In this section of my CMALT portfolio I discuss my understanding and use of learning technology, including the use of technology to enhance learning and teaching, the development or deployment of technology to support teaching, training or learning. These are discussed under three main headings – constraints and benefits, technical knowledge, and deployment of learning technologies.
Constraints and Benefits
The benefits of learning technologies seem clear to me as I have used digital technologies and online education resources for my own learning and self-development, namely the use of Twitter, podcasts, Facebook and online education sites or blogs. Mobile devices and digital technologies mean that educational resources are able to be portable and easily accessible, and learning can be asynchronous, allowing students to learn at a time and pace that is right for them (Nickson & Cadogan, 2014).
I am new to university teaching, so I am still looking at incorporating these better into the delivery of my course. Currently I have inherited existing content that is PowerPoint based and very static in delivery. Moving forward I would like to transition to having weekly lecture notes as blog posts online, which would remain an easily accessible, live and dynamic resource that can be read ahead of classroom times. It would mean that students could revise content as often as they like via a mobile friendly platform. The benefit of this could be facilitating a ‘flipped classroom’ leaving face-to-face sessions to provide clarification and facilitated peer-group discussion, or other interactive group-based learning (Nickson & Cadogan, 2014). Redeveloping the content in this way takes time though, and I’m finding it a challenging thing to do with all the other demands of a busy semester.
I am aware that although students are very familiar with mobile devices and social media, but these are often only used in a very limited social context. I see the challenge as either adapting content to a format that can be share through the platforms that students already use socially or try to get students on board with using digital technology better suited to deliver the content that is to be shared, but which they may not be familiar with. The benefit of delivering content through popular platforms that students use socially may be that it is easier to transition to an alternative delivery of content, and it may also help them to build professional literacy around technology use. There is however likely to be a lot of variation in levels of understanding and use of technology amongst my classes of 70-80 students. There is not a great deal of time available in a single semester to help students develop their use and understanding, in addition to the core course content and assessments.
While still working for St John New Zealand, I moved into an education tutor role within the clinical development team in 2014. I was responsible for delivery of the internal ‘Paramedic’ course to a class of twelve students from all around the Northland, Auckland, and Hauraki/Coromandel regions. Students would come together for three separate classroom blocks of four days, with around 6 weeks in-between time doing online discussion, assignments, and self-directed learning. I created a private Facebook group for the class as a way of not only keeping a form of social contact with the group when they were all separated, but also as a way to share relevant content and material to assist their learning and to try to encourage dialogue.
During this same period I was approached by the Clinical Audit and Research Manager and Research Fellow who were aware of my use of online educational material and wanted me to put together a regular update of educational content to help clinicians whose main role was office based, but wanted to keep up to date with their clinical practice. Originally the idea was just to send out an email to the national office team with a few links to free open access content. I chose to do this as a word document with a short description and hyperlinks that was sent as an email attachment. This was popular amongst the national office group, and the decision was made to produce it in a format that was accessible by the whole organisation nationally. I kept it as a PDF document, but as well as hyperlinks I added in QR codes to help people to access the material, and this monthly update has been uploaded onto the St John staff website ‘The Hub’ for the past three years. Because of ease in printing and sharing PDF documents, it has been picked up by a nurse educator in another part of the country who contacted me after a doctor shared one of the documents with her. I now email copies to her directly which are shared on education boards in her ED and ICU/Acute care units, and have been included in the quarterly “Critical Comment” from the New Zealand Critical Care Nurses College.
In an attempt to expand my familiarity around digital learning technology I attend The Teaching Course in Melbourne in 2015. This was a five day course looking at the use of technology and social media in medical education. It was facilitated by medical educators active in the use of digital learning technologies and explored the use of Twitter, blogs, podcasts, personal learning networks, and presentation skills. In my previous role I didn’t have the freedom to incorporate these tools, but now in my new teaching role I have the scope to actively explore the use of these further.
I have spoken a number of times and facilitated workshops on the use of social media and online resources for medical education. When giving talks, I’ve used Twitter with the conference hashtag to tweet slides from my presentation to emphasis key points.
Currently I am helping to develop the social media use of the Paramedicine department to engage students within the programme, but also to engage with colleagues globally. Currently we are doing this through Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. I have also started a WordPress blog as part of the #CMALTcMOOC portfolio, and I want to develop this into a blog I can use for teaching in my courses.
Deployment of Learning Technologies
I have also been part of a group called the ‘EMS Wolfpack’ that is active through Twitter and Facebook through the hashtag #EMSwolfpack in forming virtual networks for professional contacts and also as a virtual support network. We have facilitated panel discussions at Student Paramedic Australasia New Zealand (SPANZ) conference over the past two years, encouraging paramedic students to use social media for professional networking and support.
I have spoken to paramedic students about the use of social media for educational and professional use, and encouraged them to use Twitter to connect with other health professionals and for their own development. This has been embraced by more and more paramedic students, both at AUT University and Whitireia Polytechnic. AUT paramedic student Victoria Mulrennan was one of these students who embraced Twitter and the opportunities it provided, which she talks about in a blog post.
Using social media for the Paramedicine department is also a way to engage students in a positive way to model the use of social media appropriately for professional use, rather than just a purely social context.
I’ve also been actively encouraging use of the Symplur Healthcare Project to register conference hashtags and track the engagement and reach of conferences and events I’ve been involved with.
As I reflect on my use of learning technology up to this point, I realize I have been using it in a very limited way. I’m looking forward to how I can widen my use of these tools and apply them in a constructive way to improve the delivery of my course content and engagement with students.
Nickson, C. P., & Cadogan, M. (2014). Free Open Access Medical education (FOAM) for the emergency physician. Emergency Medicine Australasia, 26(1), 76-83. doi:doi:10.1111/1742-6723.12191