Thursday Born

The everyday life of a medical student (who was born on a Thursday).

Definitely part of Generation Y, or, Generation “So as I was- ooh shiny!”

with 11 comments

I admit, I have a really hard time reading textbooks. I have an anatomy exam coming up on Monday, and I just finally gave up trying to read our main textbook, Moore’s Clinical Anatomy, in favor of just going over my atlas (I’m using Netter’s Illustrated Anatomy). I really wish I had done this sooner, because I feel like I’m learning a lot more than I was by trying, and failing, to read.

Yesterday, I and a few classmates were talking about whether our generation simply has a shorter attention span than previous generations. Maybe we do. Maybe you could hand Moore’s to someone twenty years older than me and they could sit down and read and comprehend for at least an hour, whereas I can focus for maybe fifteen to twenty minutes.

There have to be studies on this by now, right? I’ve seen and heard this theory – that our generation has much shorter attention spans – thrown around so much that by now people must have formally studied it.

Well here’s one abstract:

“Research in information-seeking behavior, motivation, critical thinking, and learning theory was explored and compared in a search for possible motivating factors behind students’ dependence on television and the Internet for their information needs. The research indicates that only a very small percentage of the general population prefer to learn by reading.”

And you know, as much as I love to read fiction, I have such a hard time learning by reading (unless it’s fun, and I’m having a hard time nailing down the difference between fun information and tedious information). I get sleepy. I get antsy and want to do other things. And you know? This “problem” isn’t going away and future generations are only going to become more and more exaggerated in this trait. I didn’t have internet till I was ten or eleven (and only had one tv channel till around the same time), I didn’t have a cell phone till I was sixteen or seventeen, my own laptop till seventeen/eighteen, or a smart phone till I was twenty-two. What are the kids who grow up texting and IMing as soon as they can read going to be like? How are they going to want to learn? How are they going to learn most effectively?

I’m still struggling a little with understanding how I learn. I attended a suturing/knot tying workshop bright and early this morning, and for both techniques, I struggled in the beginning. I couldn’t see the demonstration and/or I was sitting across from it so my movements would need to be mirrored. The verbal instructions were  not helpful either. “Outside in, then inside out” did not make sense to me immediately. I needed to do the motion, and then ah-ha! Yes, I am moving the needle from the outside in and then from the inside out. Okay. I got it.

Dance class (once a week; currently east coast swing) is interesting when it comes to this too. The instructions are nice and simple, and I already know the basic steps. So I don’t need to be told “Ok, so move your right foot, then your left, then your right again, and at the same time, you need to move a bit to your right, while dropping your hand hand and turning.” No. Would not compute. Instead, I know I’m doing triple steps the entire time so I can focus on the larger movement.

But how does this tie back to learning Anatomy? To learning biochem and physiology and histology and statistics? I’m still lost. Textbooks don’t work well for me. I never learned to take notes and I’m skeptical of their worth (invariably, I’ll space out and the gaps in my notes makes me reluctant to use them; however, I am finding watching the videos to be a great help for this, because if I space out, I can rewind and re-watch).

Maybe I should be spending more time in lab, following structures and holding them. Talking about them with other people. More doing. Less passive, ineffective absorption. I feel self-conscious not knowing enough though, so I don’t put myself out there to study with my classmates. I’m worried that they’ll be somehow put off by the fact that I’m behind and need to use them to learn, whereas they are already reviewing.

I think I need to just get over it.


Written by Aba

September 24, 2009 at 8:09 pm

Posted in Medical School

11 Responses

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  1. I find this fascinating. I myself learn BEST from books. When I read, I retain the information immediately; however, in lectures I tend to space out unless I force myself to write furiously. As a matter of fact, I taught myself how to crochet AND how to use Adobe CS3 from books. The only reason I know anything about physics is because I read the textbook for the class. Come to think about it, I learned to sew and craft by reading instructions.

    The only thing I have to learn visually are physical movements. For example, dance. I can only dance choreography if I copy someone else’s movements. My mind also cannot translate a mirror image. If for some reason my Zumba instructor faces me, it’s all over. 🙂

    So, in terms of reading, pedagogically speaking there is an emerging field that argues that kids today read MORE than any other generation before them. Bear with me, here. Kids are now reading text messages. The internet is basically textual communication with the exception of YouTube and Vimeo. Want to find your friends on facebook? Better learn how to read! There’s a wonderful article in last month’s issue of _Wired_ that covers this exact subject.

    What I find more concerning than anything is the “hive mind.” It’s not so much about learning from text as it is RETAINING what you learn from text. For example, what’s the impetus to learn when the Civil War took place if 15 seconds on the readily-accessible Wolfram_Alpha will tell you? Why memorize that if the hive mind can fill in those blanks for me? I see this as the bigger problem. So many students are interested in careers over educational self-fulfillment nowadays that I wonder what kind of quality we’ll find in the future generations. Why memorize torts if you can Google torts? Who needs to know all the functions of the hypothalamus if there’s an easy-to-reference sheet on WebMD?


    September 24, 2009 at 8:46 pm

    • It’s not that I can’t learn from reading at all, because I can. I taught myself to knit from books, improved on my crochet technique, and in general end up self-teaching myself through reading since I don’t pay attention too well in lecture either and I end up studying from the textbooks and lecture notes (didn’t have video recorded lectures in college).

      But I don’t retain the information immediately most of the time, and I need to really think about things. I need to read actively, and reading actively doesn’t come naturally to me. I have to consciously turn it on. It’s much easier to do when I’m learning how to do something (crochet/knit/java/physics problem/physiology problem) than when I’m just learning to learn information (what innervates the heart? where does this artery go?).

      I don’t dislike textbooks because I have to read them. I dislike textbooks because they’re often poorly written, and even if they’re not they’re probably incredibly dense. I’m a skimmer, and unfortunately, when you skim a textbook, you miss a lot of information. To top it off, they’re physically inconvenient and incredibly expensive. And once they’re printed they can’t be updated, so they become outdated quickly and lose value.

      I have heard about how kids today read more. There’s the question of the value of a thousand texts from a friend versus a short story, but I do believe that kids today are still reading.

      The hive mind aspect is rather interesting, and I don’t necessarily see it as a problem (okay, it is in some ways), but mainly as something that society is going to have to adjust to in potentially fascinating ways. While facts can always be looked up, understanding those facts (and being able to use them properly) can and does take effort. So I think there will always be value in having one’s own base understanding of how systems work.

      And you know, as much as sometimes I grumble mentally about why I need to know all these damn little details in anatomy, when I listen to doctors talk about stuff, and they just know everything? Without having to stop and look up every detail? Then I see the value. Sometimes it’s simply more efficient to know.

      I should buy a subscription to Wired… It’s one of my favorite magazines and the subscription’s usually pretty affordable. It’s great travel reading.


      September 24, 2009 at 9:37 pm

      • Oh my GOD, I love Wired. 🙂 Technically it’s John’s subscription, but whatever. 🙂

        Anyway, just to clarify–I hope I didn’t sound harsh in terms of book learnin’. I just learn differently than a lot of other people, so I like hearing (and talking!) about different educational techniques, especially because I’m a teacher.


        September 24, 2009 at 11:45 pm

      • You didn’t sound harsh at all! 🙂 Learning styles are pretty fascinating. Differences between people in general are really fascinating. Sometimes I can’t help but delight in the many different ways there are to categorize people. Labeling can be bad, but it can also be so much fun (I think this is the psychology major in me making an appearance).


        September 25, 2009 at 8:50 am

  2. I think it’s pretty much a given that NO ONE likes Moore’s Anatomy. I use (and still have) Netter’s Atlas and Grant’s Atlas. I preferred Grant’s for some reason. Now, I don’t know how your classes are set up, but at my school they try to get a lot of hands-on practice for the basic sciences. Like in Anatomy, we did our own dissections. A lot of people were squeamish, but I thought it was really helpful being in a lab and hearing about structures/functions then it being reinforced during lecture.

    As far as that goes anatomy, sutures, and dancing I think should require that participation to learn. Then Biochem…I think that’s just the material that trips people up.

    It will be interesting to see how the next generation handles this bombardment of media.
    Very cool, Aba.

    James Morosky

    September 24, 2009 at 8:47 pm

    • I don’t have Grant’s Atlas, but we are using Grant’s Dissector. I wonder what his atlas is like. I think there’s an old edition of one on one of the book stands on our dissection table, but we keep just using our Netter’s. I’ll take a look at it tomorrow.

      We definitely do our own Dissections for Anatomy, which I am very grateful for. I have no idea how on earth I’d be making any sense of the Atlas right now if I hadn’t handled everything on my own and seen where things lie and how things move in relation to each other.

      Yeah, biochem… I’m just going to have to push through this course! When it gets even just a little bit higher level, I do actually find it interesting, but at the really basic level I just keep struggling to convince myself that it’s worth of my attention.

      It’s funny. One of my anatomy partners actually loves Moore’s Clinically Oriented Anatomy. I think he’s a large part of why I didn’t give up on it earlier, but I really just can’t get into it. It’s a nice reference material, but I can’t read it.

      Thanks for replying, btw!


      September 24, 2009 at 9:12 pm

  3. […] On being part of Generation Y, or, Generation “So as I was- ooh shiny!” « Thursday Born – view page – cached On being part of Generation Y, or, Generation “So as I was- ooh shiny!” — From the page […]

  4. “Why memorize torts if you can Google torts?”

    Strangely enough, googling torts is more or less what they teach us in law classes.

    Well, “How to search for relevant laws and precedent”, anyway.


    September 25, 2009 at 4:21 am

    • Hehe, yeah, we have a similar minor component in our Practice of Medicine class. The librarians come talk to us every now and then about appropriate resources to use to look up medical information.


      September 25, 2009 at 8:52 am

  5. My most lovely Ashley ❤ Why did you leave me so? ;(

    *ahem* I find note-taking rather helpful not necessarily for review, though good notes also serve that purpose, but in aiding the remembering process. Like hey, I remember writing this thing down and oh, I put it in *this spot* on the page… It's like making your own little reference manual but you don't have to search the index in the back because you already know where you put the information. It's easier to find so I can glance at it more often without wasting time and it just sticks after a while.


    September 28, 2009 at 9:16 pm

    • Ah, that’s a good explanation of a valid reason to take notes. I admit I do that when I re-watch the lecture videos, and it’s nice because I can pause to write things down or rewind if I didn’t hear it right. But it feels weird doing it when I’m at live lecture because I feel like a miss quite a bit when I’m writing.

      I think I’m just being stubborn about note-taking and I also think I just need to learn to take notes on my computer (cause I type so much faster than I write). I hear that’s what all the cool kids do these days.


      October 2, 2009 at 3:05 pm

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