Smartphones for teaching and learning


In the PIDP 3240 course text ‘Teaching Naked’ Bowen indicates that quality and specificity of information have become increasingly important, he goes on to state that phone applications are like little slices of the internet that provide a compromise between unlimited and targeted information (2012).

I am an instructor with the BScN program at VCC College, I mostly instruct in the clinical setting and I am aware of the need for students and myself to easily access information quickly and effectively. For this purpose there are some smart phone apps that may help us access accurate information in a timely manner such as, Davis’s Drug Guide, Nursing Central, Lab Values Reference Guide, Mosby’s Nursing etc. Many of these apps are offered to the students for a free period with a textbook purchase so why wouldn’t we encourage their use?


I actually use my phone to communicate with my students in the clinical setting, since I can sometimes be in a room behind the curtains with one student and their pt. observing a skill, sometimes the other students cannot locate me, so they will text me and I can respond in the moment without taking the focus away from the other student/client.

Apart from using the phone to communicate there is also a variety of informational apps (Davis’s Drug Guide, Mosby’s Nursing Apps etc.) and educational gaming apps. I personally have the Davis’s Drug Guide app and the Up to Date app on my phone and use it quite often in the clinical setting. I hope that I am providing a good example of practice where I do not rely on my memory but instead look up information that is both current and accurate.

However I do worry that allowing the use of smart phones for access of information may be viewed by staff as inappropriate for a few reasons, firstly it is difficult to determine if the student is actually using the phone to access information and not just socializing, secondly there would be concerns about using the phone in a variety of rooms and possible cross contamination and a third concern could be about patient confidentiality, after all most smart phones are equipped with a camera and a microphone…. these are just a few concerns that immediately come to mind when contemplating the use of smart phones in the educational/clinical setting.


I was actually unaware of the variety of apps as I have mainly been utilizing information seeking apps on my phone; however there are numerous articles that provide overviews of medical apps and their uses in the clinical settings. For instance Mosa, Yoo and Sheets performed a systematic review of the available medical apps and found that they could be categorized into the major headings of diagnostic, drug information, clinical calculations and literature search engines (2012).

Bowen has also provided some information on gaming style apps, Bowen states that using games and gaming apps can be a novel approach to teaching as games are really just a constant stream of problem solving and assessment (2012). Bowen provides an example of this called the Virulent game ( in which players can see how viruses replicate within the human body (2012).

Robb and Scellenbarger have written and article on engaging students with cell phones in the classroom; they have created some interesting learning activities that incorporate the use of cell phones in the classroom (2012). Robb et all usually perform these activities with students separated into small groups and have them come back to the larger group for discussion, one activity is called ‘Goolge it’ in which students are presented with a topic and they must ‘Google it’ review the information that they have found and discuss this with the class.

A second activity called ‘text a friend’ allows for students who may be shy to text in questions or comments on the provided topic for the instructor and the other students to assist in clarifying, the instructor of course does not disclose the identity of the texter (Robb et al, 2012).

The third activity that Robb et al suggest is called ‘survey says’ where the students can download an app such as Polleverywhere, Let’sGoVote, SMSpoll, Text the Mob, Socrative, or iVotedthat which allows them to use their cell phones like a clicker (2012). Questions can be posed in the class and students can electronically and anonymously cast their vote for the correct answer.

Robb et al do advise that ground rules should be set about use and etiquette before bringing cell phones into the classroom (2012). They further advise that students who do not have a smart phone be grouped together with other students who do (Robb et al, 2012).


I am pleased to have found out how many more uses there are for smart phones in the clinical setting apart from accessing information. Of course as previously mentioned, there are some concerns with the use of smart phones such as patient confidentiality, contamination of phones and cross contamination of patients, possible inaccurate information within an app etc (McNeil & McArthur, 2015; Koehler, Vujovic & McMenamin, 2013; Philippi & Wyatt, 2011).

Many of the articles I read addressed these concerns but there was not clear decision on how to best maintain confidentiality or cross contamination. When I am first starting out the semester I take some time to address the use of cell phones and explain to the students that they should only be used for accessing information, they are supposed to disable their cameras as well when they are in the clinical setting and turn their phones to silent. For the most part I have found that the students do not abuse the privilege of using their phones but I think I may want to develop a proper policy and review with them at the beginning of the term.

As for whether the information provided on their apps is valid I tend to advise the students to purchase apps from the major textbook companies rather than using a free app that is not verified. I also review with them about the “Health on the Net” (HON) ( symbol that signifies the information found on the website has been peer reviewed and is credible. In their article McNeil et al also provide a ‘CRAAP’ test for mobile apps, which instructs the reader to determine if the information is current, relevant, from a source of authority, is accurate and determine the purpose of the information ie: is the site trying to sell something? (2015). I like this CRAAP test and am planning to provide access to this article for my students.

Additionally there are questions about phone etiquette, ensuring that students are using the phones for learning rather than socializing and there may be students who do not own or have access to a smart phone. I believe, as Robb et al indicated, a discussion of smart phone use and establishing classroom/clinical policies is a must at the beginning of the term. I am hoping to have a dedicated discussion with my students this term about proper phone etiquette in the clinical setting (2012).

One final note, I also hope to introduce my students to some of the medical/clinical learning games and I hope to implement some of Robb et al’s learning activities such as ‘Google it’, ‘Survey Says’ and ‘Text a Friend’ (2012).



Bowen, J. (2012). Teaching naked: How moving technology out of your college classroom will improve student learning. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, a Wiley imprint.

Koehler, N., Vujovic, O., & Mcmenamin, C. (2013). Healthcare professionals’ use of mobile phones and the internet in clinical practice. Journal of Mobile Technology in Medicine, 2(1).

McNiel, P., & McArthur, E. (2015). What’s app-ropriate for your clinical practice? Mobile apps have great potential for use in patient-centered care, follow-up, and improving health outcomes. Clinical Advisor, 80-88.

Mosa, A., Yoo, I., & Sheets, L. (2012). A Systematic Review of Healthcare Applications for Smartphones. BMC Medical Informatics and Decision Making, 67-67.

Phillippi, J., & Wyatt, T. (2011). Smartphones In Nursing Education. CIN: Computers, Informatics, Nursing, 29(8), 449-454.

Robb, M., & Shellenbarger, T. (2012). Using Technology to Promote Mobile Learning. Nurse Educator, 37(6), 258-261.


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