Where do we go now with #Medutainment?
Time is precious and in many modern health care systems time for educational activities is increasingly difficult to find. Our 24/7 role means that it is really hard to get people together at the same time and place. When we do we must use that educational time, and in particular the face to face time, as effectively as possible.
Our current generation of learners is technologically enhanced and in a constant state of CPA – continuous partial attention (how many people have checked their email and facebook status during a 20 min presentation, or even whilst reading this blog?). There is no point in getting cross about this, it’s a reality of the age and instead of trying to prevent it we need to work around it. Some say that the current generation of techno-learners can multitask, but we can’t. However, we are getting better at switching rapidly between tasks and to use that ability to link information and ideas. We are training a generation of people not a limited attention span, but a preferred style of learning that embraces periodic attention, broad messages and the linkage to deeper data.
Simple data transfer, listing facts and preparing trainees for memory tests is a poor use of time. The keys to educational interaction in the future will be those presentations that tackle concepts and cognition. The role of the presentation will be to
• Enhance – other media (like reading)
• Engage – hold the attention and allow learning to happen
• Entice – the audience to want to know more
• Invite – invite the audience to explore more after the presentation finishes.
The role of the educator has thus changed. To enhance the engagement with a topic, to entice the learner into a deeper understanding and to invite them into further personal work and exploration
Is #Medutainment just Education lite?
There are risks of course. We still need to learn and we still need to put the work in and there is a concern that just being entertaining is not enough.
I have painted a picture of utopia where medical educators come to the stage with ideas and inspiration. Where fellow of physicians of the present and future are inspired to go away and to dig deep into the subject. A spiral curriculum of sorts where #Medutainment starts the spin and clinicians go forth and expand into a vortex of learning, but this may not be the case.
Perhaps we are dumbing down medical education by making it too accessible, too easy. Medical education lite? It is a concern and we must be cautious about glossing over the content at the expense of great presentation. We do not want to return to the days of snake oil salesmen where the presentation is all and yet the product is poor. We must maintain, promote and ensure that we teach a buyer beware process to teaching and learning. You may look to America where in the public domain clinicians can have great influence despite questionable data and evidence. Dr Oz for example has great influence, but some of the science is decidedly flaky.
We also need to be cautious about putting great entertainers and educators on pedestals. Similar to the snake oil pitch we cannot end up in the situation that because Dr X says Y then we automatically believe it. We’ve seen a little of this in the #FOAMed world where certain individuals are feted as gurus and where delegates at conferences or on the web go to see the speaker and not listen to the message. More precisely they listen to the message and believe it without thinking and critiquing. This is not the fault of the presenters, rather a failure of those receiving but it is a risk and it has drawn criticism. I’m fortunate enough to know some people who would be described as great presenters and I know that it terrifies them that their thoughts and words would be accepted without critique. They are there to educate and inform, not to be adored, and when it happens it causes them great angst and pain. There is talk of some people cutting back on their appearances because they fear that people are listening to the presentation without being critical enough of the content.
@precordialthump "glamorous" … "A-list celebs" … "next-level enlightenment"… Hmm.
— Brendan Morrissey (@unsarcasticone) October 11, 2015
We must also not fall into the trap of missing those important parts of our practice that are just not that exciting. There is danger in that in a pursuit of #Medutainment we focus on those topics that lend themselves to drama and intrigue. We must ensure that we keep those Cinderella topics in the mix. Anal abscesses, chronic pain, urinary tract infections in the elderly must not be forgotten. Interestingly those topics have reached #Medutainment levels, but they are far less common than posts on much rarer topics such as cricothyroidotomy.
Finally we must be cautious of the impact of pharmaceutical industries on influencing our practice. Most clinicians think that they are immune to advertising but that’s simply not the case. Many of us involved in the production of online learning and teaching materials have been approached by commercial organisations to mention papers, review equipment and to promote their ideas. I regularly get approaches from professional writers to deliver blog posts on a range of topics that suspiciously look like ghost writers for commercial organisations and I know that others have had similar experiences. Again, a process of buyer beware and caution is the way forward here. Look beyond delivery and content, but also to motivation and reward. Not everything in life is quite so honest and fair as it would seem.
Is #Medutainment really just about working hard at delivering great education?
The short answer is yes. A degree of showmanship and engagement is clearly important if you want to get your message across, to engage learners and to help people learn. There are ample examples throughout history of how entertainment can enhance learning. In a digital age where society is able to access entertainment pretty much anywhere and anytime educators can learn and embrace many of the techniques and styles we see on the world wide web.
Ross Fisher is a friend from Sheffield in the UK and he is a great observer and teacher of how you can develop skills in order to get your presentation heard. You should check out his blog and some of the podcasts he has contributed to.
It is the third (and partly the second) that underpin #Medutainment. Being able to ‘deliver’ is so much more than turning up to a teaching session with a great bit of data.
We also have a moral and ethical duty to do this. Educational sessions are precious. At a conference or teaching session we are at a unique place in time and geography. Learners and tutors have often come together at enormous environmental, financial and intellectual cost. Just think of the carbon cost of a conference such as #EuSEM15 or SMACC. We must no waste these precious opportunities.
Ross talks about a poor presentation being lost forever. Memories, facts and data become lost unless the story, media and performance are considered. He often quotes the speech at the end of Blade Runner as a meme for this. Poor presentations and poor performance will lead to your message being lost forever ‘like tears in rain’.
We can and must do better. I always like to leave something in a presentation for you to go away and look into further. I can do no better than to suggest you visit Ross’s blog and subscribe to updates.
What can we conclude about #Medutainment?
Although the term #Medutainment has been around for some time, most recently coined around modern conferences, online learning and presentation styles we can see from history that it has been around for much longer than that.
I hope that you embrace the term in the manner that we originally set out. #Medutainment is about blending Medicine, Education and Entertainment to enhance learning, but not to distract from it. At it’s best it makes great content easy to engage with and easier to learn. At it’s worst it is an expensive distraction.
I will also lead you with a word of caution about this series of blogs on #Meducation. It’s an opinion based on our work in Virchester and at St.Emlyn’s. These blogs are here to generate ideas and to introduce concepts and ideas. As with the theme of the blog posts it is up to you to think about them, to become interested (if you have been entertained) and to go beyond this and find out more. I could ask for nothing more than a spark of interest that may serve you well in becoming a better educator.
@EMManchester when a mind is entertained, it has given permission to start learning.
— J. Scott Wieters MD (@EMedCoach) October 7, 2015
At this unique moment in time as you read this, or if you are at EuSEM hearing the talk I hope that you do not feel that the time has been wasted, that the content has not been lost as tears in rain and that you might just be little more inspired to think more about your performance in teaching.
My final thoughts are with Marhal McLuhan.
Google is your hard drive: http://academicearth.org/electives/internet-changing-your-brain/
Continuous partial attention http://lindastone.net/qa/continuous-partial-attention/
The Medium is the Message https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_medium_is_the_message
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