One of the things I have been interested in for some time is the virtual world Second Life and its potential for midwifery practice and education.
Virtual birthing unit
One of the ideas I have been playing with is a virtual birthing unit; a place where midwives and students can think about normal birth without the constraints of physical space, policies and constant surveillance. I am aware that there are places in Second Life that are designed for medical education but I haven't come across anywhere that would suit midwives' particular needs. But then again, until recently I hadn't really thought about what needs midwives have that can be addressed in Second Life other than providing a place to meet.
A few weeks ago, I submitted a proposal along with a colleague, Deborah Davis to Second Life Education New Zealand (SLENZ). This proposal was accepted and I am thrilled to be the lead educator on the project. The project will consist of collaborating with midwifery educators in Christchurch and Auckland as well as SLENZ to design, build and evaluate a virtual birthing unit. The learning activities planned will meet some or all of these learning outcomes:
What we want to achieve
The first thing that has to be done is firming up an idea of how we want to achieve these learning outcomes. We do not want to go down the road of developing a lot of medical artifacts ie machines and procedures, because our focus is normal birth. Having said that, the virtual environment allows us to 'practice' and work our way through scenarios in a way that we could not in real life.
To get an idea of what could be achieved, I met Scott Diener (Professor Noarlunga) in a space "Long White Cloud" (picture above). In the hospital Scott has developed a post partum hemorrhage scenario - the student sees the hemorrhage, and has to deal with it - the woman is played by an instructor. Scott also showed me an emergency room scenario which could be adjusted to become a maternal or baby emergency, supporting students to learn about heart monitors and resuscitation. The other thing that can be developed is scenarios based around the one-to-one communication that midwives do with women such as assessment and booking.
The thing that particularly struck me was that the scenarios were not run by robots as I expected, but by real people (instructors) who 'sat' behind the avatars. This has interesting implications for staffing. I am also not sure how one would manage the 'sharing' of the resource with people who are not directly involved with the project.
The first real job I have as lead educator is to attend a three-day workshop in Wellington next week. I will be expected to present a brief overview of our proposal and provide some visual aids that will give background information to the other members of the SLENZ team.
Facing a challenge
This will be a challenge and steep learning curve for me because Second Life is not my favored online environment. However, I am thrilled that this project has been chosen and honored to be lead educator. And I am looking forward to working with midwives at other institutions on this incredibly innovative project, as well as the SLENZ team.
My own personal learning goals:
- have a better understanding of how SL works, both practically and pedagogically
- increase my practical SL skills
- increase my learning/teaching design, implementation and evaluation skills
- learn how to build SL artifacts
- become a SL mentor
- increase my project management skills such as communication, time management and collaboration management
- lead and submit publications
Do you have any experience of Second Life? What tips or ideas would you pass on?