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Thursday, 22 January 2015

How to avoid bogus health information on the web

The Conversation


Originally published in The Conversation by Andy Tattersall, University of Sheffield

Health is one of the biggest topics searched for on the web, yet despite its importance a large portion of this information is inaccurate, anecdotal or biased.
According to Pew Research, 72% of internet users in the US search for health information. In the UK, the Office for National Statistics said that 43% of users searched for health information in 2013. The empowering of patients to understand and manage their own health is an important issue at a time when departments are under increased pressure.
The NHS is keen to encourage the public to take better care of their health, to know how to spot the early symptoms of bowel cancer for example. But given that inaccurate online information is now just part and parcel of the web, should a universal quality kitemark be applied to good sources to help health consumers make better decisions?

Drinking from a fire hose

There has been no shortage of articles written about the problems of accessing poor health information on the web. One paper in the Lancet in 1998 quoted a US public health official as saying: “Trying to get information from the internet is like drinking from a fire hose, and you don’t even know what the source of the water is.” Seventeen years on this problem still remains.
Many people – and patients – don’t realise the origins of some of this health information, just that it was on the first page of Google’s search results. This equates to the idea that a page-rank relates to quality, yet many good health organisations and charities don’t have the resources to optimise their search results position.
All too often searches take users to results such as Yahoo Answers, or some spurious website that claims to sell the product from an online snake oil salesman that can cure them of their ailments. Their existence proves there is very much a market for health cures that have no clinical evidence as to their effectiveness.
Very little attention is also paid to factors such as authorship, web links, date of publication, who is behind the website and whether they have ties to commercial companies. Web 2.0 and social media not only allowed consumers to find information on the web and discuss it, but made it far easier for anyone with a motive to publish, a potentially dangerous scenario in a healthcare context.
There are high-quality health information websites that offer comprehensive services from symptom checkers to peer-support groups. Despite this, the issue still remains, that aside from those like NHS Choices and Boots WebMD how do patients know which websites to trust? Comprehensive health websites built on knowledge and impartiality such as Patient.co.uk and Netdoctor and, in the US, the Mayo Clinic, vie for attention among the many forums, blogs and websites providing inaccurate and potentially harmful information.

Flying kites

So what can be done to give users more trust in particular websites? The NHS could encourage users to access and critique good health information – the NHS have already done this by targeting marketing towards specific health groups. Then there is The Information Standard – a certification programme run by NHS England for organisations who produce evidence-based healthcare information for the public. This could also be more widely spread to online content and promoted. Gaining the kitemark requires that information is clear, accurate, balanced and up-to-date.
Another non-for-profit organisation that tries to separate the good from the bad, similar to The Information Standard, is Health on the Net. HON were founded 20 years ago in Geneva and also provide a kitemark for quality information on the web.
The problem for both of these certifications is that most patients are probably not aware of them, despite The Information Standard certifying 250 health-related websites and HON 5,000. And a small badge at the foot of a web page means users are no more likely to be pay heed than to the terms and conditions of Facebook.

Critiquing information

Digital literacy remains a big challenge in modern society. Many socio-economic groups are either excluded from using the web or do not have the level of skills to critique and assess online information. Applying quality standards or kitemarks on a site can only do half of the job. In an age where web users become increasingly impatient to find information it becomes also becomes increasingly important for them to have clear signposting.
For patients already in contact with services, front-line healthcare staff – perhaps with some training – could help to teach patients how and where to find the best information about their conditions and symptoms and how to critique the results they find.
Health consumers all want different things from the web, some search for health information for assurance, others for discussion, some for answers and knowledge. Official health campaigns encouraging people to be aware of potential symptoms is good, but teaching them where to access good information for multiple conditions any time is surely better.
At least through a programme of information education and the development of UK health web standards not unlike the Health on the Net organisation, patients could confidently gain a better understanding of their symptoms and conditions and use this knowledge to improve their health.
The Conversation
This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Gig Review: Social Media for Researchers event, 19/1/15



Establishing an online presence - Created with Haiku Deck, presentation software that inspires

Yesterday, myself (@beakbeccroft) and IR's very own Andy Tattersall (@andy_tattersall) presented at "Social Media for Researchers" event, at the Management School, Sheffield.

The event was organised by the lovely Sarah Boswell (@sarahboswell1), who had attended a similar event at Sheffield Hallam, in September last year, when Andy and I, along with our colleagues at University, Farida Vis (@flygirltwo) and Tom Stafford (@tomstafford) had also presented. Sarah wanted to run a similar event at Sheffield University, and Andy and I readily agreed.

I had the pleasure of being first in the bill, and my presentation on "Establishing an Online Presence" (see Haiku Deck above) seemed to go really well, and the audience were very friendly, encouraging, and interested. On the day, Andy wasn't very well, but stoically offered to present his slides online, so after much wrestling with technology, a Skype connection was set up and Andy presentation on Altmetrics went really well. Just goes to show these things ARE possible, and when they work, they work brilliantly !

Farida gave a really engaging talk, and bravely (and wisely) chose to cover the issue of "what to do when things go wrong on social media". Turns out the answer is: often you can't do anything, and doing nothing is the often the right thing anyway!

Tom also gave a really good presentation about blogging, and I think he really inspired a lot of people to consider starting a blog or writing for existing blogs. I didn't have time to cover this at length in my presentation, but I do think it's probably one of the most rewarding forms of social media participation and engagement, so it was good that this topic is covered in more depth, by a great speaker.

I'm sure lots of other similar events in other faculties will be popping up left, right and centre over the next year or so. As library and information professionals , it's always good to be on the bill, and remind people just how much we know that this stuff!

Posted by Claire

Monday, 19 January 2015

App Swap Breakfast at TELFest

I co-delivered a one hour App Swap Breakfast as part of the University of Sheffield’s TELFest last week. TELFest is a three day long festival of learning technologies hosted by the Learning Technology team from our Corporate and Information Systems department.
The aim of the event is to encourage staff to find out more about the many technologies, in house and otherwise they can use as part of their teaching. It is a way of showcasing the expert knowledge of the department at a time when students are just returning from their Winter break. As you can imagine with an event called App Swap Breakfast TELFest had put on a nice breakfast of hot and cold drinks and a nice selection of pastries to help everyone get going.


I was invited to co-deliver a session by CiCS Learning Technologies Manager Farzana Latif in tandem with the University’s Senior Learning Technologist Graham McElearney based on the App Swap Breakfast model I’d started on campus last year. As previously blogged, the idea of the App Swap Breakfast came from Fiona MacNeill and colleagues from The University of Brighton. It’s an idea that has been adopted by other campuses including our own. The model is very informal and involves interaction from all participants discussing and sharing apps they have found useful in an educational setting. In addition discussions revolve around issues relating to mobile technologies such as platform choice, costs, privacy, connectivity and ethics to name but a few.


At the TELFest workshop we asked delegates to form into groups and asked them to design their own perfect mobile app homescreen for education. We gave them a blank A3 printed tablet screen and a bunch of blank app icons along with some coloured pens. Delegates were asked to argue the case for which apps should be included and how they would be used. As a clue we gave attendees a criteria list of the various applications they should be aiming for, such as apps for curation, productivity, communication etc.


Image © Farzana Latif

We also asked that the delegates avoided choosing obvious apps that colleagues would have heard of, such as Evernote, Facebook, Blackboard and Google Drive.
It was interesting hearing the many apps that were proposed by both groups, with the productivity app Trello being the only one to feature more than once. I got to find out about new apps which was useful but even more useful for finding out how people had used three apps I have on my iPad but have not as yet properly tried. After the session I will certainly explore these installed apps, those being Adobe Voice, YouTube Capture and Skitch. I was also impressed with the ‘to do list’ app Wunderlist which one participant had made great use of across various platforms. Some of the apps delegates curated for their home screens are listed at the bottom of this blog post.
We then got one member of each group to feedback to the room the apps they think should be included on a learning and teaching homepage. In total there were about 16 apps suggested, pretty much all of them useful. We had apps suggested for recording audio, such as AudioBoom and apps for keeping files accessible and secure on the Cloud with Google Keep, whilst the much underrated QR code reader got a mention.
I delivered a short presentation based on the one I’d given the previous week for the Faculty of Social Sciences Ignite sessions on 12 apps to use as a new year resolution, which can be viewed below.




The one thing for me that comes from this session and others like it is the sheer amount of tools and technologies out there and that they will continue to grow at a rapid pace. No longer is it possible for one person to stay in touch with new technologies as they happen, it is simply impossible. For Web based productivity, creation and social tools that pretty much ended about five years ago. For a while it was possible to discover alternatives to established technologies, i.e. Prezi over PowerPoint, Google Docs over Microsoft Word. Now there are dozens of tools for the simplest of tasks, reading journal papers, taking notes, creating to do lists or capturing video. Add to that the issues relating to digital literacy, privacy, who pays for the apps and devices, security and how do you connect these devices to projectors. Whilst the number of apps and platforms have increased, how do you find out what is the best app for the job you want to do. Everyone regards their time as previous and investigating new ways of doing things can be very rewarding yet incredibly time consuming. This is where something like App Swap Breakfast can help and just one hour first thing in a morning, an hour often lost of chatter, email and idle distraction it can be very rewarding to discover a new way of doing something which in turn speeds up processes. 

Below is a list of the apps curated by the two groups
Group 1
Idea Catalyst - productivity and management
Trello - project management
Wunderlist - to do list - collaborative
Popplet - collaborative mind map tool - easy to use, used in schools
Skitch - take photos, annotate
Adobe Voice - digital storytelling app - ipad only but free
Voice Recorder HD
AudioBoom - used to be Audio Boo -
Responseware - i.e responding in class

Group 2 -
Voicethread - visual presentation/digital storytelling
Storehouse - IOS only - storytelling tool - take pics, vids etc, build story - Journo students actually using this
Pixlr - very good image editing tool - better than all the others according to Angie
Capture - good video tool linked to YouTube
Notability - PDF annotation tool
QR code reader -
Quizlet - flashcards
Trello - again
Google Keep

One thing is for certain, no one has created the ideal home page of learning and teaching apps. They might think they have but right now someone has developed an app that you need but just don’t know about, the chances are one of your colleagues will have it already! That said it is not about the fear of missing out apps, which is a problem many suffer in relation to email and social media, in that people are scared of missing some important snippet of information. It is very much about finding a good way to navigate the mobile technology highway, a highway that is traversed by many other colleagues. By crowd sourcing new technologies and peer-reviewing them in a learning environment we have a much better chance of getting more from those little mobile devices than just email and Candy Crush.


The next App Swap Breakfast takes place on March 18th at 9am in the View Deli within the Student Union. At this session we will take a look at video and audio apps, especially those for creating, editing and sharing, we would love you to join us.


More blog posts from the TELFest can be found on the CiCS Learning Technologies Blog.



Tuesday, 13 January 2015

Where is my mind? - Experiences of my first write club



Armed with pen and paper I attended "write club" in ScHARR Library yesterday afternoon facilitated by my IR colleague Helen Buckley Woods and joined by 4 other ScHARR colleagues keen to get some writing done in peace and quiet.

I'll be honest, I very nearly cancelled at the last minute, having competing tasks that needed doing and such is life not getting as much done in the morning as I hoped...but as my book chapter wasn't going to write itself, I forced myself to go along, keen to see if this approach would help, as I wasn't getting any writing done sat at my desk (it's writing week in ScHARR this week).

I'm glad I did. We started the session by each sharing our aim for the session, mine was to get to the end of editing a chapter, which give or take a few paragraphs I did. I chose to handwrite as I felt if using a computer, the call of other tasks, emails etc might be too much, but others typed away.  We spent 50 minutes in complete silence, which flew by. We then had a 10-minute comfort break, resuming to write for another 50 minutes.  We ended the session by all discussing how we found it and whether we had met our aim for the session.

On the whole, I found the session very positive, I found the change of scenery (away from distractions) and total silence conducive to getting my head down and getting some writing done, without any interruptions.  There was also something encouraging about knowing others were doing the same, there was a "we're all in it together" vibe or "peer-pressure" as another colleague put it! The only less positives about it were the time flew by and it could be difficult to get back into the swing of writing when I go back to it, but this can be true any time you are writing something.  I'm keen to try another session, maybe using the computer this time to see how I fare with that. If you have some writing that is hanging over you and you aren't getting anywhere, maybe give it a try, there are more sessions for ScHARR staff running on Wednesday and Friday this week with places still available.


Work Those Apps - 18 New Year Resolutions for your Mobile Device

Last week I was invited by a colleague in the Faculty of Social Sciences at my University to deliver a Ignite presentation on learning technologies alongside some of their colleagues. I'd never delivered a Ignite presentation before and only ever gone as far as presenting two Pecha Kuchas previously, one in Sheffield and one in Barnsley. Pecha Kucha presentations are 20 slides of 20 seconds that auto-progress, Ignite presentations are slightly shorter where each slide gets 15 seconds each.

So thinking it was another good challenge I set about it and delivered the presentation where I suggested 18 new year resolutions in the guise of apps that colleagues could try on their mobile and tablet devices. The sides are below and even though some may not seem obvious as to their educational credentials, you wouldn't have to search far on the Web to find out how they are being employed in education. For example, Pinterest used to collect info graphics, Evernote as a lecture note taker complete with slide capture and audio recording.  



Thursday, 8 January 2015

MmIT AGM and Talks on Social Media for Librarians and Academics


Earlier this week I attended the CILIP special interest group Multimedia and Information Technology (MmIT) Annual General Meeting and afternoon of talks held at CILIP HQ.
The morning was our quarterly meeting which I chaired in absence of Leo Appleton (I'm the secretary of MmIT normally). The afternoon we threw open the doors and welcomed MmIT members and other library and information professionals to attend an afternoon of free talks on social media in libraries and universities.

As with the previous two MmIT AGM events I delivered the first talk titled The Academic Social Club which explained the basics of Altmetrics. For those that haven't heard me or others bleat on about Altmetrics and what they are, they are various online tools that work alongside social media to help scholarly communication and measurement.




After that we welcomed Sierra Williams who is the Managing Editor of the excellent LSE Social Impact Blog. I'd previously spoken to Sierra several times and was impressed with the work the LSE was doing in the area of social media as a way to communicate academia to not just other academics but beyond. I've written a few articles for the LSE Blog and as a big fan of how it works and decided it would be a great idea to get Sierra along to talk. Sierra's talk explained how the blogs came about and that it was a reflection of what was happening in academia via social media channels. Sierra presented an excellent case study of how to run a consistently informative and attractive looking series of blogs and what academics can gain by being involved with them.

Finally after a brief AGM hosted by Leo Appleton we heard a great presentation from Lauren Smith and the work she had done in trying to help public libraries at a time when many are being closed down. I'd known Lauren since meeting her at my own department at ScHARR when she came to work on our enquiry desk. Obviously passionate about libraries and people who use them Lauren has often taken the fight to those making the cuts, especially in Doncaster which saw its library service cut back terribly. Lauren is one of the people behind the Voices for the Library project which has a manifesto of what a public library should provide to its community. I was lucky enough to get the opportunity to be one of the people to take their Voices for the Library Twitter account over for a month back in March 2013 (is it really that long ago).

Lauren talked about how social media had not only aided her career as a librarian and researcher but had helped build a network of support for not just herself but the causes Lauren is fighting for. In Lauren's talk she mentioned how social media had helped struggling libraries connect with each other in how they fought potential closures and financial cut-backs. Lauren argued that it was OK to have personal and professional cross-over in her social media outputs, something I agree with. It is simply a case of filters and audiences, there will always be cross-over.

The AGM talks were a prequel to the late summer MmIT Conference on the 14-15th September at The Edge in Sheffield which again will have the theme of social media. Whilst thanks to the excellent work of our guests, the MmIT Committee will plan to run another half day of interesting and engaging talks on a technology related project in late 2015, early 2016 - we hope to see you there.

Links
Voices for the Library
LSE Social Impact Blog

@walkyouhome
@sn_will


Social Media - Created with Haiku Deck, presentation software that inspires

Wednesday, 7 January 2015

"Do you see what I see?": Remote Search Strategy Support Using Screencasting!

Screenshot of a search strategy screencast video


One of the many challenges that we face in supporting our increasing numbers of distance learners is providing relevant and effective support with developing search strategies. In a department where literature reviews of all forms often form the bedrock of many assignments and dissertations, getting the search strategy right is an increasingly vital part of many research projects and methodologies. Traditionally, we have invited students to meet with us in the library to talk face-to-face about their search strategy, usually looking at their progress so far and making suggestions for amendments and improvements. Doing this effectively for distance learners had been a challenge, but now we are increasingly finding effective technological solutions that allow us to offer equally effective support to both distance and face-to-face learners.

There are two key ways that we are addressing this problem. Firstly by using screencasting. Screencasting simply means recording whatever is currently displayed on your computer's monitor, and usually recording some audio that plays alongside. We usually use the free 'Screencast-O-Matic' tool for this, though there are many others. We use this to create a video that allows students to view their search strategy uploaded and displayed, with our feedback given verbally. We use this technique to allow distance learners to submit a search strategy via email, which we can then screencast and use editing tools to highlight sections of the search strategy whilst explaining any amendments and suggestions that we may have. We can then share the video either by email or via Google Drive, as all Sheffield University students have a Google Apps for Education account, and are therefore able to share files this way. This works very well for students who are in time zones that would make a live, synchronous session impossible. So far the feedback on the screencasts has been excellent with many students saying they were very impressed and found the support very helpful.

However, ideally a "live" dialogue with the students is likely to produce the best results, so to that end, we have also introduced live webinars for students studying on some modules which have a strong literature reviewing component, and have an assessment that will require them to conduct a thorough literature search. The webinars allow students to submit their search strategy in advance, and then receive 'live' feedback during the webinar, with their search displayed on screen.

The webinars are hosted via Adobe Connect, which we already use for 'live' online lectures, and are usually scheduled to take place on two separate occasions, and this allows students in a variety of different time zones to attend. It also allows students who are nervous of attending a live session to simply "lurk" at the first session, to get a sense of how the webinar works, and then to potentially attend the second session with their own search strategy which they will then share with other students and ourselves. The webinars allow us to give live, direct feedback to students and to have the same kind of conversation we would have with a face-to-face student, and of course students are able to also see the approaches their fellow students have taken to various different searching problems,  enabling them to learn from eachother.

Offering this support enables us to provide equal and fair support to all our learners, wherever they are. Distance learners present many challenges to the provision of library and information services, but this one, at least, we think we have overcome!

Posted by Claire