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New Ways to Learn

Vanderbilt University School of Nursing is pioneering the use of smart phones as teaching tools. The School is one of the first in the nation to use a new application that transforms wireless devices, including Blackberry, iPod, 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 a different way, allowing students to provide instant feedback to faculty.  They participate more fully during class time, improve performance and help turn lectures 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 was actually one of the first schools nationwide to use it,” 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.  Many of the features can be integrated with a Blackboard learning system that is used for various elements of course delivery.

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.

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



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