I’m a Private Blogger, a Blogger for Money…

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I have been invited to write a blog post as part of a JORUM project looking at mini-curated collections.  The project aims to showcase and highlight existing resources available from JORUM that have been selected and used, or inspired teaching.  Plus, any posts published earn as £75 Amazon voucher, and with season 8 of Supernatural and series 7 of Doctor Who out imminently…well, this couldn’t have been better timed. 

So here’s my post…

I’m Bex Ferriday and I’m a Learning Technologist at the School of Health Care Sciences at Cardiff University.  In my past life as a Teacher Educator my teaching interests were based around teaching theory, with particular reference in training teachers who wanted to specialise in linguistics.  As my role changed to that of Learning Technologist in a subject area I know nothing about (I can’t even put a plaster on properly), so my interest is now in locating existing online activities to support the subjects lecturers within my School deliver – namely nursing, midwifery and healthcare.

With this in mind, I’d like to highlight a number of resources I have recommended to these lecturers, starting with a very simple case study exercise in the style of the popular 90s ‘choose your own adventure’ text-based computer games.  Part of the Ethics Virtual Patient (EVP) series of online activities, and simply called Jake Clarke, this activity sees the user deciding the fate of the eponymous Jake, a fellow Healthcare Studies student who has developing problems with drugs and alcohol.  As his friend and peer, students need to decide which course of action to take in order to assist Jake.  I have chosen and then gone on to use this resource because, rather than looking at a case study relating to someone students can’t relate to or empathise with, it looks at a situation many students could very well find themselves in.  It can also form the basis of further discussion, so has more depth than an activity that is simply completed online in isolation then forgotten about. It’s also very easy to use, so can be completed by even the most technophobic student. A final plus point is the facility to give electronic feedback relating to the online aspects of the activity to the authors afterwards – who clearly seek to improve upon the work they are doing rather than simply develop, upload and forget about the activity.

Nottingham University’s School of Nursing and Academic Division of Midwifery have produced a wealth of online learning objects.  One that I recommend to midwifery lecturers here in Cardiff is called Midwife’s Abdominal Examination in the Antenatal Period.  This multimedia, interactive resource looks, among other things, at inspection, palpation, fundal, lateral and pelvic examination and does so in short but cohesive and coherent bursts of information – no 50 slide, text-heavy PowerPoint info dumps, just brief, clear voiceovers with accompanying images and films.  Interactive activities consolidate the theory covered by way of drag and drop activities and open questioning and clear feedback is given immediately after each activity has been completed.  Navigation is clearly signposted and the online package can be worked though outside of the classroom or used within the classroom, in a group setting, in order to provoke discussion. The flexibility and clarity of information provided are the two main reasons why I recommend this activity.

Another Nottingham University – authored online learning object I have recommended that lecturers (this time in Nursing) use with their students is called Plasma Proteins and Drug Distribution.  The University is very advanced as far as online learning provision goes – they use their own in-house, open source eLearning authoring tool Xerte to produce web-based activities in numerous subjects that fall under the Nursing and Midwifery banner, and this, as with so many others, is another example a resource I recommend for the following reasons:

  • No advanced technical skills are required to work through this – as a web-based activity, all that is required is the URL and a computer with an internet connection.
  • This means there is no need for students to log into an unfamiliar site or to get to groups with a complex interface.  Ease of use is vital to student motivation
  • Information is provided in short, cohesive bursts and consolidated with narration, animation and interactive activities.
  • Links to further (related) online resources and activities are provided, so students can direct their learning at a pace and level that suits them.

Another web-based resource that, once again, provides a clear, multisensory and interactive online learning experience for students in Midwifery is Baby First!, a resource designed to help midwives to support families over the first important year of life when their baby has an intellectual disability. Using the perspective of new parents and their experiences when discovering that their new-born has Downs Syndrome gives students the chance to empathise with their ‘clients’ rather than feel distanced from situations such as the ones highlighted in the activity.   Again, users are invited to give feedback regarding the online content and ease of use, and there are areas in which to record and print out reflections.

My final recommendation has been used regularly by School staff and students studying radiography, and though ancient in technology years (being, as it is, seven years old), it still provides a clear, multi-sensory overview of X-Ray Beam Manipulation.  The resource was made in partnership with South Birmingham College and JISC and comprises an animated simulation that shows the effect of mAS and KVp on x-ray beam quality and intensity (mAS and KVp being the controls used to adjust at the console density and contrast when operating an X-ray). Rather than simply showing this demonstration in a rather didactic manner, importantly, the resource also allows the user to alter the controls of a simulated x-ray machine and to see the effect that has on the x-ray beam and the final x-ray produced.  This hands-on activity consolidates the theoretical content, and provides a safe way of carrying out simulation away from the classroom or X-ray laboratory.

I’m championing these web-based resources because there is no ‘faffing’ – these are not SCORMS or ILMs, there is no expectation on the part of staff to be able to know how to download a complex package, nor how to upload it to an LMS or VLE once downloaded.  This simplicity does prevaricate lecturers from being able to track learner use and responses, but ease of use from both a lecturer and student perspective is fundamental to online learning. This means that staff are more likely to use the resources in their own practice (and have done, as they are not only relevant, but also mean that time is not wasted re—inventing the wheel).  And that’s why JORUM is so important – there are so many resources covering such a range of subjects just within the Health Care Sciences curriculum alone that by using or repurposing them huge savings can be made in time and money.

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Posterous, Pins, Pearls, Projects and…Alliteration

Two content curation sites that have been around for a little while but suddenly seem to be very much a part of the web 2.0 zeitgeist are Pinterest and Pearltrees.  Needing to be seen as someone who is cutting edge (or as close to the cutting edge as this middle aged Cornish woman can get) I’ve been playing with them both over the past couple of weeks.

 

Pearltrees describes itself succinctly as: ‘A place to collect, organize and share everything you like on the web’.  Predominantly then, it’s another bookmarking tool albeit a visual one, with bookmarks forming as detailed or simple a mind map as the user desires.  Great for learners with dyslexia then, and people who like to organise things fluidly and (I loathe this term, but will say it anyway) ‘visually’ rather than in bulleted lists.  I’m a bulleted list person who doesn’t believe in visual learners, or the concept of learning styles at all by trade, but signed up feeling oddly excited.  I must get out more…

 

It’s so bloody quick and easy to set up a personal ‘pearl tree’, I initially thought that I must have done something wrong!  Simply visit the Pearltrees website, Install the ‘Pearler’ button to your browser (I’ve managed to do this successfully with IE8, Firefox and Safari – not sure about Opera or Chrome yet), click on it whenever a web page / site catches your eye, drop it into your pearl tree (or, if you’re a hyper-organised freaker, a sub-pearltree) and Robert, as ever, is your uncle.

 

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Pinterest is, as the website simply declares:  ‘An online pin board where users can organise and share the things they love’. It really is that simple too.  Again, a button can be installed on your browser, and as soon as you see an image that catches your eye, clicking on this button will allow you to pin it to one of your pin boards. 

 

Both sites have complementary iPhone / Pad apps, with Pearltrees even allowing the user to install the ‘Pearler’ button on their iOS browser’s toolbar.  However, as yet neither is available for Android phones or tablets.  (Incidentally, I own a BlackBerry, but won’t even be looking to see if RIM is going to produce or buy-in OS-specific apps for both sites.  As BlackBerry seems to be losing ground in the smartphone and tablet race, I won’t be holding my breath either!)

 

How then can these sites be used in education?  Via Pearltrees, friends can team up with to view and add to specific sets or sub sets of your Pearl tree and other users can comment on the web sites you’ve ‘pearled’.  The same goes for Pinterest, with other ‘pinners’ able to contribute to your virtual pin boards (should you so desire) and comment on and re-pin to their own boards the items you have already pinned.  So the whole sharing, ‘spreading the word’ and collaboration thing is there.  And as well as collaboration these sites both provide quick but dynamic ways of gathering evidence, could be a way to gather one’s thoughts in preparation for an assignment, may provide opportunities for peer assessment, project work / organisation or even, perhaps, presentations?  I’m also wondering whether they could be used as ePortfolios in some way? 

Thoughts:  and may I be struck down by lightening for sweeping, possibly misogynist comments…but  Pinterest currently seems to be very much a girl thing – lots of pin boards about shoes, fashion, baking, etc.  Could this affect its popularity or public perception?  I’m only saying…

 

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