Learning in focus : Rethinking the role of technology in medical education
Abstract: Educational computer applications have flooded into all fields of education, especially during the past few decades. Medicine is one such domain where technology has overwhelmingly entered the educational sphere, pushed by policy-makers and leaders who thought better to embrace it before even considering it. Study I shows that this is in fact still the case. The choice of a learning platform was solely economic, and the results of the study revealed that students expressed readiness to and positive attitudes towards information technology in education and exposed a possible benefit from its use in the long run. However, they also suggested negative opinions about the learning management system used in their coursework, suggesting a need for change of the technology. This study provides evidence that in order for computer-based systems to be effective they must be designed and implemented with care, otherwise they may risk to lower students interest and activation. Study II explored whether students approaches to learning related to their perception of the same learning platform already mentioned. Scales of the ASSIST questionnaire loaded in a two-principal components solution, surface and deep-strategic. We found statistically significant correlations between approaches to learning and students attitudes toward ICT. We concluded that early identification of approaches to learning and attitudes toward ICT may prove important in order to provide assistance to and aid the transition of students with diverse individual characteristics and to the design of new learning environments. In Study III we observed the pilot implementation of 3D Embryo, an interactive multi-dimensional animation. Students were overwhelmingly positive about the application. However, there was no statistical difference between the control and experimental groups on a performance test. A positive trend was found between deep processing and general test score. Also statistical significance was found between deep processing and three-dimensional perception. The essential result was that of deep learning being more decisive than the interactive application itself in the learning task. Even though interactive multimedia may not be superior as a learning tool, they offer the opportunity to extend the possibilities of the traditional learning environment. The evidence that students who adopted deep processing performed better generally and especially in the spatial task is a key finding that calls for future studies on medical anatomy expertise and transfer. Study IV proposed a both theoretical and practical framework that attempted to provide information and scaffolding mainly to teachers, course designers and administrators who currently face the initiative of implementing innovation, in all its forms, in the education system. But it could be also informative for policy-makers and educational officers. It aims at helping all these different actors with issues of analysis of, leading and sustaining innovation in medical education; it provides with the kind of information to be considered at each step of the innovation process in order to make decisions and reach set objectives; it suggests how to process the data generated from the analysis; and how to feed the results back into the process of innovation. In addition, it provides these actors with practical information on how to analyse innovation through the approach of Activity Theory and implement it through Participation Action Research. This last study ties together the other studies and grounds them to several theoretical frameworks. It indicates that educational technology is not the answer to our educational problems, but a multi-function tool at our disposal with teacher and student at the centre. Educational technology can most definitely lend us a hand in the effort of renovating medical education. Therefore, issues of implementation become central for the success of educational technology, but they must be based on sound scientific approach, educational theories, procedures and techniques.
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