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Published April 17, 2011 | Nursing

A Devil’s Advocate for IT

I think that for success in IT integration, teachers who are passionate about teaching and who are motivated by the increased student engagement achieved by using new technologies need to have the time to try these new techniques as well as for them to be supported in their efforts. Although providing release time is a good start, teachers still need institutional support to adapt to the changes that are happening around them.

Technology in College Nursing

Probably the most obvious commitment to IT in the Nursing Department at John Abbott College is our two nursing simulators or manikins. We've had Hal for over a year and Susie, our female just arrived in September. The manikins are wirelessly controlled. Teachers can vary blood pressure, dilate pupils and change heart rate at the click of a handheld tablette computer. Different rhythms can also be programmed into the computer to occur automatically, and you can add speech. There are statements already in the manikin's database, but you can add material as the situation requires.

I used Hall this autumn in several first semester labs. Hal and Susie can develop blood pressure problems and with Susie you can listen for bowel sounds. With the manikins, you can program in abnormalities. Before Hall, we practiced on one another, but you can't program abnormal heart rates or low or high blood pressure on people with normal blood pressure. Now students can see how to react encountering abnormal conditions. Both simulators will be used in May for the graduating students' practical exam to prepare the students for the licensing exams in September.

Judith and Hal

Although simulators are our most obvious use of IT, they are not our only one. As I wrote in an earlier Profweb story, I've used clickers, and my students love them. They were again successful for first semester classes, especially reviews. In my ‘stage', with my clinical group, I've used Skype to keep track of students. I have students submit homework electronically, and I provide two or three hours on the evening before clinical to have a Skype open session to discuss questions about patients or anything else that students want to talk about.

I really enjoy using Skype, and I believe using it this clinical session has been quite successful because my students call me at any time, and know that I will answer. I also allow calls at home, and I find I am deepening contacts outside college. I can't definitely say that this relationship wouldn't have developed anyway as the clinical group consists of only seven or eight students. We really get to know students very well, and now, when they come and talk to us about certain things outside of class, it's frequently by Skype.

Institutional Support

Perhaps because of my enthusiasm for information technology, I was granted release time to try to work to help teachers, more specifically nursing teachers at John Abbott College, be more open to using technology in their classrooms. I began the semester with a workshop on IT. In the morning we learned about using the simulators (Hal and Susie), and in the afternoon Raymond Cantin talked about wikis and podcasts. As a result, a group of three nurses created a little interview which was used in the classroom and was very appreciated by the students. It was about a geriatric conversation between a nurse and a patient, and the students found it ingenious and interesting to listen to rather than just a formal lecture.

Workshop Flyer

During the semester, I also created a resource room for faculty with textbooks. I'm trying to get more support for the ancillaries that are on the computer. Each textbook that is adopted has test banks, ebooks on line, and PowerPoint presentations, etc. New books that come to the department are catalogued and put in the resource room for all teachers to review and use as a reference. The title page of the new text is posted on the bulletin board so that faculty can see new arrivals. Teachers can also have ebooks downloaded onto their computers. Some students are requesting the ebooks which will become the standard in the future. Although our faculty has made great inroads using technology over the past several years, truthfully, information technology hasn't been used as much as I had hoped at the beginning of the semester as change is slow.

Conclusions

One thing that has become evident to me is IT does not save time. It can enrich classes by presenting information in an innovative manner, helping students engage rather than just defaulting to standard lecture mode in the classroom. Technology, used right, can produce a more hands on, interactive classroom, but it can also cause all sorts of potentially frightening problems. Also, teachers do many things at the last minute, and they don't get around to using technology that is being put at their disposal due to the necessity for upfront preparation.

In my experience, the main handicaps toward IT integration come down to lack of faculty support and lack of institutional support. The release time I was granted in effect provided institutional support. The faculty, however, has to be willing to be supported including making time available and be willing to go boldly forward and try something new in a spirit of adventure. Nursing education and practice have a long history in Quebec, and even though a number of our teachers are reasonably new at college teaching, they are not just out of college. College administrators need to make technology integration an institutional priority by promoting access to resources and professional development, so faculty will be more likely to address their own barriers to using these new technologies. People who were more comfortable with technology would possibly use it more.

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