I just attended Dan Shapiro’s session on a video project for Medical Students. I don’t know if I have seen a better case made or for the use of video projects for learning. Dan Shapiro is the chair of the humanities at The Penn State College of Medicine. I have never thought about med students taking humanities, and I am told Penn State was the first med school to adopt a humanities department.
Here is the gist of the video project:
Modern medical schools were designed to treat acute illnesses. With medicine getting better over the last century, we have defeated a lot of acute illnesses such as infection, but there is growing cases of chronic illnesses such as cancer. So, just like we hear in so many disciplines these days, the education system seems to have not caught up. Students and new doctors come to patients with the attitude that if a patient comes to me with X, then I just need to know to give them Y, and problem is solved. (Reminds me to the multiple choice mentality of standardized assessment that Wesch was arguing against in the keynote – If this is how the students were learning, this is the mental model they bring to the world). The problem is that doctors are being trained to cure, not to heal. Doctors are not prepared to help patients cope with living with an illness in their life.
Enter then the video project. Med students are required to make a five minute documentary about patients coping with a chronic illness. The students take eight months to collect the footage, being required to make at least three visits with the patients, but many make more. The students are given basic instructions on how to frame a shot, seek good audio and lighting, and basics on how to tell a story. They capture around 25 hours of footage that they must edit down to 5 minutes (although Shapiro has started to allow longer submissions, sometimes up to 10 minutes). In editing the footage and working with it, taking all the time to hone and edit, the students get a deep sense of what is on the film. It is this editing process where a lot of learning happens as the students to think critically and analyze the footage they have captured. Ultimately, the patients become the teachers, as seasoned patients know more about the realities of living with an illness than physicians do.
Two of these student videos were played in the session, and I have to say I was blown away by the quality of the productions. The use of sound, music, editing all worked together to tell a compelling story.
The students all rated the video project very high in the positive effect it had on their learning on all dimensions (Average rating above 4 out of 5 on almost all questions). In fact, the amount of students and patients participating has doubled in the last year even though it is not a requirement and the students get no credit that counts towards graduation.
This project makes the case that filmmaking can be a powerful medium for learning about a topic.