#KeyLIMEPodcast 106: An Education Purpose for Social Media?

Linda presents a paper on positive effects of social media on medical students. Read on, and check out the podcast here (or on iTunes!)

KeyLIME Session 106 – Article under review:

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View/download the abstract here.

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Chretien KC, Tuck MG, Simon M, Singh LO, Kind T. A Digital Ethnography of Medical Students who Use Twitter for Professional Development. Journal of General Internal Medicine. 2015 Nov;30(11):1673-80

Reviewer: Linda Snell




We hear a lot about the negative aspects of the use of social media but rarely about potential positive effects or outcomes of the use of most types of social media. Twitter is one of the most commonly-used with hundreds of millions of active users and billions of tweets. In medicine, journals and organizations as well as individuals share relevant information and it has been identified as a learning tool.

Despite many clinician educators being digital immigrants, we guide students in their professional development, education and career choice. We thus need to learn how to use and teach how to use social media effectively and professionally.

To describe how and why medical students are using twitter for professional development.

Questions: What is the culture of students who use Twitter for education? How do they use it? With whom do they interact? What do they value?

Type of Paper
Research: Ethnographic

Key Outcomes
– Students used Twitter thoughtfully and professionally.
– Super-users practiced ‘good Twitter citizenship’ –
summarized in Box 1.
– Twitter supplemented med school education.

Students valued:

  • Access to up-to-date info, to individuals with different perspectives, to patients (not their own), to a community
  • ‘voice’ – opportunity for advocacy, to create a digital footprint, and to ‘equalize’

– Gaining a patient perspective was invaluable.

Super users tend to have social, reciprocal relationships on Twitter more so than simple information retrieval – the authors think this may account for some of its added value.

The authors cite connectivism as the relevant learning theory:  ‘relates learning as a process of connecting information sources; nurturing these connections is needed for continual learning. A diversity of perspectives and opinions fuel learning and knowledge, and the capacity to increase one’s knowledge is more important than what one currently knows.’

However, do ‘super users’ reflect the ‘normal’ student?


Key Conclusions
The authors conclude…’medical students who regularly used Twitter as a professional tool did so with thoughtfulness and purpose. It provided access and voice that supplemented their medical school experience. Their Twitter practices can serve as best practices for other students as well as faculty, in their lifelong learning and professional development.’

Spare Keys – other take home points for clinician educators

  • Remind us of the principles of online professionalism.
  • Little research exists about how we use social media for learning and professional development – this paper starts to fill this gap.
  • I learned about: digital ethnography, connectivism…

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