Teaching and learning workshop outcomes

Two weeks ago I attended a teaching and learning workshop on campus that was pretty interesting. I just received an email from the coordinator highlighting the following key points that were raised:

  1. Our students…experience many social problems and this could be regarded as a barrier to their learning.
  2. As lecturers we have to make active use of the support structures on campus when we are constructing our curricula, which means we have to involve our librarians and the individuals in the Centre for Student Support Services and other support structures on campus in an active
    process of collaboration. This could mean that we involve these individuals in meetings, making explicit what we require from them and they will in turn make their expectations and needs explicit.
  3. Lecturers mentioned that we should consider what we as teachers in higher education could do to improve the teaching and learning on campus rather than focus on the deficits that students have.
  4. We need to coordinate the academic and support structures on campus so that we can provide a holistic higher education experience to our students.
  5. The academic programme, support structures and social activities should add value to students’ experiences so that when they graduate they are confident, competent and independent
    thinkers.
  6. We admit students with different language backgrounds and different mother tongues and we should look at ways of using this as a resource.

For me, the main benefit of attending the workshop was finding out just how many resources are available to the students. Whether or not they’ll make use of them is another story 🙂

The “Hole in the wall” project

“In 1999, Sugata Mitra and his colleagues dug a hole in the wall bordering an urban slum in New Delhi, installed an Internet-connected PC, and left it there (with a hidden camera filming the area). What
they saw was kids from the slum playing around with the computer and in the process learning how to use it and how to go online, and then teaching each other”.

From the profile page on Dr. Mitra from TED.com

Hole in the wall projects have since expanded to many other countries and continue to “light the spark of learning” among children.  Using a teaching pedagogy known as “minimally invasive education“, Hold in the wall projects seek to provide sufficient stimulation to motivate children to learn in groups without any teacher supervision.

This is just another way that makes me realise my role is less a source of knowledge (how can I compete with the Internet) and more a facilitator of learning. Rather than telling students how it is, doesn’t it make more sense to tell them where it is and what to do with it?

“Education-as-usual assumes that kids are empty vessels who need to be sat down in a room and filled with curricular content. Dr. Mitra’s experiments prove that wrong.”

Linux Journal

Link to the Hole in the wall project homepage:
http://www.hole-in-the-wall.com/

Link to the presentation Dr. Mitra gave at the LIFT Conference in 2007:
http://www.ted.com/index.php/talks/sugata_mitra_shows_how_kids_teach_themselves.html

Link to an essay on the hole in the wall project:
http://www.ncl.ac.uk/egwest/holeinthewall.html

Tactical Technology Collective

I attended a teaching and learning workshop yesterday which was pretty informative in that I saw how many other lecturers in my faculty have an interest in using new technologies to push the teaching and learning agenda in new directions. As a result of attending, I was told about the Tactical Technology Collective.

From their website…

“Tactical Tech is an international NGO helping human rights advocates use information, communications and digital technologies to maximise the impact of their advocacy work. We provide advocates with guides, tools, training and consultancy to help them develop the skills and tactics they need to increase the impact of their campaigning”.

I haven’t spent much time on the site and so don’t really have any insight into what they’re about but it seems worth exploring.

Here is the direct link to the site:
http://www.tacticaltech.org/

10th annual conference on World Wide Web applications

Yesterday I registered to attend the 10th annual conference on World Wide Web applications being held at the University of Cape Town from the 3-5 September. It’ll look at the impact of the web on our daily lives, focusing on four tracks or themes, namely; e-commerce, e-learning, e-government and e-society. Some of the presentations I’m interested in include:

  • Trends in student use of ICTs in higher education in South Africa (Prof L Czerniewicz, University of Cape Town)
  • To opensource or not to opensource – the case for e-learning (Mr HS Oliver, African Online Scientific Informations Systems (Pty) Ltd – (AOSIS)
  • Electronic abuse in Web 2.0 based social networks: responsibilities for students, educational institutions and online intermediaries in South Africa (Prof M Kyobe, University of Cape Town)
  • A study about the use of Facebook for social encouragement among citizens within a community on the Cape Flats (Mr D Minani, Cape Peninsula University of Technology)
  • Assessing researchers’ performance in developing countries: Is Google Scholar an alternative? (Dr OB Onyancha, UNISA)

I’m really looking forward to the conference and will be posting here about my experiences.

How web 2.0 is changing medicine

The British Medical Journal published this article in December (2006), which may not seem like a long time ago in the traditional approach to academic publication but which in terms of the Internet is already old news. It asks, “Is a medical wikipedia the next step?”, a question I think is becoming more and more relevant as we see user-generated content proliferating in all spheres of our lives, but more and more frequently in the field of healthcare.

The author, Dean Giustini (librarian at the University of British Columbia Biomedical Branch), looks at the advantages of web 2.0 technologies or social software (e.g. RSS, blogs, wikis and podcasts) with particular reference to the creation of open content, improving access to information and the impact all of this has on medicine. We need to be asking ourselves how we can use these new technologies to better inform the way we teach, learn and communicate with our students and colleagues.

I think the final paragraph sums up my own opinion of the role of the Internet in influencing those of us who are creators and publishers of content:

“The web is a reflection of who we are as human beings – but it also reflects who we aspire to be. In that sense, Web 2.0 may be one of the most influential technologies in the history of publishing, as old proprietary notions of control and ownership fall away.”

OpenPhysio launched

OpenPhysio is an attempt to create a free, online, learning resource for physiotherapy students, physiotherapists and physiotherapy educators that anyone can edit (think, Wikipedia for physio’s).  While I’m sure the idea of students creating content in a (*gasp*) non-accredited, non-peer-reviewed, unstructured and unsupervised environment is horrifying to some, I believe that this is partly where the future of education lies.

Rather than creating walled gardens and restricting students in what they can read, write and learn, why not give them the opportunity to find their own voices and to describe the world as they see it?  Of course, we’ll need to make sure they have the tools to navigate this brave new world and maybe that’s the problem.  Not that they’re doing it their way, but that we don’t always understand what their way is.  Oh, and also that they’re not doing it our way.

Bear in mind that OpenPhysio is a new project and as such is very limited in the scope of it’s content and the reliability of using it as a resource at this point is questionable.  However, rather than condemn it for it’s limitations, students and educators should look to it as a tool that can be improved by anyone.  I’m excited by the prospect of seeing what physiotherapy students come up with when we set them free, and how educators make use of new technologies to better facilitate the teaching and learning process.

Digital kids / Analogue schools

Recently I came across a collection of quotes on the website of Scott McLeod, an Associate Professor in the Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies at Iowa State University. It mostly consists of quotes by David Warlick but also has a few from other blogs.

Here are a few that I enjoyed:

  • “I’m getting tired of hearing people continue to ask for the evidence that technology helps students learn. It doesn’t matter. We know that good teachers help students learn. We need technology in every classroom and in every student and teacher’s hand, because it is the pen and paper of our time, and it is the lens through which we experience much of our world.”
  • “One of our problems has been that we have tried to shape the technology around outdated notions of what schooling is about, rather than reshaping our notions to reflect new world conditions…  In a rapidly changing world, it becomes much less valuable to be able to memorize the answer, and much more valuable to be able to find and even invent the answers…  We can’t keep up with making the technology the curriculum. All we can do is prepare our students to teach themselves. It’s the only way to keep up.”
  • “The kids who start school today will be retiring in the year 2065, and yet we know as little about what the world will look like then as we do five years from now. We can give them all the content we want, but in this age, in won’t make much difference if we don’t teach them how to learn first. And they do that not by spitting back at us what they “know.” They do it by being creative, by trying and failing, by succeeding and reflecting.” (http://weblogg-ed.com/2006/learning-to-learn-2/)

I think it’s great that people are challenging the traditional stereotypes of students, classrooms and the learning process and I agree that rote memorisation and the regurgitation of facts does nothing to prepare our students for the challenges of reasoning in a clinical environment.

Link to the original PDF:
www.scottmcleod.net/storage/digitalkids.pdf

Knol: a unit of knowledge

Knol, described as “a unit of knowledge” by the project’s creators, is a new initiative by Google that allows anyone to write an article, called a “knol”, about any topic. It’s a bit like Wikipedia in that respect but is limited to discrete articles with no links between them. Authors can also decide how much freedom to give users in terms of editing, either allowing anyone in the public, only knol collaborators, or no-one at all to edit their knols.

The bulk of the knols written so far seem to be focussed on health and medicine and have been written by specialists in that particular field. After a brief review of some knols, I felt that they seem to be of a higher general standard than those of similar topics in Wikipedia. One of the advantages of knols is that there’s a structure and flow to the article that may come from having been written by one author and that unfortunately is lacking in some Wikipedia articles that often suffer from having been tacked together by many editors.

Of course, a potential disadvantage of having only one author may be a lack of either depth or breadth to the article, as well as raising questions regarding the credibility of the author. Having said that, many knols have complete reference lists and in-text citations that seem to offer reassurance in terms of the accuracy of the knol content.

I’d suggest including Knol as a useful point of reference when beginning to research a topic. It’ll not only give you a good overview of that particular subject, but will also point you in the direction of other sources.

Links:
http://knol.google.com/k/knol and Wikipedia article on Knol

The machine is us…

I came across this great video on YouTube today that looks at the direction the web is taking in terms of the separation of structure and content, as well the role of social networks in creating the semantic web. Strictly speaking, it’s not directly related to education or healthcare but it does have an indirect impact in that it gives us a hint of where we might be headed and of some of the ways in which we can use these tools.

Here’s the link:
YouTube – Web 2.0 … The Machine is Us/ing Us

Clinical guidelines: should we be using them?

I attended a lecture a few days ago by Karen Grimmer-Somers, a professor at the University of South Australia and Director of the Centre for Allied Health Evidence (CAHE). An adjunct professor at the University of Stellenbosch, she visits Cape Town every year or so and this year we were fortunate enough to have her visit our physiotherapy department. She gave a great talk about the emerging use of clinical guidelines in healthcare, as well as the standards around their development and discussed why we should be looking to these guidelines in our practice.

Traditionally, clinical guidelines have been viewed with suspicion by anyone interested in working from the evidence base, as “guidelines” were often little more than one individual’s personal opinion. Over the past 5 years however, the approach to producing clinical guidelines has radically changed, with vast amounts of time and resources being poured into their development.

Nowadays, a clinical guideline focuses on the current understanding of a particular condition and makes use of a diverse range of academic literature to establish an approach to best practices, based on the outcomes of a large number of the studies available. They also inform the reader what level of evidence has been used to establish “best practice”, from systematic reviews of the literature (Level A) to expert clinical opinion (Level D). This allows the clinician to make up their own mind about how solid is the foundation upon which the guideline is built and how much weight to allocate it.

Here are a few links to some of the organisations responsible for developing guidelines (in no particular order). Since different organisations are tasked with developing different guidelines, you might have to look around until you find what you’re looking for. You should also bear in mind that not only are new guidelines being developed all the time but old ones are typically reviewed every 2-3 years, so you need to make sure you have the latest version.

And an article looking at both sides of the use of clinical guidelines:

With the international movement in healthcare towards evidence-based practice, it seems logical to make use of any tools available that would assist us in this regard.