Medical Education Revolution? If it’s good enough for the New England Journal, then good enough for me!

Is the era of lecture halls over? A recent NEJM editorial has made a call for educators to think outside the lecture hall!

Here’s an awesome editorial in the New England Journal of Medicine. The core question posed by the authors is how to make ideas/concepts “stickier”. They note that “messages are stickier when they are unexpected enough to capture our curiosity”. I’ll tell you that I’ve sat through countless medical school lectures where nothing except what I wrote on facebook sticks in my mind!

Educators now have the luxury of a new, vastly different but powerful method of accessing learners  and presenting information…the online world and Web 2.0! 100 years ago, this didn’t exist so lectures were probably a great idea. Now, we can literally access millions of articles on every conceivable topic within seconds. So the challenge is not getting information (that part has been made easy by google) but we as learners need to learn “how to learn”, “how to interpret” and “how to manage” all this information. If we’re going to have regular meetings (let’s call them lectures), it doesn’t make much sense to present slides that can be found on the internet with a single click. Let’s maximize this time with discussion and interaction and as the authors suggest “move those lectures outside the lecture hall and to use class time for more active learning”.

What about having students receive high-yield teaching points on their smartphones or via Twitter? Why not have summaries, short ones (since our attention spans are similar to those of fleas) sent to us. Consider short video clips that students can watch on their way to the lecture, but we need to be aware of all the competing distractions (e.g. facebook, emails, etc…). Educators can’t expect to battle these head to head. First hand knowledge, I must admit, this is a lost cause. Media delivered to students has to be accessible, short, high yield and practical. If it’s relevant, then we’ll remember it. I look forward to where medical education can go. It will be exciting to see educators  capitalize on the flipped classroom, Web 2.0 and simply being innovative with technology.

Thank you New England Journal for bringing this forward! (ps. I have no ties to NEJM)


2 thoughts on “Medical Education Revolution? If it’s good enough for the New England Journal, then good enough for me!

  1. The word “lecture” comes from the Latin “lectus”, to read. In the early universities and schools, there were very few books because, until Gutenberg invented the printing press, all books had to be copied by hand, so only a few rich people, who could afford personally copied books, had books, so teaching took the form of “reading” from books by the lecturer. So lectures in this form became the method of learning starting in the Middle Ages. So we have not progressed very far. So the NEJM is probably right: we have to think differently about teaching now that we have progressed a few years past the Renaissance. Just a bit of history and etymology.

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