HealthJanuary 11, 2017

Technology as an active learning strategy in nursing

I have the joy and the privilege of traveling the country meeting nurse educators and hearing their toughest challenges. In doing so, I have found there are many, but the top three challenges would be:

  1. How do I get them off their phones and paying attention when I am lecturing or delivering content?
  2. How do I get from the expectation that because they are present in class, that I can magically teach them everything they need to know without them doing anything?
  3. How do I get my students to think critically?

In a series of three blog posts during the forthcoming weeks, I will suggest answers and offer active learning strategies to each of these challenges.

We live in a technological society, in a technologically driven world. If you are a Baby Boomer educator, you may be frustrated with both your comfort level with educational technology and with the short attention spans of learners you meet. While they may be a diverse group that ranges in age, culture, background, and expectations, they all seem to spend a large amount of time staying connected to the digital world.

According to an online Digital Trends posting based on cell phone usage, “Americans Spend An Alarming Amount of Time Checking Social Media on Their Phones,” people in the U.S. check their Facebook, Twitter, and other social media accounts a staggering 17 times a day*, meaning at least once every waking hour, if not more, with the highest usage observed in those between the ages of 25 and 54. This may explain why the use of a smart device is viewed as essential, and may be habitual behavior to many.

I have visited some schools where the use of student’s phones, iPads and personal computers is not allowed by policy. If this is the case, stop reading this post right here. I would NEVER suggest breaking any kind of school policy, but I would invite you to come back and read this post in five years and see if the policy has changed where you are teaching.

I’m going to suggest that a way to deal with electronics is to explore their use as teaching tools. This may or may not have been a part of what you saw modeled when you were a student. It may or may not have been part of your advanced studies on becoming an educator. Now it is an opportunity to step into the shoes of a learner yourself and pioneer a few new ways to make technology work to teach and not to distract.

The first place to look at learning technology is to explore all of the options that come with the textbooks you are using. There are a number of resources that can be used to help students quiz, remediate and learn on their own time. The only way that will happen is if you make it an expectation in your class that a learning partnership involves both you teaching and them investing in learning in a concerted way. Be honest. There is NO way one can learn the amount of knowledge, skills and judgment needed to be a successful practicing nurse without a significant time investment and commitment by both of the partners. Give positive attention to those who go above and beyond throughout the course to learn in a variety of ways, including technologically.

Or a simple way to use technology is one I learned from a wonderful educator, Lisa Watlington. She has what she calls, “Search Engine Races.” When a question in class comes up, she asks, “How would a practicing nurse find this information?” and her learners begin their searches. She then guides them to what is and what is not a reliable nursing resource online, such as Ovid, etc.  This teaches how to find professional answers, as well as the knowledge of how and where to look for them in the future. Time to embrace the potential of technology and all its benefits. Happy exploring!

In the next two blog posts, I will share ways to get learners active, involved and critically thinking.

*Data is from a June 2015 report; numbers are expected to be higher as of January 2017

Michele Deck presents nationally and internationally on innovative teaching methods in the field of health care education and training. She is co-founder and chief executive officer of G.A.M.E.S., a company that specializes in seminars on adult learning and interactive training methods, and Tool Thyme for Trainers, a company which supplies innovative and creative presentation tools for educators worldwide. Honors include ANPD’s prestigious Belinda E. Puetz Award, election to Sigma Theta Tau National Nursing Honor Society, Business Woman of the Year by the National Business Council, and Best Over All Trainer by Creative Training Techniques Companies. She serves on ANPD’s Education committee and was a member of the Editorial board of the Journal for 8 years.

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