Thursday, December 9, 2010

Last Post for Info3pt0

So I started this blog specifically for a class this semester where we would be learning about technology and its role in sharing and seeking information. I must say, I would never have considered making a blog on my own, the idea of blogging just never appealed to me. Not to say that I didn't recognize the value of other people's blogs. But, this experience with blogging has been a useful one. I think I really have a better understanding of what blogging can be. It's not just someone rambling about their day or keeping an online journal. Blogging can be a useful source of information supported by other research. Looking at my classmates blogs, I can see how someone searching for information on a topic could end up on one of their blogs and using those blogs as a starting point for research. All this being said about the benefits of blogging, I'm still not convinced its for me. I don't see myself completely abandoning this blog from this point on but I think I might make the topic of my blog more general. My professor explained that we are creating a sort of online portfolio and Im happy that this blog will be out there in the vast land of the internet to represent me because I am proud of what I have done here.

Aside from the blogging aspect of this class, there is a lot I learned that I had no idea I was so ignorant about. For example, we talked a lot in class about privacy and technology. Going in to this class, I really didn't think much about my privacy online. I figured I have passwords to log in to sensitive sites and that meant I was secure. But, in our class we really went in to depth on the different aspects of privacy. We learned about the ways people can illegally access your moblile phone, the dangers of bluetooth, and the sheer amount of information that you can gather about a stranger on the internet. One exercise from the class that sticks out for me is one where we had to seek as much information about someone on the internet as we could but we had to pretend we only knew their name. It was a little scary how much information I could gather on my person. Not only did I find information about them but I could link them to other family members. This exercise is just one example of the way this class really opened my eyes. I remember commenting in class that it seems like a lot of the precautions would limit one's freedom to live their life and that it wasn't worth it but I think I have a different attitude now. There really are a lot of simple things I can do to make myself more secure in this rapidly changing technological world.

This class also gave me a better perspective of what technology has to offer for education. The tools that my professor used to engage us in the material were really impressive. We learned a lot about the advantages and disadvantages of a virtual classroom. One day we all met in the virtual classroom instead of physically going to our classroom. I think it was an exciting experience for everyone and I would go as far as to say that everyone was more engaged that day. There were also some drawbacks though because the professor couldn't actually see our faces and gauge our interest level. He had to rely on us to take the initiative to respond to material. Just the other day, we watched a video on a middle school whose principal initiated a program to give everyone student a laptop. The students there use google tools to do their work and have a lot of creative assignments based on their computer. There were some drawbacks with kids going to other sites during the school day but overall it seemed like the students were really getting a lot more out of school. I think this is evidence of where education and technology are going. Through my experiences in the class and the material we covered, I can see the future of education resembling something more close to this middle school and my class's  experiences than the type of education we see in schools today.

I just want to close this post with a recommendation to anyone reading. If you are in school or an educator, seek out opportunities to incorporate technology into learning because it can really be your friend. If you aren't in school, still seek out these opportunities! The world is going to keep moving toward a more technological one and you don't want
to be left behind.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Where do STD Prevention and Technology go from here?

In order to successfully prevent a disease you have to be able to communicate the methods of prevention to a large audience and convince that audience that prevention of this disease is important. As our world changes, the means of communicating to different populations changes too and this is where technology comes in to play.

In the past, when a person wanted information on an STD, they basically had two options: ask a friend/family member or ask a health professional. But, a lot of people aren't comfortable going face to face with another person and discussing something so closely related to their sexual activity and unfortunately for society, this wariness of talking about STDs is causing a lot of problems with preventing it.   Thankfully, today, most people have access to a new tool and that is the internet. The internet has provided an anonymous way for people to gain information about an STD. A person can find an overview of STDs including symptoms and ways to get tested. They can also find statistics on a disease in their area which could make them more inclined to utilize prevention methods.
Not only does the internet provide prevention information, it also gives resources for people who have already contracted an STD. There are online support groups and resources for finding doctors. The internet does a good job of making sure no one feels alone with their condition and as stigmatized as society might make them feel, an online community of people dealing with the same thing will help that person feel included again.

The internet also does a great job of connecting organizations who are attempting to prevent STDs in their communities. It is very important that these organizations can collaborate because each organization has access to a specific population but to prevent STDs all populations need to be reached. For example, one organization might function within a church community while another might cater to transgender individuals. While these communities might have different needs the organizations serving them need to be working together since both groups will interact in society. It is also important that different organizations can connect so that they can share different methods of outreach, education, and prevention techniques with each other. If one organization finds that having people sign up for a mobile alert service that informs about free testing sites is an effective form of prevention, they can share that with another organization who might be able to utilize the same service with their population.

To get a field perspective on my topic I interviewed Denise Bellows from the Prevention Research Center in the School of Public Health.
 The mission of the PRC is to reduce health disparities in Maryland along the DC border. They attempt to do so by connecting the organizations in our area and "linking needs with resources." The PRC works with the Sexually Transmitted Infection Community Coalition of Metropolitan Washington, DC(STICC). They are working on ways to better communicate with the different organizations. I asked Denise how technology is helping the PRC reach its goals and she explained that technology comes in to play when trying to communicate with all the groups in the area. They also use technology to promote the work that they do including blogging through the School of Public Health's Healthy Turtle blog and posting pictures and videos of them doing their work. She also said that STICC uses a lot of technology to communicate including a facebook page and a website called is a website designed to allow groups to network and share information. It has features that allow for posting documents, creating events, and sharing calendars.

 Denise also mentioned email which she kind of jokingly questioned whether or not it was still considered technology. I feel that says something about where STD prevention is going in the future as far as technology. Organizations are no longer relying on a basic messaging platform but instead on interactive sites that focus on sharing an array of media and information. I think that if more people learn to utilize the tools available to them, we can be more effective at preventing all kinds of disease.

I also asked Denise if she saw any disadvantages of technology in her field. She explained that there were definitely some disadvantages and that the PRC actually conducted some focus groups on better ways to connect different STD prevention organizations. One of the ways proposed was creating a site like but the problem that organizations claimed to have was that they were often in the field and didn't always have access to the internet. In the future this problem may be alleviated by the increase of mobile internet use like smart phones but right now, not everyone has access to this kind of technology.

In the future, I see STD prevention moving even more into the digital world and I believe it will mostly be for the better. I think organizations dedicated to preventing STDs will be able to work together more effectively using technology and the populations they are trying to reach will have more technology available to them in order to access the information being provided by the organizations.

Interview with Denise: