CONTACT: C. LINDON LARSON
2130 Medical Laboratories
Iowa City IA 52242
(319) 335-9569; fax (319) 335-8034
Release: March 15, 2000
Model UI project will measure impact of computers in class
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- A few years ago, Lynn Johnson, Ph.D., incorporated laptop
computers into a small-group class for beginning dental students. She described
it as a great experience, an
"ah-ha" moment that showed her how information technology could
Now, Johnson, an assistant professor of oral pathology, radiology and medicine
at the University of Iowa College of Dentistry, is building on this experience.
She and Jim Duncan, coordinator of electronic services and the Information
Commons at the UI Hardin Library for the Health Sciences, have launched a
research project that combines laptop computers, wireless networks and problem-based
Problem-based learning (PBL) brings small groups of students together to
explore clinical cases. Presented with a hypothetical patient, students work
together to locate information that will help them determine the best route
to addressing the patient's specific health care needs.
Johnson recalls that in her pilot project, one student used electronic information
resources to determine that a patient with diabetes was incorrectly taking
his insulin. Without aid from online databases, the problem might have remained
a mystery. "I'll bet this student will understand facts about diabetes
and insulin for life," Johnson said.
Johnson's new project emphasizes skills that students will carry with them
throughout their careers. PBL was developed as a way to teach problem-solving
and critical-thinking skills to students in the health sciences. Information
technology offers increasingly useful tools for locating information and making
Supported by a UI grant of more than $44,000, the two-year project will
lend laptop computers to 12 first-year dental students, who will be free to
use the computers throughout their academic work as well as in PBL sessions.
Johnson hopes the machines will enhance PBL, letting students collaborate
on research that they might otherwise have to do individually outside of class.
"We will research the impact on education by measuring students' problem-solving
skills and perceptions of self-directed learning," Johnson said. Duncan
added that the project integrates existing information resources into the
dental curriculum in the hope that they will become second nature to students.
A librarian will be available during PBL sessions to help students design
effective information searches.
The grant, which was funded by UI student computer fees, will purchase the
computers, plus transmitters that permit wireless connections between the
computers and to the Internet. The wireless system will let students move
about the room and break into groups, giving the small, discussion-based classes
much more flexibility than they would find in conventional electronic classrooms.
Duncan said the project also offers the chance to assess the current state
of wireless technology, which may reduce the need to rewire existing facilities
in order to accommodate computer connections. He said the project also aims
to develop a system that lets students seamlessly link their computers to
different networks as they travel from building to building.
With its broad focus on technology, learning strategies, and personnel and
infrastructure requirements, the project may become a model for similar efforts
to fuse computers and teaching. It begins with a pilot project this summer.
University of Iowa Health Care describes the partnership between the
UI College of Medicine and the UI Hospitals and Clinics and the patient care,
medical education and research programs and services they provide.