We’re all in beta

I was talking to Ben Ellis (@bendotellis) from Oxford Brookes University at the ER-WCPT conference in Liverpool last year and bemoaning the fact that the most interesting conversations – for me anyway – were happening outside of the sessions. This is probably not news for anyone who’s gone to more than a few conferences. We started chatting about how we could take the things “that work” from conferences e.g. sharing ideas, and removing the things that “don’t work” e.g. a few people talking at other people for 10 minutes at a time.

We’ve been toying with a few different options – influenced by unconferences and teachmeets – but always trying to keep the following broad principles around the format in focus:

  • Broad perspectives. Encourage input from a wide variety of expertise, rather than have the “expert” talk to everyone else.
  • Collaborative. Obviously.
  • Multiple activities. The session should include presenting, writing, and discussion, all around an artifact of some sort.
  • Preparation. We wanted the presenter to bring something to the discussion in the form of an idea that the conversation would centre on.

We’ve decided that a Google+ community seems to have the basic features we need to implement the principles described above. We also wanted to reinforce the idea that we’re all constantly learning how to do things better, and that it makes sense to learn from each other. It seems likely that the things we want to do in our classrooms have been done, in some form, somewhere else. And there’s no need to wait until the next conference and hope that your abstract gets accepted. As Ben said in his post on the project:

The idea of In Beta is for physiotherapy educators to bring a teaching and learning idea that they have been working on themselves or with colleagues within their institution to a group of peers in order to spark discussion, feedback and collaboration to improve and develop the original idea prior to releasing it into the classroom or clinic.

In essence, we want to use this space to encourage physio educators to experiment on their own approaches to teaching and learning practices. We have a basic structure for each session, which may change as we experiment with the format:

  1. Members of the In Beta community share an idea for a change in their teaching and learning practice.
  2. Community members choose a topic on a monthly basis, and help the person who submitted the topic develop the idea for presentation.
  3. The presenter shares their idea with the community, probably in a formal presentation (e.g. slideshow), but could equally be something different (e.g. collection of Pinterest images).
  4. There is a discussion around the idea where everyone gets to share their ideas and suggestions for improvement.
  5. During this process, the original submission is open for editing, so the community members present in the session are able to comment, make suggestions, share resources, generate a reading list, etc.
  6. We encourage those who presented to share their experiences back into the community following implementation of the idea.
  7. Finally, we hope that the process generates a collection of shared resources and ideas for other community members who may be interested in similar contexts.

Anyone with an interest in any aspect of physiotherapy education (clinical or practice-based educators as well as academics) can join the Google+ community for In Beta (Google account required).

The first In Beta session will be at 2pm (UK) on Wednesday 19th July 2017. The topic is teaching long term condition management and the background and outline of the teaching idea is available via the In Beta Google+ community. Thanks to Ben for taking the plunge and offering to be the guinea pig in this experiment.

Remember, it’s not defective. It’s in beta.