The new generation of learners

“Different kinds of experiences lead to different brain structures” – Dr. B. Berry, Baylor College of Medicine.
According to Marc Prensky, in his article Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants, children born in North America after 1985 are radically different from the previous generations because they have always had digital resources in their homes and schools, they are native speakers of technology. To these digital natives instantaneous global access to people and resources has always been available at the click of a mouse; music has always been personally portable/shareable; photographs and video are for sharing with friends and relatives. In other words, vast amounts of information are instantly available in multimodal and frequently interactive formats.
To quote Marc “Educators have slid into the 21st century—and into the digital age—still doing a great many things the old way. It’s time for education leaders to raise their heads above the daily grind and observe the new landscape that’s emerging. Recognizing and analyzing its characteristics will help define the education leadership with which we should be providing our students, both now and in the coming decades.”
According to Susan El-Shamy in her book Training for the new and emerging generations, digital natives learn differently. They need:
1. fast paced, highly stimulating presentations
2. increased interactivity with the content and each other
3. information that relates to the learner’s world
4. multiple options for obtaining knowledge.
Medical education can respond to the needs of these students by increasing the amount of :
• multimodal content (graphic, auditory, hands on)
• active learning (read, write, discuss)
• experiential/contextual learning (job shadowing, simulation labs)
• problem based learning, team projects.

Faculty Profiles

As of April 2007, I will be posting interviews with Department Heads and exemplary teachers once a month. The first interview will be with Dr. Thomas Wilson, the head of the Department of Medicine in Saskatoon. If you wish to suggest a faculty member to interview, please contact Deirdre Bonnycastle in the College of Medicine.

Free Hugs Campaign

Every now and then I see something inspiring that demonstrates the strength of the human spirit. I think it also says something about the power of the Internet community. This video recently won an award for most inspirational video on UTube.
“The response to this video has been nothing short of overwhelming and touching. Hugs to every single one of you who messaged. There has been thousands of emails from all over the world by people seeking to participate in the Free Hugs campaign and asking for permission. You do not need permission. This is the peoples movement, this is *your* movement. With nothing but your bare hands you can make THE difference.
Imagine all the people.”
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Click twice to start the video

Youth Health on UTube

A couple of 20 year old students have created a series of videos on UTube about health for university students. I’ve included one of their videos where they rap about bringing healthy back.
“We are the Co-founders, Paul and Minh, both college students trying to help spread health awareness to the younger generation. As of right now we are currently working on our undergraduate degrees and in the future hope to attend medical and pharmacy school. Many others in our organization are also pre-health majors and it is very exciting to work with people in the same field. If you have any questions feel free to message us, or e-mail us at and we will be pleased to help you. Other videos can be viewed at”
Click twice on the video to play.

Technology in medical education

Two events today struck me as symbolic of the apathy I see about using technology in medical education.
The Teaching with Technology Committee cancelled one day of the two day conference on teaching with technology because there were very few people who registered. This was meant to showcase and give faculty an opportunity to use key educational technology available on our campus.
CBC posted this “A young student in Ottawa fields an unusual question in class from a fellow student in Africa: where do you keep your cows and goats? In Snow Lake, Man., a young teen’s essay on AIDS receives praise from a nurse in Botswana. And a Winnipeg student’s animated rendering of a calculus problem generates comments from students around the world.”
We as medical educators are so far behind that I wonder if we can ever catch up to what is happening in education.