Summary: E-learning and learning technology is a central theme of this Blog as Professor Harden reflects on a busy fortnight and justifies a recent iPad purchase. Description: I finally succumbed and purchased an iPad to add to my travelling kit of laptop, mobile phones, Kindle, iPod, noise cancelling headphones, mobile printer and mobile scanner.  I suppose I justified it in three ways.  To keep track of the different projects with which I am engaged and the various deadlines, to find a quick and easy source of access to internet when I am travelling and to gain experience with the iPad as a tool for social networking and information services at AMEE 2013.  To take advantage of the Vat-free prices, I purchased it at Heathrow airport.  As it happened on returning home I found my 5 year old grandson staying at our house for 2 days.  He quickly commandeered the iPad and after installing it for me he insisted on loading some games.  To my consternation, and no matter how hard I tried, I found I could not beat him once!  I am finding the iPad useful for Skype.  Interestingly I note that Microsoft’s IM offering will be ‘retired’ in March to be replaced by Skype.  I noted with interest that LKC School of Medicine, Singapore has now integrated the use of iPads into their curriculum.  Every medical student will receive a free iPad.

Just returned from the AMEE Executive committee meeting in London where we reviewed the progress with the wide range of AMEE initiatives and looked at some exciting developments proposed for the coming months.  More about these later.  The excellent progress made with regard to AMEE 2013 in Prague was noted and we looked ahead to future AMEE conferences, including potential speakers, for AMEE 2014 which will be held in Milan from 6-10th September 2014.  

News about the ASPIRE excellence in medical education initiative is encouraging with responses already being received in response to the invitation to submit applications for the first round of awards.  We are also hearing that the criteria in the three areas are proving useful markers for medical schools of what they should be aiming at for excellence in medical education.  We will be inviting shortly anyone with an interest and expertise in one or more of the three areas being assessed to offer their services as ASPIRE reviewers.

The number of journals in the education field continues to expand.  I wonder how many there are altogether now?  A recent addition is The Journal of Perspectives in Applied Academic Practice which aims to ‘provide a supportive publishing outlet to allow established and particularly new authors to contribute to the scholarly discourse of academic practice.’  An interesting feature of the journal is the support for new authors who are seeking to publish their first paper.  These are assigned a ‘critical friend’ from within the editorial team who advises on the development of initial ideas for the formats of the paper.

That e-Learning has set back higher education by increasing the amount of training and instruction, rather than focussing on pedagogy was the provocative claim in a recent Alt-list serv.  Respondents suggested that we shouldn’t be using the term e-learning as it means so many different things to different people.  It was suggested that the ‘e’ in e-learning should refer to ‘enhanced’, ‘engaged’ and ‘enriched’ learning.  Some contributors preferred the term ‘technology-enhanced learning.’  The problem I believe, as I suggested in my paper ‘E-learning - Caged bird or soaring eagle?’ (Medical Teacher, 2008; 30: 1-4), is that we should think of the technology, not simply to do better what we are already doing, but to allow us to achieve in education what to date has been difficult, for example, individualised learning.   A critical literature review of technology-enhanced learning has just been published (Learning, Media and Technology, DOI:10.1080/17439884.2013.770404).  

New reasons to dislike multiple-choice testing were the theme for an article in Edutopia.  The argument is not that with an appropriately designed question you cannot test understanding.  A less obvious flaw is that the multiple-choice question disrupts the tone of learning itself.  It is argued that the tone of learning in the 21st century is changing as access to information increases, as the updating of information happens more naturally and as networks become a kind of collective wisdom.  The argument is that when a multiple-choice question is given to a student in hope of measuring how well he or she understands something, it manufactures the illusion of right and wrong, a binary condition that ignores the endlessly fluid nature of information.

The report that an audio installation now fills the streets of Margate with bird song attracted my attention.  The Whispering Window technology used converted the window panel in shops into a speaker making the bird song audible to passers-by.  It is not obvious where the bird song is coming from and listeners are enticed to search and relate to the surrounding area.  Bird songs from different windows are synchronised creating the illusion that nightingales are calling out and responding to each other throughout the day.  What is interesting is that feedback from customers in shops has been extremely positive and there has been a decrease in anti-social behaviour on the streets.  Do we want bird songs on our University campuses?

We are now working on the next series of ESME online courses due to start on 8th April.  Reflecting the international nature of the course, the ESME online flyer has now been translated by colleagues in South America into Spanish and by colleagues in China into Chinese.

Finally, this link is to an interesting/amusing short video clip on technology and teaching.