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

Wednesday, 29 April 2009

CPD, Portfolios and Practice Educators

Hello to all our practice placement educators who attended this afternoon's meeting here at the university. It was good to meet you all (and to see some familiar faces - can it really be that long ago since you were students here!!!). Hopefully you have been stimulated by some of the projects and research opportunities we talked about - I know Viv will be sending out emails with the list attached so that you can also share the ideas with your colleagues - and who knows we could be collaborating on some very interesting yet diverse projects.

In terms of the CPD session I led, the key points to remember are:
1. Follow the HPC standards closely
2. If you are chosen for the audit in August this year you will need material from August 2007
3. If you have no material at all - start now - you will then be ready for the audit in 2011
4. If you are chosen you will need to write a profile
5. The COT and HPC have agreed exemplars for profiles for educators, managers and practitioner that you can use as a guidance
6. The HPC also have a very clear list of what CPD activity could be and what might consitute evidence

After demonstrating my own online portfolio (it's not quite ready to be openly linked at the moment - but those eagle eyed of you may have spotted the URL this afternoon and may want to visit. Watch this space as I shall link it through soon) it was interesting to consider some of the issues around public vs private profiles and what decisions might need to be considered before engaging in this. As was mentioned there are a number of software platforms that can be purchased for developing and maintaining a portfolio on line. I chose to use wikispaces for mine and have been influenced very much by Sarah Stewart (NZ ) here she writes about her experiences of developing an eportfolio. .
If you are interested in online presence and profiles then you might be interested to read a previous blog post of ours on professional blogging and also Sarah's Musings on the subject where she considers some of the aspects touched on this afternoon.

Anyway, hope you gained something from this afternoon - maybe you'd like to add a comment or even a reflection at the end of this post (if you're not sure here's a link that might help) - it'll all go to evidencing your CPD (networking with peers, reflection, developing online identity etc etc!!)

Tuesday, 28 April 2009

Reflections on Romania

Myself and a colleague, Heather, recently had the opportunity to visit an Art Therapy Centre in Timisoara, Western Romania, to see the work that was done there by the Art, Music and Puppet Therapists. The centre is based within a state run orphanage and works with children who are resident there as well as children from a local school for the deaf, children with autism and children from divorced parents! The request from the Centre and Muzika ,(the music charity who had set up the initial links between the University and the Art Therapy Centre) was for students to do a ‘train the trainers’ package for professionals and carers working with children within or near to Timisoara. Heather and I were very much an advanced party to assess the feasibility of future visits. Prior to our visit we had spoken to others who had been to Romania and overall, reports were not particularly positive and Heather and I prepared ourselves for an emotionally challenging visit.
The visit itself went better than certainly I had anticipated; I personally had visions of meeting traumatised or neglected children that I would desperately want to pack in my suitcase and bring home! Fortunately for my husband and the children we met that wasn't the case and Heather and I were pleasantly surprised with the happy, welcoming children that we had the honour of meeting and observing during our time there. The Art Therapy Centre consists of essentially two large (ish) rooms and we observed several sessions within the centre and one in a private nursery where we saw the children engaging in Art and Music therapy and being shown or acting out well known stories such as The Three Little Pigs, Hansel and Gretel and the Giant Radish (like our giant turnip story!)

I think what both I and Heather were surprised to find is that, unintentionally, the philosophy and work of the staff in the centre very much echoes that of our OT principles and therefore it was hard to see what we could add to this. The visit threw up several more questions for us such as what are the orphanages actually like and what is the philosophy behind the care the orphans receive? Interestingly some of the children aren't actually orphans but, due to Romania not having a benefits system, several families can't afford to feed the children or look after them whilst they go to work, so the children stay in the orphanage during the week and go home at the weekends. I was also surprised to learn that the majority of the orphans only stay in the orphanage for 3-4 months before they then go on to foster families who are paid to look after them as they are here in the UK.

We were also told about the centres for the disabled, one of which is apparently very near to the Art Therapy Centre but we didn't have the opportunity to visit, and where apparently they look after much more profoundly disabled children than the ones we saw. Heather and I both felt that these are centres that we would like to visit and observe before being able to offer any training as, from our observations in the centre, I would certainly be concerned that we would be trying to 'teach' them something that they are already know and are doing.

It is with much regret that on reflection following the visit we have come to the conclusion that it would not viable for us to visit the centre again this June. The timing of June is not good as the schools in Romania are on holiday for the whole of June, July and August and most people take their holidays in June. Unfortunately our students will still be on placement during this time. I also do feel strongly that more observational visits need to happen in various settings before we could deliver a purposeful and meaningful (forever the OT!) package of training. I am concerned that without these visits we could make too many wrongful assumptions about the care that is already being provided which I, personally, feel would be unprofessional. Further visits would also enable the future of this project to be planned properly and have a clear aim of what the purposes of the visits are for the Centre, the students and the University.

Overall Heather and I feel very privileged to have had the opportunity to visit another country to see the work of others trying to improve the quality of life for so many children. What struck us most was not really the differences but the many similarities between our situations and feel that further visits would improve our ways of knowing and doing as much as theirs.

Monday, 27 April 2009

COT annual Student Conference - online identity

Hello to all the OT students who attended the COT annual student conference on Saturday. It was great to see so many giving up their work/life balance to travel to Sheffield and spend the day networking, developing and generally having a good time.

During Sarah, Martin and Ryan's workshop on "online identity" ( presentation below) we spoke briefly about the issue of "netiquette". For those who would like to know more click on this link to take you to one of our previous posts that may help guide and advise on how to maintain a professional identity online.

We have tentatively offered the University of Salford as a future conference venue - so we may get the chance to see you again.

Saturday, 25 April 2009

The Connected Learner: University of Bradford

Sarah and I were invited to give a Key Note address at the University of Bradford conference: The Connected Learner: Distance Learning for the 21st Century last week. Through our networks we had been recommended to speak about our experiences in developing the MSc Advanced Occupational Therapy programme delivered online from registration to graduation (applications for Sept 09 intake accepted until August 24th 2009).
Whilst being nervous, we were very keen to both share our ideas and learn from the experiences of others.
The first Key note speaker, Palitha Edirisingha from University of Leicester talked of his work in the media zoo and the work of the Beyond Distance Research Alliance -. Palitha also referred to Salmon's 5 stage model of elearning which is something I intend to look at more closely in a quiet moment.

We then sat in on a couple of workshops on Second Life and the use of social networking in learning . As we were not staff at the university we had difficulty getting access to the internet - but it was a useful experience to see how delegates were introduced to Second Life, and the facilitiator, Will Stewart has kindly offered to share his extremely clear notes and instruction for us to consider using with our second year MSc students as we begin to introduce them to Second Life.

Lunch was very tasty, and we had a chance to chat to a few of the delegates. Sarah's chair nearly landed her in a very embarrasing situation - but luckily she managed to compose herself and the offending bolt from the chair was later found under the table to corroborate her story!

Sarah and I presented to the conference after lunch - potentially the graveyard slot - but we were well received and managed to keep to time. We explored (amongst other things) the importance of
a) the pedagogy informing the technology
b) being a student yourself of the technology before expecting others to engage
c) online identity (more of this soon in another post)
d) social constructivist approach - and being consistant with this
e) pushing boundaries and challenging self and others

We also shared what we have learned from our developments and what we have still to learn. Whilst there were very few questions immediately after our session, we were asked many at the plenary session. Most centred on how we are using negotiated assessment and the time resource requirements in developing and delivering a totally online programme.

What becomes clear as we network and reflect more about our programme is how innovative we are here at Salford with this MSc. Whilst there are pockets of online teaching and learning developments, very few are delivering whole programmes totally online using elearning principles.

Thanks to everyone who took the time to attend our Key Note address. We have been invited to join a couple of University online networks in Ning and Pebblepad - which we are looking forward to being involved in. We have also exchanged contact details with a number of people who are interested in what we are doing and may want to collaborate with us in the future. We are always happy to work with others and share ideas and experiences where relevant.

Time to regroup....

Has it really been that long since we posted? Our apologies to our regular readers - although as a team we have been undergoing some difficult times over recent weeks which I guess has impacted on much of what we do. In brief the University of Salford is in the midst of Project Headroom -
a plan to cut 150 frontline staff, with the aim of creating ‘financial headroom’ for investment - with particular investment in the planned Media City at Salford Quays.
To this end we have lost 2 members of our team to voluntary redundancy - so work has been in progress to look at how we will work with the Strategic plan whilst accommodating the changes within the team. Challenging change indeed! However, we have rallied and have some very clear ideas of the way forward. We are intending to focus on areas of collaborative research and innovation - so if anyone has any ideas they would be interested in working with us - let us know.