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by Zvi Ostrin and Vyacheslav Dushenkov

Mobile devices offer many pedagogical opportunities—especially easy access to textual information and visual resources, three-dimensional representation of anatomical structures, as well as the ability to study dynamic processes—powerful capabilities that traditional textbooks cannot match.

In light of these advantages we designed a one-semester study, which was funded by a C3IRG grant, to evaluate the pedagogical utility of mobile devices and content-specific application software in the Anatomy and Physiology laboratory. Our primary hypothesis going forward was that mobile devices and content-specific apps would increase student enthusiasm and engagement.

Two hundred and eighty students and five lab instructors were involved in the study; each instructor taught one “experimental” lab section where students used mobile devices with histology and anatomy apps, and taught a second “control” lab section in which students used their lab manuals. Detailed lab worksheets were created to guide the two groups of students through their lab activities. Four core topics were examined: Tissues and Integument, Skeletal System, Muscle System, and the Heart.

Content-specific applications provide an easy access to textual information and three-dimensional representations of anatomical structures such as the heart.

Content-specific applications provide an easy access to textual information and three-dimensional representations of anatomical structures such as the heart.

We used Apple iPads as mobile device platforms to run the digital apps in the experimental lab sections. Hostos Ed Tech was invaluable in acquiring and install ing the necessary apps, as well as insuring the timely distribution of iPads in twenty different lab periods.

The “experimental” lab section, using iPads and apps.

The “experimental” lab section, using iPads and apps.

Pedagogical assessment and conclusion
The experimental students’ responses were measured via exit surveys. Our data support the conclusion that enthusiasm and engagement in the A&P 1 lab increases when students use mobile devices and content-specific apps. Metacognitive assessment of the students revealed that they felt that using the apps and mobile devices in the lab was enjoyable, provided a positive learning experience, motivated them to learn the subject matter, and was more effective as a learning tool than the lab manual. Further research is needed to clarify the extent to which students’ positive response to digital technology translates into gains in learning, understanding, and information retention.
The five instructors were also surveyed and interviewed. In general, they found that mobile devices and apps could play a positive and useful role in the lab. This modality was a “new and attractive way of presenting the material taught for that class,” which kept the students engaged in learning. The instructors felt that the novelty of the apps triggered a positive response from the students, who were then stimulated to engage in active learning.
We have published the results of this study (Ostrin and Dushenkov, 2016). Going forward, we plan on extending our research to explore the effectiveness of virtual microscopy—online high resolution histology images—as a replacement for the traditional microscope and glass slides (Ostrin and Dushenkov 2017).

Publications
Ostrin, Z. and V. Dushenkov (2016). “The pedagogical value of mobile devices and content-specific application software in the A&P laboratory.” HAPS Educator 20(4): 97-103. http://academicworks.cuny.edu/ho_pubs/47/

Ostrin, Z. and V. Dushenkov (2017). “Pulling the Plug on Microscopes in the Anatomy and Physiology Laboratory.” HAPS Educator 21(2): 112-118. http://academicworks.cuny.edu/ho_pubs/61

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