When I was a pre-med student, I struggled as I pored over countless transcription notes for lectures of up to 2-3 hours per subject. There were transcription notes and handouts for Anatomy and Kinesiology, Physiology, Therapeutic Exercises, Hydrotherapy, Electrotherapy, Neuroanatomy and a list of others I couldn’t care to remember. Back then, OHP was the tool of choice as it was considered versatile enough to allow adding additional notes as the lecture progressed. The overzealous and grade-conscious students that we were, we also negotiated to be allowed to photocopy those priceless OHP slides. But as any med student knows, getting your hands on lecture notes is just half the battle. Going through mounds of those at the end of the day was the real war.
It was a challenge to study the processes of respiratory/circulatory/nervous or whichever system as you try your darnedest best to mentally conjure up images of the processes themselves while familiarising yourself with the technical jargon at the same time. More often that not, a student would resort to rote memorisation, keep his/her finger crossed and hope the information stucks long enough through the exam period before he/she has to chuck it to a bank of discarded memories for purposes of replacement of new information from the fresh, hot-off-the-OHP lectures.
As I was going over this week’s modules on multimedia and internet sources, I’ve realised the value of active participation and involvement in learning beyond the recall of facts. I’ve realised how different my pre-med days would have been if we had access to the interactive multimedia tools that are commonly used today. How much more meaningful and pleasant would learning have been. I would have been able to cut my study time in half as it would have allowed me to visualize the biological and physiological systems and increase my attention and motivation, encouraged involvement and interaction which would have promoted analysis and synthesis of the material than mere recall.
Computers and technology have truly revolutionised learning as it was known to be into something that is hardly recogniseable as it is but a fraction of its face of old. Computer technologies increase the level of interactivity and re very user-friendly as they allow users control over the content, learning sequence, the pace of instruction and learning; thus giving students power to customize their experiences according to their needs.
We can say that the students of today belong to an entirely new generation, and oftentimes, I feel like they’re an alien generation. They grew up with computers the internet, online learning resources, mobile phones, tablets, e-books, social media and instantaneous access. In fact, they’ve never known life without computers. They’re the Digital Generation, Generation Z. If our generation received information through print, this generation has taken the digital path. and they deal with information differently than any other generation. They have hypertext minds, and they leap around. One only need to watch them type in a few strokes in a computer or their cellphones — fingers flying off a keyboard as if twiddling their thumbs on their touchscreen mobile phones were but an involuntary reflex for them. They’re intuitive visual communicators who can rapidly shift their attention from one task to another. They’re able to respond quickly and expect rapid responses as well. There is no better illustration than watching them play online games or mobile games. This generation has mastered that science and has turned it into an art form. this is a computer-savvy generation that spends more time playing video games than they do reading. I highly doubt this generation has any interest in picking up a printed material, and would probably favor an image-laden environment over anything containing text. Even their own text messages are infused with so many images I can’t even keep up. Their brains process visual information a lot better. These students expect interactivity and technology to be part of their instruction. The challenge is upon today’s teachers and educators, of which I am a part, to stand and deliver. And though I sometimes find it hard to understand this generation and their attachment to technology, I believe we can all learn from each other.
Interactive media and multimedia resources are a departure from the tried-and-tested traditional teaching formats. And though most teachers would probably acknowledge that it is not as effective a tool and encourages little to no interaction from and among the learners, a few would be brave to venture out also partly because of teacher’s beliefs about the context of learning. Perhaps it’s fear of the unknown itself that hinders an attempt. Taking that risk could be worthwhile if it enhances student learning. That is the objective after all.
The challenge also goes to the students to learn to become active, independent and reliable participants of learning. Most students have acclimatised to their passive role in learning. Educators cannot assume that students would know how to actively participate in their learning, nor would they have any idea what is expected of them. So teachers must gradually ease them into taking on a more active role and welcoming a ‘new kind’ of learning.