Multiple Perspectives in Learning and Collaborating: A Case Study of the HelpSource Collaboration
The existence of a digital divide among social work organizations is manifested in the lack of computers and Internet access, organizational support, and the availability of resources for the integration and continued use of information technology. This phenomenon is described as the“ organizational divide” which results in the uneven development of knowledge and information literacy skills among helping professionals. The purpose of the study was to use a situated approach (Bruce, 1999) in evaluating participation in a community technology group. The HelpSource Consortium is a group of the information providers, social workers, librarians, and health care providers from several communities in East Central Illinois who used a compendium approach in developing a comprehensive website of human services and community information (http://www.helpsource.org). Organizational participation, knowledge exchange, and unique outcomes among participants were examined. The findings revealed unique differences in terms of knowledge gains, motivation, and outcomes as a result of their participation with the group. Knowledge assimilation, application of information literacy ideas, sharing of new ideas, and the formation of new partnerships with community agencies consistently emerged as themes from the interviews. Although the findings indicate that human service professionals learn new IT knowledge and information literacy skills from their more technically savvy peers and from participating in the group, participants saw the relevance of the social and political context in influencing their participation, shaping their technology use and maximizing organizational outcomes. The implications are described in terms of the mechanisms that facilitate technology learning in community groups, and the best practices, which help to sustain interdisciplinary collaboration among professionals in developing information and referral websites.
Keywords: Interdisciplinary collaboration, Information literacy, Organizational divide, Community technology group, Learning
Dr. Adrian Kok
Assistant Professor, Graduate School of Social Work, Dominican University