Hello and welcome!
I am finally back to blogging after having a brief hiatus in order to take my final exams. Whilst the trauma is still fresh in my mind, I would like to share with you the top 5 social media tips that helped me through the dark days of undergraduate medicine. Some of you may have already read my old essay on 'How Medical Students should interact with Social Media Networking Sites' and this document deals with some of the problems with professionalism surrounding the use of social media. This blog will not cover such issues, but will instead focus on how you can use social media to benefit your learning/ revision processes.
For those of you who are unaware, YouTube is a video-sharing website. Sometimes the site is overlooked as a 'social media' resource but if you consider the simple definition of Social Networking Sites as 'those with user led content,' you can quickly see how YouTube definitely falls into the social media category.
It wasn't until I got to University that I realised the potency of YouTube as an educational tool. It has a use at every stage of medical education and it is FREE. If you are still in your pre-clinical training then there are a wealth of videos that depict cellular processes and 3D anatomy - very useful content for the visual learner.
For the clinical student, there are a number of OSCE demonstration videos that may be useful in honing your examination skills. There are also a number of presentations on clinical topics that have been uploaded, however, YouTube has no quality control measures for these videos (to my knowledge) so it may be best to subscribe to a more official source if you like to use podcasts/ uploaded presentations for your revision.
Another reason YouTube comes in as my number 1 top tip is because I find it difficult to procrastinate whilst using the site. Sure, you can start looking up music and videos that have nothing to do with medicine but personally I find that having a little bit of music on in the background helps me work for longer periods, which is a definite bonus during the revision period.
On the other hand, there are many that find YouTube difficult to harness due to the draw of funny videos and favourite Vloggers (Video Bloggers) that can distract the unwary from revision for hours on end. At the end of the day, YouTube was created for funny videos (predominantly of cats it seems) and not for medical education, and this should be kept in mind if you choose to use it as a tool for your learning.
Yes, the dreaded Facebook comes in at number two for me. Facebook is by far and away my largest source of procrastination when it comes to writing / working / revising or learning. It is a true devil in disguise, however, there are some very useful features for those who like to work in groups during their revision...
For example, during the last six months I have organised a small revision group through Facebook. We set up a 'private page' and each week I would post what topics would be covered in the weeks session. Due to the nature of Facebook, people were obviously able to reply to my posts with suggestions for future topics etc. We were also able to upload photos of useful resources that one or more of us had seen in a tutorial in which the other students hadn't been able to attend. And most importantly, we were able to upload revision notes for each other via the Facebook 'files' tab. This last feature was invaluable for sharing basic notes between a few close colleagues. However, for proper file sharing I strongly recommend the file sharing service 'Dropbox,' which provides free storage for your documents and the ability to access files from any computer or device with internet.
Coming back to Facebook, my final thoughts are: if you don't like group work or seeing what your colleagues are doing via their statuses or private messages then it probably isn't a useful resource for you. If you have the motivation (unlike myself) to freeze your Facebook account I can imagine you would end up procrastinating far less (or you'll start procrastinating on something else entirely!).
Twitter is a microblogging site. This means that users upload microblogs or 'Tweets' containing useful information they have found on the internet or read in other people's tweets.
Twitter's utility as an educational resource is directly related to the 'type' of people you follow. For example, I use Twitter primarily to connect with other people interested in social media, art & medicine and medical education. This means my home screen on twitter is full of people posting about these topics, which I find useful. Alternatively, I could have used my Twitter account to 'follow' all the same friends I 'follow' on Facebook. This would have meant my Twitter home page would have felt like a fast-paced, less detailed version of my Facebook feed just with more hashtags and acronyms - not very useful for finding educational resources. With this in mind, consider setting up two twitter accounts to tease apart the useful tweets about the latest clinical podcast from the useless tweets about what your second cousin once removed just had for lunch.
A friend suggested to me that if you really get into twitter it is also possible to use one account and 'group' your followers so that you can see different 'types' of tweets at different times. This seems like a good way to filter the information you are reading, as long as you can figure out how to set up the filters in the first place.
Like all Social Media Sites, Twitter gets its fair share of bad press re. online professionalism and its tendency to lure users into hours of procrastination. So again, use with caution.
It would not be right to write this blog and not include Meducation in the line-up. Meducation is the first website that I have personally come across where users (students, doctors etc) upload and share information (i.e. the very soul of what social networking is about) that is principally about medicine and nothing else. I'm sure there may be other similar sites out there, but the execution of this site is marvellous and that is what has set it apart from its competitors and lead to its rapid growth (especially over the last two years, whilst i've been aware of the site).
When I say 'execution,' I mean the user interface (which is clean and simple), the free resources (giving a taste of the quality of material) and the premium resources (which lecture on a variety of interesting clinical topics rather than sticking to the bread and butter topics 24/7).
One of my favourite features of Meducation is the ability to ask 'Questions' to other users. These questions are usually asked by people wishing to improve niche knowledge and so being able to answer a question always feels like a great achievement. Both the questions and answers are mostly always interesting, however the odd question does slip through the net where it appears the person asking the question might have skipped the 'quick google search' phase of working through a tough topic.
Meducation harnesses social networking in an environment almost free from professionalism and procrastination issues. Therefore, I cannot critique the site from this angle. Instead, I have decided to highlight the 'Exam Room' feature of the website. The 'Exam Room' lets the user take a 'mock exam' using what I can only assume is a database of questions crafted by the Meducation team themselves (+/- submissions from their user base). However, it is in my opinion that this feature is not up to scratch with the level and volume of questions provided by the competitors in this niche market. I feel wrong making this criticism whilst blogging on Meducation and therefore I will not list or link the competitors I am thinking of here, but they will be available via my unaffiliated blog (Occipital Designs). I hope the Meducation team realise that I make this observation because I feel that with a little work their question database could be improved to the point where it is even better than other sites AND there would also be all the other resources Meducation has to offer. This would make Meducation a truly phenomenal resource.
Blogging itself is very useful. Perhaps not necessarily for the learning / revision process but for honing the reflective process. Reflective writing is a large component of undergrad medical education and is disliked by many students for a number of reasons, not least of which is because many find some difficulty in putting their thoughts and feelings on to paper and would much prefer to write with the stiffness and stasis of academic prose.
Blogging is great practice for breaking away from essay-writing mode and if you write about something you enjoy you will quickly find you are easily incorporating your own personal thoughts and feelings into your writing (as I have done throughout this blog). This is a very organic form of reflection and I believe it can greatly improve your writing when you come to write those inevitable reflective reports.
Thanks for reading this blog. I hope I have at least highlighted some yet unharnessed aspects of the sites and resources people already commonly use. Please stay tuned in the next week or two for more on social media in medicine. I am working together with a colleague to produce 'Guidelines for Social Media in Medicine,' in light of the recent material on the subject by the General Medical Council.
Please feel free to comment below if you feel you have a Top Tip that I haven't included!
As always, any views expressed here are mine alone and are not representative of any organisation.
Also, on a separate note: check out Anatomy For Life - a charity medical art auction raising money for organ donation.