iPads in the Lab: interview with UCSF’s Chandler Mayfield

CHANDLER H. MAYFIELD is the Director for Technology Enhanced Learning at the University of California San Francisco School of Medicine. He has over ten years of experience in medical education designing, developing, and supporting educational technology solutions with a particular interest in curriculum development and mobile learning.

He is also a primary author of the recent article, “Perceptions of a Mobile Technology on Learning Strategies in the Anatomy Laboratory.” The study examined the effect of using an iPad-based multimedia dissection manual during anatomy lab instruction, and its impact on learner perception and efficiency.

We spoke with Mayfield to find out what kind of impact iPads in the lab can have.

The iPad is portable like a text book and can be much more powerful and interactive — but it seems that well-designed content would also be key. Did the study take that into account?

Chandler Mayfield: Well-designed learning content was a very important part of our study. There is a great literature out there on how to design effective multimedia learning materials, and we made sure we followed this and the best practices found by folks like Rich Mayer as we put together the materials. Also, we had to work within the natural constraints of the anatomy lab which meant providing subtitles for the videos since the lab becomes very noisy, and we couldn’t rely on students being able to hear the sounds from the videos.

It seems somewhat ironic that the integrated content on the iPad seems to have “gotten out of the way” and allowed students to focus more on the task at hand and less on the learning tools. Is that a fair statement?

Chandler Mayfield: I actually think this was very much the goal we had in mind when we started. We were hoping to create an experience in which the students would be more self-directed and rely less on asking for or waiting on instructors. Also, in the anatomy lab, the human cadaver is the main focus of the learning experience and provides a very special and privileged opportunity for our students to learn medicine. We were very excited to see that the iPad-based lab manual didn’t get in the way in the least and helped make the students more effective.

Did one student per group use the iPad manual to direct others, or did they all participate? Also, don’t the touch screens in a lab get, umm . . . messy?

Chandler Mayfield: There tended to be one or two people who were using the iPads to help lead the group through the activity, though the iPad was often handed around to different members of the group to look at a video or a particular image. And regarding keeping the iPad clean, amazingly plastic freezer bags work very well at keeping the iPads protected and still allowing you to use the touchscreen while wearing protective gloves. In our new Anatomy Learning Center we’ve worked with an iPad case manufacturer to create more durable plastic protective cases to help cut down on waste.

The iPad-based dissection manual definitely seems to have enhanced learning in the team-based and social environment of an anatomy lab. Do you think this could also extend to other areas of medical education?

Chandler Mayfield: We’ve already seen mobile-based and tablet-based learning materials transform our educational experience. Our new Anatomy Learning Center is entirely mobile and wireless and contains 100 iPads to deliver amazing multimedia learning materials to the students anywhere in the lab. Our second year Infection, Immunity and Inflammation course has developed an iBooks-based syllabus and microbiology laboratory manual. And just earlier this year, we released an iPad app to help students, residents and providers learn the neurological portion of the physical exam. The app is called the UCSF NeuroExam Tutor, and it allows a student the chance to review key information and watch targeted videos just before they see a real patient in clinic.

Article citation:
Mayfield CH, Ohara PT, O’sullivan PS. Perceptions of a mobile technology on learning strategies in the anatomy laboratory. Anat Sci Educ. 2013;6(2):81-9.

Published by

Michele Mizejewski

Michele is the UX Content Strategist at UCSF Library.