Ask Not What You Can Do For Educational Technology, But What Educational Technology Can Do For You

It’s irritating that people talk about educational technology in terms of iPads in the classroom when the real impact will come from pinpoint differentiation, instant student assessment, and a third thing that nobody talks about — improved simulations in speciality learning. For example, medical students who use virtual patients — an “interactive computer simulation of real-life clinical scenarios” — perform better than those who use more traditional methods.

A meta-analysis was performed to assess the Effect Size (ES) from randomized studies comparing the effect of educational interventions in which Virtual patients (VPs) were used either as an alternative method or additive to usual curriculum versus interventions based on more traditional methods…Under a random-effect model, meta-analysis showed a clear positive pooled overall effect for VPs compared to other educational methods. A positive effect has been documented both when VPs have been used as an additive resource and when they have been compared as an alternative to a more traditional method. When grouped for type of outcome, the pooled ES for studies addressing communication skills and ethical reasoning was lower than for clinical reasoning outcome.

Gains in how we teach people to remove a gallbladder or fly an airplane won’t close the 4th grade achievement gap, but that doesn’t mean they’re not substantial. The fact that the virtual patients had different effects on different kinds of learning also hammers home an important point. Is technology great for everything? No. But there tends to be a “technology vs. tradition” framing that says it has to be all or nothing. As virtual patients illustrate, technology may not be best for teaching everything (e.g. medical ethics), but it’s useful for teaching a lot of things (e.g. diagnosing diseases.)

Consorti, F., Mancuso, R., Nocioni, M., & Piccolo, A. (2012). Efficacy of virtual patients in medical education: A meta-analysis of randomized studies Computers & Education, 59 (3), 1001-1008 DOI: 10.1016/j.compedu.2012.04.017


One Response to Ask Not What You Can Do For Educational Technology, But What Educational Technology Can Do For You

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