Saturday, June 28, 2008

Making connections with Pakistan

Yesterday, I was pleased to facilitate an online meeting in which Rafat Jan, a midwife and midwifery educator, gave participants an insight into midwifery in Pakistan. If you would like to listen to the recording, please click onto the link here:

Expanding my world
I know there are a number of barriers to online communication and quite a few nae-sayers, but when it works, it offers possibilities that just would not exist in face-to-face environments. Until recently, I knew very little about Pakistan or midwifery in Pakistan. And to be honest, I was not really interested. But through my conversations with Rafat by email and web conference I have begun to acquire an appreciation of challenges that face Pakistani midwives, and I must say that I admire Rafat and her colleagues hugely for what they achieve in the most testing of circumstances.

Using Web 2.0 to make connections
The highlight of the meeting for me was that Rafat was able to make very valuable connections with New Zealand midwives who will be able to offer her ongoing support at an international level. The other interesting thing that this meeting may result in is discussions about exchange placements for students in Pakistan and New Zealand.

Where to from here
I was very pleased that a number of my colleagues joined the meeting and are developing their online communication skills and ability to use Elluminate. I was particularly thrilled that a couple of students joined us. I am hoping that they will see the benefits of using this form of communication and will spread the word to their classmates and join us in future sessions.

The next open Elluminate session is presented by Dr Deborah Davis and is entitled:

Midwives making space for childbirth. Date: 23rd July 16.00 NZ. International Time.


Full details here.

Please feel free to leave comments or questions here about the recording, or any suggestions for future meetings. If you would like to give make an online presentation, please let me know or add your details on the PD for Midwives wiki.

Image: 'Another village girl' Wenchmagnet

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Opening our minds to possibilities

I have been really enjoying my discussions with Rafat about the development of midwifery education in Pakistan and how we can share ideas and learning opportunities with our respective students. It is a real joy to become friends with a like-minded midwife.

The joys of Elluminate
We have been having so much fun. We email each other, and if we're both free we just pop into Elluminate and have a chat. I have even been able to help Rafat demonstrate how it works to her colleagues. And it has really surprised me how well the technology has worked. The only time we had a problem was when my Internet connection broke down.

At the moment we're just knocking ideas around and I am really looking forward to hearing more about midwifery and nursing in Pakistan on Friday at 4pm NZ, so don't forget to join us - details can be found here. Please feel free to join us. Even if you are not a midwife, I am sure it will be interesting to talk to Rafat about education and life in Pakistan.

Sharing and learning together
My long term vision is that midwifery institutions and educators will open up sessions they hold in online conferencing venues like Elluminate to any interested midwife or student, even if they are not enrolled in their institution. However, one thing we would need to think about is how we would advertise our activities to the wider midwifery community.

How could you see that working in your midwifery institution, education programs and courses?

Image: 'Christmas #1' kevindooley

Petal's adventures in jokaydia

I am still thinking about how Second Life can be integrated into midwifery education.

Petal through the looking glass
On a personal level, I am learning more about Second Life thanks to people like Jo Kay, Clare Atkins and Kerry J. Last night, I joined an EdNA party to have a quick look around one of the islands of jokaydia and have a play with drums, followed by a drink around the bar. Up to recently I have not seen the attraction of Second Life compared to web conferencing programs like Elluminate. But as I become more confident in SL, I am beginning to realise that it adds an extra dimension to communication. Even though the environment and people are 'virtual', somehow things seem very real. Which as I said, makes communication so much more meanginful.

There were a number of things that struck me while I was in joykadia. Probably the biggest impression was made by Jo and Kerry who were incredibly enthusiastic and supportive - they made me feel very welcome to the proceedings.

The other highlight was meeting Konrad Glogowski who has been working with Leigh Blackall to develop a virtual classroom - more on that later.

Virtual maternity unit
The obvious thing that Second Life can be used for is to build some sort of maternity unit where students can practice clinical scenarios, meet and network. I have had a look at several inworld hospitals such as the Anne Myers Medical Centre and Second Health Hospital but to be honest, I haven't found them to be very engaging.

I keep thinking about what Clare Atkins said about replicating real life; why replicate real life buildings when SL give us opportunities to think outside the square, experiment and stretch our boundaries in way that we are unable to do in a more traditional setting.

Lateral thinking
This brings me back to Leigh's virtual classroom which he built as a sustainable building, based on the family, sharing and group learning. I am very interested in following a similar type of concept with regard to thinking about place of birth and midwifery education in the SL context. I am also very interested in exploring how women and students could be included in the development of a place of birth, such as I am imagining.

Anyway, I'm still learning about SL and trying to think beyond the obvious. If you have any thoughts and feedback yourself about any of this, please let me know.

Reaching the "I cannot stop" Stage

Today I glanced at the number of Twitter posts or tweets I have made and I saw I have passed the 1000 mark. How did that happen? It seems like only yesterday that I started to use Twitter.

"That's the dumbest thing"
At the beginning in January I wasn't too impressed and saw Twitter as a rather frivolous and time-wasting application. I certainly didn't see myself using it on a regular basis. Having said that, I did recognise the potential for midwives who are always on the move. Whilst they may be reluctant to engage with online technologies, most midwives have cell phones. So Twitter could be used to keep in touch with a wider midwifery community.

"Wow, just found a great link from Vicki"
By the end of April I was starting to find that my Twitter network was growing and I was starting to use the network to find information and seek support. But I continued to be skeptical and was only using it for professional interactions eg giving out information about my latest blog posting. I was still reluctant to use Twitter in a personal way because I was very concerned that I would offend people if I posted 'trivialities'.

"I cannot stop"
It was the other week when I realised that Twitter is now a very important part of my personal learning environment. I attended the International Conference on Computer Mediated Social Networking (ICCMSN 2008) where Twitter was introduced to the conference participants. I saw that I was one of only a few people who used it on a very regular basis.

Now, it has got to the stage where I can hardly bear to do without Twitter for fear of what I will miss. I am totally confident with how I use it to post both professional and personal messages - if people get fed up with hearing from me, they can always stop following me.

I use my network to ask seek advice, gain information and extend my circle of colleagues and friends. I particularly like the spontaneous nature of it, eg last night I found myself at a meeting in Second Life as a result of an invitation via Twitter courtesy of
@kerryank. And I have found some fellow rugby fans so I now have someone to discuss the latest matches with.

The rewards of perseverance
I am thrilled that I persevered with Twitter because it has become one of the main stays of my personal learning and development. What technology were you skeptical about at first and now find to be a vital part of your day?

Twitter Life Cycle by CogDog

Petal needs makeover advice

My other self in Second Life is Petal Stransky. Petal came into being late 2007. Petal was never going to be a hot chick - she was just too short, and as for that bum....well...!

My daughter was not very impressed and gave Petal a slightly less fuddy duddy look a few weeks later.

In May 2008, Petal found her way to the bar in JoKaydia and the girls there took one look at her, threw their hands up in horror and gave her a radical make-over. Petal got what she had always dreamed of: a beautiful body, slim waist, long legs and luscious hair. The girls also gave her some hot new clothes.

But as much as Petal was really grateful to her fairy godmothers, she just didn't feel right with her new appearance. She wanted to go back to how she felt she really was: short, dumpy, slightly shy and grumpy at times. She just could not be grumpy in a tall 'self'. She felt like she had to be gay all the time in her new body and that was too much like hard work.

So Petal is still trying to find herself although she is going to allow herself one vanity and keep the long, flowing locks.

Any suggestions about how you feel she should look?

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

In my day...

This week we have OSCE exams for our midwifery students which is when they have to come and demonstrate their clinical and communication skills in front of an examiner. Needless to say, feelings run high and students get very nervous.

Old age setting in
Yesterday, I was 'camp mother' which meant it was my role to direct proceedings and make sure no students ran away! And my main words of comfort were...

"you're lucky, in my day..."

The dreaded midwifery viva
In my day, back in the early 1980s, we had a viva, which was an oral exam.

I had to go all the way to London on the train which was an incredible adventure for me - a bit like the country mouse visiting the big city. What was particularly exciting was that I was going to meet up with my sister, who was studying in London, after the viva and we were going to have afternoon tea at The Ritz.

My destination was a huge hall filled with rows of tables. At each table sat a midwife and obstetrician poised ready to grill hundreds of students from all over the region.

The midwife and obstetrician fired questions at me for what seemed to be ages. One of the questions I remember being asked was what I would do at a home birth if there was suddenly a cord prolapse in the second stage of labour.

Harden up, girl!
When I came out of the hall, I burst into tears. I cried and cried and cried..... and just couldn't stop. I had to abandon my sister and go home. I cried all the way home on the train and after six hours of solid weeping, collapsed into bed.

I think that was the most nerve-racking thing I have even done in my life. I would rather give birth than go through that midwifery viva again.

Do any of you 'old' midwives out there remember your viva? As for the rest of you, what is the most nerve-racking thing you have ever done?

Image: 'infant drama - _MG_9450' sean dreilinger

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Being a research guinea pig

I have always maintained that one of the best ways to learn about the research process is to be a research participant. That way you see research from the participant's point of view, which is invaluable when it comes to devising your own research project.

You see for yourself, for example, what sort of survey questions work; what induces people to answer questions honestly in an interview; what motivates participants to answer and return a questionnaire.

Motivating research participants
One of the most difficult things about carrying out human research is motivating participants to take part, and to do what they're supposed to do... properly... ie return their forms, to fill out all the questions accurately, take the correct pills at the correct time and so on. And, of course, you must do all this without 'bribing' or 'coercing' participants.

Yet, there is nothing more frustrating for a researcher when participants do not conform or adhere to the research protocol. I mean, why sign up to be in a research project and then not do what you're supposed to do?

Bottom line: non-compliance by participants can lead to your research going down the pan.

The other side of the coin
But having recently joined a research project, I am beginning to get some insight into why participants do fall by the research wayside.

I joined the digital literacy research project 5 weeks ago with the aim of learning how to make a video. I was full of enthusiasm at the beginning because I was doing something which was fun. But as time has gone on, my motivation has flagged. And as soon as I was asked to actually do some serious work ie reflect on my learning, I definitely started to lose interest.

Questioning my motives
I started to question why I would want to give myself a lot of extra work for the 'fun' of it. The learning from this project will be applicable to my work, but I am actually doing the project in my own time. Why would I want to do something related to work in my own time - idiot or what?! Why on earth did I sign up to attend 10 weeks worth of workshops? I could have learned all this by myself at home- why did I need to commit myself so extensively? And so the questions continued.

Staying on track
Suffice to say, I will continue the project because a) I am enjoying networking with the other project participants and b) because the researchers - good friends of mine - would kill me if I pulled out. Ultimately, I understand the research process and how important it is to follow through a commitment to a research project.

Retaining research participants
This time of being a research participant has not told me anything I didn't already know about recruiting and enrolling people into research projects. However, it has re-enforced the issues of retention from the point of view of the research participant, which will hopefully make me a lot more understanding as a researcher. The main things I think are important for me to remember about my own research are:
  • Participants have to see the value of the research, both for themselves and the wider community;
  • Participants need to be reminded that their input is really valued;
  • They need to be fully informed about the research and all that it entails, including time commitments;
  • They need to be 'supported' and motivated to continue in the project - how you do that without being seen to be badgering them can sometimes be problematic.
Have you ever been a participant in a research project - how did you find it? As a researcher, what have you found to be an effective way of engaging participants in your project?

Image: 'Poopsie Pig' bickbyro

DIL: Taking Stock

I am a participant in a research project looking at digital literacy. We are now half way through the project and I have been asked to review what I have achieved so far using an action research framework.

General Plan
The first part of the plan has been to learn more about editing audio and become more familiar with Audacity ( a free program that allows you to record and edit audio). The second part, and for me the greatest challenge, is to learn how to make and edit videos. I particularly want to focus on becoming comfortable with making screencasts using Camstudio. This is a free program that allows you to video what you are doing on your computer desktop, which you can then use to show people how to use a particular computer tool.

The other tools I have been encouraged to look at for making video are Animoto and Windows Movie Maker. My criteria for the tools are that they are free to download, relatively easy to use and be accessible at work (not blocked by my institution) as well as home.

First action step
I'm finding it difficult to isolate specific tasks and steps because I have been dipping in and out of all sorts of things, so I probably have lots of action spirals going on at once. But I have decided to concentrate on learning about video as opposed to audio. Another member of the project is focusing on audio, so I know I can always go to her and ask me for information as and when I need it. And there are some excellent videos on YouTube that I can consult when the time comes for me to utilise Audacity.

Making a screencast
I feel that I have 'more or less' completed this particular cycle. There are probably a few rough edges I need to tidy up but I now know how to use Camstudio and feel confident enough to be able to show colleagues how to use it. It's difficult making a screencast for the sake of it, so what I am waiting for is 'valid' topic to develop. Probably I should revisit the screencasts that have been made on using Elluminate - they could possibly do with being remade - what do you think?

The other thing that I can address is how to use Camtasia, which is the upmarket (and not free) version of Camstudio. I have access to Camtasia at work but did not want to include it in the DIL project because it is not a free tool.

Making a video with Animoto
The first step in this process was to investigate Animoto.
Animoto is great fun and very easy to use. I think it is a great tool to introduce to students because of its ease of access and use. This spiral is finished except that at some stage I will register to use Animoto for teaching - I just have not got an opportunity for that at the moment.

Making a video using Windows Movie Maker
The first step in learning how to use WMM was to 'have a go' by myself, seeing how intuitive the program is and identifying where I need extra help.
Where I am at now is wishing to improve my abilities and investigate WMM further. I had planned to do that at the last DIL workshop but didn't get on very well for one reason and another.

One of the problems has been that my ideas for how I would use video are scattered all over the place ranging from making family videos for personal use, to capturing midwives' stories for posterity, to making educational instructional videos. For example, I have just been inspired by this wonderful example of digital story telling by Robert Lloyd - I am sorry, but I cannot remember who drew my attention to the video in the first place. Robert tells the story of his climb on Fox Glacier in New Zealand.

So it has been difficult to focus because I have not known what to focus on, if that makes any sense.

Making use of my time
I have to be mindful of time constraints - at this stage I don't want to take on too large a project eg making a video on how to carry out perineal suturing, which is badly needed because there is nothing available on YouTube. On the other hand, I do not want to 'waste' my time and make a video that is not a time priority eg making a family video will be great fun but not the best use of my time at the moment when I have a number of midwifery courses to develop and re-assess, PhD, a book chapter and so on.

Killing a number of birds with one stone
So I have decided to concentrate on making a video for a new midwifery course that I am developing. I am not 100% sure what to do, but I think it will be about professional portfolios - interviewing various midwives about their use of portfolios. This video will:
  • be a resource for the students taking the course;
  • introduce the students to a social networking tool (YouTube) that can be used for learning;
  • meet the goals I am trying to achieve in this research project;
  • give me an opportunity to model to my colleagues how video and YouTube can be used in education.
Theoretical perspective
The other aspect of making a video that I need to address is the theoretical underpinning. By that, I mean that I need to look at the theory of making video:
  • what makes a good video;
  • how music and narration should be used;
  • what captures the viewers' attention and sends them to sleep.
Up to now, all I have been focusing on is how to use the tool. Now I need to think a little more carefully about how to use the tool to engage the viewer/learner.

What do you think makes a good video? What guidelines would you suggest I use?

Saturday, June 21, 2008

This is me in a few years

Love this video about Facebook - thanks to Beth Kanter who drew my attention to it. - Watch more free videos

Baby girls dying in India

Just saw this report on the BBC web site.

More and more baby girls are either being aborted during pregnancy or left to die once they are born in India, because boys are so highly valued. The proportion of girls to boys is declining drastically.

The implications for the nation and for women is frightening.

Image: 'untitled' lakshmi.prabhala

Friday, June 20, 2008

Tips for Midwives: Working with Students

A little while ago I ran a series of posts giving student midwives some tips for coping with life, both with studies and clinical placements. Now I would like to take a little time to think about how we, as midwives, can make clinical placements positive learning experiences for students. Whilst this post is directed at midwives, the principles are exactly the same for any health professional working with students.

In the next couple of posts I will discuss how to deal with conflict and assessment, but in this post I wish to consider clinical teaching in a more general way. These thoughts are my own and have come about from years of working with students as both midwife and lecturer.

Think about how you learn
There's a reason why so many students like working with midwives who themselves have just qualified and that is because the new graduates remember what it is like to be a student.

So have a think back to your days of being a student or to a more recent situation in which you were the 'learner'.
  • What helped you to learn?
  • What was it about your teacher that really helped you learn a skill or grasp a concept?
  • What prevented your learning?
Now think about how you can replicate those positive learning conditions for the student you are working with.

Expectations of the teaching institution
One of the first things to check is that you know what the expectations of the institution are: what is the institution expecting you to do and what experience are you expected to provide? If you haven't received full information, then ask for it...and read it. Make sure that your expectations of the student is congruent with what the institution says the student should be doing. For example, it is no good expecting the student to take full charge when a woman is birthing when the student is actually supposed to be focusing on being a birth supporter.

The other important thing to know is who is the student's clinical supervisor, or the person you can contact in the institution. That way you can follow up queries and know who to give feedback to. Most importantly, you know who to go to for advice and support if you have any issues that needs to be dealt with, such as a student who is failing her assessment.

Expectations of the student
One of the most important things you can do with and for a student is to take the time to sit with her and discuss what she expects from the placement and what her learning goals are - even if the placement is for a day, and even if you are incredibly busy. Taking that time to check in with the student (even if it is only for a few minutes) will reassure the student that you are taking notice of her needs, as well as guide you supporting the student.

Your expectations
Be clear about what your expectations are. Students cannot read your mind so make sure you articulate what you thinking. This may range from arrangements as to how you communicate with each other, to how you want her to perform certain tasks.

Giving feedback
Think carefully about how you give students feedback. There will be times when you have to intervene immediately in a situation which may be distressing for the student because it 'shows her up'. But where possible, wait to give feedback when you are both on your own and not in front of women or colleagues, especially if it is less than positive.

Be prepared to be challenged
I strongly believe that midwives worry about working with students because they are afraid their practice will be criticized. But that is not usually the case at all.

Students love to ask questions because that is how they process what they are seeing with what they are taught. So don't get offended - be prepared to be challenged and don't be afraid to say you don't know. Use opportunity to reflect on your own practice. Are you as up to date as you think you are? Can the student teach you something? Working with students is a wonderful learning opportunity, not just for them but also for you.

Final thoughts
  • Students are on placement to learn, not to do all the dirty chores that no one else wants to do.
  • Students LOVE working with experienced midwives who share their expertise and knowledge in a positive, constructive way.
  • The way you act as a role model will be remembered by the student. That doesn't just mean the way you carry out a task but also the way you interact with women and colleagues - how you talk and behave, as well as your attitudes.
  • Don't be afraid to admit your mistakes.
  • Praise builds confidence - constant criticism doesn't.
  • Where at all possible give students plenty of time to carry tasks, especially clinical skills.
What other tips would you give professionals working with students? If you are a student, what helps you to learn in the clinical setting? What are your thoughts about teaching and learning when you are the patient that students are 'practicing' on?

Image: 'her birth' brooklyn

Thursday, June 19, 2008

My little teaching dilemma

I am about to start developing a short online post-graduate course for registered midwives. It has to be delivered in a closed environment, probably Blackboard. The course only runs for 7 weeks. The course is about reflective practice and is focusing on the midwives developing and/or expanding their professional portfolios.

Introducing midwives to social networking
I am really keen to introduce learning by social networking ie not just deliver written lectures in PowerPoint to download, but to encourage active participation by using social networking tools.

So, being mindful of time constraints and the fact I probably have to stay in BlackBoard, how can I introduce social networking in a way that will not overwhelm the midwives, but give them a taste of what can be achieved? The other thing I have to remember is that some of the students will only have access to dial-up Internet.

Collecting resources in
One of the easy things I can do is collect online resources in with a tag specific to the course, instead of storing them in BlackBoard. By requiring the students to have their own accounts, at least I will be able to introduce them to the idea of sharing resources.

Any other ideas?
I'd be grateful for your thoughts and suggestions.

Image: 'Talking Girls-- Edit 2' Beppie K

Recyling your ICM midwifery presentations

Now that everyone has returned in triumph (and probably exhaustion) from the International Confederation of Midwives conference in Glasgow, it's time to think about how you can share your presentations yet further.

Online presentations
Firstly, you can make the presentation again in an online web seminar - please let me know and I can add you to the program of seminars that I am currently organising. That way, you will be able to reach yet another audience and share your thoughts with people who were unable to attend the ICM conference.

Sharing PowerPoint presentations
The other way you can share your presentations, if you have made them in PowerPoint, is to post them on SlideShare. All you need to do is register and upload your presentation. If you are feeling very adventurous, you can also add audio to the presentation through SlideShare.

Please let me know if you decide to do this so I can advertise the links here.

Image: 'Recycle Bottles and Cans AD (HDR)'

Online Midwifery Meeting: Midwifery in Pakistan

I am thrilled to announce an online meeting on Friday, 27 June 2008 at 4:00 p.m (NZ) which is being led by Associate Professor Rafat Jan Rukanuddin.

Rafat is currently working on developing a proposal for the first direct entry midwifery degree program in Pakistan, which is sorely needed as one way of combating poor maternal and neonatal mortality rates.

Midwifery In Pakistan

Friday, 27 June 2008 4:00 - 5.00 p.m (NZ). International Time.

Attendee(s) may join by using the following link:

This is an open meeting. Attendee(s) don't require a password to join. Just write your name in 'user name'.

Using Elluminate
Elluminate has been set up to give you access from 8am NZ on 9th June so you can have a 'play' with the technology before the meeting. For more information on how to use Elluminate, please check here.

Any queries about the meeting or how to use Elluminate, please feel free to contact me:

Skype: sarah.m.stewart
Twitter: SarahStewart

For those of you who are unable to attend, the meeting will be recorded and posted here later.

Supporting midwives in Pakistan
Anyone who has an interest in health in Pakistan is invited to this meeting. Rafat and her colleagues will dearly value your support and an opportunity to discuss their plans for the future.

Image: 'Pakistani Women 03' Brajeshwar

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

A new miracle drug on the market

Dedicated to all my colleagues who work in health.

A particularly useful tool for student doctors, nurses and midwives who are revising for their pharmacology exams.

(A tad rude in places).

Advice for teenage mothers

Being a teenage mother brings a lot of challenges and pressures including worries about money, education and health, as well as social attitudes.

Here is an information website that has been created for teenage parents by Auckland Women's Centre. It has information that is relevant for both pregnant mothers and after the baby has been born. It includes information about pregnancy, relationships, parenting and making decisions.

Whilst it is written for teenagers who live in New Zealand, there is some really great information and advice that can be related to people anywhere in the world.

Image: 'who are you?' bies

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Wordle me this

Wordle is the latest fun tool that has cropped up on the Internet. It makes 'clouds' from words you provide, or the tags you keep in

I am not really sure how I would use this tool in a teaching context. Cathy Nelson thinks it can be used in writing classes to look at how words are used.

What I find interesting from a personal perspective is that I am saving few midwifery web sites in The majority of my tags are to do with professional development, life-long learning, e-learning and PLE. This probably reflects my current interests as well as the fact that I read few midwifery blogs compared to education blogs.

ICCMSN 2008: final random thoughts

Here are some last final random thoughts about The International Conference on Computer Mediated Social Networking held in Dunedin last week.

Apologies to people who are unattributed, but at this stage I have forgotten who said what.
  • Interesting that people who were studying social networking didn't appear to be doing it much themselves.
  • Social networking tools are great to enhance conference participation but need to be thought about and organised well in advance of conference. And even then, will not be taken up by many - the old 1 (or is it 10) % rule.
  • Keep social networking/e-learning simple. In the case of midwives who rely so much on mobile phones, think about how we can deliver information/education by phone. Also, consider how we work with people who have basic computer resources eg offer recordings of online sessions to people on CD.
  • Don't let education and academic funding mechanisms (and traditional thinking about knowledge production) constrain social networking activities ie publishing online papers in open access journals as well as presenting in online conference/seminars. Be involved with setting the bar as opposed to letting the bar dictate the way you engage with online learning and knowledge generation.
  • People should use more images and less text on their PowerPoint slides because nothing but text is very, very boring - see the slideshow below.
  • John Medina, author of 'Brain Rules', says that multi-tasking is impossible and always being online is distracting and unproductive. I am beginning to believe him. When I did online things like engage with Twitter, I stopped listening to the presentations so I turned off my computer when I wanted to listen carefully to a speaker.
  • I use my PLE for the majority of my learning these days rather than activities like attending conferences. For example, Clay Shirky and his ideas about time were talked about at the conference but I had already learned about him from YouTube. The real value of face-to-face conferences is the informal networking that is done between sessions. The other value, especially when you attend multi-discipline conferences is that you are 'forced' to engage with subjects/perspectives that you would otherwise
As an aside, here is a great slideshow based on 'Brain Rules', which gives excellent advice on giving presentations.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Midwifery and Wikipedia

For some time Leigh Blackall has been saying that midwives need to look at what is written in Wikipedia about midwifery with the idea to adding new information and reviewing that which is already available.

Why midwives need to care about Wikipedia?
To be honest, I have always resisted this suggestion. After all, who cares about Wikipedia? If I have spare time to write something, I would rather concentrate on writing for publication in a 'proper' midwifery journal. That would give me a lot more academic brownie points. But two things have got me to change my mind.

Wikipedia is hugely influential throughout the world
The first thing is my understanding of Wikipedia and its place in the world. Consider my own 'search' behavior - if I want information I generally start with Wikipedia, even before I go to Google and other more scholarly databases. This probably reflects the behavior of many people. So there is a good chance that pregnant women and their families, as well as students, policy makers and researchers will go to Wikipedia to find out about midwives and midwifery.

How Wikipedia works
The second thing is understanding a little more about how Wikipedia works. The video here is a good documentary that give an insight into the issues, both for and against Wikipedia. I have come to realise that the value of Wikipedia isn't just about the information that is posted, but also the discussion behind it - the story of how the information came to be posted, edited and so on.

Having looked at some of the discussion behind the information, it is clear that there is some lack of understanding of midwifery by the people who are writing the information for example, the discussion about direct-entry status. So I think it is vital that midwives make sure that the information posted is of the highest quality, so that the general public can be reassured that they are not being misled. It is also vital to ensure that myths about midwifery are not perpetrated in this open forum.

Midwives collaborating on Wikipedia
There is a strong American influence in the writing about midwifery, which is not unexpected as Wikipedia developed from the USA. So there are plenty of opportunities for midwives from other countries to work on developing information eg there is no entry for Australian midwifery.

Also, looking at the dates of the edits, it doesn't look as if any major updating has occurred for some time.

Frankly, I find the thought of publishing and editing material on Wikipedia darn-right scary. But if a group of us got together and supported each other while we learned editing skills and did the work, I'm sure it would not be half so intimidating.

Incorporating Wikipedia into midwifery education
The other was to go about developing midwifery information is to make it into project work for students. Yes, the content would have to be closely monitored by educators, but it would be a great way of encouraging collaboration, developing digital literacy skills and getting students to really know their stuff about their profession. Other disciplines have used Wikipedia in this way and found it to work very well.

So if you are a midwife who is interested in working on editing Wikipedia, or if you are a person with skills in editing Wikipedia and fancy the idea of supporting a group of midwives in this way, please let me know.

Social networking as tool for eMentoring

Here are the slides I presented at the ICCMSN conference this week proposing that social networking can be used to develop mentoring communities.

Giving birth in Second Life

One of the highlights of the social networking conference I have just attended (ICCMSN2008) was meeting Clare Atkins aka Arwenna Stardust in Second Life. Clare has been my mentor in Second Life and is one of the main drivers behind its use by New Zealand educators. Clare has been very supportive of Carolyn and I setting up a midwives' group in SL.

Getting enthusiastic about SL again
Clare gave a presentation about her impressions in Second Life and her on-going research which really got me enthused about SL again. Personally, I don't think it will appeal to midwives because the skill level required to interact in SL is probably beyond the average midwife. Plus, it needs a high-level broadband connection, which again, many midwives will not have access to especially in rural areas in New Zealand.

Replicating maternity units in SL
But I continue to see an application in midwifery education.

One of the discussion points at the conference was how people try to replicate buildings and places in SL. And Clare asked the audience why we would want to do that.

Indeed, the idea has been mooted around building a birthing unit in SL to encourage students to think about the issues of pregnancy and birth. By making the birthing unit a primary unit as opposed to a hospital maternity unit, it may help students to think about how midwives facilitate normal birth.

Getting away from buildings
But I think we should completely get away from the idea of having buildings and should think about alternative environments. My favorite place in SL is a garden that Clare has built. It has a deep relaxing pool, beautiful trees and bushes, and birds singing in the background. Whilst birthing in that sort of environment is unlikely to happen in 'real life', I am hopeful that it would stimulate discussion and reflection about the influence of place and environment on birth in SL.

If you are a midwifery educator or student, what is your opinion-how do you see a virtual environment like SL working in midwifery education?

ICCMSN 2008: highlights and learning

I have just attended the International Conference Computer Mediated Social Networking (ICCMSN2008) held at the University of Otago, Dunedin. I was going to write screeds of reflections, but I think it will be easier if you listen to my thoughts on this video.

I haven't quite the sound right - I sound like I have a stutter - I'm not sure if I can fix it, so let me know if you have any suggestions. Its probably the quality of the camera.

Free online education course

I just saw this at George Siemen's blog: Connectivism: a learning theory for today's learner. He is going to be running a course with Stephen Downes which you can either pay to enroll in for credits, or attend free of charge for interest. You can sign up now for bi-weekly newsletters that will give you more information, as well as check out the course syllabus at the wiki.

I would recommend that midwives and health professionals have a look at this, especially if they are involved with education and e-learning. Not only will it teach you about 'how technology affects the way you learn, teach and live' but it will also show you a model for open access education.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Comment Challenge Day 31: My Top 5 Lessons

Yea, I've got to the last day of the Comment Challenge.

My five top lessons are:
  1. People are incredibly generous with their time and genuinely want to give of their time for no financial recompense or otherwise. So 'thank you' to all of those who have given of their time in supporting me in this Challenge. Also, a big 'thank you' to those of you who read this blog and a very, very big 'thank you' to those of you who leave comments.
  2. Think long and hard before you write anything, especially if it is in response to something that annoys you.
  3. Think about what your writing says about 'you' - do your comments match how you want to present yourself online?
  4. Commenting on blogs is a vital part of making connections as well as continuing conversations and discussions.
  5. Doing '31 day challenges' is mad, mad, mad! No, seriously, this Challenge and the 31 Day Blog Challenge is a great informal way to learn about blogging and online communication as well as make personal connections.
Image: 'smile3' sean-b

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Free Animoto for educators

A couple of weeks ago I was raving about Animoto, which is a software that allows you to upload photos and images, and make into a video. The free version allows you to make a 30 second video, whilst a nominal amount of US$30 per year allows you to make any length videos.

Animoto in education
Thanks to Allanahk, I have just found out that you can access Animoto's full amenities free of charge if you are using it for educational purposes. To see examples of how Animoto is being used by teachers, have a look here - I thought the video on bullying was exceptionally effective.

Animoto for midwifery
I can think of heaps of ways Animoto can be used for and by midwifery students for projects and presentations such as teaching skill development and illustrating specific knowledge like mechanism of labour. And, it can be incorporated in student's eportfolios or downloaded and saved onto discs for more traditional portfolios - this is a unique facility for use in education.

Comment Challenge Day 30: How Can I Use What I've Learned About Commenting to Change my Teaching?

Thank goodness, only one more day to go!

Today's task is to reflect on what I have learned from the Comment Challenge and apply into my teaching.

The skills of facilitation
From a teaching point of view, I think the main thing that has been re-enforced to me is how to facilitate conversation ie
  • include lurkers in discussion;
  • honor what everyone has to say;
  • ignore the troublemakers;
  • have boundaries and
  • have fun.
Whilst there is no body language to guide your reactions, I don't believe that online facilitation is much different to face-to-face, classroom facilitation.

Do you think it's as easy as I have made out or do you think that face-to-face teaching and communication is a very different kettle of fish to online teaching/communication?

Image: 'Friendlies' moriza

Why Babies Die

The latest report about perinatal mortality in the UK has just been published by Confidential Enquiry into Maternal and Child Health (CEMACH). The definition of perinatal mortality in this report is death of babies from 24 weeks of pregnancy to seven days after the baby's birth.

I will be honest and admit I have only skimmed through it but some interesting points were:
  • women under 20 and over 40 years of age are at greater risk of losing babies
  • maternal obesity (BMI>30) is a risk factor
  • babies born to Black and Asian women have a higher death rate, as well as those women who are socially deprived
  • incidence of deaths when the mothers are in labour have remained the same since 2000
  • most of the deaths of babies born at home are homebirths that are not planned.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Comment Challenge Day 29: Writing a Commenting Guide for newbies

Well, I'm nearly there - on Day 29 of the Comment Challenge. Today's task looks a bit like hard work; I have to come up with a commenting guide for students, except I have changed it to blogging or Internet newbies.

Playing with VoiceThread
I have taken up Michele Martin's suggestion and made this small commentary using VoiceThread which is a wonderful tool for putting audio to slides and making a 'short and sweet' slideshow. It is relatively easy to use once you have watched the 'how to' instructions.

However, if you're wanting to making a longer slideshow with audio, you are probably better to use Slideshare. Having said that, VoiceThread has a much better facility for interaction than Slideshare, and is much more fun.

What have you got for lunch?

Very slowly I am building educational midwifery networks throughout the world. Having access to web conferencing software like Elluminate and Skype allows me the opportunity to network my students with midwifery students all over the world.

What next?
We had a great meeting with midwifery students in Nashville on International Midwives' Day but I feel like I have a number of questions left hanging over me such as:
  • why do I want to facilitate web meetings between students?
  • what will they gain?
  • what will we talk about?
  • how can we sustain networks?
  • how can web meetings be incorporated into the curriculum?
  • how can I motivate students to join the online meetings?
One idea
I think what I would like to try is the midwifery equivalent of Jess McCulloch's International Lunch Box Project. Jess is a teacher who teaches Chinese to students in Australia. Jess has students from three countries in the project and they use the idea of what is in their lunch boxes as a basis for their interactions on Skype. It is a way to get the students talking and practicing their language skills.

What do midwives eat for lunch?
How I see this working is that students join in online meetings to discuss the midwifery equivalent of lunch such as a clinical practice issue. They can explain what happens in their country; how social, economic and political contexts influences that practice issue and discuss how they can work together to improve practice.

So if you are a midwifery educator who has pre and/or post-registration students, and you're interested in this idea, please let me know. If you're a student, is this something that would interest you?

Image: 'Bento' slambo_42

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Comment Challenge Day 28: Developing a Blog Commenting Strategy?

Developing a commenting strategy is the task for Day 28 of the Comment Challenge. This activity has been inspired by the post by Caroline Middlebrook in her post " Do You Have A Blog Commenting Strategy?".

Does a strategy work for a small niche blog?
When I started this blog last year, I had strategies for just about everything, including the way I got dressed in the morning - but I do not actually think the order in which I put my shoes on had any effect on the number of blog readers.

Every now and again I think about how I can increase my readership. But generally I just do not have time to be that deliberate about commenting. I now concentrate on commenting on blogs that belong to people I want to network with, as opposed to gaining readers for the sake of it.

Marketing my blog

I have a small niche blog that I don't think will ever have a large readership, so I would rather concentrate on getting readers by other methods. I need to continue working on attracting midwives to read this blog, but for the time being that has to be through publicity in more traditional media such as midwifery journals and electronic newsletters.

I have found a marked increase in visits to my blog when I am active on Twitter, so I find that as effective as strategic commenting.

What do you think? Do strategies work for you?

Image: 'It9s about rules and strategy' pshutterbug

Very sorry about my Flickr photos

To those of you who are subscribed to this blog:

Sorry to bombard you with my Flickr photos. I have been playing with Feedburner and didn't quite get the result I was expecting. I've switched off the offending buttons so you won't get bombarded again.

What I was trying to do was get all my feeds to go through Feedburner so I can track all my statistics but I am not sure I've done it properly, so any advice would be gratefully received.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Comment Challenge Day 27: Using Comments to Communicate Your Personal Brand

Having a personal 'brand' for your online identity is considered to be very important, especially if you are wanting to develop a professional identity. The Comment Challenge task for today is to consider how I continue my brand through my comments.

What name?
Dawud Miracle maintains that you should always use an identifying name when commenting, so that people can follow you through comments. I have chosen to use my whole name as my brand because I want my online identity to be seen as a professional one.

More than a name?
But it was the other day that I got the message about branding being more than a name - it is also about behavior. If my 'brand' in this blog is that of professional midwife and educator, it is imperative that I am consistent and follow that through into my comments and other areas of online life. If I am saying in my blog that one should be professional in one's online behavior, and then abuse someone in a comment, then clearly I am not living up to my 'brand'.

Thats certainly puts the pressure on, and has made me think very carefully about the whole 'branding' issue. If my brand is 'serious health professional', how 'silly' can I be in places like Facebook? Will my 'brand' suffer if I am slightly frivolous in the comments I make?

What do you think? Do you think that the whole 'brand' issue is far too corporate for an educator and health professional to worry about? Or, do I seriously need to get a life?

'Personal Branding: Revision 2 / 20080115.10D.47543 / SML' See-ming Lee 李思明 SML

Friday, June 6, 2008

Comment Challenge Day 26: Exploring Seesmic to make video comment

Day 26 of the Comment Challenge involves making a comment using media other than text - Day 25 was a rest day, thank goodness!

Experimenting with Seesmic
I am really excited about this task because I have been wanting to try out Seesmic for a while. Seesmic is a web application that allows you to have video conversations using web cam. It never fails to amaze me how much more connected I feel to a speaker when I watch him/her on video, as opposed to reading the written word.

The problem with Seesmic
I had great fun watching comments and making my reply on Kate Foy's blog post " 3 weeks of Commenting: time for a break". This was made a lot easier by the Seesmic plugin that Kate has enabled.

However, it appears that you cannot use it with Blogger. So I am not sure how I go about enabling people to make video comments on this blog - if you know, please let me know.

DIL: getting distracted

The latest Digital Information Literacy workshop was a very interesting one. Bronwyn Hegerty has written a very nice summary of the topics we talked about which ranged from the definitions of podcasting to the management of information found on the Internet.

Probably the most interesting aspect of the workshop was looking at Bloglines, which is a RSS Reader similar to Google Reader. I use Google Reader which I find suits my needs, but Bloglines looks like it is worth investigating, especially if you haven't got an established Reader yet.

Aim for next workshop
Whilst the discussion at the workshop was very interesting, I didn't achieve my aims for improving my skills of making videos. So at the next workshop, I must not get distracted but must work to achieve my aims:
  • improve editing skills
  • produce a professional-looking video
  • make a video using photos.
Edupunk videos
Here are a couple of videos I have watched recently about a discussion that is going on in blogging land at the moment about a concept called edupunk. These videos from John Hirst and Martin Wellor are my current inspiration as regards to presentation; the videos will also explain what edupunk is.

What would you say was a good example of an educational/midwifery video that is available on YouTube, Google Video or blip. tv that I could use as a framework for development of my video-making skills?

Where women choose to birth their babies

Here is a video recording of one of the sessions held at the 2008 ICM conference that has just been held in Glasgow.

The three speakers deal with the issue of how women choose where to have their babies; hospital, home or birthing centre.

Place of delivery & choice: A qualitative study of rural maternity care in Scotland. Edwin van Teijlingen & Emma Pitchford.

Randomisation for place of delivery is not possible in the Netherlands. Marijke Hendrix

Decision criteria of women, whether to give birth in a midwife-managed delivery unit or a consultant-led unit in northern Germany. Oda von Rahden & Petra Kolip.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Comment Challenge Day 24: Commenting on a Blog Written in a Foreign Language

Crickey, today's task for the Comment Challenge is a real doozy - to comment on a blog that is written in a foreign language.

Google Translator
I became aware of Google Translator a couple of weeks ago following a discussion I had with a reader who was French. The idea of using a translator came from Sue Waters.

I tried to find a current midwifery blog written in French or Spanish but that turned out to be easier said than done.

Eventually, I found the blog of Ecohumanist which was written in Spanish. I was able to read her delightful birth story which got me thinking that I really should write my own two birth stories that I can gift my children.

Using a translator
This has been a very useful exercise. There have been a couple of blogs I have wanted to read but have been unable to because of language differences. Now that I am aware of Google Translator, that language barrier has been removed - not only for me, but also for people who want to read my blog but do not understand English. I would definitely recommend this tool.

Image: 'An experiment in visual kinetics' Torley

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

When midwives turn really, really mean!

Now this is just plain mean!

Not are they living it up at the ICM conference in Glasgow without me, but they are really turning the screws.

You three - Deborah, Jean and Carolyn - my EX best friends - are in major trouble when you get back!

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

When midwives turn mean!

Those of you who follow this blog know two things about me. Firstly, I am English and came to New Zealand 11 years ago. The second thing you will know is that I am feeling a little left out of things because all my colleagues, and half the international midwifery population has gone to the ICM conference in Glasgow, and I'm stuck here in New Zealand holding the fort.

My mean best friend
So you'd think my best friends and midwifery colleagues would be very supportive. After all, not only am I missing the biggest midwifery party in the last three years, but I also missing out on a visit 'home' and catching up with all my favorite things like jaffa cakes, walnut whips and Marks and Spencer's knickers, all the things that are dear to an English ex-pat.

You'd think there's be a little sensitivity displayed by my especially best friend, Associate Professor Deborah Davis whilst she is in Glasgow!? Wouldn't you!?

But...oh no!

Here she is, rubbing in the salt!

Wait until she gets home!!

Monday, June 2, 2008

Comment Challenge Day 23: What Makes a Great Comment?

Today's task is to build on the previous day's task and describe what makes a great comment, so that newbies get a sense of how to write a comment.

I'm afraid I am feeling extremely lazy and have decided I cannot improve on the advice that Langwitches gives in her post about today's challenge. The only other thing I would add is to include a question in your comment - that can keep conversation going by inspiring more discussion.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Super 14 Rugy: Another sad season for Highlanders' fans

Well, things were as bad as I thought they'd be - we only had a couple of wins all season. I didn't do much better myself in the Telecom Virtual Rugby - my non-rugby fan, Australian mate beat me.

The only bright point of the whole season was that we beat our bitter rivals and eventual Super 14 champions, The the Jade Stadium!

Oh well, there's always next season. Now I have the Tri-nations season (South Africa, Australia, New Zealand rugby tournament) to look forward to - go the All Blacks!

Comment Challenge Day 22: Highlighting a Favorite Comment

Day 22 of the Comment Challenge involves highlighting a favorite comment or two, explaining why I liked the comment.

I enjoy all comments, even if they are a quick 'hello' or 'you're talking a load of boring rubbish'. However, because I am a conformist I will highlight two types of comments that I find particularly useful.

Responding to calls for help
The first comment I would like to highlight is one from Sue Waters in response to my request for an audit of my blog on Day 2 of the 31 Day Blog Challenge. It is very representative of the comments she leaves on my blog and others.

...Images grab your attention and make you pay attention. I also really like your posts on It's official -- squirrel was really cute too. Definitely your humour in your posts is one of your strengths.... You need to add a Search Widget to your site. I suggest if you have several sites that Lijit is an excellent choice. Search is important because it helps people locate posts on your site. I would also add a Feed Burner feed with email subscription because it will make it easier for people to subscribe. At the moment your tagline below your title (Sarah Musing's is too long -- ideally a tagline should be a short sentence. Keep up your good work. I always look forward to reading your posts!

This is a fabulous comment because Sue responded to my call for help. She was very encouraging and highlighted the good things I was already doing with my blog. Yet at the same time, she gave me practical advice about what I could do differently, in a supportive way .

Challenging and provoking
My other favorite type of comment is one that challenges and provokes. It doesn't just get me thinking, but it encourages discussion and conversation amongst readers. One example is the comment Leigh Blackall made in response to one of my posts about ultrasound scans in pregnancy.

surely its not all about outcomes.. even for a teacher.. I look at this as just an extension of the family photo, and a little way of getting excited about the new member to be..

This was a great comment because it inspired a whole conversation about connecting with one's baby before it is born.

Image: 'winter brightness' jgrantmac