Part of being digitally literate is the need to cope with the pros and cons of emerging services online. I was sat watching the TV the other day and an advert popped up for Push Doctor an app which apparently allows you to access a doctor online rather than visiting a GPs practice. I smiled as the advert came on as I have found myself complaining about the difficulty of getting access to a GP on a number of occasions since having returned to the UK. You can only get an appointment by phoning up first thing in the morning as an emergency and hoping for an available slot or by booking weeks if not months in advance. As such the idea of an on demand doctor via an app on my smartphone sounds like a good idea, however is it?
An online doctor can take all of the personal history and also ask the same diagnostic questions as a GP may be able to do however they don’t have the physical access to you. They don’t have the ability to carry out a physical examination and to take diagnostic readings as to your blood pressure, heart rate, etc. They also don’t have the same relationship which may exist with a long standing family GP, for those lucky enough to have one. Without the physical access I am not sure I would feel comfortable with an online doctor prescribing me medication.
I also wonder about the credibility of an online doctor. My GP has been installed in a health practice and therefore will have been vetted by the practice for suitability, experience and skill. They also are tangible in my ability to actually meet with them, see them in the local area, etc. They have a physicality which an online doctor doesn’t have. They can’t just disappear by disabling an online account in the same way that on online doctor may be able to do.
I think the idea of an online doctor is an excellent one especially when the NHS is as stretched as it is often reported to be. That said I still think there is some work to be done in winning people over and encouraging people, including myself, to make use of such a service.
Thinking a bit further ahead I wonder if the solution to the diagnostic readings side of things might be the increasing number of us wearing fitness devices. Through these devices our online doctor might be able to gather rudimentary, and possibly in the future more diagnostic, data such as heart rate, exercise habits, etc. In doing so they might be better able to diagnose and given the constant monitoring of such devices they may prove to be better able to diagnose than the currently conventional GP.
The online doctor is but one of a number of emerging services which technology is facilitating, however are we ready to accept and use such new services?
At a recent conference event I got into the discussion with a couple of other attendees in relation to what the best suite of apps for use in schools was. The main options on the table were Google Apps for Education and Microsoft Office 365 however other platforms such as Firefly and Showbie were also mentioned.
The key here, in developing digital literacy, is do we focus on a single suite such as Google Apps for Education, or G-Suite as I believe it is now called, or should we make use of a variety of different apps with our students.
A singular suite presents the option of consistency. Students experience the same apps used across all of their lessons within school, whether they are developing homework, viewing resources or undertaking in class learning activities. They also experience a common user interface and experience across the different apps within the suite. This can also be beneficial for staff in that all teachers are using the same apps and therefore can support each other and share ideas. This has an equal benefit for students who are able to support and help each other given the common nature of the apps used across subjects and year groups. The single suite develops depth of knowledge in students as they are able to explore the singular suite in detail, which should support them as they move to a another similar suite.
Using a multitude of different apps and possibly different suites, such as using Google Apps and Office 365, has the advantage of allowing teachers and students to pick the best app for each given purpose from all apps which are available. The ability to pick from any app also has the advantage of being able to access a wider range of functionality than is available within any single suite. It also allows for teachers and students to select according to their personal preference. Use of multiple apps develops cross platform skills in students and also staff allowing them to more easily flit between apps as need.
My preference is to find a solution somewhere in the middle with a single core suite being used but with an allowance for other apps and suites to be used as need. As such I use Office 365 as my core suite however often make use of Google Forms within the G-Suite due to its superior functionality and my greater familiarity over the Microsoft equivalence.
And if pushed to select between Office 365 and Google Apps, I would answer that I would pick both. For schools heavily invested and attached to the traditional Microsoft Office suite I would go with Office 365 for its familiarity, as I have done in my current school, however in a new school or a school which isn’t attached to a particular office suite, I would go with G-Suite due to it being slightly further along in development as an educational tool.