education research

SAFRI: Introduction, teams and leadership

Today was the first day of the first SAFRI residential session in Cape Town, where SAFRI is the Southern Africa FAIMER Regional Institute, and FAIMER is the Foundation for Advancement of International Medical Education and Research.

We spent today working through a few activities that served as an introduction, both to the programme and to each other. It’s a nice, small group of health educators from several African countries, with diverse professional backgrounds. We also worked on group dynamics and did some interesting tasks around gaining insight into ourselves in terms of our MBTI results.

While it was a great start to the next week or so, I was surprised when I was asked to put my laptop away while taking notes during a presentation. I’m not sure how using a laptop will impede the advancement of medical education? I’m sure the presenter had concerns about me checking email or Facebook or something else that would, heaven forbid, impede my learning, but is a blanket ban the way to go?

Yes, I could make notes in the comprehensive handouts we received, and yes, I didn’t need my computer for a lot of the activities. But, I now have a set of notes that can’t be searched, can’t be modified, can’t be shared, and will never be linked to or from. Some people don’t understand that a laptop is the new pen and paper…would he have asked people to put down their pens in case they were drawing pictures? People need to move beyond this idea that computers and the internet are a source of distraction and accept that they are how we situate ourselves in the world.

By Michael Rowe

I'm a lecturer in the Department of Physiotherapy at the University of the Western Cape in Cape Town, South Africa. I'm interested in technology, education and healthcare and look for places where these things meet.

2 replies on “SAFRI: Introduction, teams and leadership”

I agree with you about the eye contact. I know that I sometimes wonder if my students are listening when they’re looking somewhere else. I think that I need to feel as if I have their undivided attention, which seems most obvious when they’re looking directly at me. I’m trying to be better at making sure that my teaching style is interesting enough that I don’t need to “demand” their attention, but rather that it’s a natural response to what we’re doing in class.

To get back to the laptop though, I know that I’d be over the moon if I had a student who was listening to the discussion in the classroom, tweeting short comments, finding a relevant video that we could watch immediately, expanding an obscure term using the Wikipedia entry, etc. You’re right, “teaching” involves more than having students listen, and “learning” involves far more than students’ listening, and that need a mind shift.

Thanks for your comment.

It could be about eye contact but its also understanding that the learning experience is much more than what happens when you “teach” – so whether a student sits with a pen or a laptop while you teach is irrelevant cause there are many other factors that will ensure that you are learning

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