Monday, February 9, 2009

Pump your blood

When learning the structure and function of the cardiovascular system, it is wise to develop a thorough knowledge of the pathway of blood flow through the heart and vessels--the general scheme of blood circulation.

I'm not talking about a vague understanding that might permit you to figure out where the blood goes when it leaves the right ventricle after some consideration, and quick look at a diagram or your notes . . . I'm talking about a thorough understanding, so that you can immediately state with confidence, "past the aortic valve, through the pulmonary trunk and arteries toward the lungs."

And not just for the short term . . . long enough to pass your next test . . . but so thoroughly familiar that it will not likely ever be totally lost. And with occasional refreshers, will pretty much always be there for you.

Why such a thorough knowledge of this particular concept? Because you'll find it necessary in order to understand many, many other concepts about human structure and function. Once you learn it, you'll find yourself using it when studying pretty much every other major system of the body. And when you start applying A&P to clinical or athletic applications, you'll find you need it there, too!

So this is one of those things that seem daunting at first (but is really not so bad) and will be well worth a little effort up front.

How to manage it? Well that depends on your learning style of course.

One this is sure: just staring at the diagram in your book is not enough! That's the place to start, of course, but you have to do something active to fully understand and "own" this concept.

The next step is to make a list of the parts you "need to know" for your course in the order in which blood passes through them. An example of such a list is found at my Cardiovascular Learning Outline in the Lion Den. But we're still just getting started.

One great way to learn is to draw yourself a concept map of the pathway of blood through the pulmonary and systemic pathways, including through the heart chambers and valves. This is especially useful for visual and kinesthetic learners. Draw it the way the makes the best sense to YOU. That may be quite a bit different than

For auditory learners, try this favorite of a whole generation of A&P students . . . learn the song Pump Your Blood. It's just a start, but

Here's the video of the first verse of Pump Your Blood as animated in a St. Joseph's aspirin commercial:

Here's another version that includes all the verses AND the lyrics:

[The video players embedded here may not appear in your news feed or emailed newsletter. Go to The A&P Student blog to access the video viewer.

Click here for a version from the classic TV show Happy Days (episode #142) . . . this is the "original" version of the song (performed here byAnson Williams, who acted in the show as Potsie) . . . the version I first saw (and used) to help me learn the blood flow pathway.

For a printed version of the lyrics click here (includes a link to a Pumps Your Blood

What methods have YOU found to be successful?

Anki Learning System

In a recent post, I talked about a shortcut in how to learn the overwhelming terminology of A&P--flashcards.

This is another great tool for learning the terminology of A&P . . .

My friend Jane Zeiser told me about this tool. Jane is a foreign language professor and her students use it to learn their vocabulary words.

It's called Anki and it's a FREE program that creates a database that is something like a virtual deck of flash cards. Students can load in (and share) their A&P terms and learn them by practicing with them.

The program is SMART because it uses a proven algorithm to repeat items that are missed in a pattern that promotes efficient learning. As the student learns, the program alters the pattern to focus on the terms that need more practice . . . without forgetting to review the terms already learned.

Anki can be downloaded and used on a PC or Mac, it can be used on a mobile device (such as an iPod, iPhone, or SmartPhone), or on the web.

Of course, memorizing the meaning of terms is just the first step in thoroughly learning A&P . . . but a very important first step. Success with the first step leads to success during the rest of the journey, eh?

Please "comment" on this article if you've already had experience with Anki . . . we'd love to hear some first-person reports!

Find Anki at

Watch this screencast to learn about Anki . . . .

A nap after class?

Research shows that a short, five- or ten-minute nap after class or after studying can improve learning.

A current theory is that during the process of falling to sleep we sort through our recent memories and possibly filter and organize them. This may "lock in" important memories of what was learned in the classroom or while reading the textbook or studying.

Hmmmm . . . perhaps colleges should offer more napping spaces in classroom buildings to enhance learning. Not a bad idea, eh?

To read more, see this quick summary at NewScientist:

Are catnaps as beneficial as actual sleep?
Colin Barras
NewScientist 21 February 2008