Social media are increasingly being used by health professionals who want to extend their learning opportunities, says CSP professional adviser Gwyn Owen
Social media have become part of our everyday lives. We use these online and mobile tools for sharing information and experiences through networking with other people.
And it’s not just ‘young’ people who are using social media for networking.
A growing body of evidence showing that the choices people make about engaging with social media (SoMe) depend on what they want to achieve and who they want to network with.
But had you considered that the social media tools with which you’re already familiar (such as Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, WordPress, YouTube) could become a personalised learning network?
It was a vision of what could be possible that brought Naomi McVey and Janet Thomas together to develop physiotalk.
Naomi and Janet, like many other CSP members, had seen the value of iCSP as a social media space for supporting learning and development of physiotherapy practice. But they also saw the potential in learning through networking with people who aren’t CSP members.
Many of the issues we’re grappling with as CSP members are shared by other professional communities in the UK and beyond. So it seemed a natural step to learn from how other professional groups were using social media, such as nursing and occupational therapy (OT).
They hoped to establish a personal and professional physiotherapy learning community that was accessible to everyone with an interest in physiotherapy and healthcare.
Naomi and Janet chose to establish the online @physiotalk community on Twitter. As you will see from Table 1, Twitter is available to anyone who has internet access and an email address.
The networking in this space is open – generally speaking you don’t need to be accepted by someone in order to ‘follow’ them. That freedom creates huge potential for developing a wide network of contacts – people follow (and who follow you). And just like other social media spaces, you decide whether to ‘listen’ or to be more active, by tweeting, sharing and joining in.
At the heart of the physiotalk community is a blog – a space where people can be drawn to for more information. Blogs (literally web-log) are becoming increasingly popular as spaces for presenting information, ideas and signposts to other materials.
You can also link to them from a tweet – after all there’s only so much detail you can give in 140 characters!
Maintaining a blog can become a means of learning and evidencing your learning. But the process of reading and responding to a blog is also a potential CPD opportunity – depending on its content and how and whether it is speaking to you personally.
The final element of physiotalk is the regular #physiotalk tweetchat – a time when the community space is open for live (and lively) online discussion on a specific topic (see Frontline page 6, 19 February 2014 (visit: www.csp.org.uk/node/435822).
The openness of the learning community means that you could be learning alongside a wide mix of people – a service user, a support worker, a professor, someone who works overseas, an OT – potentially anyone who has an interest in the subject being discussed.
Physiotalk facilitates the learning process by providing pre-chat and post-chat information on the blog (visit: http://physiotalk.co.uk) before and after the tweetchat session.
As with any shared learning activity, the quality of learning depends on people’s willingness to actively contribute to the learning process – by asking questions, signposting to other information, but most importantly respecting each others’ views and perspectives.
Social media technology means that transcripts from tweetchats are available post-event. These transcripts represent the learning experienced and produced by the tweetchat including individuals’ contributions and links they shared.
The transcript means you can catch up if you had to leave the session mid-flow or couldn’t join in at all. But it also has potential to become a learning resource in its own right – as a conversation topic for an in-service training or peer reflection session for example.
Which comes back full circle to thinking about how your choice of social media technology will shape what you learn and how. Table 1 summarises three different social media spaces as a learner.
Use it, together with Naomi and Janet’s top tips to help you decide which social media space(s) you’re going to occupy. And keep a log of questions and ideas you’ve had, people you’ve met and what you’re going to do next – as evidence of your learning. fl
Find out more
Professor Steve Wheeler (@timbuckteeth) will explore the use of technologies to support critical thinking at PhysiotherapyUK2014 in October. See www.physiotherapy.org.uk or visit #physio14
iCSP help pages: www.csp.org.uk/help#icsp CSP (2012) Social media guidance: www.csp.org.uk/socialmediaguidance
‘On Message: exploring social media’ (Frontline, 1 August 2012) www.csp.org.uk/frontline/exploringsocialmedia
‘All you need to know’: http://ow.ly/uMoXv – Roy Lilley’s blogpost of using social media to facilitate his learning from a conference
Visit http://bit.ly/socialmediaengage for a list of JISC resources and case studies about using social media tools to support learning and development – in classrooms, on placements etc.
Advice from the University of York about using SoMe to support your research – from generating ideas to dissemination: http://t.co/tXzxqwaO2v
How to guide for using SoMe to build a personalised learning network: http://t.co/FJeLMdM2q4
Helsper and Eynon (2009) ‘Digital natives: where is the evidence?’ Available from LSE repository at: http://eprints.lse.ac.uk/27739/
Tips from @naomiphysio and @JanetThomas47 based on their experience of using Twitter to support CPD.
The following principles apply to all forms of social media:
- social media are free, flexible and fun. They can sit on your desk, in a backpack or in your pocket – available for you ‘24/7’
- they can bring people with a common interest together into a shared learning space where personal experiences and perspectives matter more han one’s status
- they cross professional and geographical boundaries – a great ‘inside-out’ learning opportunity
- they support a variety of learners – from those who quietly reflect and act on what they find to those who learn by active dialogue
- use the CPD cycle (plan – do – analyse) to evaluate and guide your use of social media
- having professional debates in a public space is healthy and help us to think and communicate differently
How to use this piece to support your CPD
Follow these links for information, ideas and experiences of the CPD potential of social media
Guidance: Physiotalk blog http://physiotalk.co.uk
An informative but informal space that offers guidance and practical advice about making social media work for you. This is where you will also find information about planned tweetchats.
We will be exploring the use of technologies to support critical thinking and creativity during an interactive keynote session with Professor Steve Wheeler (@timbuckteeth) at Physiotherapy UK 2014. For more information, visit the conference website at: www.physiotherapy.org.uk or visit: #physio14
Remember to keep a log of questions and ideas you’ve had, people you’ve met and what you’re going to do next – as evidence of your learning.
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