Summary: In his latest blog Professor Harden discusses the use of laptops in lectures, the matter of plenary speaker selection, Instagram etiquette, PechaKucha, the role of teachers, and US airports. Description: Should we ban the use of laptops in lectures?
Students increasingly use laptops to take notes during lectures. Is this desirable? Writing in Times Higher Education Ioannis Costas Batlle, University of Bath describes how he banned the use of laptops in his lectures. To this end his aim was to encourage students to think and participate during the session rather than simply take notes.  He created an interactive teaching environment. Core concepts, definitions and examples were provided to students on a handout which they were asked to read in advance and encouraged to bring to class. In the class he worked through the handout via a dialogue with the students and captured this on a whiteboard. Students were asked to make sense of the theory and to identify real life examples. In some ways this is similar to the flipped classroom. 

While students initially opposed the ban, by the end of the semester they voted overwhelmingly in favour of it. One student is quoted as saying “Thank you for the laptop ban. I finally learned how useless writing everything down is”. Laptop use may also be a distraction. Should we ban laptops in our lectures?

Times Higher Education – 21st February 2019

Plenary Speakers – A difficult decision. Do we need more magic?
We have a great AMEE 2019 Conference planned for Vienna in August and already are working on the AMEE 2020 programme in Glasgow. The choice of Plenary Speakers is always a challenge, if we are to meet the diverse needs of the conference participants. We have been successful at previous conferences in identifying speakers who overall have been welcomed by the conference delegates with many participants rating them highly and only a few give a poor rating. The opening session with the magician at AMEE 2017 in Helsinki was an example. Some identified powerful take home messages in relation to doctor/patient communication while others saw no relevance in his presentation.  Each year the Open University identify ten new forms of teaching and learning and assessment to guide teachers and policy makers in productive innovation. Among the ten approaches featured for 2019 is “learning through wonder”. It is suggested that “a wondrous event, such as seeing a brilliant rainbow or majestic mountain waterfall, creates an experience that provokes interest and curiosity.” Wonder, it is proposed, can be introduced through magic shows!

The gender balance of speakers has been criticised in the past but I thought we had got it right in 2018 in Basel with two female and two male speakers. However, one participant criticised that we started off with the two male speakers who had hard topics to address and scheduled later were the two female speakers who had soft subjects. The first speaker was also criticised for choosing science fiction books by male authors and neglecting books with female authors. We need to continue efforts to ensure that our speakers represent the broad interests of our conference participants.

When is the best time to post on Instagram?
Hubspot ( suggested that it is worthwhile testing the time of your Instagram posts to see what posting time generates the most audience engagement. In general, posting at 05:00 from Tuesday to Friday generates some of the highest engagement – people usually check their phones when they wake up. Posting from 11:00 to 15:00 during the weekdays also generates a lot of engagement – people usually check their phones during lunch or when they start to run out of mental energy toward the end of the work day. If you want to post on the weekends it is suggested you should, post on Saturday around 11:00 when people eat brunch or hang out with their friends.

PechaKucha as a teaching innovation
A feature of the final plenary session at the AMEE Conference for the last two years has been a series of six PechaKucha presentations. PechaKucha is an innovation from Japan where the speaker has 20 slides, each for 20 seconds, advancing automatically. Does this method have wider applications in medical education? A team of emergency physicians at NHS Lothian in the UK has used the approach to teach emergency medicine to undergraduates. They were looking for something edgy and exciting to inspire the students. Students see the six minute talks they produced online and then turn up for interactive case-based tutorials based on real patients. They cover topics such as major trauma and head injuries. Students can watch the recordings anywhere.

Mike Botelho gave a very helpful AMEE Webinar on 19th March on Designing and using video to support learners - If I video will they watch? The optimum length for a video is 6 minutes, he argued, although there are exceptions. The recording of the webinar is well worth listening to and can be found here.

What do teachers see as their main role?
The changing roles of the teacher was my theme for the 1st IAMSE Spring Webinar series. 217 participated in the webinar. I reviewed the eight different roles of the teachers and asked participants what they see as their most important role. I did not include among the options manager, scholar, or professional. Responses were Information provider – 12%, Facilitator – 47%, Curriculum developer – 15%, Assessor – 6%, and Role model – 19%.

The responses to a separate poll question on where more attention needs to be paid with regard to the information provider role were Conductor/transmitter of information – 7%, Curator of information – 20%, and Coach of student as information seeker – 73%
In the book by Pat Lilley and myself, The Eight Roles of the Medical Teacher, published last year we highlight the move of the teacher from being an information provider to one of facilitator and in terms of the information provider role we highlight the importance of coaching students as information seekers.

US Airports with the greatest number of flight disruptions
AirHelp recently produced a list of the ten US airports with the most flight delays and cancellations in 2018. I find this interesting as a challenge when travelling is to choose which airport to transit to one’s final destination in the US if there is not a direct flight. Having been caught in Chicago a number of times I avoid the airport if at all possible. Perhaps unsurprisingly Chicago, the country’s busiest airport had most disrupted flights with 115,900 of the 903,000 flights disrupted, many because of inclement weather. Dallas Fort Worth reported 75,600 flight disruptions, and Atlanta 75,400 out of 895,000 arrivals and departures. The fourth for disruptions was Charlotte, the fifth Newark, the sixth Los Angeles, the seventh Denver, the eighth San Francisco, the ninth JFK, and the tenth Boston. An interesting note was that more firearms were seized in Atlanta (298) than in any other US airport last year. Wherever possible I try to find a direct route and welcome the addition of a number of new BA direct services. In January I was able to fly direct to Austin for a meeting and in April I can fly direct to Nashville.