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?