Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Cadavers and School 2.0

I took some of the Anatomy students down to one of the labs at UAB on Monday to get some hands on experience. When I say hands on experience, I mean it in every sense of the word. What is a Spanish teacher doing carrying a group of students to an anatomy lab? Well, I have a CDL and someone has to drive the bus! I hate leaving my Spanish students behind, but UAB where I am a Doctoral Student in the Educational Leadership department is one of the only universities in the nation that allows undergraduates to work with human cadavers. I started taking this trip with the anatomy teacher at my school and I’m happy to go anytime she needs me. It’s not everyday that you get to view human cadavers or actually touch and examine cadaver parts.

Some people may think that this is gross, but it is actually a tremendous learning experience. Of course, occasionally some students faint. None of our students have fainted as of yet, but some have turned white and have had to leave the lab. Nevertheless, this is one of the best hands-on field trips ever and I’m happy that caring individuals donate their bodies to science.

During our visit the lab director said that most universities were moving away from human cadaver research. Then he asked if anyone knew what was replacing cadaver research at universities. Drum roll please! The answer is virtual reality. Universities have started using virtual reality to teach various medical techniques including surgery. Being the computer geek that I am, I knew the answer. Peter Pollack wrote an interesting piece about this back in March for AAOS. This is just one of the many ways that virtual reality is being tested and applied within the educational setting.

Should virtual reality replace human cadaver research? I don’t think that it should and neither does the lab director. In contrast, we both believe that it should be used in combination with cadaver research. It’s like web 2.0 technologies. As teachers, we should be using these technologies, but we shouldn’t give up on effective educational strategies of the past. Sure school 2.0 is great, but sometimes we still need to go to the lab and dissect a frog or a cadaver.

My suggestion is that we use a combination of educational methods to make sure that our students are properly prepared for the future. School 2.0 isn’t about replacing teaching strategies that work, it’s about improvement. Some traditional teaching methods should at all cost remain in tact, while others should be cast by the wayside.

As 2.0 enthusiasts, we should continue to promote School 2.0, but we shouldn’t sacrifice good teaching or demand that teachers give up on tried and true methods. Instead, we should be asking why, what, and how can we use 2.0 methods to enhance teaching and learning. It’s not about redesigning the wheel it’s about making a better one. The wagon wheel works great for wagons, but I prefer something with a little more rubber and stability on my car. That’s just me!


William Bishop (Bill)

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