Use ADDIE to Design Online Courses

Curriculum design

by June Kaminski, RN MSN PhD(c)

Every teacher who designs an online course goes through similar planning steps or tasks. A disciplinary process has developed over the past decade or two that provides structure to this planning – the process of instructional design. Various models have emerged that offer guidance to teachers involved in designing online instruction. The most common, even most popular model is called ADDIE, short for Analysis, Design, Development, Implementation, and Evaluation.

The process covers the entire instructional design process, albeit, in a rather linear way.


The instructional designer identifies the gaps between the learner’s current knowledge, skills, and behaviors and the desired or intended outcomes. If planning to teach adults, it is important to consider experiential knowledge and how this can be utilized in the planned instructional materials. When planning for distance learning on the Internet,consideration of the learner’s level of computer expertise is also important. This is the time in the process to think about who your learners will be – their age range, their existent level of education, their accessibility and expertise, and the purpose of the instruction. Often concept maps and mind maps are used in this phase to outline the steps to take to progress to the design phase.


Learning objectives and outcomes, assessment processes, learning activities and content are planned. Objectives are usually set for three domains, popularly designed as cognitive(thinking), psychomotor (doing), and affective (being or attitudes) behaviors (Benjamin Bloom). Other considerations in this stage of the process include choosing activities that specifically capitalize on the nature of the online or distance environment. This includes the choice of media: if online, this can include the use of virtual journals, forums, chatrooms, quizzes, multimedia presentations, videos, audio and so on. Storyboards, human-computer interfaces, and instructional strategies are all ways that instructors can effectively plan this phase of the process.


The actual content components are developed for the online milieu,specifically designed to meet the learning objectives and encourage active learning whether the study is occurring through the Internet or via printed correspondence courses. Storyboards,detailed user interface design, multimedia element design continue in this phase. A detailed plan of action is applied to create a complete learning environment. All of the text, visuals,multimedia components of the instruction are created or collected. In essence, the course is prepared and finalized, ready for testing.


The content is put into action with real students within the learning environment. Expert educators incorporate adult learning and effective learning theory such as constructivism, self-directed learning, and metacognition into the instructional design to encourage high level learning and successful meeting of the specified learning objectives. This stage begins with any necessary preparation and training of the instructors, and field testing the learning environment for completeness, user-friendliness, and quality.


The developed content is evaluated for effectiveness in meeting the learning objectives and meeting the learners’ needs. Evaluation is done to determine both learner success and effectiveness of the actual designed content and process of instruction. Both formative and summative evaluation are necessary (of both the instructional content and the student’s achievement), and though this is considered the final step in the instructional design, it is best if done during each stage of the process.

Dynamic Dialogue puts You at the Cutting Edge


by June Kaminski, RN MSN PhD(c)

“Because the nature of Dialogue is exploratory, its meaning and its methods continue to unfold. No firm rules can be laid down for conducting a Dialogue because its essence is learning, as part of an unfolding process of creative participation between peers.”

David Bohm

from “Dialogue – A Proposal” (1991).

Open and clear communication in learning is a key to success in the modern world. Dialogue, a strategy for promoting creative, high quality communication is becoming popular in distance learning. Dialogue can help your work group and class communicate in powerful and effective ways, putting you at the cutting edge of success.

The notion of using dialogue to create meaning and share ideas started back in the time of Socrates and Plato. Insights were shared with students using what is now called Socratic Dialogue. Modern day genius, David Bohm renewed an interest in dialogue and showed how it could boost our ability to communicate in the modern workplace and learning environment. Bohm proposed that people adopt an air of collective inquiry. This would help them to pay attention to the hidden motivations, assumptions, and beliefs of what people feel and think as they express themselves in conversation.

The word “dialogue” comes from two root words, “dia” meaning “through” and “logos” meaning”the word”. It gives an image of a flow of meaning that emerges as people share and truly listen to one another. Dialogue is unique from other group meeting conversations. Dialogue has no fixed agenda other than to support and create meaning and insight among the people talking.

Dialogue can transform communication within groups of people. It represents a new way to look at how groups of people think, make decisions and choices, and how they learn together. In contrast to discussion, which means “to break things down or apart,” dialogue tends to bring people together in new ways.

Dialogue Participation

Certain communication skills are necessary to join in dialogue.

These include:

  • active, engaged listening
  • an open questioning technique of inquiry
  • sharing feelings, biases, assumptions
  • a relaxed and open attitude
  • no need to achieve a solution
  • a cohesive, equal power climate for all members
  • mutual respect and positive regard for all

Dialogue Creates Culture

One of the key results of active dialogue is the development of a bonded and supportive group culture. Culture always exists within any group, yet may contain division, competition and power struggles. A strong culture can be built by spending time in the exchange of words, metaphors,ideas, beliefs, values, points of view and self disclosure through dialogue.

The practice of dialogue or “the way of meaning” is a conscious activity. It requires openness,sensitivity, empathy, maturity, intelligence, and respect. It also requires a suspension of normal reactions to words and the willingness to listen to others without dismissing their view if it is different from our own.

Dialogue Supports Diversity

Dialogue is a tool uniquely suited to the support of the diversity in any group. Dialogue makes the differences between people clear without making them “wrong”. The rich talents, experiences and reflections of people are shared and valued as part of the uniqueness of the group. A strong culture and rich diversity are gold to modern organizations.

Dialogue is a way of talking together that can make a work or study group feel close to one another which supports positive group dynamics. Using dialogue can build a dynamic team and group togetherness, both very important for business and educational success in the 21st century.


National Coalition for Dialogue and Deliberation

A global organization dedicated to fostering dialogue between the earth’s citizens in the 21st century, available at:

Education and the Dialogue of Humanity

Neil Phillipson offers a thoughtful overview of the importance of dialogic pedagogy in helping learners “to gain and make sense of knowledge, to appreciate its significance and relevance and to believe that they might have a role to play in its continued development. It will also enhance them as human beings, making them concerned and able to come to understand different perspectives and enabling them to engage in critical, caring, collaborative and creative dialogue with ‘the other’ in whatever form they encounter it.” Available at:

Tips for Successful Online Learning

Online learning tips

by June Kaminski, RN MSN PhD(c)

There are several advantages to taking online courses and programs, including 24/7 access, flexibility, greater fluidity in combining school with work and family, and the potential for interaction and experiences with other students and teachers from all around the globe. Not to mention COVID-19!! But, as with anything else,there are also some drawbacks. Learners need to be keenly self-directed and independent, it is very easy to get distracted and not keep up with your studies, and some learners feel isolated and/or frustrated with using a computer or technology in general to learn.

There are some proven strategies that teachers (like myself) can share with learners to help make the online learning experience more enjoyable, manageable, and can support you to complete your course or program successfully. Here are a few suggestions that you may find useful as you undertake your online learning journey.

Set Up Your Computer

The first step in preparing yourself is to ensure your computer meets the requirements of the course. It is highly recommended that your computer is reliable, has plenty of hard drive space available, and can handle downloading files, video and audio recordings, and multiple windows can easily be open simultaneously without crashing or freezing the whole system. It is also very helpful to have a strong broadband connection. Life will be much much easier with this simple intervention. If you can afford to have your own private computer, all the better. There is nothing more nerve wracking than living in fear that your loved ones may erase or somehow damage your precious school files. If you can back up your folders and files in a cloud or other online drive – do so! As well, having a private, pleasant place to work on your computer also boosts your ability to study quietly and with as little distraction as possible.

Prepare your Course Files

The second step is to prepare your online workspace. First, make a special folder on your main computer drive (probably Drive C) and name it to match your course. If you are taking multiple courses, it is helpful to make a separate folder for each course. Then, make a similar folder in your email program to store emails from your instructor, classmates, or files you have sent to yourself (readings, references, etc.).

Prepare your Paper Files

Many students who take courses online like to have a hard copy of course materials, references, assignments, etc. Purchase some three ring binders and some computer paper (and ink) and a paper punch so you can easily and neatly store your printed materials.

Set Your Study Schedule

It is important to set some regular time for your course(s) and to resolve to stick to it. It can be very easy to be distracted. Within reason, refuse to let anything stand in your way. This may take some negotiation with family members, but if you are determined, usually loved ones will get used to the routine and may even help you to abide by it. The best way to choose this special time is to evaluate your current schedule and select, say, three two-hour blocks per course that fit into your weekly routine well. You also need to consider your own body and mental rhythms. What time of the day do you feel the brightest and most alert? For some, night time is the best time…for others, early morning is best. Or maybe for you, mid-afternoon is the high point of your energy cycle. Figure out when your most productive time is, then try to capitalize on this.

Participate in all Interactive Activities

You may find it a little intimidating at first, but it will really help your feeling of belonging, plus help you to learn the course content, if you make sure that you participate in all scheduled or assigned forums, journals, chats, email discussions and other interactive activities. Do not hesitate to interact with your instructor as well – they are there to facilitate your learning. A good instructor will encourage student participation and individual interaction.

Organize your Work

Even if the course you are taking is self-paced, try to do some work every week. If the course is based on weekly assignments and activities, resolve to keep up. Learn to deal with procrastination so that you don’t fall behind in your readings, interactive activities, weekly assignments, or studying for tests and exams. It helps to have an online or book journal organizer and to record your goals for each week in it. Remember to write or type out due dates, exam dates, etc. so that you avoid a mad dash to get things done. This will help you to feel both control and enjoyment as you move through the material.

All of these strategies will help you to move through your online course with confidence, and to enjoy the journey. And again, remember your teacher is your guide – don’t ever be afraid to approach them with questions, and requests for directions or clarification. You have invested in this course experience, and have the right to ask for help or support. Happy Learning!

Support for Nursing Education during COVID-19

Recommended Resources

by June Kaminski, RN MSN PhD(c)

The COVID-19 pandemic of 2020 has impacted nursing in many ways, including nursing education. Innovative ways to deliver practice, lab and theory within nursing programs has been championed by faculty and encouraged by licensing and accreditation organizations. All voice the same message: Let us support our students to continue to succeed and graduate, despite the obstacles and restrictions imposed by the pandemic.

Support for Nursing Education during COVID-19

As universities and colleges embrace online learning to weather this storm, faculty are delving into online teaching – sometimes, for the first time. Faculty are looking for inventive ways to not only deliver theory content via distance, but also how to offer simulations, labs, and alternate experiences for at least some of the clinical practice hours.

Nursing program administrators and faculty are not only responsible for modifying delivery, but they must also track changes made and monitor the outcomes. “Educational institutions will need to monitor the feasibility and effectiveness of alternate practice learning arrangements because multiple contextual factors in different geographic locations will impact the arrangements educational institution will be able to use over time. Educational institutions are responsible for documenting and tracking the modifications made to programs during this period, including changes in access to clinical placements and alternate methods of course delivery” (BCCNP, 2020, p. 1).

The Canadian Association of Schools of Nursing (CASN) is considered “the voice of nursing education in Canada and the national accrediting body for nursing education. Its members are the 95 schools of nursing in Canada offering a baccalaureate and/or graduate nursing degree.

In responding to COVID-19, CASN has adopted the following position:

  • High-quality nursing education must be maintained to safeguard the health of Canadians:
  • Graduation of nursing students should not be delayed given the urgent health service needs;
  • Nursing faculty/instructors must maintain their educator role during this crisis as nursing education is essential; and
  • Creative and appropriately supervised ways of optimizing entry-to-practice competencies in senior students while supporting the delivery of health care services during this crisis is a priority.

As the accrediting body for nursing education, CASN will accept documented, innovative curricular changes that allow students to avoid delays in graduation and support health service delivery needs during the COVID-19 pandemic “(CASN, 2020, p. 1).

In order to meet these expectations, schools of nursing must embrace inventive, virtual, resources. Open resources are most welcome, since budgets are often tight. The following resources are our recommendations for open-source, readily available resources, designed by experts in the field.

Recommended Resources



Creative Clinical Teaching in the Health Professions (2019).

This Canadian peer reviewed open-source e-book is a must-read for nurses and other health professionals who strive to teach with creativity and excellence in clinical settings. Each chapter presents current evidence informed educational practice knowledge.

Vital Sign Measurement Across the Lifespan (2018)

Another Canadian open-source textbook intended to support best practices in vital sign monitoring. “Using a multi-media approach, it will provide opportunities to read about, observe, practice, and test vital sign measurement.”

Clinical Procedures for Safer Patient Care (2015)

This Canadian “open educational resource (OER) was developed to ensure best practice and quality care based on the latest evidence, and to address inconsistencies in how clinical health care skills are taught and practised in the clinical setting.”



University of BC School of Nursing. A Triple Win for Nursing Education.

and Video: UBC Nursing Responds: A Triple Win.

This article and video present an excellent learning activity that can be done during isolation.

Canadian Nursing Association. COVID-19 Video Diaries: Behind the Mask

The CNA offers this video series, featuring interviews with nurse experts about their practice and experiences with COVID-19, in a variety of practice settings. They also offer several other resources including fact sheets, learning resources, and FAQs about COVID-19.

The Online Lecture Toolkit

This site offers wonderful user-friendly resources for faculty interested in creating effective videos for online learning.

Lippincott Nursing Center Video Library

“Learn more about the issues modern-day nurses are facing and how to deal with them. We cover medical topics like managing pain appropriately during the opioid crisis and how to prevent sepsis, along with a variety of workplace topics, such as bullying, stress and leadership.”



Nurse Educator Series – Nurse Educator Tips for Teaching

This collection offers over 70 podcasts focused on innovative tips to improve your teaching via Apple Podcasts (listen on the web or through Apple)

Some examples of these podcasts include:



CASN. (2020). Webinar: Use of Virtual Reality Simulation for Community Health Clinical

CASN presents this innovative approach to community health practice in education.

CASN (2020). Virtual Simulation Vendor Showcase Webinar

Useful webinar that introduces various available simulation programs for faculty to consider.

Canadian Nurses Association Progress in Practice Webinar Series

CNA presents a series of webinars that can be used in nursing education and practice.

College and Association of Registered Nurses of Alberta Webinar Collection

CARNA offers some interesting webinars that can be woven into class work, including one on called The nursing informatics journey and the future by Dr. Kathryn Hannah.

Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario Archived Webinars

RNAO also offers a rich collection of archived webinars. One that really stood out is Traditional Indigenous Approaches to Mental Health and Well-Being of Health-Care Providers Supporting First Nations During the COVID-19 Pandemic led by Kahontakwas Diane Longboat.

Games and Simulations

Games and Simulations

CAN-SIM. (2020). COVID-19 Assessment And PPE

CAN-SIM also offers about a dozen more free virtual simulations for faculty to use with students at

National League of Nursing. Virtual Simulation Options for Undergraduate Nursing Students

The NLN offers a robust list of links and descriptions of a variety of virtual simulation opportunities to use in nursing education.

Centennial College, Ryerson University, and George Brown College – Virtual Healthcare Experience

“This portal provides healthcare students and professionals with an experiential learning opportunity for practising client care in a safe virtual environment. Here you can access a number of simulation experiences that will engage you in clinical decision making.”

Montgomery College Nursing Simulation Scenario Library

“Each library listing contains video (used either independently or with accompanying document(s) to enhance education using simulation in any setting) and accompanying documents (used as guides for educators to recreate content in areas relevant to practice).”

Simulation Canada offers a robust collection of COVID-19 Simulations



National Center for Interprofessional Practice and Education – Resource Center

This organization offers a rich resource center, a “digital library of interprofessional practice and education-related content”.

Nurse Educator Network

This site provides a platform where nursing faculty can share open source nursing education resources with one another.

Johns Hopkins University School of Public Health Open Courseware

“OCW offers open materials and images from more than a hundred courses developed by the faculty of JHSPH, the world’s foremost institution of public health education and research.”

This is just a taste of usable, high quality resources available to support nursing faculty and students in the virtual and classroom setting. We hope you find them useful as you and your students (and programs!) sail through this pandemic. Happy Learning!


British Columbia College of Nursing Professionals (BCCNP). (2020). Effect of COVID-19 pandemic on nursing education programs, faculty and students.

Canadian Association of Schools of Nursing (CASN). (2020). Nursing Education during the COVID-19 Pandemic.

Chircop, A. & Schofield, R. (2020). Webinar: Use of Virtual Reality Simulation for Community Health Clinical.

Doyle, G. & McCutcheon, J. (2015). Clinical Procedures for Safer Patient Care. British Columbia Institute of Technology.

Lapum, J., Verkuyl, M., Garcia, W., St-Amant, O., & Tan, A. (2018). Vital Sign Measurement Across the Lifespan. Ryerson University.

Melrose, S., Park, C., & Perry, B. (2019). Creative Clinical Teaching in the Health Professions. Athabasca University.

University of BC School of Nursing. (2020). A Triple Win for Nursing Education. and Video: UBC Nursing Responds: A Triple Win.

Adobe Spark for User-Friendly Web Creations

by June Kaminski, RN MSN PhD(c)

Adobe software has been an industry leader in the creative and publishing fields for years. Due to the quality and high standing, access to their software is considered quite expensive and beyond the range of many users, especially when used for education or personal purposes. Creative and professional designers do invest in the Creative Suite and other products, often with full justification, since the quality of the finished products are second to none. However, Adobe has recently launched an amazing web-based software called Adobe Spark. This software is free to use, user-friendly, and produces three types of finished products that look amazing and are easily shared with others. These characteristics make Adobe Spark an excellent tool for nursing education and for nursing professionals who wish to share documents online with the general public.

Create beautiful social graphics, web stories, and animated videos – in minutes and for free with Adobe Spark web tool or apps!

Create beautiful social graphics, web stories, and animated videos – in minutes and for free with Adobe Spark web tool or apps!

As outlined in the graphic above, Adobe Spark offers three unique ways to present content in eye-catching, professional-looking formats. Nurses, students, and faculty can use these three features on their computers through the web-based applications or through the Apple-based apps on their iPhones or iPads or Android apps. These three programs include:

Spark Post

This version of the Spark software enables you to create stunning social posts and posters in a matter of minutes using the Adobe Spark templates, fonts, and free-to-use template images. Users can choose diverse templates from the software’s collection, or add their own. “Transform your creation by applying design filters with a single tap. Each tap gives you completely new layouts, color palettes, typography styles, and photo filters – no design experience required” (Adobe Spark Edu Guide, 2017, p. 3). Once done, users can share their graphic by email, social media, or within their educational projects (papers, presentations, blogs, in their Spark Pages or Videos, and so on).

Spark Page

The web stories branch of the Adobe Spark application is really incredible. Users can create luscious, very professional-looking web-base documents almost effortlessly. All users need to do is gather the graphics and written content they wish to use then insert – the software helps them to place these on the web almost effortlessly yet the end result is rich, lush — quite amazing actually!

“Spark Page turns stories into modern, professional, attention-grabbing web pages. With Page, teachers and students can bring words and images together in fun ways, turning essays, assignments, reports, and more into engaging visual stories. Play with a variety of layouts, and add text. Use your own photos, or pick from thousands of free online images (with appropriate filtering applied). Simply tap on one of the professional themes and beautiful fonts, and magazine-style design and motion transforms the story. The end result is a modern, responsive web page, one that looks great on any device and any size screen” (Adobe Spark Edu Guide, 2017, p. 3).

Spark Video

The video capabilities of Adobe Spark are also exciting – the software can support students, faculty, and nurses to create wonderful teaching videos without much effort. The user just needs to plan their script, select images and text, and record their voice for narration. It also allows users to integrate their own video clips into the animation. The end-result is professional, attractive, and can be a great way to orient students to create usable tools for patient education, health promotion, and other relevant topics.

“Spark Video lets you turn your story into a captivating animated narrated video in just minutes. Presenting a report, explaining a concept in class, or telling a personal story has never been easier. Starting with a blank slate, or using gentle prompts as a guide, teachers and students use Spark to talk through their story one line at a time. Pick from thousands of beautiful, iconic images (or use your own) to illustrate your ideas, and add your own video clips. Select a design theme and supporting music. Spark automatically incorporates cinema-quality animation; just tap play and view it on any device or browser. Then, share with friends, family, and the world” (Adobe Spark Edu Guide, 2017, p. 3).

Accessible and Accommodating

The professional, integrated, and aesthetic nature of Adobe Spark coupled with its accessibility and ease of use make this software a must-have for all faculty, students, and nurses. Not only that, but they guarantee it will stay free, and your creations will always be available.

“Adobe Spark is free to use, and will remain so. At some point in the future we may add premium features or paid options. If that were to happen, the core functionality as it exists today will remain free. No bait-and-switch, we promise.

Unlimited hosting of created content is also free, and we don’t plan to stop hosting your content. Rest assured that if hosting were ever to be curtailed we’ll give you a way to download and save all of your precious creations. So, keep creating and publishing, and let us worry about the hosting for you.” (Adobe Spark Edu Guide, 2017, p. 4).

I HIGHLY recommend Adobe Spark for everyone! You can create an account at the link below. I have also included a link to the Adobe Spark Education pages and Guide for teachers and faculty. I guarantee you will love this new program – Happy Creating!!


Adobe Spark website:

Adobe Spark in the Classroom:

Adobe Spark Education Guide:

The Promise of PebblePad for Dynamic Learning


by June Kaminski, RN MSN PhD(c)

ePortfolios are versatile platforms that support nursing education in a variety of ways. ePortfolios can be used as assessment, credential, learning and showcase spaces where artifacts can be collected to produce an impressive body of work by the time students finish their degree. These artifacts can include aesthetic creative work, practice journals, case study analyses, and other assigned work. “The contents are selected, recorded, organised and presented in a meaningful way over time, to be used by the student in their reflective considerations, with tutors and peers where appropriate, and as a means for presenting themselves with greater depth and individual richness to others (e.g. research funders, potential employers). It is a place for constructing and telling myriad stories to diverse audiences” (O’Toole, 2013, p. 3).

ePortfolios reinforce professional development, by helping students learn to use their profiles, resumes, achievements, and artifacts to promote nursing competencies and demonstrate life-long learning. Nurses are expected to engage in personal and professional development on an annual basis as part of licensure maintenance and renewal. The interface provides valuable practice to enable this ability post-graduation. Students have commented that seeing their work develop over each semester has given them a deeper appreciation of what they have learned and how they have developed over time. This awareness is invaluable for current and life-long learning. 

PebblePad Features

PebblePad offers software capabilities that reinforce the importance of ePortfolios in the educational e-scape through its versatile “Learning Journey Platform” interface. A long list of features has been defined including:

  • Portfolio tools support the ability for any user to create beautiful, shareable portfolios to showcase experience, skills and capability.
  • In-built templates support the capture of (and reflection on) experiences as they happen, promoting lifelong and life-wide learning.
  • Fully customisable templates and workbooks support the creation and ongoing management of fit for purpose frameworks. Typical uses range from the creation of workbooks to support placement through to the rollout of entire onboarding and competency frameworks.
  • Open standards and an integrated platform make it easy for organisations to put PebblePad at the heart of a learning culture and offer a range of authentication methods. Individual users benefit from greater flexibility with out of the box integration with third-party applications and single-sign-on.
  • Any time, any device working makes it easy for learners to record their experiences and reflections on any device – even when they’re offline.
  • Assessment and feedback are fully supported through PebblePad’s seamlessly integrated assessment engine, ATLAS. The platform facilitates timely feedback and conversations, as well as a host of clever tools to support formative and summative assessment, including integrated rubrics, feedback templates, scorecards, peer review, multi-level approvals and much more.
  • Comprehensive support from a dedicated team of experts that has successfully supported hundreds of customer implementations – combined with reliable and cloud-hosted software – is a sure-fire way to guarantee a successful implementation, no matter what the scale of use. (PebblePad Learning, 2019, p. 2).

Adding Structure to PebblePad

The creation of an ePortfolio for nursing takes some thought and planning. Nursing students can learn to structure their ePortfolios into a cohesive layout to facilitate grading and interchange with faculty. The beauty of PebblePad allows learners to nest portfolios within portfolios and add pages, blogs, and other assets to any of these layers. A good way to begin is to create a primary ePortfolio as a central hub then nest sub ePortfolios within it, one for each semester of a program. Figure 1 displays an example of a structure implemented for undergraduate degree students in an eight-semester program.

Figure 1: Adding Structure to PebblePad (click image for full view)

Primary ePortfolio

Students first create an initial Portfolio by clicking a button in PebblePad called “Create a Portfolio”.  Everything uploaded or created in the PebblePad space is called an Asset and is visible in a student’s Asset “store”. Students are guided to name all of their Assets concisely, wisely and meaningfully so they know what they are at a glance since they will store many over time. For instance, they save this first portfolio as “My Primary ePortfolio”.

The first page of the Primary ePortfolio is the student’s Profile page. They begin to customize this Profile page by first setting up the Banner. To truly personalize this main entry page to the ePortfolio, they are told to find or snap a photograph of something or somewhere that is meaningful to them and change the default banner image to their own image. Then, they change the title of the banner to “My Primary ePortfolio” and their secondary header to their name (Figure 2). 

Figure 2: Primary ePortfolio

Students begin to build their Profile by adding information about their self. The first asset they add is a Quick Snapshot description of who they are accompanied by a head shot photograph. It is easy to add text boxes, images, videos and other assets to their page. The PebblePad system features drag and drop features to add assets and also drag them around the page for final organization. The interface gives a Word-like text editor ribbon along the top as they work with text, add links, centre content, and so on. Students pick up how to use the system quickly since it uses layouts and functions that they are familiar with from using other common software and social media. The students flesh out their profile page by adding more content below their initial snapshot. This can be anything they wish to share such as awards, recognition, showcasing a hobby or an ideal or particular viewpoint. The PebblePad interface allows them to also add quotes they like as assets that are showcased attractively on the page.

Certificates Display Page

Students can also add a second page to their Primary ePortfolio to showcase their practice related certificates such as CPR and First Aid for their practice instructors in all semesters to easily see. PebblePad makes this easy – they simply click the small + tab to the right of their Introduction tab along the top of the main banner then select “Add a new page here”.  They gather the certificates they have on hand, scan them if necessary or take a high quality photograph of each one with a camera or tablet to have a digital copy and then display them in a gallery-like format. As they earn other certificates within courses from various health regions, students add them to this certificate page. This gives a handy way for students to prove they are ready to practice each semester, rather than having to carry paper copies to practice to show to their practice faculty. Students can easily share this page with each of their practice instructors in all semesters (Figure 3). A full example of a Certificate Page can be viewed by clicking this link

Figure 3: Certificates Display Page

Adding Semester Learning Spaces

The easiest way to add clustered space for each semester is to create a separate Portfolio for each of them that is added as an asset to the Primary ePortfolio. To do this, students follow the same process they used to create their initial Primary ePortfolio and save each one as a semester such as “Semester 1”. They name the front page of each sub portfolio accordingly as “Semester 1 ePortfolio” with their name as subtitle, rename the first page as “Overview” in the top tabs and add an introduction to the courses within it and a link to their Certificate page. They then add a page for each semester course they are enrolled in. When done, each of these semester sub ePortfolios are easily added to the Primary ePortfolio which lists them neatly as tabs along the top of the main banner as well as in a side menu for easy navigation. This makes it very easy for faculty to find the right page to view when grading course work and allows the student to reflect on their work throughout the program.

PebblePad as Reflection Space

“ePortfolios are not a thing, although we often speak of them in such manner. They are variously, a pedagogy, a curriculum, and a way of thinking, of knowing, and a mindset” (Rhodes, 2018, p. 87). In nursing education, PebblePad and other ePortfolio software are often used as reflection spaces, artifact repositories, and personal learning spaces.

PebblePad allows students to easily add blogs as assets to use as a classic blog or as a course journal. A blog is used because it allows consecutive entries that are time stamped and chronological and provides an aesthetic landscape for reflection and critical thinking. “Blogs are perfect for recording any time based or ongoing activity such as a project or a placement. Blogs are made up of posts or other records and these are displayed in chronological order” (PebblePad, n.d.). The students can add a blog as an asset in any of the semester sub Portfolios so that it is clearly visible in the navigation structure (Figure 4).

Figure 4: PebblePad Structure Navigation

PebblePad can also be used for practice and theory related reflection. Praxis is a key component of most practice courses in nursing programs, where students practice with clients or in labs to master nursing skills, then engage in reflection-on-action, reflection-in-action, and reflection-for-action with their fellow classmates and faculty instructor. Dialogic journals are used frequently within the ePortfolio to encourage critical and meaningful reflection by students and responded to by faculty to encourage praxis reflection.

PebblePad also provides an accessible and permanent space for students to reflect on work they have done using other technological layers, such as tablets and apps or in SIMs lab practice. For instance, students can begin to use nutrition and fitness apps on their tablets in early semesters, then reflect on their progress over time on their PebblePad course page.

The blog and journaling capabilities also foster reflection by allowing users to easily write their thoughts, respond to assignments, share their experiences, and generally reflect on their personal and/or professional development. Privacy settings allow full control over each individual page and asset thus users can determine who they wish to share their ePortfolio with. Sharing ranges from full public view to self only access. Permissions are easily modified at any time, so the user has full control over their ePortfolio.

PebblePad as Repository

PebblePad serves as a file repository in a very user-friendly and sophisticated way. Pages are easily created, organized into sub Portfolios, and populated using an upload then drag and drop approach to organize the various sections on each page. Each uploaded document, image, video and so on has its own special compartment that can be easily shifted and dragged around the page to reorganize content.

These characteristics cater to users with a range of technical know-how: from a beginner who needs easy to use drag and drop, to the experienced developer who wishes to customize how content appears by coding individual compartments with html.

PebblePad as Personal Learning Space

PebblePad provides the tools to support reflective and personalized learning for students or expression for practicing professionals. Users can decide whether they want to write a journal or blog that is easily showcased on any page in their ePortfolio and shared with whomever they wish.  It provides excellent tools to showcase one’s resume and personal /professional profile that can be shared with teachers, existing or potential employers, or even licencing bodies.

PebblePad offers lots of support for creative as well as scholarly and professional work. Galleries of images, photographs, and other artwork are easily displayed, complete with headings and descriptions. Writing can be displayed, entered directly as text or displayed as uploaded files (for instance, as pdfs, Word, or Open Office documents) or as links to writings on other web sites.  Assignments can also be uploaded (and marked) within PebblePad pages. Over the semester, each page blossoms into a living testament and medium to showcase their work and engage with their instructor and fellow students.

PebblePad is an evolving ePortfolio system that is both engaging and beautiful. The finished product is very professional looking, it is user-friendly, and easily structured for compact, yet comprehensive showcasing of student work and learning (Figure 5).

You can view a Sample of an ePortfolio setup in PebblePad here:

Figure 5: PebblePad ePortfolio Sample (click image for full view)


O’Toole, Robert (2013) A report on e-portfolios: design features, uses, benefits, examples & emerging trends. Working Paper. University of Warwick, Coventry, UK: University of Warwick. (Unpublished).

PebblePad Learning. (2019). PebblePad Service Definition.

PebblePad. (n.d.). PebblePad + Help Guide: Blogs.

Rhodes, T. (2018). Lift Every Voice: ePortfolios for Creating and Integrating. International Journal of ePortfolio8(2), 87–89.


Citation: Kaminski, J. (2020). The Promise of PebblePad for Dynamic Learning. Software Column. Canadian Journal of Nursing Informatics, 15(3).

Recommended Google Maps & Earth Project Videos

Here is a collection of excellent videos to help you to use Google Maps and Google Earth for educational projects.

How to Use Google Map Street View

Internet Services and Social Networks Tutorials from HowTech

How to Use Google Map Street View – Explore the World From Home


Using Google Street View on Mac or PC


How to Use Google Maps STREET VIEW on Phone!

How to Digital

How to Use Google Earth Street View to take Virtual Photos

Patrick Hancock

How to Use Historical Imagery in Google Maps Street View

Daniel Findley

Create Graphic Organizers and Visuals with Google Drawings

Social Studies Samurai

How to Use Historical Imagery in Google Earth

Daniel Findley

How to Use Google Earth Tutorial 2020 – Beginners Guide For Teachers, Parents, and Kids

The EdTech Show

Google Earth Tutorial: Adding Features

Google Earth

Introducing creation tools in Google Earth

Google Earth

Learn Google Earth: Navigation

Google Earth

Google Earth Projects for Custom Tours & Presentations – Tutorial (New 3D Google Tour Builder)

Jen Jonson

Storytelling with Google Earth Projects | Bring the World to Your Classroom

Social Studies Samurai

Google Earth Project Sample

Greg Sherman

Google Earth Projects 1


Google Earth Project Feature

Matt Bergman

Google Earth: Building a Project

Global GEG

Creating Video Clips and Movies with Google Earth


Google Earth Projects – Video Walkthrough

Greg Kulowiec

How to Create a Google Earth Project

Reedy Library

Cultivating Nurturing Learning e-scapes: A Food Forest Analogy

Figure 1: The Seven Layers of a Food Forest Garden

by June Kaminski, RN MSN PhD(c)


This conceptual paper focuses on the implementation of a diverse technological landscape within a blended post-baccalaureate nursing program (BSN-PB) in Western Canada. The challenge of nurturing nursing students within a blended program demands innovative and engaged activities and assignments. The development of a rich robust technological e-scape for nursing education requires intense planning and the application of diverse programs and applications. The BSN-PB program incorporates multiple technological layers to shape the e-scape for students, metaphorically similar to the intricate organization of a healthy food forest garden.

When designing a food forest garden, plants are selected that create a food web and guild structure that works together to form a rigorous closed ecosystem. Everything grown in this type of forest is edible and sustainable. Similarly, various layers of technology that interact within the learning e-scape can be applied to create a rich learning ecosystem that nourishes the development of nursing knowledge, competencies, skills, and culture within the blended environment. Seven major technological layers were carefully selected to enrich student learning within the BSN-PB program. This analysis presents these layers within a food forest garden analogy to introduce how a variety of technological innovations can be seamlessly applied to enrich and shape reflective and dynamic learning.

Food Forest Gardens

Food forest gardens are a form of permaculture or agroforestry (Hart, 1996), and result from deliberate cultivation of various cohabiting and edible trees, shrubs, plants, vines, and ground cover plants. The practice has thrived in tropical countries for centuries but is considered unique in the realm of Western agriculture. Typically, Robert Hart is lauded as the key pioneer of forest gardens in temperate climate countries. Hart credits James Sholto Douglas’ work with forest farming in South Africa for introducing him to the notion, after years of struggling to make a conventional small farm productive. Both Douglas and Hart (1976) credited Toyohiko Kagawa’s work with three dimensional forest gardens in the Japanese mountains as inspiration. Douglas worked with Kagawa in Japan to learn his system, and applied the principles in his own South African location (Hart, 1996).

After reading Douglas’ article, Robert Hart began to experiment with hedge and herbaceous cultivation intended for livestock feed and soil preservation (Hart, 1996). He planted hedges such as wild roses and hazelnuts plus herbaceous plants such as chicory and yarrow. He then decided to plant food bearing trees and other plants to feed his family and support self – sufficiency. This experimentation led him to identify seven layers of compatible and synergistic plants that could be cultivated together, to develop into an ecosystem of nutritional sources that required very little human intervention to flourish. According to Hart, a one acre plot can feed up to ten people well with a variety of foods, if planted carefully and knowledgeably.

Food forests are incredibly sustainable and are lauded as the answer to the deforestation, concrete jungle approach of modern life. Not only do they provide healthy, life-sustaining foods, but they also attract and harbour wildlife and birds, support and enrich the soil, add beauty and sanctuary to the human environment and reduce the toil and energy needed to take care of oneself and one’s family. The careful initial planning, planting and cultivation reaps rich rewards of organic, nutrient dense food, available immediately at little cost, and with little ongoing effort. Hart (1996) stressed that perennial plants were a key to his food forest garden success. Over the years Hart planted over seventy species of plants, all edible and all self-sustaining except for occasional trimming and mulching.

Figure 1: The Seven Layers of a Food Forest Garden
Figure 1: The Seven Layers of a Food Forest Garden

The placement and synergy between the plants produce very favorable and critical characteristics that ensure their success and sustainability. “Forest gardeners use the forest as a design metaphor, a model of structure and function, while adapting the design to focus on meeting human needs in a small space.” (Jacke & Toensmeier, 2005a, p. 2).

Seven food forest garden characteristics were identified by Robert Hart (1996) who wrote they are:

  • Self-perpetuating
  • Self-fertilizing
  • Self-watering
  • Self-mulching
  • Self-pollinating
  • Self-healing and
  • Resistance to pests and diseases (p. 52).

These characteristics support conditions for sustenance and long-term health as well as economic benefits. Forest gardens also support environmental vitality since they can help to sustain and protect animals, birds, pollinating insects, and improve the oxygen of the air, and nitrogen of the soil. “The goal of the forest gardener is to follow these patterns and establish a perennial polyculture from which food is harvested with minimal disturbance” (Ussery, 2007, p. 97).

Ron Berezan (2010) followed Robert Hart’s example and experimented with food forests in Western Canada. He reinforced the premise that food forests are designed to develop following the same principles seen in natural forests. “One of the core principles articulated well by Robert Hart is that forest architecture is typically multi-layered with a variety of plants occupying niches at different heights: tall trees, small trees, shrubs, herbaceous perennials, ground covers, vining plants and the root zone. There is a careful selection and placement of all species such that functional communities, or guilds, of plants that support each other are created.” (p. 19).

Often the disciples of forest gardens, including Robert Hart shared their experiences of shaping such gardens in very philosophical ways. They wrote that forest gardens are not just a practice, but a way of life, a way to demonstrate the interconnectedness of life and nature, and a way to give back to the planet that sustains us. “The ultimate goal of forest gardening is not only the growing of crops, but also the cultivation and perfection of new ways of seeing, of thinking, and acting in the world.” (Jacke & Toensmeier, 2005a, p. 9).

An ecological perspective underlines the premise of forest gardens. According to Jacke and Toensmeier, 2005a). Key elements of this perspective include:

  • “Every organism on the earth is intimately and irrevocably connected to every other and to the nonliving elements of the planet.
  • The structure of the ecosystems gives them stability and resilience.
  • Ecosystems change discontinuously and are complex beyond our understanding” (p.26).

Food Forest Gardens as a Metaphor for Technological eScapes

While searching for an appropriate metaphor to describe the rigorous process used to integrate technology into the BSN-PB program, the notion of food forest gardens eventually came to mind. The careful planning and selection necessary to design and cultivate a food forest garden appeared to perfectly serve as a model for the deliberate and methodical approach taken to select these technologies. The seven layers of food forest gardens described by Robert Hart (1996) provided a usable model to represent the seven layers of technology adopted by the program.

This section presents this metaphoric comparison with a layer by layer analysis, as summarized in Table 1.

Table 1: Metaphorical Comparison of Food Forest Gardens and BSN-PB Technological Layers
Table 1: Metaphorical Comparison of Food Forest Gardens and BSN-PB Technological Layers

Layer 1: The Canopy and Moodle LMS

The canopy or overstory layer of a food forest garden consists of large (over 12 feet high) fruit or nut bearing trees. Examples of canopy trees include chestnut, persimmons, cherry, pecan, walnut, carob, quince, apple and pear trees. These trees form a crown of protective, shading boughs that consistently access sun rays, photosynthesize, and provide oxygen and other nutrients to the environment around them. They protect the lower layers of the forest from heavy precipitation and winds, and provide perfect living conditions for a variety of birds and other wildlife. (Jacke & Toensmeier, 2005a; Hart, 1996). The shape of the canopy trees also determines how precipitation reaches the lower layers (for instance whether the rain runs along its branches or down the trunk). As well, the falling leaves from the canopy provide important nutrients such as nitrogen to the plants below.

“The canopy is a complex structure that provides a surface for wet, dry and cloud water deposition of mineral nutrients from the atmosphere, and the type of structure can influence the rate of deposition. The biotic features of the forest canopy function to capture, transform, and cycle nutrients within the canopy as a complex and independent subsystem of the whole forest” (Shaw & Bible, 1996, p. 2.) When viewed from a distance, the canopy is usually the first layer that is visible or noticed. It is a distinctive layer that all other layers benefit from.

In the BSN-PB program, the Moodle (Modular Object Oriented Developmental Learning Environment) Learning Management System (LMS) is the central technological layer. All of the program course content is presented using Moodle, providing an overstory layer of content and interaction.“Moodle is an open source LCMS application (learning content management system) based on the didactic principle of constructivism. In Moodle learners construct their individual learning situation by interacting with educational material provided by teachers.” (Rákóczi & Pohl, 2009, p. 467). The Moodle system is a very sophisticated LMS that affords a variety of learning modules that teachers can use to engage with students, including forums, wikis, journals, uploaded assignments, group work, chat rooms, workshops, lessons, polls, databases, glossaries, quizzes, SCORM and IMS packages, surveys, and Lightbox galleries. Content can be organized as pages and books with added files, folders and web links. This versatility provides a malleable canopy or overstory of activities that supports the structure and content of the program well.

Moodle is also the central access point for grading and assessment in the program and provides linkages and guides on how to use the other technological layers used by students. For instance, Voice Thread activities (housed on the Voicethread web site) are seamlessly accessed through a Moodle plugin. Mahara eportfolios can also be accessed through a Moodle plugin. Allocated readings in electronic textbooks and resource access directives are all presented in Moodle using a book activity layout (see Figure 2). The four graphic ‘doors’ lead the students to each week’s course learning activity, organized in chunks (Moore, 2012) within the headings of Situating, Preparing, Engaging, and Reflecting.

Figure 2: Canopy Layer of a Food Forest Garden and the corresponding Moodle Learning Management System technology layer
Figure 2: Canopy Layer of a Food Forest Garden and the corresponding Moodle Learning Management System technology layer

The “Situating” book section provides an overview of each learning activity’s content topic as well as the outcomes for the week’s lesson. The “Preparing” book section outlines the required readings and other activities such as videos to watch or online resources to access. The “Engaging” section provides detailed directions on the required activities for that week, including iPad and app activities such as creating visual models, designing teaching materials, accessing lifestyle and nutrition apps or ibooks and so on. This is also the section where SIMs lab directives, practice guides or Mahara activity directives are provided. Finally, the “Reflecting” book section provides questions related to the learning activity content for students to reflect upon and digest.

Within these four sections, various activities are engaged in that follow the Moodle philosophy of social constructivism. “Social constructivism extends constructivism into social settings, wherein groups construct knowledge for one another, collaboratively creating a small culture of shared artifacts with shared meanings. When one is immersed within a culture like this, one is learning all the time about how to be a part of that culture, on many levels.” (Moodle 2.4 Philosophy, 2012).

As well, the Moodle course sites provide access to other important documents and information to support smooth course functioning. These include a downloadable syllabus of the course content (in case of technological glitches or failure), course outlines, rubrics for assessment, assignment details, and a student question forum for interaction with the assigned faculty.

Moodle is easy for students to use and can be accessed using any web browser (Amaral & de Almeida, 2009). “The most favourable thing students highlighted is the accessibility of available teaching material and exercises from virtually anywhere without geographical restrictions. Other benefits they highlighted are collection of all the teaching material in one place and the possibility of being informed about important issues regarding the courses they attend, such as grading changes and availability of the teaching material. This functionality is provided through Moodle’s integrated mailing services tightly connected to discussion forums” (Hölbl & Welzer, 2010, p.65).

The Moodle system can be seen as the canopy of the technological e-scape designed for the BSN-PB program since it is the most visible and accessed part of the escape, providing linkages and guidelines to using all seven of the technological layers. It provides a central enfolding core for the program due to its versatility, diverse activities, institutional support, and consistent visual interface. Although some programs might decide that Moodle provided enough technological access and support, the author and others involved in the program design decided that this was just the beginning for the BSN-PB program. Other technologies were needed to augment interaction, communication, creativity, and online learning experiences. Hence, Moodle was viewed as the central core or canopy of the e-scape that would work well with other layers of required technology.

Layer 2: The Subcanopy and Mahara ePortfolio System

The subcanopy is the first understory layer of food forest gardens which includes second-magnitude smaller fruit, nut or other edible trees, for instance bamboo, pea trees, apricot, olive, small plum and cherry, serviceberry, and crab apple. The subcanopy is situated right below the canopy trees meaning it receives less sunlight than the canopy but more light than the five lower layers. This diminished light often keeps this layer of trees smaller than the overshadowing canopy trees. This layer also provides protection from inclement weather, sheds its leaves to aid in mulching and nitrogen building, and provides more accessible food and shelter to humans, birds, and wildlife (Hart, 1996).

Mahara is the second most prolifically used technology in the BSN-PB program, thus is metaphorically represented in this paper with the subcanopy of a food forest garden (see Figure 3). Mahara is an open source, ePortfolio system that supports a personalized learning environment. Mahara was selected to be a secondary learning system for the BSN-PB students to enhance learning in aesthetic, reflective and professional developmental ways. The ePortfolio is initiated in semester one of the program, and further developed throughout the seven semesters of the program. The ePortfolios are clustered according to cohort so that all student ePortfolios within a class are grouped together. As well, a mentor group has been set up in Mahara where students, faculty and assigned nurse mentors can engage together within the ePortfolio milieu.

Figure 3: Sub-canopy Layer of a Food Forest Garden and the corresponding Mahara ePortfolio technology layer
Figure 3: Sub-canopy Layer of a Food Forest Garden and the corresponding Mahara ePortfolio technology layer

In the BSN-PB program, Mahara ePortfolios are used as assessment, credential, learning and showcase portfolios (McAllister et al, 2008). Students complete a profile page with resume specific data and other personal information. They create collections of pages organized in semester clusters for ease of accessibility and organization. Over the seven semesters, learning artifacts are added to produce a robust repository of student work. These artifacts include aesthetic creative work, practice journals, case study analyses, and other assigned work. “The contents are selected, recorded, organised and presented in a meaningful way over time, to be used by the student in their reflective considerations, with tutors and peers where appropriate, and as a means for presenting themselves with greater depth and individual richness to others (e.g. research funders, potential employers). It is a place for constructing and telling myriad stories to diverse audiences” (O’Toole, 2013, p. 3).

The Mahara environment is easy to use and can display written work, art and visual models, galleries for assignments such as Photo Novellas, links to online work done in programs such as Educreations and Voice Thread, and uploaded files and videos. The Mahara interface uses a simple drag and drop approach to file integration enabling students to display their work aesthetically in a well-organized way.

One example of an aesthetic activity that is used in the BSN-PB program is outlined below.

Seven Grandfather Teachings for Nurses

Read the Seven Grandfather Teachings through a few times then use your Pages app to write a free verse that incorporates all seven teachings into a guide for nurses to relationally engage with clients.

Upload your work to your Mahara page.

Mahara is also used for practice and theory related reflection. Praxis is a key component of all seven practice courses in the program, where students practice with clients or in labs to master nursing skills, then engage in reflection-on-action, reflection-in-action, and reflection-for-action with their fellow classmates and faculty instructor. Dialogic journals are used frequently within Mahara to encourage critical and meaningful reflection by students, and responded to by faculty to encourage praxis reflection. An example of this reflection is provided in the activity below:

Talk with your mentor about their experience with legal – ethical considerations in client care. How did they cope with these dilemmas?

Reflect on this dialogue in your Mahara ePortfolio Journal.

Mahara provides an accessible and permanent space for students to reflect on work they have done using other technological layers, such as iPads and apps or SIMs lab practice. For instance, students are asked to use nutrition and fitness apps on their iPads in semester one, then reflect on their progress over time in their Mahara course page.

Mahara reinforces professional development, by helping students learn to use their profiles, resumes, achievements, and artifacts to promote nursing competencies and demonstrate life-long learning. Nurses are expected to engage in personal and professional development on an annual basis as part of licensure maintenance and renewal. The Mahara interface provides valuable practice to enable this ability post-graduation. Students have commented that seeing their work develop over each semester has given them a deeper appreciation of what they have learned and how they have developed over time. This awareness is invaluable for current and life-long learning. These software capabilities help reinforce the importance of Mahara to the program’s technological e-scape, much like the subcanopy plays an important role in the food forest garden.

Layer 3: The Shrub and Social Media and Interactive System

The shrub layer of the food forest garden is a very productive and accessible layer. It serves as a sanctuary for birds and small animals, and often produces a rich assortment of berries and other edibles. Common shrub examples include blueberries, hazelnuts, raspberries, rose (hips) bushes, blackberries, and currants. Shrubs sometimes grow vertically, but due to shade and early mulching, they often spread horizontally beneath the outerstory. They also serve as overlay for smaller herbaceous and ground cover plants, and enrich the soil with their leaf and fruit droppings.

This horizontal growth seems to coincide with the horizontal interaction and engagement afforded by the use of social media such as blogs, wikis, YouTube and Voice Thread in the BSN-PB program (see Figure 4). “Social media encompass a wide range of tools that integrate technology, social interaction and content creation. In the present work, analysis will be confined to the most popular social media types. These include social networks, blogs, micro-blogs, wikis, bookmarking, media sharing and RSS” (Faizi, 2013, p. 50).

Figure 4: Shrub Layer of a Food Forest Garden and the corresponding Social Media (Voice Thread) technology layer
Figure 4: Shrub Layer of a Food Forest Garden and the corresponding Social Media (Voice Thread) technology layer

In the BSN-PB program, social media tools are mostly situated within the Moodle or Mahara layers through the use of social forums, friend lists, wikis, and sharing of work. The student engagement supported by these interactive tools adds a rich layer of social interaction and a sense of community. “Given the importance of collaboration in the learning process, a great number of social media tools serve as platforms for learners to gather and share information and resources from both internal and external collaboration networks” (Faizi, 2013, p. 52). Much like the shrub layers where animals big and small (bear, deer, squirrels, rabbits, and so on), birds, and people engage to enjoy the fruits and nuts and the protective aspects of the smaller plants, these software help to promote a sense of unity and engagement.

Software like VoiceThread is used in BSN-PB courses to promote multi-sensory ways to respond and reflect on course content (including audio, visual, and text). “A VoiceThread is a collaborative, multimedia slide show in which viewers navigate through the slides and leave comments. The comments can be left in five ways: using voice (with a telephone or a computer’s microphone), typing text, uploading an audio file, or creating video via a webcam” (Siegle, 2011, p. 56). In this nursing program the VoiceThread assignments are clustered within each course so students can access and contribute to each week’s VoiceThread as part of a collective experience. “So an entire classroom of students can collectively analyse a media text on a single page, share fresh perspectives, challenge each other’s thinking and develop greater understandings in the process.” (Rodesiler, 2010). BSN-PB students dialogue, reflect, analyze, present, and give feedback using VoiceThread. As students respond to assignments and comments left by other students, they practice expressive presentation and communication skills as they reflectively respond with voice or video recordings (Pecot-Hebert, 2012; Gillis et al, 2012).

Students also co-create content for weekly wikis where they upload and display their assigned work and then reflect on the work done by others. Comments and feedback are readily submitted using the wiki module in Moodle. An example of an activity that uses a wiki can be seen below:

Explore Plato’s concept of Societal Guardians and how this notion applies to the nursing profession. Express your exploration in some creative way: through an artistic visual or literary medium and upload your work to the Wiki.

To date, social media platforms have mostly been used within protected mediums such as Mahara and Moodle in the BSN-PB program. This approach would equate to a carefully controlled yet thriving shrub layer in a food forest garden, where wildlife and people intermingle but growth is maintained within some structure and organizing pattern.

Layer 4: The Herbaceous and iPad Tablet and apps System

The herbaceous layer of the food forest garden colors the forest with bright perennial flowers and easy to access edible, culinary, and medicinal seeds, flowers, stems, leaves, and roots. This layer consists of soft- stemmed plants that wither and die back to the soil at the end of the growing season which provides rich mulch for the forest. However, most are perennials or self-propagating annuals so they continue to reproduce and grow again the following season. Examples of herbaceous plants include mints, rhubarb, asparagus, bee balm, comfrey, sage, nettles, burdock, chives, alfalfa, buckwheat, kale, sorrel, stevia and lemongrass.

Herbaceous plants adapt well and often flower early in the season before canopy leaves block out most of the light. This layer plays a significant role in supporting the vitality of the whole ecosystem, including the health of the soil. “Herbaceous plants greatly contribute to soil fertility by drawing nutrients out of the soil, storing them, and releasing them as they die. Some plants do this more actively than others, accumulating nutrients in their tissues to concentrations higher than those found in the soil or than usually found in the average plant. We can use these dynamic accumulators to conserve and improve soil fertility in our forest gardens”(Jacke & Toensmeier, 2005a, p. 186).

The herbaceous layer adds beauty and aesthetics to the food forest garden, as well as delightful edible foods, spices, and flavors. This layer seems to match well with the exciting technological additions afforded by the use of iPads and the many subject-specific, creative, productive, and exploratory apps available (see Figure 5). BSN-PB students purchase Apple iPads and apps in semester one and use them throughout the program for a variety of activities.

iPads and Apps are used in the BSN-PB program to:

  • Augment and enrich content
  • Support creativity
  • Facilitate interaction and
  • Personalize learning
Figure 5: Herbaceous Layer of a Food Forest Garden and the corresponding iPad and apps technology layer
Figure 5: Herbaceous Layer of a Food Forest Garden and the corresponding iPad and apps technology layer

Many of the weekly learning activities call for ipads to perform the hands-on aspects of the activities. Students use creative apps to ‘finger paint’ visual models; to produce desktop published tools such as teaching sheets, tip lists, brochures, and client education guides; create videos and other multimedia productions, and so on. The apps provide accessible tools to practice creating documents, tools, and models that help them understand the content being explored and apply to nursing practice.

For example, an activity that students do in semester two entails the following directive:

Caring for Older Adults Tip List

Use your Pages app to prepare a concise and usable tip list for nursing students about how to apply a therapeutic use of self and relational engagement to the care of older adult clients. Save your work as a pdf, png, or png and upload to Moodle and your Mahara course page.

The use of iPads also facilitates mobile learning (mlearning) where students can access course materials, readings, multimedia and other resources as well as apps from a variety of locations and contexts (Thinley et al, 2014; Pilgrim et al, 2012). This portability affords a freedom not provided from PC or laptop access alone. This free roaming aspect of learning is reminiscent of the freely propagated and spreading nature of herbaceous plants that stretch their stems and roots out to anchor themselves in new areas of soil. However, ipads are not just used as alternative delivery mediums in the BSN-PB program. They are used in creative and productive ways to enhance student learning, reflection and expression. Just as the herbaceous plants add aesthetics and resources to the ecosystem around them, so do iPads and apps enrich the learning experiences and capabilities of the students.

Mobile learning adds a level of flexibility, presence and engagement to learning that is often lacking (Kearney et al, 2012), and breaks down the barriers of time and space, since learning can be done anywhere. Kearney and his colleagues proposed a model that focused on “….personalisation, authenticity and collaboration as the three distinctive features of m-learning” (p. 8).

Layer 5: The Rhizosphere and Electronic Textbooks and Resources System

The rhizosphere layer of food forest gardens includes the edible root and tuber plants as well as other underground plant forms, including some fungi. Examples of rhizosphere plants include beetroot, carrots, arrowroot, garlic, potato, horseradish, ginger, onion and ginseng. Most of the important work of these plants occurs under the soil.

The rhizosphere is considered to be a very important layer of the food forest ecosystem. Besides providing edible roots, this layer is a critical factor for plant nutrition and soil integrity. “The plant root-soil interface is a dynamic region in which numerous biogeochemical processes take place driven by the physical activity, and the diversity of chemicals released by the plant root and mediated by soil microorganisms. In turn the processes occurring in this region control a host of reactions regulating terrestrial carbon and other element cycling that sustain plant growth and which have an enormous influence on plant and microbial community function and structure which greatly influence a variety of ecosystem level processes” (McNear, 2013, p. 1).

Like the rhizosphere forest layer, textbooks and supporting resources are critical tools for education (see Figure 6). The BSN-PB program uses electronic textbooks and online resources whenever possible, so that readings and practice activities can be done on the students’ computers and ipads. This facilitates access to readings from anywhere when using the mobile technology, including practice areas (hospitals, community, and so on). Students have access to resources at their fingertips, without having to carry huge nursing textbooks to their clinical practice areas (Parsons, 2014). Medication and pathophysiology reference materials are also readily available on their iPads (Williams & Dittmer, 2009). Electronic textbooks tend to cost less than printed books, they are more ecologically sound, (Gattiker et al, 2012) and they are easy to download (Swilley, 2012; Stone & Baker-Eveleth, 2013; Murray & Pérez, 2011). Another important bonus of e-textbooks is the ability to annotate the textbook directly on the device. When done on an iPad, this annotation can be done easily with the tip of a finger (Kim et al, 2013).

Figure 6: Rhizosphere Layer of a Food Forest Garden and the corresponding eTextbooks and resources technology layer
Figure 6: Rhizosphere Layer of a Food Forest Garden and the corresponding eTextbooks and resources technology layer

“Tablet technology has entered the classroom through devices such as the iPad. Instead of opening a bound textbook for class, students access digital textbooks and resources that contain interactive media and provide immediate feedback. The content is the same as a textbook, but the layout and pictures go beyond static images. Colorful, interactive diagrams, photos, and videos fill the screen. Students can explore and manipulate a 3-D picture of the human brain or enlarge text and photos. The tablet allows students to highlight text, take notes, and navigate through text by sliding a finger along the bottom of the screen. These intuitive, interactive features are appealing to students,” (Pilgrim et al, 2012, p. 17).

Layer 6: The Soil or Ground cover and SIMs Lab System

The ground cover layer of food forest gardens hugs the soil surface and is instrumental in collecting and redistributing nutrients from other layers. Often ground cover plants are creepers, since they spread their stems and branches horizontally along the ground. Examples of ground cover plants include strawberries, nasturtiums, wintergreen, clover, violets, vervain, cumin, and low bush blueberries. These are resilient plants that withstand the lowest level of light, and tend to fill in any bare patches on the forest floor. Robert Hart (1996) also includes edible mushrooms and ground growing fungi in this layer. This layer plays critical roles in protecting and enriching the soil, and providing easy to reach edible foods.

Like ground cover plants, Simulation Labs (SIMs) are a critical part of nursing education (see Figure 7). These technologically enhanced labs provide concrete “real-life like” practice in nursing skills and techniques in the safety of a lab setting. Students can practice and perfect complex procedures before performing them on actual clients. In the BSN-PB program, students practice regularly in carefully constructed SIMs labs. “Simulation provides students a chance to develop clinical judgment and affords faculty an opportunity to observe students’ clinical decision making and practice in a confined, prescribed setting. Role-playing, case scenarios, static manikins, and simulation are educational strategies believed to provide a vital bridge to practice that increases confidence and procedural proficiency” (Mikasa, 2013, p. e362).

Figure 7: Ground Cover Layer of a Food Forest Garden and the corresponding Simulated Learning (SIMs) technology layer
Figure 7: Ground Cover Layer of a Food Forest Garden and the corresponding Simulated Learning (SIMs) technology layer

BSN-PB Students often work in pairs and utilize their iPads to record their SIMs performance for reflective review. Each partner records the other’s performance on their own iPad, so they can go home and review their actions. The ability of the iPad to easily record a video of each student’s performance is a priceless bonus of using the mobile devices in this program. The ability to review one’s own actions by watching a recording rather than just from memory promotes confidence and provides valuable remedial evidence and direction for improvement (Foronda et al, 2013; Megel et al, 2013).

Electronically enhanced high-fidelity mannequins are used in the SIMs labs for role playing and practicing various skills including wound care, mental health crises, childbirth labor and delivery, (Sittner et al, 2013), trauma interventions and so on.   These mannequins can simulate bleeding, breathing, heart rate, and other common physiological processes. “The more realistic (or immersive) the setup, the more students are likely to ‘buy in’ psychologically and experience deep, transformative learning” (Green & Bull, 2014, p. e111). Our program’s SIMs experts set up scenarios that are very realistic: for instance they equip a mannequin to resemble a motor vehicle accident victim requiring quick action and complex care. Faculty can monitor the student performance at the lab bedside or from within the SIMs control booth. This booth has screens to show a video of the actual bedside performance (Megel et al, 2013) as well as an electronic control screen where the mannequin’s breathing rate, and so on can be modulated and changed in response to students’ simulated care.

SIMs labs are available in our institution to mimic hospital care as well as home/community care. One lab is equipped to resemble a client’s home where the mannequin can be positioned in a bed, an arm chair, a couch, kitchen or bathroom. This latter lab helps students prepare for community health nursing practice (Distelhorst & Wyss, 2013). “Simulated community spaces provide an authentic learning environment that supports reflection, critical thinking, and confidence development, regardless of the clinical environment (Green & Bull, 2014, p. e112). Students learn more than just hands-on care: “Communication skills, knowledge of the nursing process, basic documentation and appropriate use of the patient record, and medical math calculations related to safe nursing practice are also included” (Greenawald, 2008, p. e11).

One important outcome of the SIMs lab is the students’ reported anxiety relief from practicing in the lab before trying to work with clients in practice settings (Lehr & Kaplan, 2013). “The outcomes that may result from simulation inclusion in an undergraduate nursing program include diminished anxiety, increased knowledge retention, and development of psychomotor skills before encountering the reality of acute care settings” (Stroup, 2014, p. e155). The SIMs lab helps the students feel safer and more comfortable and ‘protected’, just like the ground cover protects the forest soil and floor.

As well, SIMs labs provide opportunities to practice the complexity of nursing. “Nursing is holistic and multidimensional; insertion of a Foley catheter includes much more than just the psychomotor skill of insertion of the catheter. There are additional components to catheter insertion, such as establishing rapport, protecting the dignity and privacy of the patient, communicating therapeutically throughout the procedure, all while maintaining a sterile and safe technique when inserting the catheter” (Manz et al, 2013, p. e230).

Layer 7: The Vertical Climbers and iBook Design System

The final layer of the food forest garden is the vertical climbers. These plants are opportunistic and take advantage of the vertical spaces afforded by the overstory layers. Examples of edible climbers include kiwi, cucumbers, climbing nasturtium, passion fruit, pumpkin, soybeans, wild grape, zucchini, squash, hops, grapes, climbing peas, and honeysuckle. Some of these plants (for instance pumpkins and squash) might be considered ground cover since they typically creep along the soil. However, with training, they can wrap themselves around canopy trees and grow vertically. These climber plants are versatile, and adapt well to new dimensions of opportunity and growth. Their edible parts add delicious and aesthetic contributions to the forest garden and their vertical growth makes the most of the garden space.

Climbers also “…provide important intercrown pathways for many canopy-dwelling animals and so are important ecosystem engineers. Without these vine connections, moving from tree to tree would entail descending to the ground where these animals are very susceptible to predation” (Putz, 2012, p. e1). “The abundant leaves, flowers, and fruits of [climbers] also represent important food resources for animals, and contribute substantially to biogeochemical cycles” (p. e1). As well, “With their high photosynthetic production and sizable biomass, [climbers] also make a significant contribution to carbon sequestration” (Butler, 2012, p. e1).

This adaptive, fruitful layer can be likened to the final technological layer used in the BSN-PB program. This layer entails iBook authoring by faculty to create customized reading and learning resources, specifically designed for the program. This layer is just being launched at the moment. A MAC computer is being used to create iPad friendly iBooks for the nursing students to use in their course work (see Figure 8).

Figure 8: Vertical Climbers Layer of a Food Forest Garden and the corresponding iBook Author resources technology layer
Figure 8: Vertical Climbers Layer of a Food Forest Garden and the corresponding iBook Author resources technology layer

Our program is not looking to replace existing electronic textbooks, but to enhance the quality of resources available to our students. We can also create ebooks that focus on topics not well covered in textbooks. For instance, the author is working on an ebook focused on behavioural states in newborns and the effects of music on these states. This is content that is not available in any textbook to date, yet is a valuable way to teach students about newborn consciousness, needs and comforting patterns. Like the climber level of the food forest, these ibooks will add necessary resources to increasing knowledge, adding substance and flavor to the curriculum, and augmenting existing resources with multimedia rich content. “With iBooks Author you have to be your own editor, proofreader, and marketer. On the other hand, iBooks are interactive, fun to look at, and students will be highly engaged.” (Moorefield-Lang, 2013, p. 19).


In this paper, the metaphor of a food forest garden was applied to describe the ecosystem of technological layers used in a BSN-PB program in Western Canada. This metaphor provides a rich analogy of holistic interchange, synergy and dynamic growth that is mirrored in the combined attributes of the technology selected for the program. This combination of technologies provides robust access and learning enrichment within this blended post baccalaureate nursing program.


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Welcome to Curriculum Sage Design!

We offer over twenty years of curriculum development (program and individual courses) in health, Indigenous, education and other topics. Our director, June Kaminski has PhD education from the Faculty of Education, Curriculum and Pedagogy Studies at the University of British Columbia with an emphasis on eLearning, learning theories, informatics, multimedia and game development for education, and continuing education/professional development courses.


We provide support to ease planned, dictated, or mandatory curriculum assessment, planning and change.


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