Bridging the Gap: Integrating Technology in the Multi-Generational Classroom

By Betty Pinkerton, CST, Surgical Technology Theory/Clinical Instructor at North-West College, West Covina, California

Teaching post-secondary vocational education is exciting, rewarding and challenging. An increase in multiple generations enrolled in the same class can challenge educators to reach and support each generation effectively; however, technology can serve as the bridge to connect the generations.

When working in a multi-generation classroom, the assumption that older generations dislike technology should be rejected. While younger generations may be more quick to use such technology, accessing information and communicating through digital platforms has increasingly become the new norm for all. According to a study from Google, membership among baby boomers and seniors for social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter is on par with the general population. Embracing technology is something most students, of any generation, are willing to do to adapt to their environment.   

Technology is the remedy to engage the visual, auditory, and kinesthetic learner – regardless of generation. If it appears boring on paper, putting it in a PowerPoint slide is not enough to be an effective learning aid. Learning management systems such as Moodle and Blackboard provide students with 24-hour access to content. Students prefer the portability of these systems with embedded e-books and content at their fingertips.

The use of social media is a valuable tool for communication with enrolled students and potential recruits. It is exciting how technology transforms students’ lives, can improve test scores by providing additional avenues for study material, and increase classroom attendance by offering platforms that build a community. I have observed how my own students enjoy posting photos of themselves (and love becoming “InstaFamous”) to share their progression with classmates, family and friends.

For instructors looking to leverage technology, several free apps are available to use with students. Below are a few I have found to be successful in the classroom.


GroupMe, a group text messaging app, promotes connection between the instructor and classmates. As with all social media usage, ground rules must be established – no politics, profanity, cyberbullying or incivility are allowed. Instructors should encourage students to ask and answer homework questions and support each other through the challenges of along program. It is a tool for rapid communication in the event of an emergency and an effective retention tool, as well, as students respond to text messages better than voicemail or email. GroupMe is user-friendly and students and instructors are encouraged to post YouTube videos in message threads,supporting lecture content and current surgical advances.

Facebook Live
The use of Facebook Live is phenomenal for our students, faculty and alumni. The most popular uses are mock surgeries or demonstrations provided by the students and workshops to prepare students for clinical internship.

Mock surgeries help students overcome the fear of the operating room by rehearsing roles, and the workshops are a dynamic opportunity to stay connected with alumni and our clinical partners. Making these available via Facebook live allows people in attendance to go back and review the procedure at their convenience. Those who could not attend in person can view it remotely. This makes the experience truly accessible to all. You can see an example of our mock surgery streamed on Facebook live here.

Other Interactive Apps

Educators should experiment with apps such as Kahoot, Quizlet, and Edpuzzle, which are interactive and encourage participation through competition and repetition of content. As educators, it is our duty to enhance the learning experience by selective integration of technology in classroom lectures and labs. The challenge is to be confident and become proficient in the technology first. Once the apps are mastered, then delivery of content is effective.

Integrating technology in the classroom allows students to enter their clinical experience with confidence and the critical thinking skills necessary to become skilled practitioners in the evolving world of surgery. It is an exciting time to be part of the surgical technology and surgical assisting profession, as this technology can help us build on a stronger future in the classroom and beyond.