iPad Human Anatomy Laboratory Project

A year ago, I wrote a proposal to the Educational Technology Group for funding to purchase 3 iPads. I received the grant and purchased the iPad along with 3 apps, as follows.

Pocket Anatomy

This app uses illustrations to demonstrate basic human anatomy including bones, muscles, nerves and blood vessels. The "body" can be rotated and enlarged. Each anatomical structure can be identified by clicking on it. Background information can also be accessed.

Visible Body

This app is more complex. While this app demonstrates the same anatomical structures as Pocket Anatomy, each organ system can be shown or removed. For example, all of the organs except for the circulatory system can be removed. Then the circulatory system by itself can be rotated and enlarged. Also, with the full anatomical view (all organs present), each anatomical structure (e.g. a particular muscle) can be removed to see what structures are deep to that muscle. This is particularly useful when learning the three dimensional nature of anatomy.

Anatomy Revealed

This app shows successful layers of a cadaver. Similar to Visible Body, this allows the viewer to note the depth relationship of the anatomical structures.

My original ideas centered on three points. One, anatomical apps made for the iPad are much more interactive than an anatomy text or atlas. Two, by having the iPads on gurney bookstands next to the cadavers, the students could readily identify or get background information for a particular structure. Three, by using plastic sleeves to protect the iPads, the students would not have to wait to look up information because they were wearing latex that are covered with tissue fluid.

I believed that the students would be more inclined to use the iPads than a computer that is on the back counter or use their texts and atlases which the students would have to take off their gloves or use their elbows to turn the book pages.

The iPads were used in Fall 2013 lower division Human Anatomy and the Spring 2014 upper division Advanced Human Anatomy course.

In general, this generation of students is comfortable using digital media. My students quickly figured out how to navigate in each of the apps. I did not give them a user's manual or background information for each of the apps.

Fall 2013 Lower Division Human Anatomy

This group of students did not use the apps frequently but when they did they felt the apps helped them learn. These students did believe that the apps were quite useful compared to their text. And a majority of the students did not like the idea of walking over the a computer on the other side of the room to look up information. All of the apps earned high ratings for being useful, but I would guess for different reasons. A small percentage purchased one or more of the apps but probably correlated with the fact that not many of these students owned iPads.

When compared with the upper division students, the participation rate of the lower division students was lower, but I believe that the lower division students are not as comfortable "risking" their academic success to a new learning format. My gosh, I still have many students who write out flash cards! There are some things that students are hesitant to give up.

I will admit one discovery that I had. During the semester, the relative use of the iPads diminished and it dismayed me. I really thought that the iPads would be a popular form of learning. Then one day, I went into the lab while the students were studying in an open lab (the lab is made available for reviewing the material). All three iPads were out and being used. I looked at the students and asked why they were using the iPads compared to during the regularly scheduled lab. They said they did not use the iPads during the lab time because I was there and they could just ask me for anatomical information. During the open lab, I typically would be in my office and the students would be working on their own. So now I figure I won't have to be in the lab. The students can just use the iPads and they won't need me. Just kidding.

Spring 2014 Upper Division Advanced Human Anatomy

This group of students was different from the lower division students in that nearly half of them owned iPads and they used the iPads at a greater frequency. Similar to the lower division students, the upper division students believed that using the iPads helped them learn anatomy and that the iPads were much more useful than their texts and the computer on the back countertop. The apps were generally well received, although again I believe for different reasons with each app.



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