Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this blog are entirely our own and not necessarily those of our employer or any other occupational therapist.

Wednesday, 19 December 2007

What a year!

This is just a quick post, to wish everyone a very merry Christmas and a happy New Year, particularly to all those staff, students colleagues and peers who a have offered Angela and I so much support in developing the Masters in Advanced Occupational Therapy programme.

It has been a very busy year for all or us at the University, with lots of abstracts accepted , programme developments undertaken and the introduction of web 2.o applications too. Staff and students are all tired now, but nothing the festive period can't remedy I'm sure. For those who don't celebrate Christmas, I guess the break from University will still come as a welcome relief and we look forward to seeing everyone back in the new year.

Friday, 30 November 2007

Second Life and disability

In the process of developing the MSc Advanced OT to be delivered via e-learning I have had to spend many hours experiencing and researching opportunities for social networking in order to provide/access social areas for our virtual learning community. During this time I have generated a profile (an avatar)in Second Life as a virtual person! This has been a strange yet addictive experience as I have navigated through virtual classrooms, cafes, libraries and the occasional wrong turn into the unknown!! Throughout this experience I have been concentrating on where we may set up a virtual seminar or meet students for a virtual coffee and a chat - however after a conversation over lunch with colleagues earlier in the week I have been sent along a an additional train of thought.
A comment was made as to whether Second Life mirrored real life and had avatars who experience a disablility/dysfunction, having a choice would people choose a disability for their avatar? Further searching of news items and blogs suggest that there are groups set up by and for people with a disability within second life. In addition there are suggestions that people who are unable to communicate/socialise/mobilise etc in their real world are creating avatars that can do all of these things- they therefore are gaining a quality of life that eludes them in their real world. What an excellent tool for occupational therapists to consider in their interventions. Of course, as with any new idea, there are problems and a limited evidence base available - but I feel a research project coming on!!!!
Any thoughts welcome.........

Some links

Wednesday, 21 November 2007

Time for something different

I recently attended the COT managers and Educators conference, where one of the keynote sessions was the presentation of the almost completed BA/COT strategic plan. Once again the issue of promoting the profession and seeking to secure the understanding of others is a key feature of the plan, affording an implicit acknowledgement that “others” don’t really know what we do, and that it is our responsibility to educate them.

This is a recurring theme in my almost 20 year career. From beginning my training right up to present time the issue of “what do occupational therapists do?” has been the elephant in the room of many a multi-professional team meeting or management meeting or classroom. Clearly, as a profession (I know many individual OT’s who are quite clear about their role), this question remains current despite all our efforts to date.

So I’m thinking a different approach is needed. After all as someone once said “if you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got”. I suggest we should stop focusing on being misunderstood, to stop trying to explain and justify our role, and to stop taking responsibility for educating our colleagues. I’m thinking we should just “do” occupational therapy, confidently and with conviction, and let the results speak for themselves.

And perhaps people are less interested in what we do, or how we do it than in the outcomes we can deliver. According to Karen Middleton (AHP Lead), this is most definitely the case. She reported that commissioners of NHS and Social are services are not interested in how results are achieved, just the results themselves. So maybe our efforts should be directed towards identifying methods for providing information that really is critical, rather than continuing to seek understanding of our role. Or maybe, just maybe, we should break free from the constraints of statutory services and spread our wings?

And just to finish, in case I have left an unanswered question; I completely believe that we must continue to seek the understanding of our clients, as without it informed consent to treatment is negated.

Wednesday, 14 November 2007

More good news

We have debated the use and relevance of blogging and networking in previous posts, and we now have the opportunity to take the debate to the College of Occupational Therapists annual conference in June next year.

A small international group of OT's, all who of whom have "met" via their respective blogs put together an abstract for a seminar on this subject, and it was accepted! Without giving the game away, we will share our experiences (positive and negative)and relate these to CPD and other professional benefits. If you are interested in the bloggers involved, you will find links to their sites on the right - Merollee, Will (metaOT) and Aishel. As well as Angela and I at Salford of course!

The challenge for us now is to co-ordinate the preparation of the seminar - Second Life anyone?? My alias is Lilibet Clip...

Wednesday, 7 November 2007

Who shall I be today?

You can be whoever you want to be online….

But is this a good thing?

The undergraduate occupational therapy programme at Salford University endeavours to facilitate student communication and networking via a virtual learning environment (we do also speak face to face to our students in case you were wondering!).

Last year however, some new students told me that they found posting on a discussion forum somewhat intimidating as it offered a permanent record of a particularly difficult moment or flippant comment or less than intelligent thought. They felt that this prevented them using the forum for its’ intended purpose and indeed it became more of an information sharing environment rather than a forum for debate and discussion.

This year, I discovered that it was possible to allow anonymous posting on the forum. Students have taken advantage of this and the discussion forum saw a lot of traffic. So far so good, I thought. But, I have now discovered that anonymous posters may be a little more forthright or personal in their views than identified posters. It is as if the cloak of invisibility removes the “would you say it to there face” test that others on this blog have mentioned before.

Moderating the boards becomes more challenging – constant vigilance is required and some posts have needed to be removed from the forum. Some students have complained that this prevents free speech, and that they are now reluctant to contribute… Back to square one. The boards once again seem to be becoming electronic notice boards rather than a dynamic environment.

The issue was really brought home to me though when one poster (anonymously) commented on the peculiarity of anonymous posting, and another (anonymously) agreed! So what do we do? Allow/disallow anonymous posts? Accept that the boards are being used in a meaningful way even if this is different to how they were originally intended? Police them or leave them? All comments gratefully received.

Wednesday, 24 October 2007

The demise of the profession?

A student was telling me an all too familiar story yesterday about some training that she had attended whilst on placement that was called something like 'neuro-cognitive therapy'. The course was run by a psychologist who was introducing the multi-disciplinary team a 'new' way of working with individuals with psychosis based on the evidence that many people with psychosis have temporal and frontal lobe abnormalities. The 'new' way of working was to therefore help the individual to adapt their environment so that there was less stimulation, especially when they wanted to improve their concentration for a specific task. The training also looked at ways that tasks could be broken down, cues could be used to aid processing issues and so on. The student reported that the OTs that were present put it to the psychologist that what she was talking about was simply 'OT' to which she agreed. SO WHY AREN'T OTs DOING THIS TRAINING why are the psychologists doing this. As I listened to the student's story I found myself becoming increasingly angry as not only did it reflect a story that an OT had told me the week previously but it also reflected my own experiences within the clinical field.

So what is happening? Does this happen around the world or just in Britain? It seems to me that OT as a profession has always lacked the status or profile of other health care professionals (who ever knows what an OT does!) but what are we doing about other professionals taking the work that we have done since day one, putting a new spin on it, making it the new 'sexy' thing to be doing and gaining the credit for it.

OTs should be doing this work, we should be having the credit, so why aren't we??

Thursday, 11 October 2007

Good news

A very brief post, but worthwhile nonetheless….
4 Staff in the department have had abstracts accepted for presentation at the COTEC Congress in Hamburg 2008, and we have also achieved Faculty outline approval of our MSc in Advanced Occupational Therapy via e-learning which if all goes to plan will begin in September 2008.
I know a lot of people have expressed interested in the programme, but until we have final approval we aren’t in a position to say too much more other than that we will be welcoming applicants from all over the world to what we believe will be an exciting and innovative MSc. Watch this space for further updates, and who knows we might see you in Hamburg!

Tuesday, 9 October 2007

Continually reflecting

Having read Angela's post about Holism it the merit of blogs started to become apparent to me. The session Angela did with the third level students was also of interest to me as I think that in order for the profession to survive and flourish we need to all 'think outside the box'. It is therefore important that there is ongoing discussion within the profession of how this could be done and traditionally this discussion would have taken place either through Therapy Weekly, OT news or the BJOT. But it takes time to write a piece, send it off to the relevant editor, wait for it to be reviewed, have it published etc etc. Blogging on the other hand is almost instant, have a thought, write it down, press send, what could be simpler!..........I think I'm becoming a convert!

Saturday, 29 September 2007

Aspects of Holism

I was involved in a session with our Level III students a couple of days ago discussing the issues of aspects of holism as an occupational therapist when my colleague asked the students to raise their hand if they believed that they had seen holistic practice whilst on any of the practice placements to date.

Not one student out of the 85 present raised a hand.

Is this indicative of the current debate as to where the future of the profession lies within parts of the UK in terms of our main employer being the NHS and/or Social Care services? Is this the impact of resource restrictions, service constraints and political drivers and targets on the profession i.e.: the endangerment of true holistic practice. Are practitioners no longer able to adhere to the philosophy of the profession whilst remaining employed and managed by bodies that are focused on delivering value over quality? Or is this a more fundamental issue within the profession itself?

By introducing the concepts of occupational deprivation, occupational injustice and occupational apartheid as discussed by Kronenberg et al (2004)we have started the students thinking outside the box in terms of both their own practice and as future drivers of the profession. We have asked them to consider where occupational therapists can use their skills in areas outside the usual health and social care systems, to be more self aware in terms of their own practice in order to address the issues of injustice by considering all aspects of holism for each unique individual and to become more politically aware (with a small "p") in order to understand the local and global community of their service user.
I would be interested to hear other's views on this issue and particularly from practitioners and students who may agree or disagree with the view that the profession needs to move on.

Thursday, 20 September 2007

Web 2.0 and undergraduate occupational therapy education

A number of people have recently inquired as to how we are utilizing web 2.0 applications in our undergraduate programme, so I thought I’d post the answer here. I’ll start with level 1, and cover subsequent levels in subsequent posts.

At level 1 our students are encouraged to set up a del.ici.ous site and are given guidance on how to do this. Guidance is available via the VLE (blackboard), or from those tutors who also use the application for bookmarking important material and sharing it with others. We have the link to del.ici.ous on the blog if you are unfamiliar with it.

First years are encouraged to visit this blog and others, and to contribute whenever they feel the urge. We encourage this in order that our students develop confidence in their own thoughts and opinions, as well as the ability to communicate succinctly in the written form. Blogging also exposes students to the multinational aspect of OT which we recognise as an important aspect of their training. Again links to other OT blogs can be found on the right hand side of this page.

Level1 (and level 2 and 3 students) have access (via blackboard) to discussion forums, file sharing facilities and wikis in order to facilitate PBL session and other project working. The forums and group pages are relatively long standing initiatives, however we will introduce wikis for the first time this year. As first year students are overwhelmed with information at this time of year, it is probably that exposure to wikis will happen in semester 2, when they are confident with other aspects of the technology.

From a lecturers perspective these things offer added value to the programme particularly as we can monitor student contributions which enables us to quickly identify and support anyone who seems to be struggling. It is important to us however, to get a student perspective on the value of web 2.0 application in OT education and to this end we intend to conduct our own research. In the meantime any comments, especially from students are very much appreciated. Please respond by clicking on "comments" below.

Friday, 14 September 2007

New beginnings

Next week our new first year students join us for their induction week. I vividly remember the start of my own training at St Catherines College in Liverpool -never did I imagine I would be the Lecturer at the front of the class! The OT programme at Liverpool is now delivered in the University, and is a degree rather that a diploma but much of what I learned stays with me.

I hope that our students will enjoy a training that is challenging, productive and useful. I hope that over time they will develop identies as professional occupational therapists, confident in their abilities to work in a variety of settings with a variety of colleagues and clients. I hope too that they will find their career choice satisfying, rewarding and fun. I know I have (well, most of the time anyway!)

This truly is a new beginning for most of our students - and one which many have already worked extremely hard to secure. We welcome them to our OT community, and look forward to working with them over the coming years. It wont always be easy and we all have much to learn, but together we can.

Tuesday, 4 September 2007

Struggling to reflect!

I always visit this site with great intentions to post a blog and then somehow find excuses not to once I'm here. I think overall it's because reflection, and certainly writing reflections, has never come easy to me and I remember vividly as a student having to write a diary during my placements " so I could track my progress and development over the three years of training".

I'm wondering whether one of the issues I have with writing reflections is that there could be a tendancy to think too much about a subject/issue, read too much into it and therefore making more of an issue of something than is really necessary. Now I appreciate that my thoughts on this are probably because I'm more of a pragmatist/activist than reflector which means that I get easily irritated by people who think too much about issues! And I think this is what happens when i visit this blog page. I read the blogs and the comments, think that they are interesting, think that I should post a comment myself, then think about what I want to say, then realise that there are so many things that could be said and then my head starts to hurt! It's at this point that I decide that it's all too hard and tell myself I'll do it another day.

My other concern is that the information posted on a very public site is very much open to interpretation by other people. So having read my blog someone may well post a comment, where I realise that they have misinterpreted what I meant, I then have to post another comment to clarify the situation, they may then post another comment on so it goes on. This has the same effect on me as text messages sometimes do on a mobile phone, often it's much easier to pick up the phone and speak to the person directly.

So it brings me to question who would actually use and benefit from contributing to a blog? The reflectors amongst us? As a pragmatist/activist I will watch carefully how this tool is used by others as I'm still struggling to fully appreciate the benefits in practical terms.

Tuesday, 28 August 2007

Peaks and Troughs

I am trying to refamiliarise myself with the web 2.0 technologies having just returned from a period of recharging my batteries and I would like to share my reflections on my thoughts to date. Now, I appreciate that there is a level of disclosure that could be classed as "putting one's head above the parapet" (in order to be shot at!) but I hope you will read and comment in the spirit of mutual support and encouragement.
My initial response to discovering that my interest in things technological and interactive had a name (web 2.0 technologies) was one of great enthusiasm and slightly evangelical- preaching to any colleague that would listen politely. I rushed to sign up for sites, comment on other's blogs and voraciously read and experiment with how far the technology could take my own development and that of my colleagues/students etc.

On reflection I believe that there was a naivety to my actions.

Spending more time in this environment it has become clear to me that not everyone shares my enthusiasm. I have become disheartened when I have neither received comments for my blog postings nor recognition of my comments on other's sites. What originally seemed to be a medium that would open up across the world of occupational therapy seems to be dominated by a relatively small group of like-minded professionals.

So, what can I do about this? I intend to use some of the relevant technology within my own educational environment and hope that colleagues can see in action the positive aspects of web 2.0 technology. The experience has given me an insight into how potential learners may feel and therefore identify a strong need to regularly acknowledge and comment on other's submissions. I also intend to continue to develop a presence within the international debates in order to both learn from and hopefully add to the development of the profession as a whole - and maybe to swell the UK involvement.
Thanks for reading this, I would be keen to hear of how other's have coped with the peaks and troughs of web 2.0 technology.

Friday, 6 July 2007

Occupational therapy education and social networking - an issue of disclosure?

Today I have been skimming the social networking services including facebook, myspace and bebo in order to assess their potential in OT education (if any). In order to do this I have had to register, and provide details about myself that can be seen by others - this made me very feel uncomfortable, so much so that I gave it some consideration.

Throughout my career, the concept of professionalism has been of paramount importance. I have views on what is and isn't professional and my colleagues share some but not all of these opinions. What we do agree on however, is that there are differences between our professional self and our personal self. Generally we keep our private lives private from students and clients and personal information remains personal. In order to join myspace though, I had to give my date of birth and other "personal" details. Do I want my students to know I am XX years old? Or that I listen to XX obsessively on my ipod? On facebook I had to decide whether or not to be "friends" with a number of students already registered. How do you say no politely? I don't consider it to be professional to be friends with our students (although I do hope I am friendly).

I was amazed at the level of personal detail provided to the general public by occupational therapists. Is it OK to tell the world you hate your job when the "world" might be one of your clients?". Is it OK to tell the world that you couldn't go to work due to a monumental hangover when the "world" might be your boss? And the classic for me is the student who tells the world that they didn't really miss an OT exam because they were ill, but because they didn't get out of bed! In this case the world could just be their tutor!

My inclination is to deregister and therefore anonymize myself immediately, yet I know that in order for virtual communication to be effective, those involved have to seem very human in order to counteract the sterility of the computer. I don't think I have ascertained the value of social networking in relation to formal CPD and education, but can see that it has a role for informal support and networking. Those of you who have given this matter some thought, or who have more experience that me please comment - I'm open to persuasion.

Tuesday, 3 July 2007

Is web 2.0 appropriate in occupational therapy education?

I consider myself to be an occupational therapist, an educator, or sometimes even both at the same time, but never would I describe myself as a computer expert. Yet here I am, in the middle of writing a blog, having just set up google reader for RSS streaming, made myself a Del.icio.us site ( for social bookmarking), and considered how best to use wikis to facilitate student projects.

I could not have done this even 6 months ago. So what happened? It was really a case of needs must, in that although the University introduced the Blackboard Virtual Learning Environment some time ago, it was only recently that my daily work became dependant on it. Given that I like to appear at least semi-proficient most of the time, I decided I'd better find out about the new learning tools at our fingertips, and this was how I came across blogs and wikis. Interestingly, about 5 months ago students were given the opportunity to incorporate the use of these tools into their learning, but few knew what they were. I suspect that even in this short time, things will have moved on.

Once I saw the potential of web 2.0 technology I was off. I have contributed to discussions on Big Brother, reviewed yutube videos (have you seen the guy singing the occupational therapy song?), discussed OT things with colleagues from around the world and even edited a page of wikipedia. And in doing so, I have learned about communicating online, the differences and similarities between OTs and OT students internationally and I have been challenged in my thinking (is it really a good thing that we can all be so "public" on the internet? What about professional identlity?). In terms of CPD, I think I have developed hugely, and hopefully my colleagues and our students will benefit from this learning.

So I was somewhat disapointed to hear that some Universities frown on the use of web 2.0 citing concerns about academic rigour and plagiarism to name but two. Surely Universities, like all other modern organisations must move with the times, and given the increasing number of OT blogs and online OT Programmes and training appearing on the internet it would seem that the future may be ( at least in part) electronic. I aknowledge that as with anything, web 2.0 has its limitations, but I suggest that to reject it would be to miss an opportunuity to take our profession forward. As OT's we are good at analysing and overcoming barriers - aren't we?

Occupational Therapy and Web 2.0 Technology

Given that we have adopted a PBL approach to undergraduate learning and are used to attempting the student centred experience, I am frequently involved in conversations with colleagues that question the time that we are still spending in face to face contacts with student groups in order to ensure that learning outcomes are being met.
Now that our journey is fast taking us through a steep learning curve of podcasts, wikis and blogs I am becoming convinced that web 2.0 technologies have a place within occupational therapy education. For example, PBL groups can set up wikis that enable them to truly share their learning and their research in consideration of the trigger in a way that does not identify them to the rest of the group - great for those that have confidence issues. At the same time tutors can see who is contributing (or not) and whether the information is accurate and evidenced in an appropriate way. Individual students can then be mentored as necessary to get the most from the learning opportunity.
Another example is that key note lectures can be podcasted so that students can access this as revision, or even to gain a fuller understanding of the topic in a way that suits their own learning committment and style. These can be attached to discussion forums that facilitate student question and comment which tutors can engage in. In this way the content is engaged with in a much more comprehensive way. Thus the face to face time decreases - but the contact time becomes more focused and more student led.
I think that one of the main obstacles to adopting web 2.0 technologies is not about tutor or student motivation to engage with these new concepts, it is ensuring that both groups have the necessary access to the processes and the time to "play" with the concepts before going public.