Published: April 8, 2010

How likely are you to hear “Alright students, take out your cell phones, we are going to mClk now!”? Chances are unlikely in most college classrooms. But, in Dr. Melinda Cain’s IAFS 4500 Intercultural Communication class, this is a common request. In her classes, Dr. Cain hopes to provide foundations to students in global health practices and inequalities. She also hopes for the students to focus in-depth on intercultural communication with diverse cultural populations within the United States. In order to do so, Dr. Cain, along with Mr. Dave Underwood, Academic Media Services,  ATLAS and Rebecca Woulfe, developer of the mClk system, use mClk, iVisit and Vimeo as tools for innovative learning in her classroom. Students in Dr. Cain’s class are encouraged to explore the use these three tools to assist them in class participation and for their final project—a video illustrating best-practices in intercultural communication in a health care. Dr. Cain explained, “These tools will provide the integration of technology and interaction between people which will provide a very unique learning experience for students.”

What are mClk, iVisit and Vimeo?

According to Dr. Cain, mClk is a classroom response tool that gives the students the opportunity to use their cell phones. The teacher posts questions and the students respond to those questions using their cell phones. The responses are then tallied in charts or just listed on the classroom projector. Dr. Cain said, “It is advantageous to use the cell phones, because mClk uses text messaging. Students and instructors can go beyond simple multiple choice questions and incorporate considerably more lengthy responses.”

The iVisit system is a web conferencing tool that lets the students interact with health professionals through the web. Students can choose either their computer or their cell phones to interact in the conference.

Finally, Vimeo is a more educational and professional form of YouTube. It can be used to distribute the final product and for sharing clips during the production cycle. The students’ final product will be posted on Vimeo for broader distribution.

Using another aspect of technology, multi-media, Dr. Cain is also using People Productions, a video production house in Boulder. They will provide video editing, production, and filming expertise in order to provide students with a professional environment for creating the final project.

The nature of Dr. Cain’s class requires that students present a final project which consists of video and PowerPoint presentations. The product is directed towards improving intercultural communication between volunteers and diverse cultural groups in a US hospital setting. The “clients” for this semester are St. Anthony’s Hosptial and National Jewish Hospital. With the help of these three tools and Peoples Productions’ assistance, Dr. Cain hopes that students will produce a superior final project that will help orient volunteers towards more successful interaction with their multicultural patients and families. She adds, “The challenge is going to be capturing the final project information in a very short video, 15-20 minutes, as well as delivering follow up information in their PowerPoint presentations.”

What do the students have to say?

Ryan Fouss, a current student from Dr Cain’s class stated, “I truly believe that with this project we are working for global health. It not only adds “reason” to the class but it also creates a situation where we as students have to work together to accomplish a project. This is a great learning experience that we will be able to use in our professional careers.”

Another former student from her class, Maxwell Barrett stated, “The addition of the technology aspect only added to the final outcome of the project. It was definitely an added incentive to have “reason” for pushing the project to a new level. The technological aspect to the project also gave students a modern way of looking at health. With growing populations and health concerns around the world, cutting edge technology is the only way to progress health care systems around the world. This project and the technology grant are ways in which students can learn the value of technology in education and health care systems.”

How do these tools contribute towards enhancing communication?

Dr. Cain believes that the cell phone is, in many cases, a powerful computer that is available in the pocket of every student. She said, “The mClk tool enables students to express and share comments and opinions easily through their phones. When interviewing and working with health care professionals and discussing the role culture plays in their health-related communication, the mobile aspect makes it much more convenient for all involved. With video web conferencing, facial expressions and body language become a part of the conversation.” In addition, Ms. Woulfe points to the fact that because the cell phone device can be used anywhere within the United States, anyone from anywhere can participate in the discussion. This offers larger and wider grounds for communication.

Future Goals

Dr. Cain, Mr. Underwood and Ms. Woulfe see a day when cell phones are used for two way communication through video conferencing. Dr. Cain adds, “Two-way communication between faculty and students is one such possibility as well as social networking applications and more robust tools for creating documents, data, and presentations.”

Dr. Cain, Mr. Underwood and Ms. Woulfe are certainly trying to offer revolutionary and progressive ways of teaching and learning. Through the use of computers and cell phones, normally discouraged in a lecture room, they see the potential of technology and what it has to offer if it is used wisely and thoughtfully. Dr. Cain said, “Technology is a tool and it is how you use it that makes it effective or not. It really is up to the professors to create a learning experience that engages various learning styles.”  Dr. Cain surely seems to live by her principles by incorporating these innovative learning tools in her classes.

Dr Cain recently received an ASSETT development Award. This award allowed Dr Cain to incorporate three of these educational tools into her classroom.

Written By: Manaslu Bista, CU ’11, ASSETT Reporter