Posts filed under ‘e-learning’

Online Consumer Health in Jordan: An Interview with Dana Mahadeen

I met Dana Mahadeen, an English Language Instructor at Balqaa Applied University in Salt, Jordan with a background in e-learning. We ended up chatting, not about e-learning, but about how people in Jordan use the Internet for health information. She told me that not all Jordanians use the Internet. Internet use is 18.2% of Jordanians as of March 2008 and 24.5% as of August 2009 according to a different source. I could find no data about use of the Internet for health. Dana told me about health Web sites in Jordan and her own experiences.

While there are health Web sites in Jordan, most are government-operated although there are some private sites. Some of the English language ones Dana knows are http://www.ncd.org.jo/index.php?option=com_frontpage&Itemid=1, http://www.jfda.jo/en/default/http://www.khcc.jo/, and http://www.moh.gov.jo/MOH/En/home.php. She said that there are other sites in Arabic, such as  http://www.6abib.com/, but questioned how accurate their information is. One of the Arabic ones she uses is http://www.sehha.com/. Mostly she relies on American sites like the Mayo Clinic. Dana said that she knew about the Arabic sites because she has a friend suffering from diabetes and cancer. She tries to keep up with the news about these diseases, to understand the conditions better, and to help her friend at the same time. She went on to say that she has used these sites for herself during her pregnancy and when her children are ill.

I asked Dana why she relies on Mayo Clinic’s website instead of the Jordanian ones. She responded, “It is very user-friendly and I guess I just like the site. I have also used WebMD.” I asked if she had heard of anyone writing a blog about their illness, to which Dana responded, “I can’t say I have, but I have heard of people writing about their weight loss.” She went on to say that obesity is a problem there, not to the extent of the problem in the US. They “are seeing more 10+ year old children getting heavier and heavier and I guess we are headed the way of the US. Don’t get me wrong, most Jordanian adults are a bit on the chubby side but not obese. It is a matter of food choices: Jordanian food is naturally rich and, well, fast food is quite popular.”

I asked if heart disease was common as a result of the rich food and Dana responded, “Strange that you should ask. My husband is a Cardiac Surgeon and he is very busy” (40% of deaths in Jordan are caused by cardiovascular diseases, according to Health Minister Nayef Fayez.) To my final question about her own health seeking behavior with a husband who is a doctor, Dana said, “I am always asking my husband questions and I am always looking online. I like to know as much as I can. The Internet is a great tool.”

February 16, 2010 at 9:38 am 4 comments

What Do “New York on $5 a Day” and “Mathematics Made Easy” Have in Common?

The Boston Globe reports that 2 adults sharing a hotel room and eating 3 meals spend, on average, $606 a day in New York City. I go there often for business and have no trouble believing this. There was a book, published in 1964, called New York on $5 a Day. My interest is not inflation or travel costs, but book titles: what a compelling title! And much better than New York on $606 a Day. A search for “New York” books brings up Not for Tourists 2008 Guide to New York City and The Best Things to Do in New York City: 1001 Ideas. Not for tourists – but I am a tourist! – and if this is an insider’s guide then do natives read it? 2008 in the title reminds me that I need the new edition, and, if anything like car models, 2009 will be available well before 2008 ends. 1001 ideas makes me hyperventilate – a few good ones are all I need.

When I was in high school, a friend gave me Mathematics Made Easy, which was one of the most inspirational books I ever read. I saw this book recently in a church bazaar, and thought about the title, which refers to the topic, not the reader. Now the For Dummies series offers numerous math books, as does The Complete Idiot’s Guide. I ended up a math major in college: could Math for Dummies have similarly inspired me? The titles of these new books refer to the reader, not to the topic.

In this age of Oprah’s Book Club determining what sells, I wish we could return to book titles that neither insult nor overwhelm the reader. But then what about course titles? I teach a course, “Online Consumer Health”, previously “Online Health Communities”. My primary motivation for changing the name was that one of my students last fall told me he signed up for the course not knowing what an online health community was.

What if course titles tried to grab you, like book titles, but still remained descriptive? I could rename mine “Online Consumer Health: How to Design and Evaluate Health Web Sites” or “How People without Medical Training Use the Internet for Health Education and Support”. One of my favorite courses in graduate school, “Software Engineering”, could be renamed “Software Engineering: How to be a Systems Architect and Play Office Politics to your Advantage”. Maybe these are a little wordy, but they are certainly descriptive and attention-grabbing.

Online courses, of course, have the same problem but more so, since there may be less context when a student isn’t on campus. A perusal of online course titles showed that titles like “Business Writing 101” are still in vogue. How about renaming it “Business Writing for Clarity and Managerial Praise”? I will say that I have seen a few online courses with intriguing names: Trump University has courses called “The Trump Way to Wealth” and “How to Start a Business on a Shoestring Budget”. These are certainly compelling and descriptive names and also briefer than my examples above.

May 21, 2008 at 1:22 am 7 comments

“The Name’s Bond. James Bond.”

James BondI love James Bond movies. I have never read Ian Fleming’s novels or even thought much about him. I was therefore interested to read that the Imperial War Museum London recently launched an online exhibition exploring “the early life of Ian Fleming, his wartime career and work as a journalist and travel writer and how, as an author, he drew upon his own experiences to create the iconic character of James Bond that continues to have global appeal.” I am often hesitant to click on links, partially due to time constraints and partially due to some disappointing experiences with must-see websites, must-watch videos, and must-listen podcasts.

The virtual “sneak peek” exhibit used a gallery metaphor to depict some objects from the exhibit with audio explanations – complete with dozing guards. I didn’t find it particularly interesting or informative or even a good teaser for the actual exhibit. However, as an educational experience, it was successful in two ways. One was that, before giving up completely, I found some fascinating materials about Ian Fleming on the museum’s exhibition site. The other is that I read about Ian Fleming and about “For Your Eyes Only,” the exhibit name. Since I liked Casino Royale or any 007 movie with Sean Connery better, I read about other movies as well, including trivia, goofs, quotes, and the gadgets Q invented.

Suppose you were teaching a class and one of your students tactfully told you that your lecture was boring but that he or she spent hours researching the topic out of class. Would you ask for constructive criticism, be happy since you spurred self-directed learning, or say, as Bond did, “Well you can’t win them all”?

April 29, 2008 at 1:58 am 2 comments

Tech Populism and Discotheque Populism: Parallel Revolutions

Tech populism, a term coined by Forrester Research, refers to people bringing the technology they use in their personal lives into the workplace where traditionally tools have been provided to them and their use prescribed. Employees may, for example, have access to online courses they are supposed to take, but they may prefer to search for and use information available on the web instead of utilizing these courses. Another example is when there is a corporate knowledge management initiative but employees find and contact each other through LinkedIn or other social networking services.

Tech populism is revolutionary in that the traditional tight controls on workplace behavior are violated – often to everyone’s benefit. And a revolt can occur when employers attempt to suppress tech populism.

Bona fide revolutions—whether political, cultural, or spiritual —occur infrequently in history” and one is certainly taking place in the workplace today. This revolution parallels what was arguably the biggest revolution in music, dancing, and nightlife: the discotheque.

The American Heritage Magazine article goes on to say that “the discotheque originated as a den of resistance in Nazi-occupied France” and, from the 1960s to the 1980s, impacted all aspects of culture in the US and other countries. “Discotheque dancing followed the 1960s pattern in which teenagers invented pop-culture trends and discarded them soon afterward, at which point they were taken up by adults,” just like Facebook today!

“Saturday Night Fever propelled disco fever to epidemic proportions: By 1978, 40 percent of all the music on Billboard’s Hot 100 was disco. Meanwhile the discofication of America proceeded: There were disco lunch boxes, disco “Snoopy” bed sheets and pillows, disco belt buckles, disco records by old-timers like Frank Sinatra and Ethel Merman, an estimated two hundred all-disco radio stations, disco dance courses, disco proms, books about the proper makeup to wear to discos—and an estimated twenty thousand discotheques nationwide.”

I coined discotheque populism to refer to how this “discofication” still lives in the music, lighting, and dance moves found in any club. Even the clothes, makeup, and hairstyles periodically return to popularity. Tech populism is no different – the Facebook of yesterday is the Twitter of today. Tomorrow will bring new applications that will be adopted (and even created) by teenagers first, become mainstream, and then be abandoned by the original adopters just when managers are developing policies for their use.

April 23, 2008 at 1:52 am 2 comments

Crucibles as a Metaphor for Learning and Reflection

I am at a Working Knowledge conference on “Judgment and Decisions” at Babson College today, organized by Larry Prusak and Tom Davenport. Bob Thomas, Accenture and Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, just spoke about “Crucibles, Judgment and Leadership”. One of his main points is that people have to learn how they learn best, and crucible experiences can be pivotal for many people.

The five key ingredients for going from novice to adept expert performer are having talent, ambition, grasp of method, a great teacher, and feedback. Practice can trump talent, as research on expert performance shows. Outstanding performers devise a personal learning strategy that goes beyond practice to understanding how they learn best – and what their passion is. One way Bob learns what people love to do is by asking what they are doing when they lose track of time – what is often called a flow state.

While this talk focused on how businesses grow leaders, I believe Bob’s insights are valid for anyone in any role, including children with learning disabilities, who are explicitly taught how they learn and strategies to accommodate their learning disability. Many people, however, never reflect on their own learning style.

Bob offered a number of examples of crucible experiences in disparate organizations. The Peace Corp drops people into a developing country and expects, with minimal training, they will not only survive, but will learn and grow. The Mormon Church’s major crucible experience is the mission all members go on, which includes dealing with rejection, learning how to resolve conflicts with the person they are on the mission with, and learning what it means to be Mormon in a non-Mormon world. Hell’s Angels’ crucible experience is the run, a long ride where the leader negotiates the passage from one location to the next, making it more challenging than last year’s run.

Tom Davenport led a discussion focused on if – and should – crucible experiences be institutionalized. He gave examples of team-building experiences such as people falling into each other’s arms and fire-walking, but it is arguable if these are crucible experiences.

Even the examples from the Peace Corps, etc., above are orchestrated in a sense. Bob showed videos of two people discussing crucible experiences and they were serendipitous ones, and also ones where it was easy to see that another person, in the same situation, would have been devastated instead of inspired. Part of what I learned from this discussion is that you can prepare people for, and to be receptive to, learning experiences, but can’t necessarily orchestrate them. I would like to better understand the role of reflection and the extent it can be encouraged or scaffolded, since that seems to me to be a major difference between how people learn from a crucible – or any – experience.

April 15, 2008 at 9:22 pm 3 comments

Seven Habits of Highly Connected People by Stephen Downes, Guest Contributor

Stephen Downes was kind enough to allow me to publish this here. I was especially interested in it because FranklinCovey was one of my clients when I worked at EDS. Watch for a version of this to appear in eLearn Magazine later this month!

With apologies – and all due credit – to Stephen Covey.

1. Be Reactive

There’s a lot of talk about user-generated content on the web. That’s great. But if publishing your own stuff comes at the expense of reading, and commenting on, other people’s stuff, that’s not so great.

The first thing any connected person should be is receptive. Whether on a discussion forum, mailing list, or in a blogging community or gaming site, it is important to spend some time listening and getting the lay of the land.

Then, your forays into creating content should be as reactions to other people’s points of view. This will ensure, first of all, that they read your comment, and second, that your post is relevant to the discussion at hand.

Posting, after all, isn’t about airing your own views. It’s about connecting, and the best way to connect is to clearly draw the link between their content, and yours.

2. Go With The Flow

We all know those people in our online community who are out to Prove Something, to Get Things Done, or to Market Themselves.

These are people we tend to avoid. Because no matter what the topic of discussion, they’ll weigh in with their pet project, peeve or talking point.

When connecting online, it is more important to find the places you can add value rather than to pursue a particular goal or objective. The web is a fast-changing medium, and you need to adapt to fit the needs of the moment, rather than to be driving it forward along a specific agenda.

This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have any goals or principles for yourself. You should; that’s what will inform your participation. It’s just a reminder that your goals are not the same as other people’s goals, and therefore that your online participation needs to respect that fact.

3. Connection Comes First

People talk about not having time for email, of not having time for blogs. Sometimes they even talk about working without an internet connection.

It’s good to take a break and go out camping, or to the club, or whatever. But the idea of replacing your online connecting with busy-work is mistaken.

In almost all fields, connecting with others online is the work. The papers you write, the memos your read and toss – all these have to do with connecting with people. Even if you work with your hands, making cabinets or rebuilding engines, all your contacts with customers and suppliers are about connecting with people.

If you don’t have enough time for reading email, writing blog posts, or posting discussion lists, ask yourself what other activities you are doing that are cutting in to your time. These are the things that are often less efficient uses of your time.

If you are spending time in meetings, spending time traveling or commuting to work, spending time reading books and magazines, spending time telephoning people (or worse, on hold, or playing phone tag) then you are wasting time that you could be spending connecting to people online.

If you make connecting a priority, you can take that walk in the forest of vacation in Cadiz without feeling you are not caught up.

4. Share

We’re all heard the advice to “think win-win”. Forget that advice. If you follow that advice, you will always be looking at things and saying, “what’s in it for me?” That’s exactly the wrong attitude to have in a connected world.

The way to function in a connected world is to share without thinking about what you will get in return. It is to share without worrying about so-called “free-riders” or people taking advantage of your work.

In a connected world, you want to be needed and wanted. This will, over time, cause resources to be sent to you, not as a reward for some piece of work, but because people will want to send you stuff to help you to be even more valuable to them.

When you share, people are more willing to share with you. In a networked world, this gives you access to more than you could ever produce or buy by yourself. By sharing, you increase your own capacity, which increases your marketability.

5. RTFM

RTFM stands for ‘Read The Fine Manual’ (or some variant thereof) and is one of the primary rules of conduct on the internet.

What it means, basically, is that people should make the effort to learn for themselves before seeking instruction from others.

Almost everything a person could need to know has been recorded somewhere online (by people who are sharing their knowledge freely). Taking the time and effort to look at this work is not merely respectful, it demonstrates a certain degree of competence and self-reliance.

For example, if your software fails to install, instead of calling customer service or posting a note on a bulletin board, copy the error message into the Google search field and look for answers. Almost every software error has been encountered (and documented) by someone before you.

Finally, when you do ask for help, you can state what you’ve read and tried, and why it didn’t work. This saves people from giving you advice you don’t need, and helps them focus on what’s unique about your problem.

6. Cooperate

Offline people collaborate. They join teams, share goals, and work together. Everybody works in the same place, thy use the same tools, and have the same underlying vision of the project or organization.

Online, people cooperate. They network. Each has his or her own goals and objectives, but what joins the whole is a web of protocols and communications. People contribute their own parts, created (as they say in open source programming) to ‘satisfy their own itch’.

This is probably the consequence of distance. Online, it is not possible to enforce your will or (beyond a limited extend) to get your way by shouting and intimidation. This means that online communications are much more voluntary than offline communications. And successful online connectors recognize this.

To cooperate, it is necessary to know the protocols. These are not rules – anybody can break them. But they establish the basis for communication. Protocols exist in all facets of online communications, from the technologies that connect software (like TCP/IP and HTML) to the ways people talk with each other (like netiquette and emoticons).

7. Be Yourself

What makes online communication work is the realization that, at the other end of that lifeless terminal, is a living and breathing human being.

The only way to enable people to understand you is to allow them to sympathize with you, to get to know you, to feel empathy for you. Comprehension has as much to do with feeling as it does with cognition.

People who use online communications ‘only for business’ – or worse, feel that other people shouldn’t be posting cat photos or playing Scrabble on Facebook – are employing only a small part of the communications capacity of the internet.

Learning and communicating are not merely acts of sending content over a wire. They are about engaging in (what Wittgenstein called) a ‘Way of Life’. Having a cat is as important for a physicist as having an advanced research lab. These common everyday things form the mental structure on which we hang the highly theoretical structure.

The idea behind ‘being yourself’ is not that you have some sort of offline life (though you may). Rather, it’s a recognition that your online life encompasses the many different facets of your life, and that it is important that these facets all be represented and work together.

April 3, 2008 at 9:55 pm 23 comments

Talent, Devotion, and Compensation: Attracting and Retaining Teachers

Sometimes a juxtaposition is more powerful than a mashup. This morning I was at a public high school and later at a private school. While I was at each for different reasons, I was struck by the talent and devotion of the people at both schools. While I don’t know their salaries, compensation to attract and retain teachers and education support professionals is lower in the US than in other countries and lower than comparable professions. Teaching for many, myself included, is a labor of love and a chance to use one’s skills and knowledge to help others. Because of this juxtaposition I find myself wondering what triggers this devotion in people and what causes them to flourish in their profession, albeit in the very different environments I was in today. (The mental mashup here, by the way, was trying to understand the impact of salary after reading a press release about the Economic Policy Institute’s new study.)

Online teachers and adjunct faculty are typically compensated less, and have less prestige, than other teachers. While online teachers may have fewer advising or administrative responsibilities, they work very hard, sometimes harder, than teachers in the classroom because they have to master technologies and be available more hours. I wonder not only what triggers devotion in such teachers but what causes it to whither and even dissipate – and what role compensation plays in this.

April 2, 2008 at 11:27 pm 8 comments

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Lisa Gualtieri, PhD, ScM

Lisa GualtieriLisa Gualtieri is Assistant Professor at Tufts University School of Medicine in the Department of Public Health and Community Medicine. She is Director of the Certificate Program in Digital Health Communication. Lisa teaches Designing Health Campaigns using Social Media, Social Media and Health, Mobile Health Design, and Digital Strategies for Health Communication. Contact Lisa: lisa.gualtieri@tufts.edu

@lisagualtieri

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