conference research social media

My presentation at SAAHE 2009

My presentation at SAAHE looked at the use of blogging as a tool to facilitate ethical and clinical reasoning among final year physiotherapy students in my department. The abstract is available here, and I’ve shared the presentation slides on Slideshare.

You can either view it online, or download it. I’ve shared it under this Creative Commons license that allows you to do anything you want with it under the following conditions:

  • You may not sell it
  • If you share or adapt it (and you may), you must tell people where you got it from
  • If you share it, you must share it under the same conditions that you received it

I should also mention that it’s available in the OpenDocument format. OpenOffice is a free office suite (similar to Microsoft Office) that’s capable of working with this format.

Full URL to access the presentation on Slideshare:

Note: I also took the opportunity to upload some of the other presentations I’ve given recently (also in OpenDocument format). See the tab, “More by user”.


Microsoft ignoring standards?

It seems as if the beta release of MS Outlook 2010 has stirred up some controversy around it’s decision to continue using Word’s rendering engine to display HTML emails.  This hasn’t gone down too well in some parts of the community, with some groups of people struggling to accept the fact that MS doesn’t care about standards or their customers.

I hope that MS continues this trend for as long as possible, because the more people who understand that an open and transparent ecosystem benefits everyone, the less likely they are to use proprietary software.

research social media

Google Docs for collaborative writing

We’ve recently started using Google Docs for collaborative work in the physiotherapy department and it’s been great so far.  There are other online word processing environments with different feature sets (Zoho, Thinkfree, Microsoft Office Live, Buzzword), but after playing around with all of them, I found that Docs offered the best mix of features, usability and stability.  Buzzword is probably the most innovative, I’m going to follow them and see what happens in that space.

While Docs lacks many of the features you’ll find in a desktop work processor like, it’s still got a pretty useful set.  These include; exporting your work into multiple formats, commenting, bookmarking, auto-generation of tables of contents, different user roles, version history and basic text formatting options.

In the physiotherapy department, we’re using Docs to peer review articles for publication in the faculty journal, rather than emailing articles and comment forms back and forth between reviewers, editors and authors.  We’re also using it to collaborate on joint projects (like new course development) with our sister university in Missouri.  And lastly, over the past month or so I’ve been using it to provide feedback on project proposals with two undergraduate research groups.  This has been working really well for the students because they’re currently on their clinical placements and find it difficult to meet in person.  With regards the undergrad research, I’ve also been using Twitter to push out articles for the literature review and methodology sections.

By using Firefox addons and scripts with Greasemonkey, Docs can be improved still further.  One of the biggest problems in the past was that it was only available in the “cloud“.  However, now that the Gears addon is stable, Docs is available in offline mode too.  This is possibly it’s most powerful feature, allowing offline access to your work and synchronisation with the online version later.  It also handles conflicts between edits very well.

There are some issues with Docs however, highlighting the fact that as with all technology, there are going to be problems.  I came across these articles while doing the background research for the department: Why Docs is not safe, Google adapts and modifies content (discusses the copyright issues of hosting content with Google), and Painful lessons from using Google Docs.

I’m really excited at the prospect of increasing our use of online, collaborative environments.  Today it’s Google Docs, but who knows what it’ll be tomorrow?


Weapon of mass distraction

The title of this post is taken from the text in an article from Time magazine, called “The Off-line American“, about John McCain’s low level of IT literacy and it’s potential implications for his campaign and presidency if elected.

What I found more interesting though, was the suggestion that for all the potential of the Internet to provide a vast information resource, there’s often an inability for the average user to manage that information.  With too much content to efficiently find what you’re looking for, does this make the resource worthless?

The author mentions a study by Microsoft and the University of Illinois, which “found that it takes, on average, 16 min. 33 sec” for someone to get back to work after being interrupted by an email.  That’s one hour of productivity lost for every 4 emails received (assuming that the person is 1) notified when an email arrives, and 2) opens and reads the message.

The article goes on to mention the Information Overload Research Group, founded by Microsoft, Google and IBM, who are trying to find a solution to the problem.


Expanding the e-learning curriculum: oral presentation from SAAHE

In this oral presentation at the SAAHE conference, Dr. J. Dempers of the Division of Forensic Medicine at the University of Stellenbosch discusses the use of digital video to enhance the e-learning curriculum already in place in the Forensic Pathology Department. Currently, the department makes use of Blackboard to manage all course content besides testing, calendaring and video. Dr. Dempers made the argument that the use of video could not only provide a valuable alternative teaching and learning tool, but could also be a source of income for the university, should the content be of value to other institutions.

My notes are available in the following formats:

OpenDocument (.odt)
PDF (.pdf)
Microsoft Word (.doc)


Assessing the assessor: keynote from SAAHE conference

Here are my notes from the second keynote address I attended at the SAAHE conference at the University of Stellenbosch on 20 June, 2008.

Professor Christina Tan from the University of Malaya (Malaysia) discussed the importance of ensuring competence among those responsible for examining students, as well as a few interesting points on why we examine and it’s relationship to the curriculum. Again, the emphasis is on medical students and again, I feel that the principles outlines are equally applicable to our approach to assessing physiotherapy students.

You can download my notes in the following formats:

OpenDocument (.odt)
PDF (.pdf)
Microsoft Word (.doc)


Open source alternatives to proprietary applications

I thought I’d take a moment to briefly mention a few open source alternatives to popular computer applications. The following programmes are all:
  • Open source – the source code is freely available, which usually means more stable and more secure.
  • Free – as in no cost and free from restriction.
  • Cross-platform – they run on multiple operating systems, including Linux and Windows.
  • As good as, if not better than, their proprietary counterparts.

So, here goes (by the way, this list is by no means complete):

Firefox – A very popular web browser that offers a more secure, more intuitive and faster alternative to Internet Explorer. – An entire office suite of applications for word processing, spreadsheets, presentations, databases and drawing. It uses the OpenDocument format by default and as such, it’s use is encouraged, especially in academia and governments.

Thunderbird – An email client that is a fast, secure and stable replacement for Outlook and Outlook Express, especially if you just need something light to manage your email.

Pidgin – An single instant messaging client that allows you to use all of your IM accounts at once, including IRC, MSN, Groupwise, AIM and ICQ.

Miro – An Internet TV application to subscribe to RSS feeds of free content from a host of providers, including TED, National Geographic and the Discovery Channel.

GIMP – The Gnu Image Manipulation Program. A free alternative to Photoshop that, while lacking some high end, professional features, does more than enough for most of us.

Flock – Social web browser…if you use Facebook, Flickr, Digg, or any other social networking service, this is for you.

Ubuntu – Not a software application but an entire operating system, Ubuntu is a Linux distribution based on Debian. Click here for the Wikipedia article.

Another great application to run, although once it’s set up you’ll hardly ever notice it, is BOINC (click here for the Wikipedia article). After installing the software, register with various projects and join millions of other users who donate their computer’s idle time to solving complex medical, scientific and mathematical problems. I can suggest the World Community Grid to begin with.

And while I’m at it, here’s a link to a post that discusses some of the problems with using Microsoft Word. I personally don’t mind receiving Word documents and understand that many institutions don’t give their employees a choice, but the first step is realising that you actually have a choice.


Patient safety: keynote from SAAHE conference

I finally got around to typing up some of my notes from the SAAHE conference. Here is the first keynote address I attended. It was a presentation by Professor Ara Tekian, the Associate Professor of Medical Education at the University of Illinois, entitled “Medical errors and patient safety: teaching and assessing at undergraduate level”.

While there is clearly a strong emphasis on the issue of patient safety among medical students, I think that the principles discussed could just as easily be applied to physiotherapy students.

Although these are only rough notes scribbled down during the presentation, I did try to incorporate more content, so it’s not exactly the same presentation that was given.

Click on a link below to download the notes in the format of your choice:

OpenDocument (.odt)
PDF (.pdf)
Microsoft Word (.doc)

Note: If you don’t know what the above formats mean, choose Microsoft Word.