What are your top tips on #FOAMed?

FOAMed-Origin-work2-signed-small-280x200Tomorrow I’m co-running a workshop on using free open access meducation – #FOAMed with my colleagues Annalisa Manca from Dundee and Rakesh Patel and Terese Bird from Leicester at the ASME Annual Scientific Meeting being held in Edinburgh.

Encouragingly the workshop is fully booked.  Our plan is to give an overview of open medical education and networked open learning, some examples of #FOAMed, address issues such as digital professionalism in developing #FOAMed resources, highlight how the use of a #FOAMed approach can support the development of communities of practice/learning collectives in medical education. We’re also going to ask the participants to design a #FOAMed resource/approach around some scenarios we’ve put together.

I’m just getting myself organised for an early start tomorrow and thought it might be good to touch base with the #FOAMed community and see if anyone might want to give some advice to our workshop participants on getting the best out of #FOAMed that I could share in the workshop.  For example

  • why do you use #FOAMed?
  • what do you think is the biggest benefit of #FOAMed?
  • what’s your favourite #FOAMed resource/site?
  • what tip would you give to someone who’s new to the #FOAMed approach?
  • what do you like most about #FOAMed?

I’d welcome comments on the blog or you can tweet me at @nlafferty.  If tweeting you might want to say where you’re from and what you’re specialty is or whether you’re a students and perhaps use the hashtag #FOAMedtips and then I can curate the tweets in Storify and publish these later and share with everyone.

If you have spare couple of minutes and can pass on a few tips or thoughts on #FOAMed that would be great 🙂

P.S. – Some updatesfor recommended viewing & reading

Simon Carley has suggested this video by the Mike Cadogan who’s been a key inspiration to many who’ve engaged with #FOAMed including me!

Various blog posts are linked here too which are recommneded reading


  1. Hi Natalie,
    I’m a trainee but also developing my interest in medical education – I love the way we can find fantastic (and usually short!) med ed resources made by people around the world who are passionate about medical education. FOAM has introduced me to a variety of different methods of delivering medical education: blog posts, podcasts, PK talks, 140character tweets (@njoshi8 is great at this, as is @srrezaie), twitter pics (see my set of toxicology tweets this evening)… The list goes on.

    What’s unique is the ability to enter into conversations about the things you learn – to question those sharing the knowledge (to learn more, to understand more deeply) and to be questioned (to continually challenge practice and test your understanding). Nothing is malicious but it can seem intimidating at first. Just like real life it’s ok to say “I don’t understand” – but afford others the opportunity too 🙂

    Obviously my favourite FOAM site is http://www.stemlynsblog.org (obvious conflict of interest!) but I love the Smart FOAM app for keeping up-to-date with what’s being shared – you don’t have to use twitter to get the most out of FOAM (but it helps I think).

    My tip for twitter, like Andy’s – start small, keep it simple. Follow a handful of people who seem to be tweeting the stuff you’re interested in – look at what they are saying but also who they are re-tweeting and recommending and who they interact with
    Ask a question if you have one – or just observe, it doesn’t matter. Be disciplined and read your twitter timeline regularly (10mins once a day? In the bathroom?!).

    My FOAM tip – get a good RSS feed aggregator. I’m getting used to Feedly – it’s a great resource to have all the info in one place rather than jumping from site -to-site to check out what’s going on. Add the blogs you’re interested in and tables of contents from journals you read or are interested in. Then with one login everything is there – perfect for those who can resist the urge to check twitter every half hour (unlike me!)

    On a personal level FOAM has given me some amazing opportunities and I have met some truly wonderful, inspiring and incredibly smart people in the last year. I am really truly and honestly grateful for the chance to engage in FOAM – long may it continue.


    1. Thanks Nat- this is super and look forward to sharing this with the particpants in the workshop. Appreciate you taking time to comment 🙂

  2. Natalie,

    Happy to offer some thoughts!

    why do you use #FOAMed? what do you think is the biggest benefit of #FOAMed? what do you like most about #FOAMed?
    3 big things:
    1 – It helps me to incorporate medical learning into my everyday life. ie – I used to procrastinate or take breaks by going on to social media. Now my social media use is largely dominated by something educational – twitter discussions and links that help me to learn.
    2 – Edutainment – See the post by Dr. Paul Olszynski on my site about this. Basically, #FOAMed resources are more entertaining than most other resources I have access to. I believe this helps both learning and retention.
    3 – International discussion. It’s amazing to learn from educators around the world. When they do things differently it makes me question if what I do is the way to go.
    For both reasons, it makes keeping up to date with the latest medical literature not feel like a chore.

    what’s your favourite #FOAMed resource/site?
    Perhaps this is just highlighting the popular, but I really enjoy listening to the EMCrit podcasts and they are very educational. St. Emlyn’s has also become a highlight as they have put out some extremely thought-provoking pieces lately. LITFL and ALiEM are huge for good reason..Apologies for the EM focus if your talk is more broad, but that’s my area 🙂

    what tip would you give to someone who’s new to the #FOAMed approach?
    Engage in the community either by commenting on blogs, discussing on twitter/google +, or racking up points on GMEP. You’ll get out of it what you put into it.

    I hope that’s helpful!


    1. Thanks Brent 🙂 Really appreciate you taking time to stop by and comment. Look forward to sharing this at the workshop tomorrow!

  3. Hello Natalie!
    I’m hoping to be there in the morning if I catch my very early flight- but I’ll say less, and listen more, if I write this now! I think that #FOAMed needs curators… so that means that we should work to try and get the motivated experts we know to try and take up this task. Of course we can (and should) all be curators but it will move #FOAMed from the early adopters to the mainstream if we can engage some of those who are really respected by our students and colleagues.
    I especially like tools like Scoopit for this because they make it easy to add insights and to target #FOAMed at specific audiences which can be a big benefit.

    I’m also really interested to see how organisations like the BMJ are starting to use curation for #meded eg see their Pinterest board. http://pinterest.com/thebmj/medical-education/

    So the future is looking bright!

    1. Hi Anne Marie
      Thanks, looking forward to seeing you later today. I agree with you about curation and hopefully this is something we can pick up on in the workshop. Safe travels!

  4. Great stuff
    FOAM as the movement and #FOAMed as the conversation has really helped a lot of people to source high quality medical education information that they would not normally have accessed and generated a sense of community, sharing and collation using the current technology available.
    Publishers, journals, bloggers, physicians, nurses, paramedics, students…are all able to watch the #FOAMed conversation and dip their toes in the educational flow. This collaborative effort feels genuine and has great benefits.
    My main advice is to
    – not be anonymous
    – not be scared of joining the conversation
    – enjoy the breadth of knowledge sharing
    – talk about what you want/need to enhance global medical education provision, there are people out there that listen and understand…and will provide a solution
    – do not be overwhelmed by the extent of medical information , there are sites out there that are curating and collating this information. These are often good starting points to enter the FOAM realm.

    I love reading other peoples ideas and opinions e.g.
    – Chris Nickson (http://iteachem.net/2013/06/ten-tips-for-foam-beginners/)
    – Lauren Westafer (http://shortcoatsinem.blogspot.com.au/2013/06/the-foam-forecast-better-than-weather.html) and (http://shortcoatsinem.blogspot.com.au/2012/09/foam-party-future-of-medical-education.html)

    I have met so many people both virtually and in real life as a result of my #FOAMed experience and have taken educational pearls, ideas and concepts from global educators and used them locally to great benefit.

    vive la FOAMed

    1. Cheers Mike, this is great and thanks for the various links, all very helpful 🙂 Thanks too for the reminder that #FOAMed is a conversation!

  5. …and some more facts and figures on #FOAMed

    Collated list of #FOAMed twitter members (willing to put #FOAMed in profile) has just reached 500 – https://twitter.com/sandnsurf/foamed/members

    Full list of names, countries and websites being collated in Google Docs and users can update with the online form (at bottom of page) http://lifeinthefastlane.com/foam/ there are currently 34 different countries represented

    #GMEP – the Global medical education project has almost 3000 users representing 156 Universities have uploaded 14,000 images, videos and audio and 20,000 MCQ – phase II rebuild underway to create a global #FOAMed repository of clinical multimedia. High quality medical multimedia is being made available to all…

    #FOAMed is not new – it is a simple rebrand to create awareness of resources and enhance accessibility to these resources – it is helping to break down barriers to global education provision…

    vive la FOAMed

  6. I’m a paeds trainee and spend much of my non-clinical time creating or reading #foamed content.

    Its benefits are:
    1. Communicating with health professionals in other hospitals/countries but with the same interest as you – you get a whole new perspective on patient management and care
    2. Innovating – I love IT and innovation and FOAM really encourages people to come up with new and interesting ways of disseminating innovation and new ideas for online education
    3. Enthusiasm for learning – it has really reinvigorated my enthusiasm for keeping up to date. I read Paeds FOAM content pretty much every day whether previously I looked through some journal once a week or fortnight (it was more like a chore).
    4. Networking – great way to increase your network which can help for your professional life in general
    5. It brings other opportunities – creating FOAM content has led me into journal articles, magazine writing, coding and IT skills (a rather strange side-skill I have picked up!), and working with Archives of Disease in Childhood on the #ADC_JC twitter journal club. It has much more to it than meets the eye.

    Best FOAM sites have been mentioned and I agree with the above. To plug my own too, I developed guidelinesforme.com to create an online database of links to hospital guidelines. As well as creating FOAM articles for education people are also starting to create frameworks and ways of aggregating FOAM content to make it more manageable. SmartFOAM (thanks for the mention @_nmay) is currently in beta but the iOS final version is almost ready and hopefully will be an asset for FOAM users. And GoogleFOAM is a customised google search engine by @rainedoc so you can search here for FOAM content.

  7. I think the breadth of comments (and attached links/resources) within 24 hours says it all…

    My favourite summation:

    If you want to know how we practiced medicine 5 years ago, read a textbook.
    If you want to know how we practiced medicine 2 years ago, read a journal.
    If you want to know how we practice medicine now, go to a (good) conference.
    If you want to know how we will practice medicine in the future, listen in the hallways and use FOAM.
    — from International EM Education Efforts & E-Learning by Joe Lex 2012

    (although I think it is more truthful to say “how we think” we practiced medicine….


  8. Since I started in medicine 10 years ago, my knowledge access points have shifted from journals and conferences to twitter and list serves because those points provide resources and discussions that are more current and actively engaged. My FOAMED connection has come out of those access points where people from around the world tell me what is important to them. I then archive that information in DIIGO and curate it to my colleagues using Scoopit. When feeling particularly inspired by what I’m reading, I create on my blog and wiki.
    Today I attend conferences for conversation and connection primarily because I rarely find anything new in what is being presented.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s