Stacey Brull, DNP, RN, NE-BC is the Senior Director of Research, Education, and Informatics, as well as the Magnet Program Director, at Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore, Maryland.
I believe I realized the way we were teaching could be more effective when I was sitting with my then 6-year-old daughter and she showed me an app called Toontastic. Toontastic provides a venue to tell a story using cute characters and fun backgrounds. My mind started thinking, "What if we used a tool like this in education? What if we told a story about a patient who received a nosocomial infection because the nurse didn’t wash her hands?" And, thus, my journey into the world of apps, social media and e-learning began.
My story may or may not be unique to you. Everything I know about leveraging technology has been self-taught. Many people want to know how I started. I want to share with you what I have learned along the way.
- Start small. I remember my very first self-imposed project using an e-learning authoring tool. I was determined to provide a unique educational twist for nurses during Nurses Week. I wanted to inspire staff to “think differently” and began working on my e-learning masterpiece. After many, many hours of trial and error utilizing a software program that I barely understood, I was able to pull together a matching game with some strange, sort of eerie music to go with it. I tried to take too much on and didn’t have the expertise at the time.
- Realize there is a learning curve. It is easy to watch a company’s advertisement on the internet and think creating innovative teaching methodologies is easy. Most of the programs I have worked with took time for me to learn to a point where I felt comfortable using them. Watching videos and taking a few classes online helped me understand the various programs. However, another option is to use a program you already know, such as PowerPoint, and experiment with some of their more advanced features.
- Utilize experts when you need them. Experts can be in the form of content experts or technical experts. There are times when you just need someone to help you or point you in the right direction. I have utilized nurses, other fellow e-learning gurus as well as programmers, developers and graphic designers in my projects. Online support communities are also a great venue to ask questions or find experts.
- Look for freebies. There are a fair amount of free resources for educators on the internet. Once I bought a very expensive graphics package only to find out I couldn’t modify the pictures. If I had trialed the program, I would have figured that out pretty quickly. Instead I purchased it in the interest of time. Take the time to practice using the free trial and ask questions. It may even save you money and time in the long run.
- Set a goal. Lastly, I would recommend setting a goal for yourself or your team to utilize one new technology per year. Without a goal, you may find yourself putting it off.
I hope this entry has been helpful as you take on innovative teaching strategies. I love the breadth and depth of what our organization and team of nurses have done to reshape professional development at Mercy. Take a minute and look at the infographic I created about shared governance to get a sense of how technology can work for you.