Updated: Nov 8
As a busy occupational therapy student facing down deadlines you would think social media would be a distraction I’d be looking to avoid; instead you’ll find me deliberately sitting down once a week to spend at least an hour scrolling through Twitter. Even more surprising is the fact that some days, the Tweets I’m reading feel even more educational than the assignments I’m working on (don’t tell my lecturers!)
What’s keeping me in front of my laptop screen every Tuesday at 8pm is the #OTalk Twitter chat. Every week a different person studying or working in occupational therapy hosts a conversation on a topic relevant to current OT practice, education and research, raising key questions that get the Twitter OT community talking. Over the years that the @OTalk_ team has been running these chats, topics have ranged from things you might expect an OT blog to cover (like the Kawa model) to ones you might not (like the therapeutic use of humour) and all kinds of weird and wonderful places in between.
The upsides and downsides of social media use are unlikely to ever stop being a contentious topic, but there’s an increasing awareness of how students and practitioners can benefit from using the Internet as a tool for learning, networking and continuing professional development. One of the best assets of the occupational therapy community is the diverse settings we work in and the rich variety of experiences we have as a result; Twitter provides an open and accessible forum for that knowledge to be shared, in contrast with how in the past meeting and sharing ideas with so many other therapists from all over the world probably would have been a much more complicated and expensive endeavour.
For me as a student, taking part in #OTalk chats has given me an insight into how various issues are dealt with in the “real world” of OT practice, as well as getting advice on how to thrive at university and on placement from people who’ve been through it before. Using Twitter as the venue for these discussions also provides an opportunity for everyone involved to become familiar with the do’s and don’ts of social media: protecting the privacy of people we work with, respecting each other and - as we thoroughly discussed in a recent #OTalk on professional boundaries - never posting anything that you wouldn’t be happy to say in any other public place!
If you’re interested in #OTalk, there are a lot of ways you can join in, whether you’re you’d prefer to just “lurk” and quietly observe what others are saying or you’re ready to add your voice to the conversation - and don’t worry if 8pm (UK time) doesn’t work for you, since transcripts of all our chats go up on the OTalk blog for you to read in your own time. If you want to take things a little further, try hosting a chat on something you’re passionate about, or applying for a position on the team next time one is available (which is how I came to have my current position as Student Digital Leader Intern!) I promise you won’t be bored on a Tuesday evening again!