Seeking advice from iPad-owning medical school students

Discussion in 'iPad' started by vega07, Jul 2, 2011.

  1. vega07 macrumors 65816

    Aug 7, 2006
    I start medical school soon.

    I have a 2006 Core Duo Macbook that still serves me plenty well. The reasons why I don't want to bring it to class are 1) it's too heavy and 2) the battery doesn't last long enough.

    So I am considering an iPad for it's portability and long battery life for extensive note taking. But I've never used an iPad before and need advice on how current medical students are faring with their iPads. Which apps do you find most useful? Do you use a stylus? How productive are you with it?

    My other options are a Macbook Pro for it's long battery life, but it's not that much lighter than my current white Macbook. Or a Macbook Air, but 5 hours I don't think can last me a whole day. But I'd love to stick with the iPad if possible for it's price.

    Any insight provided will be greatly appreciated!
  2. radiogoober macrumors 6502a

    Jun 7, 2011
    <-- FM resident

    Absolutely do NOT get a iPad as your primary computer for med school. Get the MacBook Pro or whatever. I see you were concerned with battery life, almost every med school has power outlets in lecture halls.

    I'm sure your lectures will either be printed out powerpoints or you'll be given the powerpoint files. If you have printed out powerpoints, you'll find that it's good to print 2-3 slides per page and take notes on the side of the slide. And this is med school, so you are going to have a ton of notes, a ton of shorthand, and tons of little graphics. If you are given powerpoint files, you'll probably want to take notes beneath them in the little box that lets you write personal notes about slides.

    In med school I did it 50/50. Some classes I wrote on the powerpoints, and others I typed the notes, it depended on the class and the quality of powerpoints they gave us (ie, some have tons of info in them, and some are poor outlines). You want your primary computer to be flexible, have a nice sized screen, and to be easy as hell to use.

    Good luck and start doing USMLE questions early on :)

    (Basically, there's no way an iPad can be your primary note taking device in med school. It's just not functional enough. I'm not dissing the iPad - I love it and always have one with me, there are a ton of great medical apps for it. Medscape, Micromedix, etc. It's just not the best for your first two years of med school.)
  3. vega07 thread starter macrumors 65816

    Aug 7, 2006
    Thanks radiogoober! Very helpful thoughts.

    Macbook power adapters unfortunately add a significant amount of weight.
  4. mcdspncr macrumors regular


    Jul 2, 2011
    Sorry Radiogoober, but I completely disagree. I bought an iPad for medical school for the battery life, as well as for the note taking. The iPad is absolutely perfect for medical students. I take notes with a stylus as "a picture says a thousand words" and diagrams are very important to a medical student's notes. This alone is a clear advantage over using the MBP for notes (drawing isn't easy on a laptop). Of course you could still use paper, but I love the fact that I have digital copies of my notes, well organized, backed up, and easy to share my friends if I need to.

    What makes the iPad amazing for medical students is not just the notes, but the fact that fortunately for us, every single medical textbook you could imagine is available as a PDF. My iPad currently holds hundreds of them. Using iAnnotate, the iPad lets me highlight, underline, hand-write, type, and bookmark all over my textbooks. Before the iPad I could have no interaction with my PDFs. I could just read them but I had no ability to highlight as in a real paper book. iAnnotate makes my PDFs behave like real textbooks, which is absolutely amazing (many days I spend 8+ hours reading and edit textbooks on my iPad only taking breaks to check macrumors). As Radiogroober mentioned he liked to take notes on powerpoints in some classes. I do the same by exporting them as a PDF and using iAnnotate to edit them as well.

    As you already have an old macbook, I would just leave it in your dorm room as a desktop, and take the iPad as your main device. The size and the battery life are just amazing, and between notes, textbooks and dozens of medical apps, every medical student should be using the iPad (with a stylus).
  5. vega07, Jul 2, 2011
    Last edited: Jul 2, 2011

    vega07 thread starter macrumors 65816

    Aug 7, 2006
    Great counter-advice mcdspcnr.

    Thanks for the detailed response. Where did you get your PDFs from?
  6. NickFL2011 macrumors newbie

    Jun 16, 2011
    IM resident here.

    You may find that during med school you end up taking far less notes than you though you would or at least drastically changing your note taking/study habits from what you had in undergrad.

    At least for me I took less and less notes as time went on and at most I would add a few notes to PowerPoint lectures along with some highlighting of textbooks. Both of which could be done on a laptop or even an iPad with some of the office doc apps available.

    If you think that you will be taking quite a bit of notes then I'd probably say go with a full laptop, or even just use your existing one. There should be power laptops pretty much anywhere you're going to be studying/taking notes in school.

    If not then you may be able to get away with an iPad since you will still have a full laptop available should you need it for certain file types or to run programs that aren't available for iPad. You can also get a keyboard for the iPad so that's an option.
  7. that1guyfromfl macrumors newbie

    Jul 3, 2011
    The iPad doesn't replace a laptop for me. Using the wireless keyboard you CAN take all your notes on the iPad, and marking up PDFs is a breeze.

    But for me, one advantage of the iPad is most important: it replaces the mountain of loose paper and text books I would otherwise have to keep track of and lug around. I can't tell you how much easier it is to grab the iPad and walk to Starbucks for a couple hours to study vs getting a backpack and making sure i have the notes I want and the books I need.
    Safari makes looking up additional information a snap.

    And if I decide to switch topics, all THOSE resources are also at my fingertips.

    I have absolutely no idea how some of my classmates survive having to flip through handwritten notes when reviewing material or when looking for specific topics.

    Having everything synced and indexed and searchable between my laptop and and phone and iPad via Dropbox is absolutely worth the price of admission.

    A side note, I find it easier to concentrate and be productive looking at notes on Ipad vs my laptop because whatever you are looking at takes up the whole screen whereas on my laptop I can have a chat window and a video running at the same time. :)

    My refined workflow now includes GoodReader, Dropbox, NoteTaker HD, Wunderlist and Notability.

    Incredibly efficient for me, I could never go back. :apple:
  8. kellen macrumors 68020


    Aug 11, 2006
    Seattle, WA
    The iPad never was a good notetaker for me, as the ease of writing on paper was too easy. Seems with the notes I take it would be too much. However I never had goodreader. Also alot of my lectures were disbursed the day of the lecture and not online before. If it can work for you, go for it.

    It's main use to me was in clinical year. Having all my medical books, lecture PDFs made it much easier than carryin around a book. Still would carry surg recall and small books like that. Plus using epocrates, medscape, medcalc and other apps nicer on the big screen. I would say to get a 3G unit, as barely half my rotations had available wifi. Good for looking up things on the fly, usually last minute surgical cases or the ever present "that sounds familiar...quick google search"
  9. miamialley macrumors 68030


    Jul 28, 2008
    Los Angeles, CA
    I'm doing my doc in clinical psychology. I can say, for me, the iPad just doesn't work for note taking. A MacBook air would be be my choice for going to class and taking notes. You would also get enough battery life so you don't need your charger.

    That said, I love my iPad. It'sthe only way to read journal articles/PDFs. I never print anything like that anymore. Of course you can also view Power Point slides.

    My honest advice, I wouldn't be in med school without a MBA and an iPad. Both are absolutely justifiable to make your life easier.
  10. vega07 thread starter macrumors 65816

    Aug 7, 2006
    Thanks guys for all the advice.

    I am leaning heavily towards purchasing an iPad 2 soon. Let's hope that everything works out so I can leave my heavy Macbook at home!

    Do any of you guys use a stylus?
  11. mcdspncr macrumors regular


    Jul 2, 2011
    Several of my ipad toting colleagues also had issues with note taking on the ipad. A picture says a thousand words, and considering the ipad is the only devise that allows you to hand write notes as well as draw diagrams at the same time, I can't understand how a MBA or any laptop could do a better job. The key is to use a stylus. It wasn't until after my classmates bought or made their own styli that they really started to benefit from the ipad.

    I started off making my own stylus. I lose a lot of pens and I so I couldn't justify $15-30+ on one stylus. I had several different designs, all using glass grade (#0000) steel wool from Home Depot. These weren't ideal. They did the trick but I was constantly remaking the tips once the wool had worn down. I have since bought the Boxwave ($15 from amazon). No complaints; its a great stylus. The tip is smaller than most, any smaller and it would have spotty onscreen recognition (ipad screens are looking for something the size of your pinky finger - any smaller and they ignore it). I did a fair amount of research before purchasing and at the time the Boxwave had the most 5 star reviews. The rubber tip seems to provide the perfect amount of traction to simulate a ballpoint on paper. I found my old steel wool attempts to be slightly too slippery, although considering it was roughly $3 for enough steel wool to make a 1000 styli, DYI is definitely a valid option.
  12. radiogoober macrumors 6502a

    Jun 7, 2011
    Do you have an Apple Store close to you? I'd really recommend going to the Apple Store and playing with an iPad and try writing a page or notes or drawing a diagram of something complicated with a stylus.

    I loaded up Bamboo Paper or whatever on the iPad and tried writing something with a stylus. It was awful. My hand dragging across the screen made all sorts of stray marks, it's hard to be exactly precise and draw small detail, etc. I remember taking manic notes during sections of electrophysiology and if I had to sit there and click on an erase to erase stray marks I would have freaked.

    And the size of the iPad screen is barely bigger than a 5x7 notecard. The iPad rocks for reading information (and I'd love to get my hands on all of these PDF textbooks.. Robbin's Pathology anyone??), but I think it's a fail for actually taking notes.

    I will predict that you'll end up bringing your laptop to take notes, and use your iPad to read them.
  13. mcdspncr, Jul 4, 2011
    Last edited: Jul 4, 2011

    mcdspncr macrumors regular


    Jul 2, 2011
    Good advice radiogoober, testing it before you buy is certainly worth while. However, I wouldn't suggest Bamboo for anything other than doodling. To neatly take pages of notes you need something with a palm rest and magnifying input. Note Taker HD and uPad are great at this (uPad has a better palm rest).

    There certainly is a learning curve, however the palm rest completely eliminates unwanted marks. The magnifying input allows you to write very large and neatly, while the app fits your words in between the lines on the paper. It's hard to explain if you haven't used or seen apps that do this, so heres a link to a uPad demo on youtube. I prefer having the ipad in the vertical position so I have more screen space to rest my hand, but the demo will give you the idea.

    By the way, radiogoober, I think I could help you with your PDF problem however I think my account is too new to PM you. Any suggestions?
  14. vega07 thread starter macrumors 65816

    Aug 7, 2006
    I visited an Apple store today.

    Typing was actually very easy. I might be able to manage with just the on-screen keyboard.

    I could not test out Note Taker HD because you can't download anything unless you use your own account and I wasn't ready to purchase the $5 app yet.

    I tried the Pogo stylus. Didn't really like it. I had to press harder than I liked. I hope the Boxwave will be better. Unfortunately, they only stock the Pogo.
  15. wingsabr macrumors 6502


    Dec 13, 2008
    10 dollar stylus from Best Buy works great.
  16. vega07 thread starter macrumors 65816

    Aug 7, 2006

    What's the brand name?
  17. vega07 thread starter macrumors 65816

    Aug 7, 2006
    Can you guys also give me advice on which to order, the 16GB or 32GB, primarily for book PDFs, notes, apps? I won't put in songs, but perhaps I'll put in the occasional movie.
  18. SRLMJ23 macrumors 68000


    Jul 11, 2008
    New York
    I'm a medical resident and one day want to be a Psychiatrist and I can tell you that the iPad is once of the best tools that I use when diagnosing and what not. My current rotation is E.R., so down there I can really use the iPad to its full advantage I feel.

    It's really up to you man, you can take all our arguements and come up with an answer or as someone suggested go to an Apple Store and try it out in person.

    Get the 32gb, 16 just isnt enough.
  19. vega07 thread starter macrumors 65816

    Aug 7, 2006
    I'm not familiar with how much space medical apps and PDF books take up but I'm thinking I'll have ~7 GBs allocated for them if I buy the 16GB. Will that be enough?

    For some odd reason, the $499 price point sounds so pleasing. When I think of upgrading to the 32GB, the price scares me away.
  20. SRLMJ23 macrumors 68000


    Jul 11, 2008
    New York
    The medical apps won't take up much space at all, but im sure you'll want to put your music and stuff on it as well.

    To me, 16gb is just not enough because eventually you are going to want to add more and more stuff so get the 32gb, you wont regret it.
  21. bshef macrumors member

    Jan 28, 2009
    I'm not in medical school, but I am about to enter nursing school at the university I attend and I am always using my iPad 2 for research along with annotating PDFs, viewing slideshows, etc. My iPad has become a fixture in my backpack on school days.

    As other users have stated, depending on the nature of the notes you take, the iPad may be a suitable substitute for a pen and pad. From my experiences, it is exceptional when I need to take short notes.

    If you're still searching for an app to use as a note taking/PDF annotating app, I would suggest UPAD. I have tried others but nothing is as feature packed and easy to use. Best 5 bucks I have spent on the iPad.

    Battery life is great on it as well!
  22. aneftp macrumors 601

    Jul 28, 2007
    Nor sure how much med school has changed. But when I went we all paid for note taking service and I never took my own notes unless it was my turn to take notes for the class.

    Heck. I never even attended classes after my first semester of med school. Before those of u jump on me. Med school involves a lot of self learning. And yes I passed my usmle 1,2 and 3 easily one first try. and board certified in my speciality on first try.

    So in my opinion the iPad is still just a luxury toy and not needed for note taken.

    And note taking is kinda of a joke in college. I just paid for the service and hardly attended classes in college either. Just the required labs etc.

    Not trying to sound arrogant but seriously. Don't think of an iPad as something that can enhance your learning. In my opinion iPad can be a major distraction since there is so much "entertainment" access (Internet, video, music, movies, games) at your fingertip.

    I'd rather shut my phone/computer down and study hard in the library for 4-5 hours a day and focus and be effient. Than play the rest of the day.
  23. vega07 thread starter macrumors 65816

    Aug 7, 2006
    I just purchased the 32 GB white, but will probably change my order to 16GB tomorrow. $100 is a lot of money and I have a hunch that with cloud services, 32GB will be overkill.

    aneftp, for undergrad, each student had to take their own notes, and I'm sure med school now is the same way. I only remember one time when the professor sold his notes at the library so we didn't have to jot down much during class. And as for the service you're referring to, I believe that's only for students with disabilities...

    As for distractions, I'm pretty sure that if I take notes with my laptop, I'll be much more distracted versus the iPad.
  24. radiogoober macrumors 6502a

    Jun 7, 2011
    ^^^ I know we're way off topic now, but I remember one med school I interviewed (either Iowa or Ohio) had a "pathway" where you could just study at home and never attend classes. They'd just give you the books, the notes, and a schedule for tests and you'd show up for tests. Crazy.
  25. vega07 thread starter macrumors 65816

    Aug 7, 2006

Share This Page