Facilitating Collaboration, Communication and Critical Thinking Skills in Physical Therapy Education Through Technology-Enhanced Instruction


As new technology is designed and introduced in society, innovative educators begin to find ways to integrate it into their instruction in an attempt to advance learning outcomes and increase learner engagement. Technology integration is a popular concept in light of the growing digital native population of learners and the novelty of new technology tools. But with all new change and implementation, the practice of verifying the effectiveness of implementation and evidence-based research remains of utmost importance when integrating technology. Without evidence-based support, technology implementation will likely be viewed as irresponsible and unwarranted.1 Results from numerous articles support the notion that skillfully structured pedagogy, rather than the technology tool itself, should lead technology integration.1,2,3,4, 5, 6,7,8,9
Although current students in physical therapy education (PTE) programs are generational digital natives, the integration of technology in PTE programs should be indicated and purposeful, rather than a means to conform to the generational demand.10 Technology has the ability to encourage learning at any time and any place, including beyond the classroom setting and into the home and working environment.4 For example, Van Oostveen et al.11 found little evidence that the integration of tablet personal computers contributed to meaningful learning, but indicated that the students’ engagement in learning improved likely due to the novelty effect, while the students’ attitudes towards learning were relatively unchanged. The authors suggested that the environment or pedagogy may not have been supportive of successful technology integration and the use of technology in the classroom does not alone elicit academic success for students. However, the effectiveness and the quality of the instructor and mindful selection of technology within the instruction can yield success.
Traditionally, PTE and healthcare education models are typically comprised of face-to-face classroom curricula for knowledge content and clinical internship(s) for clinical practice experience. According to the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE) 2014-15 Aggregate Program Data Report, PTE curricular models are evolving from the use of one particular curricular model to a hybrid curricular model (i.e., combination of two or more curricular models).12 CAPTE data indicate a decline both in the percentage of programs using a traditional curricular model and in all other solitary models from 19.2% in 2007 to 11% in 2014. The use of hybrid models increased from 60.6% in 2007 to 73% in 2014.12 Research dating back to 1989 has explored the restructuring of the educational environment in order to increase active learning, authentic tasks, challenging work, complex problem solving, and higher-order thinking skills.13 Like most areas of education, PTE programs are evolving to integrate more technology use in the curriculum. Johnson14 reported that the integration of hybrid, online and collaborative learning is one of the fastest growing trends in face-to-face instruction in higher education. Baker10 presented common uses of technology in the PTE classroom such as video modules for independent study, hybrid/distance courses, web-based interactive tutorials, blogs, audience response systems, computerized testing, and podcasts. Baker also reported that a hybrid or blended learning format yielded better educational outcomes than the traditional face-to-face lecture format.
Technology integration has been unevenly distributed among PTE programs. Some PT educators seem reluctant to embrace or are even resistant to adopting technology in their classroom. Literature identifies barriers to tech integration including the reluctance of physical therapist educators to adopt technology advances in the classroom because of reduced amount of face-to-face interaction with faculty and other students, lack of faculty support with technology integration, lack of time and monetary support, and privacy concerns.14,15 The integration of technology and teaching online is more demanding than simply uploading a PowerPoint presentation to a learning management system. Physical therapist educators, typically digital immigrants, need education and institutional support to identify the most effective and efficient method to introduce technology into the curriculum and the maintenance of these technologies.10
Although students appear to favor Web 2.0 technologies, proper testing and analysis should be conducted to ensure best practice for technology integration in PTE.16 Baumgartner15 reports that technological innovations are being integrated in the PTE classroom with increasing focus on institutional marketing and less on purposeful pedagogy, technology experience of the instructor and educational outcome assessment. Perhaps tech tools are being used incorrectly in PTE because of discomfort with tech tools and lack of understanding of pedagogy behind their use. The purpose of this educational session is to discuss briefly technology-enhanced instruction, and facilitate hands-on demonstration of technology-enhanced instruction using Google Applications and Kahoot.

Methods and/or Description of Project

A pre-test using Google forms will allow the presenters and the audience to see in real time the audience’s comfort level using tech tools. Following a brief overview of technology-supported transformative pedagogy and tech tools currently being utilized to enhance learning in PTE, we will then ask the audience to join in a hands-on experience, on their own devices, of learning how to use Google applications and Kahoot. We will walk through each tech tool to help educators who are not digital natives feel comfortable integrating these tools into their instruction. For the digital natives in the audience, this demonstration will offer tips on using these tech tools for content-based technology integration to promote collaboration, communication and critical thinking skills. A Google Forms post-test, will again gauge comfort level and allow an assessment of learning outcomes following the presentation.


Physical therapy educators will feel that they can incorporate these tech tools in their next educational experience to promote higher order thinking in students and increase student communication and collaboration.

Conclusions/Relevance to the conference theme: The Pursuit of Excellence in Physical Therapy Education

PTE evolves based on the needs of the changing healthcare environment as well as the students these programs serve. Due to the advantages of communication efficiencies with social media and the collaboration potential that technologies offer in the classroom and healthcare environment, PTE programs should consider integrating technology as part of evidenced based practices. Technology used in the right manner for the right reasons will best prepare physical therapy students for the ever-changing healthcare environment.


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12. Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education. Aggregate program data: 2014-15 physical therapist education programs fact sheets, 2015. http://www.capteonline.org/uploadedFiles/CAPTEorg/About_CAPTE/Resources/Aggregate_Program_Data/AggregateProgramData_PTPrograms.pdf. Accessed April 17, 2016.
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15. Baumgartner M. Instructional technologies in graduate physical therapy courses. [dissertation], Fort Lauderdale, FL: Nova Southeastern University; 2011
16. Kamel Boulos M, Wheeler S. The emerging Web 2.0 social software: an enabling suite of sociable technologies in health and health care education. Health Info Libr J, 2007;24(1):2-23.

Course Objectives

By the end of the educational session, the learner will be able to:
Demonstrate the use of Kahoot and Google Apps for technology enhanced instruction

Evaluate the use of technology for purpose-driven pedagogy to increase learning outcomes or novelty effect

Define collaboration, communication and critical thinking skills

Instructional Methods

Presentation, Hands-on demonstration/instruction, Discussion

Tentative Outline/Schedule

Real Time pre-test
Step-by-step instruction in tools
Open Discussion and Q&A
Real Time post Test

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  • Control #: 2505254
  • Type: Educational Session
  • Event/Year: ELC2016
  • Authors: Jacque Bradford, Dr. Emily Shannon Hughes, Carol Counts Likens
  • Keywords:

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