Penn Dental Now Provides iPads to All Dental Students

Dentistry Today


With a one-to-one initiative that provides every dental student with an iPad, faculty-developed AppleBooks on dental topics, and software designed to make notetaking and exams easier and more convenient, Penn Dental Medicine says it is embracing digital learning and transforming the way it delivers dental education.

“Our goal is always the advancement of learning,” said Chia-Wei Wu, director of learning sciences and technologies and head of Penn Dental Medicine’s Learning Technology Team (LTT), which works with faculty to develop education technology solutions. “We strive for a level of digital literacy where students and faculty are so comfortable with technology that it is integrated seamlessly into the learning experience.”  

This fall, Penn Dental Medicine became one of only a handful of higher education institutions worldwide to be selected as an Apple Distinguished School for 2019-2020. Apple Distinguished Schools are centers of innovation, leadership, and educational excellence that use Apple products to inspire creativity, collaboration, and critical thinking, the school says.

“The Apple Distinguished School designation honors our long-term commitment to using innovation and technology to enhance teaching and learning,” said Mark Wolff, DDS, PhD, dean of Penn Dental Medicine.

In 2015, Penn Dental Medicine rolled out its one-to-one iPad initiative, providing each first-year student with an iPad, along with the digital learning content and comprehensive support to use it as an educational tool. The first week of school, incoming students receive “learner ready” iPads with the relevant applications and settings pre-installed.

“We wanted to provide a consistent platform to deliver educational content and provide a schoolwide user experience,” said Melissa Miller, senior director of information technology.

“When everyone is using the same device, there is less need for troubleshooting, less classroom disruption, and less time wasted preparing multiple versions of the same content. That means more time for teaching and learning. With iPads for everyone, we are optimizing the student user experience,” said Miller.

As iPads have become fixtures in Penn Dental Medicine classrooms, faculty members have adapted lecture materials to the digital format. So far, 76 AppleBooks, or digital textbooks, have been developed with the support of the school’s LTT, becoming primary classroom resources.

The AppleBooks cover subjects ranging from fixed and removable dentures to surgical documentation and nutrition. They can by continually updated and offer interactive components, HTML5 widgets, instructional videos, online quizzes, and animation, not just for Penn Dental Medicine students, but for users around the world. 

“The iBook is a great vehicle for free, direct information sharing with others. The mission of Penn is to share knowledge globally, and this technology definitely supports that,” said Dr. Bekir Karabucak, chair and program director of endodontics, whose iBook on surgical documentation has been featured in the Journal of Endodontics and downloaded around the world.

The technology is transforming learning at Penn Dental Medicine as the passive lecture hall model is being replaced by blended learning and flipped-classroom models, which supplement traditional content with online resources and small group discussion.

Students use their iPads to access material ahead of time through videos and interactive lessons, opening up more classroom time for discussion, analysis, and mentoring. In addition, the iPad’s features make studying and note-taking more convenient and creative, the school says. 

For third-year dental student Hannah Stern, the iPad’s doodling feature with Apple Pencil is a key to understanding intricate aspects of physiology and dental procedures. She uses it to create colorful, complex study guides on human anatomy and dental structures, Penn Dental Medicine says.

“Creating these doodles allows me to go carefully through the information and organize it into functional, helpful tables,” said Stern. “As my knowledge grows, so do my doodles.”

“The iPad is the perfect tool for studying,” said Nikita Gupta, also a third-year dental student. “I can take endless notes on my iPad without ever running out of space, and I can easily organize my notes into folders and sections.”

Many exams and quizzes also are now done on the iPad, using ExamSoft software, which allows students to make notes on the screen, highlight material, and cross out answers they rule out. Quick and accurate grading makes the exam process more efficient for both students and faculty, the school says. The faculty uses the data generated from the iPads to evaluate learning as well.

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