Saturday, December 24, 2011

Starting to plan for the Virtual International Day of the Midwife 2012

I don't know where the years go. It seems that we get one VIDM over with and then we're starting to plan another. This is our 4th year and we're hoping for a fabulous program and lots of you midwives, students and people interested in birth will be able to join us.

On our committee this year is Deborah Davis, Mary Sidebotham, Pamela Harndon, Chris Woodhouse and Lorraine Mockford. Here are the minutes of our first 2012 VIDM committee meeting.

1. Virtual meeting room
We will be using Adobe Connect this year instead of Elluminate. One of the advantages of Adobe Connect is that it by-passes firewalls so should be easier to use in organizations such as hospitals. We will hold all our committee meetings in the room from now on so we can get as skilled as we possible with using the technology.
2. Extending the VIDM committee
We decided we would keep the committee as is for the time being so it doesn't get too big to manage, but we will shoulder tap people to help us out with specific jobs so the workload is shared as much as possible.

3. Affiliation with the ICM
Following various discussions with staff of the International Confederation of Midwives, we are going to investigate if we can become affiliated to the ICM. This will increase our coverage, give us more credibility and hopefully attract more midwives from developing countries.
  • Will invite ICM president, Frances Day-Stirk to open the day. The time we start the day will depend on if/when she is available to join us.
4. VIDM wiki:
I have made a start on editing the wiki in preparation for next year. If you have any ideas on how we can make it more user-friendly or jazz it up, please feel free to either let me know or edit the wiki yourself.

5. Facilitators
We'll be needing 24 facilitators who are able to facilitate each session, manage the virtual room, support the speakers and audience. We will also need at least four "master facilitators" who will take four to six hour slots and take over-all charge of what's going on, including stewarding the technology and supporting the facilitators. If you would be interested in helping out with either role, please let me know.

6. Speakers
After Christmas we will put out a call for EOI for speakers. We will also be shoulder tapping people. A speaker may wish to:
  • present an aspect of his/her practice;
  • lead a discussion on an aspect of practice or professional issue;
  • present the results of research, audit or project;
  • do something completely different.
We would especially like to invite student midwives, health consumers and midwives from developing countries. We would also like to invite speakers whose first language is not English - we would love to have some sessions in a language other than English. So if you're interested in being a speaker, please let me know. 

Don't can follow us on Facebook and Twitter to find out the latest news. 

Friday, December 23, 2011

Shame on the British Journal of Midwifery

I was just about to submit an article for publication in the British Journal of Midwifery when I  found out that it has gone into partnership with the milk formula company, Cow and Gate, to sponsor the "Innovating for life" awards. This is the only midwifery journal in the UK to continue an association with a milk formula company, and causes ethical problems for midwives. Milk companies have one reason for working with midwives and that is to get us to promote bottle feeding. If women choose to bottle feed, that's their choice. But it is my professional role as a midwife to promote and support breastfeeding which has been proven to be the more beneficial method of infant feeding. For those of you who don't get's like AA being sponsored by Guinness.

I have now decided not to publish in the BJM, and submit the article somewhere else. I for one do not want to be associated with practices that cause such conflict of interest in relation to infant feeding. In the meantime, you can find out more from the Facebook page "British Journal of Midwifery- You can't be Serious!"


Policy on infant formula industry funding, support or sponsorship of articles submitted for publication. Annette Beasley and Lisa H Amir. International Breastfeeding Journal 2007, 2:5 doi:10.1186/1746-4358-2-5

15 tricks of formula companies.  Ange13.

Image: ''

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Using social media to get yourself elected

I have been asked to advise and help a colleague use social media get herself elected onto the board of a professional organization. I have to admit I have never done something quite like this before, but it is not dissimilar to the marketing I have done for the Virtual International Day of the Midwife and such like.

First step
If I was going to vote for someone in an election, I would want to:
  • know all the political stuff. In other words, what are the candidate's policies, philosophy and plans for the future?
  • see she reacts to current issues as they crop up;
  • interact with the candidate...ask her questions...learn more about her thinking. Some times it is a little scary talking to a famous person or political figure in the face-to-face environment, whereas it doesn't take much nerve to leave a question on Facebook;
  • get to know the candidate...not just on a professional level, but also get to know her as a person.
What can we learn from Barack Obama?
With these questions in mind, I have turned to Barack Obama for information on how he ran his extremely successful presidential campaign in  2008. Much has been written  about the way Barack Obama used social networking. Needless to say, he had staff to run his campaign as well as significant funding. The majority of us are involved in campaigns that are a lot less ambitious. However, the core of what Obama did was interact with people. He ran a two-way campaign...he didn't just push out information but he responded to people...and got involved with them in any way he could.

About social media for campaigning
So here are a few key messages about social media and campaigning, be it an election campaign, marketing a product, fund raising or promoting an event or idea.
  • Don't expect social media to make you instant fame and fortune (or votes). You have to put time and effort into making posts, comments, responding to people and generating conversations.
  • Social networking is about exactly that...being social. In effect what you are doing is building a community around your product. Keeping in mind the 1% rule...that only 1% people will actively engage with you online,  you've got your work cut out, which takes us back to the first point I made.
  • Use the technology that people are already using. There's no point in setting up a Twitter account if everyone you want to reach is on Facebook. At the same time, the more distributed you are, the more people you are likely to reach. 
  • Be consistent with your brand ie if you develop a logo or photo of yourself, use that on all your pages and sites so you have consistency and are easily recognised. 
  • Remember a large number of people still use email, as well as cell phones. So think how you can utilize email newsletters and texts to keep people up to date with what you're doing.
  • You need to think how you're going to continue after the campaign. Social networking is a long term option not just a quick fix for electioneering or selling a product. You will lose credibility with your supporters if you do not continue to engage with them, especially if they elected you into the position you were after.
Tips and tricks for campaigning

Having had a read around of blog posts such as The Barack Obama guide to social media marketing success by Rod Kirby and 50 social media tactics for non-profits by Chad Norman, as well as my own experience I have come up with a few ideas for the basic use of social media for campaigning.

  1. Set up a YouTube channel and post short videos introducing yourself and discussing your thoughts, policies and ideas. Make them no longer than a couple of minutes.  Not only do you introduce your ideas but you give voters the chance to see what you look and sound like. Invite questions and comments, and always respond them...maybe with another video.
  2. Set up a Facebook page. Use plenty of images because that is what catches the eye. Make sure you keep your wall up-to-date because that is what readers notice first. If you are running a campaign for a short period of time, post a comment or piece of information at least daily. Connect up with other Facebook pages that have similar interests and where your audience usually hangs out. Invite your voters to contribute to your page by asking questions and adding their own comment, but make sure you always respond. Run polls for example, to find out what the main issues are that voters wish you to address. Share information that your readers will be interested in. Connect your Facebook page to your cell phone so you can monitor the page when you are away from your computer.
  3. Set up a Twitter account. Devise a unique hashtag, such as #electme which you use every time you post a comment and encourage others to use it so you can follow what others say. Monitor what people are saying about you using tools such as Tweetdeck. Send out tweets at least four times a day and always answer comments or questions. Connect up with influential people in your area that already use Twitter.
  4. Create a blog. Facebook and Twitter are fine for short and sweet messages, but for longer, in-depth ponderings it is better to have a blog. This can save you money if you have a blog rather than a website. You can use various widgets to feed in your Twitter and Facebook posts (and visa versa). Publish a post at least three times a week. Make it relevant, easy to read, not too long and use lots of images.
  5. Connect with voters. When you can, meet up with followers face-to-face with activities such as tweet-ups to give people a chance to meet you. An alternative is virtual meetings with webinars using free meeting rooms such as Wiziq.
If you want to know more, just "Google" social media and marketing or browse around the Mashable website

What tips would you pass on for successful campaigning using social media, be it for an election, marketing or fund raising?

Image: 'Tweet.'

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Why is it my kids don't like Skype?

I don't know what it is but I just cannot get my kids (grown up now) to use Skype for audio and video calling. I have been using Skype for years and never have any problems with it. It is easy to use and provides excellent quality calls to one or more (up to about four in my experience) people. But my son and daughter have always rejected Skype.

A couple of years ago, it was all about MSN. Now it is about Facebook. I don't know how long it's been possible to use Facebook for video calls, but I was introduced to it a couple of evenings ago. It appears to work well and integrates seamlessly into Facebook chat. I can see why my children prefer to use Facebook because all modes of communication are merging into one application, which make life so much easier.

As for me, I feel slightly uncomfortable about putting all my eggs into one basket...especially into the Facebook basket. So I am going to be a fuddy duddy and continue to spread myself around...around Skype, Facebook, and Google...although, I know you'll remind me that Facebook now owns Skype. What I would like to try next is find out more about the integration between Skype and Facebook.

What is your favorite tool for audio and video calls? Have you had any experience of calling Facebook friends via Skype? If so, how does it work?

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Trying out Facebook timeline on us poor Kiwis

Us poor saps in New Zealand are being given the "honor" of trying out the new Facebook Timeline before the rest of the world gets it. At first glance it looks very confusing and I ask the same question I often ask...why fix what ain't broke?! But I guess we'll all get used to it because...what else would we use instead of Facebook?!

Here's my Facebook page if you want to go and check out the new look:

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Trying to decide between two topics for my EdD research

After dithering around all year I have my EdD research down to two topics. I am not sure which way to go, so would really appreciate your feedback.

My first idea is looking at the outcomes of the Virtual International Day of the Midwife. This is a free online conference for midwives that is about to go into its fourth year. This research would look at how health professionals connect with each other using social media; how they engage with informal learning; how e-learning is used for professional development. And into this also comes issues around open access, life-long learning, volunteerism, connectivism...all my favorite subjects and subjects that are just starting to appear in scholarly publications.

The other topic that has just cropped up for me is somewhat do health professionals use social media for e-portfolio, reflection and professional development? What I would really like to do is track my learning and professional development via my blog which has over four years of data and comments to explore. What I do not know about credible is self-analysis in research...and how do you go about it? Into this topic would come much of what I have talked about for the first media, connectivism, life-long learning, confidentiality, collaborative reflection, risks to health professionals.

The difference between the two topics is the first one is about other people and their learning and the second topic would be about my learning. The appeal of the second topic is that there is little literature taking a long term look at e-portfolio and blogging, especially from the practitioner's point of view. Most the literature about reflection etc looks in the short term and in the education setting. The data is already there so I do not need to worry about recruiting participants. But I may need to go through an ethics process to include the comments that people have left on my blog. The first topic is highly relevant as health professionals are looking at alternative and cheaper modes of learning for professional development. I think the outcomes from research into the VIDM would interest managers and organisations as well as health professionals and educators.

I really am in a quandary and would really appreciate any thoughts or feedback......

What is the sexiest topic? What would contribute the most to education and health literature? What do you think would gain me the most fame and fortune? What do you think would be most "credible" and help my career development the most? What do you think is the most do-able?

Image: ''

Monday, November 28, 2011

Slightly potty in 2011

Over the last couple of years I have been playing around with growing vegetables in pots. On the whole my experiments haven't been terribly successful and I have found it rather a waste of time growing dwarf vegetables such as dwarf peas, beens, carrots etc because the yield is so small. We have an excellent farmer's market in Dunedin, so it's more cost effective buying my veggies there. Needless to say, this year I've turned a lot of my pots back to flowers again.

However, I am growing cucumbers in my porch, and trying normal size carrots and beetroot in my big pots. I'm also trying out cauliflower and broccoli in pots. I think they'll be too big for pots but as I have some spare seeds that need using up, I thought I'd see how they go. I am not going to bother with tomatoes this year - they always get battered by wind this time of year in Dunedin and never do very well.

As for the flowers, I am growing dahlias as a tribute to my father's parents and their son, my Uncle Fred who died last week and is being buried today. My family used to live on a farm and I remember very clearly the large number of dahlias that my gran used to grow in the farmhouse gardens.

The highlight of my year is using my old bath for the first time for growing a mix of flowers and veggies. I have sweet peas, lettuce, fuchsia and lebelia which should be an interesting mix. I have also put the old bathroom toilet and sink in the garden and am growing flowers in them.

The other highlight is the development of my herb garden. Two years ago my husband "threw" some thyme into a damp, shaded corner that grew weeds and not a lot else. Last year I noticed that the thyme was doing really well so I added an oregano plant which I had been given. I didn't think it would survive but this spring both herbs were growing really well. So I have added parsley, coriander, chives, mint, rosemary and sage. I'm hoping they take off as well.

Have you had any success growing veggies in pots? What tips would you pass on to me and anyone else doing the same thing? What other herbs would you suggest I put in my herb garden?

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Making the most of your Facebook settings

One of the questions I get asked the most about social media by educators and health professionals is how to retain privacy when using Facebook. My answer to that is to have a good look at the recent changes made to the settings on Facebook.

The key thing I have started to do is to identify who my "friends" are and putting them in the appropriate category - friends, close friends, acquaintances or family. I have lots of requests from people I do not know and cannot call them friends, but they have an interest that I share so I don't want to ignore them completely. So the category of "acquaintance" comes in useful for these people. This category is also useful to put work colleagues into so that you reduce the danger of mixing work with play. To do this, go to your list of friends and edit their relationship to you with the "edit" button to the right of their names. 

The next step is to think about who you want your profile update to be seen by. It can be made "public", or shown to just "friends", or "friends but not acquaintances". Or, you can customize who you want to see your update. I am using this functionality a lot. I post any general information like my latest blog post to "public", but more personal stuff like my latest thoughts on my weight loss campaign, to just my friends. The only snag I am finding is to remember to change my update to the appropriate people. But if you do forget, you can go back and change it after you have posted the update. To do this, click on the "edit" button to the right hand corner of your update.

How are you using your Facebook settings? Did you realize you had these choices? Are you deliberately targeting your updates or aren't you that bothered?

For more information, have a look at the Mashable Facebook Guidebook.

Image: 'Facebook Wants a New Face'

Monday, November 21, 2011

My top ten tips for losing weight

I am on a drive to get fit and lose weight...mostly for health reasons but also because I could not find any clothes to fit me any more. I have been going to Weight Watchers for over three months and I have lost over two stone (13 kg) in weight. I am feeling fit and healthy and regard the changes I am making as life-style changes, as opposed to a fad diet.

I have to say that it is not easy...I am having to work really hard, not just with what I eat but also how I exercise. As well as the standard advice about food and exercise which I have found to be very true, here are a few more tips that I have found are helpful to lose no particular order.

1. Get support from friends and family
I am going to Weight Watchers classes which is fine but I am getting most of my support from my colleagues at work and my friends on Facebook. They are incredibly encouraging and say lots of nice things to me which really lift me, especially if I am having a bad week...with poor weight lose or low motivation.

2. Drink non-alcoholic drinks in wine/beer glass at parties
This is a silly little thing, but when I am at a party or out for drinks, I drink my diet coke or whatever from a wine glass so it helps me think and behave like I am drinking wine. This helps to reduce the temptation to drink alcohol which, of course, is very high in sugar.

3. Always have healthy food in the house
The worse thing you can do is be without healthy food in the house because when you get the munchies, you end up snacking on rubbish like crisps and biscuits. I always keep a tin of fruit in juice on the shelves so if all else fails, I can eat that to fill me up.

4. Give yourself little goals to achieve
I have 30 kg to lose all up which will take me about a year - another 9 months to go! When I think about this I get quite despondent. So I give myself little goals all the time which I know I can achieve in under a month - this makes things seem a lot more manageable and I have found I am much less likely to lose motivation in the long term.

5. Cook a meal in advance, dish up individual portions and store in freezer
This means you always have a meal available and stops you from being tempted to nip down to the take-away on the nights you do not have time to cook.

6. Make up batches of healthy soup
Healthy soup if good for filling you up when you have the munches, or before you go to a restaurant. A great way of making sure you do not pig out on unhealthy food, especially when you are very hungry.

7. Don't be afraid to ask for what you want in restaurants
I have got really annoying (or so I have been told) when I go to restaurants because I ask for very specific food eg I ask for salad without dressing, or no butter on my jacket potato. I even ask for information about my food, like the weight of a steak, so I can record it when I get home. A tad over may think...but it works for me  :)

8. Be very open about what you are doing
I have plastered my weight lose campaign all over the place...not only so I can get support from friends but also so I have another reason for not giving up....there will be real egg on my face if I give up now, having talked about how well I have done so far.

9. Do fun exercise things
I have never been one who finds the gym fun....I don't enjoy exercise for the sake of it. So I do a lot of walking... like walking to work. I have also started playing badminton with friends and even gone swimming at our local pool for the first time since my kids were little. When exercise is fun, it is no longer a chore and you are far more likely to stay motivated to keep going.

10. Listen to an audio book when you walking
As I said before, I have started doing a lot of walking. A huge boost to my motivation for this has come from getting a MP3 player and borrowing audio books from the library. I am currently listening to the "Number One Ladies Detective Agency" series. Wanting to find out what happens next in a story has made a real impact on getting me out and about.

What tips would you pass to people like me who are trying to lose a bit of weight and get fit?

Image: 'Ice Cream Sundae'

Friday, November 18, 2011

Five benefits to losing weight

Those of you who follow what I am up to on Facebook will know I have started to go to Weight Watchers and am on a huge long-term campaign to lose weight and get fitter. I have a total of 30kg to lose, but to be honest, will be happy to lose anything over 20kg. The main driver is my blood pressure was up to dangerous levels and my back was suffering.

I have a long way to go but have already lost over 12kg and have started to notice that this is making a difference to my life. Here are a few things that my weight loss has impacted on already.

1. My snoring isn't have as bad as it was...much to the great delight of my husband!

2. I can now sit in areoplane seats without getting my bum stuck...and better still...can get the safety belt around me.

3. I can now bend over and do my shoes laces up which means I can go back to wearing those fancy shoes that have been sitting in my wardrobe for years.

4. I can wear my engagement ring again. Now...I have to say that this is a double-edge sword because I no longer have an excuse to ask my hubby for new bling for yet again, another win for him!

5. I can fit into tights again which means I can wear dresses and stop slopping around in jeans all the time.

Have any of you been in the same situation as me? What has been the big impact on you from getting fitter and improving your health?

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Hooked on Kindle

I will never be one of those who advocates getting rid of paper books and turning completely to electronic books. There is nothing that I love more than relaxing in the bath and reading my book...and that's not at all easy to do with an electronic book.  But having said that, I have just downloaded Kindle onto my lap top and am a little bit hooked on it.

I just cannot get over how quick and easy it is to download books from Amazon...which is a bit of a problem because you spend money without realizing it. The way I am getting around this is to only download free, or very cheap books. So I belong to a discussion list that lets you know about all the latest freebies.

If you interested in knowing more about this, have a look at these resources:

Free Kindle Books: A Guide - Lauren Indvik
Kindle Free eBooks: Collections - Amazon
List of Free Kindle Books - Josh Hanagarne

Do you know of any other places where I can access free books that I can download onto Kindle, especially soppy historical romances or educational textbooks?

Monday, November 14, 2011

Things to think about if you want to turn your stuff into open educational resources (OER)

One of the things I am working on at the moment at Otago Polytechnic, in my role as program developer in the Educational Development Centre, is turning our teaching certificate (the Graduate Certificate in Tertiary Learning and Teaching) into an open program ie people from anywhere in the world can access the program online...for free. will be able to follow the courses in the program for free but if you want to enroll, do the assessment and gain the qualification, there will be a fee as per normal.

Before we're able to do to this, I have had to carry out a literature review to find out what exactly open education and open education resources (OER) are, and what are the key issues that we need to take into consideration during this work. I also want to see what research questions crop up that we can address in this project.

Here is the literature review that you may find helpful in you're in the same position as me, and thinking about putting your teaching materials and course into an open, online environment:

Here is the research question that we have come up with from the literature review that we would like to investigate as we progress in our OER project:

How can an open facilitated course using a four tier model of funding (from free to formal enrollment) be designed so it is sustainable and attracts revenue?

Have you had any experience of OER? What are the key issues as far as you are concerned? What research questions do you think need to be answered with regard to OER?

Image: 'ShriRamSchoolWikiEducator - 04'

Friday, November 11, 2011

My PLE 2011

Every year I reflect on the digital tools that support my online learning. There often isn't a huge difference but it has been interesting to track what I have found to be useful and what I have tried and dropped. 

Here is my PLE in 2008.

My PLE in 2009

My PLE in 2010

My PLE in 2011
The main difference I see this year is that the number of tools I am using has reduced even more. Facebook has increased in significance because not only am I using it for the Virtual Intentional Day of the Midwife, but I also use it a lot for teaching my undergraduate midwifery students, and also to share my own information.


Although I haven't posted as frequently as I usually do, my blog continues to be at the hub of my PLE. My ePortfolio has been less important to me this year although it has been an invaluable support as I have collated my PBRF portfolio. Wikieducator has been dropped in favour of Wikispaces because I find it easier to use. I no longer use iGoogle but I do still use Gmail and Google Groups. Google Documents has been a little hit and miss this year because there has been a lot of tampering with it, and I feel it's lost the simplicity that made it so easy to work with last year. Delicious has dropped from view because it no longer integrates with Firefox, which is a shame because I liked to use it as a simple form of ePortfolio. Elluminate has also dropped off  and I expect you'll see Adobe Connect figure next year as we are moving to that virtual classroom at Otago Polytechnic, although I am yet to come to terms with it. Second Life has not figured at all but I have a funny feeling that it will pop up again in the next year or two because there is still a lot of interest in virtual worlds for midwifery education bubbling up under the surface.

So the message this year is...if it isn't simple and intuitive to use, then I won't be engaging with it!

What tool is an essential part of your PLE this year?

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Midwives have to get their heads around the old adage..."divided we fall"!

I am currently working as a virtual midwifery lecturer in Australia but still live in New Zealand. So I tend to still have an outsider's view of midwifery in Australia. Having just come back from the Australian College of Midwives conference in Sydney, the biggest impression I have brought back with me is that Australian midwifery is fraught with politics, rivalries and a real sense of disunity.

I am not a political animal...and I am not terribly insightful at the best of times. But one thing I know is midwives  (and I am talking about midwives the world over, not just in Australia) have got to put all their personal histories, jealousies and entrenched ideologies aside and talk with each together...and be one voice. Bridget Lynch said it well in her closing speech to the conference...we are not "homebirth midwives",  "hospital midwives" or "birth center midwives"...we are all MIDWIVES!

Whilst we are fighting amongst ourselves and putting each other down, we will be unable to work with a collective strength to fight the battle to protect normal birth against the increasing medicalisation of birth.

I think one of the ways we can do this is to use social media to get to know each other better, to form networks and make the most of opportunities to talk and collaborate on initiatives such as the Virtual International Day of the Midwife. Social media is not going to save the world, but maybe it will help to bring midwives together and break down some of the barriers that are currently stopping us from working together effectively.

What do you think? What do you think are the barriers to midwives working collaboratively together, and how can we overcome those barriers? 

Note: These are my opinions and do not in any way reflect those of my employer or anyone else.

Monday, November 7, 2011

The Brooke Fog Theory

One of my colleagues has a theory about social media, open education practices, Connectivism (learning theory for the digital age), MOOCs (Massive Online Course) and so on which he calls the Brooke Fog Theory...

....that we're all standing around in the fog talking about these things and it sounds like there are heaps of us engaging in these practices. But when the fog lifts, we realise that there are only a few of us talking and engaging in these practices and they are not half as widespread or effective as we thought...

I have been mulling this over for quite some time. I have been to a number of online meetings, conferences and courses over the last few years that have really talked up open education practices. To hear the speakers, open education, Connectivism and MOOCs are hugely influential and making big changes to the way people learn. But it seems to me that it is always the same people who attend these courses or conferences, and so I wonder just how wide spread and influential these practices really are.

These questions have been re-enforced by this stock take of these open courses, or MOOCs. The courses are mostly facilitated by the same people, based in the USA and are focused around the discipline of education. What I would like to know well these practices translate into the "real world"...outside the fog?

To that end I have been thinking about how I could involve myself in the development of a MOOC for health professionals. I have had a few conversations with people about this and there seems to be a group of health professionals including doctors and occupational therapists who are interested in proceeding this concept online course for health professionals designed to deal with real world issues.

I am incredibly excited about the prospect of a course that has been developed collaboratively across health professions, for participants all over the world. It could also be a suitable topic for my EdD research. But am I still propagating the interests of a select few...back in the fog again...or will a MOOC for health professional really gain some traction? Time will tell....

Image: 'Rainbow Man'

Friday, November 4, 2011

The downside of emigrating to New Zealand

Some of my most visited blog posts are the posts I have written about emigrating to New Zealand, such as "Emigrating to New Zealand" and "Emigrating to New Zealand as a midwife". I have also talked about my personal struggles with coming to terms with my new identity and what I miss about England, but at the same time, feeling that moving to New Zealand was the right decision for us as a family: "Emigrating to New Zealand: 12 years later". However, as our parents become older and more frail back in England we have become aware that there is a downside to emigrating to New Zealand.

When we first emigrated we didn't think too much about the future. At the time, we did what we felt was the best thing for our immediate family ie my hubby, myself and our children. But now, years later, the reality of leaving elderly parents and family behind in England is starting to dawn. What we are finding is it is well nigh impossible to support elderly family as they become frail and sick at a distance, and the reality is that close family members will die without us having a chance to say goodbye to them.

If you're thinking about emigrating, you must factor these considerations into your decision making. You may not be able to afford to drop everything and fly to your home country or get time off work, and in times of crises, you may not make it there in time. This may not be an issue for you now, but it may well be in the future.

My biggest fear has been that we would regret our move because we cannot be in England when our family needs us, as parents, uncles and aunties get older. But the bottom line for us has always been that we did what we thought was best for our immediate family at the time. And looking at what our children have achieved because of our move to New Zealand, and where they are now, I do not regret that decision for a moment.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

It's hard to stay gorgeous

 I have to say that I have recently gained more of an appreciation for the young Hollywood starlets who always look gorgeous in women's magazines.

Last week I went to the Australian College of Midwives conference in Sydney. It is my opinion that Australian midwives are extremely glamorous, especially the ones that come from Sydney. So I thought I had better make a bit of an effort to keep up....I didn't want to be seen as the country mouse coming from Hicksville, New Zealand. So I got my hair highlighted...bought a new dress.......a new pair of high-heeled sandals...and new mascara and lipstick.

The result of all this was that I ended up a thousand dollar poorer. I nearly blinded myself when I tried to clean off my mascara with nail varnish removal instead of make-up removal. And I was crippled by the end of the conference by huge blisters from my sandals, and the high heels aggravated my dodgy back. 

Now I am back in "Hicksville" and glad to be slopping about in old jeans and tee-shirts again. And the dress and sandals are back in the wardrobe ready for the next conference!

Monday, October 31, 2011

Online identity. Why midwives should care and how they can develop a professional online identity

 This is the presentation I gave at the 2011 Australian College of Midwives conference in Sydney about online identity. This presentation includes tips on how to develop a professional online identity.

There continues to be considerable concern amongst midwives about how they can use social media in a professional way that does not incur litigation or charges of disrepute. One of the examples of a professional blog is that of Rachel Reed (Midwife Thinking) who is a midwife, lecturer and PhD candidate in Australia. She manages to blog about clinical issues in a professional way, passing on information in an evidence-based manner, yet she keeps a personal feel to her writing.  She has also done a good job of marketing her "brand" and being consistent across all social media platforms so that when we see her particular logo, we know who she is and what we can expect from interacting with her.

What tips would you pass on to midwives or health professionals who want to dip their toes in the social media waters yet keep themselves professionally safe?

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Midwives starting to think about social media

Last week I attended the Australian College of Midwives bi-annual conference. While I was there I facilitated a workshop on the general use of social media and gave a presentation on online indentity.

The workshop went very well. Unfortunately I had just over one hour and I really needed two hours. But the activities I got participants to do, including  using post-its as tweets worked very well - a big 'thank you' to those of you who helped me develop that idea.

What I did notice was there was a much greater interest in social media than there has been - I had far more midwives attend my sessions than I expected. And I have been asked to submit an abstract to do similar sessions at the next big maternity care conference in Australia in 2012 - Breathing new life into maternity care. However, there continues to be major concerns about the use of social media from organisations and employers which is restricting the use of social media in health, in Australia. So changes are going to have to come at an organizational level especially if social media is to be effective at work.

Here is my presentation.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Starting to get an idea about my research topic for my EdD

I have been pondering for the last 10 months what direction my research would take for my EdD. I have played with the idea of being evaluating an aspect of one of the programs I teach in or implementing an innovation such as ePortfolio. But I have returned, yet again, to my great love...the topic I have been pursuing since I started my studies in 1992, and that is the professional development of midwives and health professionals.

I have narrowed things down to looking at online professional development which will incorporate a number of things I am interested in like open access and connectivism. I think I will focus on the Virtual International Day of the Midwife and the effect it has had on people over the last few years (and over the next couple of years). However, there may be another inter-professional medical education MOOC that is starting to gain traction. But I'll wait and see over the next few weeks to see if anything is going to come of that.

In the next couple of weeks I have to write an essay about the methodologies I will use to research this topic. If anyone has any advice about research methodologies and methods, and what is likely to be an appropriate approach to this research, I'd love to hear from you. 

Monday, October 24, 2011

Anyone know of a nursing/midwifery/health informatics/education/e-learning conference I can go to in May 2012?

I have to be in the UK on the 6th May 2012 so I am looking for a conference I can attend and present at, to help justify the trip and get some funding. The conference can be either in the UK or USA...and needs to be something to do with social media....

If you know of any conference that is currently calling for abstracts, please let me know.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

'To infinity and beyond' workshop: Introducing midwives to social media

The aim of this workshop is to introduce midwives to social media and how they can use it for communication and collaboration.

By the end of the workshop, midwives will be able to:

1. list some of the common social media tools that be used for communication and collaboration including Twitter, blogs, wiki, Skype and Facebook;
2. identify how midwives can use these tools to build communities and networks of practice
3. describe some examples and case studies in which midwives use social media for professional development, support and mentoring including the Virtual International Day of the Midwife
4. construct a plan for how they can use social media in their own personal learning
5. construct a plan for how they can use social media for local, national and international professional communication and collaboration

Need for this workshop
There are a number of reasons why midwives must be introduced to social media and given strategies for managing it effectively:

1. Heath information
Women turn extensively to the Internet for information, thus midwives need to know how to publish credible information for women, to increase woman's ability to make informed choices about their care, and thus increase their satisfaction with midwifery care.
The Internet is a crucial tool for finding health information. Research has shown that in eight out of ten Internet users have used the Internet to find information about health. Women are twice as likely to look on the Internet for health information, which is likely because they generally take the responsibility for the health of their families.

2. Web 2.0 will impact on the woman-midwife relationship

Not only do health consumers look for information on the Internet, they also publish their own information and content. This is what we mean when we talk about 'Web 2.0' - the tools and process of a two-way interaction on the Internet. People control their own information and how it is disseminated on the Internet. Not only can I go to the Internet and find information on a website, but using social networking tools I can publish my own version of that information on my blog, Twitter, Facebook account and so on. I can talk about my experiences of being a pregnant woman...I can start a campaign to support home birth on Facebook...I can complain about my midwife on Twitter...
Midwives need to know how to connect with women and work in a more participatory relationship which is facilitated by Web 2.0. In other words, midwives need to be able to engage with more knowledgeable and articulate health consumers in the online as well as face-to-face environment.

3. Working with Gen Y and Z
In five to ten years we will be working working with young women who have grown up with the Internet and social media, and know no other way of communicating with each other. Not only will these young women be our clients, but they will also be the next generation of midwives. We cannot bury our heads in the sand and say we only work in the face-to-face environment. If we do, we run the danger of being unable to communicate with, or meet the information needs of this new generation of women.

4. Concerns about privacy and online identity

There are concerns about security, online identity and the appropriate use of social networking sites. But this should not be a reason for avoiding social media. Social media has much to offer midwives but it is worth understanding the appropriate way to use the tools and develop strategies for keeping 'safe' on the Internet.

5. Huge potential for online communities and networks of practice

In these days of economic retrenchment, midwives must look at alternative ways to face-to-face meetings to collaborate, mentor and support each other, provide and access ongoing learning opportunities. Social media allows midwives to network and connect, and develop communities and networks of practice in a way that cannot happen using traditional communication methods. Web 2.0 fosters academic freedom, breaks down barriers to knowledge sharing and provides unique opportunities for communication and collaboration on national and international levels. The 'open access' and 'open source' movements encourage open and free access to communication tools and knowledge. Midwives cannot afford to be left behind the times as other health professions and consumers forge ahead and capitalise on the opportunities that social media offer. The more networking, connecting and sharing we do, the stronger we will become as a profession.

Workshop program

1. Introduction
  • Definition of what social media is
  • Aims for the workshop 
  • Why we need to engage with social media as midwives
2. Group discussions about social media
  • Current knowledge
  • Use 
  • Application 
  • Concerns about risk of social media 
  • What would you particularly like to know today 
3. Presentation about social media
  • How I use it and how it has impacted on my practice, learning and professional development
4. Demonstration - My eight top tools

5. Group work which each group playing a role:  hospital midwife, self-employed midwife, student, manager, lecturer, researcher, woman
  • What are the issues that concern you? eg marketing, access to internet at work, privacy, 'branding'
  • How will you use SM? 
  • Set up an Twitter account – think about issues of name, how you write profile (160 characters), write on butchers paper and stick up on the wall 
  • Feed back to workshop what you've thought are the issues...what you've called yourself...and what you've put on your profile. 
  • Take sticky notes and put name on it and post on everyone's butcher paper. Make sure you answer the notes on your account...join in the conversation 
  • Feed back to workshop  - how did that go, what did you learn,what went well, what issues arose? What questions do you still have?
6. Construction of personal social media plan
  • How are you going to use social media for your own personal learning?
  • How will you use it for local, national and international professional communication and collaboration?
7. Conclusion

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Giving Prezi a second chance

For those of you who do not know, Prezi is a presentation alternative to PowerPoint. It is a web-based application but you can download your presentations and play them without internet access once you have put them together.

To be honest, I haven't been a big fan of Prezi. I have seen some diabolically boring Prezi presentations full of text...and some have made me feel sea sick with all the zooming around. I don't think people know how to use Prezi any better than they know how to use PowerPoint, which proves the old adage that it is the way you use the tools which is the problem...not the tools themselves. And, once you've seen half a dozen, they all start to look the same.

But I have decided to give Prezi a second chance...especially now I have found out you can download your Prezi onto your computer and use without internet connection. I have to give a talk next week about why midwives need an online profile at the Australian College of Midwives conference. Prezi will be new and exciting to the audience there, so I think I'll give it a go and see how I get on.

Have you ever used Prezi? Do you have any particular tips or tricks about how to use it effectively that you could pass on?

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Any ideas on how to teach social media without a computer or internet?

I am off to the Australian College of Midwives' conference in a couple of weeks and will be facilitating a workshop on social media. I will be able to do a 'show and tell' because I'll have my computer and projector, but workshop participants will not have their own computer to play with.

So I was can I get people involved so they get the idea of how Facebook, Twitter etc work...using more traditional media such as paper and pen?

If you have any ideas or advice, I'd love to hear them.

Image: 'What Are You Doing?'

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Down and out

Well...this is it for the next four years...England out of the Rugby World Cup and I get to pack away my cap, shirt and flag until next time.

I have to say that I am very disappointed that England has got no further than the quarter finals although I am not very surprised. England have been playing very poorly and whilst they have won their games, it has been without any particular flare or conviction. If they had put as much passion into their rugby as they did their drinking, carousing and dwarf throwing they might have got further in the competition.

Meanwhile...I am about to "discover" a long lost Welsh relative which will give me the right to start eating leaks, wear a daff on my lapel and become a fan of Wales.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Free $100 book voucher for educators

Ok...I'll be honest with have to do me a favour before you can be in to win the book voucher!

If you are a lecturer or educator working in higher or adult education, go to the 'Mind the gap' wiki and have a look around....

...then complete the survey that is attached to the wiki...on the first page..

....leave us your email address and I will put you in the draw for the book voucher.

 The wiki is part of the research I have been carrying out for Ako Aotearoa, looking at video resources that are available to support teaching and learning in higher and adult education. If you have a video resource that you'd like to add to the wiki, that would also be fabulous.

If you have any questions about the research or the wiki, don't hesitate to get in touch with me.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Publication bootcamp with Queensland Health

One of the projects I am just about to finish is a 6 week publication bootcamp that I have been facilitating with ClinEd at Queensland Health in Brisbane. This project is based on the wiki: How to write a paper in six weeks.
We have done most of the work online, by web conference but last week I was in Brisbane and was able to meet up with the group face-to-face.

I do a lot of work online and am very comfortable with this space, but I have to admit, there is nothing like meeting face-to-face to fully appreciate the people you are working with.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Meeting Twitter friends

One of the things I love about social media and social networking is the friends I make on Twitter, Facebook etc. And the highlight is always meeting them face-to-face. It never fails to amaze me the depth of friendship that can be developed via social media and how I always feel like I am meeting best friends even though we have only communicated via tweets or brief Facebook messages.

Last week I had the privilege of meeting Malcolm Lewis who I have been talking to for a couple of years. We have a shared interest in how social media can be used to promote health education. Malcolm is interested in online health promotion campaigns and I would like to evaluate or research them. Hopefully we'll come up with an idea that we can collaborate on.

While we were plotting and planning, Malcolm gave me a tour of the very lovely Toowoomba Japanese Garden and took me to a teapot exhibition which made me feel home sick for the old fashioned afternoon teas I used to attend at the church hall when I was a little girl.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Cell phones and developing countries

For some time now I have been interested in how cell phones can be used to share health care resources and information with health professionals in developing countries, especially midwives. It has been my personal observation that cell phones are ubiquitous, even in countries like Pakistan. And my view has been that they are a wonderful way to opening up communication with people who would otherwise be cut off from professional communities in the Western World.

In my role as convener of the Virtual International Day of the Midwife I have been keen to turn the recordings of the sessions into files that can be downloaded onto cell phones. I have made the assumption that this would be a more effective way to targeting midwives in developing countries than via the Internet.

But my recent trip to Vanuatu has shown a different side to cell phones.

Every where I went there were signs advertising Digicel cell phones - every few feet is a booth selling cell phone re-charge vouchers. What I was told has happened is up to recently Vanautu was a barter economy. I bartered one cabbage with you for half a dozen coconuts. No one was rich, but no one starved. Now everyone wants a cell phone. Young people are often given free cell phones, which is just fine until they need to be topped up. And to do need money. So now the economy has changed and young people especially are looking at ways to make money which is difficult in this very poor country. And needless to say, one way of making money is by turning to crime.

I am not saying that cell phones are to blame for Vanuatu's crime. But in my naivety, I hadn't thought of the issues that cell phones bring and their wider impact on society.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

What I love about history

What I love about history is when you look back you realise there is nothing new under the sun.

Take for instance, men's fashions. There isn't much difference between what the young lads today are doing with their hair to what the toofs did with theirs in the early 1800s...brushing it forward a la Brutus.

The only difference is back in those days the men didn't wear their trousers hanging off their bums!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Cinderella did go to the ball after all thanks to Facebook

I was feeling a tad sorry for myself yesterday afternoon. I was desperate to get to the last England game in the World Rugby Cup at Dunedin stadium, but sadly was unable to get a ticket because I am totally broke at the moment. So I communicated my sorrow on Facebook and went back to my spring cleaning....

About 4.00pm I received a phone call from an ex midwifery client of mine saying she had a spare ticket to the game...saw my plight on Facebook...and asked if I'd like to go with her...and if the answer was yes, she'd pick me up in 30 minutes.

So after a mad scramble to put all the food back in the freezer that I was de-frosting and trying to dry my England shirt in the tumble dryer, I got picked up and whisked off to the game.

So...big thanks to my fairy godmother, Brita.

Who said Facebook was a waste of time?!

Saturday, September 17, 2011

What is acceptable language from health professionals online?

I have been following a fascinating discussion led by GP Anne-Marie Cunningham entitled "Social media, black humour and professionals..." which has been exploring what is acceptable use of language online by health professionals.

What is humour and what is offensive language?
The first I heard about this story was when I saw that a health professional had refered to labour ward (delivery suite) as "labia ward" and "birthing sheds" on Twitter. Anne-Marie blogged about the conversation because she felt the terminology the health professional was using could be offensive to patients and her post was also discussed further on Facebook: The Medical Registrar. The ongoing conversations on Anne-Marie's blog and Facebook have been really interesting, and included some very passionate ideas...and to be honest...some abusive responses.

How much does language reflect a health professional's attitude and practice?
I am all for having a laugh...letting off steam...and seeing humour in my work. I recognise health professionals have various coping mechanisms for the stress in their lives, and I love a non-PC joke as much as the next man.

What concerns me....does this language reflect an uncaring and disrespectful attitude to patients (and colleagues) that is carried over into the face-to-face workplace? The other thing that concerns me is the role modeling that is happening in public spaces...what message is being passed on to students about how they talk about patients...especially using social media?

Personally, I would feel very concerned if my daughter was being cared for by a health professional who spoke about their patients in this way. How can I be reassured that this attitude is not carried into the health professional's face-to-face interactions? How can I be reassured that he or she would not see my daughter as nothing more than a "labia"? And how could I trust that this health professional wouldn't be blabbing about her on Twitter, Facebook etc especially if he found some "humour" in his interactions with her?

Is Twitter the equivalent of the local pub?
The bottom line is...posting a comment or Facebook is not like having a yarn and giggle down the local pub with mates. Unless conversations are held in closed groups, they can be seen by everyone. As a general rule you should only say online what you'd be prepared to see in headlines in your local newspaper. Personally, I believe this sort of conversation in a public place and the resulting abuse that has followed is unprofessional and reflects very poorly on health professionals.

What do you think? Is this a case of health professionals letting off steam and should be ignored as a bit of fun? Or is it a more insidious indication of how health professionals dehumanize patients? Is this whole discussion political correctness gone berserk or should health professionals be disciplined for talking about patients in this way in social media?

Other commentaries on this discussion:

Paul Levy: A storm brews across the pond
Clare OT: Social Media and the Medical Profession

Image: 'Panama Health Care - Surgery 1'

Monday, September 12, 2011

Wanted: videos that can be used to support reflective teaching and learning practice

I have been managing a research project in conjunction with Ako Aotearea. The project is called "Mind the gap: Developing a digital repository of resources to support reflective teaching and learning".

What we're aiming to do is develop a wiki that will become a repository for videos and links to videos that can be used to support teaching and learning practice in tertiary institutions. In other words, we are looking for videos that teachers can use to inform their practice and help them to reflect on how they teach adult students.

If you have a video, or know the link of an online video that you think would be useful to teachers in higher education, please feel free to add it to the project wiki:

If you have any questions about the project, please let me know.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Loving Dunedin's new stadium...hating England's new black strip

I went to Dunedin's new stadium on Saturday for the first time, for the England vs Argentina game.

The bad news is I am going to be paying for it, as a rate payer, for the next 40 years.

On the positive side, the stadium is amazing. It was warm, dry and the atmosphere was stunning. Having survived many occasions at Carisbrook where I came that close to being hospitalised for hypothermia, it was wonderful to be watching rugby without taking half of my bedding to the game.

The only downside of the game was the new colour of the England strip. Why they have ditched white and red, and changed to black is beyond me.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

No time for Google+

A few months ago Google brought out an application called Google +. This application aims to integrate all of Google's other features into a social network that rivals Facebook. But rather than having one blanket "friend" like Facebook, it has circles with different focuses. So I can have a "family" circle..."friends" circle..."work" circle..."teachers"..."midwives"...and so on.

Some of the feedback I have seen has been very positive about aspect. For example, midwife Jan Tritten has vowed to move from Facebook to Google + because it gives her much more control over her she shares it and with whom. However, Facebook has recently responded so that now you can choose to make your status private or public.

As for me, I have requests every day to join people on Google + but as yet have not had time to explore it. I am really entrenched in Facebook so it will take a lot to move me from there completely. The only people who have talked to me about Google + are my geeky friends - people I follow on Facebook, like my kids, are totally unaware of it.

I am not a social media expert so I have no idea if Google + is going to make the grade. But as for me, there has to be really compelling reasons why I should invest time in yet another application, especially when I already use one that does a reasonably good job.

Are you using Google +? How are you getting on with it?

Friday, September 2, 2011

New international campaign promoting normal birth

There is a new campaign and website being launched currently to raise awareness about birth called:

What I love about this video that launches the campiagn is it has so many of my midwifery heroes talking...Lesley Page, Soo Downe, Denis Walsh, Mary Newburn, Sally Tracey to name but a few. All these people has published wonderfully inspiring research and's great to see what they look like in the flesh.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Sustainability of the Virtual Birth Unit in Second Life

Deborah Davis and I are writing an article that focuses on the sustainability of midwifery teaching initiatives in Second Life and we hoped that we could have a chat with anyone who has heard about the SLENZ virtual birth unit. We are interested in anyone who has visited or used the Birth Unit (even if you used it to inform the development of your own).

We have put a couple of questions together but we would love to chat in Skype or by phone with you if possible.

1. How did you find out about “Te Wahi Whanau”, the virtual birth unit on the island of Kowhai?
2. What is your interest in VBUs such as this?
3. Do you/did you use this particular VBU (or any aspects of it)?
4. How do/did you use this VBU? What aspects of the VBU do /did you use?
5. What are your experiences of using the VBU?
6. Did you make a copy the VBU?
7. If so, for what purpose?
8. Do you know of anyone else who might be using this VBU that we could contact?

Please let me know if you have any feedback for us.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

"Sarah Stewart" is about to become a rugby blog!

Well, we're on the final countdown to the World Rugby Cup in New Zealand, so there is a very high chance that all you'll hear from me in September is rugby commentary.

We're particularly excited in Dunedin because we have a new stadium and a juicy match-up between England and Argentina. I have my tickets and will be stalking Jonny Wilkinson.

I'm afraid to admit I'll be cheering for England. But saints preserve us if the All Blacks lose....

Image: 'Airship'