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Tablets help to teach health

A large trial of Tablet PC technologies in the Faculty of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences is enhancing the learning experience.

Jennifer Lindley thought laterally when she sat down earlier this year to plan a series of lectures on basic histology  for a group of radiography students. Using new teaching technology, through which students could participate in activities via Table PCs, she was able to incorporate fresh elements into her classes, such as asking them to label diagrams and microscopic images that they then wirelessly sent back to her own Tablet PC. She could then spark a discussion from these answers.

“The tablets allowed me to be a lot more interactive with the students…You can also get feedback from students as you go. You can pose questions that they can respond to and gauge how they’re going in terms of understanding the material that you’re giving them. It made the lectures a lot more interesting for the students as well as for me as a staff member,” says Ms Lindley, an academic in the Faculty of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences.

“I’d already prepared my lecture, so I had to go away and think about things they could do, and set up so that there was space around the side of the powerpoint slide for them to write things. You have to tweak so that you get the most out of the technology.”

Dr George Kotsanas, Academic Director of Information Technology for the faculty says that the technology lends itself to the highly visual nature of much of the faculty’s subject matter. He sees it becoming a dominant teaching tool, as it allows staff to find creative ways to teach their subject matter, and gives students flexibility in their study methods.

“I certainly think that this will be the more pervasive technology used within lectures or even tutorials and practical classes in the future,” Dr Kotsanas says.

He is overseeing a trial of new Tablet PC technology in the faculty. Along with selected staff, such as Ms Lindley, around 60 students from the first year of the Bachelor of Radiography were offered the high-end Hewlett Packard Tablet PCs to use for study. Each tablet was loaded with free interactive teaching software called Classroom Presenter.

It is part of the MyLearningSpace project run by the Monash eEducation Centre, which was established to support and nurture the use of technology in teaching. After successfully running a small pilot in the Faculty of Science, the Centre this year partnered with the Faculty of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences for a larger trial.

And the reach of the tablets extends far beyond class.

“They can take them home, into a clinical environment, or anywhere else, and continue studying with their material all together on one device. One of the strong messages coming from students is that they appreciate the flexibility provided by these devices,” Dr Kotsanas says.

Following the success in the radiography course, the Tablet PCs were introduced into the Bachelor of Physiotherapy for the second semester of this year. Based on the extremely positive response from both staff and students, Dr Kotsanas says that the faculty and the eEducation Centre will  extend the program. Planning is already underway to make Tablet PCs available to all staff teaching in undergraduate courses commencing in 2010.


Lecturer Jennifer Lindley uses the tablet technology in class.

Students annotate their slides on their computers.