Summary: After a festive break Professor Harden returns to the office to put the finishing touches to his plenary presentation for the Asia Pacific Medical Education Conference (APMEC) in Singapore. Description: Best wishes to you for a healthy, happy and productive 2014.  Following Christmas at home I spent three days from Blog-Prof-Harden-2013.jpg30th December in Spain with my daughter where she has a riding school about 15 miles inland from Malaga ( – excellent for anyone who wants a holiday and/or riding experience in a beautiful part of Spain).  Fifteen years ago I had planted Agaves and on each side of her drive a row of palm trees.  The growth has been tremendous, with the plants now  10 feet monsters while the same agaves have struggled to survive in Dundee, even when taken into the greenhouse over the winter.  The weather was pleasant and I was able to sit out in the sun in the mornings and do some writing – accompanied by Katmandu as in the photo.

Since coming back from Spain I have been putting the finishing touches to my plenary presentation for the Asia Pacific Medical Education Conference in Singapore where we are also running an ESME course which has been oversubscribed.  Last year at APMEC I talked about collaboration in education as more important than technology in the next wave in medical education.  This year ‘Optimising collaboration in medical education: building bridges, connecting minds’ is the theme for the meeting and I am addressing the topic ‘If collaboration is important why has it not happened more?’ I am also contributing to the workshop led by David Wilkinson on the ASPIRE-to-excellence initiative.  Trudie Roberts and Kathy Boursicot are organising an ESME Assessment course and Trudie will be working with Pat and myself at the AMEE stand in the exhibition area.  I will be doing a book signing session also at the Elsevier stand.  I look forward to meeting you if you will be at APMEC in Singapore. Following the meeting I am moving on to Kuala Lumpur where I am running a workshop on the OSCE at the International Medical University.

We are in the final stages of planning for the Ottawa Conference in Ottawa in April.  In the opening session we will recognise the contributions made by Ian Hart to medical education and in particular to the establishment of the Ottawa Conference.  It was in 1984 when Ian was on sabbatical with me in Dundee that we felt there was a need to share experience and thoughts about assessment of clinical competence across the Atlantic and conceived the idea of a conference on the topic in Ottawa.  The conference held in 1985 was so successful that since then we have had Ottawa conferences on alternate years.  The consensus statement on key aspects of assessment worked on by six groups and finalised at the Miami Ottawa Conference were published in the March and May issues of Medical Teacher 2011.   Many have found these a valuable source for authoritative statements on assessment – an area where there is often controversy.  We hope at the conference to have a reunion of those who took part in the early Ottawa conferences up to 1999.  If anyone has photos of Ian please send a copy to Ian Bowmer [email protected] who is putting together the tribute to Ian.  Cathy Hart and their two sons will be with us for the opening session.

David Mason, former Dean of Dentistry in Glasgow, worked with me in the Gardner Institute in the Department of Medicine at Western Infirmary, Glasgow when I was engaged in research in thyroid disease and iodine metabolism.  Like the thyroid gland the salivary glands trap iodine.  I was pleased to hear from him again last week when he sent me an obituary notice for Beatrice Muirhead.  She was the nurse in charge at that time of the Gardner Institute.  Meg Henderson in the obituary beautifully captures here huge strengths.  Sadly over the years the caring aspect of nursing has not improved.  Meg writes about Beatrice ‘she set a standard few in the 1960s could reach and, today, when the NHS we both knew has all but disappeared, I look at the way patients are treated and think, what would Beatrice make of that?’

Although no substitute for prepared eLearning resources, the recording of lectures is very much on the agenda today.  As reported in the ALT-MEMBERS listserve, Julian Prior ([email protected]) has done a survey of practices with regard to the recording of lectures in 43 institutions.  The two most popular lecture capture solutions reported are Panopto and Echo 360, followed by Camtasia Relay.  The vast majority of institutions are only capturing a minority of lectures, however, with only 20% recording more than 40% of lectures.

I was interested to read the attack by Frank Furedi, Professor of Sociology at the University of Kent, writing in The Guardian on criticisms of the lecture.  He highlights articles for example in Harvard Magazine on the Twilight of the Lecture and in Time on Why long lectures are ineffective.  To its detractors he says: ‘a lecture represents scholarship in action.  A lecture given to an undergraduate audience provides a disciplinary context for the topic under discussion.  And more than any other academic experience, the lecture provides students with meaning about the subject under discussion.  Ideally, this is accomplished through a combination of intellectual mastery and communicating with the passion the pursuit of scholarship demands.  What students gain for a lecture is much more than an introduction into new facts and facts and ideas.  At its best, it is a total experience.’  He acknowledges, however that many lectures are far from memorable and that listening and taking notes requires commitment and effort.  He ends by suggesting that ‘hopefully the creative pressure offered by lecturing allows us to become more effective, if not always inspiring, teachers.’