Monday, April 13, 2009

Second SLENZ workshop in windy Wellington

Back in March I attended the second Second Life Education New Zealand workshop. The workshop aimed to focus on the work that was needed to be completed for Stage Two of the project which includes the virtual birth unit.

At one point when we were landing, I didn't even think I'd make the meeting - it was the roughest, lumpiest landing I have ever had - I thought we were going to run right off the runway into the sea.

Leigh Blackall and myself

As with all meetings such as this, I came away with much more work to do. If I stop and think about things too much I get overwhelmed with what we have to achieve in the next few months. So the only way I can deal with this is concentrate on one small job at a time. The priority of these jobs change often so it behoves to be flexible in time-frames and order of working on things.

Apart from minute details that we had to deal with, there were a number of broader themes to come out of the meeting.

Creative Commons

One of the most important things about this project, to my mind, is that all the work, outcomes and product is under Creative Commons license. That means that the process of development is completely open for people to follow on blogs such as this as well as Google Documents. So you can follow our processes, see what works well and learn by our mistakes. It also means that you can take and use any of the Second Life resources we develop.

I am extremely proud to belong to this group of people who are so committed to open sharing of resources. This is in direct contrast to other research projects I have been involved with. I think it is really important for tax payers to be able to see research carried out in a transparent way when it is their dollars that is funding the research.

Terry Neal - project manager

Developing motivation
One of the main challenges to this project is motivating the educators who will be using the birth unit with students. They are very interested in this project and the potential of simulation for teaching, but are leery of anything that is going to take a lot of time in orientation both for themselves and students. So everything we develop takes this into consideration.

One of the most effective ways of hooking people into Second Life we have found has been to show people how it works, with them looking over the shoulders of a person who is familiar with SL. This is reminiscent of Nancy White's method of teaching.

A strategy we are employing from now on is to involve educators in events in Second Life to help them develop their avatar, manage controls and become confident with getting around. So if you know of any in-world conferences or events coming up, especially suitable for newbies, please let me know.

Aaron Griffths and John Waugh

Monitoring visits to the birth unit
One of the things I will be interested in is who visits the birth unit, other than students in our formal evaluation, why they visit and how they find us. We have the ability to monitor visitors from a statistical point of view - to get more qualitative data, we will probably have to employ something like an online survey. It will be important to get this up and running as soon as possible because we're starting to get a lot of interest in our work, and hope to incorporate it into activities for International Day of the Midwife in May.

The future of the birth unit
The big question over the next few months is what will happen to the birth unit once the SLENZ project is finished later in the year. We will have to work out ownership and issues of funding. Nevertheless, I am extremely grateful to SLENZ for providing this wonderful resource for midwifery education and professional communication and collaboration which we can share with the international midwifery community.

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