SAAHE 2016 conference

I usually post my notes after a conference but this year at SAAHE I mainly used Twitter to keep track of my thoughts during the sessions, which was great because we probably saw more activity on Twitter in PE than ever before. Here is the conference feed using the #saahe2016 hashtag.

Note : While it’s great that Twitter gives you the ability to embed a conference feed in a post like this, I always wonder what will happen when Twitter goes away?


Design principles for blended learning environments: a presentation

I’m going to be at the 2015 SAAHE conference for the next couple of days, which is being held in association with The Network: Towards Unity for Health. Yesterday I gave a workshop on Setting up and running an open online course, as well as a presentation on developing Design principles for blended learning environments. These principles are the outcomes of my PhD project, as well as further studies that I’ve done in the area. Here are the slides for the presentation.

WCPT course: Creating and running an open online course

I’m in Singapore for the 2015 World Confederation for Physical Therapy Congress, which is the largest gathering of physiotherapists in the world. I’ve never been to a WCPT Congress before, so I’ve really been looking forward to this for a while now.

Tomorrow I’m presenting a half day course with Tony and Rachael Lowe from Physiopedia, called “Creating open online courses“. We’re going to try and figure out, together with participants, if there’s a place for these kinds of online (or blended) courses in formal physiotherapy education. I believe that it was one of the first courses to sell out at the conference, so there’s definitely an interest in the topic.

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We’ve set up our workshop so that the major concepts we’d like to cover are presented, not as PowerPoint slides but as an online course that anyone can work through (see image below). We included our topics, learning outcomes, content overviews and resources on the wiki at Physiopedia, as well as set up a shared online workspace in Google Drive. Course participants will work through the topics in small groups, using the topics in the online course as inputs for discussion, and then collaboratively document what they are thinking and learning during the course. We will act as facilitators and guides, presenting the initial concepts, adding a few thoughts from our own experiences and then facilitating group discussions. We thought that this might be an interesting approach (for this topic in particular) where instead of participants simply being introduced to the concepts involved in open online learning, they actually work in that space themselves.

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It’s a bit of an experiment so we’d really like to hear comments and feedback, not only from course participants but anyone else at the Congress who thinks that this might be a useful way to run future workshops. The hashtag for the workshop is #wcptooc, so please feel free to send a comment or question, whether you’re signed up for the course or not. We’d love to be able to incorporate thoughts and ideas from people who aren’t in the room.

On a related but separate note, part of the reason for me being here is also a funded research visit to try and set up meetings with potential collaborators for our International Ethics Project. If you’re interested in collaborating on an international research project that aims to develop and run a course in professional ethics across multiple institutions, I’d love to hear from you (there’s a Contact page on the site).

Using the web to empower agents of change: Presentation at The Network – TUFH conference

These are the slides from the presentation I gave at The Network: Towards Unity for Health conference in Fortaleza, Brazil (2014).

The talk looked at how we’re trying to prepare health professional students for an increasingly complex health system, but we’re still using teaching methods that originated centuries ago. I ask questions about how we can change teaching practices to take into account the characteristics we expect of our graduates. I discussed the importance of taking a critical stance towards the implementation of technological solutions, and to be careful of making assumptions about the use of technology to solve all problems.

Starting new projects and catching up with old ones

It’s been a long time since I’ve updated my blog, for a few very good reasons. The first and most important is that in the middle of last year my daughter was born. I took time out from as many non-essential work-related activities as possible so that I could spend time with her whenever I could.

During this same period of time I also developed and ran an open online course on Professional Ethics in collaboration with Physiopedia as part of a sabbatical project I was working on. While I blogged extensively as part of the course, it meant that I had no time to write about other things I found interesting.

At about the same time, I agreed to chair the organising committee of the 2014 SAAHE conference, which was recently held in Cape Town. The conference organisation and sabbatical research project, together with my normal workload and commitment to family time meant that I had to take a step back from blogging.

However, now that the conference and research project is over and our family have settled into a more structured routine, I’m finding that I have a little more time to start blogging again. I thought that I’d get back into the swing of things by saying a little bit about the main projects that I anticipate working on during the next few months.

The first is my Clinical Teacher mobile app. It’s been ages since I’ve added any new content and I’m feeling really guilty about that, especially since interest in the project seems to be growing. I’ve slowly been adding bits and pieces to a few articles that I wanted to write but never had the time to finalise any of them. Over the next few months I’m hoping to finish 2 or 3 articles and get them published into the app. I’m also going to work on a visual refresh for the app. I’ve been really impressed with the material design principles highlighted in the the developer preview of Android “L”. The flat design and use of colour and depth, together with new ideas about fonts and how they display on many different screen sizes, has got me thinking differently about the app.

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The change won’t be anything drastic but I do want to give the app a more modern look and feel, and remove the faux leather covers and gradients. I also want to come up with a consistent image theme for article headers. The more recent articles have had an “animal” theme, where I try to find an image of an animal that somehow speaks to the topic (even if the link is only in my mind). However, there have been times when I’ve ignored that trend and just used something clearly related. I haven’t yet decided what to do but am clear that it will be a design decision that will be consistently applied moving forward. Finally, I want to experiment with the new features that Snapplify have been building into the platform, including publishing video and audio, annotations, and text highlighting.

I mentioned earlier in the post that in 2013 I ran an open online course on ethics, and would now like to build on that work. I’ve submitted a funding proposal to support the next phase of the project, which is to offer the course in a variety of countries and educational contexts, and across a range of professional disciplines. We learned an enormous amount during the 2013 experience and we want to build on those lessons by doing something that really challenges how we think about physiotherapy education in an international context. I’m definitely going to work with Physiopedia again, since we had a really great experience during the first course and their input was invaluable. I’ll post more about that project once I’ve found out about the funding outcome and ethics approval.

Finally, and on a somewhat related note, we’re going to be developing a few courses within our department, which we will offer to our clinical supervisors and clinicians at the placements where our students work. They will most likely be a blend of online and physical components, and be relatively short in duration (ranging from a few hours to 2-4 weeks). Our supervisors have identified several areas where they would like additional input that they feel will help them to better support our students. For example, assessment and feedback are two areas that could be improved. So, we’ll be exploring different ways to support our clinicians and supervisors over the next few months.

In addition to these projects, I’m also going back to Brazil in November to attend The Network: Towards Unity for Health conference. The main reason for attending is to try and establish partnerships with colleagues from other institutions, who might like to be involved in the international ethics project that I mentioned earlier. There are many parallels and similarities between Brazil and South Africa, and I’d like to develop stronger links between my own institution and others over there because there’s a lot we can learn from each other.

So that’s it. My tentative plans for the rest of 2014.

2014 SAAHE conference in Cape Town

One of the reasons that I’ve been quite on this blog lately is that I’m working on the SAAHE 2014 organising committee, and we’re starting to gear up for the conference in a little over a month. I thought I’d write a little progress update, just in case you’re considering registering but hadn’t made up your mind.

The SAAHE conference is perhaps the largest annual gathering of health professions educators on the continent, represented by academics, researchers and clinicians from many of the higher education institutions in the country. It’s a wonderful opportunity to share insights, research findings and experiences with colleagues who are passionate about teaching and learning in the context of health care.

We are really excited that, for the first time in SAAHE’s history, we are having a South African keynote speaker along with our international speakers. Steve Reid joins Debbie Murdoch-Eaton and Jason Frank, along with the winner of the SAAHE Distinguished Educator award (still be announced), in the lineup of keynote presenters.

This year the conference will be held off campus at the DoubleTree Hotel, due to planned rennovations that would make hosting on site logistically complicated. The hotel is a great venue, conveniently located near the city and also able to provide accomodation to out of town delegates.

Entrance lobby at the DoubleTree Hotel.
Entrance lobby at the DoubleTree Hotel.

If you are interested in attending the SAAHE conference, please visit our information page, or contact the conference manager, Debbie Rorich, for additional details. We look forward to seeing you at the 2014 SAAHE conference in Cape Town.

Storytelling for academics

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In 2012 I gave a short presentation on a few elements of giving a conference presentation, using images from Pixar movies (see bottom of post). I wanted to convey the idea that sharing academic research needn’t be boring, a problem that I think is rife among academics. That’s why I was delighted to come across Pixar’s 22 rules of storytelling, some of which I think can be adapted for academics to use when sharing their work.

  1. You admire a character for trying more than for their successes.
  2. You gotta keep in mind what’s interesting to you as an audience, not what’s fun to do as a writer. They can be very different.
  3. Trying for theme is important, but you won’t see what the story is actually about til you’re at the end of it. Now rewrite.
  4. Once upon a time there was ___. Every day, ___. One day ___. Because of that, ___. Because of that, ___. Until finally ___.
  5. Simplify. Focus. Combine characters. Hop over detours. You’ll feel like you’re losing valuable stuff but it sets you free.
  6. What is your character good at, comfortable with? Throw the polar opposite at them. Challenge them. How do they deal?
  7. Come up with your ending before you figure out your middle. Seriously. Endings are hard, get yours working up front.
  8. Finish your story, let go even if it’s not perfect. In an ideal world you have both, but move on. Do better next time.
  9. When you’re stuck, make a list of what WOULDN’T happen next. Lots of times the material to get you unstuck will show up.
  10. Pull apart the stories you like. What you like in them is a part of you; you’ve got to recognize it before you can use it.
  11. Putting it on paper lets you start fixing it. If it stays in your head, a perfect idea, you’ll never share it with anyone.
  12. Discount the 1st thing that comes to mind. And the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th – get the obvious out of the way. Surprise yourself.
  13. Give your characters opinions. Passive/malleable might seem likable to you as you write, but it’s poison to the audience.
  14. Why must you tell THIS story? What’s the belief burning within you that your story feeds off of? That’s the heart of it.
  15. If you were your character, in this situation, how would you feel? Honesty lends credibility to unbelievable situations.
  16. What are the stakes? Give us reason to root for the character. What happens if they don’t succeed? Stack the odds against.
  17. No work is ever wasted. If it’s not working, let go and move on – it’ll come back around to be useful later.
  18. You have to know yourself: the difference between doing your best & fussing. Story is testing, not refining.
  19. Coincidences to get characters into trouble are great; coincidences to get them out of it are cheating.
  20. Exercise: take the building blocks of a movie you dislike. How d’you rearrange them into what you DO like?
  21. You gotta identify with your situation/characters, can’t just write ‘cool’. What would make YOU act that way?
  22. What’s the essence of your story? Most economical telling of it? If you know that, you can build out from there.

Here is the presentation I gave: