November 13, 2009

Nursing School’s new application turns phones into learning aids

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VUSN is using a new software program that transforms devices such as iPods and Blackberries into classroom response devices. Here, Nursing student Jordan Moore uses her iPod to learn during a class. (photo by Joe Howell)

Nursing School’s new application turns phones into learning aids

Vanderbilt University School of Nursing is pioneering the use of smart phones as teaching tools.

Specifically, VUSN is one of the first in the nation to use a new application that transforms wireless devices, including Blackberry, iPod and iTouch, and laptops into classroom response devices for enhanced learning.

“Students in our program have multiple exposures to computers and cell phones,” said Susan Newbold, Ph.D., R.N., associate professor of Nursing.

“The time was right to take the classroom response systems to the next level. We piloted the idea in January, and it is being used by about 30 percent of our students this fall semester.”

Classroom response systems (or clickers) are a proven way to stimulate learning by engaging students in different way.

They get immediate feedback, participate more fully during class time, improve performance and help turn large classes into more intimate settings.

National research has shown that these systems improved performance scores on exams.

“The School of Nursing is the first on campus to use this application, and actually one of the first schools nationwide to use it when it first came out earlier this year,” said Derek Bruff, Ph.D., assistant director at the Center for Teaching at Vanderbilt.

VUSN faculty have been using the new tool to help with taking attendance, administering tests and quizzes, asking opinion questions and encouraging anonymous feedback and many of the features can be integrated with the Blackboard system.

So far, more than 15 instructors and roughly 200 of the school's 700 students are using the new application. Additional faculty will adopt the technology next spring.

“It keeps my students engaged and entertained,” said Betsy Kennedy, M.S.N., R.N., assistant professor of Nursing. “They also seem more willing to share honest opinions on ethical and other issues and those authentic responses are great discussion starters.”

Newbold believes it can help both students and faculty.

“It allows instructors to focus on teaching rather than grading. By using it for administrative tasks such as attendance, grading and even in concert with our Blackboard system, it saves precious classroom time for more learning,” said Newbold.

Kennedy feels it makes her a more responsive instructor.

“The system helps me gain a realistic understanding of my students' comprehension of a subject while we are still in the classroom, so I can address any concerns right there and adjust my approach to content if necessary,” said Kennedy.

The ResponseWare application can be used with Macintosh or PC platforms; wireless smart phones or laptops.

The cost to students is $35 for the software version and $40 to $60 for the hand-held device.