I've been watching a series of presentations by students at Manchester Medical School where they discuss their use of the iPad in their studies. This is the end result of a project where students where issued an iPad in a pilot project at the beginning of this year. I don't think any of the presentations in and of themselves is ground-breaking. What I think is very innovative about this program is to have the students take the technology and apply it to problems they identify. This is not a top-down approach where an instructor is listing apps the students can use, and then evaluating whether the students do what they are told.
This is really a problem-solving exercise. It's learner-centered learning at it's very core. Give a student a tool which has over 30,000 apps available plus web capability, now the students need to go and figure out how to best use it. First, they all identified problems they had in the past - forgetting important papers at home, having notes highlighted beyond recognition, and inability to physically lug all those textbooks. They sifted through the app landscape, and came up with some remarkable ways to use the technology. This is crowd-sourcing at its best. This is truly the future of technology in medical education. It's not about the downloading the coolest toy out there and jamming it into a curriculum to make it do something, its about finding the right tool to use to solve the educational problem in front of you. The students found ways to get around problems with creating and filing notes, filing reading to do later, communicating log data to their supervisor, and creating study aids for themselves and their classmates. If all the students at Manchester did this project next year, think of the innovations they could produce. Now think about all the students in the UK, or across nations. Again, crowd-sourcing at its best.
As Prof Freemont explains in his introduction to the program, this program is not about one particular format. They chose the iPad for reasons he outlines, but you could likely accomplish similar feats with an army of portable laptops, android tablets, iPads, or whatever the next new thing will be. I do appreciate the spirit of their experiment. And, I'd be happy to come personally see what's going on in Manchester. Maybe sometime next year during football season.