An Introduction to the Library for Graduate Students

6 11 2010

Below is a presentation I gave at the “World of Science”. This is a 3-day course for graduate students that aims to provide them the fundamental knowledge and skills needed for scientific research, and to prepare them for their thesis at our hospital, the AMC.

The 3-day program comprises a series of presentations on aspects of medical and biomedical research. These include the position of the pharmaceutical industry, the role of scientific journals, the ethical and legal framework of medical research, and the organization and funding of scientific research in the Netherlands. There is also an introduction to the scientific strategy of the AMC, presented by the Dean of the Faculty of Medicine.

Furthermore there are group discussions, workshops, and individual assignments.

The course is held outside the AMC. It provides a unique opportunity for a closer and more personal meeting with each other and with leading AMC scientists, to discuss such matters as the choices they made in their careers.

I had 15 minutes (actually 20 minutes) to tell something about the library. (It used to be 30 min. but wasn’t received so well). That is too short to explain searching to them. Furthermore that is dealt with in our courses, so why give it all away?

I choose to show them how the library could serve them, in an interactive and loose way.

First I asked them how they saw the library. Many, if not all, used our website. Pfff, that was a relieve!

I spend most time talking about searching, showing  examples of searches that failed. Which is the best way to show them they might need some extra education in this respect.

The atmosphere was very good & informal, there were many questions and it was sometimes quite hilarious, not only because of the presentation itself, but because I almost managed to ruin the screen (fell against it) and because I walked away with the microphone.

I had the opportunity to listen to the next speaker too, a young scientist who recently finished his thesis. His talk was great to listen to. He talked about his experience (which was not really representative imho, because it was quite a success story) and he gave the would-be PhD’s 10 handy tips. All in a very entertaining way.

But for now, here is my presentation.

An Educator by Chance

13 10 2010

The topic of the oncoming edition of the blog carnivalMedical Information Matters“, hosted by Daniel Hooker, is close to my heart.

Daniel at his call for submissions post:

I’d love to see posts on new things you’re trying out this year: new projects, teaching sessions, innovative services. Maybe it’s something tried and true that you’d like to reflect on. And this goes for anyone starting out fresh this term, not just librarians!

When I started as a clinical librarian 5 years ago, I mainly did search requests. Soon I also gave workshops as part of evidence based practice courses.

Our library gave the normal library courses PubMed, Reference Manager etc. We did little extra for medical students. There was a library introduction at the beginning and a PubMed training at the end of the curriculum.

Thus, when the interns had to do a CAT (Critically Appraised Topic), they had to start from SCRATCH ;) : learn the PICO, domains, study types, searching the various databases.  After I gave  a dozen or so 1-hour long introductions to consecutive interns, repeating the same things over and over, I realized this was an ineffective use of time. So I organized a monthly CAT-introduction with a computer workshop. After this introduction I helped interns with their specific CAT, if necessary.

This course is appreciated very much and  interns usually sigh: “why didn’t we learn this before?! If we had known this…”, etcetera.

Thus we, librarians, were very enthusiastic when we got more time in the newly organized curriculum.

We made e-learning modules for the first year, two for the second year, a Pubmed-tutorial, and a computer workshop (150 min!). In the 4th year we grade the CATs.

The e-learning modules costed me tons of time. If you read the post “How to become a big e-learning nerd by mistake” at Finite Attention Span you understand why.

We used a system that was designed for exams. On my request the educational department embed the system in a website, so students could go back and forth. Lacking any good books on the topic, students should also be able to reread the text and print whatever they liked.

I was told that variation was important. Thus I used each and every of the 10 available question types. Drop down menus, clickable menus, making right pairs of terms etc. Ooh and I loved the one I used for PICO’s, where you could drag words in a sentence to the P, I, C or O. Wonderful.

Another e-learning module consisted largely of Adobe Captivate movies. As  described in the above mentioned post:

Recognise that you are on a learning curve. First of all, it is vital that your software does not always remind you to save individual files before closing the program. It is especially helpful if you can demonstrate this three times inside a week, so that you end up losing the equivalent of about two days’ work: this will provide you with a learning experience that is pretty much optimised.

Swear. Vigorously.

Become a virtuoso of the panic-save, performing Ctrl+S reflexively in your sleep, every three minutes (…)

Correcting the callouts and highlight boxes and animation timings so they don’t look like they were put together by committee is complicated. Also, writing really clear, unambiguous copy takes time.

It sounds familiar. It also regularly happened to me that I started with the wrong resolution. Then I heard afterwards: “Sorry, we can only use 800×600.”

But workshops are also time-consuming. Largely because the entire librarian staff is needed to run 30 workshops within a month (we have 350 students per year). Of course it didn’t end with those workshops. I had to make the lesson plan materials, had to instruct the tutors, make the time tables, the attendance lists and then put the data into an excel sheet again. I love it!

The knowledge is tested by exams. This year I had to make the questions myself -and score them too (luckily with help of one or two colleagues). Another time buster. The CATs had to be scored as well.

But it is worth all the pain and effort, isn’t it?

Students are sooo glad they learned all about EBM, CATS, scientific literature and searching…

Well, duh, not really.

Some things I learned in the meantime

  1. Medical students don’t give a da do not care much about searching and information literacy.
  2. Medical students don’t choose that study for nothing. They want to become doctors, not librarians.
  3. At the time we give the courses, the students not really need it. Unlike the interns, they do not need to present a CAT, shortly.
  4. Most of our work is undone by the influence of peers or tutors that learn the students all kind of “tricks” that aren’t.
  5. It is hard to make good exams. If the reasoning isn’t watertight, students will find it. And protest against it.
  6. …. Because even more important than becoming a doctor is their desire to pass the exams
  7. If the e-learning isn’t compulsory, it won’t be done.
  8. You can’t  test information literacy by multiple choice questions. It is “soft” knowledge, more a kind of approach or reasoning. Similarly PICO’s are seldom 100% wrong or right. The value of PICO-workshops lies in the discussions.
  9. The students just started their study. They’re mostly teens. These kids will have a completely other attitude after 4 years (no longer yelling, joking, mailing, Facebook-ing, or at least they are likely to stop after you ask).
  10. Education is something I did by chance. I just do it “in addition to my normal work”, i.e. in the same time.
  11. Even more important, I’m a beginner and have had no specific training. So I have to learn it the hard way.

Let me give some examples.

This year I wanted to update one of my modules. I had to, because practically all interfaces have changed the last two years (Think about PubMed for instance).

I made an appointment with the education department, because they had helped me enormously before.

Firstly I noticed that my name had been replaced by those of 3 people who hadn’t done anything (at least with regard to this particular e-learning course). Perhaps not so relevant here. But the first red flag…

The module was moved to another system. It looked much nicer, but apparently only allowed a few of those 10 types of questions. The drag and drop questions, I was so fond of, were replaced by irritating drop down menus. With the questions I made, it didn’t make sense.

The movies couldn’t be plaid fast forward, back or be stopped.

And the girl who I spoke to, a medical student herself, couldn’t disguise her dislike of the movies. First she didn’t like the call-outs and highlight boxes, she rather liked a voice (me speaking, deleting the laborious call-outs ?!). Then she said the videos were endless and it was nicer when the students could try it themselves (which was in fact the assignment). She ignored my suggestion that Adobe is suitable for virtual online training.

Then someone next to her said: Do you know “Snag-it”, you can make movies with that too!?

Do I know Snag-it? Yes I do. I even bought it for my home computer. But Snag-it is nowhere near Adobe Captivate, at least regarding call-outs and assembly. I almost mentioned Camtasia, which is from the same company as Snag-it, but more suitable for this job.

Then the girl said the movies were only meant to show “where to press the buttons”, which I repeatedly denied: those movies were meant to highlight the value of the various sources. She also suggested that I should do some usability testing, not on my colleagues, but on the students.

Funny how insights can change over times. The one who helped me considered it one of the best tutorials.

While talking to her, it stroke me that the movies were taking very long and I wondered whether each single call-out saying “press this” was functional. Perhaps she was right in a way. Perhaps some movies should be changed into plain screenshots (which I had tried to avoid, because they were so annoying Powerpoint like). If my aim wasn’t that students learned which button to press, why show it all the time?? (perhaps because Adobe shows every mouse click, it is so easy to keep it in..)

It is a long way to develop something that is educative, effective and not boring….

But little by little we can make things better.

Last year one of the coordinators proposed not to take an exam the first year but give an assignment. The students had to search for an original study on a topic in PubMed (2nd semester) and write a summary about it (3rd semester). The PubMed tutorial became compulsory, but the two Q & A sessions (with computers) were voluntary. Half of the students came to those sessions. And the atmosphere was very good. Most students really wanted to find a good study (you could only claim an article once). Some fished whether the answers were worth the full 4 points and what they had to do to get it. The quality of the searches and the general approach were quite good.

In good spirits I will start with updating the other modules. The first should be finished in a few days. That is… if they didn’t move this module to the next semester, as the catalog indicates.

That would be a shame, because then I have to change all the cardiology examples into pulmonology examples.

Gosh!…. No!!


The title is inspired by the  post “How to become a big e-learning nerd by mistake”.
Thanks to Annemarie Cunningham (@amcunningham on Twitter) for alerting me to it.

Related Articles

Fighting “Powerpoint-Death” by Science, Prezi or…?!

24 08 2010
Audience response radio frequency keypad with ...

Image via Wikipedia

Recently Kevin Clauson [@kevinclauson] made another great presentation, called the “Science behind Engaging Students in Class”. The presentation focuses on the use of “clickers” or an audience response system (ARS) to engage the audience (here mainly students in a class). It is an expanded version of “How to Fight Lecturalgia“.

First Kevin asks the audience questions about their knowledge/use of ARS -using the ARS system, of course-. Next he goes more deeply into the need to engage the audience (attention span, boredom) and then he addresses the successes and pitfalls of ARS.

Each statement has a scientific underpinning, and a reference to it.

For instance, one conclusion is that use of ARS improves performance with analytical type exam questions, but not with memorization exam questions.

Kevin stresses that ARS  it is just another tool, albeit a powerful one.

Of course you have to avoid the usual presentation-killer aspects of PowerPoint, like including too many slides, bullets and data, as so wonderfully illustrated by the famous “Dead by Powerpoint” presentation. I included it below, in case you’ve never seen it.

It also contains recommendations how to  improve your PowerPoint.

This following video elaborates on the same theme. It is called “Life after Death by PowerPoint”. Not an appropriate name, because it only magnifies Powerpoints killer-points. You might enjoy it though (if you can put up with the canned laugh).

Below is another presentation about the science of presentations. And although I noticed little science in it, I did find the CEO-presentation interesting because it discusses the use of live tweeting (and blogging) to give “contagious talks” (you know Twitter going “viral”).

Cochrane 2.0 Workshop at the Cochrane Colloquium #CC2009

12 10 2009

Today Chris Mavergames and I held a workshop at the Cochrane Colloquium, entitled:  Web 2.0 for Cochrane (see previous post and abstract of the workshop)

First I gave an introduction into Medicine 2.0 and (thus) Web 2.0. Chris, Web Operations Manager and Information Architect of the Cochrane Collaboration, talked more about which Web 2.0 tools were already used by the Cochrane Collaboration and which Web 2.0 might be useful as such.

We had half an hour for discussion which was easily filled. There was no doubt about the usefulness of Web 2.0 for the Cochrane in this group. Therefore, there was ample room for discussing technical aspects, like:

  • Can you load your RSS feed of a PubMed search in Reference Manager? (According to Chris you can)
  • How can you deal with this lot of information (by following a specific subject, or not too much people – not many updates on a daily basis; you don’t have to follow it all, just pick up the headlines, when you can)
  • Are you involved in a Wiki that is successful? (it appears very difficult to involve people)
  • What happens if people comment or upload picture on facebook (of the Cochrane collaboration) in an appropriate way (Chris: didn’t happen, but you have to check and remove them)
  • How do you follow tweets (we showed Tweetdeckhashtags # and #followfridays)
  • What is the worst thing that happened to you (regarding web 2.0)? Chris and I thought a long time. Chris: that I revealed something that wasn’t officially public yet (though appeared to be o.k.). Me: spam (but I remove it/don’t approve it).
    Later I remembered two better (worse) examples, like the “Clinical Reader” social misbehaviour, a good example of how “branding” should not be done, and sites that publish top 50 and 100 list of bloggers just to get more traffic to their spam websites

Below is my presentation on Slideshare.

The (awful) green blackgound color indicates I went “live” on the web. As a reminder of what I did, I included some screendumps.

The current workshop was just meant to introduce and discuss Medicine 2.0 and Cochrane 2.0.

I hope we have a vivid discussion Wednesday when the plenary lectures deal with Cochrane 2.0.

The answers to my question on Twitter

  1. Why Web 2.0 is useful? (or not)
  2. Why we need Cochrane 2.0? (or not)

can be found on Visibletweets (temporary) and saved as: (permanent selection).

I think it would be good when these points are taken into account during the Cochrane 2.0 plenary discussions.

* possible WIKI (+ links) might appear at

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Web 2.0 Tools to Inspire … Teachers and others

16 06 2009

Judy O’Connell pointed out an interesting Slideshare presentation called “Web 2.0: Tools to inspire”.

It contains a lot of suggestions, especially in the field of education, like

Apart from the Social Networking Tools, there are many new suggestions. The tools seem particularly useful in the class room or in spare time.

For other free learning tools see a previous post:
Google Reader and other free (learning) tools.

Here is the entire presentation.

** tip of my daughter: online photo editing (free)

* my tip: Snag-it (professional screen capture -can’t do without) <

LOCA Congress for Interns – LOCA co-assistenten congres

14 05 2009

Last Sunday I was an invited speaker at a national congress for interns, the LOCA congress. LOCA stands for “Landelijk Overleg Co-Assistenten”.

This congress has been initiated to facilitate the contact between interns of all Dutch universities and to cover in depth subjects that usually don’t get much attention.

The LOCA congress offered a diverse program, varying from “minimal invasive and maximal effective surgery”, “memory training” and “a dirty mind is a joy forever”. You can see the program here (Saturday; Sunday).

The previous event I gave a Search Workshop, this time the subject was “Medicine 2.0″.

I didn’t realize in advance that this wasn’t a convenient day. First it was Mother’s day. My children weren’t pleased that I wouldn’t be around. Furthermore I had to prepare an Evidence Based Searching day the following Monday and several other workshops that week. Still, Sunday morning we spent together in the garden eating home made smoothies and muffins that my eldest daughter L made, with on them in colors: “Mama blog”, “L X M”, “Laika twitter”, “Success”,  etcetera, which illustrates how they see me now.

Despite  that I had 40 min. instead of the expected 60 min., and just about half of the workshop subscribers (it was a very sunny day) showed up, I found it a pleasant workshop. Mostly because the audience was very interested and interactive. Within those 40 minutes, however, I could only touch upon some aspects, giving most emphasis to the web 2.0 tools which can be used in daily practice by medical professionals to find information (social networking sites, RSS also in Pubmed, personalized home pages, blogs and wiki’s)

40 minutes is short and I promised the interns to provide them with some information afterwards.

I’m too busy at the moment with my regular job, but I expect that the promised information will be available within 1-2 weeks at:

But I won’t withhold a series of tweets (Twitter messages)  specifically directed to the interns of this workshop. You can view the tweets labeled with #MOVIR, here at Visibletweets. They have been tweeted by doctors, a patient, a nurse and a physiotherapist. Please see them all, the first tweets are shown last.

Educational Videos about Library Stuff

21 03 2009

Yesterday @alisha alerted me to a post of Sheila Webber at the information-literacy blog about a wonderful series of YouTube videos by Llordllam with hand puppets as actors. The videos are a mix of educational videos aimed at librarians, information scientists and library readers. The leading actors are Goose the librarian and Professor Weasel the academic (patron).

The following YouTube video is really superb as well as hilarous. With a typical british sense of humor it tries to make you understand Academic Copyright. Prof Weasel struggles to understand the problems with the traditional journal publication system. Look how he is fooled by the publisher rat.

And for librarians and librarian users this one is a must. Boolean operators explained. Think the jam/bread example will work better than my epistaxis/child example, so who knows I will adapt my slides.

And finally the video “Your Library: A User Centric Experience”. This feels very familiar (the user becomes the king, see also the Flikr pictures in the side bar of our library)

More video’s of Goose and Weasel see page of llordllama on and  a facebook page for fans of the video Randy Weasel, Kooei Goose and others


Now, not a Llordllam/Goose/Weasel production, but a very useful video (by paulrobesonlibrary) to illustrate to students the (unusefulness) of Wikipedia as their primary research tool.
Seen at Phil Bradley’s Weblog (No, you can not lower the speed)


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