by Kal Shah
Kal Shah, a first year medical student at the University of California Irvine who recieved his undergraduate degree from UC Berkeley in Bioengineering, has given iMedicalApps the scoop on how the iPad is being used by himself and classmates.
He highlights how medical textbooks are being utilized, along with an app he feels is better at note taking than the popular iAnnotate.
I recently gave up my previous note-taking methods and adopted the iPad for all aspects of my education. Here are some brief examples of how I use it.
We have a lot of our textbooks provided to us, free of charge, via two main providers — Student Consult and VitalSource. They both have online accessibility so I view my textbooks through the Safari browser. VitalSource just came out with their Bookview app which lets me download their textbook to my iPad and view it through an app. The speed of flipping pages and searching through the textbook are both much faster through their app than their online website access. The only downside to viewing our textbooks on the iPad (online or via the app) is that we can’t annotate them or highlight them. In a meeting we had with Lippincott’s (who uses VitalSource to distribute their textbooks electronically to us), we told them that the best thing they could do to improve the textbook app is give it highlighting and annotating functionality.
We also have another app called CourseSmart that has a couple of our textbooks on it, but we haven’t gotten to that part of our curriculum yet so can’t accurately give my experience using it.
A lot of my classmates still prefer the paper version of the textbooks — which I think is mainly because the paper versions allow us to “mark it up”. I personally prefer the electronic version because I’m not much of an “annotator” when it comes to textbooks, and carrying an iPad beats carrying 15-20 lbs worth of textbooks.
I use an app called Noterize, which I prefer much more than iAnnotate. With Noterize, I can download my lecture slides directly from my dropbox folder. There is also an option to directly open a pdf or ppt file from a web address and download it to the app. I can quickly create a textbox to type notes, use the highligher, record audio or use a pen to handwrite notes.
But why is it better than iAnnotate?
1) The textbox can be a see-thru box and it stays open, unlike the textbox in iAnnonate which blocks a lot of the material on my slides or becomes a tiny icon when minimized. The textbox on Noterize is very much like the textbox you would find on MS Word.
2) Highlighting is a pain on iAnnotate — unless it recognizes what you want to highlight as “text,” it won’t let you highlight it. In Noterize, I can highlight anything I want, as if I really had a highlighter in my hand and I was applying yellow streaks all over my paper. It’s very much like a paintbrush tool, and applies a coat of light yellow over whatever I slide my finger across.
3) Noterize records audio and syncs it to your slides! I hit the mic record button and start taking notes, flipping slides, etc. Noterize records audio and keeps track of what slide I was on when the audio was coming in. So later, I can go back to a slide and re-listen to whatever was said when I was on that specific slide. It really beats listening to the lecture podcast and fishing out the parts you want to re-listen to.
4) Finally it’s easy to upload the annotated notes back into my dropbox, so I can view the annotated notes on my computer, or wherever else. The audio doesn’t get uploaded when uploading as a pdf. However, you do have the option of uploading your audio to your computer via iTunes — you end up with a folder full of audio files — kind of pointless. So to re-listen to audio, I use the app.
5) I can merge different pdf files. So what I do at the end of a certain professor’s slides from one day is insert the slides for the next day and so on. This way I have one big file with ALL of that professor’s slides, instead of having 4 different files for slides from lectures one through four. But that’s just personal preference.
There some flashcard making apps that I used to memorize a few of the biochemistry pathways and I know there are a lot more flashcard apps and other learning tools for anatomy and related subjects. I most likely will use some them when I need to start studying for anatomy. There are even more apps for Step 1 – but that’s far on my periphery for now.
So, I hope this gives you an idea of how some of us here at UCI School of Medicine are using our iPads. Like Stanford, a lot of us are still attached to our computers for taking notes and studying, and some also prefer pen and paper. I personally, find the iPad more convenient and versatile.
Kal Shah is a medical student.
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