What is your superpower?

When asked which superpower they could select, most people would choose the ability to fly, to see through walls, to have the power of invisibility or some other enhanced physical ability like Superman or Wonder Woman. But some of the most powerful superpowers come in a very different form.

What if there was a superpower we all possess in our pockets and use every day without realising it? That superpower is information, or more specifically the ability to find and discover the world’s knowledge quickly and easily on our devices and tablets. Each time you search Google, Amazon or another website, the technology that powers that search is the humble taxonomy.

Classifying resources into categories and collections is nothing new, as humans have been doing this with resources for millennia. What has changed in recent years is the volume of information which is available and the difficulty we would have finding the relevant information without a robust taxonomy categorising and sorting the information behind-the-scenes.

From our time at school most of us will be familiar with the classification system used to describe the animal kingdom, with its branches defining different species and classes of animals. Consider the gorilla. The gorilla is a Hominid of the order Primate, of the class Mammal, represented as a tree of life. But, gorillas are also herbivores, are ground-dwelling and nurture strong family groups. These properties of the gorilla could easily apply to another mammal within the tree structure, perhaps a rabbit, a kangaroo or a cow. So, how do we distinguish and group these properties into a meaningful structure?

Think about the word Apple. Are we referring to the technology, the fruit or a celebrity’s daughter? Without a robust taxonomy, it is difficult to make this distinction. Grouping similar properties such as colour, texture or modality can help us to make distinctions between species, between objects or between pieces of information.

The graph taxonomy has revolutionised the way in which we search and categorise information. Perform a search on Google or Bing for renaissance artist Leonardo da Vinci and you will be presented with a panel of information about the artist, including links to his most famous works, notable personal relationships, places he lived and famous quotes. This panel is powered by an open graph taxonomy which shows relationships between seemingly disparate objects and contexts. So, Leonardo da Vinci is not just related to art, he is also related to Anchiano in Italy (the place where he was born), the Louvre (where the Mona Lisa painting is displayed) and slightly further removed, Leonardo DiCaprio (they share the same first name).

Everything has multiple properties and everything has multiple relationships and it is these similarities that are used in a taxonomy to make information more easily searchable and discoverable.

Health Education England’s (HEE) Technology Enhanced Learning programme is working with industry experts to identify the most effective way to organise and categorise our learning and educational resources. A prototype taxonomy has been developed in the Smartlogic management tool which helps sort and organise terms and create synonyms of common words. We’re taking the best elements of many different taxonomies, vocabularies and lists of values, such as SNOMED to create a taxonomy that works for everyone and makes finding information easier. The prototype draws content from the HEE e-Learning for Healthcareportal and the NHS eLearning Repository, indexing it and linking it to the taxonomy terms. The results of the prototype work will be published in a further blog post once the work is complete. The taxonomy will ultimately power many of the education and learning tools you use every day and will be a key component on the new HEE learning solution.

Taxonomies may not be as exciting a superpower as invisibility or the ability to fly but this unassuming technology has transformed the world we live in and turned information into an everyday superhero!


Digital Practitioners and Bibi the PAT dog

Bib the PAT dog

Susan and Richard enjoyed a meeting this week with mHabitat in Leeds.  As part of our work in digital literacy, we are keen to learn from and contribute to the work of others in the field. Mhabitat is hosted by Leeds and York Partnership NHS Foundation Trust and they work to support innovation in health and social care.

We were particularly keen to learn more about their work with Leeds City Council in developing the digital skills of the social care workforce.  Their Digital Practitioner Delivery Model is being developed and it was exciting and informative to catch up with them on this work.

Similarly, we took the opportunity to talk them through much of our work at the national level on building the digital capabilities of the workforce across health and social care.  Wanting widespread adoption of our definition of digital literacy and the domains under it, we’re always keen to share our work and to keep people informed about work in progress.

An extra bonus to the meeting was meeting Bibi, the gorgeous office dog.  Bibi is a PAT dog (Pets as Therapy) and you can follow Bibi on Twitter #BibithePATdog.


Health Education England’s definition of digital literacy:

“Digital literacies are the capabilities that fit someone for living, learning, working, participating and thriving in a digital society.”


Royal College of Nursing’s Education Forum International Conference and Exhibition 2017

Three of us from the Technology Enhanced Learning Programme were lucky enough to be able to attend the RCN conference, in Cardiff.

This is a particularly important time in nursing as their standards are currently being reviewed.  The current pre-registration standards for nursing were published in 2010 and since then there has been an  unprecedented change in healthcare. Essential then to develop new standards that are outcome focused and fit for the future.

It was extremely helpful to hear from Professor Dame Jill Macleod Clark, Emeritus Professor at the Faculty of Health Sciences in the University of Southampton, who is leading on this work. She is working closely with a group of thought leaders, representing nurses from across the four fields of practice and the four countries.

Victoria Winlow, from e-Learning for Healthcare, was presenting a poster on the learning developed around end-of-life care and took the opportunity to direct all those interested to these free resources here.


Richard and I took the opportunity to network with colleagues from across nursing education, particularly talking about our work in digital literacy.  We’ve been working closely with the RCN and, in advance of our full launch of our digital literacy definition and domains, we were really pleased to be in a workshop with Ross Scrivener, from the RCN, as he discussed their ‘Every Nurse an e-Nurse’ workstream.  In his presentation, Ross referred to our work and was able to show our digital literacy diagram that explains the domains that sit under our definition; a definition that we hope will be used across the health and social care landscape.


Digital literacies are those capabilities that fit someone for living, learning, working, participating and thriving in a digital society.



What is digital literacy?

We should probably more accurately say ‘what are digital literacies’ as digital literacy comprises a whole set of capabilities that go towards making up something that we might recognise as being digitally literate.

This opening sentence hints at part of the problem around digital literacy.  It’s a term bandied about but which either has no real meaning for a lot of people or which means different things to different people.

Health Education England’s Technology Enhanced Learning Programme has, as part of its remit under the HEE mandate from the Department of Health, the task of improving the digital literacy skills of the health and social care workforce.  This work is ongoing but we established fairly early on, working with a diverse group of stakeholders, that having a clear definition was important.

Essentially we decided we needed a plain English one sentence definition.  We wanted a definition that wasn’t confined to health and social care and that was meaningful to people in all walks of life, work, non-work and stages of life both personal and work-related.  We wanted to build on excellent work already in the field – not simply reinvent for the sake of it.

The definition we finally agreed on is this and we hope that this will come to be in widespread use.

“Digital literacies are those capabilities that fit someone for living, learning, working, participating and thriving in a digital society.”

Under this definition are 6 domains that start to break down exactly what those capabilities might look like.  We’ll be posting in more detail about those domains in the coming weeks.

Above all, we wanted to emphasise that digital literacy is about people, it has to be person-centred.  Also, everything we do digitally must sit within an overarching domain that we’ve called ‘Digital Identity, Wellbeing, Safety and Security’.  safety@2xWe all need to be conscious of the digital or online identities we create and how they can be positive or negative.  We need to be sure that the way we operate digitally in every aspect of our lives benefits our own wellbeing and that of others.  That might be as straightforward as not being online all the time!  It certainly means being respectful and kind in our behaviour to others.  It’s also about making sure we don’t compromise our own or others’ safety on line and it’s about making sure that our own data and that of others is secure.

Here’s our diagram which we hope starts to explain our vision of digital literacy.


The Quest For The Holy Grail

DEMEC Poster: Holy Grail Poster


Often considered the ‘holy grail’ of learning, measuring the impact of learning has long eluded educationalists working in healthcare education and training. Evidence suggests that most  effective learning takes place outside the classroom – the so called ‘water cooler conversations’ – as medical professionals start to put theory into practice.

Summary of work

We set out to test if capturing informal learning interventions in an online portfolio could provide the solution to the age old problem of measuring impact of learning and that by providing access to a variety of learning experiences would help improve both the competence and confidence of learners.

Summary of results

By assessing reactions of learners prior to and after completing a set of formal and informal learning interventions, we demonstrated that 75% of learners moved from being unconsciously incompetent (unaware of their behaviours and lack of knowledge) to consciously incompetent (aware of their behaviours and aware of their lack of knowledge).

Discussion and conclusions

By capturing the informal learning activities and experiences, it appears that learners have the opportunity to reflect on their learning and demonstrate improved self-awareness. For training departments, this translates into a demonstrable impact of learning.

Take home messages

Capturing informal learning activities and experiences provides measurable benefits for both learners and training departments.

Breaking Through The Barriers To Technology Enhanced Learning

DEMEC Poster: Barriers to TEL


Medical and clinical students on placement face a number of technology barriers to accessing learning materials, ranging from ageing equipment and lack of wi-fi to overly restrictive internet access policies and constraints on the use of personal tablets and smartphones.

Summary of work

We interviewed a large body of healthcare students, reviewed the literature and explored the reasons for these barriers to accessing technology enhanced learning (TEL), suggesting recommendations for improving and reducing the obstacles.

Summary of results

More than 90% of healthcare learners had experienced some form of access problem with TEL in the last year. The reasons appear to range from a lack of funding for the equipment and infrastructure to facilitate TEL to a lack of understanding by IT and training departments about the importance of unrestricted access to learning.

Discussion and conclusions

A culture change is required by healthcare organisations to lift restrictions on access to TEL. However, the research indicates that perceptions are changing and many of the historical restrictions on social media, online video and other media are beginning to disappear and access to wi-fi is becoming increasingly available to students.

Take home messages

There are many barriers to accessing TEL in healthcare but the obstacles are slowly beginning to disappear.

Serious Gaming Doesn’t Have To Be Seriously Expensive!

DEMEC Poster: Serious Gaming Doesn’t Have To Be Seriously Expensive!


Do computer games have a place in healthcare education and training? The same principles which make games so addictive and compelling can be applied to learning content, improving learner engagement and improving learning outcomes and knowledge retention. Developing effective game based learning can be seriously expensive, but it doesn’t have to be!

Summary of work

In the autumn of 2012, working with Yorkshire Ambulance Service, I set out to prove that serious games in education no longer need to be the preserve of big business. This case study documents my experiences, my tips on creating a serious game and demonstrates that you don’t need a six figure budget to produce an engaging and effective piece of games-based learning.

Project WebWise was a European endeavour to improve and innovate with web 2.0 technologies in public health education. My aim for the UK project was to educate ambulance crews in recognising the signs of social isolation in vulnerable adults which was achieved through the development of an educational “serious game”. With only a minimal budget and a lot of hard work from a dedicated group of individuals sacrificing evenings and weekends, we achieved a great result.

The learning is centred around a virtual community which introduces learners to a range of characters living in the fictitious town, through interactive timelines and video clips. Participants explore the environment in their own time with rewards for completing tasks in the game, such as visiting all the characters or exploring all the community buildings. Each character presents a short piece to camera as their introduction before learners are introduced to a scenario involving all the characters, which demonstrates examples of good and bad practice.

Northford Virtual Community Map

The concept was based on ideas used in UK Police training and the work of the University of Cumbria who have done some fabulous research into storytelling pedagogies for nurse education.

We created a “serious” eLearning game to improve awareness of patient dignity and respect with an aim of improving patient care. Incorporating video scenarios, rewards for completing objectives and reflective activities, learners were encouraged to complete the game to improve their patient care.

Developing the Game

We used the Lectora authoring tool to develop the materials, as we already had a licence for the software and some experience of using it. Lectora was great because it allowed us to achieve some fairly advanced techniques without having to rely on anyone with programming skills. This became the stage for all the content and the engine powering the game.

Graphics and images were created in-house using free tools such as Paint.net and GIMP.

The video scenes were filmed using a couple of cheap cameras purchased on the high street and edited using Corel Video Studio – cheap and cheerful but they did the job! The exotic filming locations chosen were an ambulance station and a disused car park.

Actors and crew were all volunteers who donated their spare time to the project, with varying levels of acting experience ranging from novice to professional.


Outside filming

We were also very lucky to be able to persuade local celebrity poet Ian McMillan to donate his time to narrate the introductory videos.

Map featuring Ian McMillan

Scene involving paramedics treating a patient

Scene involving Paramedics reflecting

Summary of results

We asked learners (predominantly frontline ambulance staff) to submit a written reflection to a discussion forum after they had completed the learning so we could gauge reactions and monitor engagement. The game was well received and learners enjoyed the innovative delivery method, with one describing the gaming environment as “a refreshing change from the usual e-learning”. Our leaners were pretty forgiving even if the production quality didn’t quite match that of the BBC!

70% of learners judged the learning to be better than traditional linear e-learning courses with many citing the rewards and recognition of their achievements as the primary reason for the improvement. Learners were encouraged to submit a reflective post following the learning and these provided an insight into the way in which changes to behaviour could be judged.

Discussion and conclusions

Games based learning proved to be largely successful and while much more complex to develop, was relatively cheap to produce using in-house resources. Learner engagement was significantly improved using these techniques.

Top Tips for Creating Your Own Serious Game

Top Tip 1: Ask around for volunteers. You’ll be surprised at the number of budding actors and actresses out there! One of our actors (a real life paramedic) has since appeared in the Inspector Lynley Mysteries and Casualty.

Top Tip 2: See what equipment you already have available. Cameras from the high street and even smartphones can provide excellent results. Don’t forget your props – a couple of old rugs can transform a meeting room into a home.

Top Tip 3: Do your homework. A little research early on will help to make your characters, scenarios and the game much more believable when filmed and edited.

Top Tip 4: Reward Learners. Make sure that learners are provided with a (virtual) reward for completing tasks to encourage them to keep going!

Top Tip 5: Dare to dream big – why not? Be ambitious. Just because you don’t have a Hollywood budget doesn’t mean that you can’t achieve amazing results on a shoestring.

Top Tip 6: Enjoy yourself! This was a lot of fun to produce and proved that with a little hard work and a lot of enthusiasm, it is possible to create compelling and engaging stories that support learning outcomes on a minimal or even a zero budget.

Take home messages

The principles of the computer games industry can be applied to education and training, without a large budget and learner outcomes are improved.



Originally posted in December 2013 as part of the eLearning Network 24Tips and on Richard Price’s Blog.

Let’s do this!

We weren’t sure what to expect, to be honest.  We knew Hack Partners were experienced in pulling off these kind of events and some of us had a bit of experience at a Hack Partners’ hackathon but this was an exploratory exercise for us.  We knew that we wanted to innovate ourselves, we knew that we wanted to create a space, a time where we could bring together as diverse a range of people as possible in order to let them work together on the challenges that we face in healthcare education and training and, hopefully, come up with some techie solutions.

I think we, the TEL team, were all a bit blown away by what actually happened.  From the get go, we had some really sound pitches, most, if not all, that could easily have got a team around them and been worked on.  However, only the top ten ideas went forward to form teams and it was very interesting to see how quickly people abandoned their own idea and totally jumped on board with someone else’s.  There were still internal discussions and clear differences of opinion but there was no sign at all of any dysfunctional teams that simply couldn’t get their act together.  As an exercise in team-building and leadership skills alone, this was a worthwhile and productive learning experience.

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The weekend was intense, in every sense, and I finally understood what I’d been told in advance, that a hackathon can be emotional!  People were committing time and energy and real passion to their projects and this really showed when it came to the presentations at the end.  With only four minutes to present and then two minutes for Q and A, the professionalism, combined with the enthusiasm and confidence on display, was incredible.

Four winning teams emerged on the Sunday.

Team Score my Sutures had an image recognition tool to help training surgeons practise their suturing with immediate assessment and feedback.

Team Echo developed a project using iBeacon technology to help trainees, students, locums in clinical setting orientation and information.

Team Geyedlines had an application that delivers immediate point-of-care information via Google Glass. (Geyedlines also won the Big Data and Innovation awards)

Team iNurse had created a test/quiz-based interactive learning site for training nurses using gamification to increase interest and motivation.


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But TELHack wasn’t over.  We had a showcase event held at The National Science Museum on the evening of 10 November.  With the Information Age Gallery given over to us for the evening, courtesy of Bloomberg, we were utterly spoiled with this venue.  Surrounded by the technology solutions of C20th, we couldn’t have asked for a better setting to look again at the projects that teams had come up with.  One participant told me that they were too exhausted on Sunday to worry too much about presenting but that this time it was really nerve-wracking.  They all did a superb job.  This time our judges were focusing anew on the criteria but giving extra weight to the viability and sustainability of projects within an NHS setting.

Team iNurse triumphed again and were jointly awarded the top slot with Team Ward Words who had developed an interactive, audio-visual app for nurses with English as a second language needing to build confidence and language in clinical settings.

The TEL Programme will be continuing to work with the hack concept and to look for ways in which we can mentor and support innovation in healthcare education to try and ensure that ideas come to full development and implementation. It was more than evident through this experience that there are the brains, the talents, the enthusiasm and appetite for innovating in healthcare education. As Hack Partners are so fond of saying – let’s do this!


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They think it’s all over

The presentations at the end of a long weekend by all the teams completely bowled me over. The level of sophistication in presentation, design and working prototypes was quite amazing, as was the energy and enthusiasm in delivery. What seems so unfair is that each team only gets four minutes to pitch and two minutes to answer questions when they’ve sweated blood over their ideas and working models for so long. But that’s the nature of the hackathon and the competitive spirit was driving everyone to display the very best of themselves and their work. What was clear was that there were no ‘bad’ or unworkable ideas. Speaking to one of the judges after, it was obvious that coming to a decision had been extremely difficult given the quality of the outputs.

With Score my Sutures, Echo and Geyedlines coming 1st, 2nd and 3rd and the RCNi prize going to iNurse, I think that we certainly ended with prototype ideas that are of serious value and potential.

So, the prizes are won but this isn’t the end of the road. On Tuesday 10 November, we have our Showcase Event at the National Science Museum in London where teams will again present their ideas. There will be further judging and review of many of the work presented by teams over the weekend.

Health Education England intends to work in partnership with various mentor sites (Trusts/Hospitals) in order to see if the ideas created at TELHack really do have legs.

We hope that many, if not all, participants keep in touch with us, keep thinking about and even working on their incredible ideas to improve and enhance healthcare education and continue to look out for further events of this kind.

With the quality of people that TELHack was able to bring together, there is no doubt in my mind that this creative interface has a real future.

It’s all over!

What a privilege to be at TELHACK this weekend. I didn’t know what to expect but it certainly wasn’t that! At 5.30pm, after working pretty much non-stop all weekend, the teams did an amazing job of pitching to the judges.

The judges posed some valid but difficult questions and they were handled brilliantly. Everyone managed to stick within their time limit of 4 minutes and apart from a couple of technical hitches, all ran smoothly.

The winners were Top Banana. They developed a way for being able to assess, score and provide feedback for suturing skills (practising on a banana).Their idea sounded fairly straight forward and the final presentation was polished and very professional looking. This doesn’t mean it was easy though. The programming, refining the images, setting the limits, angles and lengths for the scoring system and putting it all together looked extremely complicated and one of the team joked that “sleep is overrated” as she topped up her coffee after getting no sleep at all!! Dedication! But it paid off… They were named winners for their fantastic idea 💡and got to take this home… 20151108_112837

The ECHO team were placed 2nd with their idea of using Bluetooth to orientate and induct new staff to a ward or environment. We’ll done guys!!

I really admire all the participants that have taken part and the way they have pulled together and developed raw ideas into real solutions for healthcare education problems.

I’m on the train back to Plymouth now, have tweeted my final post for NHSTelHack’s twitter and logged out. I look forward to telling my nursing colleagues about the weekend and the fantastic ideas! Technology Enhanced healthcare is exciting… Thank you for having me!