Monday, October 27, 2008

Midwifery and ePortfolios

Last night I facilitated an online discussion about portfolios, ePortfolios and midwifery as part of the M503.7 'Reflection on Practice' Course. I advertised the session as an open session and we were lucky to have Alison Miller, Lenva Shearing and a midwife from the UK (who is moving to New Zealand and wanted to connect with local midwives) attend the meeting.

Sharing and caring
There wasn't a firm agenda other than to discuss the issues related to keeping a portfolio and the conversation quickly turned to ePortfolios. We agreed that a professional portfolio was a great central point for storing information and underpinning reflective practice. But there seemed to be a theme about time - we find it difficult to find the time to quietly sort out material and reflect. Or rather, we're not motivated to do it, and lack of time is an excuse? So it was suggested that we might be more motivated to keep our portfolios up to date so that they are more effective learning tools if we shared our reflections, experiences, learning and portfolios. And this is where one starts to see the advantages of an ePortfolio because sharing is possible in a way that it isn't with paper portfolios.

Developing midwifery ePortfolios

A few of us have started developing our own ePortfolios and blogs using platforms like Wikispaces. At the moment in New Zealand, there is no national ePortfolio system for midwives, although I understand Midwifery Council is starting to think about how an ePortfolio system can be implemented. Any such system would have to be carefully integrated into Midwifery Council's present systems and some thought would need to be put into issues such as storage space, access and funding. Further to that, if ePortfolios are brought into undergraduate midwifery education, I feel we need to make sure there is consistency between education and the profession so that students are able to seamlessly integrate the portfolio they have developed as a student into their lives as registered midwives.

ePortfolios for life-long learning
Following the theme of seamless integration of portfolios and life-long learning, it was fascinating to hear from Lenva, who is an assistant principle of a primary school in Auckland. Lenva talked about how ePortfolios are being brought into New Zealand primary schools so that every pupil will eventually have their own online space. So while we're thinking about integration of the ePortfolio from undergraduate midwifery education to professional life, what actually needs to happen on a national level is discussions about how ePortfolios can be integrated from kindergarten onwards. And I would think that the implication of these discussions will have to be addressed at government level. So whilst I have no direct contact with child education at the moment, I can see why it is important to monitor what is happening at school because it will have flow on effects for me as an educator in the tertiary sector.

Emergence of a community of practice
Alison, who is very involved in ePortfolio development in Australia, challenged us as a group about how we will continue to work together on developing our ePortfolios once the 'Reflection on Practice' course has ended in two weeks. There appears to be some enthusiasm for this which looks like developing into a community of practice. This is a most unexpected outcome of the course, but one I sincerely welcome. Alison has recommended that we look at Skillsbook, which is a free ePortfolio platform that would encourage group sharing. I am wondering about platforms such as Facebook, Ning, Wetpaint and Elgg - how would these platforms work in our midwifery context?

National experts
Personally, I am happy to do my own thing and not be tied into a specific platform or format. But I also understand that concerns about privacy and confidentiality will drive moves to a particular platform. If this new community of practice wishes to become involved in national discussions about ePortfolios, then it is important that we look at the issues from all angles, and 'have a play' with different models.

What are your experiences of ePortfolios? What issues do you feel we, as health professionals, need to consider?

Meeting link
If you are interested, here is the link to the recording of the Elluminate meeting:

Image: 'Tickler File and A-Z reference' Stephanie Booth


David McQuillan said...

I'm just wondering what benefit there is to building an e-portfolio in an e-portfolio system?

I've just been skimming that pdf that you put through the networked learning group, and now I know what an e-portfolio is. :-) Thanks. Funnily enough it's along the lines of how I'm thinking I'd like to move our assessment to next year, so it's been really useful as another perspective.

It seems to me that a blog would fulfill much of what you need, and that the use of document sharing (e.g Google docs) would provide a more closed option for sensitive material. What do you think?

I think it'd be a pity if the Midwifery council did decide on a particular ePortfolio system because it would mean that those who had already amassed a collection of evidence in a decentralised fashion would need to reformat their work into another format. Bit of a time-waster.

Glad to hear of your successes!! Good stuff. :-)

Sarah Stewart said...

Thanks, David for your encouragement.

I agree about having a centralized portfolio - I much prefer the freedom of being able to do my own thing. But it is particularly 'openness' that I value because of the ability to share and seek feedback. The concern I have about a particular platform is that that 'openness' will be prohibited. But then again, I am sure a lot of midwives will not want to be 'open' and with the climate being what it is at the moment with an upsurge of attacks on midwifery in the press, I can't say I blame midwives for their concerns.

Pam said...

The session on Monday was really interesting and really kicking back and listening to all the information was great. It is amazing what is possible these days and really enlightening.

I think it would be valuable for reflection to maintain the group and slowly expand the idea.

I was just wondering if we included others as they wanted to join do you think we should confirm that they are midwives first?

Sarah Stewart said...

The think the answer to that question would be up to you and the members of the community. On the one hand, keeping it to midwives only keeps the focus on midwifery. But on the other hand, inviting non-midwives into the group brings all sorts of other perspectives and knowledge. What do you think?