Get to know the team that developed Student!

We have prepared a series of interviews done to the people behind Student. With this first edition, we learn a bit more about Areo Saffarzadeh.


Who is Areo Saffarzadeh?

I am medical student at UC Irvine School of Medicine. As a student at the first medical school to purchase iPads for its curriculum, I’ve worked closely with both students and faculty to develop and enhance the iMedEd initiative, which is focused on incorporating cutting-edge technology in education. I love this type of work. Most importantly, I have a keen interest in the overlap between technology and education, including online learning, iOS apps for medical education, and technology-enhanced distance learning. In addition to medical school, I am currently pursuing a Master’s degree specifically focused on multimedia education with courses covering evidence-based instructional design and the newest instructional technologies. 


What´s your contribution to the Student project?

I’ve worked on the Student project with the new team at ALERT from the beginning. As a medical student with a background in educational technology, my role with this project has been that of an instructional designer. I’ve worked closely with the project manager to create a short and long-term vision of what ALERT® Student should be and to ensure its utility and ease-of-use. Using evidence-based principles and a technology-centered approach, we’ve come up with a world changing product that will help medical students from day 1 to doctor.


How do you see this project?

I see this project as a means to take medical education into the 21st century. We have created the world’s first collaborative online interactive notebook. This is no “Google docs”. In addition to allowing medical students to create sharable, media-rich notebooks, these notebooks can be easily embedded with quizzes that record detailed analytics on your progress.  

The amount of time you spend per section of your notebook, in addition to your performance on the quizzes, is stored in what I like to call your “Student Learning Portfolio”.  As we develop the product further, we will make it easier for you, as a student, to view your personal portfolio at any moment and focus on your areas of weakness. Studies have shown that when you practice using a targeted and deliberate approach to learning, you see much larger gains in improvement.

Finally, you can make these interactive notebooks alone or in groups, and share them with all of your classmates. We’ve included some of the important components of social networking to facilitate educational collaboration and interconnectedness.


Based on what you know about Portuguese students, what do you think are the major differences between studying in Portugal or the USA?

Regardless of what country you are in, after finishing medical school, we all end up with about 75-80% of the same knowledge. All medical students need to know anatomy, all need to know pharmacology, and all need to know pathology. Not surprisingly, in many cases we even use the same textbooks and as a result there is a lot of overlap. Now, there are obviously some geographic specific curricula and differences in how a Portuguese vs. American doctor will approach a patient to come up with a diagnosis and treatment. However, in the end, we all need to get from point A to point B. Point A being a novice medical student and point B being a doctor with the core competencies to properly treat a patient. Our goal with ALERT® Student is to be your mental bicycle, to make getting from A to B more efficient and allow you to use your limited time more effectively. 


How do you imagine being a student will be in 10 years’ time?

Tough question. Instead of imagining, let’s talk about some of the current problems and what I hope to see in the future.

Across the US, university students have voiced their displeasure with the excessive number of lecture hours filled with overly detailed PowerPoint slides and the concomitant replacement of skilled teachers with revenue-producing researchers. It should be made clear that teaching is NOT the same thing as learning. At almost every university in the US, most students are being taught by faculty members who have limited formal training in teaching. It is no surprise that they overload the learner’s cognitive processing ability by reading verbatim from PowerPoint slides containing too much information. When this happens, technology unfortunately impedes learning. I hope to see this change.

In the last decade, the amount of easily accessible educational resources available to students has sky-rocketed. Information no longer must only be passed from teacher to student in successive generations. Nowadays, students can quickly check PubMed or Up-to-Date to get information from subject matter experts and see the aggregate data from relevant meta-analyses.  As a result, in the next 10 years, the role of a teacher must change. They can no longer focus solely on being the providers of information and expect the student to learn in a passive receptive learning environment.

Instead I hope to see a shift to where the teacher acts as the cognitive guide and helps their student navigate and understand how to use the wealth of information at their fingertips. I believe that soon we will see the “inverted classroom” model spread across the globe, where the student would learn the basic facts at home and at their own pace.  At school, with the help of a faculty guide, students will learn to apply their knowledge and understand its significance and meaning. This is what I hope being a student will be 10 years from now. 

Furthermore, I hope to see a major shift away from rote memorization and a shift toward competency-based assessment. I hope to see the individualization of the learning process as opposed to a one-size fits all model. I hope to see the educational internet flourish and allow teachers to collaborate in order to create the highest quality educational material available to share with their students.


Why would any student want to use Student?

Most of the reasons I’ve listed in #3.  But I’d like to add that when you create a good interactive notebook with quizzes, you are helping your classmates. This collaborative approach to learning will help you and your peers. What you have created will not be forgotten because it is something that can be used and updated by the following class for many years to come.



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