Rising Above the Sea of MacBooks: “Edu-tainment” and Other Tips

12 09 2011

Although Steve Jobs has stepped down as CEO of Apple, his legacy for physicians-in-training is very palpable. Or should that be visual – As I looked into the auditorium of eager and bright incoming medical students this Summer, I saw a bunch of Apple’s staring back at me – sleek, silver and unmistakably MacBooks.  This is the millennial generation so why would I be surprised?  Maybe because it is more ever-present than before this year.  Could it be that the entering class of 2015 had more millenials?  Actually, another hypothesis has also been put forth that is equally if not more plausible…our medical school auditoriums were installed with new desks and chairs.  While these were well received, the desks served as an inviting surface just beckoning for the MacBooks to be placed there.    As a result, you’re never sure if you’re competing with Facebook, the worldwide internet, or even email messages that appear more interesting than your class.   Since lecture capture technology has made it possible for people to view lectures from home, it’s important to make attending lecture in person worthwhile.  Well, here are some tips for medical educators who ‘lecture’ in this new age.

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. It also tells you how many people who up to class!  The only problem is that passing out the clickers and collecting them can be rather time consuming.  So, another possibility is to issue them at the start of class which is done in some colleges and used as a way to count attendance (until a brilliant undergrad brings in a bunch of clickers to class to vote for their lazier friends!).  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 – While handouts may sound like they have gone by the waste side, 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.

Is there any guarantee these tips will work?  Of course not.  But, what’s the harm in trying?  While some professional schools have gone so far as to block wireless in lecture halls, the truth is that current medicine is augmented with the help of computers and online resources- so we should figure out how medical education can be too.

–Vineet Arora, MD








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