Web 2.0 and Medical Education

In May of 2008, James McGee MD wrote an article for AAMC’s website, Web 2.0 and Medical Education: It’s Here. Are You Ready?.Web 2.0, in a nutshell, is the ability to interact with, change and shape information out on the world-wide web, while Web 1.0 traditionally sent information outward without the average user having the ability to influence the content or message. Here is a visual of the Web 2.0 vs Web 1.0 comparison provided in McGee’s AAMC article:

McGee wrote this piece four years ago, and since then Web 2.0 has matured considerably. In 2008, Facebook had 145 million users–in December 2011 they had 845 million users. The 2012 Summer Olympics were Tweeted about 150 million times and the 2012 Presidential election is being called ‘the Twitter election’ according to the Twitter blog with “more  Tweets sent every two days today than had ever been sent prior to Election Day 2008 — and Election Day 2008’s Tweet volume represents only about six minutes of Tweets today. Has this much changed in medical education since 2008?

McGee points out, the Millennials (aka Gen Yers and those born between early 80s and early 00s) are now in medical school. This group has grown up with technology and social media playing an increasingly larger role in their day-to-day experience. What we GenXers and Boomers wondered about in our formative years, Millenials simply “Google-it”, and have an answer within seconds. Or at least the start at an answer. Their ability to vet what is being shared in a lecture hall, find a second opinion or way of looking at an issue, or watch an engaging video, can happen in seconds, before the educator has even moved on to the next Power Point slide.

In an excellent post on her blog, Future Docs, Rising Above the Sea of MacBooks: “Edu-tainment” and Other Tips, Vineet Arora MD (@FutureDocs) knows she is competing with the world through the MacBooks sitting in front of her medical students, and she is facing that challenge by designing her lectures to meet the needs of the changing classroom environment. (Please forgive the lengthy quote–the information was too good not to share). She advises:

1.  Engage in “edu-tainment” – As Scott Litin at Mayo refers to it, “edu-tainment” is the goal – entertainment via education.  How does one incorporate entertainment into lecture style?  Well, the easiest way is through humor.  This is difficult since not everyone is funny by nature so it may be that you have to inject humor in odd ways.

2. Play games – Games are inherently fun and interactive can stimulate a lot of learning and discussion.  While you may be thinking about computer games, easy games can often stimulate learning.  One of our research ethics faculty played 20 questions with the group of students to teach about landmark research ethics cases.

3. Turn into a talk show – There is nothing more boring than watching the same person for an hour give a talk.  It is much more interesting to watch a panel of people tell a story about themselves – whether it be a patient, another physician, or another student.  I still remember medical school lectures with invited guests that had this talk show appeal due to the lack of power point and focus on the story.  While I’m not suggesting a Jerry Springer approach, who doesn’t love Oprah – at least Chicago has several role models to choose from.

4. Showcase video – Video is one of my favorite teaching tricks.  One well made video can communicate a thousand research articles.  In our week of Scholarship and Discovery, our faculty used videos from Xtranormal (no it was not the famous orthopedics vs anesthesia) but a similar one.  One faculty who could not attend taped a welcome introduction, and another used a clip from “Off the Map” which is now off the air but is still an effective reminder of how NOT to perceive global health.

5. Use audience response – Use of Turning Point clickers can result in instant feedback and engagement with students as they see the results of their poll immediately…Here Steve Jobs can help again – Turning Point has audience response systems for iPhones and iPads that can be used and automatically identify people but it would require that everyone have a smartphone and purchase a license to the software.

6. Refer to the internet– Given that students are on the computer, you can take advantage of it and ask them to visit internet resources in class by showing them urls or web pages that are of use.  Sometimes you may actually refer to your own course website like we do.

7. Provide fancy color handouts – …there is nothing like a fancy color brochure or handout to create a “buzz”.  It’s almost like a souvenir of their hard journey to class that day.  If you ever want to provide someone with a ‘leave behind’ that looks important, lamination is key.  A color laminated leave-behind is even better.  Pocket cards are some of my favorites.

Arora is aware of the need to meet her students where they are–my nephew’s 4th grade teacher unfortunately is not. Vince started school this week, and sadly had to leave his iPad at home. They don’t allow them in the school he attends. He informed his mom and dad he no longer likes school. This is the kid who, in 3rd grade, ran from the bus to the kitchen table at the end of the day to get his homework done without prompting. This is also the kid who sat all day in his room on Saturday making movies with an app he found on the internet, using iPad photos he took of the Lego superhero scenes he built, creating his own storyline without a lesson plan. I fear his teachers don’t allow iPads in class because they don’t want to be shown up by a nine-year-old. I also hope that his will not be the lost generation–the kids who sit in school waiting to get home so the real learning can begin. I hope Gen Yers will not be the lost generation of medical school–sitting in lectures that stop at the four walls of the classroom.

Please share examples of technology being used to its fullest in classrooms around the world–medical or otherwise. I know it’s out there in pockets, and can be,–but we need to expand its reach!

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One Comment on “Web 2.0 and Medical Education”

  1. sgranzyk says:

    Yes, it’s been amazing to watch over the past 40+ years the transformation of how we approach our students and put them at the center of their learning. It’s been clear for many years that technology demands a teacher adapt and rethink approaches in the classroom to find out how to use it to advantage and not lose his or her role as a necessary guiding and mediating force. This is typically phrased as the days of “the sage on the stage” are no longer and teachers need to think of themselves more as “coaches” or guiding mentors. And the flow of information and how it is used needs also to be mediated–but you can’t be an expert mediator or coach if you are not somewhat familiar with what your students are experiencing. For example, a recent Chicago Tribune article cited studies showing that students often use information that they can find (or buy) on the internet and put it out as their own without attribution to the original author or the ability to integrate what they have found properly with their own ideas and that they often say they see nothing wrong with it. Websites like turnitin.com provide the ability to check students’ writing for authenticity and make them more aware of their ethical responsibility in using the work of others and giving attribution.


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