How Hypermodern Technology in Social Work Education Bites Back

By Kreuger, Larry W.; Stretch, John J. | Journal of Social Work Education, Winter 2000 | Go to article overview

How Hypermodern Technology in Social Work Education Bites Back


Kreuger, Larry W., Stretch, John J., Journal of Social Work Education


IN RECENT YEARS, social work education has been inundated by sophisticated and often costly technology (Conklin & Osterndorf, 1995; Iacono & Kling, 1996). According to Wise (1997), hypermodern technology (or hypertechnology) refers not to individual pieces of equipment, but rather to an entire interconnected assemblage of various technologies operating worldwide which interact electronically. This includes personal and networked computers, the Internet and other webbed connections, telecommunications, satellite hookups, cellular communications, and synchronous and asynchronous capacities (see Figure 1). The carefree early frontier days of hypertechnology in education are over. It is no longer possible to discuss one application or piece of equipment apart from the economic and political hypertechnological-sphere, which forms a much larger assemblage (Davis, 1999; Welfrens, 1999). Commercial interests now direct and govern the hypertechnology landscape in every arena (Thurow, 1998), including social work education.

[Figure 1 ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

As Wise (1997) points out, purely market-based profit motives are dominating the technological assemblage worldwide, which is restricting access to a relatively privileged few. There are reports that the manufacture of hypertechnology is exploiting workers and their families in the Third World, and that the environment is being despoiled during production (Borsook, 1996; Rushkoff, 1997).

Discussions available in the social work literature on hypertechnologies ordinarily report on positive contributions of one application of hypertechnology at a time. For a review of the role of technology in social work in general, see Phillips and Berman (1997) and Fitzgerald and McNutt (1999); on simulation, Wodarski and Kelly (1987); on virtual realities Brooks (1997); and on cellular and telecommunications devices and microcomputers, Kreuger and Ruckdeschel (1985), Pardeck and Murphy (1986), LaMendola (1987), Schoech (1990), Stretch and Kreuger (1992), Seabury and Maple (1993), Monnickendam and Eaglstein (1993), Patterson and Yaffe (1994), Howard (1995), Pardeck, Dotson, Rickets, and McCully (1995), Roosenbloom (1995). For information on Internet issues, see Giffords (1998), Gibelman, Gelman, and Fast (1999), Karger and Levine (1999), and Yaffe and Gotthoffer (2000); on videodisc media, Lynett (1985); on other related applications, Reamer (1986), Born (1987), Colis and colleagues (1988), Cnaan and Parsloe (1989), Caputo (1991), Saleebey (1991, Schopler, Abell, and Galinsky (1998), Siegel, Jennings, Conklin, and Napoletano Flynn (1998), Memmott and Brennan (1998), Wier and Robertson (1998), Coe and Elliott (1999), and Harrington (1999).

Over the past several years, practitioners and educators have been pressured to join the hypertechnology assemblage by accepting at face value various types of electronic equipment. Little supportive data are available, however, regarding positive outcomes (Kreuger & Stretch, 1998; Pardeck et al., 1995). The authors' own 1997 survey of 91 MSW-level practitioners found 63% of respondents using office computers daily and another 18% using such equipment at least weekly, but the responses indicate a wide variance in the cost-versus-benefits question. Some wonder if decision makers have been motivated by a fear their agencies or department will be left out (Perelman, 1992). The train is leaving the station, everyone wants on board, but no one seems to know where it is headed.

The authors contend, moreover, that many social work educators have not kept pace with the implications of these pedagogical innovations (except see Behar, 1993; Schopler et al., 1998), either in terms of the organizational changes they effect in the ways we teach (and therefore how students learn) or the impacts they are likely to have on practice (Blakely, 1994; Conklin & Osterndorf, 1995). The positive side of hypertechnology has been articulated in the literature on a piecemeal basis, as various applications are described to the reader. …

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