MON: Social Work Education In A Connected Age - A Playground Learning Environment. (David Appel)

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David Appel
4 January 2019

Multimedia poster

For a short summary of the project and presentation please have a look at the multimedia poster. There is also an accessible version available for people with eysight difficulties.

A text version, with references, can be found at the bottom of this cloud under the 'Extra Content' heading.


Digitalisation transforms our society in manifold ways and a profession such as Social Work needs to respond to these transformations. Likewise, social work education needs to revisit its curricula and didactics. However, the speed at which transformations are happening is often overstraining the capabilities of innovation, adoption and implementation of educational institutions and its stakeholders (Davis et al., 2018). This is especially the case for a discipline like Social Work with a rather uneasy relationship with technology (Taylor, 2017).

My project addresses this complex challenge by implementing a playground learning environment into social work bachelor and master curricula. This playground learning environment is directed towards a twofold purpose: it (a) equips students with skills and competences for their professional practice in the digital world and (b) allows teachers to gain experiences with education technology as well as rethinking their roles as guides and facilitators. Both learning experiences are as crucial as they are challenging (Adams Becker et al., 2018).

Setting a playground learning environment apart from the core topics and related skills and competences of the discipline of Social Work is expected to act as a threshold concept for the second purpose (Meyer and Land, 2003). Rather than comprehensive documentation, such an environment can showcase ‘good practice’, enable direct experience with online learning opportunities, and serve as a transparent reference for discussing difficulties among teachers. Thus, it can help overcome preconceptions regarding the digitally mediated interrelatedness of people and content and foster the implementation of education technology in a shifting environment.

At the H818 Online Conference 2019, I will present the project and context in more detail. I am involved in revising both the bachelor and master curriculum in Social Work at the Zurich University of Applied Sciences and will explain strategy, approach and major challenges for implementing education technology at this institution. I will focus on design and purpose of the planned playground learning environment. In order to explore this approach in more detail, a prototype course will be available for conference attendees with a specific interest in this topic. Based on the experiences running this prototype course, we will discuss opportunities, strengths and weaknesses of such an approach in a workshop prior to the conference. The outcomes of the prototype course and the workshop will also be part of my conference presentation.


Adams Becker, S., Brown, M., Dahlstrom, E., Davis, A., DePaul, K., Diaz, V. and Pomerantz, J. (2018) Horizon Report: 2018 Higher Education Edition, Louisville, CO:EDUCASE.

Davis, C., Greenaway, R., Moore, M. and Cooper, L. (2018) ‘Online Teaching in Social Work Education: Understanding the Challenges’, Australian Social Work, pp. 1–13 [Online]. DOI: 10.1080/0312407X.2018.1524918.

Meyer, J. and Land, R. (2003) ‘Threshold Concepts and Troublesome Knowledge: Linkages to Ways of Thinking and Practising within the Disciplines’, pp. 1–14.

Taylor, A. (2017) ‘Social work and digitalisation: bridging the knowledge gaps’, Social Work Education, vol. 36, no. 8, pp. 869–879 [Online]. DOI: 10.1080/02615479.2017.1361924.

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