College of Medicine Professor Named Apple Distinguished Educator

Dr. C. Alexander Grieco, Assistant Professor of Biomedical Education and Anatomy and Assistant Professor of Radiology at The Ohio State University College of Medicine, has been selected as an Apple Distinguished Educator (or ADE) for his innovative techniques in integrating technology into the classroom.

Grieco’s clinical background in radiology took him through medical school and his residency, where he repeatedly recognized the challenges of learning from his professors who simply lectured at a podium. He began to make his own pictures and diagrams that incorporated a more self-contained, visually-driven learning style, a practice which he has continued as a professor.

“I am always looking for new and better ways to deliver information, so that a learner can achieve mastery. It’s not about reinventing the wheel, but optimizing the wheel,” Grieco said.

After accepting an invitation to attend iTunes U Boot Camp, a series of workshops at Apple’s headquarters in Cupertino, California, Grieco was introduced to a program called iBooks Author. This e-book authoring application allowed Gieco to create an interactive digital book which would allow students to flip quickly through chapters and sections, to resize and magnify medical images with sequential annotation, and to review text components in a circular fashion.  The result would be a more self-driven learning experience, as compared to a lecture or a recorded Articulate module.

“The least I could do for learners who are looking to me to advance their progress and increase their knowledge is to meet them where they are —in terms of understanding and learning style,” Grieco said. “It’s all about trying your best in a setting where active learning can be a challenge to facilitate, and to make the learning experience as active as possible through the resources you create. I do this through the use of language and imaging layouts that will support learners in going as far as they can.”

With Apple having provided the tools, Grieco found an excellent source of support in the Office of Distance Education and eLearning (ODEE), especially from Director of Learning Programs Cory Tressler, who encouraged Grieco to apply for the ADE program. Tressler noted, “We have been working with Alex since 2012 and he has been an incredible partner. His enthusiasm, focus on the student experience, and constantly striving to improve his teaching is both sincere and admirable. All of those qualities made him the perfect candidate to apply for this program.”

In July, Grieco will join a number of other educators, from kindergarten teachers to higher education professors, in participating in another bootcamp style immersion training for those who were accepted into the ADE program. 

“I think all of us, regardless of the sphere where we reside in education, reach a limit – in terms of what our own creativity and thought patterns can do for us,” Grieco said. “The ADE program provides a forum for collaboration and learning, and quite honestly, for creative exchange in its purest form.”

Grieco is building his interactive modules from scratch, which demands both time and energy. As with development of any form of  specialized learning tool, Grieco states, “It’s essential to have a strong understanding of the pre-existing infrastructure and to have a clear objective for improving upon it.”

“It’s the ability to look at something and say, ‘Okay, this has to do better and be better than it is right now to really continue to put my time into it.’ All the bells and whistles, the pop-up keynotes, and pop-over widgets are great but it will have literally no meaning if it doesn’t support the primary objective of optimization of learning.”

As of now, Grieco estimates he’s authored anywhere between 25 to 30 iBooks that are all rooted in the foundation of utilizing technology and adapting it to align with students’ preferred learning styles. The give-and-take relationship between technology and education is what excites Grieco the most in pursuing the ADE program.

“One can really never outrun the other,” Grieco said. “iPads have changed everything about education. But to be a thorough, true and meaningful educator, it can never be about the iPad or iTunes. It still must have a firmly-rooted basis in educational theory and learning theory.”

Overall, one of Grieco’s main drives is to think about the best practices, whether it’s in the teaching or clinical side of medicine. The ADE program will widen Grieco’s ability to learn about the best practices available, whether it’s discovering a different widget that Apple has designed to streamline the process of building his modules.

“I want to make ‘better.’ Honestly, if you’re comfortable, then you’re probably not evolving or learning anything new,” Grieco said. “It doesn’t have to be perfect, but it does have to be better.”

The Office of Distance Eduation and eLearning (ODEE) is passionate about the role technology can play in teaching and learning at Ohio State. ODEE’s mission is to provide faculty, staff and students with an enriched educational experience through technology-ready classrooms, centralized learning systems, innovations in technological pedagogy, and distance education opportunities.

If you need additional information about programs, grants and resources, reach out to