Sunday, February 22, 2009

Go to iTunes U and Become a Psychiatrist

An interesting convergence of themes occurred today, from three separate threads. From this remarkable thematic convergence, I have come to the conclusion that one can become a psychiatrist just by sleeping.  Please, follow along.

I couldn't fall asleep last night and could no longer focus on writing a chapter for our book, and so was cruising iTunes U, looking to see what sort of interesting lectures they had there.  (Yes, it is ironic that, despite my above-stated conclusion, I was already a psychiatrist yet could not sleep.)

If you aren't familiar with iTunes U, they make audio and video podcasts of
 college lectures from MIT, Yale, Stanford, and other participating universities, available for free. No enrollment fee. No 8am lectures. No uncomfortable chairs. Alas, no credit, but you get to learn for free.

Believe it or not, I spent 45 minutes watching a Stanford engineering course on Fourier transforms -- and didn't fall asleep!  At 3:00 AM!!  Thank you, Brad Osgood (iTunes link HERE).  I did not take any notes, btw.

So, that was the first thread.  

After a fitful four hours of sleep, dreaming of wavelengths and lambda, I begin my Sunday morning with blueberry and ginger pancakes.  Since this is 2009 and all, I am reading -- not the Sunday paper -- but the Sunday blogs and news on the computer.  I come across a post by a fellow psychiatrist blogger in the Netherlands, DrShock, about a just-published article from Computers & Education, entitled "iTunes University and the Classroom: Can Podcasts Replace Professors?", and written by SUNY psychologist, Dani McKinney et al.  This was a very interesting second thread, which related to the first.  What Dr McKinney did was have two different groups of psychology students receive a lecture on "perception."  One group attended a traditional class lecture and the other received the lecture as a podcast.  They were later tested on their recall of information from the lecture.  Alas, there was no random group assignment, which is a relative weakness of the study design.  

But the findings suggest that a podcast lecture provided more opportunity to re-listen and take notes than the live lecture, as the podcast group scored significantly higher than the live lecture group.  Of those students who took an average amount of notes, the podcast students scored an average letter grade (10 points) higher than the classroom students.  (If you'd like a copy of the entire article, you may write Dr McKinney at mckinneyATfredoniaDOTedu.)

Most of the podcast students listened to the lecture more than once, so they had more opportunity to learn the material.  This is one of the benefits of having a recording of the lecture.

Here's what made me go "Hey, wait a minute, this is quite a coincidence!" -- I have had dinner with Dani McKinney before.  She is, in fact, a close friend of one of my close friends.

So, the third thread of this convergence of ideas hits me when I go to Shrink Rap and see that the Google ad on the right sidebar says,
"Be a Psychiatrist.  Advance your career - earn a degree in Psychiatry completely online."
Well, I can see the handwriting on the wall.  THIS is the 7th future trend in Psychiatry.  Online medical degrees.  You don't even need to go to class.  Just listen to the podcast (at least twice for better retention) and take notes while you listen, and you can advance your career in no time.  I suppose if you are really lazy, you could play the podcasts while you sleep.  I'm not sure if there would be adequate retention to pass the tests under this condition, but Dani assures me that she will be testing out this hypothesis with the next group of psychology students.  Wake me up when we get there.  In the meantime, I'm heading over to iTunes U to take some neurosurgery classes.  Reimbursement for procedures is much better than for cognitive services.