Jonathan Singer is the creator of the Social Work Podcast, which covers everything from direct practice to research, policy, and education. The podcast started in 2007 and today it gets about 60,000 unique monthly visitors. Singer (MSSW ‘96) is an associate professor at Loyola University Chicago, and a strong advocate for social workers to embrace technology and help define its social uses.
On becoming “the guy who knows about technology.”
When I was doing my master’s, I was at the computer lab, and the guy next to me was in a chat room. I asked him, “Dude, what’s that?” He explained and then said, “You know, as students, we can create our own webpage.” And for the next two hours he showed me how to use source code, copy and paste that into text, and upload into the server. And there it was, my webpage! I was not just using the Internet but creating content on it!
For the next couple of years, as I told people I could do this, I became the guy that knew about technology. And because people asked me questions, I had to find answers, and so I ended up learning a fair amount and creating the first web presence for a bunch of organizations in Austin.
On starting the Social Work Podcast.
I was teaching at the University of Pittsburgh while doing my PhD, and I realized how differently I read textbooks after ten years of experience in the field. I thought that the information would be more useful to my students after they graduated, so I was looking for ways to make it available to them. First I thought about posting summaries of my lectures online. And then the idea of a podcast dawned on me. I was listening to This American Life on podcast instead of having to catch the show as it was on the radio, and that was kind of exciting. So one night I searched for the domain name socialworkpodcast.com and, of course, it was available.
Most popular podcast episode.
I think that would be episode 53 from 2009, “Prochaska and DiClemente’s Stages of Change Model for social workers.” And the recent episode on recovery high schools, with Lori Holleran Steiker, has more than 20,000 unique downloads.
On social workers and technology.
I’m a strong advocate for social workers to lead not only in using technology but also in being at the table to talk about what technology should be use for, what technologies we would like to have… Why have psychologists and not social workers been tapped by Facebook to serve as advisors on their suicide response plans? Why aren’t social workers collaborating with start-up companies that create apps for consumers of social services? So, I’m not advocating for social workers to be on Facebook or swap faces on Snapchat. I’m advocating for them to think about technology as a tool, get involved in the development of technology applications, and make sure they become available in ways that do not put consumers at a disadvantage or risk.
On what is needed for podcasting.
I still use a fantastic digital recorder I got about ten years ago. I do most of the interviews in person, and I literally hold the digital recorder one inch from their faces, to make sure I get good audio. And then it’s just cleaning up the file, editing, and posting online. In the last couple of years I have seen several social workers embark on podcasting, and I think it’s wonderful. We all bring our own different perspectives. So if anybody is reading this and says, “Oh, I can do that,” my advice would be to go for it!