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!