Creating Your Digital SSW Office: The SSWN Interview With Bridget Hills-Yoder
by Marjorie Colindres LCSW and Bridget Hills-Yoder, MSW
My name is Marjorie Colindres and I am currently a school social worker at Mannheim Middle School. This academic school year, my district is starting by doing remote learning. The day that I received the news from my school district, I tried to figure out ways to connect with students. In my search, I came across a post by Bridget Hills-Yoder. She shared in a Facebook Page by the Illinois Association of School Social Workers how to create your own digital office. After I read this post, I began to work on my own digital office and I received lots of positive feedback from colleagues. Therefore, I asked Bridget if she could kindly share further details. The interview is below:
Can you tell me about your background in social work?
After completing a BSW from Western Illinois University, I served in an education and job skills training program for young adults through AmeriCorps, and then I worked a few years at a public day school for K-12 students as a paraprofessional before deciding to pursue a career in school social work. I earned my MSW with PEL-SSW through George Williams College of Aurora University in 2015, had a wonderful mentor for my internship, and I have been working as a building school social worker at Deer Path Elementary, a small suburban elementary district, for five years.
How did you hear about virtual Bitmoji classrooms/offices?
I was actually browsing YouTube for beginner tutorials for digital art, a hobby I started pursuing during the stay at home orders, and I came across a brief video about one little aspect of virtual classrooms. That video linked to a Facebook group of educators who were sharing resources, ideas, and even their work. I was impressed by just how much information can be shared visually by using some pretty basic technology skills.
What types of resources did you use to create your digital office? Can you share your office?
When I was thinking about what I might want in my virtual office, I first took stock in what I have in my physical office. I wanted to look at what it is that my students turn to, use most frequently, and may be missing while they’re learning from home or while they might not have immediate access to calming tools in their classroom or my office. Most of their favorites are basic tools we use together to help them calm down or focus when they’re having a tough time: a hoberman sphere “breathing ball,” puzzle-y fidgets like a rubik’s cube, and a little rotating fish-tank lamp are some favorites in my office. I spent a long time looking for a mix of some activities that would be interactive along with some instructive and sensory videos that would also be helpful when accessing the resources independently. There are a total of 24 resources available in my “calm down room,” including a check-in form, through which students identify their “before” feelings, what tools they used, and their “after” feelings, so I can keep track of what students are using and the overall effectiveness of the room. This is the original Calm Down Room I shared on the IASSW Facebook group:
When I was thinking about what I might want in my virtual office, I first took stock in what I have in my physical office.
Here is an additional Parent Resource Room that I have created since then:
Were there specific YouTube videos that you would recommend?
I watched quite a few tutorials before diving in! I found all of them through the Facebook group Bitmoji Craze for Educators, where the moderators of the group each have their own YouTube channels to explain different aspects of the tool, from creating a bitmoji, to designing your classroom, to publishing it to use on multiple different learning platforms.
What type of feedback have you received from students, colleagues, and administrators?
I have not had the opportunity to utilize the rooms I’ve made with students or parents, but I’ve had great feedback from peers in online school social work communities and from social work colleagues in my district. One comment I get a lot is, “Okay, it looks great, but how do you use it?” There is a lot of great information out there on how to share and post these virtual classrooms, but I will say one of the things I love most about it is that I can change things on my end pretty easily without having to send out new links every time I change something. The virtual classrooms are compatible with loads of different learning platforms, and even if it’s not compatible with a social worker’s particular platform, when published, it can stand alone as a link, almost like a website of its own, that can be shared.
How do you think this connects to the Danielson Model?
While the Danielson framework was not foremost in my mind in creating these resources, I think a virtual classroom like this certainly hits on a few domains. I might reflect that creating a visual collection of resources speaks to my knowledge of typical child development, that it is integrative in and responsive to the changing school environment for all students, that it includes elements of evaluating practices as well as student needs, that it’s a (virtual) space that is both organized and inviting to students, that I’m reaching beyond the typical to broker resources for student needs, and the list could go on. I love these virtual rooms because they are such clear communication to students and families what is available for them to meet their needs.
Creating My Own Digital Office
Based on the resources that Bridget shared, I was able to put together my very own digital office. Click HERE to view it. Bridget and I hope that you find this information helpful and that you’re able to connect with students, families, and colleagues by being creative.