Right by Your Side

With a dose of technology, classrooms extend to the hospital bedside

FEATURE | by Ed Murphy

For kids living with chronic illness, a disability or long-term recovery from a serious injury, a hospital stay is more than just an unfortunate blip on the radar—it’s an all-encompassing life situation that can put everyday activities on hold. 

Studies show that continued education for hospitalized students is essential for intellectual, physical and emotional growth and well-being. Keeping their lifestyle as normal as possible actually decreases anxiety, increases sense of control and even helps students better cope with treatment physically.

Fortunately, drastic advances in information and communication technologies provide exciting new opportunities for hospitalized children to maintain their academic and social connections, as well as stay on track academically.

Education: A vital lifeline beyond the books

Although hospitalized students should strive to keep up academically to alleviate the stress of a heavy workload when returning to the classroom, a number of other factors make continued education in hospital settings an absolute necessity.

Traditionally, many medical institutions employed bedside teachers or tutors to conduct lessons, answer questions and administer tests and quizzes. However, these third party educators typically have minimal interaction with the academic or social activities of the student’s original school. Treatments and continual medical practitioner interruptions directly impact the students’ lesson times with the bedside teacher resulting in intermittent sessions and generic lesson plans.

While this approach to the “classroom in the hospital” can certainly help students with their school work, it quickly becomes evident that this is not the most affective approach and certainly does little to alleviate the pain and stress generated by solitary confinement to a hospital setting.

After all, the overall academic experience revolves around much more than lectures, papers and quizzes. It’s comprised of friendships, sporting events, first dances, volunteering, school plays, field trips, favorite teachers, lunch in the cafeteria and more. When a student enters the hospital for an elongated timeframe, the concept of school as they know it virtually disappears. School isn’t summed up by a science quiz, but instead is a frame of mind.

At that young of an age, education is truly encapsulated by the environment and connecting with others. Chronically ill students are removed from this familiar setting and quickly lose any independence they’d been gaining with age. Because students receiving long-term treatment are removed from so much more than just class work, providing effective educational continuity that emphasizes social interaction and minimizes isolation is essential. Bedside teachers with no affiliation to a student’s school of origin simply can’t provide a direct link to the daily school experience beyond the school work. So, what is the best way to connect?

Technology: Continuing education and connecting

Today’s technologies make it easier than ever for hospitalized students to connect back to their school of origin, maintain an interest in subject matter and interact with mediums that they use daily. As they were born and raised in an interactive society surrounded by computers, cell phones and iPods, most children are technologically plugged in all the time—a factor that should be capitalized on when it comes to educational development in hospitals.

While, access to these personal items may not be possible, hospitals have advanced their technologies in the patient room by engaging Interactive Care Providers like TVR Communications, Connected Patients and Mediavision; bringing Digital Delivery and Internet platforms to hospital bedsides.

Leveraging such technologies with media-on-demand education platforms allows teachers to extend education beyond the four walls of the classroom seven days a week, 24 hours a day. Now bedside tutors and teachers can interact with the student’s school, keeping lesson plans fresh and current. Students can keep in touch with classmates in secure chat rooms while addressing their class work with the flexibility that round-the-clock access provides.

Students now can easily connect back to their school of origin, as well as the entire digital world of information and interactivity. Furthermore, students will maintain a more positive attitude about re-entering school after treatment if they’ve had the opportunity to be constantly connected to the classroom. Feeling out of the loop, both academically and socially, can negatively affect students’ desire to get back into the four walls of a classroom.

Although a long-term hospital stay is a physically and emotionally draining experience for both kids and family, keeping up with education via today’s wide spectrum of technologies leads to better intellectual and social stability. An injury or illness shouldn’t stop today’s youth from empowering their minds daily.

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Ed Murphy is the vice president of business development at Learn360, an interactive media-on-demand service for K-12 educators. For more information on delivering education beyond the classroom, visit: www.Learn360Health.com.

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