iPads in Anatomy and physiology

Students taking 4-level anatomy and physiology have an iPad, keyboard and stylus to use 24 hours a day.  The results of this initial pilot are extremely positive in both the impact in anatomy / physiology and the student use of the devices for other classes.

The anatomy curriculum has been completely digitized to take advantage of the iPad’s interactivity.  The note packets that were traditionally printed and handed out to the students have now been turned into interactive PDF documents.  At the beginning of each unit the students download the packet to a note taking application called GoodReader and complete their assignments and notes on their iPad.  These PDF packets contain embedded links to video tutorials, links to Google-form quizzes to check for understanding, and links to specific anatomy and physiology websites. The rich electronic text, developed by the teachers, has allowed anatomy teachers to emphasize an important teaching and learning principle:  out-of-class time should stress engaging learning activities that promote individual skill building, thought, and reflection; in-class time should emphasize engaging learning activities that require the interaction of students with other students and the skilled teacher.

Students have also used Pages and Numbers on the iPads to complete lab reports that include pictures and videos documenting their experience.   In the past teachers have used multiple methods to accomplish this task.  For some labs, students simply used a pen and paper to complete lab questions and colored pencils to add drawings when necessary.  During other labs teachers had students take pictures using digital cameras and then import them into a Word document.  While these have been  successful ways for students to show evidence of their learning, they are time consuming and don’t allow the student to best represent the work they have put in and the knowledge they have gained.  By using the camera feature of the iPad in conjunction with Pages ability to quickly display written information, photos and videos, the students have been able to capture a much greater snapshot of their learning.  At the end of the unit, in addition to having a comprehensive lab report submitted to their teacher, the fully annotated images from a dissection saved locally on a student’s iPad have allowed them to more effectively study for lab practicals and exams.

Outside of their anatomy and physiology classes, students have been using the iPads in a multitude of ways.  Applications like Access My Library (Gale/Cengage Learning reference application), Blackboard Mobile, Dropbox, WebDAV, Pages, Keynote and Numbers have aided these students in conducting research across all of their classes.  In a survey given to all anatomy and physiology students, 73% report they use the iPad to complete assignments in other classes.   Several students have even reported leaving their old notebooks and backpacks at home because they are using the iPad in all of their classes to complete all of their assignments.  97% of students report they are using the iPad outside of school, with 69% of students using it on a daily basis at home.  One area where the results were not overwhelmingly positive involves distraction issues, with a small percentage of students indicating that the iPad could be distracting at home, and a slightly larger percentage, 13%, indicating it could be distracting in class.

Some of the ways that students use the iPad for learning in multiple classes include:

(in %) None Some Frequent
Reading novels or other assigned reading 48.3 37.9 13.8
Interacting with web sites 0.0 31.0 69.0
Interacting with apps 0.0 35.7 64.3
Taking notes 0.0 17.2 82.8
emailing, organization, calendar 10.3 27.6 62.1
communication and collaboration with others 13.8 31.0 55.2
creating movies and presentations 72.4 20.7 6.9
completing worksheets 3.4 51.7 44.8

Select Responses from students about using the iPad in other classes:


I download all of my latin materials into a separate file in Goodreader and then can schematize, type up my vocab words, and do latin projects on my iPad. I also had to re-do a few math problems in precalculus, so I typed up the problems in Pages, exported it to Goodreader, and then did the problems neatly & printed them out.


In my English class, I’m using Pages for writing my essay. In Math and Spanish, I use the iPad for learning videos on YouTube. Also, I’m using online flashcards for my Spanish vocab.   


If I need to take some quick notes in a class, I’ll pull my iPad out and type it up. For my other academic classes, I really only use it to write papers for English and US History.


I fill out worksheets, translate items, and take notes in my language class. I also take notes and write papers in English.


I use it for all my notes on translations in latin– I transferred the translation document into Goodreader and now I am paperless in Latin. I type assignments in English and check answers for math.


I am using Notes & Facetime in english. I am using Goodreader in psychology to annotate my psych notes in class


I am using it for papers in other classes, research on projects, iMovie for a project, Blogger for my American Studies class, and for Junior Theme.              


I use Pages to take notes in english and in geography to do research and take notes also.


In the anatomy and physiology student survey students were also asked about their general impressions about using the iPad for school.  95% of the responses were positive and the data showed that a 69% of the students if given the chance to go back to paper notes would continue to use the iPad for class.   This data provides evidence that the iPads are strong learning tools for the students but that they ways each student uses them best may be different.  Some students learn best my writing and drawing on paper while others might learn better by typing and color coding their notes. The teachers have discovered is that we must be flexible and allow our students to learn the way that works best for them.  Allow students to use the iPad as one learning tool in their larger educational toolbox.  Below are few of the student’s free response answers that highlight some of their feelings towards using the iPad.

Select student responses about their general impressions about using the iPad.


I have found the iPads extremely helpful and useful the past two months at school. I have also used it for my other classes and there has been a general trend in improvement.                         


Initially, I just thought it would be a cool thing to have. But now, I don’t carry notebooks around at all and it’s easy to pull the iPad out to take notes in any of my classes. I would say there isn’t anything extremely different about using the iPad vs a notebook besides the fact that things are in color and and it’s easy to keep everything organized in one place, but it’s still more fun than a notebook.


Loved it! It gave me so many more ways to learn. And me being a visual learner, I found the videos and coloring pages very helpful. Also, I was able to take much more notes in class. In all, the iPad was very useful in my opinion.                   


I’ve enjoyed using the iPad for my notes and I can easily use it to quickly look something up. The only problem I have had with it is the text shifts on Good Reader. Sometimes, the writing on one page moves to the next page and it doesn’t go back which is a bit frustrating, but overall Good Reader is a fantastic application.         


I think it’s extremely useful for all classroom settings. There’s a definite learning curve to it, but if you’re patient for a week to learn how to use it and integrate it into your classes, it’s extremely useful and can change how you take notes and more.


I have grown to use it much more extensively than I thought I would. It has truly aided my learning.          


I definitely have grown an appreciation for the iPad and everything that we can do with it- in class and out of class. I’ve enjoyed the accessibility of the iPad and it’s really fun to see everything we can do on the iPad. My iPad hasn’t translated to other classes. The other teachers have not embraced the idea of using the iPad in class. That’s a major problem. In regards to class, it’s still a struggle to take notes and retain info. using the iPad but I’m coming around. Definitely at the start it was really hard and it did negatively impact my grade, which I regret. I’m not a fan of technology and it was initially frustrating to make the change that I felt rushed into.


I really like it. It was definitely really awkward at first, especially with handwriting, but it has developed to be really useful in the classroom now. I really like them. In some classes, I have no use for them besides for research or flashcards, but I use it for important stuff.


I like that it reduces the paper use in the classroom but it has taken a lot of getting used to. I was very uneasy to the use of the iPad in the classroom off the start but it has proved to be extremely useful. I’m not sure of all the uses in other classes but in anatomy it is very useful because of the specific apps and the accessibility of research if we have any questions that arise in class.


I still believe that it is a great learning tool. I continue to upload my psychology notes onto good reader and I continue to take notes in class. Facetime has been a great tool when working with partners for english projects too.            


I think it has been very useful in anatomy. I like how all of the diagrams are in color and we have access to the internet in class, because it makes it easier to understand the anatomy portion and allows us to look up what we don’t know.


I have gotten a lot more used to it. I like using it and having all my documents on it. It keeps me more organized in class. I feel that I can also take more detailed notes that are a lot more organized. I can also color code my notes by category.        


I have found that note taking has become easier and more efficient than it was when we first received the iPads. I really enjoy the keyboard for taking notes in and out of class.           


I have found it really helpful for organization. Also, i like being able to jump from the Internet to my notes to further understand topics.      


I still find it very useful in every one of my classes. It definitely saves time when my other classes need to work electronically because I can get right to work while other people hover over the laptop carts. 


I have gotten over the learning curve of the Ipad, but it still seems superfluous for

our needs as high school students.


As part of the survey we also asked the students to convey any issues or problems they have had adopting the iPad.  The majority of concerns were technical, and are either resolved or in the process of being resolved.

Student concerns from anatomy and physiology survey:

1.  Printing: – More than a third of the anatomy and physiology students indicated that they needed to print from the iPad.  The Technology Department has now installed a printing solution for students.

2.  GoodReader – Students have discovered two small issues with this note taking app.  The first is that GoodReader does not have an eraser tool, which forces students to delete large sections of notes to fix a small mistake.  We have contacted the company and they have indicated they will fix this issue in an upcoming update.  Initially, we also embedded videos in documents distributed to students in GoodReader.  Students indicated the player was not robust enough to allow simultaneous note taking while watching a video, so videos are now distributed using another method.

3.  No Internet access at home – One student indicated they do not have wifi at home.  We have worked with this student to solve this issue is several ways.  This includes identifying a way for the student to upload and download a majority of their work at school, using public hot spots in the community, and sharing information about a program from Comcast to provide $10/month internet connectivity for low-income families.

4.  Students wanting to have more training on how to use the iPad across all of their classes – We are implementing an extensive training program for both teachers and students that will be offered over several sessions over the summer and during the fall.  These training sessions should provide students with a much more extensive background in using all of the functionality of the iPad.

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