PHT402 Ethics course: Developing an online professional identity

This post was written for the participants of the #pht402 Professional Ethics course. For many of our participants working online has been a new and interesting experience but for most it will probably won’t progress much more than that. This post is intended to highlight how the blogs that have been created as part of the course can form the foundation of an online professional identity that can be carried forward as evidence of learning in a variety of contexts.

digital_identityIn an increasingly connected and digital world, it often seems that too much is happening, too quickly. Every week another online service, app or device is competing for your time and it can be overwhelming to decide where to focus your attention. Even in our professional lives as clinicians or academics, there’s an increasing sense that “being” online is important, even if we don’t know exactly “how” to be, or “where” to be. There is a move towards the sharing of clinical experiences and resources that can add value to your professional life, if the available services and tools are used effectively. The clinical context is so dynamic, complex and challenging that we owe it to ourselves, our colleagues and our professions to share what we know.

The Internet offers a perfect platform for this professional interaction, particularly through the use of social media. “Social media” is an umbrella term for a range of online services that facilitate the creation, curation and sharing of user-generated content. It is increasingly being tied in to mobile devices (i.e. smartphones and tablets) that make it easy to share many aspects of our personal and professional lives. Some examples of the types of technologies that come under this term are: blogs (like we’re seeing in this course), microblogs (e.g. Twitter), wikis (e.g. Wikipedia, Physiopedia), podcasts, discussion forums, virtual social worlds (e.g. Second Life), gaming worlds (e.g. World of Warcraft) and social networks (e.g. Google+ and Facebook). As you can see, the term “social media” covers a lot of ground, which is why it’s sometimes difficult to figure out what exactly someone means when they talk mention it.

While the main theme of this post is to highlight the benefits of creating and maintaining an online professional presence, bear in mind that it’s not enough to simply “be” online. The main advantage of having an online professional identity is that it allows you to interact and engage with others in your field. Twenty years ago, academics and clinicians could only rely on the (very slow) process of publication and citation to learn about changes in the field. Now, with the affordances that the web provides, crafting a professional online identity can happen very quickly. However, it’s the interaction and engagement through conversation and discussion that builds reputation and a sense of presence, rather than simply “being there”.

You might be feeling that this is all a bit overwhelming and that you don’t have possibly have the time to get involved with all of these services. And you’d be right. Try to think of this as a developmental process, one that is going to take time to evolve. You didn’t emerge from university as a fully-formed, well-rounded clinical practitioner or researcher. It took time for you to develop the confidence to engage with colleagues, to share your ideas and to contribute to professional dialogue. Establishing an online identity is no different.

Whether you decide to continue updating your blog, or to start tweeting, the point is that you start somewhere, and start small. As your confidence grows, you’ll want to begin experimenting with other services, integrating them with each other and building them into your workflow. This is the most crucial part because if you think of this as just another thing you have to do, or another place you have to go, you’ll find yourself resenting it. Build a foundation in one space at a time, and only use services and applications that you feel provide you with value.

In the beginning, you may feel more comfortable “lurking” on social media sites, listening to the conversation without really contributing. This is OK and is likened to a form of Wenger’s concept of legitimate peripheral participation. Over time, as you gain confidence you may begin to feel that you have something to say. This may be as simple as posting your own content (e.g. a tweet, a blog post, a status update), sharing the content of others, or agreeing / disagreeing with something that someone else has said. Whatever it is, don’t feel pressured to say something profound or clever. Just give your sincere input to the conversation.

In case you’re wondering if there are any rules or regulations in terms of using social media as a health care professional, that’s hard to say. Many organisations and institutions do have a set of policies that can inform practice when it comes to employees using social media, although it’s hard to say if these are rules or guidelines. One of the biggest difficulties is that as a health care professional, the public often perceives you as always being “on duty”. A physio is always a physio, whether you’re working or not, which makes it difficult to determine what is appropriate to share, and when. The following list of health-related social media policies may help you to tread the fine line between your personal and professional online identities.

Developing an online professional identity and presence is an essential aspect of modern scholarship and increasingly, clinical practice. Not only does it allow you to connect and engage with researchers, academics and other clinicians in your field of interest, but it helps to develop your professional reputation by giving you an international platform to share your work and your ideas.

There are many services and platforms already available, with more becoming available all the time. While it’s not necessary to have a presence and to participate in all possible online spaces, it helps to be aware of what is available and how the different services can be used in the development of your own professional identity. Finally, while developing a professional presence is advisable, be aware that what you share and how you share will have as much of an impact on whether your share or not. There are some guidelines that are particularly relevant for health care professionals and researchers, but even then, the area is under such rapid development that it’s difficult for institutional social media policies to keep up. If in doubt, always check with your employer and colleagues.

Twitter Weekly Updates for 2012-03-26

AMEE conference (day 3)

Today was the final day of AMEE 2011. Here are the notes I took.

The influence of social networks on students’ learning
J Hommes

Collaborative learning is supposed to facilitate interaction and it’s impact on student learning

Difficult to quantify the role of informal learning

Informal social interaction: behaviour is the result of interactions and relationships between people

Many variables can impact on student learning (e.g. motivation)

How does the effect of SN on students’ learning relate to possible confounders?

Methods:

  • Academic motivation scale (determine motivation)
  • College adaption questionnaire (determine social interactions)
  • GPA (previous performance impacts on future performance)
  • Factual knowledge test
  • Social network analysis (looked at Friendship, Giving information, Getting information)

Social interaction in informal contexts has a substantial influence on learning

Could it also be true that good learners are also well-developed social beings? If learning is inherently social, then people who are more social might just be better learners, and it has nothing to do with the social network?

Veterinary students’ use of and attitude toward Facebook
Jason Coe

Physicians share information on Facebook that could potentially upset their patients

People disclsoe more personal information on Facebook than they do in general

32% of students’ profiles contained information that could reflect poorly on the student or profession → venting, breaches of confidentiality, overtly sexual images / behavioural issues, substance abuse

78% of students believe that their profile pictures accurately reflected who they were at that time, 56% of students believed that their current profile pics accurately represents them as a future professional

More professionals believed that posting comments and pictures about clients on Facebook was acceptable, than students

Should professional students’ be held to a higher standard than other students?

Should Facebook information be used in hiring decisions?

An awareness of consequences causes students’ to disclose less on Facebook than they do in general

Individuals have a right to autonomy → education and guidelines can minimise risks

The issue of disclosure is important when it comes to using online social networks

Developing a network of veterinary ICT in education to suppor informal lifelong learning
S Baillie and P an Beukelen

Goals were to generate evidence of benefits and limitations of informal, lifelong learning using ICT

Questions in focus group that would affect participation in an online group:

  • What activities? Networking, finding information, asking questions, discussions
  • What motivations? Anonymity, sharing knowledge, convenience, saving time, travel and cost issues, required component
  • What support? Employer support, attitude, help desk, post moderator (reliable information)
  • What barriers? Time to participate, lack of confidence, lack of technical knowledge, understanding
  • What challenges? Poor site usability, professionalism issues / behavioural change

Was important to have behavioural guidelines for participation in the online network e.g. respect, etc.

Can YouTube help students in learning surface anatomy?
Samy Azer

Aim: to determine if YouTube videos can provide useful information on surface anatomy

For each video, the following was recorded:

  • Title
  • Authors
  • Duration of video
  • Number of viewers
  • Posted comments
  • Number of days on YouTube
  • Name of creator

No simple system is available for assessing video quality, but looked at (yes = 1, no = 0):

  • Content – scientifically corrent, images clear
  • Technical
  • Authority of author / creator (but how was this determined?)
  • Title reflects video content?
  • Clear audio quality
  • Reasonable download time
  • Educational objectives stated
  • Up to date creator information

57 out of 235 videos were deemed to be relevant, but only 15 of those were determined to have educational usefulness. Several videos were created by students and were often of a high quality

Conclusion was that YouTube is currently an inadequate source of information for learning surface anatomy, and that medical schools should take responsibility for creating and sharing resources online

Social media and the medical profession
Dror Maor

What is public and private? How do we separate out our personal and professional identities? Should we separate them out?

Discussion of the role of, and use of, social media by medical professionals (http://ama.com.au/node/6231)

Why do people think that using social media takes anything away from what we already do? Social media doesn’t take anything away from the hallway conversations…it’s not “better” or “worse” than “the old” way of doing things.

From “knowledge transfer” to “knowledge interaction” – changing models of research use, influence and impact
Huw Davies

Research, evidence and practice → moving from “knowing differently” to “doing differently”

There’s a lot of noise, but are we having any impact on practice? Who are we talking to? What kinds of conversations are we having? How can our collective input have an impact?

Currently, the model entails doing research, publishing it and hoping that clinicians change behavioural based on the results. No questions about how the knowledge transfer takes place?

How does knowledge “move around” complex systems?

The current system is too:

  • Simple
  • rational
  • Linear

Current outcomes are variable, inefficient, ineffective, unsafe, and sometimes, inhumane

Why is it that when we know more than ever before, do we perform so poorly within our healthcare systems?

  • Goals are ambiguous
  • Workforce is multiple
  • Environment is complex
  • Tasks are complex and ambiguous

Even though organisations are highly social, yet the belief is that caregivers act as they do because of personal knowledge, motives and skills

Major influences on outcomes are through the organisations and systems through which services are delivered, not individual characterstics (applies equally to educational outcomes)

Context matters → it’s situational, not dispositional (behaviour is as much about the context as it is about dispositions)

Reductive and mechanistic approaches only get us so far. “Rocket science” is merely complicated. Tackingly educational and health issues is genuinely complex because of connections of people, each with own unpredictable behaviours and contexts that changes over time in non-linear ways

Throwing information at people doesn’t generate appropriate responses / behaviours

For some, “evidence” is reduced to research on “what works”. Consequnces of this:

  • It’s relative straight-forward if the right methods are used
  • It provides instruction on what to do i.e. it allows us to make choices more easily
  • Assumes that the answers are out there to be found

Knowledge required for effective services is more broad than “what works”?

  • Knowing about the problems: their nature, inter-relationships, “lived experiences”
  • Knowing why: explaining the relationship between values and policies, and how they have changed over time
  • Knowing how: how to put change into practice, what is pragmatic
  • Knowing who: who should be involved, how do we build alliances, connect clinical and non-clinical

Challenge of integrating “knowledge”:

  • Uncertain process, engages with values, existing (tacit) knowledge, experience
  • socially and contextually situated
  • not necessarily convergent
  • may require difficult “unlearning”

Also, not just what knowledge:

  • Whose knowledge / evidence?
    “evidence” may be used selectively and tactically, use is not necessarily disinterested (evidence is what the powerful say it is)
    Knowledge and power are co-constructed

Knowledge is not “a thing”, is it a process of “knowing”?

Knowledge is what happens when you take data from research, and combine it with experience, and shared through dialogue

Uncovering evidence and understanding its complexity
Barry Issenberg

“If there’s evidence, I feel confident. If there’s no evidence, I’m uncomfortable”

Evidence is only useful if it meets the needs of the user. Who is the user?

Features of learning through simulation (BEME guide 4), a systematic review:

  • Feedback
  • Repetitive practice
  • Curriculum integration
  • Varying difficulty
  • Adaptive learning
  • Clinical variation
  • Controlled environments
  • Individualised learning
  • Defined outcomes

Discipline expertise doesn’t mean you can teach

Implementing clinical training in a complex health care system is challenging

Understanding the complexity of medical education → relationships between:

  • Learner characteristics, experiences, educational and professional context
  • Learning task: looked at psychomotor and procedural skills but behavioural not addressed
  • Instruction (deliberate practice under direct supervision in groups or individually, for as long as it takes)
  • Teacher characteristics and qualifications (these are not well-defined), clinical experience doesn’t equal teaching experience
  • Curriculum content and format, blend of presentations and practice sessions, expert demonstrations, orientation
  • Assessment: content and format
  • Enviroments should be supportive, needs to be infrastructure, time set aside
  • Evaluation of the programme: target, format, consequences (Kirkpatrick levels)
  • Society: politics and culture taken into account, patient safety, clinical opportunity, clinical advances
  • Setting: wide variety of settings, including schools, workplaces
  • Organisation: need to involve all stakeholders

Journals have a limited role to play in knowledge interaction, and appeal mainly to people who just want to do more research

Without context and explicit intention, medical education will never have the impact on society that it would like to (Charles Boelen)

 

Twitter Weekly Updates for 2011-07-25

Posted to Diigo 07/24/2011

    • “conduct their relationships with pupils professionally and appropriately both in school and out of school” and base their relationship with pupils on trust and respect.
    • contempt for the views of the profession” and pointed out that fewer than 1% of registered teachers in Wales had come before the council of charges of professional misconduct.
    • there are teachers who haven’t quite worked out that Facebook is not the best place to vent their frustrations
    • One member of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers said a false Facebook account had been set up under the name of another teacher, claiming he enjoyed “underage sex with both boys and girls”. A senior male teacher in a state secondary school said his Facebook page was hacked into by pupils who used it to send damaging messages to other children
    • Schools and colleges need to have clear policies to deal with it, and make sure that pupils will face appropriate punishment.”

This is a difficult problem with no easy answers. How much of a policy will be a system of rules, and how much will just indicate good practice?

Using social networks to develop reflective discourse in the context of clinical education

My SAFRI project for 2010 looked at the use of a social network as a platform to develop clinical and ethical reasoning skills through reflective discussion between undergraduate physiotherapy students. Part of the assignment was to prepare a poster for presentation at the SAAHE conference in Potchefstroom later this year, which I’ve included below.

I decided to use a “Facebook style” layout to illustrate the idea that research is about participating in a discussion, something that a social network user interface is particularly well-suited to. I also like to try and change perceptions around academic discourse and do things that are a little bit different. I hate the general idea that “academic” equals “boring” and think that this is such an exciting space to work in.

 

I also included a handout with additional information (including references) that I thought the audience might find interesting, but which couldn’t fit onto the poster.

One of the major challenges I experienced during this project was that I didn’t realise how much time it’d take to complete. I’d thought that the bulk of my time would be used on building and maintaining the social network and facilitating discussion within in, but the assignment design (see handout) took a lot more effort than I expected. I had to make sure that it was aligned with the module learning objectives, as well as the university graduate attributes.

In terms of moving this project forward, I think that it might be possible to use a social network as a focus for other activities that might contribute towards a more blended approach to learning and clinical education. For example:

  • Moving online discussions into physical spaces, either in the classroom or clinical environment
  • Sharing and highlighting student and staff work
  • Sharing social and personal experiences that indicate personal development, or provide platforms for supportive engagement
  • Extensions of classroom assignments
  • Connecting and collaborating with students and staff from other physiotherapy departments, both local and international
  • Helping students to acquire skills to help them navigate an increasingly digital world

I think that one of the most difficult challenges to overcome as I move forward with this project is going to be getting students and staff to embrace the idea that the academic and social spaces aren’t necessarily separate options. Informal learning often happens within social contexts, but universities are about timetables and schedules. How do you convince a staff member that logging into a social network at 21:00 on a Saturday evening might be a valuable use of their time?

If we can soften the boundary between “social” and “academic”, I think that there’s a lot of potential to engage in the type of informal discussion I see during clinical supervision, and which students have reported to really enjoy. I think that the social, cognitive and teacher presences from the Community of Inquiry model may help me to navigate this space.

If you can think of any other ways that social networks might have a role to play in facilitating the clinical education of healthcare professional students, please feel free to comment.

Twitter Weekly Updates for 2011-01-24

Authenticity and vulnerability

Yesterday I posted a reflection on how I’m coming to realise that the personal and social aspects of myself are always present, even when I’m in professional mode. I discussed this as it related to connecting with students on Facebook and the possible benefits that might have for everyone involved.

Coincidentally, I also came across this post on Presentation Zen yesterday, discussing the profound impact and importance of vulnerability in our lives. I thought I’d share it here, as it links strongly to the way I’m thinking about teaching and learning right now. Which is to say that sharing our authentic selves in the classroom may be one way to really connect with our students.

The post makes reference to the video below, where Brene Brown discusses the power of vulnerability in our lives. It’s 20 minutes well spent.

Facebook, friends and students

This is post is the first of what I hope will be several reflections on the softening boundaries between my social and professional lives, and how they influence each other. When I started teaching in the department about 3 years ago, I decided that I wouldn’t accept friend requests on Facebook from any of our students, nor would I send them any. I had a few reasons for this, including the following beliefs:

  • It’d be an invasion of their privacy
  • They may feel an obligation to accept, even if they didn’t want to
  • I didn’t feel comfortable hearing and seeing what they were doing in their private lives
  • I wasn’t sure that I’d be able to remain objective if I grew closer to the students I shared interests with
  • I was trying to keep my professional and private lives separate

Last year I ran a social networking research project in our department, which had students completing assignments within a private social network that I set up using WordPress and Buddypress. I learned a lot through the experience, including the following:

  • Facilitating engagement around professional issues in a social environment is hard
  • Students use (or don’t use) the tools in the way you expect / want them to
  • Most of them only participated in the network for the duration of the assignment, and didn’t go back when it was completed
  • Students shared personal experiences (with me and with each other) in ways that helped me to see more clearly who they really are

The last point was perhaps the lesson that touched me most. Most of our students have a tendency to see us as “just lecturers” and feel that there’s a huge chasm between us and them. To get around this, I often share some of my personal experiences to show that I also struggle to get through the challenges I’m presented with. I try to highlight the fact that as they find some things difficult to overcome, so do I and that the only real differentiator between us is our levels of experience in the various domains of our lives. This has happened most often with students on one of the rural community placements that I supervise. I often spend hours talking to them about some of the issues they’re experiencing, not only on the placement, but also in their personal lives. This has had a profound impact on some of them, as they’ve come to me after graduating and told me how much those social interactions helped shape who they’ve become.

I’m beginning to think that it’s impossible to keep my personal life out of the classroom and in addition, whether that’s something I should even strive for. The end of last year saw me going through an emotional upheaval that was devastating. I was incapable of thinking clearly, let alone teach (thankfully, classes were over for the year) and it was clear that my personal experiences very much affected my professional behaviour. This got me thinking about what our students bring with them into the classroom that we have no idea of, and which has a profound impact on how they’re able to participate in the class. What I’ve learned through this is that my social and professional personas are not only connected, but deeply integrated and to ignore that is to miss out on really understanding myself and my students.

I’ve also been more active on Facebook recently. Over the past month or so, I’ve been friending last years graduates as they prepare for their year of community service in different parts of the country. Not only do I enjoy keeping in touch with them, I try to provide an additional level of support as they’re trying to find their way in their professional lives. This has been an interest of mine since my Masters research looked at how emerging technology could be used to help support students and new graduates, especially in the more rural placements. This is the second year that I’ve been adding our past students to my Facebook friend list, and I often have opportunities to catch up with how they’re getting on, which is great.

This, together with my social networking project, has had me reflecting on whether or not maintaining the “friend barrier” with students on Facebook is actually a good thing. My understanding of what is “personal” and what is “professional” is that they’re blurring together, and I wonder if exploring different aspects of engaging with students on Facebook might be a positive experience for us all. A simple example would be the many opportunities for modeling behaviour. Instead of having a “No Facebook-friending” policy, wouldn’t it be better to tell them that I’m available on Facebook if they’d like to connect? I could tell them that there’d be no pressure to ask or accept and that they wouldn’t be disadvantaged by choosing not to do it (for example, I won’t be giving exam tips on Facebook). I’d also make it clear that for good or bad, I’d be able to see their social activities (as they’d be able to see mine), which may impact on our classroom interactions.

Our 4th year students spend most of the year off campus on clinical placements, and often feel that they’re isolated from social and professional support. I’m thinking of letting them know that if they send me a friend request, I’ll accept it, having first run through the implications of what it’d mean. If you have any thoughts or suggestions, I’d love to hear from you.