Thursday, September 22, 2011

iPads in medical schools - are they improving education?

Recently, I had a chance to chat with a number of medical students about their use of iPads in medical school. So many medical students are using iPads in the classroom (regardless of whether their school has an official iPad program).

Last year, the University of California Irvine started giving iPads to first-year medical students. These iPads were loaded with first-year curriculum. Have they made a difference in educational outcomes?

Take a look at how UC Irvine is using the iPad:
UC Irvine’s iMedEd Initiative will foster highly individualized and small-group learning for a richer medical school experience. The program, targeted initially at first-year students, aims to transform the classic lecturer-passive listener model with digital textbooks, online curricula, audio and video libraries, podcasts and other technological advances such as digital stethoscopes and portable ultrasound units.

The pilot program uses Apple’s iPad to digitally house the entire first-year curriculum, outlines, handouts and essential textbooks. The devices, which are provided to each entering student, also are loaded with hundreds of medical applications, note-taking and recording capabilities, and many other tools that complement diverse learning styles. Short, topic-based podcast lectures can be reviewed as often as desired as preparation for small-group discussions.

In addition, the encrypted tablet is a platform for complementary technologies that enhance the curriculum. Students using digital stethoscopes can listen to a patient’s heart then transmit the audio and visual data for comparison with a library of heart beat sounds, allowing for better interpretation and increased comprehension. 
The iMedEd Initiative also is integrating portable ultrasound devices into the curriculum, providing students with a noninvasive diagnostic tool to examine internal organs and blood flow. Specially designed iPad applications let students consult video tutorials as they perform bedside ultrasounds, enabling them to review normal and abnormal examinations and track procedures for quality assurance.
I look forward to seeing some data from this pilot project. There's definitely a growing opportunity to leverage interactivity and multimedia in the classroom. As long as educators are using these tools effectively, we should see improvements in the medical school education experience.

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