You’ll never walk alone, Bridge over troubled water, Two of us

What did Rodgers and Hammerstein, Paul Simon and Lennon and McCartney know that dentistry is just learning to appreciate; that social networking can work wonders if you extrapolate with Bayesian objectivity.  “You and I have memories/longer than road that stretches out ahead”, applies to relationships, not learning.

Blended learning describes an algorithm that combines different knowledge delivery methods. This can be a mélange of event-based activities [face to face classroom/hands-on/convention style venues], live e-learning [webinars, simulcasts, anon] and software sharing [discussion forums, blogs, Wiki et al], and self-paced learning from online archives and repositories.

Traditional Learning

The oldest method of teaching that is universally adopted all over the world is to offer lectures face-to-face in classrooms or theatre style venues. Of course workshops are also carried out in laboratories and classrooms as well. The problem with this method remains; 1) prep time was limited, 2) note taking made assimilation of the material haphazard, 3) even when note taking was eliminated, review potential was literally non-existent, 4) hands-on was not the primary focus of the majority of events, 5) lecturer quality can vary as can content accuracy and veracity, 6) acoustics in many halls and visuals were not always of the highest quality, 7) scheduling [travel, accommodation, weather] was always an issue of concern, anon.

Virtual learning

In order to solve these long standing problems, distance learning methodology was introduced and an open educational process was developed based upon state of the art digital modalities. Although this method proved to be cost effective and provided significant expansion of educational availability and modalities, it became highly commercialized, product focused, eminence based, and while not costly, the content was not codified and as such building on a solid knowledge base became difficult.

Fortunately, as print media journals and larger global societies moved into knowledge delivery, e-learning enabled self-paced courses with self-assessment to flourish. The problem associated with virtual study was motivation. The social aspect of classrooms is missing in this method. This deficiency has been fulfilled by blending the self-paced (asynchronous) e-learning with the live classes (synchronous) together to make an advanced virtual classroom. This can engage students and make them feel a part of “class” but with some extent of freedom in self-paced study. Ways of incorporating live e-learning experience are to have chats, discussion threads, group work, and real-time class meetings with whiteboards and file sharing.

What does any of this have to do with Oral Health? In truth of fact – EVERYTHING!  For over 100 years, Oral Health has brought education and information to Canadian dentists. By moving into a true social media blog platform, the ability to exponentiate that delivery has arrived.  Contributors need not fear the blank white page. Clinical case reporting, YOUTUBE vignettes can be delivered through the blog and blended to create an optimal learning experience.

Companies and their advocates now have the ultimate crucible in which to take mortar to pestle and blend science, clinical application, product specs and commentary into a 24/7/365 learning nexus. In the dental world, Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin become so much more than social interactivity, they become a wondrous latticework of connectivity, sampling, polling and heightened awareness.

The new blog format is designed to encourage anyone in the dental team, the lab professional, the sales representative, the clinician, the auxiliaries, the hygienist, the treatment coordinator to come to the fore with content, inquiries and to share that experience with study clubs, associations, institutions and governing bodies. At the moment, it’s only through social networking and commentary. In time, with collaborative affiliations and alliances, the potential is infinite. The key to all this is to embrace it at every level and realize that unlike a scant decade ago, the Internet is no longer the province of the “geek, the nerd, or the two finger typer”.  We are not far away from pervasive voice navigation and touch screen ubiquity.

I’d like to end this entry with something that should demonstrate the level to which blended learning can be taken. Imagine if you will, the ODA or PDC conventions in 2012.  Months before the programs, articles appear in Oral Health by the various presenters. They can run the gamut from pure science to ads by the various supporting exhibitors concomitant with articles by their advocates.  An APP is made available for download through the Oral Health website a month or two prior to the date to help the attendee plan their time at the convention or an exhibit widget is made available to create data-centric interactive websites.

The Mouthing Off blog searches out salient topics focused on the content providers of the convention; respondent’s comments can then be used by the presenters, the vendors and convenors to address issues and trends of concern or interest that are raised.  It is child’s play today to create discussion forums to address followup needs after the convention, to provide webinars on topics or from presenters that were oversubscribed, to do what politicians do with exit polls to reframe the needs of the attendee, the exhibitor and the provider. The most obvious answer is that digital linkage allows everyone a level of analytics for future use that is unprecedented.

You bring your laptop or tablet to download from the cloud provided for attendees to access information, text and visuals from the presenters and preview the virtual exhibit hall to make the real time visit more purposeful. If companies are expected to take their troops out of the field, set up and take down expensive exhibits in one to three days, then why not provide them an ancillary service – 24/7/365 access to their booth and their websites – online.

To distill this to the most obvious need, the level of education provided is unprecedented and unparalleled. All it takes is a true appreciation of the power of technology if it is used properly, without restriction.  The media as well as those in governance and fulfillment must set the baseline. They must not treat technologic sophistication as the bastard stepchild as it is their present and future. The past is done; no one is arguing the value of face to face. It’s just that when you provide sophisticated technology, it must come through sophisticated means with and endless capacity for tech support and search capability. That doesn’t happen in print or in real time.

Oral Health has served you all well for the past 100 years. Contribute your comments, your content and your support of the digital initiative underway to ensure that the next 100 years supercedes all expectations.




Virtual exhibit hall – coming

or –

the potential is endless and it all begins with a call to Melissa Summerfield or Catherine Wilson or a blog entry on MOUTHING OFF…..throw a stone into still water and watch the ripples or as it should be called the energy released from entropy.