Assessing the assessor: keynote from SAAHE conference

Here are my notes from the second keynote address I attended at the SAAHE conference at the University of Stellenbosch on 20 June, 2008.

Professor Christina Tan from the University of Malaya (Malaysia) discussed the importance of ensuring competence among those responsible for examining students, as well as a few interesting points on why we examine and it’s relationship to the curriculum. Again, the emphasis is on medical students and again, I feel that the principles outlines are equally applicable to our approach to assessing physiotherapy students.

You can download my notes in the following formats:

OpenDocument (.odt)
PDF (.pdf)
Microsoft Word (.doc)

Ethical eating and healthy lifestyle

I know that I might be pushing the boundaries a little here but I figure it’s my blog so I can do what I want, right? I’m going to mention a few links to some worthwhile reading if you’re interested in making healthy and ethical eating choices, which kind of fits under a broad definition of healthcare.

The first is the Ethical Co-op, one of a growing number of organisations who try to provide affordable food to consumers interested in making ethical choices about what they eat. While I was living in the UK, I noticed that most of the “fresh” food available in supermarkets doesn’t originate in England. Rather, it gets flown in from North Africa and Western Europe, which, if it wasn’t heavily subsidised, would end up costing a lot more than it does. This has far-reaching consequences for both local farmers and international consumers (local farmers get screwed because they can’t sell their produce at fair market value and international consumers must either pay high prices for locally produced products, or just can’t get them because they’re immediately exported).

If we buy food that’s locally sourced, we support local farmers who can then offer their products at true market value, we cut down on the carbon cost of our food because it isn’t flown halfway around the world and we can enjoy food that’s fresh and grown without chemicals. It may cost a little more, but sometimes that can be a fair compromise.

Here’s a few links to some interesting blogs on healthy living:

A list of organic markets in or near Cape Town
Organic box schemes in or near Cape Town
Mother city livingliving the good (green) life in Cape Town
Wild Organics (scroll down the page a little for 11 reasons to buy organic)
Ethical Co-op blog

Open source alternatives to proprietary applications

I thought I’d take a moment to briefly mention a few open source alternatives to popular computer applications. The following programmes are all:
  • Open source – the source code is freely available, which usually means more stable and more secure.
  • Free – as in no cost and free from restriction.
  • Cross-platform – they run on multiple operating systems, including Linux and Windows.
  • As good as, if not better than, their proprietary counterparts.

So, here goes (by the way, this list is by no means complete):

Firefox – A very popular web browser that offers a more secure, more intuitive and faster alternative to Internet Explorer. – An entire office suite of applications for word processing, spreadsheets, presentations, databases and drawing. It uses the OpenDocument format by default and as such, it’s use is encouraged, especially in academia and governments.

Thunderbird – An email client that is a fast, secure and stable replacement for Outlook and Outlook Express, especially if you just need something light to manage your email.

Pidgin – An single instant messaging client that allows you to use all of your IM accounts at once, including IRC, MSN, Groupwise, AIM and ICQ.

Miro – An Internet TV application to subscribe to RSS feeds of free content from a host of providers, including TED, National Geographic and the Discovery Channel.

GIMP – The Gnu Image Manipulation Program. A free alternative to Photoshop that, while lacking some high end, professional features, does more than enough for most of us.

Flock – Social web browser…if you use Facebook, Flickr, Digg, or any other social networking service, this is for you.

Ubuntu – Not a software application but an entire operating system, Ubuntu is a Linux distribution based on Debian. Click here for the Wikipedia article.

Another great application to run, although once it’s set up you’ll hardly ever notice it, is BOINC (click here for the Wikipedia article). After installing the software, register with various projects and join millions of other users who donate their computer’s idle time to solving complex medical, scientific and mathematical problems. I can suggest the World Community Grid to begin with.

And while I’m at it, here’s a link to a post that discusses some of the problems with using Microsoft Word. I personally don’t mind receiving Word documents and understand that many institutions don’t give their employees a choice, but the first step is realising that you actually have a choice.

Patient safety: keynote from SAAHE conference

I finally got around to typing up some of my notes from the SAAHE conference. Here is the first keynote address I attended. It was a presentation by Professor Ara Tekian, the Associate Professor of Medical Education at the University of Illinois, entitled “Medical errors and patient safety: teaching and assessing at undergraduate level”.

While there is clearly a strong emphasis on the issue of patient safety among medical students, I think that the principles discussed could just as easily be applied to physiotherapy students.

Although these are only rough notes scribbled down during the presentation, I did try to incorporate more content, so it’s not exactly the same presentation that was given.

Click on a link below to download the notes in the format of your choice:

OpenDocument (.odt)
PDF (.pdf)
Microsoft Word (.doc)

Note: If you don’t know what the above formats mean, choose Microsoft Word.

Innovate (a journal of online education)

I just came across Innovate, an online journal published by the Fischler School of Education. It has some really great articles on the use of new technologies in education.

If you register (it’s free, although you do need to provide some occupational information), you get full access to all the articles.

Australasian Society for Computers in Learning in Tertiary Education

While working on the literature review for my Masters thesis, I came across a paper presented at the Australasian Society for Computers in Learning in Tertiary Education (ASCILITE) 2004 conference and made a note to return to the site once my thesis had been submitted and I had more time to browse the other papers.

I’ve just gone to have a look and was blown away at the wealth of fantastic content here for anyone interested in the use of computers and the Internet to facilitate teaching and learning. If this is something that you’re even vaguely interested in, you must visit this site. It contains not only the full papers presented at each conference dating back to 1995, but also has podcasts from the 2007 conference.

Here are some direct links to the most recent conferences:



Index of conferences from 1995 – 2008
Look for “Papers and proceedings” at each conference home page.

Pubmed: past, present and future

I came across this article discussing the past, present and future of the Pubmed database. I was browsing through the Medicine 2.0 blog and thought that the article may be relevant for some of us who use Pubmed.

The article doesn’t give a detailed review of all the possible tools available to more effectively use the database but it does provide a few extra ideas for those of us who probably only ever used the Search bar. It also discusses some of the more frustrating problems that I’ve certainly come across, most notably the return of abstracts completely unrelated to my search query.

Here is the direct link to the article:

To err is human: building a safer health system (free book)

While typing up my notes from the SAAHE conference (see previous post), I came across To err is human: building a safer health system, a book that had been mentioned by one of the keynote speakers. It looks at the medical community’s historically poor track record on accepting responsibility for mistakes made by healthcare professionals and discusses the alternatives. It was published in 2000 by the National Academies Press (NAP) and is available in hardback for about $40.

However, when the site identified my country of residence as South Africa, it suggested that by registering, I could download the PDF for free for personal use. The file is only 2.3 MB, which is a quick download even on dial-up. Obviously, the NAP makes certain publications available to residents of certain countries who they feel would benefit from those books but may not be able to afford the fee.

I’d definitely recommend registering on the site to see what else they have available. I’ve had a quick look through To err is human and although I’m not a huge fan of reading books on my computer (and this one is 312 pages long), I think I’ll give this one a go. Hopefully at some point I’ll be able to put up a short review.

The direct link to the Table of Contents for the online book is (if you’re registered with the site and live in South Africa, you should also have the option to download the PDF of the book for free).

SAAHE conference, 2008

Yesterday, I attended the first national Health Sciences Education conference hosted by the Faculty of Health Sciences at the University of Stellenbosch. It was quite inspirational, especially the talks given by two of the keynote speakers, which I found both informative and thought-provoking.

I was there to present the results of my Masters thesis, which I had someone video with the intention of posting it here. Unfortunately, the microphone on my camera didn’t capture the audio, so there’s no real point in putting the video up. However, I will be posting my presentation slides in case anyone is interested.

I’ll also be posting my notes from the conference, as well as a few comments on one or two of the other presentations. It’ll take a few days to work through though because I’m trying to catch up on some other things that are part of my “job”. I hate it when work takes precendence over the things I really want to do.

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