By Debra Wood, RN, contributor
Transcending their initial purpose to entertain, iPods and other MP3 devices are becoming a way for student nurses to learn how to care for patients, perform procedures and prepare for tests, including the NCLEX.
"A lot of the students find it helpful and are using it in different ways," said Kenya Beard, Ed.D.(c), ANP-C, ACNP BC, assistant professor at the Adelphi University School of Nursing in Garden City, New York.
Seminole Community College nursing student Tatyana Shroeder, nursing Professor Sharon Saidi, RN, and student Tainese Middlebrooks.
Beard piloted podcasting last year, recording her classroom lectures and making them available for students to download via the internet and play back on their portable electronic devices. She then asked her students to listen to prior lectures before attending her class. However, she found that most of students held off and reviewed them before an exam, discovering a new way to study.
"The way we have always taught isn't working," added Mary Grady, BSN, RN, nursing laboratory coordinator at Lorain County Community College in Elyria, Ohio. "[The younger generation] is capable, but they are a different type of learner. They learn with different tools, and we need to find what works to teach them."
In addition to podcasts of lectures, Grady and distance learning faculty members at Lorain have created more than 30 video clips, produced by professionals, of nurses performing a variety of skills. These clips, which demonstrate tasks such as tracheostomy suctioning, administering injections or changing sterile dressings, have been placed on iTunes and the college server.
"The iPods have appealed to different learners, the visual and auditory," Grady said. "It's been a good learning tool."
Nursing students can download the clips to review before attempting the same procedure on a patient during clinical rotations or while practicing in the lab. The college lets students check out iPods to take with them to clinicals. Even though commercial recordings are available, Grady finds students prefer learning from people they know.
"I tend to get right to the point," Grady said. "It's a straightforward approach."
Grady reports that students younger than 30 years of age especially like the podcasts, while older students typically watch the clips on a computer.
Patricia M. Chute, Ed.D., acknowledges the potential value of podcasts as learning tools, but she cautions that more research is needed to determine their effectiveness.
Seminole Community College (SCC) in Altamonte Springs, Florida, also creates podcasts of nursing lectures. Faculty members wear a microphone, and the media department edits the lecture and places it on the school's iTunes account.
"The students love it," said Cheryl Cicotti, RN, MSN, nursing director at SCC, calling podcasts another learning strategy. "We found students, by listening over and over again, retain it."
SCC pioneered podcasts with video vignettes. At first, faculty members felt apprehensive, but with positive student feedback, they have embraced the new teaching tools and expanded what's offered, Cicotti said.
Heidi Meyer, MSN, RN, nursing faculty at Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter, Minnesota, records her lectures and uploads them to the college's podcast server. About three-quarters of her students listen to the lectures. Meyer is in the process of evaluating whether any correlation exists between listening to the podcasts and students' exam scores.
"I have had much positive feedback from the students," Meyer said.
Little research exists as to whether iPods improve students' learning, and until that research is available, many faculty members will not embrace it, says Patricia M. Chute, Ed.D., dean of the School of Health and Natural Sciences at Mercy College in Dobbs Ferry, New York. The school currently offers online courses but not podcasts.
Mary Grady, BSN, RN, produced podcasts of procedures to help nursing students learn clinical skills.
Adelphi has many nursing students for whom English is a second language, and podcasting has allowed them to listen again at home and try to figure out things on their own. If they cannot, they can talk with Beard individually, instead of asking questions during class.
In addition, Beard has used the MP3 format to record students' stories and allow their peers to learn from each other's caregiving experiences.
Podcasting faculty members still expect students to attend lectures and read the textbook.
"It does not substitute for class," Cicotti added. "We're trying to give them a mechanism to study wherever they go."
Mary Grady, BSN, RN, and Steven Stein, a member of Loraine County Community College's film crew, produced a series of clinical procedure podcasts.
Publishers also are jumping on the podcasting bandwagon, including F.A. Davis Company, which plans to release a maternal-child textbook with a podcast component.
Kaplan Publishing has already produced podcasts of some of their nursing publications, including Math for Nurses, Medical Terms for Nurses and NCLEX-RN Medications flashcards, all available for downloading at iTunes. Spanish for Nurses will be available soon.
"We thought it would be a great way to reach more nurses," said Jennifer Farthing, executive director of business development at Kaplan Publishing. "The nurses have given us great feedback."
Not all nursing educators are convinced that all students will benefit from listening to podcasts, however.
"When you use an iPod, you pretty much have to be an auditory learner, and many students find that challenging," Chute said. "The major use of them has been to review materials—have it at their fingertips, so they can listen to it over and over again. From that perspective, there are good things you can do with it."
Chute also warns educators not to depend on iPods and similar technology to expand the reach of existing faculty members.
"I think there is some danger with it," Chute said. "You cannot presume just because it exists that it can replace another form of classroom."
(Editor's Note: Find nursing podcasts
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