1 09 2009

Games at - Sneeze Another part of the multiliteracies project was identifying relevant texts to use with students to teach grammar and other concepts. In this day and age it’s important to recognise non-written grammars (colours, lines, vectors etc.) and digital texts. So I am able to use flash games as learning aides.

Sneeze! is a gem of a game. Very simple and illustrative. Use your single loaded sneeze to infect as much of the level as possible.

In addition to all the pretty colours – which set the mood, and add meanings – there’s also some audio to get children to analyse too.

Hattip to Nature’s The Great Beyond.

Unit: Swine flu and you

1 09 2009

What would you do?

For my multiliteracies assessment I have planned out (somewhat) a Swine Flu/Public Health unit for a hypothetical group of year 7s. The unit combines essential learnings mostly from the Key Learning Areas of English (we had to include English) and the Health in HPE (which suits disease units better than Science standards).

A main part of the unit planning task was to come up with multiple outcome tasks for our students, that would cater to a range of diverse learners. Gone are the days when everyone is expected to hand in a written information report. We had to design our tasks to combine not only multi-modes, but also cross-genre tasks.

The tasks I set this imaginary groups of four students were:

  • An animated morality play: Students would script and create an animated (stop-motion, flash-based, cut-outs) narrative short film that will educate a peer-level audience on appropriate disease prevention and control strategies during an influenza pandemic. This group would have some help in accessing technical expertise from a high school AV club (one good thing about a hypothetical classroom of hypothetical students with hypothetical tasks meant we could hammerspace mentors and equipment). Outcome: Script. Character outlines. Final edited video.
  • Expert interview podcast: Students would identify and approach a small number of relevant community opinion leaders (doctors, scientists, nurses, school officials, mayors etc.) to interview. They would then use excerpts of the interviews to assemble an audio podcast on disease prevention and control in the event of a local influenza outbreak. This group would also receive guidance from our friendly teens in the AV club. Outcomes: Question plans. Opinion leader profiles. Final edited podcast.
  • Public health campaign: Students will design an entire school-based public health campaign that would encourage peers to engage in activities that prevent and control spread of influenza. The school’s art teacher has thankfully volunteered to help students produce printed materials (posters, pamphlets etc.). Outcomes: Multiple campaign materials. PowerPoint and group oral presentation of campaign to class.
  • Digital art gallery: Students will create a digital art gallery centred on a specific theme related to pandemic prevention and control. Students select a variety of images and illustrations, decide how to arrange them appropriately to create a user-friendly interactive display. Each picture needs to be accompanied by a short amount of text. Outcomes: Digital gallery – pictures, captions, layout and interface.
  • Recommendation report: Students will research pandemic responses around the world and produce an information report that compares these with actions taken in Australia and then provides recommendation on actions Australia should enact in the future. The report is for the Federal Minister for Health and will have a cover letter that provides a synopsis of the reports findings. Students will also provide a small resource folder that reports on ‘further reading’ resources the minister could use. Outcomes: Cover letter/synopsis, information report, recommendations, resource folder.

What sort of learners do you think each task was designed to cater for? Do you think I missed out on a particular group of learners with these tasks? Do you have a preference for which task you would like to be allocated if you were in my hypothetical class of year 7s?

What do you think of the idea of students being set different assessment tasks? Is it fair? Is it realistic?

You may notice that some of these tasks overlap in both content, genre and modalities. This is deliberate. After all, I cannot be expected to teach five totally distinct learning outcomes to a single class at the same time (or am I?) All students are working towards the HPE Essential Learning to “understand how to/apply skills to promote health and wellbeing” among other things.

Note: This assignment has been handed in and is currently being marked. The above outcome tasks have been somewhat refined from their original state.

Love, share, learn

13 07 2009

As seems to always be the case, as soon as I decide to take a short blog break, people link to me.

Greg did it twice. Hat-tipping me for that cool UK Swine Flu video I spotted – and also featuring some of my flu posts on this month’s Scientia Pro Publica – a collection of awesome science blogging written for the people – this month’s theme: OMG … Science is Everywhere! You can read more about SciProPub at Grrl Scientist.

I have also been quoted (and named, with my real name!) at BNET Pharma industry blog. I do have to agree with the sentiment. It would be a lot easier to sound sane if when I try to defend Pharma against claims of unethical practices if the industry I am trying to defend would just kindly stop engaging in them…

Swine flu brain pop

22 06 2009

Rather good UK children’s animated production explains the current swine flu novel Mexican A/H1N1 influenza outbreak.

Some innacuracies, but its hard to tell exactly how dated this might be. Still, definitely good enough at explaining key concepts effectively for schoolchildren

Hattip: Malaysia SMS

Trends in internet influenza

20 06 2009

At the start of the month, Google announced it was expanding its search-engine-based epidemiology surveillance tool, Flu Trends, to process information originating from Australia and New Zealand (previously it was processing U.S. statistics and a beta Mexico version).

The tool is based on there being a correlation between the number of people typing in influenza-related keywords into Google and the actual number of cases of influenza in the country. Google claims it is supported by historical data. The concept does make sense: when you are your family are sick with flu-like symptoms, that would be the time you are more likely to search for information on possible causes – Thus people searching for “flu” could reflect the cases across the country.

But I was skeptical at how well it would work in a pandemic. Google’s data might hold up for its recorded history, but that does not extend back to 1968-9 – the last influenza pandemic. A pandemic not only involves the potential for an increased number of influenza cases and increased severity of those cases, it also means an increased amount of media coverage and public awareness. When I last looked at Google Trends and health searches, I saw a possible link between media coverage of Kylie Minogue and Australian searches for breast cancer. There is a good reason to suspect that the statistical relationship between search terms and disease cases will not hold up during pandemic conditions. This concern is not addressed appropriately in the Flu Trends FAQ.


Google Flu Trends Data, as of 20 June, 2009. Click for larger image. A - US 2008/09 search data c.f. historical B - Australia 2008/2009 data c.f. historical (2008/09 dark blue, historical light blue). C - Australia historical data (blue) compared with official epidemiological seasonal ILI (infleunza-like-illness) data (orange)

Google Flu Trends Data, as of 20 June, 2009. Click for larger image. A - US 2008/09 search data c.f. historical B - Australia 2008/2009 data c.f. historical (2008/09 dark blue, historical light blue). C - Australia historical search data (blue) compared with official historical epidemiological seasonal ILI (infleunza-like-illness) data (orange)

Looking at the U.S data, for this past season, it looks like it could be an accurate reflection. And if anything, rather than seeing a spike of search term activity this year, there was not much difference than previous years. In fact, the historic data contains several search spikes that do not exist in this years trends. All this information could either accurately reflect that the influenza pandemic thus far has been little more than out-of-season seasonal flu, or, just maybe, that the increased media activity and awareness have actually actively decreased usage of Google for health information.

Were people being directly channeled towards non-search websites, like Were they getting enough influenza information from other websites they frequent, like news websites? Was there enough offline influenza resources that people did not feel the need to Google to find out more? Or were people just overloaded and desensitized by the mass media hysteria?

I still prefer the Rhiza Labs case-mapping tool. It is much more informative and accurate.

Pandemic in perspective

20 06 2009

Fear of disease vs. death toll
see more Funny Graphs

First swine flu death in Australia

20 06 2009

My boss and some co-workers are flying to Melbourne on Monday to meet with clients. We were joking about how they should be extra careful while visiting the “swine flu capital of Australia“. Maybe she should put herself in a week-long quarantine when she gets back.

One of our Medical Writers pointed out how its all overblown. And I pointed out that no one had died in Australia yet.

Well, I guess I should stop opening my mouth to talk about swine flu from now on. A 26-year old Indignous man from central Australia died in Royal Adelaide Hospital ICU died from a number of complications, including pneumonia. He was infected with the Mexican Influenza A/H1N1 virus.

It is not known where or when the man contracted the virus, nor how much it may have contributed to his fate.

I’ve pointed elsewhere on the internets that WHO has expressed concern over the possibility that Indigenous Canadian groups may be more susceptible to the A/H1N1 virus. Let’s hope that situation is not true here (or there, even).

Do we take this as a sign to panic? That we aren’t doing enough? Or are the governmental precautions still too heavy handed? They won’t do anything to help, they did not help this man? Does this change anything? Is it just a continuation of SNAFU ‘flu?

Image Credit: ‘Chasing pig at Gatton College‘, Unknown circa 1940sState Library of Queensland on flickr