Saturday, November 28, 2009

I have a hunch...

Okay, so this is a little frivolous, but I've just discovered Hunch... a new 'decision-making tool' by the creators of Flickr. It's quite entertaining too. I tried out their tour, which takes you through the decision of one thing you should really do before you die. I opted for something to do solo that matched my age and had to be done in the next five years (not that I'm planning to hop the twig by then, you understand, I'm just an impatient sort) and the top suggestion was 'write a book'. Not only that, the site linked me to websites that would tell me how to do it! How cool is that?

So then I tried pretending I was my 'significant other' (their words) and searched what to buy me for my 40th. The result: a foot-spa. Hmm... not so sure about that one. Not very original, is it? Not unless it comes wrapped in a fancy hotel. But the decision-making process is interesting. Have a play and see for yourself!

I wonder what the educational implications of this are, if any.

Image from Flickr Creative Commons:

Friday, November 13, 2009

Learning through listening

The School of Nursing at UCOL has been in the process of implementing a new curriculum. Underpinning everything in the curriculum is the precept that the learning must be student-centred. This has led to some interesting discussions about what exactly student-centred learning is. Is it the same as student-directed? Does student-centred mean that they can choose what they need to learn, and if so, what does this mean in a School of Nursing?

In the past, when I was working as an English teacher, I used to allow (carefully selected!) junior secondary classes to create their own curriculum for the term. This was usually an interesting process that involved students debating and discussing what they thought was important to learn, and how they wanted to learn it. I found that classes who took part in this were (usually) more committed and involved in their learning. But that was English. How student-centred can one feasibly be with a course that not only has life-or-death consequences (unlike Shakespeare?) but also needs to meet the standards set by the Nursing Council and the National Qualifications Authority.

The creation of online learning modules goes some way towards shifting the School of Nursing at UCOL towards student-centeredness by allowing students to do 'wherever, whenever' learning. Online discussion forums and chats allow students to take part in discussions around their learning, even though they are not on campus, and lecturers upload their notes, usually as PowerPoints. The feedback from students is generally positive about all of this.

The online modules do have drawbacks. They are time-consuming to create, and require some level of computer expertise. A solution to this that has been widely adopted around the world is podcasting, which allows students to listen to audio of lectures wherever they are. It certainly can't be faulted for convenience... more students have some sort of iPod/Mp3 player than have computers, and they're a lot easier to carry around than laptops.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, the School of Nursing is going to be developing a library of podcasts in the coming year to support the new curriculum. We're still in the early planning stages, so there is a lot of work to be done, but my plan is to create podcasts or vodcasts to support all the papers running in the second year of the programme. Some of our lecturers have already been doing this for some time, so I will be relying on their experience and expertise to help get things moving. I'm looking forward to getting things up and running.... If any of you out there have had experience in developing podcasts, I'd be really interested in hearing from you.

While thinking about all of this I came across this presentation on Slideshare. Steve Wheeler, a UK-based lecturer with research interests in e-learning, describes himself as an International Man of Misery - I like him already. It's interesting how people all over the world are considering the same issues... what's amazing though is how easily and freely the ideas are shared.

In the meantime, watch this space for updates on how the School of Nursing podcasting project develops.

Image: cc Beverly Kahuna (

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

eLearning Sucks

I was reading David Hopkins' e-learning blog, always interesting and thought-provoking, and I came across this... although it's really a corporate advert, it still sums up pretty clearly what we're doing wrong with e-learning. I guess the problem is putting the wrong stuff right takes time, and costs money.

What I was actually looking for was this video - an excellent reminder of why we sweat over e-learning at all.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Second Life

I was in Wellington last Friday to meet nurse educators and SLENZ movers and shakers, with a view to planning a way forward for nurse education in SecondLife. Not that we're on the cutting edge - overseas nursing schools are way ahead of us and there is some amazing stuff out there. We're lucky to have the SLENZ team as guides and to temper enthusiasm with sensible reality checks.

There is clearly a lot of interest amongst NZ nursing schools in the opportunities offered by Second Life. The shift of nurse education from the hospitals to the polytechs and universities does seem to mean that nurses have less contact time with patients, and spend less time applying their learning in 'real-life' situations. Whilst they have a good grounding in things like nursing theory, there seems to be a limited time in which students can practice key workplace skills such as critical thinking, problem solving and clinical judgement. Role-playing scenarios in the classroom offers a limited solution - one is constantly aware of the 'pretendness' of it all. Second Life offers us an alternative that seems to mimic real life more effectively than anything else. I'm looking forward to seeing where this collaboration takes us.

One idea that came out of the meeting was that we develop a clinical interview /health assessment scenario using bits of the existing builds created by the SLENZ group. This seems to me to be a really sensible option, and it would enable us to assess how our colleagues buy into the whole SL thing before we get too carried away.

Take a look at an example of the SLENZ project here:

On a very micro-level, I found out about the UCLA Davis Hallucination build, which I'm looking forward to exploring with a view to using as part of a mental health paper for second years.

An unexpected bonus of the jaunt to Wellington was the guided tour of the bays and surrounds provided by Susie lePage.... Since my experiences of the city have previously been limited to dashes to the airport or trips to Te Papa, it was a pleasure to be chauffeured around the scenic route on a gloriously sunny day. And a stop-off in Otaki on the way home introduced me to a street full of outlet stores (we call them 'factory shops' in SA) to be visited at regular intervals.