AUBURN — When it comes to emergency care, an iPad or smartphone can help doctors save lives, and that same technology can boost learning in ways unimaginable, Dr. Rafael Grossmann told educators Wednesday.

Grossmann, a trauma surgeon at Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor, was one of two keynote speakers at the Auburn School Department’s second annual conference on iPads.

The other was Maine Commissioner of Education Stephen Bowen, who said technology — such as the iPads given to each Auburn kindergartner and first-grader — helps teachers meet the needs of individual students.

The three-day conference, titled “Leveraging Learning: The iPad in Primary Grades,” opened Wednesday at the Hilton Garden Inn. It attracted 140 educators from Maine, the United States and other countries. Auburn Schools Superintendent Katy Grondin welcomed visitors, saying Auburn schools don’t have all of the answers, but networking helps teachers and administrators learn from each other.

As she and other speakers talked, Auburn Middle School students covered the conference by sending out “tweets” via the social media site Twitter.

Grossmann, who called himself “an evangelist” of technology, is a pioneer in teletrauma, whereby computers and real-time video allow doctors to see, hear and treat patients hundreds of miles away. “We can have a virtual visit with a patient anywhere there’s an (online) connection,” Grossmann said.

A helicopter ride from a rural area to a hospital can cost $14,000, he said. EMMC’s teletrauma program uses technology to deliver good but less expensive trauma care, he said.

A network of cameras and computers are set up at EMMC and the hospitals it serves, as far away as Madawaska. “They say a picture is worth a thousand words,” Grossmann said. “Video is worth more than a picture.”

He demonstrated, playing a video of himself in Bangor dialing a doctor miles away who sought the advice of a trauma surgeon. The patient was a teenage boy who was hit in the head with a baseball. His eye was swollen.

“He’s dazed,” the doctor told Grossmann. “I wondered if you could check his eye.”

“Absolutely,” Grossmann said. “Hi, Fletcher. How are you doing?”

“OK,” the boy said.

“I’m going to check your eye movement,” Grossmann said. “Don’t move your head, just move your eye.” The boy moved his eye as the computer’s camera gave Grossmann a close-up, clear image.

He stopped the video, turned to the Auburn conference audience, and gushed about his ability to see “a perfect, incredible” image of the patient’s eye, “better than real life. Talk about bringing the doctor to you at any point wherever you are.”

In ways we can’t comprehend, technology has great potential, he said. It can accelerate learning “in a manner not yet imagined.”

Maine Education Commissioner Bowen agreed, and praised Auburn schools for innovative work with iPads in early grades.

“Each one of these kids is working at a pace that’s right for them,” Bowen said. “The machine is able to respond,” by slowing down or speeding up, “whatever it needs to do to figure out where that student is. And it’s providing data.” Those data help teachers know what each student has mastered, what each needs to learn.

The role of teachers is changing, he said. The “factory model” worked well for a long time, producing a few who did well and went to college, but most who worked in the mills didn’t need a higher level of education. That old system isn’t working anymore, he said.

The job of a teacher is “not standing in front of the room trying to hit everybody at the same time,” Bowen said. “Your role as teacher is to be a facilitator of learning. You’re connecting kids to a learning opportunity that’s right for them, based on what the data is telling you.”

Education needs a flexible system “where technology allows us to provide customized education,” Bowen said. In Auburn’s kindergarten and first grade classrooms, “that’s what you see.”

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