram and Twitter.

While people of all ages use social media, there’s no doubt that younger generations are typically the first adopters.

This is important for nonprofits, because younger people use social media to support and donate to their favorite causes. According to this blog post, 43% of millennials made charitable contributions through social media compared to other channels.

Nonprofit Source also finds that 55% of people who engage with nonprofits on social media take some sort of action, such as donation.

Knowing this, how can a nonprofit fundraising team turn social media followers into active donors?

Tips on How to Activate Donors to Give to Your Nonprofit through Social Media

Build
You gain followers by posting content consistently daily or twice a day.

Your content should include a healthy mix of inspirational videos, photo features, donor spotlights, action alerts, motivating statistics, memes and more. Your content can include direct appeals for donations too. Just make sure to balance them with other content.

To build your following faster, consider devoting some budget to sponsoring content, including boosted posts on Facebook and Instagram. Boosting posts can cost as little as $25 for a campaign and can allow you to target specific users, ensuring that your posts wind up at the top of the right people’s feeds.

Activate
You accomplished the seemingly impossible: you built a following of engaged fans on your social media pages.

But they’re not giving.

How do you convert these loyal social media followers into active donors ready to give?

Awaken and engage your social media followers with calls to action. Create content that tells your story through video and animated gifs. Suggest they give even a small amount to your campaign to help solve the problems you’ve illustrated. Remind them that every little bit helps. Most importantly, make it as easy as possible for them to give.

Make Action Easy
If you’ve succeeded in moving your social media followers to take action, but then made it impossible for them to donate easily online, you’ve lost a big opportunity to raise funds.

Make the process of donating in a few clicks safe, secure and seamless. Add an easy-to-use, secure donation management plugin like DonorBox to your website and directly link to your donation appeal on your social pages so your followers can donate in a couple clicks.

Make It Shareable
Understand the psychology behind social sharing and tweak your content to see what your followers are most likely to share. You’ll not only increase your following, but also inspire your new fans to follow their friends’ lead and also make donations to your cause.

Coming up with a creative campaign with inspiring events, videos and strategic hashtags around a moving theme can also turn those lurkers among your followers into active donors ready to share and give.

Maintain
The shelf life of a social media post is only a few days or weeks at best.

This means that even if you’ve had a huge success, it’ll just be a matter of time before your viral campaign is a distant memory for most people.

Try to maintain your followers’ interest by creating different types of social media campaigns that can be run seasonally. Think strategically and make data-based decisions. Test different ideas to see what works best. Study the analytics made available by the different platforms to see who is engaging and sharing.

This Medium blog post offers some helpful tips for strategic ways to maximize fundraising through social media.

One not-so-small caveat: while it may seem like raising more than a million dollars via a viral social media campaign is the be all, end all of fundraising, you may be cannibalizing other fundraising efforts in your success. The best thing you can do is weave a social media component into an omni-channel campaign. Social media may be just one element of your fundraising strategy, and that’s okay.

Want more? These five successful nonprofits got it right using social media to drive donations.

About DonorBox
Used by more than 20,000 organizations from 25 countries, DonorBox is a donation platform centered around the fundraising needs of nonprofits by offering a state-of-the-art, recurring donation plugin that can be seamlessly embedded into a website or with a popup widget, allowing nonprofit organizations to accept monthly recurring donations managed by the donors themselves.

View a live example and sign up for free at donorbox.org.

10 Apps That Help With Killing Your Idle Time

Pretty bored

Regardless of how scheduled your life is, there is some time between one task and the next where you find yourself idle. Perhaps while waiting at a subway or the dental clinic. Downtimes like these are quite vital for preserving our health. But you cannot dismiss the fact that you need some activity to keep yourself occupied, even while resting. There is only limited social media browsing you can do before boredom hits you and that is where you yearn for something more interesting.

Both the Apple App Store and Google Play Store are loaded with apps to help you pass your time. Here are 10 apps that will keep you engaged with little or no effort. On top of everything, these apps are free. So install them right away, and you’d never want those tedious waiting periods to end.

Flow Free

This app contains all the gears that you need to keep your mind running when you are bored. It involves connecting colored dots with pipes to create a flow, and once you cover a board, you can move on to the next. Like every other game, it starts with easy levels and switches to harder ones. At first, it may sound very simple, but the gradual stage progression brings on levels that are quite tough to solve. Pipes break if they overlap or cross over one another which increases the challenge.

Who can get 11?

This brain-teasing app challenges the player to get an 11. So far, only limited people have succeeded to make an 11, even though the method is pretty simple. All you have to do is merge matching numerical tiles and create higher values unless you finally make an 11. One needs to think hard, use strategies and logic to reach the target. And while they mull over, they can surely kill a lot of their idle time.

Words with friends

Are you a vocab geek? If yes, then this app can be your best friend. It challenges your vocabulary and kills time all at once. Words with friends is an app designed like scrabble that pits you against any of your friends or random people online. It provides the player with few letters which they have to use to create words. Each tile has a score that multiplies when you reach a certain block. Users can also opt for solo play if they are willing to brush up their word power.

Bubble wrap

Finally, an app to fulfill the crazy obsession of popping the bubble wrap. You can pop the air-filled pockets in any way you want as the app offers different popping options. Although it’s not real, you can get close to a similar level of satisfaction that you get when popping the real one.

Quiz up

Who doesn’t like information that comes about aesthetically and enhances your mental power? This is an app for you if quiz games are your forte. It offers options from academics to entertainment and is indeed an ultimate knowledge booster. You can pick a topic from over a hundred themes and give your brain an instant work-out. You can even opt for multi-player segments and keep the trivia community alive.

Iron Ball Ride

Following the rules of gravity and physics, this app tends to keep you hooked for a long time. It appears like you are almost there all along and this compels you to keep trying over and over again. People either quit out of frustration or come out victorious. The objective is to tilt, swipe and turn the ball which will roll the iron marble once the player overcomes the obstacles. This game has a lot of levels to keep you addicted.

Peak

Studying through review forums like AirG reviews, you might come across discussions where people praise games that work on engagingly training the brains. The Peak is one such app that made its way to these forums for its distinct design. It is a specialized app created by a team of neuroscientists and gaming experts to train and enhance the cognitive skills of the players. There are more than 30 games with in-depth statistics to track your progress. Difficulty levels are modified according to these statistics that enhance the challenge for players at each level. You can also invite your friends and compete with them.

Duo Lingo

Have you ever tried learning a new language but couldn’t pursue it for one reason or another? Well, here is your chance to do it now.  By using Duolingo, you can pick from French, Spanish, English, German and twenty other languages. There are regular lessons and competitive exercises that will improve your learning at every stage. The developers make sure they keep productivity and leisure integrated throughout the design.

Word Bubbles

Word Bubbles is like an old-school word search game with a modern twist. It provides a set of letters, and the player has to swipe letters along the bubbles to spell a word. There are more than 400 levels which gradually get harder, and there are daily challenges to keep users in the loop.

Tender

Unlike the gaming apps that we talked about earlier, this app is different. It offers a platform where food lovers from all over the world interact with each other and talk about food-related topics. You can swipe through the photos and find the recipe of any item that seems tempting to you. So, while you are waiting for your train to reach your destination, you can decide what you are going to cook for dinner tonight!

Despite your workload, you might have a few gaps here and there. Choose to give yourself a mental boost and make every second count.

How To Activate PBS on Your Streaming Device

Would you like to revel in Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) on your device along with Roku, Apple TV, Samsung TV, or other Smart TVs?

PBS is an inexpensive streaming tool offering hundreds of thousands of videos online for free and on-demand, such as full episodes of Masterpiece, Frontline, NOVA, Antiques Roadshow and more. Channels and channel bundles are often very affordable; our channels are unfastened, and priced channels also offer a free trial that you can use.

Exclusive benefits:

  • Access antique and conventional TV series as well as a range of featured programs
  • Access local shows using an easy selection procedure from the affiliate station listings
  • Benefit from staff picks and suggestions from PBS
  • Content on PBS is continuously renewed
  • Expiry dates of specific series and programs can be found under the ‘Expiring Soon’ class
  • Be aware of program and community updates through email, as well as fund-raising initiatives

Activate PBS Using PBS.org in Three Simple Steps

  1. Open the PBS application on your device.
    Once you open the PBS application on your device, it will provide you with a 6-digit alphanumeric code that you need to enter on the PBS website. Make a note of this and proceed to activate it on the website.
  2. Activate PBS.
    Open your browser to the PBS activation website. You will be navigated to a webpage which will ask you for the 6-digit code. Enter the code and click ‘continue’.
  3. Follow the on-screen instructions to activate PBS.
    After you have inputted the 6-digit code, PBS subscription will be activated on your device. If there is an error with the activation process, please follow the on-screen instructions to fix it.

How to Connect to PBS.org on a Smart TV

  1. Open PBS on your Smart TV
  2. Click on the gear icon
  3. Tap ‘sign-in’ to access your activation code
  4. Go to the website pbs.org/activate
  5. Click ‘account information’ to sign in to your pbs.org account
  6. Enter your activation code and continue

PBS Kids is free for all Roku users: all you need to do is to activate PBS on your device via pbs.org/activate using the following steps. Using a compatible device alongside a PBS account will free up all movies.

Instagram Benefits for Businesses in Comparison to Other Social Media Platforms

With billions of monthly users and almost 500 million users who are active regularly, Instagram has been marching towards success since its introduction in the year 2010. There is no denying the fact that businesses are constantly using social media platforms in order to ensure that they have proper knowledge about their competitors. Apart from that, social media marketing has helped numerous small businesses gain success.

In fact, big and reputed businesses are also constantly revising their social marketing strategies in order to stay one step ahead of their competitors. One of the most difficult tasks that businesses face is to choose between the different social media platforms that are there. However, without a doubt, most of the businesses have agreed that Instagram is undoubtedly the best platform currently.

Numerous businesses have not only started reacting more to this growing platform but also, if an analysis is conducted on the topmost brands from different parts of the world, you will get to know that almost 90% of these businesses have Instagram accounts. With this number of businesses as well as brands on this platform, it is obvious that one question is constantly going on your head. This question is whether there is an incentive for businesses that are using Instagram consistently. You need to know that the top brands are capable of generating more leads with the help of Instagram in comparison to other social media platforms.

Instagram is constantly rolling out numerous amazing features that you should definitely take advantage of. Given below is a list of the reasons as to why you should take your business to Instagram in comparison to the other social networking platforms.

Users purchase products online

According to www.lyfemarketing.com, users are responsible for using the Instagram app for purchasing any product that they love, online. It is obvious that sales are the most important thing that a business is looking forward to achieving at the end of the day. If you are asking as to why you should be on Instagram, the answer is that this platform helps in increasing sales by ensuring that you connect with your potential customers.

Instagram has a huge volume of people who are online regularly and it is not very difficult to locate your potential customers. Just like you are on the hunt for your potential customers, you need to know that even they are also looking for the kinds of products and services that you are offering. If they are interested in what you are posting on Instagram, they are going to visit your business website. And, this is exactly where the journey of becoming a customer from a potential customer starts.

Instagram advertisement

You already know the total number of users that are there on Instagram and you are also aware of the fact that this growth is not going to slow down. You also know that once your potential customers come across your business, they are likely to convert into your customers as well. Now, you need to know about Instagram advertising.

Instagram was purchased by the CEO of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg, and since this purchase, the capabilities of Instagram started broadening in order to match the capabilities of Facebook. Facebook is currently known to have the best and advanced platforms of advertising on social media. You have the option of advertising to people by understanding their age, behavior, location, interests, etc., on Facebook, and this means that you have the option of doing this on Instagram as well.

This means that you have the option of targeting your target audience with the help of Instagram advertisements and you can be assured that they are going to definitely make a purchase. You can also buy real Instagram likes in order to get more likes from real people on your posts.

Leads and sales can be tracked

You need to know that both your sales as well as leads can be tracked with the help of Instagram. This can sound pretty obvious but you need to know that a number of companies are investing in the platforms without even understanding the effect that they have. Since Instagram makes use of the same platform that manages Facebook advertisements as well, it is obvious that the tracking capabilities are also the same.

You will be able to see almost everything, which includes, the number of times your present or potential customers have clicked on the links, your leads, and conversions, and you will also be able to observe the cost for every result on the ad campaigns that you run. This means that you have the option of viewing the results that you have been achieving consistently. This will also help you to understand whether you have invested money in the right place or not.

Instagram analytics along with the tracking capabilities is responsible for making this platform worth the time of the marketers. It is crucial to understand, which advertisement is drawing in revenue and, which is not. On the basis of this information, you can work on future advertisement campaigns.

Business profiles and personal profiles are different

Instagram allows you to create both a personal profile as well as a business profile. It is obvious that if you are the owner of a business, you cannot run a personal profile on Instagram. You need to switch to the business profile so that you can gain all the benefits, which include, having calls to action, the ability to promote a post and also gaining access to Instagram insights. It is also going to provide the Instagrammers with the idea that the business pages are owned by verified businesses and not personal users. If you are making this adjustment, you can be assured that you are going to get all the amazing benefits that Instagram is providing to the other businesses as well.

Conclusion

Instagram has created an amazing world for both the small as well as the reputed businesses. Instead of hunting for recognition and awareness in the other social media platforms, it is a much better idea to get on Instagram and giving your business everything that it needs in order to spread its wings.

Smartphones Help UB Researcher Better Understand the Nature of Depression and Anxiety

Decades of research into anxiety and depression have resulted in the development of models that help explain the causes and dimensions of the two disorders.

For all of their well-established utility however, these models measure differences between individuals and are derived from studies designed using few assessments that can be months or even years apart.

In other words, the models are highly informative, but not optimal for examining what’s happening emotionally in a particular person from moment to moment.

Now, a University at Buffalo psychologist is extending that valuable research to repeatedly and frequently measure symptoms of specific individuals, in real time, to learn how immediate feelings relate to later symptoms.

The research casts anxiety and depression in a manner not previously studied and the results suggest that some emotions linger in a way that predicts feelings beyond what’s happening at specific times. This information could provide treatment benefits for patients struggling with the disorders, according to Kristin Gainey, an assistant professor in UB’s psychology department and the study’s author.

“Clinicians aren’t primarily interested in how one person’s symptoms compare to someone else, which is what most studies focus on. Rather, they’re most interested in how to shift the feelings of someone with anxiety or depression. In other words, they want to understand how to change the emotional experiences of a given individual over time and across different situations,” says Gainey, an expert on emotion and affect in mood and anxiety disorders and a recent recipient of one of the American Psychological Association’s Early Career Distinguished Scientific awards. “The only way to get at that directly is to measure these processes repeatedly within a person as they’re happening.”

To do that, Gainey conducted baseline assessments on 135 participants, each of whom were already seeking some kind of psychological treatment.

Three times a day for 10 weeks, the participants received surveys on their smartphones about their feelings and symptoms. They completed the survey within 20 minutes of its arrival.

“That generated enough reports to provide a good sense for each person’s fluctuations and trajectories of symptoms and affect (defined as the objective feeling state that’s part of an emotion),” says Gainey.

A smartphone provides a portrait of immediacy that questionnaires distributed in a lab that summarize feelings over extended periods are unable to achieve.

“We can’t always remember accurately how we felt days and weeks ago, especially if there were some days you felt really bad and other days you felt great,” she says. “That’s not easy to summarize in a single index.”

Anxiety and depression are each unique disorders, but they often appear together in a single patient. Both disorders share high levels of negative emotions, such as fear, sadness, and anger, while low levels of positive emotions, like excitement and interest, are unique to depression.

Gainey says it’s not surprising that particular affective states, like feeling happy or feeling sad, might be responsible for symptoms experienced soon afterward. What researchers don’t know much about is how long those effects tend to persist, and which specific symptoms they lead to hours or days later.

“This study let us see that some effects were short-lived, but for depression, if you were feeling high levels of negative affect, even if we control for how depressed a participant was at that time, it was still predictive of increased depression 24 hours later,” says Gainey.

That might suggest that clinicians could track peoples’ positive and negative affect in real time and plot trajectories that are indicative of increased risk.

“If we can identify specific risk factors for increased symptoms in real time, we could even use smartphones to send suggestions about helpful strategies or alert the person’s mental health care provider,” she says.

Enhancing Education with Digital Tools in the Classroom

Especially now, with the rise of technology in the classroom, teachers have practically unlimited methods for teaching, assigning, and grading student work. Features within forums such as Google Classroom, Flocabulary, Read180 Universal, PowToon, NewsELA, etc., allow for student choice, engagement, and differentiation. While the options and methods are seemingly unlimited, there are a few things to consider when it comes to utilizing classroom technology effectively.  

To ensure that the digital classroom is an asset, instead of an obstacle, for students and parents, educators will want to address the following concerns before planning and implementing:

Is the technology adding to the student’s understanding of the material, or is it simply technology for technology’s sake?

If teachers cannot readily identify how the digital tool is adding a layer of complexity, relevance, choice, or differentiation, then the tool may be better utilized for another task. What we do not want is for the learning to be secondary to the digital forum. For example, if students are using PowToon or Prezi for an assignment, then the objective should be something related to summarizing, paraphrasing, simulating cause and effect, etc., since those are skills that the digital tools support. Those two particular digital tools are more geared towards public speaking or presenting, so an objective for speaking and listening should be a component, as well.

How much scaffolding or frontloading will the technology involve?

As teachers, we know that time is limited, as we are constantly moving students from one skill to the next. A worst-case scenario would be for the digital tool to become a “time-suck” in the unit. More than anything, the technology should be comprehensive and user-friendly, so that it does not become an obstacle for students to demonstrate mastery.

How much of the student’s grade will be determined by the proper use of the technology?

Again, if the objective is for students to relay research that they have gathered in a focused and organized way, then the technology feature is simply a small aspect of that task. Consequently, if the objective is for students to construct a timeline of a story and present the animation, then the technology becomes more of a vital component.

Can the use of the digital tool be optional?

Another recommendation when considering student choice is to provide the option to not use the technology to demonstrate mastery. For some students, technology can be scary because of their unfamiliarity with it. For others, computer or internet access at home may not be a possibility. Teachers should be wary of only using digital creations or submissions, as this would mean that some students can only work on an assignment or project in the classroom—not at home.

Are my digital posts, grades, and assignments easy to access and displayed clearly?

When using a digital classroom like Google Classroom, teachers should be sure to make their digital forum as accessible and transparent as possible. At open house or parent conferences, teachers should consider inviting parents to sign up to the virtual classroom. This provides parents with their own means of logging into and monitoring the virtual classroom. Guardian access also allows parents to set email alerts anytime a new announcement, assignment, or grade is posted.

This means that parents receive notifications in real time, as opposed to having to wait for their child to bring home the new assignment or rubric. Guardian access also allows teachers to post entire lessons, documents, and reading to the classroom. This type of transparency provides parents with a peek inside the day’s activities and lessons. With documents posted, there will also be a backup option for parents if their child has lost or forgotten the paper copy.

Brick and Mortar Stores and Their Potential Demise

Earlier this year, Business Insider reported almost 4,000 stores in the United States will close. Among those were giant corporate retailers — Toys R Us, Walgreens, and Gap. If the stores with the most competitive prices and widest spread are having trouble, imagine those with a smaller safety net. Imagine your local mom-and-pop shop.

Across the board, technology and e-shopping are often blamed for this decline in sales for physical stores. According to an infographic from Villanova University, Americans in the current day spend around 5 hours a day on their smartphones and compare prices and reviews for products while shopping in a store, sometimes only to buy them later from Amazon!

It’s no wonder people are more hesitant to become entrepreneurs now. But fear not, aspiring entrepreneurs! The story’s not over yet, and there are a few reasons to believe the physical shopping experience is still alive — and will continue to be that way. But you have to adapt to the changing world as well.

Oh, the Humanity!

According to multiple studies, the majority of shoppers still prefer physical, on-location shopping. This is largely due to the experience of it. People appreciate the experience, and guess what? Your customers are people. It’s different than going to a chain store in which people know what they’re going to get. A brick-and-mortar store has its own personality, typically representative of the owner’s personality, aka their personal brand.

People enjoy going out to shop because there’s an experience to be had with it. The atmosphere of the store, the aspect of leaving their home to travel somewhere, and of course (and this may be the biggest one), the opportunity to feel and touch the product in person. Activating a customer’s senses help them to build an emotional and personal relationship with your brand in this way. It’s this human connection which will get people shopping and keep them coming back.

The Millennial Conscience

Millennials surprised the world a few years ago by proving large amounts of them are not lazy and spoiled. Instead, we’ve learned many of them are very socially conscious and full of moral conviction. It’s this moral consciousness which has led droves of them against big business and extreme capitalism. As a small business owner, this puts you in a pretty good spot with them as potential customers.

From this angle, it’s a good idea to get involved in your local community and give back to people like you. If you plan on running a small business, plan on participating in Small Business Saturday. Think about binding together with some other local businesses as well. Hold events benefiting people and communities around you who need help, or that simply bring people together. Not only will you build brand loyalty, but you’ll be doing something worthwhile that moves far beyond you and your business.

Technology Is Compatible

There are ways to keep up with technology and run a physical storefront. First of all, we live in the app age. People own smartphones — portable computers that fit in their hands and have many functions. Owning an app which is compatible with your store location gives them a reason to shop with you consistently. Primarily, this app should bring customers to your business through special discounts, but it could also make them aware of new products you have.

To further indulge in this intersection of technology and physicality, having a physical storefront does not mean you should not have an online presence or your foot in the e-commerce game! You can have a website and an online store as well as a physical storefront. You can promote your brand through SEO and social media. Technology does not necessarily mean the demise of brick and mortar — it means the changing of it. Be proactive.

The Entrepreneurial Spirit

The acceptance and help of humans are important, but we can’t forget that entrepreneurs have kept hopeless industries alive for years by innovating on what was already there before. It requires intelligence, risk-taking, and drive, as well as the ability to adapt to the present time. The choices surrounding products stocked, inventory ordered, marketing methods, and purchasing or leasing commercial spaces have changed over time with new technology and a new economy. But brick and mortar stores have been around for a long time and they haven’t actually left us, despite losing prevalence in some cases. They are still relevant even with the game-changing.

See, there have always been threats to mom-and-pop shops. The Walmarts of the world moving into communities and taking sales from hard-working small businesses, thus destroying the strength of local communities, come to mind first. Legal restrictions and defamation from competitors have been known to happen in their own form of small business drama. But as long as entrepreneurs have the right resources available to them and there are small communities who care about what they’re doing, they will survive.

What has your experience been running a physical storefront in the internet age been like? What are your reservations about starting one? Let us know in the comments below!

How the Internet and Social Media Is Impacting Social Work

Social media and the Internet, in general, have had an immense effect on social work. It enables communication between people from different corners of the world and makes access to information fast and easy. On the flipside, social media has brought about evils like fake news and Cyber Bullying whose effects can be fatal. But how exactly has what is possibly the most significant invention of the 21st century affected the field of social work? Below is a look at both the positive and negative impacts of social media.

Positive impacts

Enhanced Communication

Social media has significantly improved the communication experience between social workers and their clients. Social networks such as Facebook and WhatsApp make it easier, cheaper and faster for social workers to get in touch with clients without necessarily spending money on transport. In addition to this, most social workers have social media pages where interested clients can contact them and book appointments without breaking a sweat.

Globalization of social work

Decades ago, social workers could only deal with issues affecting their neighboring communities. Now, with social sites like Skype and Facebook Messenger, it is possible for a counselor in the USA to offer their services to a client in Europe or Africa without either of them incurring massive expenditure.

Easier solicitation of clients

As mentioned earlier, social workers can attract more clients by opening social media pages and regularly updating content. As it were, there are numerous resources available to social workers who want to establish and grow their online presence such as using video to increase engagement on social media. On their part, clients can search for available social workers and be able to receive services such as spiritual, psychiatrist and anxiety counseling online even without revealing their identities.

Negative Impacts

Ethical dilemmas

Social workers who have direct contact with their clients on social media face a lot of moral issues in their work. For one, being friends on Facebook may result in both consensual and unwanted flirting which may lead to a sexual relationship. This often leads to conflicts of interest which might affect the social worker’s efficiency.

Privacy and confidentiality

In the past, social workers relied on the personal information provided by their clients when designing interventions. With social media, social workers like counselors and psychiatrists may be tempted to spy on their clients’ social media pages to fish for information. This amounts to an invasion of privacy, which is not only an ethical issue but a legal issue as well.

Social workers may also find themselves in awkward situations when, for instance, clients send them friend requests on Facebook and start chatting them up. There is also the risk of clients stalking social workers and using the information and pictures on their pages for unprofessional purposes.

Regulatory challenges

Social work remains mostly an unregulated field, and the increasing social media usage doesn’t make it any better. On one side, regulatory bodies may find it difficult to regulate online social workers who may not have a physical office or address for that matter.

This is made even worse by the fact that there is no existing regulatory framework for online social work. Clients, on the other hand, may also not be in a position to verify the registration and regulatory status of their social workers especially if they’re not from the same country.

Dealing with unregulated social workers exposes one to dangers such as sexual harassment and even fraud.

Way forward

Social work has a lot of challenges as it is and social media, despite being a significant opportunity, happens to be one of them. As government agencies find ways to regulate online social work, both the public and social workers must look out for themselves and find ways to protect their confidentiality.

Virtual Crisis Intervention: Wave of the Future?

Crisis intervention, once primarily delivered over the phone is increasingly being delivered through the computer and via text. Social Workers and other helping professionals need to be aware of the benefits and drawbacks of these methods of communication. Whether you work for an employer who may allow or require you to begin using these technologies or you are in private practice, learning more about text and chat for crisis intervention can enhance your practice.

Who uses text and chat?

Adults still primarily prefer to use the telephone or in-person communication to get their mental health needs met. In one large Canadian crisis service (the ONTX Project), the majority of the contacts via text message come from youth, while the majority of the computer chats come from adults.

LGBT youth – especially trans youth, may be more likely to use text and chat services because they don’t have to worry about “passing” or blending, being recognized as the gender they identify as. Via text and chat messaging there is no need to fear being mis-gendered if a client identifies as a woman but has a deep voice, for example.

How is it different from other forms of support?

Text and chat communications are slower, sometimes much slower. This means that it will take you more time to collect the same amount of information. Expect a 20 minute phone call to take closer to an hour with text and chat.

Because this method of communication is more resource intensive, you will need to carefully manage the conversation. Youth especially can talk for hours via text if they are given the option, but your therapeutic boundaries and agency policy may not permit you to engage them this long. Making an action plan to meet their immediate needs and inviting them to access the service again another time can be very helpful.

You can’t demonstrate empathy with your voice tone (obviously), so you have to be very careful to write out your empathic statements. “From what you’ve said, I really get the feeling that you felt alone.” This helps ensure that your client really feels heard.

Suicide risk assessment via text and chat

Suicide risk assessment is a more challenging task over text and chat. It’s important to make sure you firmly ask if the texter has done anything to kill themselves or end their life as soon as you determine they are suicidal. If they have, you can jump right to the active rescue procedure. You may need to adjust how you ask questions about suicide in order to fit them into 140 character limits some services have.

Accessing emergency services

This is one area that is significantly different. A lot of crisis agencies have close relationships to the police and EMS can trace phones in cases of imminent risk. On the computer though, this is a lot more difficult or even impossible. You will need to rely on your ability to build a strong rapport in order to convince your client to access active rescue.

Many texting services do not allow clients to hide their number from you, which is different from telephone services where you can block your phone number from the responding hotline worker. This can make identifying texters at imminent risk somewhat easier.

How can you build text and chat skills?

If you don’t currently have the opportunity to perform crisis intervention over text and chat through your employer, consider the ONTX Project in Canada or the Crisis Text Line in the US. These organizations allow you to volunteer to staff a web and text crisis line through the Internet, and volunteer virtually. After completing training, you’re able to volunteer between 4 and 16 hours a month for a year to help you add these valuable skills to your resume and improve your ability to serve your clients.

Will text and chat replace in-person counselling or therapy?

Some proponents of e-counselling think that text or chat will replace telephone helpline services for immediate support, but this is unlikely. Text and chat is a great introduction to helping support, but clients likely won’t be able to get all their needs met in this manner. Once they’re comfortable, you may find it more helpful to transition them to telephone or in-person support at your agency.

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