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I had a meeting yesterday with Helen Lindsay from the Learning centre to discuss the need for resources to support the students process of gaining competence in the use of online applications. Today I was talking with Phil Ker, our CEO regarding the need for these resources, and it’s nice to hear that he is completely supportive of the idea.

In the meeting we established the need for resources to support the students process of gaining competence in the use of online applications such as
> Use of Blackboard
> Use of wikis
> Blogging
> Uploading/Downloading files
> Effective use of email
> Email groups (Google/Yahoo)
> Discussion Boards
> Blogging
> Delicious (I can never remember where the dots go)
> etc.

Resources could also be developed to facilitate the building of a sense of online community.

Both objectives (competence & community) may be gained through a single activity in some cases – e.g. an activity where students post information about themselves to a discussion board & then make posts on others profiles will develop both familiarity & build community.

To support different learning styles we intend to develop the following types of resources
> Video / Screen-captures (Visual/Audial)
> Activities (Kinesthetic/Reader-Writer)

A CD-ROM to be created which will go out to all online students.

In consulation with Helen, I’ve called another meeting through the Networked Learning Google Group (mostly composed of Otago Polytechnic staff) for next Wednesday to further the discussion, and maybe move into planning the creation of the resources.

I’ve just been trawling through the programme documents of other programmes at Polytech to see if anyone has developed units that we can use in our new programme.

Something that’s really struck me is that that the level of Anatomy and Physiology that we teach in our Diploma of Massage Therapy is very high relative to other programme in the health group at Otago Polytechnic. In the current draft of the new two year programme we have 45 credits (450 hours) of Anatomy & Physiology, 30 credits (300 hours) of Musculo-skeletal Anatomy, and 8 credits (80 hours) of Pathology. If I compare that to the three year Bachelor of Nursing, they cover 33 credits (330 hours) of Bioscience, Anatomy & Pathology combined. The Bachelor of Midwifery has 32 credits (320 hours) of the same. Other departments (Occupational Therapy, Sports Institute programmes) have considerably less.

It’s worth noting that the reason we teach the level of A&P that we do is that the NZQA National Diploma of Therapeutic Massage that the last incarnation of our programme was modelled on had 44 credits of A&P, and 23 credits of Anatomy.  With the national diploma falling off the framework and the subsequent move in the industry towards a contemporary set of standards for massage education it’s a good time to reconsider if this level of Anatomy & Physiology is optimal for massage therapy programmes in New Zealand.

I was pondering this last night, and I thought I’d call my friend Nicholas Aitcheson. Nick is a physiotherapist who uses quite a bit of massage in his work, and has done some teaching for us on the subject of kinesiology. Nick said that a physiotherapist in New Zealand will currently study the following subjects relevant to A&P & Anatomy during their 4 year qualification.

1st year – 30 credits of Biochemistry, 30 credits of Biology
2nd year – 30 credits of Physiology, 30 credits of Anatomy
3rd year – 15 credits of Anatomy

This makes a total of

  • Physiology – 60 credits at Level 5 / 30 credits at Level 6
  • Anatomy – 30 credits at Level 6 / 15 credits at Level 7

With this as a benchmark, and with the emergence of massage degrees in New Zealand, the level of Anatomy & Physiology and Anatomy education that we teach as part of our qualification no longer seems excessive to me. It’s vital to the future of the massage industry that we reach parity with other healthcare providers if we are to integrate our profession into the mainstream health model.

Although maybe we should consider increasing our Pathology component????

It’s nice to read that at least a few other people in the massage world is thinking along the same lines as me, so it was good to come across this article by Cliff Korn.

My daughter’s recently turned 3 years old, and has just moved from the pre-school where she was one of the oldest children to a new preschool for 3-4 year olds.  She’s having some trouble settling in, so I spent a few hours with her on Thursday morning settling her in.

The preschool teaches in the Montessori tradition, and while watching the children I was  struck by the experiential nature of montesorri education.  There are a range of learning activities that the children can choose from.  Many activities require little or no supervision.  The aim is for the child to explore the items involved in the activity, and they learn as a byproduct of this exploration.  It’s clear to the children when something needs to be corrected, as the activity is designed to make this clear.  Sometimes guidance from the teacher is beneficial, but often the child’s natural process of investigation is sufficient to provide all of the learning.

I’m intrigued by this idea within the context of online adult education, unfortunately Maria Montessori died in 1952 before completing her project to develop materials for adult learners.

Christina Stringher is involved in adult education in Italy (more specifically adult illiteracy).  In her paper MONTESSORI MATERIALS IN ADULT EDUCATION SETTINGS: HYPOTHESIS OF USE IN ITALIAN CTPs (2005), she discusses several reasons why a montessori approach may be useful in adult education.

  1. Frees the learner from a static, top-down teaching approach
  2. Allows self-expression, autonomy
  3. Avoids prescriptive subject learning
  4. The teacher acts as a facilitator rather than an authority
  5. Emphasis on experiential, research-based learning

Her proposed model for implementing Montessori-style education for adult learners is as follows

  1. Assess the entry level of the learner
  2. Consider the  types of tasks and knowledge domains which could benefit from Montessori materials (implying that not all learning will be best suited to montessori methods)
  3. Consider the role of the facilitator/tutor in presenting and discussing the use of the materials
  4. A self-evaluation method to enable participants to assess their level of competance

Stringher intends to implement an experiment based on the above approach to assess it’s efficacy.  It will be interesting to see how it goes.

The online context is well-suited to a range of self-directed modules/exercises that the students may choose to move through at their own pace.  There are some limitations to this model.  Our professional assocation requires specific competancies to be held by graduates, and it’s likely that other professional assocations have the same type of requirements.  This means that while we can provide some flexibility we cannot allow students to completely follow their own path of learning.

The ideas are intriguing to me however.  I will keep Maria Montessori’s ideas in mind when creating learning modules, and will attempt to make them self-directed and self-correcting where possible.

I had another meeting with Leigh Blackall (Blogroll) regarding development of our programme.  We started talking about a couple of long-term projects that I’ve got in mind (collaborative development of global learning outcomes for massage therapy, and open learning resources using a wiki-media or something similar), then moved on to focus more on issues relating to the present development – the use of Otago Polytechnic’s Community Learning Centres, copyright & open-development, staff development that’s needed for the move to blended delivery, and an interesting testing option.

Community Learning Centres (CLCs)

With the move to online and distance delivery, I’m aware that we will need to have significant supports in place for some of our students.  We’re is lucky to have the resource of Otago Polytechnic’s CLCs in this.  These centres exist in key locations throughout Otago, and their staff have experience in supporting students in their self-directed computer learning (with Blackboard, MS products, and to some degree wikis, blogs, and related media).  However we will need to provide our students with an orientation to our programme, and to the software which we are planning to utilise in the programme.  This will need to be facilitated by a combination of staff in the CLCs, and our teaching staff in an online capacity.  Currently this type of scenario is not supported by the CLCs (although apparently there is a plan to provide EFTs-based funding for similar scenarios – I’m still waiting to hear back on this).  However, I’m aware that there’s a need to make this a fairly big priority.  I consider it essential to have this as a solid base for the programme.

Copyright & Open Source

Leigh’s main focus is moving education towards an open-access model.  He’s interested in the use of wikis and other open community-learning environments in education.  While I am fairly enthusiastic about this, I don’t see it as being particularly realistic for our programme at present.  One of the main problems is that massage is a fairly specialised area, and there are not many quality open-content resources out there relative to education or many other fields.  This means that as educators we are still often placed in the position of needing to use copyrighted content.  I can see that we can move towards a completely open-access course structure, and I do intend to do this, but I think in the meantime we don’t really have the time to search for the specialised open-source resouces that we need (particularly in areas such as anatomy where it’s important that the images that our students engage with provide them with a really 3D sense of the tissues of the body).  Again there are options (see my last post on the Anatomy museum – Health Info Island – Second Life), but they all take more time than we have at the moment.  For the present it seems wise to stay with a password protected learning management system (i.e. Blackboard) so that we can stay within the boundaries of our copyright laws.

Staff Development

Online facilitation is new for most staff in the massage department.  We will need some experience before we get going with it next year.  I intend to enrol & will strongly suggest that other staff members enrol in a course which is run by Brownwyn Hegarty of Otago Polytechnic designed to do just this.  (Just as soon as I get through the next 2 weeks)

 Survey Monkey

Finally Leigh introduced me to a piece of software that looks useful for creating online tests that will sit outside of a learning management system, thus being more inline with the open-source ethos that he’s a big proponent of.  Haven’t had a chance to look at it yet, but I’ll keep you posted.

I was just going through my morning routine.  Breakfast, coffee, getting the kids organised, catching up on my RSS feeds, when I came across a link to an interesting article on Leigh Blackall’s blog.

I haven’t had a chance to thoroughly read through the article yet – please forgive any misconceptions. 

The article discusses the possible future integration of Second Life with Google Earth and the potential implications of this.  The new virtual world would be called Second Earth.  Pretty interesting reading for anyone interested in virtual worlds, or the future of the internet. 

I’ve had a look at Second Life previously, and have considered if it could be used in massage therapy teaching.  While practical teaching via second life is obviously ridiculous, I could see that teaching and practice of some assessment techniques (e.g. range of motion, postural analysis) could be performed via this medium.  I think clinical reasoning is best taught through a series of simulated experiences, and the level of realism that Second Life supports would make this environment a good option, however having said that I don’t personally have the resources to put into the development of this kind of resource at this time in my life.  The other obvious issue is that in order for students to learn via second life they would need to learn how to control their avatar within the environment, which is not a completely trivial task, and I imagine could be quite overwhelming for some of our students.

Revisting Second Earth for a minute, at present I can’t see any obvious advantage to me over the Second Life environment, but it’s always good to keep your eye on the ball.

This is a bit of a diversion from my usual focus on massage education.

I’ve just been reading about a project that’s taking place in Knowsley, Merseyside, UK on Derek Wenmoth’s blog .  The Knowsley city council is involved in a UK wide push called Building Schools for the Future (BSF).  Through BSF, the UK government intends to redesign buildings & upgrade the schooling ICT infrastructure within all schools over the next 10-15 years. 

In Knowsley however they’re taking it one step further.  They plan to completely replace the existing schools with “Learning Centres”.

“The style of learning will be completely different. The new centres will open from 7am until 10pm in both term-time and what used to be known as the school holidays. At weekends, they will open from 9am to 8pm.

Youngsters will not be taught in formal classes, nor will they stick to a rigid timetable; instead they will work online at their own speeds on programmes that are tailor-made to match their interests.

Children will be able to study haircare, beauty therapy, leisure and tourism, and engineering as well as the more traditional academic subjects.

They will be given their day’s assignments in groups of 120 in the morning before dispersing to internet cafe-style zones in the learning centres to carry them out.

The 21,000 youngsters of secondary education age in Knowsley will also be able to access their learning programmes from home.” (Sourced from an article in the Independent on 4/7/07)

It will be interesting to watch how this fairly forward thinking project plays out.  Will it act to improve the motivation of the students, or will students of this age find it hard to motivate themselves?   Derek seems to think that the planned flexible-learning model will be short-lived, and forsees social pressures working to re-establish something closer to the typical schooling system.  We’ll see….