Earlier this year I gave my 4th year Ethics class an assignment in which they were required engage in a reflective exercise that not only encouraged interaction with others, but allowed them to see that their own perceptions of the world were different to others’.
Reflection has been shown to be a significant factor in developing clinical and ethical reasoning skills, so the initial requirement was to read two articles and then post a short reflection on each. Other students would then comment on your reflections and you would have to respond to that comment, hopefully having considered your colleagues comment. The learning objectives of the assignment were to:
- Understand some of the ethical problems inherent in the South African healthcare system
- Be able to discuss some types of ethical dilemmas in healthcare, even if they are not directly related to physiotherapy
- Understand the role of reflection in your professional development, especially in the clinical and ethical reasoning process
- Have participated in an online, networked conversation with your peers
- Acknowledge the differing perspectives of others who may experience the world in different ways
- Understand some of the advantages and disadvantages of using new technologies in healthcare education
I set up a WordPress blog on my own server because I wanted the students to have full control over their data (and it was surprisingly difficult to get access to a university server), created an author account for each student and then gave a tutorial on blogging and the blogging environment. The 47 students then had about a month to complete the assignment before the blog was closed to everyone.
Here are some quick stats:
- 94 posts (2 each)
- 222 comments (some students made more than the 3 that were required)
- 109 tags (the main ones being MDR-TB, Apartheid and Torture)
- 3983 pageviews (pretty impressive for 47 students)
While the initial results seem to be favorable, I have to say that anyone who assumes that all students in higher education are tech-savvy, needs to rethink that idea. One of the biggest challenges I had was trying to get students to understand what a blog is. And I don’t mean the deeper meaning of what blogging is, I mean the concept of a website that they could edit. Forget about RSS feeds and blogging software clients. The notion of digital natives does not apply here, and if the use of technology in education is going to move forward (in this country, at least), this is one major challenge that’ll have to be overcome.
You can download the content of the blogging tutorial here (2.4 MB ppt). I’ll be opening up the blog to the public once I’ve graded them, and will be presenting the results of an evaluation at the SAAHE conference in July.