There are certainly worse places to visit in October in Texas. A trip to Galveston for the Texas Physical Therapy Association's Annual Conference would be a nice break from preparing Anatomy practical exams for PT students, right? A little rest and relaxation - with a side order of walking along the Gulf Coast with the ocean and sand between my toes - would be welcomed.
Hold on, come back to the real world Allan. We're here for a conference, right?
Oh yes. The conference.
2014 was the 6th consecutive year that I have been invited to present at our Annual Conference. This year was the first time that I had a doubleheader: one session for the professional track ("The Role Of Social Media In Physical Therapy"), and one for the student track ("Form Follows Function: A Framework For Anatomy").
Without further adieu, here are a few thoughts from the experience.
"The Role Of Social Media In Physical Therapy"
Social media is rampant in our society today. But the thought of jumping into the social media stream is daunting to many clinicians. My discussion focused on what I call "Social Media CSI" - Content, Sharing, and Interaction. I focused on the various platforms in use and how they can be utilized. We discussed the challenges faced, such as "noise", and how to use hashtags and search. We finished with some examples of the important roles that social media can play in the physical therapy world: branding, events and news, advocacy, clinical practice and research (amongst many others).
The two hour session was attended by a small yet engaged group. The slides were ready and all I needed was an Internet connection ...
... which was an epic #fail.
I had the conference center WiFi code. Connection attempt 1 - fail. Attempt 2 - fail. Attempt 4362 - fail. Tech support arrives and tells me that the problem is with my computer. Ummmm no.
But one thing I have learned as an educator - sometimes, you just have to improvise. In a classroom, you may go down various rabbit holes in order to foster good discussion, but you have to improvise to get back on your intended educational plan. In a conference setting, you may be forced to improvise with the last-minute limitations imposed by conference facilities and technical glitches.
All I could do was chuckle – and move on.
At one hour into the session, we took a short rest break - at which time we improvised. One tethered smart phone later and we were online. Bazinga.
The rest, as they say, was history.
"Form Follows Function: A Framework For Anatomy"
Clinical anatomy has become a passion for me on the educational front. I am now into my 11th year of teaching anatomy, be that functional anatomy for PTA students or cadaver lab for PT students. There is a very traditional approach to anatomy: memorize, memorize, memorize. Ugh. It didn't work well for me as a student, and, when faced with reviewing as a teacher, still doesn't. Oh, and by the way, memorization has limited effects downstream on clinical practice.
So over the past decade, I have built my own framework for teaching (and learning) anatomy that is far more functionally-oriented and clinically relevant. It starts with my experience as a student and the things I wish I had known in my own academic pursuits.
The session was attended by well over 150 PT and PTA students. Official attendance was not announced like it is at a Longhorns football game. Game time was scheduled for 90 minutes - and what a tremendous 90 minutes it was! If the level of engagement in that room reflects the future of our profession, then the future is bright!
A Few Epiphanies: Teaching and presenting can contain many epiphanies for me. One of them is the power of communication and connection. Another is the responsibility undertaken by a speaker (or educator) to be honest, sincere, and to create a good learning environment for participants.
But perhaps the best part of the weekend was crossing paths with so many emerging new professionals. After 26 years as a clinician, and almost 20 years as an educator, it was great to see so many students in attendance. I can only hope that I was able to inspire those in attendance to strive for greater things in their careers and for our profession as a whole.
Thanks to the TPTA for inviting me to present to both sections. It was a great experience yet again.
Now, back to thoughts of the beach and a return trip to Galveston ...
Photo credits: texasbubba