Blog | Friday, October 14, 2011

Informal learning and its moral for medical education


We wonder about how technology impacts education and whether it makes educators forget pedagogy as they eagerly incorporate the latest shiny toy or software into the classroom. But there are times when I am just glad that we have the resources we do.

This Saturday morning I woke up to the sound of rolling thunder and rain beating against the window. This was a matter of great import as I had to take our daughter to her soccer game about 40 miles away. We were already cutting it fine (as we usually do for weekend morning games) as we jumped into the car. Still I had enough of my wits about me to stow my iPad and MiFi (mobile WiFi access) between the seats.

You see I had a plan. I knew the first questions she was going to ask me as she put on her cleats and her shin guards. The questions would be:
1. Dad, how far is this place? Will we get there in time?
2. Will they cancel the game due to the weather?

And instead of just telling her what I had already looked up, I asked her to fire up the iPad and look it up herself. She knew this was going to be one of those trips, "I suppose you got the MiFi and you are not just going to tell me the answer!" So we switched the MiFi on, connected to it with the iPad and were all set. We had plenty of time, and so I let her figure it out.

So what were the tasks?
1. Go to e-mail and get the address of the soccer field
2. Punch that into Google Maps
3. Fire up Weather.com and look at the radar and cloud maps
4. Learn what the different colors on the map meant
5. Play the video to see which way the storm was moving.
6. Estimate what the weather would be at the field by the time we got there.

The good news was that the storm was going to move out by the time we got there. She loves soccer and she was thrilled to know that the game would be played. I was happy to see that she learned how to use these tools to find answers for herself. The technology made it possible to use her motivation and the car trip for this great learning opportunity.

As we work with medical students and residents, we have to remember that most of the learning does not occur in the classroom. As we work together to solve clinical problems we should guide them and help them use various tools to find the answers for themselves.

Neil Mehta MBBS, MS, FACP, practices internal medicine at a large tertiary care hospital in Ohio. He is also the Director of Education Technology (Academic Computing) for his medical school and in charge of his hospital system's home grown Learning and Content Management System. He is interested in use of technology in education, social media and networking, practice management and evidence-based medicine tools, personal information and knowledge management. This post originally appeared at Technology in (Medical) Education.