Facebook and personal privacy

A little while ago (07 Sep. 08) I wrote about some of the challenges faced with using web services like Facebook to engage with students.  I just came across this somewhat related story that highlights some of the dangers of using a service to be an online storage site for your personal information.

This article talks about plans by the US government to grant new powers to security services that allow them to access personal information on social networking sites like Facebook.  It’s all being done under the “We have to protect you from the terrorists” slogan that plagues American society currently.

While this article doesn’t specifically address the use of services
like Facebook in education, I just thought it makes an interesting
follow up.

Here’s the link:

The Physical Therapy Channel

I came across the Physical Therapy Channel a few months ago, just as they launched the beta version of the site (it’s still in beta) and thought it might make a useful resource.  I haven’t spent much time using it since then, but judging from the increased number of videos available, it seems to be gaining users.

The sites creators, also physiotherapists, are pushing for it to become an online community for physiotherapists, students, educators and product vendors (it’s this last one that makes me sceptical).  The site features “…demonstrations of treatment techniques, rehabilitation products, software demonstrations, rehabilitation facility tours, interviews with physical therapists and other healthcare related disciplines, online in-services, operating room surgeries, and a host of other unique content from the physical therapy industry.

Users can subscribe, listen, view, upload and share physical therapy videos and podcasts on the site.

Here’s the direct link to the site:

E-learning colloquium

This morning I presented an overview of e-learning at a small colloquium at my university.  I didn’t know who would be in the audience so I decided to take a step back and have a look at the e-learning landscape as I see it.  I tried to look briefly at the following:

  • The current generation of students (the so-called Net Generation)
  • Education as it is and why that won’t work
  • Education as it will be and it’s implications for teachers
  • Social media and why it’s important
  • Examples of specific technologies and the implications of using them
  • Challenges faced in e-learning
  • The way forward
  • E-learning in the mobile space

Clearly with such a broad area of discussion, it was difficult to deeply explore each topic.  As I said, this was a broad overview of the e-learning and potential applications in the higher education space.

Download the OpenDocument version here: e-learning_an_overview

Continuing professional development (CPD)

It’s our responsibility as healthcare professionals to keep up to date with our professional development in terms of maintaining clinical skills, improving knowledge and many other aspects of our practice.  Unfortunately, due to host of problems, it’s often difficult to stay current and to accumulate the required number of points.

One option is to sign up with eCPD, an online, accredited provider of CPD points.  Registration allows you to login and find a topic you’d like to know more about, download the open access journal article and answer a few questions based on that article.  You get one free credit when you register, but additional credits have to be bought.  With my free credit I chose Research ethics in rehabilitation, which will provide me with 1 (Level 2) Continuing Education Unit.

I wouldn’t recommend that this be your only source of CPD points, however it is a handy solution for those of us who sometimes struggle to make it to journal clubs or conferences.

Link to the site:

Wikipedia as a reference (part II)

A few months ago I mentioned the fact that the use of Wikipedia as a source of credible information for students is something we should encourage.  Whether we like it or not, we need to acknowledge that students are using Wikipedia, as well as other online sources that aren’t nearly as credible.  Rather than ban
it outright, which would be like trying to fight the tide, we
should teach students to use online resources responsibly and critically.

Here are a few guidelines that may help students get the most benefit from articles on Wikipedia.

1. Citation link
Students will cite online sources but often will format the citation poorly. In the left hand navigation column (the “Toolbox” box) of the relevant article on Wikipedia, you’ll see a link titled “Cite this page”.  Clicking it will provide you with a correctly formatted citation for that article in several different styles (e.g. APA, Chicago, etc.).  It also includes a great explanation of why you shouldn’t be using an encyclopedia
as a primary reference.

2. Reference lists
Most good articles will have comprehensive in-text citations and complete reference lists at the end. Encourage students to use these and other cues to establish the credibility of an article.

3. Add and improve
Students should be encouraged to add to and improve the content available on Wikipedia. If they see information they know to be incorrect, advise them on how to correct it, checking grammar and spelling and adding references to back up their contention.

4. Follow up on external links
Encourage students to follow up on the list of external links and references at the end of each article. That way, they may begin to understand the academic discourse that leads to the clarification and discussion of ideas in a specific field, as well as read the original sources of information.

By discussing these issues with students and providing them with the tools to critically analyse and evaluate the usefulness of content, they may learn how to distinguish between high quality, credible articles, and those which should just be used to provide background information.

Edit (25/09/08): Here’s a link to an article discussing a “study” of the use of Wikipedia by students.  It’s interesting because of the subject but also because it gives some insight into the research method used to come up with the data:


Conference: Higher education as a social space

I just found out that the abstract I submitted for the Higher Education as a Social Space conference has been accepted.  I’ll be presenting a paper on the use of ICT by physiotherapy students
in South Africa, based on the results of my masters thesis.

The conference will take place in Grahamstown from the 30 November to the 03 December and will include the following themes:

  • Institutional development (including quality management and enhancement)
  • Curriculum in higher education (including teaching, learning and assessment)
  • Academic staff development
  • Student development
  • Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) in teaching and learning

Obviously my main interest is in the use of ICTs in teaching and learning, but I’m hoping to attend a few presentations looking at curriculum in HE.

e-Learning is not an option

A few weeks ago I posted a quote by David Warlick who suggested that e-learning is not an optional approach to education and in fact has little to do with good teaching (Digital kids / Analogue schools). He points out that it’s merely a tool that’ll be used with varying degrees of success, which will be dependant on the quality of the teacher, not the tool.

This idea that e-learning is happening whether we like it or not, was highlighted to me the other day when I received a letter regarding a conference taking place in Israel that will look at the management of higher education institutions. The author, Dr. Joseph Shevel writes:

“This shift from reading books to e-learning isn’t optional; it doesn’t depend upon the assessment of educational experts as to whether it is good or bad. It doesn’t depend on whether these institutions are ready for such dramatic change. Regardless of whether they have the money, the infrastructure, the staff, the skills – or most significantly – the online content – digital delivery is now a reality of every classroom…”

Dr. Shevel goes on to say that “e-learning is here to stay, it will increasingly become a vital item in the training plan, there is a growing need for experts in designing digital teaching and learning, and in response, we must learn how and when to use it to it’s and our best advantage”.

The question is not whether e-learning works because e-learning is already happening. Our students are using this new methodology in the way they work, socialise and communicate, right now. The question is: “What are we going to do about it?”

Facebook privacy and copyright issues

I know that there’s quite a lot of interest in using Facebook, the social networking site, as a platform for interaction with students (1, 2). Whether that interaction is going to be on a social level (and the implications of that alone are certainly food for thought) or academically, it’s worth taking note of Facebook’s Terms of use, which states that:

“By posting User Content to any part of the Site, you automatically grant, and you represent and warrant that you have the right to grant, to the Company an irrevocable, perpetual, non-exclusive, transferable, fully paid, worldwide license (with the right to sublicense) to use, copy, publicly perform, publicly display, reformat, translate, excerpt (in whole or in part) and distribute such User Content for any purpose, commercial, advertising, or otherwise, on or in connection with the Site or the promotion thereof, to prepare derivative works of, or incorporate into other works, such User Content, and to grant and authorize sublicenses of the foregoing.

And it’s Privacy Policy:

Facebook may also collect information about you from other sources, such as newspapers, blogs, instant messaging services, and other users of the Facebook service through the operation of the service (e.g., photo tags) in order to provide you with more useful information and a more personalized experience. By using Facebook, you are consenting to have your personal data transferred to and processed in the United States.”

I wouldn’t go so far as to say we should avoid using Facebook as a platform for engaging with students. However, I’d strongly urge anyone considering this option to be aware of the fact that Facebook is essentially a closed environment over which you have no control and it seems that the copyright of any and all content published on the site will revert to Facebook, to do with as they will.

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
  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:

Link to the presentation Dr. Mitra gave at the LIFT Conference in 2007:

Link to an essay on the hole in the wall project: