The mobile technology initiative in Butler University's College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences
started four years ago with the introduction of laptops for all pharmacy students. A year later laptops were replaced with tablet PCs, which allow students to draw structures, write equations, and more. The faculty relies on technology for teaching, including Blackboard, Adobe Captivate, and a number of Web 2.0 applications such as GoogleDocs and PBWiki. In this interview, Butler's Amy Peak, assistant professor of pharmacy practice and director of drug information services, and Kent VanTyle, professor of pharmacology and director of instructional technology, talk with ComputerTalk's Will Lockwood about the technology supporting pharmacy education and what it means for the profession.
CT: What are the new technologies that you are using now and how are they changing the way pharmacy students learn?
I use a lot of Adobe Captivate, a program that allows me to create
online learning modules. Students can view these videos through
Blackboard prior to coming to class, then we can do different
activities in class that are more interactive. I don't require
textbooks for any class I teach.
It's clear that students who
are coming in to college now learn differently than the way most
professors learned at their age. Students are the drivers; they are
changing the way we teach. It's not really about changing the way
students learn, that change has already happened. It's about changing
the way we teach in order to achieve better learning outcomes and to
become more efficient. We are becoming better teachers when we are
doing our best to make time in the classroom reflect knowledge and
skills development, which can not be done by students on their own
outside of the classroom. Technology allows us to do that. Instead of
using the time for one-way delivery of information, technology allows
me to put information out there so students can get to it on their own
time and so I can then spend class time doing something that is much
more interactive and hands-on.
Another thing that has changed is
there is now a much greater interaction between faculty members and
information resource, or IR, personnel. Now IR is educating educators
on how to use technology instead of being just a support network. It's
now a partnership.
CT: Kent, what are your thoughts on these topics?
We used to have an animal laboratory as part of our four-semester
pharmacology course sequence. We are now using computer based
simulations in place of a live animal laboratory that allow students to
administer drugs to whole animals or isolated tissue systems and then
measure a number of physiological response parameters. This is
something you couldn't do without technology. If you make a dosing or
experimental error on a computer simulation you learn from it without
doing harm. These types of simulations are absolutely invaluable
because they allow students to quickly, easily, and economically design
and execute pharmacology experiments and to see immediately the results
of their experiment. This technology permits just-in-time opportunities
for faculty and students to interact around fundamental learning issues.
What effect do you think the technology in the pharmacy curriculum has
on how pharmacists entering the workforce will practice?
The challenge for us is that we want to expose students to some of the
best technology while they are here. And some of that is technology in
the classroom and some of that is technology in a pharmacy. The
challenge we find sometimes is a student will leave here and go into an
environment that is much lower tech than they were prepared in because
technology is expensive. Where should colleges strike that balance? We
would err on the side of preparing students for that high-end
CT: What are some of the areas where you need to
pay special attention to make sure that new pharmacists are on the same
page with their colleagues when they start practicing.
Right now the big push is patient safety. You go to the national
meetings and everything is about computerized physician order entry and
barcoding technology and all of these things to promote patient safety
and decrease medication errors. This is where we have to come in and
prepare students to understand why it's important.
Practice isn't optimizing the use of technology in areas like
information access and collaboration among providers. We know there are
chains that don't even let pharmacists have Internet access while they
practice by virtue of policy, which is one important area where new
pharmacists might find in-pharmacy technology lagging behind what
they're used to.
CT: What's on the horizon? What are the next big changes?
What is on the horizon is driven by the technology and the cost of the
technology. Here we focus on health sciences. Patient safety is
probably the single biggest initiative that ties to technology. So we
will continue with our classroom-based technologies designed to enhance
learning and increase student exposure to the technology designed to
prevent errors, increase patient safety, and improve medical outcomes.
Right now our main focus is using technology to help people learn, to
help make us better teachers, and do that all throughout the
curriculum. Our challenge as educators is trying to figure out where
the technology is going and not get too far behind.
One good example of this is that, at Butler, we are moving towards
smart phone technology. This is where mobile technology is moving and
this is where drug information access in practice is going. There is no
doubt in my mind that the mobile technology program we have in the
college is going to transform itself more towards those very small,
highly mobile technologies. Small mobile computing devices will only
improve and become more readily available. You also have to consider
the fact that, with Web 2.0, the Internet has became interactive. You
can share information with others so easily. Information flows in a
multidirectional and not unidirectional manner. That is why Web 2.0
applications are so exciting. They give us the opportunity to create
and share information with students or faculty without having to know
complex Web-based languages and to facilitate Web-based collaboration
among both students and faculty.