My Experience with Twitter for Teaching

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Teaching should be a fun, sweet, and rewarding process. Perhaps like eating a piece of cake with some kidney on it.

I am currently a third year internal medicine resident, and I always pondered on the ideal and the most effective way of teaching. I would like to highlight my recent experience in teaching during my nephrology ward rotation during a busy call day, when my team interns gave case presentations on their patients. We talked about interesting and challenging cases like access infection, dialysis initiation, and chest pain during dialysis. Even though their presentations were good and to the point, they seemed nervous. I knew something was missing.

Earlier during the week, our attending physician had asked questions from students and resident about phosphate binders. Even though the teaching session included a 10 minute talk, students and trainees had become disinterested during the teaching session. On discussing further, they mentioned that they were nervous and somewhat lost. It was their first week on nephrology service, and they were still learning the field. I noticed the effort put by the attending physician in the lecture, who was passionate. I wondered, what could have been done better in this situation. What is the best way to teach and make it an effective learning experience? I am passionate about teaching, and would like to make teaching, a great experience for my team.

In the current times, students and residents are increasingly using internet resources for medical information and learning. Up-to-date is one of the excellent resources which is available. Another one is Twitter; in fact, I got introduced to Twitter about a year ago, when I was attending KIDNEYcon conference. We were told that we could use Twitter to follow the conference and ask questions from the presenters. At that time, I thought this would not be very helpful, but since I was already using social media, why not give it a try? Using Twitter during the conference gave me the power to ask questions from the presenters easier. I had time to look up material before asking questions, go over data one more time, look through other attendees’ questions, and finally, learn more than ever. Little did I know that this experience would change my academic life.

I decided to connect my two experiences together- bedside teaching and use of online resources. I came up with the idea to post questions on Twitter for my students and interns. Instead of the traditional way of teaching on rounds, they had the time to answer the questions online. Having already had the exposure to the topic, we had a ten minutes discussion about it the following day. There were no surprises and no competition on rounds—Just a focus on teaching. Having poll questions on Twitter made it more interesting to them. The students and interns frequently discussed the questions amongst them, and I noticed the enthusiasm and passion in them. Using social media to post questions was a bridge to their lives outside the hospital. I once had driven and brilliant students who initially answered the question incorrectly, researched the guidelines to find the correct response, and then commented on my post that they wanted to change their answers. During my month long nephrology rotation, 4 students and 4 interns participated in the online teaching activity on Twitter. At the end of the rotation, I got amazing feedback from all of them. They only had one request: to post more questions on Twitter. Below is an example of the type of twitter questions that I have posted.

In present times, social media is an excellent tool that can be used for teaching. My experience with Twitter as a teaching tool for residents has been both rewarding and exciting. I believe that, In addition to the traditional teaching, we can use online tools to make teaching a fun, sweet and rewarding process.

Sayna Norouzi,
Internal Medicine Resident
St Louis University
NSMC Intern, Class of 2018

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