Harvard Macy Community Blog

Fostering the ongoing connectedness of health professions educators committed to transforming health care delivery and education.

Embracing Technology to Maximize Your Academic Productivity

As clinician educators, our time is increasingly limited. Often, we must balance competing roles as clinicians, teachers, and program administrators. On top of that, we are expected to produce scholarship as part of our institution’s academic mission and for career advancement. However, the increasing availability of technology provides new opportunities for scholarly output and dissemination. This post will highlight three strategies for using technology to maximize your scholarly output.

1. Embrace Virtual Communities

Over the past decade, there has been a massive expansion of social media with a focus on Free Open Access Medical Education (FOAM or #FOAMed). Within this movement, virtual communities of practice have emerged which transcend institutions, geography, and time zones. A community of practice is a voluntary, collaborative network of professional practitioners working together to develop shared understandings and build knowledge. With increasing availability of digital resources (eg, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Google Hangouts), educators are no longer limited to their local environments.

Social media can facilitate access to peers and mentors in geographically disparate areas. If you have limited mentorship at your local institution or a topic expert isn’t available, social media platforms like Twitter can reduce the barrier to reach out and facilitate mentoring relationships. Additionally, this can be utilized to develop multi-institutional collaborations, which can be further facilitated by using open-access shared software to allow real-time editing (eg, Google Drive, Google Docs, Dropbox) and have face-to-face discussions with colleagues around the world (eg, Google Hangouts, Skype). Finally, social media can allow you to crowdsource the global community regarding opinions on specific topics, as well as to facilitate targeted literature reviews. One group even used this to successfully recruit study subjects.

2. Consider Alternate Channels to Disseminate Your Work

Scholarship is no longer limited to peer-reviewed print journals. Digital platforms (eg, blogs, electronic books) offer an alternate channel to disseminate your work. A recent consensus conference articulated the criteria and academic merits of social media-based scholarship. Additionally, digital scholarship has been gaining increased acceptance by promotion and tenure committees.

Educators can create their own academic blogs or author guest contributions to other blogs including the Harvard Macy Community Blog. This can help junior authors develop early content expertise and expand their reach. Authors can also contribute to peer-reviewed repositories of educational curricula, such as MedEdPORTAL, Portal of Online Geriatric Education, and Journal of Education and Training in Emergency Medicine. Finally, authors can even self-publish electronic books. Two popular examples of this include the Medical Education in Cases (MEdIC) and the Education Theory Made Practical series.

3. Follow Through for Multiple Wins

Social media can be a valuable resource at multiple stages of an academic project. Early in the course, it can be used to “beta test” ideas among a larger audience. It can also be used to share early educational innovations and obtain feedback prior to launching studies. Examples of this include Academic Life in Emergency Medicine’s Ideas in Didactics and Educational Activities and CanadiEM’s Featured Education Innovations series.

Additionally, you can use social media to expand your reach by highlighting the study and discussing it via social media. Infographics can also be a valuable adjunct to facilitate your reach. Finally, you can write a blog or record a podcast on the topic, using your newly acquired topic expertise to summarize the available information for others.

So, with this in mind, think about how you can make social media work for you. What challenges do you anticipate? What is the right balance between virtual and local collaborators? And how do we increase the recognition of social media scholarship by promotion and tenure committees?



This blog post summarizes the recent article by Gottlieb, M., Chan, T.M., Sherbino, J. and Yarris, L., 2017. Multiple wins: embracing technology to increase efficiency and maximize efforts. AEM Education and Training1(3), pp.185-190.

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Tuesday, 26 October 2021