Participating in 4 Active Learning Activities During a Keynote Presentation

The Alabama League for Nursing Conference in April 2022 was fun and informative! We had an engaging speaker, knowledgeable presenters, creative poster presentations, resourceful vendors, magnificent door prizes, and spectacular food (regretting I didn’t take photos of our cookies and milk snack time). Let me share with you what I learned.

Bye Bye Pandemic!

The vibe of the day was a sense of normalcy. Most of us had not attended a conference since 2019, right before the start of the pandemic. It felt good to be back in person, mingling and having those organic scholarly discussions and casual chats.

An Innovative Speaker—Tim Raderstorft

Our phenomenal speaker was a nurse named Tim Raderstorf, who is the first Chief Innovation Officer at the Ohio State University College of Nursing. Tim reminded us how nurses are already innovators and need to use their position in an impactful way, at the table of innovation in healthcare. Tim used his presentations to help us learn to be innovative problem solvers. Read on to learn more about the activities we participated in during the day. Most of them can be used in the classroom with nursing students!

1) The Boat Challenge

Our first active learning activity was the boat challenge. The supplies for the activity were at the front of the room located next to a tank of water. We were provided instructions on the screen:

  • Get into a group of 4.
  • Select a boat type and get the supplies. (There were 3 different boat types and a bundle of 4 drinking straws, 2 paper clips, 2 gem clips, and 2 rubber bands.)
  • You have 7 minutes to modify the boat using only the supplies provided.
  • The boat holding as many pennies as possible is the winner.

Time was called and a person from each group brought their boat to the front to see whose boat would hold the most pennies. One by one each boat sank after 1 penny, 8 pennies . . . 17 pennies (the record number). . . were placed in each boat.

At the end of the challenge we learned the name of this activity is “Challenging Assumptions”. Look back at the list of instructions. Where did it say to place the boat in the water? All assumed the boat was supposed to go into the water and then place the pennies. Tim demonstrated securing the straws to the underside of the boat so the boat could straddle the tank of water and proceeded to put rolls of pennies into the boat.

How could you use this activity with nursing students? What assumptions could be challenged using this activity?

2) Rapid Conceptualization Exercise

Our group of 4 was given 5 minutes to list everything we hate about our jobs. We were challenged to come up with at least 15 things.

Our time was extended to five additional minutes to come up with more things we hate. Then we had 5 minutes to narrow the list to the top 5 things we hate about our jobs, another 5 minutes to narrow to 3 and finally, 5 minutes to narrow to one thing we hate about our job.

Our number one thing we hate about our job: Lack of student buy-in of active learning.

The second part of the activity involved going to the front of the room and selecting materials to help us design a solution to the problem we had selected. We did this with Play Doh, construction paper, scissors, pipe cleaners, markers, and letter beads. Although it wasn’t much of a solution, it was a start.

Being fast, bad, and wrong is a part of design thinking. It gets you started looking at a problem from multiple angles.

Getting started is priority!

Solution for our rapid conceptualization exercise.

3) Communicate With Persuasion

When nurses identify a problem needing a solution, Tim emphasized the importance of communicating with persuasion. He suggested developing an elevator pitch that describes what the problem/goal is, explain who you are and what you do, and ask for help. Having a persuasive pitch can help influence opinions, create desire, gather advice and insight from industry leaders, and obtain resources.

Components of an elevator pitch:

  • Connect with your audience. Make them feel like they need what it is you are offering/trying to accomplish.
  • Paint your unique value position.
  • Hook must happen within 60 seconds.
  • Make it memorable and evoke emotion with a good story or interesting facts.
  • Identify the problem and make them feel the pain.
  • Hit the high points.
  • Provide enticing solutions.
  • Prove your results or use others’ results in a similar situation.
  • The ask.

Remember, in a pitch, you are pitching you. Leave the audience feeling confident in your ability to make it happen and stay on message.

Ask for money, you will probably get advice. Ask for advice, they may give you money.

Example: “I’m really struggling with _________, I need your advice.”

Start With the Why

The Golden Circle is a model for writing an effective pitch.

Know your audience and seize the moment by using the Golden Circle approach as demonstrated by Simon Sinek in this video clip:

  1. Communicate with others WHY you are doing ____________.
    • “Why” is the purpose, cause, or belief
    • It’s the reason your organization exists.
  2. Explain HOW you can achieve _________________________.
    • Describe what sets you apart from others.
    • What makes you special?
  3. WHAT you do and WHAT makes you different.
  4. Ask.

Once we knew the importance of a good pitch and its components, we were presented with an opportunity to develop a persuasive 60-second elevator pitch. We were given the following information to complete the activity:

  • Perspective: Patient advocate
  • Topic: Why healthcare needs price transparency
  • Audience: CEO of a large healthcare system
  • Time frame for pitch: 60 seconds

Each of us in our group of 4 presented our pitch and selected the best one. Then we merged with another group of 4 and repeated the process until we had 4 large groups within the room. The winners from each of these 4 groups went to the front of the room and gave their pitches to everyone and an overall winner was selected by the crowd.

How to adapt this activity to the classroom or clinical setting as an active learning strategy.
1) Give students a perspective.
You are the nurse caring for a patient who is being discharged home following a hip arthroplasty.
2) Provide the topic.
Why proper body mechanics must be maintained after having hip replacement.
3) Describe the audience.
A 72-year-old male who is used to doing everything in the house without asking for help.
4) Give the time frame.
60 seconds

4) Escape Room Activity

The last session of Tim’s presentation ended with the creation of an online escape room using Google Forms. He also integrated video that was created and linked with YouTube. One of the clues for unlocking the next step was created with Jigsaw Explorer . Students had to piece together an online jigsaw puzzle to view the clue.

Want a deeper dive? Breakout RN has an escape room course for nurse educators:

Virtual escape rooms provide an excellent opportunity for students to generate codes from learned content, solving puzzles, and accomplishing tasks to escape a virtual room (Baker & Hicks, 2022; Dimeo, Astemborksi, Smart & Jones, 2022). This activity also helps with building interprofessional or intraprofessional development (Dimeo et al., 2022).

Checklist to Initiate a Virtual Escape Room
1) Develop the objectives that will be met after completing the escape room.
2) Consider creating a pre- and post-quiz.
3) Create a Google account to access “Forms”.
4) Develop the content of the escape room.
5) Debrief after completion of the escape room.

To begin creating an escape room determine the objectives that the activity addresses. What do you want students to learn or practice? What steps do you want students to complete before escaping the room? Virtual escape rooms can be a fun activity that engages peers through competition and time constraints.

If you want to get started creating a digital escape room right away, there are several YouTube videos that explain how to do it.

It was fun experiencing active learning strategies in the conference environment. I gained insight into how my students may feel about these type learning strategies and the importance of providing detailed instructions to the participants.

After transitioning to virtual learning during the pandemic, I created a virtual escape room focused on health assessment. using Forms in Google. Subscribe to my blog to receive notifications of new posts, which will include a future post of how to create a digital escape room for nursing students using Google Forms.

I enjoy conferences for the networking, camaraderie, and most of all . . . INSPIRATION! Lots of fun, creative ideas can come from attending professional conferences.

Your challenge: Join a nursing organization before the end of the year and attend the next conference the organization offers.

Click the buttons for links to find national and state nursing organizations to join.


Baker, B. & Hicks, D. (2022). Virtual Escape Rooms for Final Examination Review. Nurse Educator47(2), 68.

Dimeo, S. P., Astemborksi, C., Smart, J., & Jones, E. L. (2022). A Virtual Escape Room versus Lecture on Infectious Disease Content: Effect on Resident Knowledge and Motivation. Western Journal of Emergency Medicine: Integrating Emergency Care with Population Health23(1), 9–14. 

Please reply below to share what you enjoy most about attending professional conferences or your favorite active learning strategy! Feel free to also reply with the professional organizations within which you are already a member!

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