Friday, March 20, 2009

Linking all things together

As part of my daily life, I need to connect to at least Pubmed, Google Search, Google Scholar, other databases, and traverse the web. I use twitter to keep up with my friends' tweets, and that's about it. I blog, but blogging is infrequent. I also use the Google reader to pull all things together. I was reading this blog by XXX where he talks about pulling things through RSS and feeding or rotating the RSS feeds through Twitter to the Twitter favorites, and from Twitter favorites to blog posting directly. Finally, review once a day (or occassionally through the Google reader) to flush out stuff he does not need any more and blog on the rest of them.

Will this scheme work out for me?

I guess I need a blog to log on my daily life of the various things that I do or am interested in. A lot of them apparently look unconnected but on deeper thinking perhaps they are not. My problem is to sort through the information junk, find meanings through them and stay on top of things. What might be my plan? Here's how I look at it:

  1. I teach at the University of Canterbury and conduct research on health care interventions. Apparently the two roles are separate, but in reality, not. Because I teach research methods to post grad students, I need to apply some of what I teach to my work and vice versa.

  2. I teach one class a week but for the rest of the week there is a need to remain connected to the students by some means. What it could be? I use Moodle, the course management system and I am still learning the ropes. Over time, I think I'd use the lesson function of the Moodle more than anything else with a scorm authoring package like EXE to work with it. There is a learning curve to using exe and the documentation, well, I think is patchy. Need to work out a self learning tutorial for exe for real world use at some point. So here the challenges are:

    1. Create lessons in exe >> upload them in Moodle >> let the students know about the updated lessons >> create presentations for the class >> upload the presentations and let the students know >> then actually make the presentations and hope that the students wiil work out the lessons for themselves using Moodle.

    2. Tight integration between exe and Moodle and integrating between students.

    3. Create interesting lessons for the students on epidemiology and biostatistics that I am passionate about but that may not be everyone's cup of tea. Further, the students may not be at all motivated to learn all the math stuff nor do they have the background to do that kind of work. How do you make the whole process a smooth learning experience? This semester I have teamed up with Ian to teach the R for statistical computing part. I think R is a great software and worthy to be introduced to students. Not only from a philosophical perspective, but I think R has great utility value, and great documentation that goes with it.

    4. But the challenge still remains to create really engaging educational package

Last evening, I took a class on education, and the instructor talked about creating a matrix along Bloom's taxonomy. In that matrix, the idea was to enter teaching goals, learning objectives, activities that the students would have to do to achieve those learning outcomes, and the assessment plans. I am interested to teach what I practice and what I practice is epidemiologic research. I believe creating lesson plans around the ideas where the students can conduct some easy yet hands on work that fosters their understanding of the crucial issues is very important. A reworking of the lessons is really required if that has to succeed. This week I will work on that a lot more and get the Moodle thing sorted out.

Speaking of which, I will need to cut down on the tools of Moodle that I currently use. Let me use only the lesson plans tool (and use exe editor to create the lessons), then upload them into Moodle. Use the forum for running discussions, and perhaps use an annotation tool to do a joint exercise in critiquing an article before the class or at an appointed time to explore an article together. Let's see if that works. We might use annota.te ( or co-ment ( , or perhaps even diigo ( The idea of an annotation tool will be to upload an article and ask all students to go mark the relevant sections of the article and critique them. Let's see if this fosters collaborative learning and reinforces some concepts that I'd like them to learn

More specifically, I am interested in using the power of e-learning tools such as Moodle to accomplish for me and my students what they want to do. The question is, is there a central tool that I can use to integrate my web reading, research, integration of literature, and annotations to use them effectively?

My second role relates to my research. There are four research programmes where I am involved:

a) As a researcher into health technology assessment issues, I am researching the effectiveness of screening programmes for colorectal cancer. What is the most effective strategy. Let's see what the results look like:

This is what I want to do:

  1. Search Pubmed, ISI web of knowledge, other information sources, individual journals, and pull in all the results I can to my endnote folder. Further, I need to set up RSS feeds for these results that periodically update me as to what's the latest

  2. All I need to do at that stage is read the title/abstracts and make a decision whether I need to further work on tha article, or throw them out

  3. I get the articles from feed readers, download them and put them into an endnote folder that keeps increasing in size

  4. Annotate the articles and conduct a literature review. Where the data can be numerically summarized, I use R for statistical computing (R software, for analyzeing the datasets

  5. Do all the analyses in my Endnote programme and pipe the output to a word file or word processed file for further refining.

In general, the principle then is to get the set of articles beneath the hood, RSS them regularly through to the computer (I use Google Reader to channel all articles), read them and tag and annotate them as I go along. Then push them to a blog. Then set up RSS of the blog to my twitter to get a review of what I write?

Information from the web → RSS → gets to my feed reader → tag them → review them once a day or week → sort them → summarize them and put reflections on them on my blog

How about tweets that I keep receiving? Some of them are really interesting. How about saving them as favourites, then pulling them to my blogs (microblog for instance tumblr), and then use the tumblr to push them to feed reader. How about twitter → website → tumblr with annotation → RSS → Reader → [Read and Blog] → feed through RSS → share with those who follow posts and modify → tag → review → sort → summarize

Let's see if this works.



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