Stanford School of Medicine turns to iPads

Incoming medical students to get iPads as part of trial program

Incoming medical students at Stanford University will have fewer textbooks to carry this fall after the university distributes iPads to its 91 first-year students during orientation later this month as part of a trial program, university officials announced Thursday (Aug. 5).

The move by the university represents a growing interest by academic institutions to incorporate the Apple devices into the classroom and provide tech-savvy students with more modern tools. Stanford medical school officials said the pilot program is designed to improve the students' learning experiences because the device's portability and search capabilities will redefine the "old-fashioned" teaching practices in use by many medical programs.

"We're at a major crossroads in medical education reform," said Dr. Charles Prober, an associate dean with the Stanford University School of Medicine.

"Part of the challenge facing medical students, and all doctors, is the overwhelming amount of information," he said.

By storing digital textbooks, syllabi and other course content on the lightweight devices, Prober said students will be able to better access "the enormous amount of medical knowledge that is being produced constantly," which might involve virtual cadavers for dissection labs, lecture slides or journal articles.

School officials also noted they will be studying the cost benefits of switching to the digital tablet because medical textbooks can run as high as $200 each for paper editions while e-editions are typically offered for slightly less.

Across the state and country, other universities are embracing Apple's tablet technology and outfitting students with iPads, which start at $499 for a basic model and cost up to $829 for high-end versions with increased storage capacity and additional wireless network options.

Incoming medical students at the University of California, Irvine are set to receive fully loaded iPads at a ceremony Friday for new students. But iPads aren't just being embraced by medical school staff.

A pilot program at Oklahoma State University will provide students in certain communications and business courses with the devices, and all 550 incoming freshmen at the Illinois Institute of Technology will receive iPads loaded with introductory course material this fall.

At Stanford, similar experiments with other electronic devices, such as the Kindle wireless reader, haven't lived up to expectations. This time, school officials will determine how helpful the devices are to students by monitoring their use through regular surveys.

"We really don't know yet how the incoming medical students will use them," said Dr. Henry Lowe, the school's senior associate dean for information resources and technology.

Lowe, who regularly uses an iPad, said he's found the device extremely helpful and predicts it will catch on among doctors.

"Physicians are a mobile group," he said in a statement. "They're moving around from clinic to clinic, from patient to patient."

The handheld devices aren't the only way the school of medicine is making inroads in revamping its teaching style. In September, the school will open the five-level, 120,000-square-foot Li Ka Shing Center for Learning and Knowledge, which will include interactive, experiential and team-based learning technologies. The center is the school's first new education building in 50 years. Officials said the technology shift would help make "significant changes" to the medical school's current education model.

— Bay City News Service

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Like this comment
Posted by Dale
a resident of Mountain View
on Aug 6, 2010 at 10:16 am

This is an interesting article. The device itself is obviously important, but it would be interesting in a community of high tech intellectual property interets, to know how the users of the technology reimburse the authors and book companies for their lost revenue on the $200 a piece books. The preloaded devices seem like a great idea.

Like this comment
Posted by ag
a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 6, 2010 at 11:20 am

Dale - that is precisely the point. Textbooks are overpriced. Read the article and discussion here:

Web Link

Like this comment
Posted by Wayne Martin
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Aug 6, 2010 at 11:25 am

> to know how the users of the technology reimburse the authors
> and book companies for their lost revenue on the $200 a piece
> books

The question surrounding "lost" revenue has been hot and heavy over the summer, with dropping its prices to $9.99 (typically), and e-books being sold for just about any price that the authors can see that will bring in revenue. (Google has over 2M on-line for free--books that are out of copyright.)

The key issue here is that for e-books, the "cost of materials", the "distribution costs" and "retailing costs" are effectively zero. Each individual e-copy has effectively no cost, so the $200 price can now be downsized, leaving the profit at whatever the publisher wants.

This is an example of a "disruptive" technology, which will also result in the loss of revenue for: printers, printing press manufacturers, binders, truckers, energy providers, paper manufacturers, ink manufacturers, vehicle manufacturers, and not doubt a number of other inter-linked industries (like truck stops). However, the cost to the end user, will now be more reasonable, and will reflect more the cost of the intellectual property, rather than the cost of printing and moving paper all over the world.

The last five years has seen exciting changes in the world of information technology. Actually, beyond exciting -- they have been "world altering". Google/Books has been at the forefront of creating the prototype of a "virtual library" that will one day (hopefully) have digitized all of the world's books, magazines and newspapers.

Rupert Murdoch has "seen the light" when it comes to iPads --

Web Link

Rupert Murdoch is betting big on the iPad, claiming it heralds sales of "hundreds and hundreds of millions" for tablet computers, and a revitalised newspaper industry.

There will not doubt be less revenue generated for the publishing industry. This revenue is now bring spent in operations. E-book technology will reduce the total revenue, but so will the costs be reduced--so the profit margins will stay the same, or possibly go up.

People have long complained that "books cost too much". For the first time in a long time, we now have a meaningful alternative to the "tyranny" of the paper book.

It's possible that the iPad will not turn out to be an exact fit for institutional settings, but a little hardware and more software will likely fix these problems. So, the sooner that institutions (like Stanford and/or governments) get their trials going, the sooner the problems can be identified and referred to the various vendors for solutions.

Stanford University prepares for an amazing "bookless library
Web Link

For several years now, Staford has been rethinking the problem of how to own upwards of 10M holdings, and where to put them so that the students and staff could easily gain access to these works. The NET/WEB was the obvious solution, and Stanford is well on its way to doing its part to get the ball rolling.

Most of the current e-book readers have the ability to store 1,000 to 2,000 books/papers/etc. It doesn't take a "rocket scientist" to see that it makes more sense to store digitized books on inexpensive e-book readers than in very expensive brick-and-mortar buildings that are often closed as much as they are open.

The world of printing/publishing is changing, because of digital technologies--Stanford seems to be "getting it".

Like this comment
Posted by pat
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 6, 2010 at 5:51 pm

> The world of printing/publishing is changing, because of digital technologies--Stanford seems to be "getting it".

Too bad Palo Alto isn't getting it. Five libraries and never enough stacks: "Seeking to quell community concerns over the proposed design of Downtown Library, Palo Alto's Library Advisory Commission members agreed Thursday night to recommend adding bookstacks and increase shelf sizes to increase capacity to 20,700 and 23,700 books or check-out items." Web Link

Like this comment
Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 7, 2010 at 3:05 am

Walter_E_Wallis is a registered user.

Building codes, necessary to determine legal compliance, are greatly over priced. When made available on CD or DVD, the price actually rose on some. There is a movement to require any code adopted by a jurisdiction to be available, free, to anyone subject to the code.
Tough on book printers, but hey.
It is time to pension off the ink stained wretches. Within my lifespan Kindle clones and laptops will be printed, and given away s advertising premiums. [Back in the days of the HP35 I predicted that 4 banger calculators would be giveaways within 5 years.]

Like this comment
Posted by IP Protected
a resident of Menlo Park
on Aug 8, 2010 at 10:41 am

@Dale: From the article:

"$200 each for paper editions while e-editions are typically offered for slightly less"

Either the university or students are covering this. All parties are I'm sure taken care of.

Like this comment
Posted by Julie B
a resident of Menlo Park
on Aug 10, 2010 at 1:12 pm

It's too bad that printers will suffer, but other things are still getting printed. There are no more typesetters anymore (and I don't seem to remember seeing a milk delivery or ice truck in the last 40 or more years!). We need to be able to adapt to change. It's not like they can't see this coming! Truckers still have plenty of goods to transport. We still wear clothes and eat food, for instance.
I hope the public schools adopt this. Then we would not be stuck with a version of history that was approved in a southern state in our local text books. I read that they are using iPod Touch at schools back east instead of textbooks. It's saving the schools money, which is a big deal these days. And elementary school students are not burdened with backpacks that are larger than they are. Especially since Columbine, when most schools are doing away with lockers...

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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