Saturday, April 25, 2015

A Personal Learning Network becomes a Print Journal Issue: Why Academics Really use Twitter

Social Media allows a motivated and engaged learner to build connections that can enhance lifelong learning.  The connections become a learners Personal Learning Network or PLN.  The ability of social media to help a learner find and connect with the right people that might be otherwise impossible to "meet" in real life is one of its huge potential advantages.

This can be a difficult concept to convey to someone who may have a very negative attitude of Twitter.  One can hardly blame them for thinking that Twitter is a time waster, that there is a huge noise to signal ratio with very little tangible benefit.

A famous Nature study showed that very few academics use Twitter compared to sites like Google Scholar.  This led to a spoof by PhD Comics on "Why Academics Really use Twitter".  This is quite funny maybe because it has an element of truth for those who use Twitter.  At the same time infographics like this might unintentionally dissuade people from trying out Twitter as it may reinforce their beliefs about its lack of usefulness.

Now we have a great example of how a PLN created on Twitter led to an entire issue of a print journal.  The credit goes to Margaret Chisholm who was the editor of the special issue of "International Review of Psychiatry" and put together the issue with the help of a group of authors who mostly got to know each other first on Twitter and are part of a large PLN of health care social media users.

Granted, the special issue was regarding the use of Social Media but it could well have been any other topic in biomedical sciences where the scientists engage in social media.  This special issue of a print journal may be an excellent showpiece of the huge potential benefit of social media for academics - to create a PLN for lifelong learning.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Timelines to represent the history of medicine

"Those who do not study history are condemned to repeat it"

Understanding the history is critical to comprehending the current status of any political situation.  Thus one cannot even being to come to grips with the situation in the Middle East or in Nigeria without knowing how we got here.

The same holds true for medicine.  Using history helps teach our students about various complex  therapies like antibiotics, anti-lipid medications etc.

Thus whenever there is a situation what is difficult to grasp, studying the history of how we got here helps to understand it.  The fact that >90 years after the discovery of insulin by Banting and Bates this critical medication is still not available off patent is almost unbelievable.

An article in the NEJM highlights this by tracing the history of the various forms of insulin to clarify the current situation.

A timeline makes this easier to follow.  Making the timeline took less than 5 min on a free tool called Dipity.  It allows for addition of images or video and can be shared to encourage discussion.
Explore the timeline embedded below by clicking on blurbs or zooming in and out.

Getting students to work collaboratively to create timelines of major therapeutic advances in key areas of medicine can help them build a deeper understanding of the subject.  It can help them identify potential areas for research and quickly digest newer advances as they occur, by recognizing their place in history.

We know that we learn by doing, and thus, we should encourage students to create these timelines rather than just view timelines created by others.

Friday, December 26, 2014

How "The Interview" hack helped Google show off its capabilities

As 2014 draws to a close, "The Interview" became the most talked about movie of the year.  While many people may have otherwise ignored the Seth Rogen low-brow comedy, the Sony hack made it a must-watch movie.

An unexpected fall out the event was the release of the movie on online platforms after several theater chains refused to show the movie due to safety concerns.

For Google agreeing to show the movie was probably a risk-reward proposition.  Clearly there was some risk of cyberattacks, and of not being able to provide a smooth experience for what was expected to be a massive demand.  The potential reward was to expose the audience to a somewhat less used path for accessing movies and for providing producers with one more option to release content.

While several of the online sites had some problems, it appears that Google came out unscathed providing a very smooth experience.  In our case, with a large number of people in the house over the holidays and everything closed for Christmas, we bowed to popular opinion and decided to watch the movie. It was a completely seamless experience.  The fact that this experience involved using several devices and apps made it even more remarkable.

Let me describe the steps I took to access the movie.  There are many options, and there may be much simpler ones depending on your devices and platforms.

  1. We have an LG SmartTV
  2. A Chromecast device
  3. iPhone 5
  4. Win 8.1 Surface device.
So this is how we connected
  1. On the Surface went to Google Play and used Google Wallet to rent the movie.  Once rented, you have to start viewing within 30 days and once started, complete watching within 48 hours
  2. On the iPhone, installed the Google Play for Movies and TV app
  3. As soon as I logged into it, the movie I had purchased in step 1 showed up in My Movies
  4. Start the movie and chromecasted it to the TV
The whole thing worked without a single hitch.  The quality of the stream was superb and there was no issue with loading, buffering etc for the HD version.  
At the end of the day I was impressed at how well it worked and once set up the technology was invisible, and everyone could focus on the movie uninterrupted.  

It is quite possible that more people will be open to using Google Play to watch movies and TV shows.  The great thing is that you can go to a friend's place and start chromecast movies from your library easily.