Disconnection between technology research and flexible learning?

Last night I was having dinner with friend, telling her about my tentative, baby steps in finding a topic – and home (supervisor, university) – for my phd. I mentioned that a leading academic – who holds joint appointment in a leading mental health organisation -in the my chosen field had expressed interest in supervising me (whoohoo!). However, this academic indicated that I would need to be located in her state (not the same one I live in).

My friend asked a very logical question. Why couldn’t I study remotely? This seems like a particularly apt question given my research will look at innovative, progressive use of technology. I suspect there are many rational reasons for this rule – perhaps financial or statistical. If nothing else, it was interesting that I hadn’t really considered the possibility – perhaps, like universities, I have come a long way in my technology use, but still have a way to go.

iPad goodness

It’s a little surprising – and even embarrassing – to admit, particularly given my long interest and commitment to working in technology, but I’ve only just got around to buying an iPad.
After a few days playing around with it, my initial thoughts are:
  • Yep, it really is beautiful – wonderful. The image and sound quality makes watching video a joy. That said, I’ve recently only been using a 10 year old laptop and my iPhone 3 for internet use, so perhaps it’s not surprising that I’m impressed!
  • Weight – Not sure what I expected, but I was surprised at just how heavy it is.  My kindle is much much more preferable (in both size and weight)  for book reading, despite its many functionality flaws (another discussion altogether).
  • Keyboard – Typing anything more than a few sentences via the screen is really slow and frustrating, so I’ve bought myself a bluetooth keyboard (Soniq). It’s just that little bit too narrow to type comfortably but certainly better than nothing if I want to compose copy on the run.
  • Apps – yep I’m late to the party but searching for apps on your ipone is time consuming and even a little tedious.  Much more fun on an ipad  As anyone who uses apps can atest, the range of quality is massive – from the very crap to the wonderful.  For example, the Bank of Melbourne has an iPad app that has a spacious and intuitive design (e.g. The calculator is simple but useful) and invites the user to stay. Meanwhile the ANZ has only a iPhone app that feels over simple inadequate for the iPad. The app that has been the most fun has been  FlightRadar24. There’s something fascinating and gleeful about being able to identify planes going overhead – where they have come from, where they are going. Given it’s popularity, I feel a bit more comfortable admitting how much I love it.
Implications for healthcare
I haven’t looked at many healthcare apps, but my initial thoughts are:
  • Given the heft, I wonder if expecting health professionals – or clients – to lug it around is unrealistic? Will the ipad mini might be more suitable?
  • How do you find health apps that are going to be useful? Does there need to be some sort of industry/government standard – like the red tick for food – to indicate it is evidence-based?  How many apps have been developed with a user experience framework?

Baby steps

Just what the world has been waiting for – another blog from a phd student. Actually I’m not even that! I’ve been thinking about doing a PhD for years, but it is only now that I’ve decided to get serious and start the ball rolling in actually investigating my feasibility, suitability and interest in potentially doing one. I figure it’s a big committment so my gun-shy approach probably isn’t such a bad thing.

Given I kinda love writing (and hell, there just won’t be enough writing in front of me, right??!), I’m starting this blog as a way to share my progress, reflect on my topic and overall journey, and (hopefully) get some discussion happening from anyone who might happen to read it!

As a first step I’ve talked to a number of people who are currently completing their PhD or have recently completed it. This has been a really helpful way in getting a better sense of the challenges and rewards of doing a PhD. The good news is, having worked in the mental health sector for over 10 years, I have a good sense of the general topic area I would like to explore – young people, wellbing and technology. The bad news is that I’ve been finding it hard to pin down a more specific topic! (a bit of a roadblock really…). There are a HUGE range of interesting research areas: online community, video gaming, social media, and mobile phone – just to name a few.

Talking to a few academics has been another really helpful, though must admit that one advising me to ‘choose a topic wisely as it’s your one and only opportunity to be an expert in a field, at least for a brief period’ was rather daunting. She also intimated that once you’ve chosen a specific topic the dye is cast and this will determine your work following the PhD. Eeek!

Some other pieces of advice (all somehow quite ominous!):

  • ‘Don’t do it’
  • ‘Be assertive with your supervisor’
  • ‘Ensure you can tie it in with your work’
  • ‘Try and do at least the first few year or so full-time’
  • ‘A PhD by publication is preferable to a traditional PhD’

What advice would you give? Or have you heard?