Stephen Carson

Associate Director, Membership Management, Abdul Latif Jameel World Education Lab, MIT

How exactly have I missed #FOAMed?

drink-a-guinnessAs we rolled out our new multimedia library, we were looking for hashtags that might be useful in spreading the word, and we came across #FOAMed and #FOAMped. A little digging around brought me to the Life in the Fast Lane blog, and the backstory on FOAM.  Here’s the high level story from that site:

FOAM is the movement that has spontaneously emerged from the exploding collection of constantly evolving, collaborative and interactive open access medical education resources being distributed on the web with one objective — to make the world a better place. FOAM is independent of platform or media — it includes blogs, podcasts, tweets, Google hangouts, online videos, text documents, photographs, facebook groups, and a whole lot more.

FOAM should not be seen as a teaching philosophy or strategy, but rather as a globally accessible crowd-sourced educational adjunct providing inline (contextual) and offline (asynchronous) content to augment traditional educational principles.

If you want a more expansive explanation, try this:

I have to say, I was a bit floored to discover that a robust open education effort had grown up in the past two years with out my noticing, and even more distraught to find it was a community for which Guiness holds a prominent place in the mythology. Where have I been? Thinking about it overnight, I’ve realized that FOAM emerged in the middle of the MOOC madness of 2012, when I was hip-deep in MITx-land. I’d have to say also that the emergence from down under probably made it less visible, and the Open Education Consortium never has been able to gain as much traction down there as elsewhere. I also think—for very good reasons—medical education tends to be a little siloed in general.

So first off, I’m wondering if there are any connections between the worlds of #FOAMed and #OER, and if so where are they? There have been notable medical participants in the OER community, including Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and University of Michigan, but to my knowledge, none have been involved in the FOAM community. I’m going to have to do a round of communication to see if I’ve missed any overlaps.

The relative independence of the emergence of FOAM from the OER community is interesting to me, though, as already—and I have a lot of ramping up to do on the FOAM community—I see some interesting differences. OER emerged initially as a Web 1.0 phenomenon, and to this day maintains a bit of a focus on content (admittedly, this may just be OER as viewed from my particular experience). Web 2.0 tools have been adopted, but the content still has a heavy influence.

FOAM seems to me to be much more native Web 2.0, with the conversation around the content being as important as the content itself. This may be a consequence of the time in which the movement emerged, but I suspect it is also a byproduct of the focus on medical education as well, where the time constraints of the learners and the pace of change in the state of the art and knowledge base demands a much faster paced discussion and smaller units of information, hence the extensive use of Twitter.

In fairness to my #OER colleagues, though, I just hopped over to the #OER tweet stream and it’s every bit as busy as the #FOAMed one. Maybe it’s just me that has a Web 1.0 flavor. I’m going to have to go have a Guiness after work and ponder this some more. In the mean time, really thrilled to discover the FOAM world.

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