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The Learning Social Worker...what's it all about?

So what is the Learning Social Worker blog all about? It's a play on words because I am learning but I also wanting to prompt others to learn. My blog page begins with a summary 'about me'. It's a factual pen picture of a social work academic. It's a dry, anonymised, professional description of me. But only part of me. It offers the bare bones of my experience, and qualifications, without giving away too much personal detail. After all it’s going on the internet and I need to be sure not to breach any confidentiality, offend anyone, or make myself unemployable! I am a novice blogger and, in thinking about where the personal/professional boundaries would be, I agonised about where to draw that line. As social workers and teachers we are continually put in situations where we have to decide what personal things to reveal.

In the rapidly developing world of digital technologies how social workers and teachers manage their ‘online presence’ cannot be ignored. We have to find ways of managing it. I’ve been influenced by the work of Amanda Taylor, who has trailblazed ‘digital awareness’ and ‘digital professionalism’ in the social work arena. A browse through Amanda’s Twitter feed @AMLTaylor66 will provide links to her blogs and articles. I already use social media (Twitter and Facebook), personally and professionally, and have navigated my online profiles attempting to keep a clear division. That has not always been successful and what I learnt about using Facebook is worthy of it's own blog!

The process of deciding how to blog helped me identify what I wanted to achieve from blogging. I could have chosen to blog anonymously but I struggled with this idea. I value transparency and think we should be accountable for the things we say or do in the public domain. This is consistent with professional codes of conduct and upholding professional values. I use the term 'codes' because I am mindful of my social work and teaching roles. I decided I did not want to write an impersonal blog because my personal experiences, and values, underpin my professional self. My own story and life journey are intertwined with my critical learning points and professional development. So, somewhat bravely, I have decided to try and model digital professionalism and ‘use of self’ to balance the personal and professional.

So a different ‘about me’ would include:

I like to make quilts. The process of bringing different pieces together mirrors my life and how I view the world. I have made beautiful things by integrating old, new, bright, dull, fragile, bold, worn, or even ugly fabrics. The key is to recognise the potential in all materials and be brave enough to try something different. I am fortunate to be a mother, grandmother, wife, daughter, friend, carer, and colleague. Being someone who has close trusted relationships and a wider circle of connected people is essential for my wellbeing. I am a product of my upbringing and my life experiences, these make me both strong and vulnerable. When opportunities for joy or fun come along I relish every minute. I am creative, imaginative and an ‘ideas’ person. I love to learn new things and am insatiably curious. I have a strong sense of social justice and passion for social work and education. My approach to social work and education is eclectic, this is not a chaotic position but deliberate stance, that recognises that there are many good, well-evidenced ways of working with people but no one ‘right’ way. I will stand up and speak out where I see injustice, or possibilities for change, but this can make me unpopular. I have faced many challenges in life but my resilience means that, somehow, I overcome, or come to terms with, these. The most difficult of times have caused me to pause, reflect, re-evaluate and move forward with a renewed determination to make a positive difference where I can.

I bring all of ‘me’ into social work and teaching - the professional experiences, skills and qualifications and my personal strengths, vulnerabilities, values and personality. My hope in blogging is that I can demonstrate how, as social workers and teachers, we need to use all aspects of our selves because when the personal and professional aspects collide these can be the richest learning opportunities. I shall explore this in future posts. I want to bring to a wider forum the things that I am passionate about for debate and knowledge exchange. Follow me on Twitter @CarolineAldrid5. Do give me your feedback. I need it to learn. But please do it kindly and bear with me as I explore moving deeper into the world wide web of connections and learning.

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