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.

Social media and professional identity: Part 4 (ResearchGate)

Over the past few months I’ve been working towards my final PhD submission, and so haven’t had much opportunity to continue my my series on using social media to develop a professional online identity. Now that I have at least a little bit of time again, I’m going to try and finish it up over the next few weeks. This article is about using ResearchGate to connect with other researchers as part of a private academic social network.


ResearchGate is a social network for academics and researchers in a variety of scientific domains, although the medical field (see image below) is by far the best represented, with almost 400 000 users, and nearing 8 million shared publications (statistics accurate June, 2012).


On ResearchGate, you can create private profiles (i.e. only visible to other registered users of the site) where you highlight your publications, your areas of research interest, level of experience and engage with colleagues who have similar interests. ResearchGate offers some useful statistics based on your publications, for example, who your top co-authors are, the top journals you’ve published in (measured by the impact factor) and the general keywords your articles have used, which is a useful indicator of the areas that your publications cover. See below for an example of a profile page on ResearchGate.

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ResearchGate also suggests other users to follow based on institutional affiliation and research interests. Perhaps one of the most appealing aspects of ResearchGate is that it connects you with local or national academics who are doing research in areas that you might be interested in. When you follow other researchers, you’re notified of their status updates, which can include new publications that they’ve added, comments, questions and conversations that are happening online. See below for an example of a question on co-authoring and the conversation it stimulated.


ResearchGate is a great service to use for the discovery of new content and for engaging with researchers who have similar interests. The content you add to this site is not available publicly, so this is not necessarily a great service to use if you want to be found through a web-based search. However, within the user-base of the site, you will be discoverable. One of the things I really like about ResearchGate is their innovative approach to determining a user’s “scientific reputation”. They don’t only look at publication as a way of measuring your value as an academic, but also your engagement and (informal) contributions to the community. You can score points in the traditional way by sharing your publications from peer-reviewed journals and conferences. However, you can also increase your impact on the community by asking and answering questions that are posed by colleagues. In this way, your informal contributions to the field are recognised, in addition to your more traditional impact.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you’re an academic looking to connect with other researchers in your field, or from your institution, then ResearchGate is definitely worth having a look at. The user interface is attractive and intuitive, sharing your work is easy, and the innovative approach to measuring impact is great.

Social media and professional identity: Part 3 (Mendeley)

Academic social networks: Mendeley
Everyone is familiar with Facebook and many people have heard of Google+ so I’m not going to spend much time reviewing them, other than to say that for me, neither of them is currently a big part of my own professional presence. I use Google+ a lot but in a personal capacity not a professional one. Having said that, I’m exploring the potential of Google+ as a tool for professional development, and will probably post something about my experiences at some point in the future.

In this section I’m going to briefly discuss a few social networks that are geared towards the academic professional, although not necessarily the clinician. If you are a clinician, you may still find these social services useful, but in my experience I’ve found that clinicians are more likely to share content on the more mainstream networks like Facebook and increasingly, on Twitter.


First up is Mendeley, which is primarily a desktop (and iPad and smartphone) client that you can use to manage the research papers that you have in PDF format. It automatically extracts all of the metadata from the paper (i.e. author, title, journal, date of publication) and has some excellent search and sort features. However, one of the best features of Mendeley is its integration with the web, allowing you to sync all of your documents from any of your devices, to all of your other devices. If I highlight and add annotations to a PDF I’m working on at the office, when I get home and sync Mendeley on my home computer, all of those highlights and PDFs are updated to mirror that changes I made at work. If I add a PDF on my home computer, that PDF is then copied to all of my other devices as well. If you’ve ever been working at home and been irritated that the document you need is at work, or lost the flash drive you use to keep all your research papers, then Mendeley is definitely worth having a look at.

 

Mendeley is also great for connecting you to other researchers in your field, via a web interface. You have to create a profile to use the software, and by completing the profile, you make yourself more visible to other people in your network of practice. There’s a Newsfeed that tells you when people you follow have made changes (e.g. uploaded and shared a new paper, made a comment, or joined a group). At the moment, a search on Mendeley for “clinical education” identifies about 80 people who are involved in clinical education research in some way, and almost 37 000 academic papers that include clinical education as keywords. There is an Advanced search feature that allows you to refine it your search to minute detail, including the specific domain of knowledge you’re looking for. Mendeley is one of the fastest-growing research databases, and with the social features that are built in, it’s also very engaging.

 

In the screenshot below, you can see how it’s possible to access the metadata from all of your PDFs via the web interface.

Mendeley is an excellent application and service that I use for organising the research content I already have, as well as for finding new content but in a narrow research field. It works really well for putting you in touch with other researchers who work in similar areas to you, and the Dashboard / Newsfeed view on the web makes it easy to keep up with those you’re following. In addition to desktop and web versions, Mendeley is available in a “Lite” version for the iPad (see below), and the open API makes it easy for developers to create 3rd party apps for Android, for example, Droideley.

Mendeley running on the iPad, showing the “Favourites” view.

Note: Zotero is another free alternative for gathering and curating your research content. I don’t use it much, mainly because it used to be solely integrated into Firefox, which is a good thing – if you use Firefox. Zotero has recently released a standalone client which is independent of the browser.

In Part 4 of this series on the use of social media for professional development I’ll be presenting some of the features of ResearchGate, another social network geared towards academics.

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 2011-06-27

Notes on podcast from Stephen Downes

I thought I’d make some notes while listening to this podcast interview from Stephen Downes., where he talks about personal learning environments, problems with e-learning and open vs. closed educational content.

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Mentions Plearn as part of the opening discussion and bio.

What is a PLE? Compares LMS to PLE. LMS is based around the institution, and when the student leaves the system, they lose access to that learning. Same applies when changing institutions, or learning in different environments. PLE provides access to services and educational services from a personal space, rather than an institutional one.

Very new category of “learning system” right now, so there are no applications that exist that define a PLE. Rather, it’s a generic collection of tools and concepts.

Most resources are accessed on the fly, through the browser. Some people have small libraries that they keep locally, but only for backup purposes or content they need to access offline. Students will access lectures as audio and video streams if available. I disagree with the assumption that we’re all connected all the time and that there is no longer a need to download content to be kept locally.

There’s always going to be a mix of local and remote content that’s relevant for learning. A PLE should support whatever works best / whatever the learner needs in whatever context.

Discussed the Khan academy and the role of online video (YouTube) as an educational resource. Quality of the video production isn’t as important as the quality of the video content. The problem is that the video format is linear, which means that it consumes time, it isn’t searchable (it’s not random access). You can’t find the specific piece of information you’re looking for. Content can be more efficiently acquired through text and images.

Videos are also not social or interactive (although video conferences are). Skype conferencing mentioned. Contextual, flexible teaching and learning isn’t really possible when watching video.

Classrooms are not especially well designed for personal learning “1 size fits 30+”.

Is artificial intelligence a viable approach to education? “Going to be tricky”. Some components of the concept available in primitive recommender algorithms currently present in Amazon, iTunes, etc. But going to be a long time before true AI is going to be able to truly personalise the learning experience.

Software will continue to get smarter and understand more and more about what we want to do. It will be able to aggregate, filter, categorise content dynamically.

Discussion on online identity as a tangent to the above point i.e. that your point of entry into the network (i.e. the browser) would be the software that would aggregate, etc. the content you’re interested in. Downes created a tool that did something like this, but which was subsequently superseded by OpenID. Also a brief mention of OAuth.

Briefly talked about SCORM / IMS and the Common Cartridge format (i.e. learning objects). Useful for closed organisations’ learning requirements e.g. the military. Not useful for learning content that needs to be interactive and to engage with other environments / scenarios. Doesn’t do much for the social component and is unnecessarily complex in trying to create “units of knowledge”. The best model is the open web. Many companies trying to create common formats, but also lock consumers in.

Not an easy, decentralised way to create a “learning” management system. But the context there is in managing students or content, not learning. Nothing wrong with the LMS to manage students, but it’s not about learning. How do you give people the freedom to learn in a personal way?

Ends with some discussion on revenue, profit and commercial aspects of education.

Mozilla Open Education course: seminar 2

Open educational resources

I missed the second session of the Mozilla Open Education course that was held about two weeks ago because of Internet issues, and only just had the opportunity to listen to the audio. Here are my notes from the session, which featured a panel of experienced users and creators of Open Education Resources (OER).

Began with an overview of the open ed movement / background to set the context against which the case studies are set…what is the big picture? OER features many people involved at many levels, using many technologies and business models are being built around this idea…shows it’s an idea who’s time has come.

Create a movement of diversity, seeing how different ideas play off one another.

Fundamental adherence to openness means that ideas and content designed for one task need not be delimited to that task but can be “re-packaged” for others i.e you needn’t design materials for everybody, just for your own needs, but then to endow it with the characteristics (legal and technical) that make it available for everybody to redesign.

OER should be:

  • designed to give learners access to a broad array of tools
  • available for anyone to use/share/adapt to their needs
  • relevant for formal/informal and lifelong learning needs

Open licensing is crucial – current systems undermine the premise that creative content can be shared and changed, therefore OER is important for catalysing new ways of learning, critical thinking, collaboration, engagement, reflection

Education is the key to an informed population, therefore it needs broad, optimistic ideas that do away with the notion that “you don’t get to have an education because of your circumstances”.

4 topics that came from previous interviews:

  1. Open means not being afraid to solve problems publically (and to fail publically)
  2. Open means creating space for people to do things that you don’t anticipate
  3. Open means giving up control
  4. Open means sharing models that others build on for quick diffusion of good ideas

What is an edupunk and how does it relate to online learning? Edupunk came from a notion that you could do a lot in education by yourself, and not being afraid to fail. Moving against the corporate base who designs courses based around management, rather than learning (isn’t this a bigger problem within Learning Management Systems. Take this further with the idea of “managed learning”). Also, proprietary, no control, they shape our learning experience.

Traditional methods of learning and teaching are clean, easy and simple for lecturers to follow, textbooks are available, curriculum can be moved through in a predetermined way, boundaries are evident. Open source communities allow involvement with real things, which can be scary…you don’t always know where it’s going. The opportunities to talk about things that wont’ come up in other contexts adds to a richer expereince. Better place to learn because it scales.

Discussed issues with institutions catching on to and embracing change, eg. hosting content on external servers.

Difficult to get students to contribute to blogs:

  • Thought no-one would read it
  • Thought that if they did read it, they’d think it was stupid

Realised that by aggregating content, they could draw a much larger audience. Students were blown away by comments on blogs (profound moment when the person you’re blogging about comments on your blog). Aggregation helps build critical mass. Powerful idea that people from all over the world are reading your work and following it.

A key competency is understanding how to manage online identities. Posts can’t be thrown out there, reflection before posting is important because these conversations are available forever. People beocme more conscious about how ideas and conversations can travel.

Surprised at how few students read and understand how blogs work. Need to teach them how the internet works. Communciation needs to change, tone, strategy. “Learning to write in a way that honours the web”. We need to spend time teaching students how to communicate online, in a living and open way. It’s wrong to think that this is the Facebook generation and that they know how to do this.

Students taking control of their work and presenting or “re-presenting” themselves online. Where they live online and how they work online. Online identity and data portability. Moving beyond the limited view of institutional services…not about email addresses or university webspaces…framing their own online identity outside of the institution.

Regarding Weave for an “educational passport”. Students taking their own digital identity and learning experiences with them when they leave univerity…portfolios of learning that they own. Storing personal information through the browser that the student owns and can always access. Aggregating online identity through your own domain.

Not about building resources, it’s about building community. Forget about building the one hoop that you can re-use every year to make new students jump through. How can I make sure that my community of students is healthy and finding their own hoops?