PDAs and Digital Readers: Dutch Medical Students See the Benefits

Generations of medical students have prepared themselves for exams by reading mountains of books in dim light, accompanied by impersonal lectures and teaching done at patients’ bedsides. But the medical education landscape is changing rapidly as online and digital training devices are becoming increasingly popular. The advantages are clear: Students want to learn any place and anytime, which is only possible with highly flexible e-learning tools. At OEB 2009, the Dutch organisations SURFnet and Kennisnet will present two mobile-learning projects carried out in the Leiden University Medical Center (LUMC) and the University Medical Center Groningen (UMCG) using eBook readers and PDAs. Two further language and spatial mobile-learning projects will also be the subject of discussion. The audience is invited to react to statements about mobile learning through a mobile quiz.

Mobile learning is becoming increasingly important in Dutch academic institutions. SURFnet and Kennisnet have been encouraging and facilitating educational institutions to experiment with mobile learning by funding new projects throughout this year and will continue to do so. In the course of their OEB session, both organisations will present the results of the following field studies, which were set up to produce just-in-time and just-in-case learning.

SURFnet is a subsidiary of the SURF organisation in which Dutch universities, universities of applied sciences and research centres collaborate nationally and internationally on novel ICT concepts and applications. SURFnet provides innovative services in the field of security, authentication and authorisation, group communication and video. The Kennisnet foundation encourages and supports the use of ICT in the curriculum of primary and secondary education, as well as in vocational training. For more information, please visit http://www.surfnet.nl/en/Pages/default.aspx

Studying independently with eBook Readers

Leiden University Medical Center (LUMC) evaluated the use of eReader devices and investigated the possibility of replacing traditional textbooks and syllabi in the medicine curriculum. In collaboration with publishers, the research team digitalised relevant study material into an e-book format (PDF with hyperlinks). Students tested the eReaders for a period of one month while attending a course. They used the latest digital reader from iRex in a variety of learning scenarios: in classroom lectures and while preparing assignments collaboratively in project groups or studying independently. The students’ experience was evaluated through a focus-group discussion and questionnaires.

Immediate response via an innovative “TED-System”

University Medical Center Groningen (UMCG) developed an open source audience-response system using PDAs and wireless Internet that enhances students’ interactivity and involvement in the classroom. Students can not only react to multiple-choice questions shown on their PDA during the radiology lecture, but they can also interact with radiographic images. Students mark the area on the digital image that answers the relevant question. All the answers are collected by the teacher and directly projected onto the smartboard in front of the classroom. In addition to this online ‘functionality,’ the programme offers the opportunity to revise the mobile courseware outside the classroom through offline questionnaires. The instructor produces this mobile courseware with an authoring tool. The programme was tested by a hundred students at different levels and by five teachers. The research team evaluated their experience through questionnaires.

Share your vocabulary with friends and classmates

WRTS.nl is an online vocabulary-practice programme developed by the non-profit organisation Digital School (www.digischool.nl). Learners in primary, secondary and further education compose lists of words and share them with other learners; they can also use a list created by an educational publisher. Pupils and students may not always have access to personal computers, but they always carry their mobile devices with them. Digital School developed a mobile version of WRTS.nl. The research team successfully translated the web application into a learner-friendly mobile design. They evaluated the effect on learning performance and the frequency with which the programme was used outside classroom hours.

Informal learning in your surroundings?

Fontys University of Applied Sciences evaluated informal learning using the location-based mobile software mscape, combined with PDAs and GPS. The mscape software is free to use and enables students and teachers to develop interactive GPS tours outside school easily. Users receive multimedia messages comprising photos, videos, and text on their PDAs in the field, based on their GPS coordinates. Fontys investigated the ease of use for students and teachers at different educational levels (primary, further, special and higher education) and with varying levels of experience to develop and use the mscape software. They also examined the educational value of this informal learning method in comparison with more traditional learning methods.

At OEB 2009, Kirsten Veelo from SURFnet, Paul Dirckx from Fontys University of Applied Sciences and Peter de Jong from Leiden University Medical Center will present the projects in the session Anyplace & Anytime Learning, which will take place on Thursday, December 3rd from 12:00 – 13:30. Experience a demonstration of newly developed mobile learning applications for further and higher education, a mobile quiz and a lively discussion.

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