People of all ages love their toys. And today it’s hard to walk more than a few feet on a busy street without seeing someone tapping away on their smartphone or tablet. But how are we (and should we be?) incorporating the possibilities of this new technology into our education? Michael Crawford, chief technology officer of Educational Measures in Denver, joins us to discuss this issue.
 

From: Scott Kober
To: Cathy Pagano, Michael Crawford
Subject: Incorporating new technologies into educational activities

We recently completed our first iPad-enabled satellite symposium—which went off smoothly in the eyes of our faculty and learners, but not before we had to overcome a number of technological and programming challenges. While it was personally rewarding to see the project successfully through from ideation to completion, there were many, both internally and externally, who asked me afterward, “Was it worth it?” Frankly, I’m not sure.

I do believe that there is some value in using the latest technology within adult education, but I worry that too many folks will use smartphones and tablets within their education merely to showcase the shiny new toy.

Cathy and Mike, you have both been at recent CME activities that showcased new technologies. How have you seen them used both successfully and unsuccessfully?

From: Cathy
To: Scott, Mike

I, too, am skeptical at times about the shiny-toy syndrome. I sat in on a session last year where the audience was so involved in gawking at the iPad and the touch screen that they weren’t paying attention to the faculty. As you said, Scott, it has to be meaningful use. That said, if the designers of the education can accomplish the same effect and outcome with a low-tech option, I would say save your money.

From: Mike
To: Scott, Cathy

While I agree that a low-tech option often makes sense, if a provider can leverage all of the additional functionalities that a tablet provides, the value is very apparent. If you take the time to develop the right application and look past the commercial appeal, the tablet can be used as an educational tool to augment the meeting, not distract from it. Your course materials, audience-response system handset, question card, post-test, evaluation, and much more can all be on one device.

I can remember the days when ARS were viewed in the same manner as tablets are today. It would take 12 hours to hard-wire the room and cost 10 times what it does now. If you could afford to have the technology, then you were viewed as being cutting-edge. Once the novelty of tablets wears off and the pricing falls in line, some type of tablet technology, either provided by the organizers or done on one’s personal tablet, will become the norm.

From: Scott
To: Mike, Cathy

I think you need to be careful, though, about building too many capabilities into the tablets. I know we had a few people at our symposium who looked at us as if we were handing them a spaceship when we put an iPad into their hands. Certainly, as the technology becomes more widespread, you’ll see this less and less, but there is still a reasonable segment of society that has never held a tablet and probably won’t, therefore, be able to easily access all of tools you want them to.

From: Cathy
To: Scott, Mike

Scott’s right (it’s rare, but every now and then he is) in that the new generation of learners will expect that some form of technology will be utilized in educational activities. I remember back in the day when I was on the board of education, and we were raising funds to get new computers into the classrooms. The teachers went wild. They were petrified, especially when we told them not to worry, that the kids all knew how to operate the computers.

From: Scott
To: Mike, Cathy

I’m sure it was the same reaction your parents had when they were told their sweet little Cathleen wouldn’t have to bring her abacus to school anymore and could rely on that newfangled thing called “the calculator.”

But I digress. Back to a more relevant topic: What are some other common pitfalls CME providers need to keep in mind when considering the introduction of tablets or other types of new technology into the core of their live education?

From: Mike
To: Scott, Cathy

Here are a few key items we always discuss with our clients:
1. How will the tablets be distributed and collected? Loss and damage are major concerns.
2. How soon will we receive the content for the meeting? We have flexibility, but with any new technology, the more time you have to test, the better.
3. What functionalities do you want? You want to use what your learners need, but don’t overwhelm them. Once they are frustrated and put the device down, you most likely have lost them for the duration of the activity.
4. On the flip side, you don’t want your attendees to be so involved with the device that they are not listening to the speakers.
5. Make sure the moderators and faculty promote the technology and use it.
6. You will have attendees arriving early and leaving late. Why not use the devices to collect more data or promote upcoming activities?

From: Scott
To: Mike, Cathy

I think these are excellent suggestions, Michael. Maximizing the use of tablet technology both to generate additional data and to maximize the learner experience are both vital to their successful use.

It’ll certainly be interesting to see how tablet use evolves in the coming years.

Cathy Pagano, CCMEP, is president and Scott Kober, CCMEP, is director of content development at the Institute for Continuing Healthcare Education in Philadelphia. Michael Crawford is chief technology officer of Educational Measures in Denver.

Related Article:

8 Things You Need to Know About iPads and Meetings

Other Columns By Scott and Cathy:

How to Handle Scope Changes

What to Do When Marketing and Education Meet