Meaningful Use of Technology
I have been thinking a lot about patient literacy and novel ways to use technology to get meaningful medical information into the hands of my patients. Recently, I had the opportunity to have breakfast with my friend Dave Theune, an English Teacher and Drama Director at Spring Lake Public Schools in Spring Lake, Michigan. Dave and Garth Trask, a first grade teacher, were explaining how they are using tablet technology in their classrooms. Then, as if on cue, one of Dave’s students passed by beaming about his current English project. Suddenly, I was intrigued.
Spring Lake Public Schools, along with several other schools along the Lake Shore, recently started a pilot program using iPads in the classroom. Elementary students in the pilot program are required to purchase insurance for their devices. Those students that cannot afford insurance receive scholarships. Teachers then download appropriate apps onto their students’ devices.
Once the tablets are in the hands of the students, the learning begins. Tablets can be used in a wide variety of ways including the flipped classroom model. In a flipped classroom, students watch instructional videos prior to classroom instruction allowing the teacher’s time to be spent reinforcing and further explaining the material in the videos.
What most impressed me, however, was hearing about how students embrace this technology and use it to collaborate on projects. Dave’s classroom, for example, is currently learning about 19th Century Literature. His class began by using the devices to identify and define the important works of 19th Century Literature. His students were then able to take what they learned collectively and incorporate it into individual projects of interest. One of Dave’s students chose to create a Twitter account from which he tweets Edgar Allen Poe quotes (@Your_Man_Poe). Another student took the narrative poem “The Raven” and has rewritten it as a children’s book. The students in Dave’s class have gone on to take their individual projects and created a 19th Literature Museum which they have opened and shared with our local community.
Michigan Community Invests in the Future: Technology and Children
In the era of public education cutbacks, cost is a major roadblock to getting tablets into the hands of more Michigan students. In an effort to address this challenge, Ludington, Michigan, recently approved a 10-year technology bond for its public schools. The bond gives students in Ludington assurance that they will have access to the latest technology even as the technology changes over time.
In the future, an alternative source of funding might be Michigan industry–if it begins to see the value of having the latest technology school classrooms and begins to understand the value of investing in public schools. Alternatively, the Michigan Legislature might see fit to increase public school funding in the future.
Tablets in public schools appear to foster learning, collaboration, and creativity in the classroom. Students embrace the devices. When each student, regardless of income, has access to the Internet in a supervised manner, they have unprecedented access to knowledge and learning. This opens new and exciting possibilities in public school education for both students and teachers.
Physician Opportunity to Use Technology to Create and Curate Health Information for Patients
Similarly, as tablet technology becomes more affordable and widespread, patients will have access to an almost unlimited amount of health care information. As physicians, we have a unique opportunity to use this technology to create and curate easy to understand educational materials for our patients. In addition, we will soon be able to use this technology to facilitate ongoing discussions with patients in an effort to help them better manage their own conditions. This is an exciting time not only for public education but also for the practice of medicine. We are really only limited by our own creativity in the resources we can create for our patients to improve the quality of health care in our communities.