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





Becoming a Medical School Memory Champion via Cartooning

11 06 2011

Congratulations to all of our MS2 who recently took the dreaded USMLE 1 Exam!  Unfortunately, much of medical school is about memorization – and believe it or not, there is a science to memorization.  I learned this from one of our students—who describes her experience meeting a ‘memory champion’ and picked his brain for some memory tricks for Step 1 including cartoon images.   As I’ll be speaking at the upcoming Comics in Medicine conference here in Chicago this weekend, it seemed fitting to describe her journey.

Right around the time I was beginning an epic five-week studying stint to prepare for STEP 1 of the Boards, Joshua Foer happened to be a guest on The Colbert Report (my go-to 20 minute study break).  Joshua Foer is this ridiculously young and talented journalist who won the US Memory Championships (yes this exists).  If his name sounds familiar you may be thinking of Jonathan Foer, his equally talented older brother who is also a writer.

Anyway, Joshua Foer was promoting his recently released book “Moonwalking with Einstein:  The Art and Science of Remembering Everything.” The book is about memory and his adventures in the world of memory competitions. Apparently there is a small group of people who get together each year and have memory competitions which consist of several memory “events” including faces of strangers, poetry, random words, numbers, binary digits, stacks of cards, etc.  Participants wear noise cancelling headphones and blinders (think sunglasses with two little holes drilled out) to reduce distractors as much as possible.  After attending the US competition as a journalist he wound up being tutored by and English memory master and winning the completion the next year (the US memory scene is not very developed, the Germans are much more serious).

Foer stressed that memory champions are not born with extraordinary powers of memory. They training themselves to use some established memory techniques and are constantly developing new ways on remembering things. This intrigued me since I wondered if I could use some of these techniques to master the overwhelming volume of facts needed for the Boards.  I started reading his book and loved it. It’s very pop-science quick read.   When chatting with one of my best friends who was studying for the Bar, she says, “Oh Josh Foer is giving a talk at this spot in Echo Park this weekend, let’s go pick his brain for ideas.”  (I studied in LA).

So we went… and I managed to get up the nerve to ask him for any advice.  In the most bizarre coincidence, he tells me that his wife is a also second year medical student studying for the boards (bet she’ll do just fine!).   Since visual mnemonics are big in the memory world, he explained that when making a visual aid, the funnier, scarier, raunchier, and stranger it is, the easier it is to remember. He recommended trying to enrich the image with as much detail as possible. He also explained that, though these images help you remember, thinking up good ones takes a lot of creative energy and can be exhausting. That’s one of the things you work on developing when training for a memory championship – the capacity to conjure up rich, creative images really quickly.  He signed my First Aid for the Boards, and I went home and started using that idea by making cartoons (a la Micro Made Ridiculously Simple).

He was right…creative effort is draining.  Sometimes, it took forever to think of something that would stick – but the stuff I made cartoons for is in the vault! Here is an example of a visual aid I made myself for a mucopolysccharidosis, Hurlers. In this image there is a gargoyle (Hurler’s causes gargoylism) hurling a ball (Hurler’s).  He has a dark spleen and liver (spleno- and hepatomegaly) and rain clouds for eyes (clouded corneas). He is also panting and gasping because of airway obstruction.  What I love about this picture is that if I can remember one part of the image (one thing about Hurler’s) the rest of the image (the rest of the facts) come back to me. The other nice thing I noticed is that on a lot of Boards questions you narrow it down to two answers, but it’s been a while since you looked at that material and you are 70% sure you picked the right answer. If I made a picture like this I was sure, clouded cornea’s goes with Hurler’s, not the related Hunter’s disease.  I used some other techniques from the book: the “memory palace” for biochemical pathways; the “major system” to remember lab values.   While memory tricks don’t lend itself to everything, it was really helpful for stuff that is difficult to reason through (lysosomal storage diseases, embryology).

–Gabrielle Schaefer, MS2

Thanks to Gabrielle for describing her experience!  And who said doodling in class never got you anywhere?








Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 16,196 other followers

%d bloggers like this: