When Actual Met Virtual – A teaching and learning methodology in social work education that through the use of technologies has grown into a national community of learning

Amanda Taylor @AMLTaylor66 – University of Central Lancashire

Using book groups in higher education has created a national community of learning  where students, academics and practitioners alike can share interpretations, opinions and considerations of a fictional text simultaneously in an actual and virtual space.  It is a non-traditional and yet stimulating approach that facilitates the continuation of professional development at all stages of the learning journey.  By the very nature of their configuration book groups advance knowledge, due to the discursive and reflective manner in which fictional material is critiqued and reflected upon (Howard 2009); and owing to the subtleties of being engaged in a group work type process (Clemans 2011; Doel and Kelly 2013).  It is an experience that can lead to sophisticated ways of understanding, appreciating and connecting with what has been read (Scourfield and Taylor 2013).  As an approach, it challenges the notion of teacher dominant education environments and speaks to what Ryan and Tibury (2013) call ‘learner empowerment’ (p.16).

However, the real power of the knowledge exchange lies within the technological platform Twitter, used as a medium to advertise, communicate and record the learning event.  The technological features of the learning space not only enable connectivity but they also promote the development of digital literacies for students in preparation for practice.

The book group method is now being developed for social work practitioners in the practice context and has made its way across the global landscape of social work education.