Apr 6, 2016

A New Way of Learning: Blending and Balancing High-Touch and High-Tech

My professional career began in 1974 and has been dedicated to helping, teaching and empowering expectant mothers and their partners. As much as I have given of myself throughout the years, I am always surprised by how much I have received in return.

Several formative years have passed since I began my career, but my passion for childbirth education is just as strong. Every day I speak to colleagues who are worried about their jobs as prenatal, childbirth, breastfeeding, and baby care educators. They’re fearful their departments won’t survive cutbacks and budget woes. They ask, “How do we get administration and management to understand that what we do is important, not only to the community but to the hospital’s bottom line?”

We, as a group of passionate educators, need to rethink how we teach this new generation of expectant parents, and that involves change. Today’s learners are much different than they were, say, 10 years ago, much less 40 years ago! My point here is that our society is on a path of constant change. Not only do we have to change, but we also have to understand how this generation prefers to learn and receive their information.

Change is scary to all of us, however, as educators, we have to step out of our comfort zones. I don’t want to see us losing “touch” with parents-to-be. The basic information is the same, but it has to be taught differently in order to sustain their attention. I believe now is the perfect time to blend high-touch and high-tech. My goal is to attract more participants, and I truly believe, with all the ideas that float around in my head, I will!

Research tells us that Gen Y is a group used to exercising control. Technology has given this generation the ability to be connected to every aspect of their lives simply by reaching into their pocket. All it takes is a swipe of a finger and they’re instantly connected to a world of information, and they excel at consuming that information almost 24/7. They want to get in, get the data they desire and get out as quickly as possible.

Through research, I have learned:

This group:

  • Is composed of digital natives
  • Has very short attention spans
  • Is resistant to lectures
  • Prefers instructors who are teaching through actions, not just words

They prefer:

  • Visual stimulation
  • Creative thinking
  • Not to be locked into straight lecture
  • Engaging, gaming-type activities
  • Sharing openly with others

So, I had an “Aha!” moment. I was listening to Connie Livingston, a renowned researcher in the field of childbirth education, speak to educators about how we are losing that high-touch aspect we’re all so passionate about as educators to online learning and social media, leading us to miss the mark with today’s learners. Immediately, I had a vision of bringing technology into the classroom setting. I saw learners with their own devices in the classroom, following along with the instructor. They were involved and engaged because they had been provided with interactive tools. They were using technology to learn and view evidence-based materials, along with information about their birthing facility. It was at that moment I knew that change was not only needed but necessary!

I know change is hard, but we have to keep reminding ourselves as educators that it’s not about us, but instead focus on those individuals we’re so passionate about teaching.

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