Human Services Today
Dedicated to the Improvement of the Human Condition
The premier, international, peer reviewed, on-line journal disseminating information about current theory and practice in the human service field.
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Or, imagine that you are working with returning veterans who suffer from Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). The grant you wrote has provided funds for the newest generation of computerized virtual desensitization. Today you are taking a tour of the virtual battlefield scenario designed from the experiences of one of your clients. You put on the helmet interface to experience all the sights and sounds of an urban war zone while your heart rate, blood pressure, galvanic skin response, and respiration are measured and recorded.
Next imagine that you meet the family scheduled for a 1:00 therapy session. You send out an IM (instant message) to remind them all to choose an avatar that matches their mood today, then click “walk” on your notebook screen to move your therapist avatar into the secure on-line world that your agency has created. Counseling here is secure and HIPAA compliant.
Finally imagine that you have been assigned to a committee at your educational institution that has the task of developing standards for measuring digital literacy among your Human Services students. For this academic year you will focus on podcasts, digital storytelling, and Prezi presentations, but you are still discussing specific outcomes measures.
Do these scenarios sound like glimpses into the future? Like something from 10-15 years from now? Or at least from 5 years from now? If you think these are examples of what our future holds for the field of human services, then you are mistaken. These scenarios are not from the imagined future; each one of them is possible right now, today, with current technology available to all of us. Now…just imagine what will be possible in 5, 10 or 15 years.
Technology and Human Services…what will it look like in the future? For that matter, what will it look like in 5 years? We all sense that the speed at which technology is advancing is accelerating, but we may underestimate just how quickly that acceleration is occurring. “An analysis of the history of technology shows that technological change is exponential, contrary to the common-sense “intuitive linear” view. So we won’t experience 100 years of progress in the 21st century — it will be more like 20,000 years of progress (at today’s rate)” (Kurzweil, 2001).
For our field this acceleration of technology means many exciting opportunities to serve clients more efficiently, but also, for most of us, it also means devoting much more time and effort to learning how to use these new opportunities. This special issue is an introduction to the topic of technology as it applies to Human Services. In the article on SNPMIS by Messer and Porter you will read about the advantages of a holistic database for the special needs children of U.S. military men and women. This database goes far beyond what we have considered record keeping in the past, including outcomes measures, service coordination, and parent education. In Spears’ article on Human Services education in virtual worlds, you will learn about new educational tools, such as immersive experiences, and develop an understanding of telepresence and co-presence—advantages of virtual learning environments over traditional distance-learning formats. Finally, if you are one of the many Human Services professionals who did not grow up with laptops, iPhones, and notebooks that are not the three-hole punch variety, then Burns’ article on adapting to virtual reality will serve as an introduction and a gentle desensitization to this new technology.
Web Resource Spotlight by Susan Cramer, Ph.D.
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Human Services Today is a publication of the College of Education and Human Services, University of Wisconsin Oshkosh.
Page last updated November, 2011.