FaceTime: Bringing the Community into the Classroom

Dr. Holly Dabelko-Schoeny leads a discussion, between her class and colleagues at the Greater Hilltop Shalom Zone, using iPads and the FaceTime application.

Dr. Holly Dabelko-Schoeny, an Associate Professor in the College of Social Work at The Ohio State University, wanted to use technology to immerse her graduate students into community environments. The College of Social Work faculty had just started using iPads and she was looking for a way to provide real world examples of the role of social workers, while at the same time providing instruction and guidance to students while immersed in these settings.

The majority of students in Dr. Dabelko-Schoeny’s graduate class, Engaging and Entering in the Profession, did not have academic or practice backgrounds in social work. The purpose of the course was to introduce first year graduate students to the knowledge, skills and values needed to prepare for and engage in social work with vulnerable and oppressed populations. Traditionally, students in this course practiced role-playing scenarios in class in an attempt to build verbal and non-verbal communication skills before they were assigned to community internships.

Dr. Dabelko-Schoeny and the College of Social Work decided to partner with the Greater Hilltop Shalom Zone in Columbus to create a collaborative learning environment using iPads. The College of Social Work purchased one iPad and one mobile hotspot for the Greater Hilltop Shalom Zone as a way to bring the community center into Dr. Dabelko-Schoeny’s classroom. During class, students used FaceTime, a free videoconferencing app, to connect with the Executive Director and social workers at the Greater Hilltop Shalom Zone. Students were able to communicate directly with professionals in their new field of study and ask pertinent questions on how to manage various social work cases.

FaceTime on the iPad provided students access to real life situations in a controlled setting, and during their FaceTime conversations with the Great Hilltop Shalom Zone, Dr. Dabelko-Schoeny delivered instructional guidance to the class. While simple in concept, this direct connection with an area in need of intervention and support from a social worker provided students with real life scenarios and examples that were impossible to recreate in the traditional classroom setting and could lead students to develop better communication skills via direct observation rather than role-playing.

Dr. Dabelko-Schoeny explained why she wanted to utilize technology in her classroom, “I wanted to extend the classroom into the community in a way that was simple. The fact that the technology is mobile helps greatly with logistics and the fact that the technology is interactive allows for real time collaboration in a real world setting.”

Steve David, a student in Dr. Dabelko-Schoeny’s class, described his experience, “As part of my social work education, which seems to inhabit realms of ambiguity and contextual uncertainty, I found the use of FaceTime in class to be a unique and dynamic learning experience.  Talking with Julia Nielsen from the Shalom Zone provided an opportunity to interact with someone working to build specific solutions to concretely contextualized questions.  Bringing the “field” into the classroom made me rethink the boundaries of both those spaces.  As a skeptic aware of the ability of technology to divide and to distract, the possibilities I saw with this experience were refreshing and exciting.”

The College of Social Work plans to evaluate Dr. Dabelko-Schoeny’s incorporation of technology in her classroom to determine the success of the implementation and if similar practices should be expanded to other courses.