Gamification of medical education: Choose Your Own Medventure

More and more health care practitioners are turning to social media for their medical education. Fellows are learning ultrasound from Snapchat, nurses are learning how to insert NG tubes from watching YouTube, and learners are learning pathophysiology from blogs and podcasts. To reach this audience with credible and reliable content, it is important for medical educators to be present where the learners are, and that means social media.

Users are also looking for entertaining ways to learn and engage with content. “Gamification” is a technique used making activities fun as well as beneficial by turning that activity into a game. Studies have found that gamification increases learner engagement, improves knowledge absorption and retention, and enhances the overall learning experience for all age groups. This strategy applies to medical education as well.

Many of us (myself included!) have fond memories of the Choose Your Own Adventure series by Jay Leibold from the 1980’s. Thus summer, Sarah Lascow did a piece in Atlas Obscura on how the author mapped out his stories. Fascinating graphic description of how these books were put together. A couple of days later, I saw a scenario that @NasMaraj posted on Twitter called “Intruders.” It was simple thread, but a clever idea. And I thought, this would be a fantastic tool for medical education! So on a long flight to Alaska, I put a case scenario together using the Pediatric Advanced Life Support (PALS) Guidelines and mapped it out on paper. Then I spent about an hour or so tweeting and linking the tweets.

The response to these scenarios has been amazing. The first scenario had more than 11,000 interactions within the first few days, with hundreds of positive comments from doctors, nurses, and trainees thanking me and telling my how much they liked them. That’s been incredibly gratifying! Amy Coopes (@coopesdetat) helped me coin a name & hashtag for them: #ChooseYourOwnMedventure. Since then, I’ve published four different scenarios and collected them in a Twitter Moment.

Making these threads is not hard, but it can be time-consuming in the beginning. But I’ve learned a few things that may be helpful to others looking to do this. First, I would suggest mapping each tweet out ahead of time analogue style with paper! Plan how each tweet should link to the others, because once you start, you’ll need to refer back to that map, so you don’t get lost. There are two ways that tweets connect in these scenarios: by replying to the one above it, and by starting a whole new thread and copying the link to that new thread into another thread. This is key. Starting new threads and copying the link into a reply into another thread allows the user click down new pathways, and hop back and forth between the threads for the “Click here if you choose…” options. If you simply reply to the tweet above or don’t link the tweets at all, the scenario will not display correctly for people trying to “play” the game.

Take a look at this example. In my plan, each tweet is in its own text box. I’ve used bold font to indicate the start of a new thread, a black arrow to indicate a reply to the tweet, and a blue arrow to indicate that I’m copying the link to that tweet.

So the thread starts off with the tweet “You are called to the bedside …” The next tweet (“Your initial impression …”) is a reply to the first tweet. And the third tweet (“You decide to …”) is a reply to the 2nd tweet. To set up the choices, you start a new thread for each of the two choices “You decide to do your job …” and “If you choose to grab a donut …” Then you need to copy the link for each of these new tweets in a reply to the tweet that asks for your choices. Once this is done, you can proceed to expand the threads for each of the choices by replying to the first tweet in that thread. As you can see from this graph, this trick about copying the link for the tweet, and pasting it into a reply a tweet can enable you to hop around between threads.

Be sure to test out your threads as you’re laying it out. It is very easy to make mistakes! Think about including photos, graphs or links that might be useful for education. Also be aware that your timeline will appear very disjointed while constructing these scenarios, but should work well if you start at the beginning.

Hopefully, this will inspire you to do one of your own! Innovation of teaching tools that engage the learner is crucial in today’s medical education environment. The Choose Your Own Adventure style scenarios have been fun to make, fun to use and easily adaptable for a variety of medical scenarios. Good luck.

Chris Carroll is a pediatric critical care physician and can be reached on Twitter @ChrisCarrollMD.

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