I’ve been interested to see the sudden popularity swing in elgg after the Wired article about it. Well, more power to the institutions that are able to implement it. We put it up about a year ago here (maybe more like 10 months) to little success due to those general reasons why implementing technology doesn’t work sometimes. I’ll chalk it up primarily to a lack of faculty support and the lack of student interest.
You’d think that students would be interested in having a place to connect with one another and soliloquize on their medical school experiences, and in fact many of them do in blogs all over: LiveJournal, Xanga, Blogger, etc, etc. I know of at least 5 2nd years here who have blogs, plus a couple of 1st years. I found out about them from their Facebook accounts, and I’ve subscribed to all of the ones that talk about their medical school experiences in an attempt to sort of emulate Brian Mathews ubiquitous reference model and the Facebook collection development experiments by Bennington’s Crossett Library. Mostly, I like to read what they are writing–one in particular is just an amazing writer, and I often find myself emailing his posts to friends. I subscribe to some medical students’ blogs from outside my institution as well. It’s a good way to keep a pulse on what students might need or want for the library.
Anyway, we’re re-looking at the establishing-blogs-and-or-social-networking at my institution, because after we kind of let it die, it has resurfaced again, but this time as a student request. Basically, a couple of students requested web space where they could do two things: 1, comment on electives/selectives that they’ve taken, both as a way to record them for their own memories, but also to share the experience with fellow students looking for good electives/selectives, and 2, for sharing information about student groups. Neither of these tasks works well with the current web infrastructure, so when the student group one came up in a meeting last week, I suggested Drupal, DrupalEd, or a wiki would be a good solution. That way, the students have total control over the content, it’s flexible, and it’s very minimal maintenance for the tech support crew once it’s up and running. Simultaneously, one of the boyz was working on creating a Drupal space for the selectives portion on the side, so it looks like that will be our solution. I’m pushing for a switch to DrupalEd, actually, so the whole med school curriculum can go on it in addition to the fun stuff. With only one full-time person, a few part-time student employees, and me sticking my nose in and giving suggestions whenever I feel like it, DrupalEd may be too much to manage, but we haven’t started really testing it out yet. The Drupal site has sort of languished along with elgg until recently, too, so I am happy to see this push start again–by more than myself. Last time we got into the social networking gig, I was the one doing almost all of the testing (not the back end stuff, though–left that in far more capable hands), so it is great to see at least 3 people getting interested in making it work this time.
In any case, the students do want space to record their thoughts and share tips and information, and to have an outlet. I hope that we can provide it for them–and this time, I hope they like the interface enough to actually use it. I think a lot of effort will get put into interface design this time around, especially if we’re going to consider using it as a course management tool. It’s really exciting!
If you haven’t seen what DrupalEd can do, check it out! It has EVERYTHING we wanted for the medical school web site: wikis, blogs, social bookmarking, group space, class space, RSS feeds, calendars, image galleries, file uploading, calendars, etc. Even better than elgg, and I thought elgg was pretty amazing. And way better than the wiki (we’ve got MediaWiki installed), which is just too difficult to organize.
In any case, what I really wanted to talk about was some of the great medical student and MD/PhD student blogs that are out there. Here are some ones I’ve found:
- Adventures of a 4th Year Medical Student (I particularly like the list of resources on the side, plus the del.icio.us links)
- Panda Bear, MD
- University of Michigan medical student blogs (these are edited/approved by the school)
- Over!My!Med!Body! (the most well-known of the medical student blogs–I enjoy his commentary on the portrayal of medicine in popular media, i.e., Grey’s Anatomy. He’s got an interesting one about a conversation with Atul Gawande on there right now. I haven’t gotten a chance to read Better yet–all the library’s copies are already out–yay!)
- Med School Hell (speaks for itself, methinks)
- Medical Student Musings
- Becoming a Doctor
- Somewhere between Puberty and an MD
- Cat Hair and Knitting Sticks
- Creating the God Complex (the blogger deleted all entries recently, and then changed his mind yesterday–hopefully he’ll stay in the game!)
- why am i still here?
- The Fat Doctor lists a lot more of them on her sidebar…
Here’s some other stuff about blogs in medical education:
- Wikis, blogs and podcasts: a new generation of Web-based tools for virtual collaborative clinical practice and education
- Asynchronous Discussion in Support of Medical Education
- Using a Blog to Build an Educational Portfolio
Blogs in medicine, much less medical education, are pretty controversial–there are a lot of concerns with patient privacy, HIPAA, ethics, and everything else you can imagine (would you want the doctor or medical student you saw blogging about you?). For a couple of good reads on the topic, see:
- Response to Detroit (Fat Doctor – see the links she points to)
- Emergency Medicine in the Blogosphere: The Irreverent Wit of the Specialty’s Unofficial Voice