“For social work, what’s happening with ChatGPT is both frightening and exciting,” says Lauri Goldkind, PhD, an associate professor at the Graduate School of Social Service at Fordham University and editor in chief of the Journal of Technology in Human Services Data Justice Collective. “Social workers need to engage with it with a critical lens. Be excited, curious — and skeptical.”
Tech advancements in social work can better prepare students for the realities they face in the field upon arriving on someone’s doorstep, oftentimes acting as the lifeline people desperately need when experiencing a potential crisis in life. In February, for example, the University of Kentucky’s College of Social Work began using virtual reality (VR) in child welfare investigation simulations
Karen Magruder, a social work instructor at the University of Texas in Arlington, has adopted ChatGPT to assist her in class preparation. Using ChatGPT, she has generated case studies for discussion in her cognitive behavioral therapy course.Her students analyze responses in small groups. “It’s been really helpful for saving me a lot of time and legwork and generating that type of content that then I use with students,” Magruder said.
University of Kentucky College of Social Work DSW student Karen Magruder is an active participant in the debate around AI applications and how they will impact social work and the field of higher education. Recently, her article on the topic was published in Social Work Today, and she was accepted to present at the upcoming National DSW Conference on “The Age of Artificial Intelligence has Arrived: Implications for Social Work Education.”
FSU psychology researcher Jessica Ribeiro, PhD, feels an urgency to improve suicide prevention. Ribeiro is currently working on a study with the Military Suicide Research Consortium based at FSU that uses machine learning to identify people with an imminent risk of suicide.
Given the increasing number of studies employing the relatively new tools of data-driven technology, it is apparent that many social work researchers believe in its potential benefits. However, there’s still a fair amount of concern about these tools, and some social workers are focused on addressing the most disturbing aspects, such as the inherent biases that can be found in Big Data.
To best address AI’s many blind spots, the field must include people of all genders, races, ethnicities, and backgrounds. For Desmond Upton Patton, PhD, MSW, that’s where social workers need to come in. “As social workers, we understand the need to treat people with respect, to work with communities, and to be able to help people leverage their voice in different spaces. That is our beginning place. Those values and morals are critical in the deployment and integration of AI4ALL.”Patton is an associate professor at Columbia School of Social Work and department of sociology, associate dean for curriculum innovation and academic affairs, and director of SAFElab.
In response to growing concerns about the lack of security for the data provided to ChatGPT, OpenAI announced in late April it would allow users to turn off the chat history feature for its chatbot. But the response isn't enough, according to some critics. The “history disabled” feature means that conversations marked as such will not be used to train OpenAI’s underlying models and will not be displayed in the history sidebar. They will still be stored on the company’s servers but will only be reviewed on an as-needed basis for abuse — and will be deleted after 30 days.
While the use of AI presents numerous opportunities and benefits, there are a number of legal issues that need to be carefully considered before going too far down the AI path. Data privacy, intellectual property, discrimination, tort liability and insurance are top considerations.
Social Work Research
“Social Work in an Online World”
NASW Press: https://naswpress.org/product/53673/social-work-in-an-online-world
SW Advocates: https://www.socialworkers.org/News/Social-Work-Advocates/April-May-2023-Issue/COVID-19-and-Shift-to-Virtual-Services-Inspired-Book-About-Digital-Practice
“Grand Challenges for Social Work”
Social Workers in Technology
Courtney Cogburn, PhD, an associate professor at New York’s Columbia School of Social Work
Desmond Upton Patton, PhD, MSW, an associate professor at Columbia School of Social Work and department of sociology, associate dean for curriculum innovation and academic affairs, and director of SAFElab
Silver School of Social Work at New York University
Victoria Stanhope, PhD, MSW, is exploring person-centered care, which ensures that behavioral health care is individualized and service users are active, empowered partners in their treatment.
Doris F. Chang, PhD, is examining Asian American responses to racism in the COVID-19 era, and exploring macro-contextual and individual predictors of discrimination, intergroup attitudes, and collective action to address racial inequality.
Michael Lindsey, PhD, MSW, MPH, has established an AI hub to help researchers investigate how AI-driven systems can be used to equitably address poverty and challenges related to race and public health, and to provide thought leadership on the implications.
Laura Burney Nissen, Ph.D., MSW, Portland State University School of Social Work
Chat GPT – Primer for Social Work – Social Work Futures
List of AI Resource – Social Work Futures
University of Texas at Arlington
Karen Magruder, LCSW, a social work instructor at the University of Texas in Arlington
Lauri Goldkind, PhD, an associate professor at the Graduate School of Social Service at Fordham University and editor in chief of the Journal of Technology in Human Services Data Justice Collective.
University of Kentucky
Justin “Jay” Miller, PhD, dean of University of Kentucky College of Social Work
Jonathan Singer, Ph.D., LCSW, Professor and Founder & Host of The Social Work Podcast