April 4, 2011

The iPad at 1 year old: Its Effect on Nursing Education

The Apple iPad was released a year ago today. I waited in a line and bought one sight unseen. In that time it has changed the computing in ways that are well documented. It is, as Steve Jobs described, a Post-PC device. Its ability to bring multimedia to your hand in a small form factor but with a large screen and a touch interface brought new opportunities to nurse educators. So where do we stand a year later?

As of today the App Store lists 1001 paid and 435 free iPad apps in their Medical category. Also keep in mind that nearly all the other thousands of apps written for the iPod Touch and iPhone will also run on the iPad (although in a enlarged display of the iPhone screen). Just as in the early days of the Palm handheld computers the majority of apps are geared to physicians, although many can be of interest to nursing students. For example, there are many apps to help learn anatomy. The iPad is particularly well suited to this with its big bright screen.

A search of "nursing" in the iPad Medical category shows 37 applications. The modal type in this list are NCLEX-RN preparation apps. Also available are some reference texts such as dictionaries. Among the major nursing suite apps none have been released for the iPad yet. It is a big investment for organizations such as Skyscape and Unbound Medicine to expand into the iPad market, and it is a scary prospect for them when there is little evidence of many nursing schools requiring an iPad. This chicken and egg dilemma has been at the heart of every technological advance.

Another area I am waiting for is the availability of nursing textbooks in iBooks form. This will be the "killer app" for the iPad in nursing education. My students tell me if they would love to carry all their books in an iPad. One of the biggest hassles of being a nursing student is the nearly one hundred pounds of textbooks they need to study. Being able to take their books to any place on campus and to the clinical area would be a big advance.

Keep in mind that the iPad is currently great at viewing pdf files in the iBooks app. I have been distributing my handouts in pdf form. They can be viewed on many platforms but the iPad is a great way to carry and read them.

So one year later the iPad has yet to fulfill its promise for nursing education but things are improving. The availability of the second generation, greater awareness of what the iPad can do, and the availability of thousands of apps that didn't even exist a year ago point to a bright future.


pat said...

The University I work for is looking into using e-books within the next year. With nursing having a lab component, my concern is how all the resources can be viewed at the same time. Students will have 1-3 books available to them within the lab environment. Will e-books work within the lab?

Brent Thompson, PhD, RN said...

Tablet computers and e-books can hold hundreds of books at time. There should be no problem going between texts. A lab is a perfect setting for e-books. They're very portable and let students bring a guide right up to the lab bed or station.

Susan Pierce, EdD, MSN, RN, CNE said...

Our student government association has proposed mandatory purchase of iPad 2 by clinical students. Many of our textbooks are available as eBooks. Lobbying publishers to provide these resources is important. Similarly, authoring/ designing new textbooks in interactive formats may improve learning among today's students who grew up with "info bytes" as a learning style. Demand is the key to increasing use of the iPad as a clinical resource. I also use mine to track student experiences & log performance notes in realtime--not having to rely on my overtaxed memory. I then have this data accessible at anytime to share progress with students.

Susan Pierce, EdD, MSN, RN, CNE said...

Of interest, our student gov't assn. is exploring the required purchase of iPads by clinical students. Some of the textbooks used are available as eBooks and users prefer them. Feedback I get is that eBooks are most useful when the student has an iPad to allow functions such as highlighting or adding notes to the text--not user-friendly on a smartphone. I encourage faculty to lobby publishers to offer all textbooks as eBooks and further, to author/design new texts in interactive formats to appeal to today's students' learning style.

Besides as a reference source, I use the iPad in clinical to document/track student skills and performance in realtime. This information is, then, available anytime to share with the individual student. I found a case with an angled strap for carrying the iPad in clinical--the device does not have to be removed for use--when unzipped it drops to a right angle for access without need for a tabletop resting place. When not in use, the sling strap can swing the iPad behind my back to allow patient care activities without interference.

Brent Thompson, PhD, RN said...

Thanks Susan. All students I speak with would love to have their 80 pounds of textbooks reduced to an iPad. The portability is paramount for being able to study and use the references in clinical settings.

Publishers need to start thinking how to edit books that optimizes their use on an iPad.

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