School of Nursing Pioneers Use of Smart Phones

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, such as phones, iPod Touch and laptops, into classroom response devices for enhanced learning.

“Students in our program have multiple exposures to computers and cell phones,” says Susan Newbold, associate professor of nursing. “The time was right to take classroom response systems to the next level. We piloted the idea in January 2009, and by the time of the fall semester, it was being used by about 30 percent of our students.”

Nursing student Jordan Moore uses a smart phone in class to provide real-time feedback about her professor’s lecture.
Nursing student Jordan Moore uses a smart phone in class to provide real-time feedback about her professor’s lecture.

Classroom response systems are a proven way to stimulate learning by engaging students in a nontraditional way, allowing them to provide instant feedback to faculty during class time. Systems that use “clickers”—dedicated devices that look like small remote controls—have been used successfully for several years throughout campus. In using them, students participate more fully during class time, improve performance, and help turn lectures into more intimate settings. Research has shown that these systems improve performance scores on exams.

“The School of Nursing is the first on campus to use this new application, and was actually one of the first schools nationwide to use it,” says Derek Bruff, senior lecturer in mathematics and assistant director of the Center for Teaching at Vanderbilt.

VUSN faculty members have been using the new tool to help take attendance, administer tests and quizzes, ask opinion questions and encourage anonymous feedback. Many of the features can be integrated with the Blackboard Learning System that is used for various elements of course delivery.

The ResponseWare application can be used with Macintosh or Windows platforms, wireless smart phones or laptops. Students pay $35 for the software version or $40 to $60 for a hand-held device.

“It allows instructors to focus on teaching rather than grading,” says Newbold. “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.”

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