"T" is for Technology!

Sharon Gunn, DNP, RN, ACNS-BC, CCRN-K is a Clinical Nurse Specialist in Learning Innovation at Baylor Scott & White Health's Center for Clinical and Patient Learning in Dallas, TX.

Five years ago I started working in a department of learning innovation with a focus on using technology.  I was quite excited about this, as I was “stuck” in the PowerPoint rut, spending a lot of time doing face to face teaching on the unit, and trying to fit in case studies with busy clinicians' schedules. I also, admittedly, get excited about gadgets, software programs, and thinking outside the box. I think technology is great, but it can be overwhelming, and expensive! Technology is constantly changing, making it difficult to “buy-in” to one product or approach only to realize next year you need an update! The beauty of technology is that if used appropriately, it certainly can and does facilitate learning. It also provides a means to reach a larger audience when human resources are limited.

So where do you begin? Whether you have no budget, or unlimited funds (right!), there are plenty of resources available at your fingertips. When I was initially searching for some useful tools to use, I started with a Google search and found some great websites offering links to free stuff! Much of this is “borrowed” from K-12 educators, who are further along than we are regarding use of technology.




Look through the lists of resources on these sites, and if something grabs your interest, explore it and try it out! What you use will depend on your role, the learners, and workplace needs. Technology that I have used is quite varied, so I will give some examples to help illustrate what you can use, and how you can use it. 

An oldie, but a goodie, if used correctly. Almost everyone has a smartphone, and the video quality in most smartphones is more than adequate to use for learning purposes. Videos can be used to show how to use new equipment, procedures, or act out a case study. You may upload to a social media site if allowed by your institution, or your website.

Instead of going out and creating a movie, flip the classroom! Have the learners create a video to show and discuss in class. Keep it short! Ideally, no longer than 2-3 minutes. TIP: Film in landscape rather than portrait mode for optimal presentation with widescreen monitors. >

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Social Media and Internet Resources: If appropriate, use what is available to you! Create private Facebook pages; use Twitter, YouTube, Vimeo, or any other sites you can think of. Keep in mind that sensitive information is best kept for other venues. As an example, create a private Facebook page with fictitious characters and have the learners friend request the site. Post fictitious case studies, encouraging clinical discourse. 

If your institution allows access to Google Docs, this is a wonderful free resource that allows storing of information, collaborative presentations and documents, and other learning tools. It is great for group work, group presentations, and group concept map creation. 
Access to Facebook, etc blocked? Maybe your institution would allow access to Edmodo. It is very similar to Facebook, plus allows you to upload and store documents, post blogs, separate learners into groups, and more. 

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Audience response systems: 

Got zero budget? No problem! There are several simple and free resources that incorporate use of mobile devices to allow learners to interact with you in a didactic situation. Examples include Kahoot, Socrative, and Infuse Learning. Believe it or not, this was one of the most popular tools I used in didactic situations. Some (like Kahoot) offer a competitive approach, awarding points to learners for correct responses. 




This is a great collaborative tool for brainstorming or gathering input from a variety of people who may be on different schedules! Participants can add to, or edit documents in real time together, or when their schedule allows. There are many available; personally I have used both Google Docs, and Realtime Board.


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Augmented Reality:

Have you heard of the Pokémon Go game that has been so popular lately? That game uses augmented reality. Augmented reality allows the learner to interact with the environment in new ways. I suggest you learn more about what the possibilities are online, as there is not enough space to explain it here. Basically you can augment learning using a free app. For example, you create a newsletter with the image of staff nurses on the page. A special code is embedded onto the image so that when the app is opened the user can see a “secret” video you created augmenting what is provided in the newsletter. A free resource one of our educators uses in practice is called Aurasma. 


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Screencasting Software:

Just like it sounds, this software records your computer screen.  There are a multitude of options available out there, and depending on what you want to use it for you could spend from $0 to $$$. This is a useful piece of software if you want to show a learner how to access resources on your intranet, or how to document something in the EHR. Free versions: For Windows, Microsoft Expression Encoder and Mac, Apple QuickTime Player. Paid examples include: Snagit, Screencast-O-Matic. 



eLearning Software:

I am including a short blurb here because I am seeing more and more eLearning being developed by clinicians, for clinicians. Perhaps the two most commonly utilized software programs related to eLearning are Adobe Captivate, and Articulate Storyline. Both programs can be a bit pricey and require either a web platform or LMS to house the files. What I want to emphasize here is that eLearning should not be narrated PowerPoints! These software programs have plenty of bells and whistles to allow for interactivity, and self-directed learning. I have used eLearning to develop unfolding case studies to validate clinician competency and facilitate learning. There may be other programs out there, but these are the two I am familiar with:



Note: At this time Articulate is only available for Windows, so if you use a Mac you will need to have Windows installed to be able to download and use the program. 


Virtual Reality:

I think we will see more and more of this type of learning moving forward.  Some institutions are already exploring the possibilities.  With more complex types of technology, we will likely have to work in teams with programmers, graphic artists, and animators. Have fun considering the possibilities!


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I hope you have found some of the information here useful. I did not mention simulation, as many of you are likely familiar with this approach. The sky is the limit when thinking about technology. I suggest you try things out, talk to your peers, and get feedback from your learners! Remember, just as you must credit sources you use in written papers and presentations, you must also obtain permissions and give credit for use of digital sources! 

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