It’s all G

This past week I have had a strong sense of déjà vu. It wasn’t that long ago that I was here reflecting (mourning) the loss of the Bambuser app, which had really been quite a favourite of mine. At the time I can remember the disbelief vividly – how could this happen? how could something SO good be killed off? Did THEY not know what this      tool meant to ME? Denial set in which unfortunately meant that I ignored all their notifications about saving my data and so the demise of Bambuser took a part of me  with it.

People say we learn from our experiences and we seem to learn the most from bad experiences. I tend to agree as I am now faced with the euphemistic ‘sunsetting’ of Google Communities. G+ has been a great companion over recent years. I’ve used it as the main learning community in a media and communications paper I teach with +Laurent Antonczak. Students have enjoyed using it, in fact a whole semester later they are still using it to communicate with us and with one another. Its egalitarian structure has enabled us to make very effective use of it in terms of empowering students to create content and contribute to one another’s learning.

Our team have also used a number of Google Communities over the years as sites of professional development as well as a repository for sharing teaching and research resources. It has also been a tool for ‘cutting teeth’ within our team with a small number of initial users, support from our learning technologists, and then the adoption by others once skills were acquired.

However, despite the affordances of G+, my familiarity with it and the research data we have stored within its bowels,  I have had quite a different reaction to its impending demise. I think Bambuser helped me recognise the inevitability of change and uncertainty. Yes, it is slightly inconvenient but I do see it as an opportunity for trying something new and for using this as a way to demonstrate to our students the need for agility, flexibility and openness to change. We need to learn to change and change to learn.

I think it’s going to be all G

Part 2 Wider Context #CMALT: Understanding and engaging with legislation, policies and standards.

This post links to the following element of CMALT:

Wider Context
a) Understanding and engaging with legislation, policies and standards

[Statements here should show how relevant legislation, has influenced your work. You are not expected to have expert knowledge of all of these areas, but are expected to be aware of how they relate to your current practice. These issues will vary depending upon the country and Government policy.]

New Zealand legal context

Earlier I explored the Education Act and its specific section on universities being the ‘critic and conscience’ of society. In that post, I explored how I had been able to utilise technologies in my teaching to enable me to be that critic and to empower my students to take the critic and conscious role with them into their professional practice and everyday lives.

My second piece of legislation also utilises technology and is an example of how I can implement that critic and conscious stance with and for my students.

My second piece of legislation is a bill currently before parliament: The End of Life Choice Bill.

Screenshot 2018-10-15 13.02.24.png
(Retrieved 15/10/18)

Several countries are now enacting laws to allow the terminally ill to choose to end their lives. Countries like Switzerland and Belgium are leading the way with ‘right to die’ legislation, and in a rights-driven global community many others are following suit, or beginning serious debate about end of life decision-making. Currently in New Zealand, euthanasia is illegal but there is a member’s bill before parliament which is currently at the Select Committee stage. If it progresses through subsequent judicial phases it then has the potential to become a piece of law in NZ.

I feel strongly that students have a duty to be informed about future issues affecting the delivery of healthcare- health care that they will be delivering. Among the disciplines taking my undergraduate ethics paper, there are students studying towards degrees in nursing, health administration, psychology, care of the older person and health promotion. All these pathways have the potential to be affected by any new euthanasia legislation. As future health professionals, students need to develop a clearly reasoned, ethically justified position on issues of complexity and controversy. Euthanasia is a highly emotive topic, underpinned by cultural values and deep-rooted ideas about life itself. As members of society students may be called to vote in a referendum or enact the law, in which case skills in constructing ethical arguments and being cognisant of the values underpinning their decisions will help them make clear and wise choices – choices they can sit comfortably with.

Therefore, over the past few semesters I have created a number of online ethical deliberations for students to test out their newly acquired skills , cement understanding of ethical theory and have access to the thinking of their peers, while engaging in topical, relevant societal and healthcare issues, such as euthanasia.

The main educational technology used in the ethics class is the Values Exchange, a bespoke ethical decision-making learning community. It hosts several familiar social media functions such as groups, pinterest style topic boards, private messaging, group chat and friending. It also allows all users to post questions in a number of different formats, for instance polls, surveys and more in depth philosophical frameworks based on ethical theory (

In this example, a simple poll was used, where students vote on a proposal, adding reasons to support their position.

Screenshot 2018-10-15 13.40.28.png

AUT Values Exchange poll: The Right to Die?

In the above screen shot we can see that the issue in the particular news item was brought to my attention by one of my students. I always encourage everyone to contribute to content and to be reading news media (with the critic and conscience lens!). I think it also helps other students to engage with course material when it has been peer-generated.

Also of note, is that this was not a compulsory task. Each week, during this semester, students were invited to respond to a topical poll, whereby they simply cast a vote then provide some reasoning. Week by week, they can see how they are building their deliberative skills. At the same time, all responses are available to all respondents so this transparency helps students (and me) to learn from others in the class.

I felt students had used the tool well and there was clear evidence of clearly laid out arguments and a good level of uptake for an optional activity (39%).

In the following Values Exchange activity, students are challenged further, by considering whether it is ethical for children to choose to be euthanised. This is a very challenging proposal, as we tend to afford children additional rights of protection, but at the same time, this is a legal practice in Belgium and students can see arguments for both sides, although it can, at the same time, create a sense of uncomfortableness. However, I feel students can cope with this level of deliberation. Challenging scenarios like this are only presented well into the semester when students have built confidence with the paper, with me, with one another and with the Vx tool. The four principles of connectivism, described by Tschofen and Mackness  (2012) as autonomy, openness, diversity and connectedness are clearly reflected in activities like this. With a tolerance for diversity, students can respond with honesty, knowing their views will be accepted by others.

Screenshot 2018-10-15 13.46.00.png

Activities like this are often just optional activities but sometimes they are built into assessments, required but not graded as such, with students choosing completed Vx responses to base reflections of learning upon.

I feel the Values Exchange tool and the style of open, transparent ethics education enables me to take topical legal issues and create opportunities for personal growth and ethical reflection. Students also report that they take the polls home with them, initiating debate on the issues we explore in class. Through my teaching strategies and my students’ engagement in these topical issues enables the critic and conscious role to be upheld by all. Hopefully it contributes to effective and caring health providers and thoughtful members of society who can advocate for others and speak up for themselves on important societal issues – whatever they may be.

Being fearless in the face of error


Sublime Turbulence

‘Sublime Turbulence’ Robert Rice Flickr Attribution-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-ND 2.0)

I was fortunate enough to hear David Eagleman talk at Auckland’s recent Writer’s Festival.

Eagleman is a neuroscientist and writer ( and was sharing his thoughts on creativity.

This was of great interest to me as my own students in the Media and Communications in Health Promotion course are reaching the end of the semester and after rounds of presentations and cycles of formative feedback, this week they presented their creative projects. They had minimal instructions but lots of encouragement to try out new things and spend time reflecting on the learning process. Eagleman talked of ‘being fearless in the face of error’. That too often we stop at the first hurdle or see these hurdles as evidence we have failed, forgetting that with each round of trial and error essential refinements can be made. This really stayed with me, as I reflected further on our students and the invitation we gave them to try, and possibly to fail, and to reflect, and to tweak, and to try again. This seemed to be a new concept to them with many reporting that usually they hand in work and it is marked and there is not the same opportunities for these cycles of growth.

So- maybe we need to ensure that making and learning from errors is a more prominent part of the learning experience, to support students to stay with a problem, to develop grit and perseverance.

More focus on process than product.

Fully embracing the turbulence of learning.



Wondering about sound and (having) vision



“Don’t you wonder sometimes
‘Bout sound and vision”

I’ve always looked up to David Bowie for his originality and individuality and now I can safely say that we have something in common- we both have been wondering about sound and vision.


I don’t need to look too far back in my WordPress posts to find my reflections on using the Voice Thread recording tool within the Blackboard suite of tools. Last year I had used Voice Thread for an online assessment asking students to record an audio reflection on the implications of their learning on their future decision-making. I gave my feedback in audio form too.

It was a real mixed experience. It was challenging for some students to navigate what I had thought was relatively straightforward technology but at the back end there were some glaring limitations. The tool loads super slow for larger classes (I had 150 students) plus there is no timed release of grader feedback. This latter point is a particular irk of mine as ethically I want to release all grades to all students simultaneously. However, I’m also mindful of the need for students to develop speaking /audio skills given this is the way most will communicate in practice. Who ever met a nurse that only communicated by writing everything down? Of course, they talk and listen a lot!

I don’t want to repeat all my previous blog post – but I guess I am writing here, while trying to work out why I am persevering with this tool, especially this semester with around 200 students. It is all rather like childbirth – “Never again” at the time but the bad memories soon forgotten. Having spent a lot of today setting up Voice Thread for this semester’s students some of the frustration has returned.

With thanks to the learning technologist I have been able to address the loading issue by allocating students to smaller groups, but then in class today they asked what are the groups for, how do I know what group I am in, etc. In reality it is all behind the scenes work that they don’t need to worry about but when you are encouraging critical thinking, it is perhaps to be expected and for many, the smallest technological issue can suddenly seem a huge barrier.

I think incorporating sound/audio/voice is really important. Many students see that too:

“I liked the use of mixed media in the assignments. Recording audio samples and putting them into our portfolios was challenging but a useful and practical skill… very in touch and relevant” (Student, Sem 2 2017)

It is good to feel challenged – both as a teacher and as a learner. Having vision means that sometimes the harder road needs to be taken. Having the students respond in written form would have taken almost no time at all to set up. Students would have been very familiar with what to do and grading would have been straightforward. By adding sound to the assessment I am adding what some may argue are unnecessary extra burdens for myself and students alike. Yes, some will moan, and at times I will too, but to learn and to grow means we must challenge ourselves and sometimes take the harder route. 

All there is to do now is wait for my students to submit, hope all my set up has been successful and the majority of them see benefit in trying something different.

“I will sit right down, waiting for the gift of sound and vision”

Songwriters: David Bowie- Sound and Vision lyrics © O/B/O Apra Amcos





Bambuser…gone, gone, gone, really gone

It’s been nearly two months now since Bambuser disappeared from my phone, my teaching, my digital world…and I think I’m almost ready to talk about it.


Bambuser home page:  Accessed 20 March, 2018

While the Bambuser team in the photo look pretty happy, I’m not. To those of you unfamiliar with this App, Bambuser offered a free, live broadcasting service; easy to use, easy for students to access, no need for them to sign up to anything- just click on the link seamlessly generated from my live mobile recording.

I used this App for all manner of things.

Every Monday I give my online students a quick “hello!” just to keep connected and share with them the topics being covered that week or anything of interest in the world of ethics.

As part of their assessment prep I’d use Bambuser to create a series of short broadcasts that they could watch live or later (the App automatically recorded each broadcast) and these always got a good number of views and positive feedback.

WP Bambuser capture

Bambuser was perfect. OK, there are video alternatives and some other live broadcast options but none are so easy or agile as Bambuser. 

I’m trying to tell myself that there is an upside. I guess I have a new opportunity to find a replacement, to test things out, to connect with others to seek Apps I’m unaware of. Plus, of course there’s that opportunity for reflection- to reflect on the transient nature of the digital tools we use and how this keeps us learning, keeps us nimble.

I have also been reflecting on all the years of lost broadcasts, many I would never view again but others I had been using again and again in my teaching resources. I guess I was in denial at first, ignoring their kind notifications that after it’s terminal date of 22 January 2018 all data would be lost unless saved elsewhere…

But again- was losing everything really all bad? The digital world allows us to be compulsive hoarders and with a few extra dollars comes increased hoarding capacity with any number of willing cloud-based systems offering almost unlimited space. Perfect for people like me who can never quite find time to tidy the piles of junk on my desk and all round my office, let alone tidy anything online. Having an enforced de-clutter has to be a good thing – I think?

So while the feelings are still raw, I’m trying to move on.

Bambuser. Gone but certainly not forgotten.

“Some sunny day-hay baby
When everything seems okay, baby
You’ll wake up and find out you’re alone
Cause I’ll be gone
Gone, gone, gone really gone”

Songwriters: Donald Everly / Donald I Everly / Phil Everly Gone Gone Gone lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC




Shakey ground: The Temptations of technology

I was looking for a song lyric that had been bugging me when I came across an old 1975 video of The Temptations and I ended up watching it (am easily distracted). It didn’t have the lyric I was looking for but it did help me to reflect on an operational issue I am currently facing- an experience of ‘technology (only partly) enabled learning’

I seem to always want to change things. I think a part of this is always wanting to push myself to keep learning. Change keeps learning alive. Perhaps we only learn through change? It also means I find myself on shakey ground or is it shaky ground  – even the word is unstable.

Tempted by change and drawn toward the affordances of technology I tend to jump in and give new technologies a go. Act now- reflect later.

This semester I have been teaching 150 students in a health ethics module. I’ve been playing around with audio assessments as I realise that so much of their assessments across their degrees are in written form, yet as future health professionals so much of their communication will be oral. I started last semester with asking students to use their phones (or some other device) to record an audio response to one of the assessment questions and to provide an accessible link so it could be graded. I thought this would be an easy task! However this caused all sort of issues and many students, despite videos I made with suggestions for Apps that would help with this, were unable to easily manage this process.

This semester I decided to try a different approach and use one of the audio tools embedded within our institution’s LMS, Blackboard. I figured that maybe the Blackboard team would at least be able to support any glitches along the way, which is very helpful when I am the only staff member appointed to this paper.

So, I’ve been using Voice Thread. Students are provided with a link and (simply!) record their response, save and submit. You guessed it- not so simple in practice!

Despite a short Youtube clip plus screen shot instructions from the Blackboard team some students still had problems making and saving a recording. The Voice Thread tool allows students to save a recording without submitting. the submit button seems to not be in an intuitive position. It is difficult for the grader to know whether work has or has not been submitted. Load times are slow so getting started with accessing audio files for grading takes a while with 150 students. Next semester I have close to an additional 100 students so this becomes a real issue. Furthermore, Voice Thread currently sends a notification to students when feedback has been given. Ideally it would be great to have the ability to time release feedback to ensure all students get feedback at the same time.

On the plus side,  Voice Thread allows for audio feedback and it’s been a lot of fun listening to my students and then providing an audio recorded message for them. It is a nice connection to complete an online paper.

Reflecting on my dabbles with audio assessments makes me realise that my relationship with technology is very trusting – I am tempted and leap in. Invariably there are issues. In many cases technology creates small pockets of time when I am seriously frustrated and within that small window I have a distorted sense of my precious time being used up at an enormous rate of knots. But there is something that continues to draw me to try new things, to continue to be tempted, to dabble, to sometimes fail and to continue learning along the way.

The shaky ground is familiar territory- continually creating an environment where personal and learning boundaries can be stretched. As The Temptations say in the clip:

“Standing on shakey ground (standing, standing)…And I love standing on shakey ground”


Wider Context #CMALT: Understanding and engaging with legislation, policies and standards.

This post links to the following element of CMALT:

Wider Context
a) Understanding and engaging with legislation, policies and standards

[Statements here should show how relevant legislation, has influenced your work. You are not expected to have expert knowledge of all of these areas, but are expected to be aware of how they relate to your current practice. These issues will vary depending upon the country and Government policy.]

New Zealand legal context

Education Act 1989

For my first piece of NZ legislation to reflect upon I have chosen the Education Act 1989, specifically Section 162 (4) (a), which sets out the requirements for being a tertiary institution in NZ.

Section 162 Establishment of institutions

Section 162 (4) (a) (v)

In recommending to the Governor-General under subsection (2) that a body should be established as a college of education, a polytechnic, a specialist college, a university, or a wananga, the Minister shall take into account—


that universities have all the following characteristics and other tertiary institutions have 1 or more of those characteristics:

(i) they are primarily concerned with more advanced learning, the principal aim being to develop intellectual independence:
(ii) their research and teaching are closely interdependent and most of their teaching is done by people who are active in advancing knowledge:
(iii) they meet international standards of research and teaching:
(iv )they are a repository of knowledge and expertise:
(v) they accept a role as critic and conscience of society;

Section 162 (4) (a) (v) of NZ’s Education Act (1989) provides the requirement for universities in NZ to “accept a role as critic and conscience of society”.

Being very aware of my role as critic and conscience of society has always been a core part of my role as an ethics lecturer. In essence, like Socrates, in my role as ethics lecturer in a health faculty, I am trying to facilitate the ‘thinking student’ rather than a compliant, passive health professional. To achieve my own crusade in this direction I am very fortunate to sit outside the various disciplines I teach. Not only is my background not that of a nurse, an oral health professional, a medical laboratory scientist, a psychologist, an OT or any other of the 8 disciplines I teach but the small team of health law and ethics where I am situated resides outside all these departments as well. This creates distance, which may be disconcerting for students who anticipate being taught by ‘one of their own’- a nurse, an oral health practitioner,  but at the same time it facilitates the luxury of being the outsider, the naive inquirer – the person who asks – why do you think that? why do you do things that way? Where do you get advice? What is your purpose as a nurse, as a medical laboratory scientist?

So, you get the picture- I get to ask questions- lots of them. I get to ask questions that have no answers. I get to pose questions to students who are used to answers, to certainty, to absolutes, to things that can be measured, things that count.

I am not diminishing the fact that teaching content and knowledge is a core role of an health educator – to equip future health professionals with knowledge of skills for what can be known. To also equip them with research and enquiry skills so they can adequately keep abreast of knowledge as it changes in their field.

But aside from teaching and research there is this other part of my role- this critic and conscience- what an awesome job description – it is a licence to provoke, to challenge, to be that naive inquirer, to model provocation so that students will learn to think for themselves and, to challenge those in authority if need be.

Within my academic networks we often refer to this role of critic and conscience and as we have adopted many of our university practices from overseas, including the UK, I had assumed this was a common component of being an academic.

It was only when I came across The January 2017 Times Higher Ed article by Graham Virgo, pro vice-chancellor for education and professor of English private law at the University of Cambridge that I realised that this isn’t an attribute or responsibility of academics in other countries. Professor Virgo argues it ought to be and cites our NZ Education Act as legislation to aspire to. As he says, academics needs to “ embrace the freedom to develop new ideas, test received wisdom and examine controversial and unpopular positions.

In a climate where free speech is under threat it is good to know the law protects me but also mandates that I must be that critic. Health care can be a very political industry. Not only do I need to be that critic but I need to help my students develop their responsibility to also be those critics and the conscience of society; to be the ones who stand up for their patients, to challenge inequitable structures and ask the difficult questions.

This law definitely impacts on my use of educational technologies. Technology helps me  to be that critic and conscience but also to foster these skills in my students.

Critic and conscience enabled through technology

The Values Exchange is web and App-based learning community for ethical deliberation of health and social care issues, based on the Socratic approach of questioning. It supports students to consider controversial scenarios independently but upon submission of their views they gain access to the thinking of all other respondents. It has a fairly flat structure in that all users can load scenarios and all respondents get full access to all response. It is underpinned by values-based decision-making, which values all perspectives.

Screenshot 2017-11-09 08.43.40

The AUT Values Exchange home page;

This semester we have explored social issues, for instance the legalising of recreational marijuana and whether more companies should offer reproductive egg freezing but also we have used this technology to debate technology itself, with recent deliberations on whether parents should be banned from posting photos of their children on Facebook or whether CCTV surveillance is justified.  Students report that through its use they build confidence to better understand how they think, and why, as well as valuing being able to learn broad perspectives from their peers – perspectives that are arguable all ‘ethically’ correct. They say this helps them better understand others they work alongside as well as their patients as well as helping them thinking more deeply about everyday issues as well as ethical issues related to their practice.

I see them taking on the mantle as critic and conscience when they tell me they are now initiating family and peer discussions on ethical issues in society and when they get in touch after graduation to post a topical issue for current students to consider. For other colleagues who teach topics with greater objectivity (eg anatomy and physiology), there is perhaps less room for being that critic. That places extra onus on me to carry the critic role given the nature of the topic I teach. I am legally obligated to be outward looking and that role seems somewhat easier with technology.

#cmaltcmooc CMALT start line


There is something about a start line that seems foreboding – a point of no return. Self-doubt creeps in – am I ready to start? Have I done enough? Will I last the distance? But on reflection perhaps there is no good time to start; no time of perfect preparedness. And so, I’m launching into the CMALT accreditation process. I’m also trying to get my doctoral studies off the ground, complete the HEA Fellowship process and build a house so sometimes I feel I am squeezed to even find time for my day job!

I began the accreditation process last year but really only got as far as doing a draft of the contextual statement so hoping that the #cmaltcmooc will provide the structure and support I need to not only start but to finish. What happens in between is at present unknown, but I relish the experiences and shared learning along the way.


Reflections from 2017 CAPHIA Teaching & Learning Forum: Tips for early career academics (and arguably not so early career ones too)


A couple of weeks ago Kate Kersey and I attended our first CAPHIA (Council of Academic Public Health Institutions Australia) Teaching & Learning Forum in Sydney, Australia:

This was an inspiring event.  The presenters had engaging content but more than that, the forum effectively created a sense of community; an open and warm collegial spirit. The sessions were all held in the one room and so everyone had the opportunity to listen to all the scheduled speakers, unlike the bigger conferences where parallel sessions means you spend your time darting between session rooms, making difficult choices, or opting out and choosing the city sights instead. This forum was different.

One of the highlights (and there were many) was a lunchtime seminar from Associate Professor Joe Negin, Head of School, Associate Professor of International Public Health, School of Public Health at the University of Sydney.

Joel shared with us his top tips for early/mid career academics, woven through his story-telling of his circuitous path to academia.

This is my recollection of his top tips:

  1. Be present – turn up, attend meetings, be seen around the place.
  2. Be the person to make the first draft – although daunting offer to start the first draft. That way you’ll make your mark on the project/document etc
  3. Be opportunistic.
  4. Be bold.
  5. Be global.
  6. Suck up to people we admire, such as authors – read a great article? email the author. Tell them what you think. May lead to new and important connections.
  7. Gain methodological expertise – a transferable area of expertise
  8. Think multisectorally – life doesn’t exist in silos, get out there and mix/mingle across sectors/faculties
  9. Work with people you like rather than people with shared areas of interest or expertise – working with people you like means you’ll enjoy work more, plus will lead to more creativity and more cross-discipline research, greater likelihood for innovative collaborations.
  10. Be organised – just helps a lot!

For me the key tip was choosing to work with people I like – more fun, more productive, more interesting outcomes. I look forward to doing more of this!

What’s your favourite tip…or do you have others?

Thanks Joel 🙂

Shifting from engagement to empowerment

There is a lot of talk about increasing student engagement. For me, engagement suggests the teacher sets the agenda and the student then engages.

What about shifting away from this to a more student directed model – where the student determines what they want to learn and then sets about working out how?

Engagement then becomes empowerment.

For me, this is at the heart of the change we need to make in education; we need to equip students with the skills to be creative, enquiring and critical – long after their time in the classroom with us.

This video from John Spencer @spencerideas really encapsulates this shift in thinking and action. Plus, video has a simple format; black and white… nice design 😉