By Dr. Elise
S. Eisenberg, Senior Director of Informatics, New York University College of Dentistry
How do we
innovate for the education and practice of tomorrow? Employing
digital technology has been and will continue to be a major answer to that
question. As the Senior Director of Informatics at New York University College of Dentistry, I have seen numerous educational
technologies come and go, and found myself tempted to try out countless others.
The market for technological solutions to educational problems has exploded in
recent years, and there is every reason to believe that educators will face
even more choices about which technologies to employ in the coming decade.
influence how we currently teach. While our resources (both institution and
human) sometimes limit what we can do, the availability of digital technologies
and the preferences of the millennial generation of students have led most of
our institutions to embrace at least some aspects of eLearning. The next
generation of professional students will have an even greater impact on our use
of digital learning. Born between 1995–2009, the members of Generation Z are
true “digital natives” who have never known a world without digital
Even in the
current millennial generation, many students prefer to take a digital approach
to learning. The Generation Z students are accustomed to learning from the Internet
and find it easiest to learn using digital resources. They like to take in
information in smaller bites and typically have shorter attention spans. They
also have good critical thinking and problem solving skills. They are good
visual learners, and they typically have experience taking part in collaborative
students find instructional approaches such as the flipped classroom, which
blends online and classroom learning, both engaging and flexible. Pedagogies
that encourage students to learn independently also help prepare them to
embrace evidenced-based health care and life-long learning, both of which rely
on practitioners’ ability to access information as needed throughout their
employing teaching techniques that rely on digital tools can be challenging for
faculty since many of us lack the digital and media literacy skills possessed
by our students. Faculty development focused on digital literacy and the use of
digital media is urgently needed—and not just in how digital media work but in
how they can be used. Faculty need to appreciate the pedagogical value of
eBooks, virtual patients, MOOCs and other innovations (see Glossary, below)
before they will invest the time it takes to become comfortable using these new
considerably less difficulty than faculty when it comes to using digital tools.
Some students are creating self-help videos for their classmates that are used
as study aids around the world. But even these students need help in
understanding how to use digital tools well. Training in how to interpret and
analyze the facts they gather and share is critical if they are to successfully
treat patients in an environment that relies on electronic health records and
other digital technologies to provide care.
this mean for our institutions? As we move forward, we will inevitably become
more reliant on eLearning technologies to educate our students. As this occurs,
schools must become savvy in evaluating their technological options. Will a
given technology enable more efficient and effective pedagogies? Will it improve
the economics of delivering education and the potential for student success?
Will it help the institution achieve its strategic goals?
If the answer
to all these questions is yes, schools still have many other factors to
consider. Paramount is how much a school is able to invest. It’s not just a
matter of purchasing the technology. Schools also need to provide training and
release time for those who will use the technology. They need to ensure data
security where patient and student records are involved. And schools must hire
people who can maintain the technology and facilitate its use. Without these
supports, the best innovations may become obsolete before they are widely
adopted by faculty and end up benefitting no one.
get involved in creating educational content and delivery vehicles such as
mobile apps that can be distributed via the Internet, another set of questions
emerges. Should faculty receive release time to develop new technologies and
courses? Who owns the material and the technology, the college or faculty? How
do schools maintain brand separation as faculty collaborate across
these questions should not become a barrier to innovation. We need look no
farther than MedEdPORTAL to see the value of new technologies that allow us to
share educational content, and to appreciate the value of working in a
community that chooses to share its resources.
technology can empower and inform. It facilitates critical thinking,
self-directed learning and information literacy skills. It also helps educators
refine how they teach by analyzing what their students learn. Mobile devices
and apps provide the flexibility for personalized and “just in time” learning,
which is also impacting how health professionals access information and deliver
technology can—and should—play a part in good instructional design. While not
every dental school currently has instructional technology experts on staff,
the diversity of emerging technologies gives every school opportunities to
enhance education through eLearning. As institutions gear up for major
investments in educational technology, individual faculty members can innovate
on their own or collaborate with others. A list of emerging technologies
follows, some of which faculty can tap into and begin using today.
Glossary of Emerging Technologies:
conversations about the items below, search on twitter.com using the hash tags
in the brackets. For example, you can search for the ADEA 2014 Annual Session
<#blendedlearning> is a mix of online education (sometimes called virtual
education) and face-to-face instruction where students have greater control
over the time, place and pace of their learning.
Crowdsourcing <#crowdsourcing> uses the
Internet to engage a large group of independent individuals in a common
purpose. Educators are using crowdsourcing as a less expensive way to share and
discover best practices.
<#digitalgaming> are useful in motivating students as well as training
them. Current trends include the creation of harder and more complex challenges
and games that require players to work in teams.
<#FlippedClassroom> allows students to learn content any time they wish,
and class time is devoted to activities like case-based clinical problems.
Students access content through podcasts, videotaped lectures and collaboration
Flip the Clinic <#fliptheclinic>
is a recent initiative of the Robert Wood Johnson
Foundation. They are putting together concepts and ideas aimed at improving the
health care provider–patient relationship.
computing allows the
human body to interact with digital resources without using common input
devices such as a mouse or stylus.
<#learninganalytics> refers to a collection of tools that are used to
process and analyze data about how students learn. This hot topic is gaining
interest in many educational environments. We leave a digital footprint as we
use online resources, and this data can be mined to help modify learning goals
and strategies and to create a personalized learning experience. Virtual and personalized
learning using adaptive software provides for learning that is self-directed,
self-initiated and accessible anytime and everywhere.
Open Online Courses
(MOOCs) <#mooc> are disrupting education as we know it. They enroll
thousands of students from across the globe in courses that are generally
offered for free. They also incorporate adaptive learning routines, which track
everything a student does in a course. These may well be the most important
outcome in the use of MOOCs because they help us understand how students are
<#mlearning> allows students to connect to data and participate in
learning opportunities anytime, anywhere. mLearning supports the learner at the
point of need and can support the patient at the point of care.
(OER) <#oer> such as MedEdPORTAL <@mededportal> allow educators to
share resources and content.
<#openinnovation> refers to the use of sources outside of the department,
group or school to generate, develop and implement ideas.
<#socialmedia> has tremendous possibilities for sharing of information
and data. Guidelines are needed to support effective use of social media for academic,
clinical and career success.
Twitter <#twitter> is a social media
<#wearabletech> is becoming more prevalent. The term describes devices,
such as Google glasses, that can assist in data acquisition.
lets users create a three dimensional solid object from a digital model using a
printer. This technology (along with the CAD/CAM technology in use in many
dental schools) is currently being used in some dental labs and offices to