Friday, September 4, 2009

Second Life and midwifery education: reflections on my personal learning

This is the last part of a series of blog posts I have written over the last few days about my involvement in the virtual birth unit project and Second Life Education New Zealand. The last ten months have been hectic and my involvement in the project has been a lot more time-consuming than I expected. The learning curve has been vertical at times but the end result of the project (the virtual birth unit and normal birth scenario) is one that I am extremely proud to be part of.

I am also extremely proud to be associated with the SLENZ team who are an amazing group of diverse and gifted people. How such a diverse group of people have pulled off such a quality job in a very tight time frame as well as being located all over New Zealand...I'll never know! Hats off to everyone!!

Development of skills
I leave this project far more skilled with using online tools and processes such as Google Documents, Wikieducator, Facebook and Second Life. I feel very confident to use them for design, development, communication and teaching.

Designing educational experiences
The key things I have learned about designing educational learning experiences, not just in Second Life are:
  • bring everything back to the learning aims/objectives of a program;
  • always consider how to engage students who do not have access to the Internet and Second Life;
  • design and develop in stages;
  • keep things as simple and authentic as possible;
  • don't lose sight of the reality of teaching and learning in environments such as Second Life and design your learning experiences accordingly ie how are you going to manage issues of access, skills, motivation, attitudes etc?
Being an open scholar
The other area that has been great to put into practice is being an 'open' researcher and scholar. I have talked about Creative Commons and open educational resources for some time, inspired by people such as Leigh Blackall and the work of people at Otago Polytechnic but this is the first time I have seen and been involved in open research/development processes in a large project.

I have blogged about my involvement throughout the project and it has been wonderful to be able to discuss ideas and get feedback along the way. No doubt there will be misgivings about this way of working...fears that research ideas will be stolen and that opportunities for making money are missed. But by putting your work out into the open, not only are you laying claim to your ideas and work in a way that is completely visible, but you are also sharing your knowledge and experience to a much wider audience than you would if you published solely in small, professional academic research journals.

Where to from here
I could go on but don't want to bore you too much. And I am sure that more things will come to me as time goes by.

Many of you have walked my journey with me and encouraged me along the way...and for that I thank you.

Now comes the hard work of writing up my experiences and learning, and hopefully getting some articles published in those "small, professional academic research journals" that I have just slagged off :) And I am off to the Australian College of Midwives Conference in Adelaide to present a paper about the birth unit in may even see some of you there. I am also looking for ways of continuing the work with the SL birth unit and finding funding for continuing design and research. So if any of you know of potential for funding, please let me know.

In the meantime, if you're ever in Second Life...give me a alter ego is called Petal Stransky.

It's a wrap, baby!!

Image: slenz workshop 007 nzdakota


willie campbell said...

I do like your list of what amount to good practice guidelines for online course developers.
Like you I believe that being part of a community of practitioners is of the essence and always having someone available to check in with is fairly critical. I think you also underestimate something that I can only describe as "courage". The capacity to give it a go and evaluate the consequences. Often those of us in learning institutions find that "courage" is not a desired attribute, and it tends not to be rewarded. (although it is often publicly espoused as desirable).
I will be interested to catch your thoughts about this Second-Life opportunity in a year's time.

Sarah Stewart said...

Hi Willie

Actually, you have reminded me that I missed out on a really important point - having an experienced mentor. I had two mentors - Leigh Blackall was my mentor from a design point of view, and Clare Atkins was my SL mentor. Both people spent time with me, supporting me and letting me be a sounding board without criticizing me - this was invaluable.

What I haven't talked about is the result of the evaluation and hearing what the students think. The evaluation will be published later in the it will be interesting to see that.

Yes...I'll make sure I follow up this post in a year's time. Because I am no longer employed by the Otago Polytechnic School of Midwifery I will not have continuing involvement in their keep an eye on them for me...let me know if they take the birth unit any further next year :)