Summary: The American University of the Caribbean meeting in Detroit, widening participation and AMEE 2013 are discussed in Harden’s Blog this fortnight. Description: I have just returned from an American University of the Caribbean meeting in Detroit. I have been very impressed with the education environment created at AUC and with the level of student engagement. Dr Heidi Chumley has taken over as Executive Dean and CAO.

I had to spend the night at Chicago en route to Detroit because of thunderstorms at the airport. Two flights the following morning were also cancelled. The third flight took off, but by that time Detroit airport was closed yet again and we were diverted to Grand Rapids. I arrived at Detroit 24 hours late!

The flight from Detroit to Chicago operates a small aircraft where you leave your hand luggage at the door of the aircraft, retrieving it after landing. I have a rather distinct piece of hand luggage, but someone with a similar case took my case ahead of me upon leaving the aircraft and left the terminal building with it. Fortunately their case was unlocked and I found a business card and called his mobile, which was luckily switched on, and I was able to track him down before he boarded another aircraft with my case for Korea. He had, however, left the terminal building by this time and had to get a special pass to re-enter with my case. Fortunately, most of my trips are not as eventful in terms of travelling arrangements.

Sitting at the Chicago airport waiting for my connection to Detroit, I picked up a copy of Executive Travel. There was an interesting article on how to lead more engaged conference calls. Increasing use is being made of conference calls, but in my experience many are done badly. This article gives seven rules for better conference calls:
1.    Lead from a landline.
2.    Avoid using a speakerphone, if possible.
3.    Engage those who sign on 5 to 10 minutes early by starting an informal discussion about some of the items on the agenda, rather than random chit chat.
4.    Follow the basic rules of etiquette–participants should arrive early, start on time, and finish on time.
5.    Encourage all participants to say their name before making a comment. It is sometimes difficult to distinguish voices.
6.    As a leader use “pause” when you feel that the conversation is going off track or someone is speaking for too long. Indicate that you will be doing this at the beginning of the call.
7.    Rather than marching through the agenda, include “how” and “what” questions.

The article concludes by suggesting that every conference leader thinks that they do it perfectly, but they don’t. I’ll try to remember this the next time that I am leading a teleconference call!

The medical school at Dundee is currently having a refurbishment of its accommodation. It’s interesting to note that in a major redesign and refurbishment of the large auditorium at the Ninewells Campus with a 250-seat capacity, the seating has been rearranged for groups of six – delivering flexibility for team-based learning, interactive teaching, presentations, and symposia. There will also be live links to surgical areas.

The UK Health Minister Dr Dan Poulter is reported as saying “The NHS treats patients from every background so it is only right that our doctors represent every section of society. In recent years we have made significant progress towards a more meritocratically-selected medical workforce, but there is still more to do. I want to encourage students from every background to think about being a doctor.” The UK Medical Schools Council have initiated a project to widen participation in medicine and to promote excellence in selection. The work will include a focus on initiatives such as the use of contextual data in admissions. This, in the past, has proved controversial and is currently a subject for litigation in the USA.

Professor Ronald Roberts working in a Scottish company that specialises in aquaculture and scientific research for the fishing industry, has found the that prickly pear extract used to reduced fatigue in commercial divers also could be used to reduce jet lag. Almost all travellers tested with tablets containing the extract reported reduced symptoms from jet lag with a single dose. The product is marketed as Protex-H and is even available on Amazon. I normally use melatonin when travelling, which I have found to be effective, but I think I will try this new remedy as an experiment.

I have mentioned previously Salman Khan and the Khan Academy, which has video lessons on a wide range of subjects freely available online. His recent book, “The One World School House: Education Reimagined,” was reviewed in the June edition of Education Review by Francis Schrag, University of Wisconsin, under the title, “Is this the Education Revolution We’ve Been Waiting For? An Essay Review of The One World School House” (http://www.edrev.info/essays/v16n7.pdf). Schrag provides an interesting and engaging analysis of the criticisms of Khan’s work. It has been suggested that the Khan Academy modules don’t walk the progressive walk and don’t meaningfully engage students; that the modules contain errors, that the subjects are presented in a decontextualized way, not grappling with real world problems relating to the topic; and that the modules concentrate on correct notions on the subject rather than highlighting common misconceptions. Schrag argues that these criticisms are on the whole unfair, but adds a personal criticism or concern. Khan’s approach is based on mastery learning, and Schrag questions whether this is equally appropriate in humanities subjects. I found this review by Schrag a useful critical appraisal not just of the work of Khan, but of online learning more generally. I have found Education Review to be a useful review of educational books and access is free.

As part of our preparation for AMEE 2013 in Prague we have been working on the AMEE exhibit. More space has been reserved in the exhibition hall, which will provide us with the opportunity to highlight the different AMEE activities and demonstrate these to participants. The conference always provides a useful opportunity for AMEE members to meet with AMEE central staff and all staff members will be with us in Prague. The final programme is almost ready to go to print and with so many interesting sessions the difficulty will be deciding which to attend. For those not able to be with us in Prague, we are currently finalising the arrangements for AMEE Live Online where all plenary sessions and symposia sessions will be available to view online.