Monday, November 29, 2010

Model for a Journal Club using Google Reader and Facebook OR if the prophet does not go to the Mountain.... bring the journal club to FB!

Create a collaborative learning environment for discussing key journal articles for our residency program.

Proposed solution:
Create an automated method for posting key journal articles to an online discussion group.  Each article abstract should be a separate post in the forum with space for comments.

With tighter duty hour restrictions, going online might be more acceptable.
Most residents use social networking (e.g. Facebook) and have Google accounts - so our solution should try and leverage these 2.
It would be more likely to succeed if we go to where the energy is (Facebook) rather than create a new site with a new log in.
A few faculty members or Chief Residents would take on the task of filtering and selecting the articles.
Model for using Google Reader and Facebook Groups for an Internal Medicine Journal Club

  1. Faculty member/Chief Residents set up Google Reader accounts
  2. Subscribe to RSS feeds for some selected Journals in their specialty.
  3. Periodically (at least weekly) review the feeds and share some of the most relevant articles in Google Reader
  4. Find the RSS feed for their shared items list
  5. Create a Group in Facebook (possibly a closed group so only members can view and comment)
  6. Authorize the Facebook Application RSS Graffiti for this Group. (only group admins can do this)
  7. Create a feed in RSS Graffiti with the RSS feed of the shared items list
  8. Ensure that specific settings are modified and test for the posts to show up within about 30 minutes.
    1. You have to authorize RSS Graffiti for your Facebook account before it will work on your Facebook Group.
    2. You have to be the admin for that FB group
    3. Edit the feed and under the Filter tab, make sure you change to date to when there are some items to show.  By default it is set to the time of creation of the feed in RSS Graffiti
    4. Edit the feed and under the More tab, make sure you are posting as yourself and not as the Group.
  9. Invite/add members to the Group.
  10. Enjoy!
Screenshot of the Journal Club in a Closed Facebook Group

Google Reader
Subscribe to important medicine journals with one click (you can also click on the button in the right column of this blog)
Facebook Groups
RSS Graffiti Blog and RSS Graffiti FB app

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Example of an Interactive Online Mind Map

This is an example of a possible solution for a clinical education and technical problem.

So what was the problem?
Clinical Education: Students learn to do physical examination by organ systems.  But then they need to integrate the examination into a smooth, head to toe exam that is convenient for the patient.

Technical: What tools can you use to help the medical student capture their concepts in an organized manner.  Mind maps are the obvious solution.  But some mind maps while easy to create on the desktop do not collapse/expand easily when placed online.  Others are hosted solutions so you are not sure how long they will be around and who owns what.  Some use Java which is not compatible with iOS devices.  Is there a solution that lets you create and upload interactive online mind maps and host them yourself?  Will it allow for versions for mobile devices including iOS devices? Click here for a previous post about these issues.

I have written about the clinical education problem in the past.  A medical student I work with reflected on this issue and we came up with a mind map using Freemind to solve the technical problems.

So without much more ado, here is the mind map  (  It is organized in 3 tabs.
The organ system approach
The Head to Toe approach
The Tree view for mobile devices using JavaScript

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Creating an online collaborative workspace for a conference

Our medical school is popularly called a "No grades, No tests, No lectures" program. One of the jewels of our program is a competency based assessment system that is based on an electronic portfolio that we built from the ground up. We have had many visitors come to see this system first hand and next year we are planning a conference of some of the most well- known names in portfolios use in medical education. This is an invitation only conference and we expect to produce a white paper on this topic.
To facilitate the various activities of this group leading up to the conference and after the conference, we decided to create an online collaborative workspace. There are several platforms like Basecamp, for example can serve this purpose but we decided to try and use Google sites for this purpose.

The required features were:

  1. Restricted access
  2. Members could upload links to useful websites
  3. Members could create a bibliography on this topic
  4. Discussion groups
  5. Shared calendar
  6. Collaborative authoring of documents
  7. Data collection form

We found that it was relatively easy to accomplish everything we wanted with minimal effort.  The site was ready to be populated with content.

The Home Page of the Collaborative Workspace

We learned a lot along the way:

  • Google sites can be set up to have access restricted to invitees only
  • It has a very intuitive WYSIWYG site creation interface
  • You can have left side bar and horizontal navigation and bread-crumbs are built-in
  • You can use a number of existing themes or create your own custom theme
  • You create a "file cabinet" page that allows members to upload files
  • You can create list pages that allows members to add items to lists. The columns of the lists can be customized easily - we used this to create the Bibliography and list of useful web sites.
  • The collaborative authoring requires the use of Google docs. You can start a Google doc by adding a title of the document. You can then share this document with all the members giving them editing rights. You then insert the goggle doc into a page on Google sites. This displays the entire document on the Google site with a link at the bottom to open the document for editing. Clicking this link opens the document in Google docs.  We used this to let members work together on the white paper.
  • For the data collection you again use the spreadsheet function in Google docs. You create a form that connects to the spread sheet. Then you insert this form into a page on Google sites. If you want the embers to see the data collected by the form, you can publish the spreadsheet and insert it into a web page on the Google site.

Data Collection and Report using Embedded Google Spreadsheet

  • For the discussions groups, we used Google groups. Again we gave all members access to the group. Then we used a gadget from the library to insert the Google group discussion into a page on Google site. iE8 does not allow this due to a cross-site filter. Even after I disabled the filter and restarted IE it did not work. It works fine on other browsers (I tried Chrome, Firefox and Safari). A workaround would be to provide a hyperlink to the Google groups discussion page on Google sites, or take the RSS feed from the discussion group and insert it using a gadget into the Google sites page. This last method will provide a read only view of the discussions, but members would have to go to the group itself to participate fin he discussion.

Discussion Groups using Embedded Google Groups

Once we did all this, we were ready to go. The whole effort took us <10 hours of work to be up and running. It was a great experience. Aimee who worked with me on this project was so enamored with Google sites that she is going to create something like this for one of her daughter's projects. Google has provided a very versatile set of tools that can be mixed and matched to create very functional collaborative web spaces.  With the recent Google decision not to allow uploading of files on Google Groups, this ability to integrate Google Sites with Google Groups becomes more important.