Thursday, April 24, 2008

Never Burn Your Bridges

Yesterday, I had the pleasure of co-presenting with Lisa Suggs, Manager Community Education Outreach & Distance Learning and Ray Vollmer, AIMS Program Coordinator (via video) at the United States Distance Learning National Conference. This year’s conference was held April 20-23 at the Hilton St. Louis at the Ballpark in downtown St. Louis. The AIMS mission statement states: “Adventures In Medicine & Science, (AIMS), is a youth community outreach program that provides health education and prevention information to students throughout the school year. With a combination of hands-on opportunities and 3-D demonstrations, students get a unique look at the human body. The program offers a prevention component that provides valuable information to students regarding health risks and how to avoid medical traumas. In addition, incoming juniors and seniors are provided with an opportunity to explore medical science during the AIMS Summer Workshop. AIMS is part of Practical Anatomy and Surgical Education in the Center for Anatomical Science and Education of Saint Louis University School of Medicine.” A bit long, but being that the program is multi-faceted it is necessary to really understand its mission. I spent 9 ½ years of my life in the role Lisa now has with AIMS. Two of the highlights of my time there were the development of the cadaver demonstrations and the distance learning programs. These were primarily the topics on which Lisa and I presented. Our session was entitled, “Keeping Pace with New Technology to Deliver Content Which Enhances Student Learning” and focused on the past, present and future of the AIMS Virtual Anatomy Classroom programs.

Last fall, Lisa contacted me to consult on upgrading the videoconferencing equipment AIMS is currently using to present its distance learning offerings. She told me in our initial conversation that since I knew so much about what they do, she thought I might be able to help decide which equipment to buy. Through a series of meetings and conversations, AIMS has now purchased new high-definition video equipment even though many of the program’s participants (schools) will still be using standard definition units to receive content from AIMS. In the near future, additional equipment will allow for video streaming and archiving of all distance learning programs. As a result of the project, Lisa and I started to have conversations about the AIMS program: where it had been and where it was going. We decided to submit a presentation proposal for the USDLA conference because we realized that the common denominator of the past, present and future was the great content provided by AIMS. I was reminded of the conversation between Susan Sarandon and Julia Roberts about Jackie’s children near the end of the movie Stepmom. Jackie (Sarandon) who is dying from cancer tells Isabel (Roberts), “I have their past, and you have their future.” Lisa and I put together a timeline of AIMS. I filled in the past and she filled in the future. We covered the years from 1991 to 2008 and beyond, hitting some of the important curriculum, content development and technology milestones. Ray took our audience on a brief tour of the AIMS Virtual Anatomy Classroom using desktop videoconferencing software (Polycom PVX). We discussed how dispersion of the content beyond the St. Louis area was so important to the mission of AIMS and how that could be expanded with the additional technology, resources and partnerships. It struck me as we were presenting that the presentation was possible because Lisa was willing to reach out to me in my current role to help her be successful in her current role. I know Lisa felt the experience was worthwhile as it afforded her the opportunity to make some new contacts. They say you can never go back, but sometimes it is rewarding to look back to see where you can go.

I encourage you to check out the Adventures In Medicine & Science programs and contact AIMS with any questions you may have about the programs.


Lisa said...

It has been enlightening to work with Karen in planning the future of the AIMS program - which she infused with so much energy and talent during her tenure. Presenting with Karen at USDLA was a terrific experience and I look forward to working with her as we expand our technological capacity with distance learning.

As a relative 'newbie' to the distance learning technology, Karen's expertise and enthusiasm have helped me significantly. Kudos!

Karen Montgomery said...

Thanks, Lisa. We seem to have a mutual admiration society here, but sometimes we need to pat each other on the back:-)

Martha Bogart said...

I thought the presentation was terrific! Thanks, ladies, for an informational session. It was really great to see the Polycom PVX in operation. It went so smoothly, I think the gods were smiling down on you.

Wesley Fryer said...

I am so glad the PVX videoconference to Ray worked! I'm convinced making live videoconference connections to others during workshop sessions is one of the most impactful things we can do for and with teachers when it comes to professional development and technology integration. Talking with someone over video during a presentation or workshop is a real EXPERIENCE which many, many teachers haven't experienced at all or certainly haven't experienced very often in their own educational careers as learners. What a great sounding presentation-- wish I could have been there to learn along with everyone else. Great job! :-)

Rebecca Morrison said...

I really enjoyed the presentation (I didn't know the history of AIMS) and also was glad to see PVX in use. I've had teachers ask me about the equipment and now I can tell them honestly it works very well!

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Karen Montgomery is the author of Gomeric Hill. The opinions expressed herein are mine and not necessarily those of my employer.