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Educational innovation: A collaborative "concept map" using Google Docs

Posted Mar 15 2011 12:00am

(click to enlarge image)

A "concept map" is a graphical display of information. As a visual learner, I am drawn to this approach to displaying medical knowledge. So in my talk on "The Hot Joint: Septic Arthritis"at a recent residency conference, I experimented with a more active learning approach to my allotted lecture time. I assigned each resident with a laptop a focused question to answer, which is displayed in green font above. They had 10 minutes to find the answer online.

After building a basic framework on a Google Docs Presentation document, I left the majority of the document blank for the residents. All of the residents received the Google Docs link  and had access to edit the document any way they saw fit.

For the most part, I think the session was fun, interactive, and informative, but it definitely wasn't perfect.

Lessons I learned:
  • 10 minutes is too short of a time for residents to answer their question. They probably needed more like 20-30 minutes to better research for the best answer. Also, I didn't factor in the slow wireless internet connection since everyone was online simultaneously. Unfortunately, I only had 55 minutes total for my entire talk. 
  • I was surprised to find that many were not too familiar with Google Docs, despite most being Generation Y-ers. Well, now they are one step closer to familiarity.
  • Because of the limited time and simultaneous publishing of content, the layout of the concept map wasn't very readable or user-friendly initially. Having a resident dedicated to cleaning up the layout helped. I put on the final editing touches after conference.
  • It was helpful that I had a text area (Instructor Box), which was covered with a white box. This contained key images and text, in case the residents didn't find the best answer or image to key clinical questions posed. At the end of the talk, I removed the white box and made sure that we covered all of the key points.
  • This teaching approach can be too non-traditional for learners. I should have spent more time talking about concept maps, why teachers SHOULDN'T be giving powerpoint-based talks, and the power of active learning. Fortunately, I think most of the residents were game to try this new educational innovation. While I generally don't pay attention to my evaluations, I'll see how my evaluations turn out...
What's great about using Google Docs to build a concept map:
  • You can insert images onto the concept map by uploading a file or typing in the URL link of the file.
  • You can enlarge the white canvas to any desired size to accommodate growing content.
  • You can export the entire Presentation as a jpg, png, or pdf file.
It was also entertaining to watch residents try to work around each other's text. On the projector screen, you could see images and text travel across the screen to their intended destinations.

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