Sunday, April 1, 2012

What underpins digital communication competence and confidence?

I had a bit of an epiphany the other day about one of the elements I want to look at in my EdD research.

I was in an online committee meeting of the Virtual International Day of the Midwife (VIDM 2012) on Thursday in Adobe Connect and was watching people's behaviour and reactions. This got me reflecting on how our skills and confidence in this environment have developed over the last four years.

Where we used to be
We are a small group of midwives and educators from all over the world. Four years ago when we started working on this project we were relatively new to online technology, especially synchronous web conference. Working our way around Elluminate (a web conference software) was particularly scary - I don't know about the others, but it felt similar to how I imagine I would feel if I was about to take a bungy jump, up in Queenstown .....palpitations...sweaty palms... We could just about work out how to get into the room, let alone anything else. But we took our lives in our hands and facilitated (and presented at) this global conference...flying by the seats of our pants and praying for the best.

Moving from Elluminate to Adobe Connect
After three years of working in Elluminate we started to feel reasonably confident but then got told we would have to use a different software this year, Adobe Connect (which is hosted by Otago Polytechnic who has very kindly given us access for VIDM 2012). I have to admit, that brought back that awful feeling of panic, and I personally felt I was back at step one with my ability to manage technology and online facilitation. I know the principles of online facilitation are the same whatever software you use, but at the beginning of this year I was very nervous about using Adobe Connect. This was especially in light of some less than stellar experiences of it in 2011, and hearing how badly it was preforming for us at Otago Polytechnic early in 2012.

I was also very nervous about the reactions of the rest of the VIDM 2012 committee. They were just getting used to Elluminate, and I didn't know how they would cope with being told they had to start all over again with another software. But I found their reaction was far different to what I expected.

The results of confidence and competence
Instead of having to take ages to help them set up and listening to heaps of complaints, the committee members got into the room with minimal support. In fact, they all turned on their web cameras and got talking, which was against my advice because I thought we wouldn't be able to deal with that level of performance. They "played" ...they explored...they moved all my stuff around (which was really annoying)....they wrote all over my agenda (which was even more annoying)...they changed the display screen (right...that's it...I am taking away your "rights!!!!").

It was then that I had my epiphany.

I was truly struck with how their behaviour has changed over the last four years. They had the confidence to play. They were not worried about "breaking" anything. They were happy to experiment. They needed minimal (or no) support to get the technology working. Actually, to be truthful, they took us to an advanced level that I had not been prepared to go, which has made me a little peeved because I felt they were leaving me behind (which is a whole other discussion).

So...thinking about my EdD...what is it I want to explore and capture in my research?

Thinking about questions
It is how the Virtual International Day of the Midwife has supported some people to not only learn about midwifery research and practice (ie the VIDM has provided content), but it has also supported people to develop digital communication skills. This is an element that needs to go into my model of professional development that I am creating...and has always been my not very hidden agenda for this event. This also begs the questions:
  • Do midwives need to have digital communication skills?
  • Why? What are the benefits to midwives?
  • How has the Virtual International Day of the Midwife supported them to develop digital communication skills? This includes participants, facilitators and speakers, as well as the committee.
  • What impedes the development of digital communication skills?
  • Who are the people who engage with this mode of communication compared to the people who do not?
  • How does digital communication skills fit into a model of professional development?
What is digital literacy?
The other thing I need to do very quickly is decide on my use of terminology. Do I use "digital literacy" or "digital communication"? I need to clarify exactly what digital literacy is, and if it encompasses the skills I am talking about here.

I'd love to hear any comments you may have on either your own experience of developing digital literacy/communication competence and confidence, or how you have worked in or with similar environments and events. 


Anne Marie said...

Great! With regards to confidence I think this is something that @drkellypage has been exploring so god to check with her. And of course @dougbelshaw's phd thesis on dig literacy.

Sarah Stewart said...

Thanks for the references, Anne Marie. I also have to have a better look at Hegarty and Penman's work on dig literacy:

starpath said...

Hi Sarah
Have you seen this:

Also Cameron D Norman on health literacies. He presents an interesting model.

Do midwives need to have digital information and communication skills?
It would be hard to argue that they didn't.
Further discussion Wednesday? Great topic.

Sarah Stewart said...

Hello Dallas, thanks for the information. I do not want to go down this path too much (I think) but I am sure it will come into my model of PD....