A Glimpse into Educational Technology in Early Education: What Can We Learn and Use in Medical Education?

By Kristen L. Dascoli, Grant Development Director, Oncology, Annenberg Center for Health Sciences at Eisenhower

Long gone are the days of “My dog ate my homework.” If you have school-aged children or grandchildren currently, you know full well that children nowadays can simply go online to download class notes, submit homework or access textbooks. They know the fun online math games and can share with you a video that they watched in class. Educational technology is integrated into the K-12 classroom setting every single day.

Educational technology is not new to the medical education sector either. Graduate medical education and continuing medical education already use computer-aided instruction, virtual patient encounters, virtual reality and human patient simulation. The question isn’t whether educational technology will play a part in our industry — it already does. The question is if we, as medical educators, are missing opportunities to incorporate new educational technologies that are already available and successful?

With that in mind, I set out to look at the use of educational technology tools in the K-12 educational setting by interviewing K-12 teachers who are invested deeply in educational technology and use educational technology in their own classrooms every day. Although it is by no means an exhaustive list of all of the tool available, this article provides a glimpse into tools that K-12 teachers are using with great success and that do not require extensive time or resources to incorporate into the learning environment.

Gamification Made Easy

Yes, children still raise their hands to answer questions. (The “old-school” audience response system is still as effective as ever.) But teachers nowadays have other ways of polling their students to learn what information is being retained. Kahoot! is a well-known game-based learning platform that allows teachers to create multiple-choice quizzes that learners can access via web browser or through the Kahoot! app. Although Kahoot! doesn’t replace traditional tests or quizzes, it allows learners to play a quiz game by themselves or in competition with other students. It gamifies the learning process by adding a scoring/competitive level to learning and giving real-time feedback. It also gives teachers real-time outcomes that they can use to assess which educational points and/or learners need reinforcement. Platforms like Kahoot! show that gamification is easy … and we in the medical education sector can embrace gamification even when resources are limited.

Where are the Dittos?

Do teachers still use physical handouts — dittos — to reinforce content? I asked the teachers; the short answer: Dittos aren’t extinct, but they’re definitely endangered.

School districts nationwide use platforms such as Nearpod and Peardeck that allow teachers to create and save notes, create slide decks, imbed YouTube videos into slide decks, create real-time polls and quizzes and display these on their interactive whiteboards — also known as SMART boards. (It’s important to note that these programs are purchased by the school districts as a whole and not on a project-by-project or teacher-by-teacher basis.) Yes, teachers can still print slides out for students but it’s unlikely.

Another nail in the coffin for dittos: Quizlet. This online community provides engaging, customizable activities, most often in the form of diagrams and flashcards; the goal is to improve study skills and retention of information. Learners can create their own flash cards based on their needs or find flash cards developed by other users to quiz themselves.

And the Buzzword is … Collaborative Computing

In laymen terms, collaborative computing is technology that supports collaboration between people. Some examples of collaborative computing include instant messaging, videoconferencing, online whiteboarding and file-sharing platforms. Although the term might be unfamiliar to us, the examples are not. (If you’ve ever worked in an office, you’ve used collaborative computing.) Collaborative computing is making its way into K-12 classrooms. Pen-pal letters are replaced with FaceTime chats. Students send their homework in via Google Classroom.

Teachers are using collaborative computing to create learning environments that extend beyond the time spent in the physical classroom. Teachers use engagement-management system such as ClassCraft to award in-class behavior and progress in a virtual world. There are apps (e.g., Remind, ClassTag) specifically designed for teachers to communicate and collaborate with students and parents. Teachers also are using social media platforms like Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram to reach out to educational technology companies, start-ups, meeting planners, experts and other teachers to discuss successful projects, brainstorm new ideas and simply to connect. The K-12 educational sector is showing that collaborative computing isn’t just for office workers or office work ... it’s a great way to stay in touch with learners, expand the learning environment and keep learners highly engaged.

By the Time this Article is Published, the Technology will be Obsolete

That is the fear, no? The idea that by the time organizational resources are used to get a new technology up and running, that technology is already obsolete. First and foremost, all of the teachers I spoke with agree that educational technology is not meant to teach learners how to use a specific technology. Although the teachers help to build their students’ skills on how to acquire, process, solve and retain information using technology, they stressed that educational technology is meant to complement and bolster the learning process by allowing for more learner-driven, hands-on, differentiated instruction. The specific platform, application, program or hardware is secondary to the educational content and goal. Given that reasoning, educational technology itself will never be obsolete, even as specific programs come and go.

Summary

As we strive to provide the most innovative and engaging learning experiences for healthcare professionals, we should look at other industries for ideas and strategies. Given the accessibility of technology, organizations can find educational technology tools that fit any budget and resource availability. Innovation in educational technology can come from anywhere: even your child’s classroom.

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