When you think of medical students learning about medicine, you might think about lectures, textbooks, labs, small group study and even online learning modules.  BUT, did you know that our students are also learning through blogs?

Blogs, or “web logs” consist of postings by a person in chronological order with the ability for others to respond.  You’re reading a blog right now.  Our students read them too for all kinds of reasons and to access all kinds of material.  See below for Eve Purdy’s picks and some reasons our students are blogging through medical school.  For a great video on social media (blogging, twitter, etc.) see the Harvard Panel on Social Media at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_OdaDJ2PLmQ

What are your thoughts on learning through blogs?

Why are our students learning through blogs?

Blogs are ENGAGING and allow for knowledge sharing, reflection and debate not simply dissemination of facts

Blogs break down traditional hierarchies in which a medical student might feel intimidated to challenge a resident or attending on a concept or idea. Blogs not only prevent students from feeling intimidated but they create an environment where all are equals

Many good blogs will have links to primary literature that can help answer practical questions that come up in clinic;  blogs written by learners often address the same questions other students ask and then point in the direction of some good background papers

Blogs help students see the same information in different ways.  They allow learners to find ways to engage in ways that are most meaningful to them. By seeking out their own resources students find they are able to remember and recall information because they were responsible for going through the method to get there.

Often, the colloquial and entertaining way blogs are written make reading them easy and actually quite fun (urinalysis voodoo: http://boringem.com/2012/12/12/urinalysis-voodoo/)

Blogs are often inspiring, remind learners and faculty why we are doing what we are doing

Students turn to blogs to address some needs that are not always met or to augment resources in the curriculum (ie learner wellness http://wellnessrounds.org)

People who write blogs generally aren’t getting much (or any) scholarly credit which means they are doing it because they WANT to. Bloggers take a great deal of pride in presenting information in new, helpful ways and once they find a target audience or niche are very good at what they do. They are quick to adapt to feedback and to incorporate/synthesize new information in ways that traditional outlets (journals and textbooks) cannot.

Examples of students learning through blogsEve Purdy’s gives us some picks:

– I’m in the ER and see a patient with something that might be atrial flutter but isn’t quite sure so I pull up this quick, easy to reference article on atrial flutter from “life in the fast lane” (one of the best blogs out there) http://lifeinthefastlane.com/ecg-library/atrial-flutter/ It gives a nice, simple review of information quickly without having to log in to my queensu/bracken library account (something that takes about 30 seconds- an amount of time that doesn’t seem like much written down but makes a big difference if you are referencing a bunch of things throughout the day)

-Learn the same topic through multiple lenses.  For example….a student is interested in learning more about a patient with chest pain.  If you prefer clinical cases check out (http://lifeinthefastlane.com/education/clinical-cases/) or you like videos like the Khan academy use (http://academiclifeinem.blogspot.ca/2013/01/patwari-academy-videos-low-risk-chest.html). There are many resources to turn to and the people who keep blogs generally like to teach so the format is student friendly.

-Students don’t just read blogs to learn about content. The advantages of reading blogs goes much deeper and serves to address much of the hidden curriculum, thoughts about careers, tips and tricks for medical school success, health policy and once in a great blog post while inspire us to be better medical students and doctors in ways that traditional resources cannot. I think this is probably the most common reason that students read blogs. There are a bunch of examples but a few are:

careers (http://wellnessrounds.org/choosing-your-specialty/ or http://boringem.com/2013/01/16/carms-game-time-the-interviews/)

tips and tricks (http://boringem.com/2013/01/02/top-10-ways-to-rock-em-clerkship/http://www.kevinmd.com/blog/2011/10/nurse-offers-medical-student-sage-advice.html)

social issues in medicine (http://emergencycarecanada.com/2013/01/14/non-urgent-patients-in-the-er-a-non-problem/)

just for fun (but really do more like address the hidden curriculum and remind us why we are here) http://www.medicalaxioms.com or http://doccartoon.blogspot.ca