The next #OTalk (26/11/13) will be on my dissertation topic, video games in rehabilitation!

This is just a quick update to publicise the upcoming #OTalk, which will be on Games in Rehabilitation. As some of you may remember, I did my OT dissertation on virtual reality video games for rehabilitating children with cerebral palsy, so this is one of those talks I will come out of hiding to participate in.

The talk will be led by Rachel Proffitt (@Games4RehabOT), who has prepared this blog post to introduce the subject.

My dissertation was published back in March 2012, and at the time, my findings were summarised as such:

Cerebral palsy (CP) is a common childhood disability, with 1 in 400 babies born each year resulting in a diagnosis. Occupational therapists (OTs) aim to improve daily function while engaging children with CP in typical childhood occupations, such as play. Motion-sensing virtual reality (VR) interventions could allow children with CP to engage in realistic playful environments while practicing repetitive movements and developing functional motor skills. OTs need to embrace technology, but an evidence base is needed before new technology, like VR, can be used in interventions.

The evidence base for motion-sensing VR is emerging, with limited evidence to support the use of VR in practice. However, reviewed articles suggest that VR is possibly on par with current standard treatment for developing upper extremity motor skills. Stronger evidence is needed, but there is potential. No studies have used a VR system that tracks the movements of a handheld remote, only systems that track hands.

Not that you need to get this, but I have made my dissertation available to anyone who wants it at Lulu.com.

I look forward to seeing some of you in my Twitter feed on Tuesday at 8pm, UK time!

My first publication.

This week, I had a short piece of writing published for the first time. It is relatively public in that people I don’t know and didn’t go to school/university/work with will read it, but unfortunately, you can’t find it online. But if you’re a member of the British Association of Occupational Therapists and have received February’s issue of OTnews, you can flip through the news section and find a submission I wrote about Oxford Brookes University’s collaboration with Tokyo Metropolitan University in August 2012, hosting a group of Japanese postgraduate students and professors of occupational therapy, nursing and midwifery. At the bottom, you will find ‘Danielle Werner, Oxford Brookes University’, which definitely sent a thrill through me, though I’d like to publish something more substantial at some point. Anyway, it’s a quick read, so I hope those of you who can will read it and possibly think about how you can make connections with the wider world out there!

(PS – it should have said ‘Danielle Werner, BSc(Hons) Occupational Therapy’, don’t you think?)

Could I have a future in Human Computer Interaction?

Looking back over my experience studying occupational therapy, I’m coming to accept that I am not going to be a standard practicing OT. What I found most interesting were things like assistive technology and educational technology, and I had two placements that encouraged these interests. I also really enjoyed learning and developing new skills in the academic (but ‘practical’) setting. In school, I enjoyed conducting experiments and writing up reports. So it seems fitting for me to combine these interests and work with technology, potentially in a research and development role. It is something I’m repeatedly drawn to, so why fight it?

Something else that comes naturally to me is my ability to spot things that could be better. In my current job, I’m always suggesting improvements to the way my team works and how our environment is set up. In my final placement, I watched a presentation in which one of the OTs demonstrated a new programme to help the students (with dyslexia) construct sentences, and I felt almost disturbed towards the end, as the software was not in any way intuitive. I sat there just thinking about how this or that could be improved, and I even talked to the OT afterwards about her experience trialling it. She had to spend hours exchanging emails and phone calls with their support team just to learn how to use it in the most basic sense! (Apparently, once you know how it works, it’s great.)

I’ve been thinking about where I want to go in life, particularly what to do a Masters in. I know that I’m going to one day get a PhD – this is one of my life goals – but I just don’t know what exactly to focus on, as my interests range from education to AT to virtual reality to anthropology and so on.

And I think I’ve found my Masters area: Human Computer Interaction. The name is pretty self-explanatory – it involves studying how humans interact with technology and designing technology so that it better meets the needs of the intended users. It combines behavioural psychology with computer science, among many other fields. This is where I hope you all go, “But wait, this is totally relevant to occupational therapy!” Don’t occupational therapists also try to match technology (low and high-tech) with the needs and abilities of the user, just on a smaller scale with one person at a time or a very specific population?

I think occupational therapists are entirely qualified to study human computer interaction. We understand people, both psychologically and physically. We have the skills necessary to observe and analyse the behaviour of people in an environment completing a task, and we can modify the task or environment to improve the success rate of the activity. So it seems perfectly natural, if I want to work with technology, to study human computer interaction and apply it to creating and/or improving technologies for education and/or disabilities.

My next step is to continue reading and learning about HCI, as well as looking into the differences of the various universities that offer it as a MSc. I found out that I have two weeks worth of holidays to use before the new fiscal year, as does Flan, so we might take a few day trips to Bath, UCL, Brighton and so on over the coming months. It’s not a cheap venture, so I’ll also be seeing what funding options I have; there may be a companies or organisations out there willing to sponsor a potential HCI expert! Who knows?