UAMS Symposium Shows How Technology Bolsters Learning

By Lee Hogan

In the pathology and dermatology fields, and among medical students and residents under his tutelage, Gardner is a bit of a social media star. He has strong followings on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube with over 70,000 subscribers and followers combined across all mediums.

“I’m not necessarily better at teaching than others,” says Gardner, M.D., an associate professor in the UAMS College of Medicine’s departments of Pathology and Dermatology, “I just started using social media to teach before most others did.”

The dermatopathologist and bone/soft tissue sarcoma pathologist shared his social media prowess with a room full of fellow educators at UAMS’ Teaching with Technology Symposium on July 26.

Faculty and staff from UAMS and 17 other institutions across the state gathered at UAMS, both in person and virtually, for a two-day forum to teach educators new skills to incorporate into their teaching through presentations, panel discussions and workshops.

Gardner said his social media platforms allow him to do many things: teach, network, research, communicate and advocate for patients.

“It is the most powerful teaching tool I’ve ever used,” said Gardner who was one of the symposium’s featured speakers. “I still do traditional lectures and have face-to-face interactions with students, but with social media that’s amplified to further share content and build networks and collaborations across the country and around the globe.”

He has started two Facebook groups dedicated to rare cases in pathology where pathologists can share cases, ask for guidance and seek input. The groups have more than 45,000 members between them and contain detailed conversations and discussions about methods of diagnosis, tips and links to more information and research.

“It’s amazing to have this type of robust discussion in a Facebook group about the pathology of rare tumors,” said Gardner. “These are the kinds of discussion you’re supposed to have at academic meetings, but often don’t have time for due to a packed meeting agenda.”

He and other pathology Facebook group leaders published a paper on the impact of Facebook groups on pathology education; most of the co-authors on this paper have never met face-to-face but only know each other online.

“I’ve created a global network of colleagues in just six years of medical practice thanks to social media,” said Gardner.

He’s even made groups for medical students in his classes, cultivating an online classroom for faculty and students to talk about topics from class and share real-world examples to drive home points.

“It gives them a chance to get to know us as people and know we’re normal folks who also happen to be teachers,” said Gardner. “It builds rapport between faculty and students.”

Gardner encourages the same types of conversations and learning for his medical students and pathology residents on Twitter. He’s turned his pathology residents to a certain hashtag, #pathboards, to help them study for board exams.

The hashtag was started years ago by pathology residents studying for their boards. As they readied for the exam, they would share succinct tidbits and nuggets and tag it with #pathboards. Since then, it’s created an in-depth, easy-to-follow online study guide for others studying for the challenging pathology board examination.

“I tell my residents when they’re done studying and cannot read anymore, to pull out their phone and go through them,” said Gardner. “For a person about to take boards, it’s useful. You can pull up thousands of online flashcards, essentially, just by searching for #pathboards on Twitter.”

Lectures and lab exercises usually reserved for a few students have also found new life online. Working through each slide under the microscope and explaining its intricacies used to be shared by only a handful. With YouTube, Gardner can record his work and share it on his page for thousands more to view.

“This is the same kind of teaching I do for my own students and residents at the microscope, but instead of having five learners, now, I’m able to put it on YouTube and anyone around the world can watch it and learn from it,” he said.

Gardner said using social media has enabled him to use his time better and provide a benefit to more people.

“It makes me a more efficient educator and saves time,” said Gardner. “It is the same techniques I use in my classroom, but I’m just expanding my classroom to the entire world.”

The Sectra Table allows students to explore human anatomy using 3D virtual technology.

The Sectra Table allows students to explore human anatomy using 3D virtual technology.

Gardner was the 2018 recipient of the Chancellor’s Award for Teaching Excellence, which recognizes direct teaching, mentoring or educational scholarship between faculty and students. Gardner is the youngest recipient of the College of American Pathologists Resident Advocate Award and was named a Top Five Honoree on the American Society for Clinical Pathology’s “40 Under 40” list.

He serves on the American Society of Dermatopathology Board of Directors and is a deputy editor-in-chief of Archives of Pathology & Laboratory Medicine. He is director of the dermatopathology fellowship program and clinical co-director of the musculoskeletal/skin block for the UAMS College of Medicine.

Other presentations included a how-to on creating images in PowerPoint, engaging students in active recall using Kahoots, Blackboard analytics, and a humorous and informative lunchtime presentation on engaging students of each generation by Mark Taylor.  Two workshops – augmented reality and Using OER (Open Educational Resources) by UALR and eVersity faculty – plus a session learning about the Sectra Table, which is an interactive, anatomy visualization table UAMS recently acquired.