Constructing a blog post for the PHT402 Ethics course

This is a post for participants in the #pht402 Professional Ethics online course being run by the University of the Western Cape and Physiopedia. Many of our participants have little or no blogging experience, so this post is intended to provide some suggestions and resources that may be useful when learning how to write your own posts. You should explore the additional content provided here through hyperlinks, as they are aimed at helping you to develop your blogging skills.

The point of this course is that you work with the ideas of other people to inform your own thinking about a topic. So, for the benefit of everyone taking the course you need to read other peoples work and you want them to read yours. A reader will often decide in the first few seconds if they’re going to read your post, which gives you very little time to make a good first impression. One way to encourage them to continue is to begin with a bit of introductory text (like I’ve done above), or to ask a challenging question, or to come up with a controversial or interesting title for your post. I’m not saying that this post is perfect but in it I’ve tried to show some examples of the different elements that can help make your writing both contextually and visually interesting, and which will encourage others to engage with you.

First of all, you should be aware that blogging can help you to develop certain skills, which could have value in your professional life, above and beyond what you may learn in this course. Being aware of these skills and actively trying to develop them will show returns in your professional career in the future. Here are some good reasons to consider blogging:

Incorporating other elements into your post will help to create interest for the reader. Embedded videos and images are great to break up long passages of text, as well as to provide contextually rich multimedia content that supports your writing. Since one of the major aims of this course is to think about the concept of empathy, I’ve embedded one of my favourite TED Talks below in order to demonstrate what an embedded video looks like.

You should also use links in your posts, for two main reasons; they direct the reader to additional resources and they can be used to support claims that you make. If you write something that’s just your opinion it won’t carry much weight. But, if you add a link to another source that says the same thing that you do, it strengthens the argument you’re trying to make. In this way, linking is a form of in-text citation. Note that simply adding another source doesn’t automatically strengthen your argument, especially if that source isn’t credible. When your thinking around a topic has been influenced by someone else’s work, you should acknowledge them by linking to their post. You can do this by copying the URL of their post (note that this is different to the URL of their blog) and then using it when you create a link in your own post. Describing how your own thinking has been informed by others is a powerful form of reflection that is strongly encouraged during this course.

Michael Rowe - Google+_002
My Google+ profile, showing the card UI design.

When it comes to design (look and feel), I like to have a clear, uncluttered interface, lots of white space, neutral colours and a crisp font. For these reasons, I love Google’s updated user interface guidelines across it’s various platforms, and especially the “card” interface. My point is that you should choose a template for your blog that reflects a little bit about who you are and what you like. Does simplicity say something about you? Or, lots of bright, vibrant colours? What about serif or sans-serif fonts?

When it comes to personalising your blog using your own photos not only adds an element of personal style, but also avoids issues with licensing the content of others. The images above are screenshots that I’ve taken myself, of my own online spaces. The picture below is one that I took myself and can therefore use in any way that I want. Adding a personal touch to your blog is great but when you’re using content that you haven’t created yourself it’s important that you’re familiar with licensing. The search function at Creative Commons is a great resource for finding openly licensed content.

Just an example of an embedded picture with a caption that explains the context of the image.
Just an example of an embedded picture with a caption that explains the context of the image.

And that’s it! The first of what will hopefully be a short series of posts as part of this course, aimed at helping participants develop a set of skills that can be used beyond the boundaries of this short course on Professional Ethics. If you have any suggestions of other tips and tricks to enhance your posts, I’d love to hear about them in the comments.

Navigating the WordPress Reader interface for PHT402

This post is is for the #pht402 Professional Ethics course participants who are using WordPress Reader.

Hi everyone. For those of you who are using WordPress Reader to follow the posts of other participants, I thought I’d annotate the Reader interface to highlight the components that you might find useful when it comes to interacting with other course participants. Note that Commenting on their posts is one way that you can engage with them, but that Liking and Reblogging are also good.

Highlighting the main components of the Reader interface
Highlighting the main components of the Reader interface

Obviously if you’re using Feedly, Netvibes or any other RSS reader then this post doesn’t apply to you. I recommend using the WordPress Reader because you’ll be able to do your reading and writing all in one place.

PHT402: Empathy and professional practice

This is my first post for the #pht402 professional ethics course that I’m participating in for the next few weeks. The topic for the first week is to explore personal objectives related to empathy and professional practice in the health care context.

384002I’ve been teaching the Professional Ethics course at UWC for five years and have always found it to be both deeply stimulating and deeply unsatisfactory. It’s stimulating because the classroom conversation around morally ambiguous situations is challenging and invigorating. I love seeing the different ways that students think about and respond to ethical dilemmas. However, I was always disturbed when the same students who could tell me about the SASP Code of Conduct and the HPCSA ethical rules of conduct were unknowingly unethical in their treatment of patients. I realised that knowing about ethics was different to being ethical.

As I delved into the problem I became increasingly interested in the concept of empathy and it’s role in both patient care and student learning and have recently begun to explore it in more detail. It turns out that “the roots of morality are to be found in empathy“, conveyed nicely in the quote that Lauren used at the start of her post this week:

When you think like this, when you choose to broaden your ambit of concern and empathise with the plight of others, whether they are close friends or distant strangers; it becomes harder not to act; harder not to help.

I think that this is the crux of what it means to care in the context of health care. To really come to an understanding of what the other person is experiencing. I think that some of these ideas come out really nicely in the conversation happening in the comments on Chantelle’s blog. I can’t imagine a more distressing situation than a mother who is worried about her child. How do you connect with someone who is going through something that you haven’t? How do you say to them, “I understand”, when you don’t? Chantelle talks about the value of human connection and I have to agree with her completely. You can have all the knowledge and skills in the world but if you can’t connect to other human beings, you’re going to be a pretty mediocre physiotherapist.

My own interest in the role of empathy is less about patient contact and more about my interactions with students. As much as I know (and research has shown) that having an emotional connection to your learning is essential, most students have the same challenges as Umr does when it comes to “sharing”. However, even though moving into these personal spaces is difficult, I believe that it is only through developing relationships between people that human beings can truly flourish. As Marna suggests in her post, if you’re oblivious to this patient’s life beyond your doors, it’s unlikely that you’ll make any progress with them. I also believe, as Charde has learned for herself, that connecting with patients goes beyond the simply technical “compliance” rationale and helps to develop a sense of professionalism and deeper, more meaningful engagement with others.

During this course I hope to learn more about how physiotherapy students at the University of the Western Cape think about, and respond to, morally ambiguous situations. I believe that universities are the places where we need to develop the human capabilities that will enable transformative social change and I like to think that this course is one small space where we can give it a go. I will be following as many blogs as I can, reading and commenting where possible, in an attempt to get a better understanding of how students think, so that I can learn how to be a better teacher.

PHT402 Professional Ethics course introduction

Introduction for the PHT402 Professional Ethics course that is due to begin in about a week. The course is being run at the University of the Western Cape, in conjunction with Physiopedia and aims to explore different ways of developing generic attributes that are relevant for ethical professional practice in the healthcare professions.

CaptureHi everyone. My name is Michael and I’m one of the co-ordinators for the PHT402 course. You can read a little bit about me here and for an overview of the things I’m interested in, you can see what I post about on Google+.

I’ve been wanting to run a course like this for a few years but have only recently found myself with the time to actually put something together. I’m really excited to be working with Rachael and Tony from Physiopedia, who I was lucky enough to be able to spend some time with a few months ago.

I’m going to have two main roles during the next few weeks. I’m going to be participating along with everyone else and will post my reflections here, as well as try to comment on as many other blogs as possible. I’m also going to be acting as a facilitator of learning during the process. In that respect I’ll be writing posts that aim to scaffold your learning around the major course objectives. Note that these objectives are very broad and don’t aim to specifically direct your learning in any preconceived way. Think of them as signposts that you can use to evaluate your own progress. In fact, you should try to create your own learning objectives, which you can use to measure whether or not the course has been of value to you.

I’m going to be trying to post at least twice a week: one related to my own reflections as a participant, and one related to my role as a facilitator. One of the main things I’m going to be trying to do as a facilitator is to provide an overview of what I see happening in the course, and then make suggestions for improvement. These suggestions may be in the form of recommending a technological tool that could help you to filter the enormous amount of content that’s going to be generated, or it might be to point out additional resources related to learning. I’ll also be posting short comments on the course on Twitter, using the #pht402 hashtag (clicking on this link will open a new window in your browser showing the #pht402 Twitter stream). All of my blog posts will also appear in the Twitter stream, so that’s probably a good place to go and get an overview of what’s going on in the course.

Other than that, I’m really looking forward to following you all and having the opportunity to learn with you over the next few weeks.

Open, online course on Professional Ethics

Selection_001I’ve been wanting to run an open, online course for a while and have finally managed to put something together in collaboration with Physiopedia. I’m interested in exploring new conceptions of curriculum and what it means to teachers and learners when we do something different. How would learning change if the learners decided on the content they cover? If they had control over the direction and pacing of the course?

The idea is that students not only need to learn about principles of ethical practice, but also to develop what are being called 21st century skills. Things like being able “to find, evaluate, analyse and apply information” (Bates, 2012). These are skills that can be taught, or perhaps more accurately, facilitated. And the only way to do this is to actually use them and to see them being used by others.

In addition, how are we teaching them to manage with the overwhelming amount of information that’s available to them. There’s too much content and so they need to learn how to navigate through this by “connecting with themselves, by connecting with other people” (Downes, 2012). What would happen if we look at the course as a starting point for stimulating students’ thinking, rather than a place to memorise as much content as possible?

I’m going to be running the course over the next couple of months with my 3rd and 4th year students, and will research the outcomes when it’s finished. One of the things that I’m really excited about is the idea that my students will be interacting with qualified health professionals from around the world. We don’t have very many people from outside the university who have registered, but enough to make me think that when this pilot project is done, we’ll be able to try and run it on an even bigger scale next year.

I’d be interested to hear what you think about the course, so let me know in the comments.