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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.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Do you want to be inspired? The Incredible Power of a Single Pair Of Glasses

This story is directly from Huff Post TED Weekends

It all started with Date Night.

My wife and I received advice long ago that Date Night was the key to a successful marriage.

We had plans, but a friend came by and asked if we wanted to go to an art show instead.

That was the night I was introduced to Tempt.

When we got to the show there were posters and signs everywhere saying "TemptOne Benefit." There was a palpable buzz about the place. I kept hearing people talking about this Tempt. Even the art on the walls by incredibly famous artists had his name worked into them. After being there a while and hearing about this Tempt, I finally asked "So where is this guy anyway?" The answer was shocking. "He lives in a hospital. On life support. He's completely paralyzed. He has ALS."

Tempt in his hospital bed. Photo credit: Mick Ebeling via Huffington Post
Since that night, my life has never really been the same.

The EyeWriter has been a journey, and due to the nature of ALS it's a never-ending one. It started in 2008, and it continues on today.

I am often asked, "Why did you do it?" The first time I heard this question, I was caught off guard. I had never really thought about "why" I did it. I was always just focused on the "how" to get it done.
I boiled the HOW down to 3 things:

1. Singularity of focus.
We weren't trying to create the next big thing. We didn't have visions of revolutionizing the medical device industry. We wanted to help Tempt. One person. I think that had we gone in with visions of sugarplums and tried to help all people with ALS, we would have missed the mark of creating something that helped Tempt because we would have been so distracted. Singularity of focus kept us and keeps us on track.

2. Give it away.
Giving something away is a powerful thing, but I had no idea how powerful it really is. When we first created the EyeWriter in the living room of our house, it was decided that if we were going to make this thing to help Tempt draw again, then it had to be open source. Understanding the practice of open source within the software world did not prepare me for what this philosophy was capable of when applied outside of the world of programming. I can say, without a doubt, that the act of giving the EyeWriter away was one of the most important and powerful components of the project. We made a documentary about the EyeWriter journey called "Getting Up: The Tempt One Story." (We want this story shared so we are giving it away at
The open-source design of the EyeWriter. Photo credit: Mick Ebeling via Huffington Post

3. Beautiful, limitless naivety.
After our documentary premiered in Park City, a group of computer programmers approached us to tell us how much they enjoyed the film. They told us that since seeing our film they had been discussing amongst themselves why they thought we had succeeded. Their consensus? "If you had any f***ing idea how hard it was to do what you did, there was no way you would have done it in the first place." They had discussed this idea amongst themselves and concluded that they should become more like us. "Clueless?" I asked. "Sort of... more like naive," they replied. Turns out, our naivety was the key to us tackling the EyeWriter with brave abandon. We didn't know that we weren't supposed to be able to do it. We didn't know that kind of thing doesn't really happen in 2.5 weeks. We didn't know what we didn't know. And because of that, the entire team just did it because no one ever contemplated or considered the concept of failure.

Now the WHY.
Since this project has been ongoing since 2008, I've had some time to think about the "why." Why I pushed so hard to make the EyeWriter for a person I didn't really know at first. Why it was so successful. Why it seems to touch people in such a powerful and meaningful way.

I did it for my brother. I did it for my dad. I did it for my sons. It's really that simple.

The day I met with Stephen and Ron, Tempt's brother and father, it was like looking in a mirror that somehow, luckily, had avoided me.

I am a father. I have sons. I have a brother. I could not imagine what it would be like to not be able to talk to them everyday and ask them what they were thinking or feeling. Basic communication was nearly impossible for Tempt. That struck me as wrong.

Why did I do it? Because I don't think anyone who has stared face to face with a reality like that can just walk away and say, "Good luck. I hope everything works out for you." You can't walk away from someone or something that hits that close to home. I had no idea how it was going to affect my life -- or more importantly -- how I was going to pull it off. But I knew I could not, in good conscience, just walk away. 

The words spoken through text by Tempt - Screen capture via TED
 Mick finishes his talk with two questions:
  1. If not now then when?  
  2. If not you then who?
Link to the TED Talk by Mick Ebeling

Link to the Not Impossible Foundation website

Sunday, April 28, 2013

The pros and cons of being a virtual presenter at conference

Artist: Gillian Crossley
Today I had the honour of being a virtual presenter at the American Occupational Therapy Association's annual national conference.  I have presented live at AOTA twice before and have enjoyed it very much but I have never presented "virtually".

I have mixed feelings about presenting online (yes - even VirtualOT would prefer to be face to face) but now that I live back in Australia and the academic calendar is not in line with the Canadian/US academic calendar both distance and work commitments meant that I needed to find an option to presenting live or I would have to withdraw from presenting altogether.

Never one to back down from a challenge I proposed to my co-presenters that I could "beam in" from Australia, both teams responded enthusiastically and we started to plan to overcome the tyranny of distance. I was part of a panel presentation titled "What's new in digital and social media for occupational therapy" with Karen Dobyns (aka @funkist), Chris Alterio (aka @ChrisAlterio), Erik Johnson (aka @ArmyOTGuy) and Cheryl Morris (aka @otnotes), and I was  also part of Tech Day in a workshop titled "Digital Curation in Occupational Therapy" with Susan Burwash (aka @SuBu_OT).  Being part of groups meant that I had people on the ground at the conference, so with their assistance I was able to be beamed in.

So how did we pull this off?  Well, a lot more planning goes into preparation for a presentation that is delivered from a remote location.  For starters, we have to assume that technology will fail and we will need a backup plan, ie: the presentation needs to be pre-recorded and uploaded to YouTube or Vimeo to be played in lieu of a live presentation.  In order to be ready with a recording this meant that we needed to have broken down the panel topics and worked on our own sections well ahead of the date of the conference.  Both Cheryl and I were in this position, Cheryl's reason was that she was about to become a mum and her due date was during the time of the conference!

Digital technology played an important role in the planning and delivery of both presentations.  We met online using Blackboard Collaborate or Skype, we kept our meeting notes in Google Docs, we created our presentation collaboratively using PowerPoint, then Cheryl and I translated these via movie making programs to narrated videos that were then uploaded to YouTube.
Bill Wong records the session and tweets simultaneously
On the day the technology didn't all work and our plan B had to become the Plan A for the panel presentation.  I could see into the room via the webcam on Erik Johnson's laptop, but the sound quality was poor and there was a nasty feedback loop occurring on the laptop.  That was when we simply decided to play the YouTube clip rather than have me speak live.  The absolute winning tech hack of the day was Susan Burwash's suggestion to use Skype from her iPhone to me sitting on my computer.  It was perfect!  I could watch who was presenting via the webcam, hear what was being presented via Susan's phone and I was able to watch twitter and contribute throughout the whole 1.5 hours!  It was amazing!
Chris Alterio delivering his part of the presentation
Erik demonstrates how to use SoMe during a presentation

My view of Karen Dobyns as she presents

Michael Iwama talks about using digital technologies

Karen wrapped up the presentation and then asked the audience for questions, discussion points and so on.  There were some excellent points raised, another "shout out" about OT24Vx and then Michael Iwama (aka @Michael_Iwama) was asked to speak about his use of a broad range of digital media in relation to his development of the Kawa Model.  Michael talked about his use of dicussion forums, Facebook and now Twitter to connect with people about the Kawa Model and occupational therapy in general.

Susan Burwash and Gillian Crossley at Tech Day
In the Tech Day presentation additional social media tools such as Learnist, Storify, Scoopit, Pinterest and PaperLi were going to be featured, therefore Susan focused attention on building the presentation within these resources and created a beautiful and informative Learnist called Digital Curation in Occupational Therapy which captured the concept of digital curation beautifully. 

In the lead up to the conference Susan and I discussed having more support on the ground and as our virtual friend Gillian Crossley was going to be at #aota13 Susan asked her to come and support her during the Tech Day presentation.  She provided excellent support and enthused those present to give SoMe a try!  In the background two more virtual friends supported the presentation; Brock Cook (aka @keeper85) made himself available online to curate his MH4OT Learnist board during the presentation and Helen Rushton (aka HelenOTUK) prepared a blog post about using various tools for digital curation.  While Susan presented in San Diego with Gillian's support I created a new PaperLi called Highlights from #AOTA13 and Brock approved new content for his MH4OT Learnist.

So, after today's amazingly positive experience would I say there are any drawbacks to presenting virtually?  Absolutely!  For those of you with conference experience you will appreciate the contrast.  At conference I enjoy having the opportunity to see the audience, I can respond to the body language of those in the room and I'm not ashamed to say that I enjoy basking in the afterglow of a job (hopefully) well done.  Sometimes there are "high fives" and people give words of congratulations.  I always leave the room feeling more accomplished than when I went in.

In contrast, today, as a virtual presenter when I finished the presentation the computer program used to connect me to the presentation room was turned off.  I sat alone, with my computer, in silence.  Completely disconnected from the conference, the attendees, the atmosphere, the engagement.  It is like literally pulling the plug or turning off a switch; you're on then you're off! 

So is it worth it?  I would say yes.  It's better to have presented virtually than not at all, it's great to showcase the possibilities of digital technologies and I believe that this is an important component of conferences of the future.  Not only does it make it easier for me as a presenter, this is truly a more sustainable option for the world - I did not catch a plane to the USA for this conference!

In summary; what are the pros and cons of virtual presentations?

  1. Saves time and money (travel, accommodation, time off work etc)
  2. Ecologically more sustainable (no planes, hotels and eating out)
  3. People who might otherwise not be able to present can be given a virtual microphone (think - lower income)
  4. It exemplifies how digital media can be used in knowledge transfer activities in occupational therapy (if we demonstrate it they will see the potential)

  1. The feeling of isolation when the presentation is finished
  2. It is more work leading up to the conference as multiple levels of organisation are required
  3. You don't get to go to the pub with your friends afterwards
I can live with these cons! I've just debriefed here, so it's not all bad!

And don't let me forget to mention that Cheryl had a baby boy!  Congratulations Cheryl.

My slideshare uploads