Scitable – personal learning tool and library

December 9, 2009 2 comments

Nature Publishing Group has launched Scitable, a personal learning tool and library, which initially is focussing on genetics, the study of evolution, variation, and the rich complexity of living organisms.

The site is aimed at both students and academics with free registration.  For students there are series of learning paths which cover topics such as cancer, genetic testing and chromosomes and disease.  Students can also experts questions, access a library of articles on various topics and connect with other students to form study groups or take part in discussions. Teaching staff can use Scitable to build a free research space for their students and provide students with daily RSS news feeds from, Science Blogs and Scientific American.

Categories: General Tags: ,

Royal Medical Colleges on Twitter

November 6, 2009 1 comment

Interesting to see that some of the Royal Medical Colleges now have a presence of Twitter.  Whilst many dismiss Twitter as a bit of geeky fad or a boring irrelevance there is no getting away from the fact that more and more professional groups are using it to disseminate information.  Also increasing numbers of educationalists and doctors are using Twitter to network with other professionals to discuss ideas, share links to information and resources and to ask for help and advice.  Journals like the BMJ have an active Twitter presence as does the BMA and the NHS also has several Twitter channels.

Some of the Royal Medical Colleges are also now on Twitter, you’ll find the RCGP, RCPsych, RCS England and the RCObsGyn.  The Colleges are tweeting links to new clinical guidelines, news articles featuring comments from College members, research articles and general news stories relating to their specialism and to College news and events. You’ll see from the screenshot below that the RCS think the other Royal Medical Colleges will be joining them on Twitter soon.

RCS News on Twitter

Over a million reasons to re-invent the syringe

October 28, 2009 2 comments

I came across this TED Talk by Marc Koska ‘1.3 millions reasons to re-invent the syringe’ via Dr Shock’s blog.  Dr Shock is Walter van den Broek, a Dutch psychiatrist working in a University Hospital specialising in the treatment of depression.  He also has a very keen interest in medical education and blogs about this and psychiatry.  If you have an interest in either of these areas it’s worth keeping an eye on his blog and subscribing to the RSS feed.  You can also follow Dr Shock on Twitter.

Marc Koska’s TED Talk highlights the problem with the re-use of syringes and the role this plays in spreading infection such as HIV.  Watching this reminded me of the stories I heard of cleaners gathering used syringes and selling them on, when I worked in Romania on a multi-disciplinary training programme run by the Ministry of Health and UNICEF back in the early 1990s.  Koska’s new syringe has been developed to prevent re-use.  This short video is perhaps one to add to the wiki developed by one of our students over the summer which is full of helpful resources and information to help prepare students for electives in resource poor countries.  You can can acess this wiki in Blackboard.


Categories: Blogging Tags: , ,

So what’s an RSS feed?

October 16, 2009 2 comments

With so much information on the web and everyone seeming to be busier and busier it’s helpful to know about some tools that can help you organise the information you’re interested in.  One of the ways to help manage information is to use RSS feeds, yet to many the term RSS is just a piece of techno babble!  So what is RSS?

RSS stands for Really Simple Syndication or Rich Site Summary.  It’s essentially a feed of information which may be a headline, a summary or full text of information published on the web.  Websites like BBC News, the Guardian, the BMJ, SIGN, blogs, video sharing sites and most academic journals now distribute their content via RSS feeds.   This is all good news because it means that we can subscribe to these RSS news feeds using an RSS newsreader. Whenever you see the RSS icon (shown here to the left) on a website or on the address bar in your web browser, this indicates that the site has an RSS feed that you can subscribe to.  If you subscribe to these feeds it means that you can retrieve all the latest information from the sites you’re interested in dynamically in one place rather than having to trudge from site to site to see if there’s any new content. Take a look at this video put together by Sarah Horrigan of Nottingham Trent University to get an overview of RSS.

There are different ways to subscribe to RSS feeds.  You can subscribe to them in your web browser, i.e. in Internet Explorer, Firefox, Flock, Safari etc.  This is fine but if you use different computers you might want to consider using a web-based news reader which you can access anytime you are on the web.  One option as outlined in Sarah’s video is Google Reader, another is Netvibes.  You can take a look at a Netvibes page that I’ve put together with some RSS feeds relating to some respiratory journals and organisations.  With Netvibes you can create your own personal pages of RSS feeds and also share pages publicly and embed images, and widgets for sites like Facebook, for searching sites like Google, PubMed etc.  The page I’ve linked to from this post includes a widget which allows you to search the BMJ (thanks to Anne Marie Cunningham at Cardiff for creating and sharing this).

I subscribe to well over 100 RSS feeds across a whole range of work and personal related interests.  Using an RSS reader saves me a lot of time, there’s no way I would have time to visit all these sites.  I check my reader and look at the headlines and can quite quickly see what looks interesting and what I want to take a closer look at.  Why not give RSS a try yourself and start start subscribing to some feeds from your favourite websites.  If you need any help to get started post a comment and I’ll follow up with you.

Workshops on Using Audience Response Systems in Teaching

September 24, 2009 Leave a comment

The Medical School has recently invested in the latest version of  the Turning Point audience response system and a number of lecturers are already using this in their lectures.  For those interested in learning more about how audience response systems can enhance learning in the classroom here are details about two events which might be worth going along to.

The University of Glamorgan is hosting a workshop on Using Clinical Simulation and Audience Response Systems to Enhance Students Learning and Critical Reasoning Skills  on 24 November 2009.  The HEA Subject Centre for Health Sciences and Practice are organising this event and you can visit their website for more information.  The workshop will

introduce delegates to the principles of combining ARS with video streaming of high fidelity simulated clinical scenarios. Delegates will have the opportunity to explore technical, practical and pedagogical aspects of utilising this form of e-learning.

A few days later on 26 November the University of Leicester is running a meeting organised by Engaging Students Through In-Class Technology (ESTICT), a UK network of education practitioners and learning technologists interested in promoting good practice with classroom technologies that can enhance face-to-face teaching. You can join the ESTICT community online and register to join their Ning group. The aim of the Leicester meeeting is

to share best practice in the use of in-class technology, with a particular focus on the pedagogic uses of electronic voting systems (also known as ‘clickers’ audience response systems ARS, personal response systems PRS). This event is aimed at those both those with experience of EVS who wish to share their best practice and those with an interest in the technology that would like to know more. Both experts and novice users are welcome.

Hopefully someone will be able to attend at least one of these events and we can share some feedback and tips on best practice here on the blog.

TEDMED talks 2009

September 18, 2009 Leave a comment

In my presentation at last week’s ACT meeting I mentioned the TED talks videos which are freely available to view and share on the web.  The TED talks are 15-18 minute presentations about ‘ideas worth sharing’ in science, technology, business, global issues, design and entertainment and well worth a look.  There’s an example of a TED talk below by Hans Rosling, Professor of Global Health at the Karolinska Institute, on HIV where he uses Gapminder to show the latest stats on HIV infection.  There are some others you can view in the vodpod widget in the sidebar of this page or you can go direct to

Next month in San Diego TED will be holding TEDMED 2009, the first TED dedicated entirely to talks on medicine and healthcare.  The talks will cover topics such as ageing, cancer, surgery, open research in medicine and communicating medical information. The TEDMED website has the full list of speakers and the titles of their talks. As with other TED talks these will be available online after the event. It should be worth taking a look at the TEDMED talks for general interest and it may be that some of the talks could be used in teaching resources.

Categories: General Tags: , , ,

Should Students Use Wikipedia as a Source of Medical Information?

September 16, 2009 6 comments
Image from wikipedia

Image from wikipedia

Do a Google search and invariably you’ll see Wikipedia is often one of the top links delivered in your search results.  User statistics for the English version of Wikipedia for the end of August 2009 show the site has 8,031,236 visitors an hour.

Many people question whether Wikipedia is a reliable source of information.  A study by Nature in 2005 concluded that Wikipedia (at that time) came close to the Encyclopedia Britannica in terms of the accuracy of its science entries.  I’ve heard a number of lecturers both at Dundee and in other medical schools say that students should not use Wikipedia to look for information, whilst other lecturers admit they have used it for quick reference.  Speaking to some students, they’ve mentioned that they use Wikipedia as a first port of call to get an overview of a topic before going on to refer to peer-reviewed journals etc.

So should students use Wikipedia as a source of medical information? How does it stack up? Do doctors make the effort to edit any inaccuracies they spot?  There’s an interesting overview of Wikipedia and whether it should be used as a source of medical infromation, ‘The Trouble with using Wikipedia as a source of medical information‘, on Laika’s MedLibLog. Laika (Jaqueline) is a medical librarian in Amsterdam and blogs about medical librarianship, evidence-based medicine, medical information and the Cochrane Collaboration.  Laika’s post about Wikipedia highlights some important points and issues about the accuracy of information on the site and reports on how Wikipedia are taking steps to address some of these issues and also how groups such as the NIH and journals such as RNA Biology are encouraging scientists and experts to edit and initiate entries in Wikipedia.

Laika suggests that a possible solution to the problems with Wikipedia is a medical wikipedia.  Ganfyd and Medpedia are two examples of medical wikis but these are very much works in progress.  Is this the way forward or should we be encouraging doctors to edit Wikipedia to improve the reliability of what’s there given that we know that other doctors, students and patients all use it as a source of information.  In response to a post by Anne Marie Cunningham on her informal survey of 1st year medical students use of Wikipedia at Cardiff Medical School, Chris Dawson advocates that we should be encouraging students to edit Wikipedia rather than use it.  Chris says

It wouldn’t take many medical schools requiring a “Web 2.0 Medical Resources” course focusing on available information, credibility, and online research to drastically increase the utility of Wikipedia and its ilk for both the medical community and patients.

What do you think?  Are all medical students aware of the issues concerning the accuracy and impartiality of some of the articles relating to medical information in Wikipedia or do we take it for granted that they know this?  Should we be encouraging students to edit articles which are factaully inaccurate or should those of us involved in medical education be taking that task on rather than starting another medical wiki?