I have written about the use of the smartphone in the classroom in the past and in my experience the smartphone becomes an even more powerful tool each year.
My usual disclaimer is: “In my classroom and lab we have ground rules for use of the phone, tablet, laptop, etc. During a lecture, the student basically cannot use them. During a test, they definitely cannot use them. If their phone rings, beeps, chirps, preferably vibrates, etc. during a lecture they should very quietly leave the room and take care of the situation. Most of my students have families, jobs and other commitments where an emergency may occur and it’s important to take care of them. They learn that they should be courteous to the other students and professors.
That being said, I’m a big fan of this technology when used with good manners.”
Currently there are medical devices that are smartphone- or tablet-based coming out daily. Consumers in the home use many of these devices. A few examples are EKG monitors, pulse oximeters, blood pressure monitors, etc. These devices require repair and initially users may need help setting them up.
Our curriculum includes computer networking classes and offer computer programming options as well. One area where our students are exploring is with mobile operating systems. They need to understand the operating systems of the mobile devices as well as the interfacing. The mobile devices have become a large part of students’ lives and they are going to be very adept at working with this technology. I have students who have attempted to take online examinations on their smartphone. Even though this is entirely possible to do, I don’t recommend trying this.
Speaking of tests … I cannot tell you how many times a student has been able to text a friend, colleague, etc. for information that they can use for a laboratory problem that they are trying to solve.
This could be something as simple as, “What is the factory default password setting for a patient monitor?” They have a camera where they can take photos of serial numbers, displays, connections, etc. They can email this information to others when they may have a situation that they cannot figure out.
Students often include these photos in their laboratory reports which gives us actual information from the lab. This isn’t “cheating”; this is a good use of their time. Once they figure it out, they will know it from then on. I don’t think that taking hours looking for the solution is any more valuable than if they are able to get help in a more effective manner. By the way, this isn’t true during tests, however this may happen during online tests. That’s why we design the online questions with this possibility in mind! Speaking of the laboratory reports, I feel that what my students are producing today with the use of digital devices and media are much better than in the past. The pictures depicting the laboratory projects every step of the way greatly enhances the laboratory report.
In the laboratory, we are teaching the students to perform scheduled maintenance, repairs, upgrades, etc. on medical devices and systems but another outcome of the laboratory experience is helping the student problem solve and to learn to “think.” In many instances, the students work in groups and have the professor available for questions, but they are encouraged to use whatever resources they have to “figure it out.” In addition to just emailing or texting pictures to colleagues, we have used live video messaging in the laboratory to have a technician look at the problem in “real time.” This is an exciting and very effective learning activity for the students. Most of the time, the experts that we conference with are graduates, co-op student employers, graduate employers and/or industry advisors. They also find it rewarding to have an active role in the education of these future technicians.
The face of HTM education is changing and we must embrace change and make use of the technology that we have available to us today. Much of our educational content is online and is available to be delivered by distance. In my case, our biomedical instrumentation courses are presented in a hybrid nature. The class meets one time per week live and the majority of the material is online.
The live portion allows for some lecture, a time to answer questions and a live laboratory. We also have some laboratory experiences that we have found to be more effective when presented online via video, etc. This technology is greatly helping with the delivery of the courses.
I have been very impressed with how students are able to very clearly define problems, show how a device reacted based on inputs, and are able to get advice on how to proceed. The smartphone connects the world! I have also been told that this method has been used to help technicians from developing countries communicate with others to help solve problems. Not long ago, it would have been impossible to achieve this result so quickly.
In conclusion, I still believe that we need to embrace the technology, but let’s do it courteously and remember the person standing in front of you takes priority.
– Steven J. Yelton, PE, CHTM; is a Senior Consultant for HTM in Cincinnati, Ohio and a Professor at Cincinnati State Technical and Community College where he teaches biomedical instrumentation courses. He is a member of AAMI’s Board of Directors-Executive Committee, AAMI’s Foundation Board of Directors, Chair of AAMI’s Technology Management Council, Chair of AAMI’s HTAC committee and is a member of the ABET Board of Delegates.
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