Friday, July 17, 2009

The Research Question

In consideration of the research that needs to be done I've developed the folowing question:

The following paper will explore the impact in academic performance, future career trajectory, and personal well-being of learners by delivering a module in the preclinical years of the medical undergraduate program of the University of Calgary, in a community outside of the metropolitan area.

But! To introduce the literature review I would word it as :

The following paper will summarize the current literature on the potential impact in academic performance, future career trajectory, and personal well-being of learners by delivering curriculum in the preclinical years of a medical undergraduate program in a community outside of the primary teaching site.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009


Qing Li's presentation today on Enactivism helped clarify constructivism, objectivism in addition to introducing enactivism. The biological basis of the theory and the idea that knowledge is accumulated dependent on the context of the learner resonated with both my previous knowledge and experience. That is not to say there are not overlapping principles between enactivism and constructivism. However the idea that our reality can have a direct effect on our cerebral matter in a measurable physical manner makes the link between theroy and practice.

There are subconcious learnings we derive from encounters that we are not consciously aware of. This is manifested at times by what we refer to as "instinct" and the correct selection of an option or when an answer does appear in our minds during conversation and we are left with thte thought of "where did that come from?"

Of course I will reread Dr Li's paper and perform my own compare and contrast analysis. However, when an objectivist discipline such as medicine cannot explain certain phenomena, enactivism may be able to provide that world view.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Reflect, Discuss, Refine, then Repeat...

If we are not happy with the results of our medical schools now, in other words if we believe we are failing to meet our mandate of social accountability, then why would we think that tinkering with the institution would result in any meaningful change? Let's jump whole hog and kill "education" and let "learning" begin. (YouTube, thanks Barb)

But, there are times when I have to question my vision of creating, or retooling, a medical school so that learning takes place in different locations, with less of an institutional focus, taught by different individuals, and ultimately with different outcomes. After our discussions today I wonder if my idea, or the way I am pursuing it, is truly scholarly. From my perspective (with apologies for the medical metaphor) it appears that I am stitching the flesh together while others are contemplating what makes up the healing process or considering the best way to close the wound. Perhaps I have jumped to an idea without substantiating its theoretical foundations, without considering the literature or experience of others.

How does one search the literature when there are no examples created? How do we draw from others in order to develop a pilot that has some theoretical or practical basis? Is it even ethical to consider this activity when we are dealing with learners, their families and their careers?

I certainly have passion about this. But, now I am wondering if passion is just the beginning and that I have prematurely jumped to a potential solution without significant reflection and thought. It seems that I have already set an end point without consideration of what to study. Should this be a consideration of how this specific intervention affects learning or should it be a review of what the best way to deliver the learning module to meet our social mandate might be.

The opportunity for me through our discussions has to become aware of the need for reflection and thoughtful consideration of feedback.

"In the realm of ideas, everything depends on enthusiasm. In the real world all rests on perseverance."

Monday, July 13, 2009

What's in a word?

...definitions.. seems like an easy topic when we are in undergrad or completely science based. Hydrogen..pretty simple. Water? A bit more complicated but still something concrete.

What about understanding a rather more abstract word like "throw"? In our usual context it might mean to cause to take flight manually I suppose. It might also mean a woven blanket to another person. And if you are in Computer Sciences, it might mean to deliver a concept between programs. You can imagine how "throwing something out" gets confusing.

So how will "Educational Technology" ever be adequately defined? The Association for Educational Communications and Technology (AECT) has proposed one definition.

"Educational technology is the study and ethical practice of facilitating and improving performance by creating, using, and managing appropriate technological process and resources."

AECT goes on to define all the operative words within the 2008 re-definition. Denis Hlynka, for one, has rebutted with some very cogent arguments albeit from a personal perspective with a sample size of one.
I think that the proposed definition tries to be more than one thing and ultimately, while cleverly crafted, sounds at odds with itself. It tries to disavow the idea of the noun "technology" as restricted to a piece of hardware and expand it to the more abstract concept of "study". Adding the word Theory into Educational Technology (E.T.) might assist in pulling away from the commonly held, industrial based, and computer centric public impression.

While the idea of adding the word theory, or theory and practice, is not a hill to die on, there is a more significant flaw in the definiton that restricts the potential breadth of vision that those with " stars in their eyes" (Beckwith, 1988) must not accept. Is learning not more than improving performance? The athletic metaphor or the industrialist factory image immediately comes to mind and restricts the true spirit of innovation except in the area where it can be measured by efficiencies gained. Is there an underlying hiddden curriculum in these words that subtley demonstrates the conflict between the quantitative and the qualitative researchers? Does it not serve to sustain the myth that quantitative measurement is the only legitimate method of demonstrating value?

By limiting the definition to performance, educational technologists restrict their study and reflection to measurable, applied science outcomes. It will continue to anchor the field of study rather than inspire creativity. At the very least, the idea of improving performance must be qualified further to include an explicit statement about qualitative scholarly outcomes or remove the limiting words altogether.

It's time for E.T. to ride up into those stars.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Going where no curriculum has gone before...

..oh yes.. there is a Trekkie under, barely under mind you, that professional veneer. And like those intrepid explorers, it's time to consider how we might explore delivering the medical curriculum in a different manner. For the Faculty of Medicine to achieve social accountability, we must look at what we are creating through the current methods and consider other options. Hence my exploration into how we might deliver the curriculum in a different manner, where, by whom, and when, to effect a response to the needs of society in Alberta.

"if at first the idea does not seem absurd.. it is bound to fail" Einstein

How might we deliver the entire three years outside of metro sites in an accredited equivalent model? How might we use a different model within the incredible opportunity known as the South Health Camopus (SHC) or colloquially the "South East Hospital" in Calgary?

Maybe we are not changing what we are doing so much as returning to where the Calgary medical school was intended to originally go. Dr. Cochrane, Founding Dean UC Medical School, notes in his article, CMAJ, 1968, vol 98, pg500, that the increasing likelihood of medical subspecialization called for renewed efforts to suport the then nascient speciality of Family MEdicen. Here we are forty years later echoing the same thoughts.

Over the next 6 months, my intention is to review innovative curricula over North America and in Australia. What are the I.T. supports and the community engagemtn strategies that ensure success? How can the litrature from other Facluties inform our curricular redevelopment?

So moving form delivering babies, house calls and all the joys of the breadth of family practice, I move now to consider a larger picture in response to a larger group of society.