When I first read this story: Slashdot | U. of Chicago Law School Blocks Internet Access, and followed the comments, I realized that this is a symptom of a much larger issue. Notice especially what people say they are doing with their laptops while their professors are droning on. It might seem alarming, but I think it’s just a variant on what generations of students, young and older, have been doing for generations – doodling, playing pong, thinking, dreaming, daydreaming, you name it. This is incredible creative energy, all being wasted.
This story is playing out in adult education, medical education, and the business world in a big way.
The question asked in the Slashdot article and in every other space is, “should people pay attention better, or should there be something better to pay attention to?”
I think the latter question is the better one to ask. If we have known for a very long time that continuing medical education is largely ineffective (at enormous cost to US taxpayers who are subsidizing the travel deductions), we have a great opportunity to innovate, have fun, and learn a ton at the same time.
In the past, I have arranged convergences in a LEAN way that involved creative problem solving – no powerpoint slides. There are now unconferences, World Cafe (which I have never tried but looks interesting), BarCamp (same), and whole rooms of meeting attendees with laptops connected to the Internet that could be engaged beyond checking their e-mail. There are now options like a conference blog, wiki, and social networking site. The Health2.0 Conference did the latter in March, and I thought it was very effective.
Perhaps future CME accreditation requirements could mandate an alternate approach to meeting management. When I was in medical school, we called the easy way out the “parade of slide carousels” (I’m dating myself). I’m ready to try the more difficult way out, to inspire people to bring every ounce of creativity to the table when they are at the moment they are ready to learn. This includes social networking, walking (what a treat for an eager student to get coaching from an expert in their field), simulated (or real) rapid process improvement. This should also include the voice of the customer – in medicine, the patient.
What if the physician attendee at a conference was asked to walk with a patient for an hour, to learn about how they manage their health (I have always dreamed of a medical visit that involved a walk with a patient, maybe this the next best thing).
If we do this, we’ll then take the next step, which is harness peoples’ creativity every day, in everything they do, where they work. It will be the norm. No conference needed.
Those are my ideas off the bat. I welcome yours. And then let’s try them.