David Blevins

Blevins: Technology helps students to put ‘words into function’

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Paramedic program director David Blevins’ interest in technology started with his father.

“My father realized when I was young that technology would play an extremely important role in my lifetime,” Blevins said. “He would bring home his military laptop so my sister and I could play with it. He knew that if we did not embrace technology, my sister and I would be behind the curve.”

Just as Blevins’ father gave him a chance to learn, Blevins now gives his students hands-on access to technology. He is willing to try just about any device to help his students learn. During the summer, for example, Blevins dropped by the Center for Teaching Arts and Technology to pick up Microsoft’s tablet, Surface.

His philosophy is that if Roane State has a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) culture, than as a faculty member, he needs to have a basic understanding of how any device works.

“We have to make sure as we are disseminating information, we are able to do it across devices,” he said. “One way to limit student anxiety with technology is to make sure we, as faculty, have an understanding of how apps and functions work on various devices.”

Blevins uses iPads to organize his course content and to teach specific skills. As an organizational tool, the iPad — along with cloud storage app Dropbox — allows Blevins to share and manage clinical documentation and lesson plans.

The iPad gives students practice with taking notes digitally in the field. As a pilot program, all paramedic students at the Knox County Center for Health Sciences were issued iPads, which they used during their clinical experiences. The students took field notes on the iPads and uploaded them, a skill they will need when they enter the workforce.

Blevins also uses medical apps to reinforce what students read in the textbook or hear in class lectures. For example, Blevins teaches functions of the lung with an app called Living Lung. As Blevins discusses how lungs function, he and the students can touch the parts of the lung, rotate it and see changes in circulation patterns.

“With the app, I can show where the air goes instead of just relying on the text,” Blevins said. “You are putting those words into function, into a visual meaning behind the written word.”

Apps also allow Blevins to better illustrate how to handle real-world cases. When he worked as a paramedic, Blevins had a patient who needed to have a breathing tube inserted into his mouth. The patient had a tumor that made intubation difficult. The situation was unusual and one Blevins likes to share with his students. Describing it, however, was always a challenge.

With an app that shows intubation, though, Blevins can tell the story and display exactly what he faced and how he solved the problem.

Outside of the classroom, Blevins uses Twitter to interact with current students and prospective students. He views Twitter as a space for casual conversation, while email is a place for formal business communication.

“Students view social media as unofficial, engaging communication,” Blevins said. “They see email as formal. One key to social media is to make sure I keep the content flowing, which is a challenge at times.”

Whether it’s iPads, apps or social media, Blevins is willing to try just about anything to reach students. When asked about his top three technology tips, however, he urges educators not to rush.

“If you try to take something into the classroom environment, and you are not ready for it, it’s going to ruin your credibility,” he said. “Practice it beforehand so that you get it right.”