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Med School Lectures Go High Tech

November 19, 1999

Judith Zwolak

The 1950s-era corridors of the School of Medicine have changed little in the past few decades. Walk into the two main lecture halls on the sixth and seventh floors, however, and you'll find yourself in multimedia-mad 1999.

The school renovated rooms 6602 and 7065 last year to include new seating, sound systems, and computer and video equipment. Although the changes resulted in more attractive classrooms, the renovations are more than cosmetic, says Kevin Krane, vice dean for academic affairs at the medical school and professor of medicine.

"The classroom renovations modernized the classrooms, which were terribly old," Krane says. "More importantly, what we did was add a lot of presentation technology to the classrooms to make them a better place from which to teach."

Designed by Bruce Bowdish, assistant director of the Office of Educational Research and Services, the rooms sport 360-degree cameras, MacIntosh- and Windows-based computers connected to the Internet, two videocassette recorders, a slide projector, a three-dimensional visualization device and projector with bandwidth equivalent to high-density television.

All media are controlled through a screen in the classrooms lectern. Making use of that technology are faculty members throughout the school, particularly those in the Department of Structural and Cellular Biology, formerly the anatomy department.

Mary Anderson, professor, says multimedia presentations are a good fit for the material faculty members in her department must introduce to their students. "I teach histology-microscopic anatomy-and this is a wonderful way to present microscopic images," she says. "Computer images are a lot more crisp than the slides we used to use."

Sandor Vigh, research associate professor, makes use of sound, color and movement in his lectures on endocrine production. "The lecture should be dynamic," Vigh says as he demonstrates a sample lecture that he designed using Microsoft Powerpoint, Quicktime and Netscape Explorer software. He brings up an image of the brain on his computer screen, which is also projected on the screen in front of the classroom.

As he points to different microscopic structures, the image quickly enlarges with distinct swishing sound, adding interest and movement to a formerly static image, Vigh says. "Then we put this whole lecture on our Web site," he adds. "So students can review it later."

Vigh says it may take weeks to put together a multimedia lecture, but altering the lecture in the future is much less time-consuming than changing slides or overhead transparencies, as he had done in the past.

Bowdish says a new group called Learning Environment Support Services, headed by Wayne Sheppard, will help faculty members learn to use the technology in the lecture rooms, as well as support the equipment there. Bowdish, who has a doctorate in educational psychology, says that just knowing how to use the software and equipment doesn't necessarily mean a faculty member is providing the best instruction.

"This is a paradigm shift for a lot of people," Bowdish says. "We're putting the light on the learner instead of the instructor."

Vigh, one of the most enthusiastic of the technology-based instructors, says the new multimedia capabilities enhance good teaching. "I believe good teachers are always good, no matter what," Vigh says, "but this technology can only add to their abilities."

Tulane University, New Orleans, LA 70118 504-865-5000 website@tulane.edu