Some of you may be aware that the University of Manchester (UK) recently handed out iPad 2s to all year 4 medical students. This was meant as a trial project to help enhance, structure and modernise the education of medical students. Although the project was happily accepted by myself (then a 4th year medical student), it was also met by a barrage of criticism from other students, both at the University of Manchester and elsewhere.

I was also sceptical as to the effects this would have on my learning. Despite this and following feedback from all year 4 students, the university have decided to roll this out to all clinical years. One year on and still arguably in the transition phase, the iPad project has begun to demonstrate some of its potential impact on its users; at this point I feel it would be useful to share my own thoughts and experiences on this exciting new development.

 

Advantages

Organisation – From checking my emails, to editing my diary, the iPad has become an essential part of organising my life. If I forget to take my iPad with me even for a day, I feel completely lost. No idea how I coped before.

 

 

Easy to work from – ‘Can you tell me what sort of fracture this is?’ asks the scary orthopaedic registrar. ‘Of course I can. Just give me a sec’ I reply, quickly googling the necessary. Although this is probably not what the designers of the iPad project intended (and judging from theway his face changed complexion, definitely not what the orthopaedic reg wanted), it certainly has made looking things up very smooth. From finding definitions, to looking up obscure medical eponyms before a consultant’s ward round now no longer requires stacks of text books, but just a tap on the iPad.

 

 

Disadvantages

Distraction – It will come as no surprise that the iPad 2 provides a massive distraction and requires a huge amount of self discipline. From playing games to mindlessly surfing the internet, the iPad 2 has the undoubted potential to detract from your studies if you should allow it to.

 

Need Wi-Fi – although iPad 2s do have 3G, the ones we received did not. This limits its usefulness in areas without Wi-Fi for example in hospitals. (This can be overcome by downloading apps that do not require internet to function e.g. medscape)

 

Security- Walking around with an iPad will inevitably draw attention for good and bad reasons. Unfortunately the iPad is something you will not always want on your person, e.g. when examining a patient. Where then do you store your iPad without constantly wondering if it is ok? (The university agrees to replace our iPads if they are stolen or damaged for a small fee).

 

These are just some of the opportunities and complications I have seen resulting from use of the iPad. Obviously there will be more questions that need to be asked, not least with regards to funding for such a large project. I myself am still undecided as to how the iPad has affected me and the education of medical students? Is this the end of the medical textbook as we know it and if so, is that such a bad thing? Please share below your thoughts on how an iPad would improve or detract from your medical education…

 


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