Stanford School of Medicine Pioneers Wireless Learning System

Stanford University School of Medicine Breaks New Ground With Wireless Interactive Learning System

Medical Students Use Bluetooth-Enabled Palm Handhelds and Pico Communications Access Points to Connect to Instructors

CUPERTINO, MILPITAS and PALO ALTO, Calif., Sept. 10 Pico Communications, Palm, Inc. and Stanford University School of Medicine today announced the successful trial of a new wireless interactive learning system for medical students.

This summer, students used Palm m125 handhelds equipped with the Palm Bluetooth Card, a Secure Digital Input/Output card that slips into an SD/Multimedia expansion slot on many Palm handhelds, and Stanford's custom-designed software to communicate wirelessly with instructors via Pico's
PicoBlue Internet Access Points. Pico designs and markets access points based on Bluetooth wireless technology, allowing users of Bluetooth-enabled
handhelds to quickly and securely connect to the LAN and Internet while preserving battery life.

The Stanford University School of Medicine conceived of the project several months ago as a way of improving the quality of classroom interaction between medical students and instructors. Instead of asking for the traditional show of hands or engaging in one-on-one question and answer sessions in a large class, the instructor electronically polled the class in real time. The new approach is faster and it provides more accurate feedback due to the cloak of anonymity it lends to students. Based on student responses, instructors were able to dynamically tailor course material to meet the needs of a particular class.

"Our students come from very different backgrounds," said Dr. Pat Cross, professor of structural biology at Stanford. "In the same class, engineers,
English majors and Ph.Ds in biochemistry sit next to each other. Being able to more precisely fine-tune our content leads to better-educated students and,
ultimately, better-trained medical professionals. The key is really the anonymity the students have. Their answers are more truthful since there is no public embarrassment for answering incorrectly."

In developing the new system, Stanford sought to improve upon currently available polling systems based on proprietary technologies. "We wanted a
cost-effective solution that would take advantage of open standards and that would allow students to use their Palm handhelds for hours at a time. The
Bluetooth networking solution offered by Pico and Palm is a great option for us," said Dr. Henry Lowe, director of IT, Stanford University School of Medicine.

Each time an instructor started a poll, students used their Bluetooth-enabled Palm handhelds to connect wirelessly via PicoBlue access points in the classroom to a web-based polling server developed by medical students and the Stanford University School of Medicine's IT department. Responses were logged almost instantaneously and tallied by the server. Notified when each student had responded, the instructor then projected the results for the entire class to see.

"Based on the success of this trial, we envision deploying this solution more broadly across the entire medical school, particularly as use of Bluetooth-enabled Palm handhelds increase," said Todd Grappone, assistant director of development, wireless and mobile computing at the Stanford University School of Medicine. "Currently, the majority of Stanford medical students have a Palm handheld. It's just a matter of time before they all have this type of capability." Grappone added that the trial also allowed students to familiarize themselves with the same networking and computing technologies now becoming prevalent in hospitals.

"Stanford's implementation of this wireless, interactive learning system is bound to generate a great deal of interest from medical schools across the country," said Mike Lorion, vice president of education at Palm. "Already dozens of medical schools have discovered that Palm handhelds are very powerful learning tools. Stanford is breaking new ground in demonstrating how handhelds and wireless technologies can lead to systemic changes in learning. Others will watch with interest."

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