History of the first Social Work internet discussion list – SOCWORK

History of the first Social Work internet discussion list – SOCWORK
Posted September-08-94 4:29 PM by admin
Notes on the history of SOCWORK

The Social Work discussion list SOCWORK started as an idea for introducing students at the Faculty of Social Work, University of Toronto, to computer communication technology. Professor Don Bellamy who had investigated the application of collaborative technologies to supervision and case management (Bellamy, 1987) wanted to expose students in a social planning practice course to systems which they might find in future areas of practice and research (Bellamy & Mielniczuk, 1988). At the time, I was Manager of Information Resources for the Social Information Resource Centre at the Faculty. With the help of Steve Yonker from Computing Services we mounted SOCWORK on the LISTSERV on the UTORONTO mainframe.

The list was created on January 10, 1988 and became operational to the class on February 3, 1988 with 11 students and 4 faculty and staff. Although it was meant to serve the class, we made the list open to all. This inhibited student participation because they were leary of exposing their work to academics everywhere, however, it enabled membership in the list to grow . Within 4 months there were 20 members.

When I left the faculty in May,1989 there were approximately 75 members. Since no one within the Faculty was interested in continuing the list, I broadcast for a new moderator and home for the list. Harry Chaiklin volunteered and also arranged for the transfer of the list to the Universtiy of Maryland.

Recent reviews of the list by Ogden Rogers and myself note that the membership of the list was 380 on Dec. 15, 1993; over 445 on Feb. 16, 1994; 564 June 20, 1994 and 533 Aug. 23, 1994. This drop is probably the result of student accounts discontinued over the summer. Some accounts are for conferencing and bulletin board systems which have multiple users, therefore, the readers of this list are far more numerous than the count of the distribution list.

Some lists are archived and one is able to go back to look at previous postings. This one is not. However, the list has been saved as a conference on some member networks of the Institute for Global Communications (IGC). On the WEB network in Canada the conference BITL.SOCWORK has an archive going back to May 27, 1993.

As of this writing (Sept 6/94) there are 1895 topics recorded on the list and hundreds of replies. They are a mixture of provoking, profound, pleasant and petty. Anyone interested in studying this list is advised to get access to this file.

Personally, it has been gratifying to read *most* of the many contributions and to watch the growth of the list. It is my hope that the growing number of members to this online community will continue to put forth comments, critiques, and well crafted queries (ok, good jokes, too) which are respectful of the reading time and attention of all. As the title of our first analysis indicates, we believe this medium to be a valuable teaching/learning tool. Roles of teachers and students are dynamically interchangeable and the learning never stops.

Sources:
Bellamy, D. (1987). Innovative applications of computer technology in social work. Paper presented at the Conference of the Canadian Association of Schools of Social Work, Learned Societies Meeting, Hamilton, Ontario, June 7.

Bellamy, D., & Mielniczuk, A.S. (1988). Computer conferencing: A new teaching/learning tool in social work. Paper presented at the Conference of the Canadian Association of Schools of Social Work, Leaned Societies Meeting, Windsor, Ontario, June 6-9

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About mielniczuk

Community, systems, design, collaboration, change, evidence, Intelligent Accountability(c)
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