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I am an Australian occupational therapist, educator and researcher. I have worked as an OT in mental health, vocational rehabilitation and a private surgical hospital. I am passionate using online technology to enhance the knowledge and growth of the occupational therapy profession. In my PhD research I am looking at the role of online technologies in information management and knowledge transfer in occupational therapy. Views expressed and stories shared on this blog are my opinion and do not represent views of my employer or professional registration body.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Dell Integrating Streak, Mobile Devices into Healthcare Solutions

Thanks to Tim, an OT here in Alberta Canada for alerting me to this new technology.

iPad: A therapeutic marvel

From the NY Times
Published: October 29, 2010

OWEN CAIN depends on a respirator and struggles to make even the slightest movements — he has had a debilitating motor-neuron disease since infancy.

Owen, 7, does not have the strength to maneuver a computer mouse, but when a nurse propped her boyfriend’s iPad within reach in June, he did something his mother had never seen before.

He aimed his left pointer finger at an icon on the screen, touched it — just barely — and opened the application Gravitarium, which plays music as users create landscapes of stars on the screen. Over the years, Owen’s parents had tried several computerized communications contraptions to give him an escape from his disability, but the iPad was the first that worked on the first try.

Click here to read the whole story (NB: non-person first language used in this article such as quadriplegic and autistic)

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

IBM: Safe social networking options in healthcare settings

It has been my contention for a long time now that health care practitioners need to get online to network and share knowledge to develop health care practice. Of course one of the biggest barriers is having a safe and reliable system to use!
This link is to an IBM website that details their social software solutions for healthcare professionals. I am not endorsing it as I haven't tried it, I am highlighting the fact that the IT industry has heard our pleas and now we need management of health care networks to say "we support professional development using online technologies... At work.... On work time!"

The Freedom Leg

I love this leg brace! It takes away the need for crutches. What a really neat AT device :-)

Monday, October 18, 2010

Jeff Han demos his breakthrough touchscreen

In 2006 this touch screen was revolutionary. Now we use iPhone screens and iPad screens using this technology (not quite all yet...) and we accept it, love it and expect it! It's a great reminder of how fast technology changes and how quickly we adapt to it.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Jane McGonigal: Gaming can make a better world

In this presentation Jane McGonical talks about her mission to create games that teach kids of today to be real problem solvers for the problems of today and tomorrow. She has convinced me (an avid NON-GAMER) that there is a really valid reason to use gaming technology for change! Kudos to this woman!

Sugata Mitra shows how kids teach themselves

In this talk Sugata Mitra demonstrates that children have the capacity to teach themselves how to use computers, in even the most rural and disadvantaged towns in India. One of the key points he makes in this presentation is that children are naturally motivated to learn. So imagine if these kids had better teachers, better resources and a place to put this learning into practice...!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Getting ready for classes to start again "What is Occupational Therapy?"

Occupational therapy is the art and science of enabling engagement in everyday living, through occupation; of enabling people to perform the occupations that foster health and well-being; and of enabling a just and inclusive society so that all people may participate to their potential in the daily occupations of life. Slide 2
(Townsend & Polatajko, 2007, p.2)

Wordle: Occupational Therapy

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Prezi: About Occupational Therapy

I have been developing this prezi presentation for my introduction lecture for first year MScOT students. I wonder what else I need to include?

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Sensory Processing Disorder: Education available online

Dr. Lincoln Bauer emailed to let me know that she is making professional development easier for OTs by putting a course about sensory processing disorder online. Visit this link to view the website.

Here's what Lincoln wrote in her email to me:

For families with Sensory Challenged children who live too far from the right occupational therapy centers, and occupational therapists who would enjoy participating in workshops such as these, this is ground-breaking, as they can now have the benefits of working with Dr. Jean Ayres and the staff of the SPD Foundation without actually having to come to the center.

I applaud your vision and professionalism Lincoln. Your website is very clean and easy to navigate. This is the way of the future! You have translated your knowledge for others and used online technology to share this knowledge. This is the future for ongoing professional development.

Bridging the gap between our online and offline social network

Thanks Susan Burwash for sharing this with me. It is always a good idea to keep an eye on the dark side...


This is a copy of an email I received in April... sorry it has taken me this long to share it!

MADISON - In early April, Adam Wilson posted a status update on the social networking Web site Twitter - just by thinking about it.

Click on this link to see a demonstration.

Just 23 characters long, his message, "using EEG to send tweet," demonstrates a natural, manageable way in which "locked-in" patients can couple brain-computer interface technologies with modern communication tools.

A University of Wisconsin-Madison biomedical engineering doctoral student, Wilson is among a growing group of researchers worldwide who aim to perfect a communication system for users whose bodies do not work, but whose brains function normally. Among those are people who have amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), brain-stem stroke or high spinal cord injury.

Some brain-computer interface systems employ an electrode-studded cap wired to a computer. The electrodes detect electrical signals in the brain - essentially, thoughts - and translate them into physical actions, such as a cursor motion on a computer screen. "We started thinking that moving a cursor on a screen is a good scientific exercise," says Justin Williams, a UW-Madison assistant professor of biomedical engineering and Wilson's adviser. "But when we talk to people who have locked-in syndrome or a spinal-cord injury, their No. 1 concern is communication."

In collaboration with research scientist Gerwin Schalk and colleagues at the Wadsworth Center in Albany, N.Y., Williams and Wilson began developing a simple, elegant communication interface based on brain activity related to changes in an object on screen.

The interface consists, essentially, of a keyboard displayed on a computer screen. "The way this works is that all the letters come up, and each one of them flashes individually," says Williams. "And what your brain does is, if you're looking at the 'R' on the screen and all the other letters are flashing, nothing happens. But when the 'R' flashes, your brain says, 'Hey, wait a minute. Something's different about what I was just paying attention to.' And you see a momentary change in brain activity."

Wilson, who used the interface to post the Twitter update, likens it to texting on a cell phone. "You have to press a button four times to get the character you want," he says of texting. "So this is kind of a slow process at first."

However, as with texting, users improve as they practice using the interface. "I've seen people do up to eight characters per minute," says Wilson.

A free service, Twitter has been called a "micro-blogging" tool. User updates, called tweets, have a 140-character limit - a manageable message length that fits locked-in users' capabilities, says Williams.

Tweets are displayed on the user's profile page and delivered to other Twitter users who have signed up to receive them. "So someone could simply tell family and friends how they're feeling today," says Williams. "People at the other end can be following their thread and never know that the person is disabled. That would really be an enabling type of communication means for those people, and I think it would make them feel, in the online world, that they're not that much different from everybody else. That's why we did these things."

Schalk agrees. "This is one of the first - and perhaps most useful - integrations of brain-computer interface techniques with Internet technologies to date," he says.

While widespread implementation of brain-computer interface technologies is still years down the road, Wadsworth Center researchers, as well as those at the University of Tubingen in Germany, are starting in-home trials of the equipment. Wilson, who will finish his Ph.D. soon and begin postdoctoral research at Wadsworth, plans to include Twitter in the trials.

Williams hopes the Twitter application is the nudge researchers need to refine development of the in-home technology. "A lot of the things that we've been doing are more scientific exercises," he says. "This is one of the first examples where we've found something that would be immediately useful to a much larger community of people with neurological deficits."

Funding for the research comes from the National Institutes of Health, the UW-Madison Institute for Clinical and Translational Research, the UW-Madison W.H. Coulter Translational Research Partnership in Biomedical Engineering and the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation.
- Renee Meiller, 608-262-2481,

EDITOR'S NOTE: View and download a video of Wilson using the brain-computer interface to post to Twitter at

CONTACT: Adam Wilson,; Justin Williams, 608-265-3952,

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Harnessing the power of Twitter with the hashtag!#!#

On the 26th March 2009 I said "I don't see the point of Twitter" on my blog, but now I appear to be a born-again Twitter user!

It's amazing! It was a gradual build-up, or was it a steady erosion? Either way, over time I started tweeting more frequently and following more and more people. This meant that I also attracted more "followers" (which is always good for the online ego), and these people sent me interesting information and links etc!

The turning point in becoming a Twitter user was harnessing the power of the hashtag! Namely while I was at a conference #celc2010 and watching tweets from another conference #cot2010.

So... what's a hashtag # and what do they do?

Hashtags make all the difference in using Twitter because having a hashtag means that you can follow certain topics, events, people etc. Interestingly #wfot2010 was a very low key event on Twitter because we simply didn't have the numbers in OT circles to create a groundswell of activity (and I know some key people really tried, ClaireOT, EnableOT, Su_BuOT, BridgettPiernik, alisonlaverfaw and Merrolee and even VirtualOT), but it wasn't not enough to create an impact in the Twittersphere.

Over the past weekend I followed more and more topics of interest using hashtags and found that it was both a blessing and a curse. A good example is as Nils pointed out on Facebook, #OT brings in topics of conversation around the Old Testament and Occupational Therapy... among other things. I figure you just "block" those people who always want to talk about the Old Testament instead of occupational therapy, but will that block people who are talking about occupational therapy and the old testament? Yes! I'm not sure that there's a solution to this.

Claire Jones suggested that we need a hashtag system! I agree, we do! So Claire initiated this on the OT 4 OT wiki on a page called "Hashtags List" and we need your help. What hashtags are we already using and what hashtags should we make?

Getting the news you want on Twitter
On another topic around Twitter, it is crucial to have a way to organize where and how you capture Tweets. Sure, you can go to their website and read through the Tweets that have been posted by the people you follow, and you can add your own tweets while you are there. But Twitter is really about getting information in and out fast! So, we need to use an application for Twitter that manages the feeds and organizes them into categories and does this on a mobile device.

I have found four applications so far and tried three: Twitterific, Tweetdeck and HootSuite are the ones I've tried, and today I heard about "Involver" but have not found an iPhone app for this. Tweetdeck and HootSuite are superior to Twitterific, so I would recommend choosing between these. I am not familiar enough yet with HootSuite to say it is better than Tweetdeck, and it appears from a conversation on Mashable today that the jury is "divided" on this.

The main reason to use one of these apps is that they organize information coming in for you. They organize it using the hashtags and searches you have set up, and put them into columns or folders for you. That way you can open up the Twitter app and go to the search that you want. e.g. #wfot2010. It makes it faster and easier to stay up to date with what you want. The other wonderful thing about these apps is they also allow you to feed in updates from Facebook. Tweetdeck lets you add feeds from LinkedIn as well when using it on the internet, but not on the mobile app. HootSuite brings in feeds from Twitter, Facebook and Foursquare.

I'm really interested to know who is using Twitter, what you are using for and how you are managing all that information!

Monday, July 12, 2010

Top 50 Occupational Therapy Blogs

It's nice to get a compliment. So I thought I'd share this with everyone. Kelly Davis from Career Moxie recently discovered my blog and included it in her list of "Top 50 Occupational Therapy Blogs." Click on this link to read about all the blogs Kelly found, how she categorizes them and what she found useful.

What other blogs would you include and why?

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Shape Writer iPhone App

Ricky Buchanan founder and main writer for ATMac writes about "ShapeWriter" for typing on an iPhone or iPod without lifting your fingers. This app uses smart prediction to anticipate what you want to type.

Visit ShapeWriter - iPhone/iPod Touch/iPad Typing Without Lifting Your Finger for the full story!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Smart underpants share how you're feeling

Thanks Joan G for this! In this article by Matt Hickey you can learn about high tech undies!

Matt writes: "underwear that have sensors built into the waistband to sense blood pressure, heart rate, and other biological markers... underwear that relays biometric data nonstop, allowing medical teams to better and more quickly treat the wounded. But the military is just the start. If found practical, the new sensors (and comfy, comfy underpants) might end up in hospitals as a new way to track patients' progress with less invasive sensors than those used now."

Joan was wondering if perhaps they could also build a version with hip protectors!

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Online Technology has a role for professional development: A students' reflection

Ashley has given me permission to share her reflection on the recently completed module: "Online Technology for Occupational Therapy"

All the students were asked to consider HOW they adopted these new technologies and how they might contribute to their professional development. The first task was completed through the lens of Kolb's experiential learning theory (1984)and the second part was completed through the lens of the Canadian Profile Document (CAOT, 2007).

Thank you Ashley, I really appreciate the time spent on creating this wonderful reflection. I hope others look, listen and learn from you.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Sharing the love... of technology!

I recently completed a 13 hour "intensive" module "Online Technology for Occupational Therapy" with MScOT students here at the UofA. The module is an elective subject and up to 20 students can participate, this year was the biggest group yet with 13 first years.

The module has evolved over the past three years, from being called Web 2.0 for health care to Web 2.0 for Occupational therapy and this year, in keeping with the WFOT congress workshop I changed the module name to "Online technology for Occupational Therapy".

The format of the sessions was as follows:

Session 1:
  • Introduction and workshop
  • What’s expected in this course?
  • Assessment tasks
  • Project selection and commencement

Session 2

  • Personalized homepages/Portals
  • Collaborative writing
  • Social Networking
  • Online Surveys
  • Podcasts
  • Continue projects

Session 3

  • Managing RSS feeds: Google Reader, iGoogle
  • Setting up "alerts"
  • Setting up automated database searching from the library
  • Social bookmarking: Delicious
  • Project presentations
  • Post-course evaluations
Below is the list of student projects completed
  1. AT for OT: A repository for the assistive technology projects completed by the 2010 MScOT cohort (this is not an open project until permission received from all groups whose AT projects are housed on the site)
  2. OT survival guide: An students' view of surviving and thriving while studying OT at Corbett Hall (this project was developed using a Mac computer and is looking for a new online home... watch this space)
  3. Pediatrics for OT students: An online resource looking at the key diagnostic groups and assessment tools an OT student needs for a pediatric fieldwork placement
  4. Cultural Mosaics: How OTs fit - An online resource for OTs working with people who have immigrated to Edmonton, particular focus on understanding what resources are available.
  5. Occupational therapy: Is it for you? - An online resource looking at the question of "what is occupational therapy as a career?" This group avoided jargon as their target population is school leavers and undergraduates who may not know about OT as a career option.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Showcasing online technology to occupational therapists

Teaching classes is slowly finishing and conference season has begun!
As educators we have a couple of mandatory requirements and one is to present our recent research activity at conferences. Coming up with amazing content seems to come in waves and right now we are riding a wonderful wave that formed gradually over the past 10 years or so!

In the last month I have attended and presented at the AOTA conference with Professor Karen Jacobs from Boston University, at the World Federation of Occupational Therapy congress with and on behalf of the international group we call OT4OT (online technology for occupational therapy) and then this week Professor Vivien Hollis presented on behalf of a group of us from the University of Alberta Occupational Therapy Department at the Association for Advancement of Computing in Education (AACE) conference in Malaysia.

Conference 1: American Occupational Therapy Association conference in Orlando Florida 29 April - 2 May, 2010

While at the AOTA conference I spent a lot of timelooking at the technical displays in the exhibition hall, a definite strength of this conference. Below are some brief videos of a couple of items that grabbed my interest while I was there.
Video 1: Learning to use an eye-gaze control to operate the computer! Plugs into any computer using the USB port, I was able to master in less than 5 minutes.

Video 2: The RollerMouse being demonstrated. This device replaces a traditional mouse with a roller under the palms of the hands and buttons to click for left mouse, right mouse, copy, paste etc., all in one central location.

The slides from the Tech Day presentation can be found at this link

Conference 2: World Federation of Occupational Therapy Congress, Santiago, Chile. May 4-7, 2010
Here I am including the link to the wiki called Online Technology for Occupational Therapy that we developed for the workshop as an ongoing resource for participants and also for any other OTs wishing to find out more about using these technologies in OT practice or education for knowledge retrieval, transfer or research. We also developed a Facebook group with the same name as a place for people to get together and share resources and knowledge about online technologies. The Facebook group has blossomed from 17 members in mid-April to over 400 members in mid-May, a sure sign that OTs are using this social media and want to talk about it!

Conference 3: Association for Advancement of Computing in Education conference in Penang, Malaysia, May 17-20, 2010.
The paper that we collaborated to produce is titled: "It's not possible to be a sage on the cyberstage" and the abstract can be found through this link. The paper illustrates the range of online technologies we are currently using in our OT program at the University of Alberta. We also made a series of videos to tell our story as we could not all attend. This was a wonderful way to illustrate what we were doing, how we were doing it and Vivien Hollis was there to discuss why we are using all these technologies in a program that is primarily face to face.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Canadian Virtual Hospice

Today I clicked on Facebook Ad for "Canadian Virtual Hospice". I was intrigued to see what types of information and services this site might offer and was genuinely impressed by how thorough this site is!

There are three main areas: Topics, Support and For Professionals,

Topics include:
What Is Palliative Care?
  • What Is Palliative Care?
Emotional Health
  • Talking with Children and Youth about Serious Illness
  • Hope and Denial
  • Living with Limited Time: Exploring Feelings
  • Grief in Times of Celebration: The Empty Spot
  • Grief Work
Spiritual Health
  • Spirituality and Life-Threatening Illness
  • Finding a Spiritual Companion
  • Finding Meaning and Purpose during a Health Crisis
  • Rituals for Patients and Families
  • Rituals to Comfort Families
  • Sharing Your Story
  • Sorting out Health Concerns
  • Confusion
  • Constipation
  • Dehydration
  • Depression
  • Fatigue
  • Lack of Appetite and Loss of Weight
  • Nausea and Vomiting
  • Pain
  • Shortness of Breath
Providing Care
  • Caring for Yourself
  • Help with Medications
  • Help with Eating
  • Care of the Mouth
  • Caring for Hair and Face
  • Help with Bathing
  • Help with Toileting
  • Positioning a Person in Bed / Preventing Bed Sores
  • Tips for Visiting
  • What Do I Say?
  • Health Care Decisions
  • Considerations for a Home Death
  • Advance Care Planning
  • Wills
  • Planning a Funeral
  • Financial Assistance
  • Patient Benefits
  • Caregiver and Survivor Benefits
Final Days
  • When Death Is Near
  • The Moments after a Death
The Support Section allows users to register and join specific discussions with professionals working in palliative care. The professionals involved in the service are listed on the page "Meet the Team" There is a section called "Your Stories" which is an area for people to tell their brief story about grief, death, dying or to thank the professionals involved in their care, One other section is called: "Asked and Answered" which is the FAQ section.

The For Professionals Section allows users to link to ongoing professional development and research links.

I am impressed by the content and layout of this site. It is easy to navigate, they use lay language and I particularly applaud their use of online technology to provide best practice information for professionals, service users and families in a timely way!

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Using Skype to connect real life to the theory!

Interactive online technology has opened the world to our classroom through Skype™. I can now invite guest speakers and experts into the classroom.
In one of my OT courses this year I interviewed two eminent occupational therapy authors using this approach and then watched the interviews in class with the students.
I used eCamm recorder™ to pre-record interviews on Skype™ and in addition to playing them in class I was able to upload the file to the learning management (LMS) system for repeated viewing.
My goal was to show the students the people who wrote the text, so that they might think more deeply about their words when they read the textbook, rather than view pre-reading as a "burden". I used the interview to ask questions about expand on topics that were not included in the text.
The pre-recorded interviews provided a scaffolding of learning for the students and the disucssion in class enabled students to explore concepts more fully with the instructor. Using the interviews brought theory to life and encouraged students and educators to learn together with the invited expert.
This week I am preparing to interview an OT colleague live during class. Students will be able to directly interact with an OT, and ask her about practice in her part of the world. This will be different from last time, as I controlled the interview and played it to students, this time students will be actively involved and the session will unfold on the day. With permission of the interviewee I can record the session and load this on to the LMS for future viewing.
Using technology to enhance OT education is my passion. I wonder what other ideas people might have to bring theory and practice together through technology in the classroom?

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Facebook fatigue

This week my facebook status reads "Anita is a bit tired of thinking like a FB status update... I want to think properly again". I decided to call this Facebook Fatigue.

I love the fact that I can constantly stay up to date with the day to day "doings" of friends and family around the globe, and even feel like I was actually there with my sisters when their kids said the funniest things... but who am I kidding? I am living vicariously and virtually, in their lives... soon a question started to gnaw inside me... am I living my own life?

After almost 2 years of using Facebook it became part of my daily routine, and a way to feel connected with others. However, it gradually started to change the way I behaved. I would check Facebook before email, and even before I ate breakfast, I would use facebook as a place to connect with a wide range of people, but not at any meaningful level, and it became a place where I could easily lose an hour at a time through my day! Many evenings it became my main activity. On weekends I would be on FB talking to people in another country, me having a glass of wine on my computer, them also at a computer... it replaced real socializing!

I don't want to say I was addicted, but maybe I was!

The thing that started to really irritate me was the feeling that having a "conversation" on facebook had become one big public forum and it wasn't simply with people I wanted to converse with... but people who were friends of friends (ie: strangers). It started to feel like a public conversation, like traveling on a train and speaking with your friend and the people traveling on the train who were around you continually adding to the conversation without invitation.

I am an outgoing person, an extrovert! So having conversations with complete strangers does not bother me at all (hey... I blog!) but what started to happen was people from very different walks of life started to become part of my daily conversations inside facebook, through my friends or family's pages... now this shouldn't bother me as opening myself up to having conversations with people with different viewpoints is wonderful! However, these weren't conversations, these were somtimes personal attacks disguised as conversation. People critiquing my choices and comparing them with theirs.

I started to wonder what was happening and realized that maybe it is the anonymity of the online world that creates a sense of safety and loosens people's "manners". Maybe they wouldn't comment on your choices if you were meeting in person, but in the online forum there really are no consequences, so they just voice their true opinion.

The other aspect is there is no voice intonation or body language when you communicate online (yes, all the netiquette rules say CAPITAL LETTERS = SHOUTING!) but between speaking normally and SHOUTING and emoticons ;-) there is little way of knowing how a person is actually speaking. Text simply lacks nuance.

So, none of this is new really, it just simply came to a head for me recently, and my breaking point was... I was thinking in updates! I would do something, for example: bake a loaf of bread, and then I would think about how to word that as an update! There is a positive angle to this, I am noticing the small things in my life and "amplifying them" and celebrating them... and the other way of looking at this is I am wasting my life navel gazing, telling people about the mundane and forgetting to get on with the bigger goals in my life!

As this is a blog about Technology and OT a little voice is telling me that I need to make this relevant to OT practice... EASY! If I was helping someone to connect with friends and family online (such as we did in the ABI & Blogging program) then I would be particularly careful to address the issue of what to post and what not to post, and how to avoid offending people online!

So, I am having a breather from FB and focusing more on my Blog, my work and my PhD... oh and my kids! How's your online world treating you?

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Reconnecting: Becoming a Blogger after ABI

This is the presentation that we gave at the Canadian Association of Occupational Therapists' conference in Ottawa, May 2009. The presentation is about the results of our project where we taught 5 clients with ABI to bog, use iGoogle and Facebook, and we interviewed them before, immediately after and then 10 weeks after the program. The plan is to use these results to run a better program in 2010.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Blogging, Facebooking and Twittering: I'm starting to twitch!

Recently I have noticed that I feel lost when I cannot connect to my online world so I have decided to schedule a digital break every few weekends for a whole day! This is very challenging because the digital world is an integral part of my life and it crept in so quietly. I don't see any seam between my virtual and non-virtual worlds.

I noticed recently that when I see or hear something interesting I think to myself "I've got to put that on Facebook" and before that I thought, "I could blog about that" and before that I thought "I will email that" and before that I probably wrote letters. Somewhere along the line I also stopped phoning and started texting. Many people I know have also evolved to tweeting about their life, observations or new information on an hourly basis!

I, like many of my online friends, have a personal style that likes to share and connect with others, quickly and often. I feel very connected through the online world and believe that I have real relationships with the people online that I regularly converse with. I still view strangers online as strangers online, but I am happy to chat with them as I might in a Supermarket line. I am wary though if I meet someone online in a forum that is strange (e.g. I think that the weirdest people comment in YouTube)

So what about addiction to online activities? This is my biggest concern for people like me who like to connect online. We can find life in this world more controllable, and satisfying and neglect the real world realities like cooking, cleaning, washing, shopping and being with our real world family and friends. So, online/real world balance might become a new area for occupational therapists to work with people who have started to "twitch from too many tweets"!

My slideshare uploads