Canadian Journal of Nursing Informatics

Use Your Imagination…

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Technology in Education Column

Here is our current installment of our most recent feature, written by one of our CNA Centennial 100 Award Winners, Dr. Sandra Bassendowski, Associate Professor at the University of Saskatchewan. Sandra recognized a need, and offered to write this important column for the CJNI – this column is focused on how technology can be used in nursing education and by nurses in general. Sandra has been recognized by the Canadian Nurses’ Association, as well as the Saskatchewan Registered Nurses Association and the University of Regina for her inspiring, dedicated work in her educational practice.

Use Your Imagination…

During a recent visit to the United States, I had an opportunity to use a Microsoft Surface TM . The surface computing platform provides a revolutionary experience as you use natural hand gestures and real world objects to interact with technology. The store had both table and wall Surfaces TM where shoppers could manipulate and maneuver content, drive specific interactions with objects, and allow for other devices to connect and interact with Microsoft Surface.TM The 360 degree user interface supports discovery and interaction with technology in a myriad of ways. The potential of this innovation is incredible!

When I returned home, I started to search online for research articles or news about interactive surfaces and I found a Microsoft video called Vision for technology in Higher Education that demonstrates the potential for use with university level students. The literature indicates that these interactive surfaces are continually evolving for personal, business, and educational purposes and have the ability to create unique experiences. However, the literature also discusses drawbacks of these surfaces such as the cost, lack of relevant applications, and challenges involved when using them with large groups. Several authors commented on the impact of having another tool in the teaching toolbox and what this means for educators who are trying to balance the appropriate use of technology with intended learning outcomes. As Gershenfeld (n.d.) states, “There is a disconnect between the breathless pronouncements of cyber gurus and the experiences of ordinary people frustrated with trying to get their computers to do what they want. The revolution so far has been for the computers, not the people” (p. 1) .

As I used the SurfaceTM ., I kept thinking about how this innovation could be incorporated into the teaching and learning environments for nursing students. For example, if a faculty member had access to a Surface TM in the classroom, students could send digital files or documents directly from their laptop to a large wall mounted Surface;TM at this point other students could add, delete, or revise the existing document from their mobile devices. “The effect is to define both personal and public interactive work surfaces and allow students to fluidly transition between them. By giving equal access to the public surfaces in classroom settings, faculty empower students to inject content directly during a presentation, at which point faculty can invite students to comment on why that content is relevant to the current discussion and can thus promote richer engagement through participation” (Milne, 2007, Transforming Video Displays into Interactive Work Surfaces, ¶ 1).

From an assessment perspective, the level of student and faculty engagement is related to the quality of the learning experience, teaching tools, and learning outcomes (Hunley & Schaller, 2009; Sherman, 2009). The Microsoft SurfaceTM supports direct interaction, multi-touch recognition, multi-user interaction, and object recognition- it is simple and intuitive to use. What could you do with one of these Surfaces TM in your classroom?


Gershenfeld, N. (n.d.). When universities start to think. [Online]. Retrieved January 28, 2010 from

Hunley, S., & Schaller, M. (2009). Assessment: The key to creating spaces that promote learning. EDUCAUSE Review, 44(2), 26-35. [Online]. Retrieved January 15, 2010 from

Milne, A. (2009). Entering the interaction age: Implementing a future vision for campus learning spaces. EDUCAUSE Review, 42(1), 12-31. [Online]. Retrieved January 28, 2010 from

Sherman, R. (2009). Guest Editorial: Teaching the Net set. Journal of Nursing Education, 48(7), 359.

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