Saturday, 12 April 2014

.htaccess tip of the day

Got a website nicely protected with .htaccess authentication but want to allow open access to a single directory without interfering with it?

Me too.

So it turns out you just stick a .htaccess file in the said directory and include the following two lines.
Allow from all
Satisfy Any
Job done.

Managed to then share an animated GIF of son with sword from 2006. None of the cloud-based services allow you to share the file exactly as you'd like.

Friday, 4 April 2014

Ubuntu One is unplugged: the risk of losing your cloud storage

Ubuntu One has announced it is closing and has given users 2 months' notice - free and paid.

"The Ubuntu One file services will not be included in the upcoming Ubuntu 14.04 LTS release, and the Ubuntu One apps in older versions of Ubuntu and in the Ubuntu, Google, and Apple stores will be updated appropriately. The current services will be unavailable from 1 June 2014; user content will remain available for download until 31 July, at which time it will be deleted."

It is an important reminder of the fragility of online cloud storage - even ones that you might pay for. It is a shame as Ubuntu One was (mostly) a smooth system for accessing important files on desktop, mobile, and tablet. It would do it automatically without the worry of having to manually back things up. The latest version of the file you were working on was just available wherever you needed it.

So, how to avoid missing cloud service disappointment? Do you really need to store those files? Are you just doing it as a time capsule for the future?

Suggest keeping your total collection of files to a manageable size and store them on multiple different types of media. An essential piece of digital literacy is not being fixated on any single piece of technology - they all come and go.

Friday, 28 March 2014

Surfing injuries on BMJ Case Reports - surfing seems safe!

If you are fit enough to get your board out beyond the breaking waves then you are fit enough to look after yourself. Usually you land in water when you fall off which helps! So, surfing seems a safe sport.

As a demonstration of this safety there are now over 8000 case reports published and only two case reports are of injuries to surfers. There are three case reports involving surfers in total but the other just mentions surfing as part of the patient history.

There is an eye injury and an ankle injury and both have excellent action shots of surfing.

Nice cutback demonstrated by the patient (opposite).

A trio surfing a big clean wave.

Getting images for your blogs / social media

So Getty announced that they were releasing 35 million of their images to be used however you like with some limitations. To do so you need to embed them (follow the 'search embed images' link at the bottom of the instructions) but the image is displayed as an iframe and may not show up if your blog is posted as a link to your social media websites.

A better way is to go for Creative Commons images and you can search using their search interface through different collections. Just remember to attribute the image ... I like just linking it back to the author's original page as below.

5 sloppy uses of the term 'blended learning' and a call for a #meded 'will it blend?' test.

So, I heard the 'B' word again today. I think the concept of blended or hybrid learning is really interesting. Blended learning is tricky to define (have a look at these three case studies) but to me it suggests that elements of one component augment other components in complex and subtle ways to improve the final outcome. Think Hollandaise sauce. However, sometimes teaching modes are just mixed up for no apparent reason. Think rubbish in your garage. Think "jumbled learning".

"Blended learning" as a term is used loosely and here are some examples to avoid.

1) Blending ... but without the learner

If you have some face-to-face teaching and some online teaching and you mix them together in a programme, that does not mean it is 'blended'. Sometimes you hear people say they have a good lecture here or a great online tool there and if they put them together then they are 'blended'. No. They are mixed - as in a recipe - but unless you think about why exactly it is being done, how they will work together to meet learner needs, then you are just mixing your teaching tools.
You are mixing some teaching ideas together but leaving the learner out of the plan until you've mixed it all up for them to try it out.

2) Blending as in 'repackaging'

By putting existing resources together - that previously worked OK on their own - to produce a 'blended' package is often just a labelling exercise. Unless you decide how each component meets the needs of the learner and augment each other you are just repackaging. Together they may not even be as useful as when they were separate.

3) Saying it's blended when it's using online just to facilitate

Don't think that facilitating a face-to-face course with some online component is 'blended'. For example the online discussion forum (that you struggle to get people to engage with) along with the online schedule of meetings / lectures is not the best use of technology. It's not much better than the notice board it tries to replace. Your learners are probably learning elsewhere (on the wards or in the clinics).

4) Saying it's blended when it just has a little bit of online interaction

Just because you throw in an online quiz as part of a campus-based course does not mean you can say "hey, that's blended!". This is making the online component a distraction. How might that be relevant to the clinical teaching elsewhere in the programme?

5) Saying it's blended when it's mostly online but with a couple of meetings / lectures / clinical sessions

Also, don't think that an online course with a couple of face-to-face meetings is blended either. Blended should be something that is of more equal proportions otherwise you would be better to say it was 'flavoured' with a lecture, or 'seasoned' with a ward visit.

Perhaps in medical education we need a test similar to the YouTube phenomenon of 'will it blend?' (Will have a think about that one).

Friday, 7 February 2014

Economics of MOOCs

Interesting (but incorrect I feel) look at the economics of MOOCs in The Economist by an Economist with money to make out of MOOCs.
"the most salient feature of the online course is its rock-bottom marginal cost: teaching additional students is virtually free. The fixed cost of creating an online course is relatively high, however. Getting started means putting together a curriculum, producing written and recorded material to explain it, and creating an interactive site that facilitates discussion and feedback." says,  Alex Tabarrok, an economist at George Mason University and co-founder of an online-education site, Marginal Revolution University.

That sounds more like what we would describe as an online course and rather misses the point of the open and connected nature of study.
"The pipe is more important than the content within the pipe.", George Siemens 2004.
There are plenty of pedlars of content out there it would be good to hear from more teachers building communities for people that learn what they want to learn in a way that suits them best.

Friday, 31 January 2014

What are the most persuasive types of blogs to recommend to your patients?

Say you were seeing a person newly diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes. You wanted, among other things, to recommend some blogs written by other people with diabetes. What factors would help you decide which types of blogs to recommend?

Sock or money?
A team of researchers from Northwestern University set out to try and explore this challenge with 150 undergraduates, careful classification of likes / dislikes and a target behaviour of taking up or increasing running. In lab-based experimental conditions they looked at two styles of blog - narrative (story telling) and non-narrative (didactic). They also classified by 'source similarity' - non-health-related similarity (i.e. similar laptop makes) and health-related similarity (similar health-related behaviours).
"The source similarity effect was stronger in nonnarrative than narrative blogs. When the blogs were nonnarrative, those with health-related similarities were more persuasive than those with non-health-related similarities. Narrative blogs generated more positive thoughts and stronger blogger identification than nonnarrative blogs." (1)
From this basic research - which should be studied in the real world of chronic disease - it appears that recommending a patient blog that is narrative or one that is non-narrative but written by a patient with very similar health issues may be the most persuasive for behaviour change.

1) Lu AS. An Experimental Test of the Persuasive Effect of Source Similarity in Narrative and Nonnarrative Health Blogs. J Med Internet Res. 2013 Jul 25 [cited 2014 Jan 31];15(7). Available from: