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How to use tech to log your learning (almost) painlessly

This is a guest blog post from Dr Rachel Boyce, a GP and trainer in the Thames Valley.


I spend a lot of time on social media and I often use Twitter for informal continuing professional development. There are a number of medics in the twittersphere who participate in formal learning through the social network, but I have tended to simply follow interesting people within and outside of medicine, and see where their tweets take me. If someone tweets a link to an article or journal article that sounds interesting, I will use the Twitter ‘heart’ button to save it for later. 

Some years ago, I discovered the great site IFTTT (“If This Then That”) which allows you to link together various apps, social media accounts and gadgets to make your life easier. It uses ‘recipes’ which you can activate in order for things to happen automatically. So I set up a ‘recipe’ which meant that if I ‘hearted’a tweet, I would receive an email with a link to the tweet. And as I tend to use my email inbox as a virtual to-do list, this seemed like a good way of ensuring I actually read the articles I planned to.

Meanwhile, since the advent of the electronic appraisal portfolio I have completed appraisal cycles in two different systems, and was loathe to try out a third. However, I was intrigued when I sat next to a GP from another part of the country during an education meeting, and saw that he was inputting his learning and reflections straight into his fourteenfish learning log via his smartphone. As a smartphone junkie, I know how apps can often simplify and automate complex tasks. I was already quite fed up of spending most of January fretting over all the learning and reflection I would have to upload to my appraisal portfolio.

I discovered that fourteenfish has a nifty function whereby you can email yourself documents, photographs and links directly into your learning diary just sending an email. I wanted to do the same with things I’d learnt via Twitter. What if I saw an article I like on Twitter - could I somehow convert it into a CPD learning diary entry? The system I developed forwards the email sent automatically by IFTTT directly into my learning log. Then, when I’ve read the article, I can log into my appraisal online or via the app, find the diary entry with a link to it, and add or edit my learning points and reflection. 

I add my more formal CPD and QI activities using the interface online or via my smartphone app, and I can also email minutes or agendas or handouts for CPD events straight onto my appraisal without having to upload these documents manually. And every time I like a tweet, I get an semi-automatic CPD log entry generated which I can either edit and reflect, or delete if I don’t get round to it. For this reason I am now five months into the appraisal year, and for the first time I’m  fully up to date with my learning and reflection, and not already backlogged with piles of paper and a clogged folder in my email account. I foresee that preparing for next spring’s appraisal will be a much less onerous task.

As yet, sadly, I have not yet found an app which will do my CPD for me, and reflect on it. Some things tech can’t (yet?) solve.

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Tuesday 21 June 2016