Faculty writing workshop

I just got back from an academic writing workshop at the Houwhoek Inn (their site needs some serious work). The point was to go there with an idea of an article you were going to write, spend 3 days writing it and getting feedback from the other participants and to end up with a draft that would be suitable for submission to a journal with minimal revision.

My article is based on a survey I did among the physiotherapy students in our department last year that looked at the knowledge and use of some of the most popular social software, including Flickr, Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, Digg, Delicious and Wikipedia. The idea was that if we’re going to use some of these services (like social bookmarking by subject, module, class, etc.) then it’d be useful to have an understanding of what the students already know and use. It would give us an idea of what kind of preparation we’d have to do before starting, as well as what level of use we could initially expect from the students.

It’s going to take me a little while to get feedback from the journal editor and reviewers, so it won’t be out anytime soon. I’m hoping that it’ll be published in the next few months though.

Here’s the abstract:

Institutions of higher learning are under pressure to respond to the changing needs of today’s learners and the use of information and communication technology has been at the forefront of that change. The use of social software that enables people to interact with each other in a dynamic way, has been identified as one possible approach. This survey sought to identify the knowledge and attitudes of South African physiotherapy students towards the use of social software in a physiotherapy department. The design was a cross-sectional, descriptive survey that took place in a university physiotherapy department in the Western Cape, South Africa. It included 135 students and used a self-developed questionnaire. Results showed that these students had a superficial understanding of social software. They did however, show an openness to new approaches and a willingness to interact with lecturers outside the traditional classroom setting. A lack of access to appropriate technology was identified as one possible factor for their lack of understanding. Any attempt to incorporate social software tools into this department would have to include significant training and support.

SAAHE ’09: abstract for oral presentation

Here’s the abstract I submitted for SAAHE ’09.  It was submitted for consideration in the Innovations and work in progress category.

Title
The use of blogging as a reflective tool in physiotherapy ethics.

Context
The use of social software in higher education facilitates collaborative learning practices and mirrors the social constructivist principles of education by encouraging deeper engagement with both content and individuals. Reflection promotes higher order cognitive skills that promote critical thinking, and together with ethical reasoning has been shown to contribute to professional development and clinical practice. A blog is a service that allows a user to post ideas online, as well as solicit feedback from others that serve to contribute to an ongoing discussion. This allows for a rich, diverse stream of ideas that provide further inputs into the reflective process.

Aims
The main aim of this study is to evaluate the use of blogging as a tool for enhancing physiotherapy students’ reflective practice during an ethics module. By participating in an online, networked conversation on human rights in healthcare, students will discuss some of the problems inherent in the South African healthcare system, as well as recognise and acknowledge the different viewpoints of others.

What was done
A blogging environment was created to allow only students and the lecturer access to post, read and comment on reflections. Articles relevant to the ethics module were provided for students to read and to inform their reflections. They are required to read and comment on the reflections of their peers, facilitating an ongoing conversation around the topic. On completion of the assignment, students will be asked to evaluate the process.

Impact
With the move towards a more networked society and the increasing use of online tools in education and practice, educators must take cognizance of new approaches to teaching and learning. The use of blogging as a tool for reflective practice has shown positive results in other disciplines but has not been evaluated in physiotherapy education.

Take home message
The use of blogging as a tool for reflection brings significant advantages to the process that are not easily leveraged with any other medium. The characteristics of the platform allow for collaborative discussion, immediate feedback and encourages deeper engagement with the content, all of which facilitate more meaningful interactions and stimulate professional development.

HESS conference (day 1)

OK, so we’ve finished the first day of the conference and it was pretty interesting.  Almost every speaker had something to say that I found interesting.  I attended the following presentations, most of which were in the e-learning track:

  • Keynote: Opening up spaces for research and enquiry
  • Introducing the construct of “conceptual infrastructure” to support higher education development
  • Developing communities of practice in large class teaching using tutorials and forum discussion
  • A theoretical exploration of the potential use and benefits of social software as an emerging technology in support of e-learning in tertiary education
  • A model for ensuring the quality of multimedia learning materials
  • Superstars to teach large classes
  • An overview of teaching and learning in geomatics
  • Uniting life and education
  • Computer skills for university entrants
  • Implementing mentoring using ICT tools

When I get home from the conference, I’ll have a few days to collate all my notes and will try to provide a summary of the conference, or rather, the conference as I experienced it.

I learned a lot today, but the main thing I learned is how much I really don’t know.  The problem with these conferences is that you get to hear about all the really cool things that other people are doing, and in the end your brain explodes because you can’t do everything you want to, not matter how much you really, really wish you could.

Sigh…

Here’s a few pictures from day 1

[nggallery id=19]

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.

How web 2.0 is changing medicine

The British Medical Journal published this article in December (2006), which may not seem like a long time ago in the traditional approach to academic publication but which in terms of the Internet is already old news. It asks, “Is a medical wikipedia the next step?”, a question I think is becoming more and more relevant as we see user-generated content proliferating in all spheres of our lives, but more and more frequently in the field of healthcare.

The author, Dean Giustini (librarian at the University of British Columbia Biomedical Branch), looks at the advantages of web 2.0 technologies or social software (e.g. RSS, blogs, wikis and podcasts) with particular reference to the creation of open content, improving access to information and the impact all of this has on medicine. We need to be asking ourselves how we can use these new technologies to better inform the way we teach, learn and communicate with our students and colleagues.

I think the final paragraph sums up my own opinion of the role of the Internet in influencing those of us who are creators and publishers of content:

“The web is a reflection of who we are as human beings – but it also reflects who we aspire to be. In that sense, Web 2.0 may be one of the most influential technologies in the history of publishing, as old proprietary notions of control and ownership fall away.”