Monday, December 29, 2008

SLENZ: Formulating plans for the virtual birth unit project

Earlier in December I attended three days of SLENZ workshops that aimed to put substance to the proposal for a virtual birth unit in Second Life that Deborah Davis and I have had accepted. Up to then, I had a vague idea of how the birth unit could be used in midwifery education but didn't really know how it would look and the practicalities of its development.

Working together
The process of working together was very interesting. The SLENZ group is made up of educators, Second Life experts and developers, and of course we all have our own opinions about things. But following much discussion we came to agreement - it was a great example of how people can negotiate a diversity of opinions and professional knowledge.

I especially valued Leigh Blackall's caution about how this project can incorporate students who do not have access to the broadband width or computers that support Second Life. I have also been thinking a lot about a comment John Waugh made to me - he maintains I need to immerse myself in Second Life. I do not agree, especially as Second Life is not my favorite web 2.0 networking tool. I believe I need the skills to be able to mentor students and health professionals in Second Life, but I do not have the time or inclination to spend hours and hours becoming the Second Life guru that John is.

Three stages of birth unit project:

Stage One

  1. Development of the birth unit according to specifications of Birth Unit Principles. This will include sign posts that explain the features of the unit and why they were chosen according to research eg links to research about the benefits of water in labour next to birthing pool.
  2. The unit should be ready for 'testing' by the end of February.
  3. Should be appropriate for first year students to look around, with lecturer taking them on the tour and explaining what is going on. This can happen any time during 2009 at a time convenient for both students and lecturers - to be tested with students at home in order to see how students cope away from campus, especially those in rural locations.
  4. Comic strip and video that tell the story of the birth unit especially for third year students who do not have access to the Internet - to be developed as alternative media to Internet that can be posted to student.
  5. Normal birth scenario (from early labour until birth of placenta) developed that student works her way through: two people are required, midwife and woman which can either be lecturer and student, or student and student. This should be ready for second year students to test during 'integration week' at the end of May and tested in a computer laboratory. Can also be tested with third years in computer laboratory in June seminar.
  6. This scenario will not be automatized - students will have to work with another person. This may be an opportunity for networked learning in Second Life eg the student works through the scenario with another Second Lifer (not necessarily a student).
Stage Two
  1. Development of the normal birth scenario so that students have to make decisions about the birth that is not going as normal as expected eg labour is long, or woman becomes dehydrated.
  2. To be ready end of October for second year 'integration week' and third year seminar in November. To be tested in computer laboratory.
  3. Alternative media.
Stage Three
  1. Development of scenario into abnormality and emergency outcomes eg neonatal resuscitation and transfer to hospital.
  2. To be ready end of October for second year 'integration week' and third year seminar in November. To be tested in computer laboratory.
  3. Alternative media.
If Stages Two and Three do not eventuate, at least the birth unit will have been developed. Also need to keep in mind the needs of the other schools of midwifery who we will invite to test the unit - their time frames will not be the same as ours at Otago and Christchurch.

User story
I have developed the initial user story based around the decision points in labour that are advocated by the New Zealand College of Midwives.
  • Decision Point 1: Woman comes to unit with support tells midwife she is in labour
  • Decision Point 2: When woman wants intermittent support from midwife
  • Decision Point 3: When woman wants continuous support from midwife
  • Decision Point 4: Second stage of labour
  • Decision Point 5: Birth to skin-skin
  • Decision Point 6: 3rd stage of labour

  • Things to do
    1. Get plans for birth unit to Aaron Griffths so he can start working on development as soon as possible.
    2. Deb and I to start writing about the birth unit, coming up with stories about why we have chosen the features we have chosen.
    3. Start to plan research outputs.

    A huge challenge for me in 2009

    Image: Christmas Fun

    I have always been interested in how health professionals learn and develop in the work setting, and being a midwifery educator I have kept my ponderings on these matters very much in the midwifery context.

    But over the last 18 months as I have become familiar with the concept of 'web 2.0' and have grown my own personal learning network, I have begun to consider how the issues of life-long learning, professional development, recruitment and retention affect the health professions in general. For example, my PhD research is looking at how e-mentoring can be applied to allied health workers.

    Moving out of midwifery and into health
    I have just accepted a six month contract working for Aged Care Queensland in Brisbane where I am to project manage the implementation and evaluation of an e-mentoring scheme. ACQI is a non-profit organization that is an umbrella association whose members provide community care and residential accommodation to disabled and elderly people in Queensland. My new job is due to start at the end of January 2009.

    I will be based in Brisbane for the next six months but will be commuting back and forth as my family will be staying in New Zealand. I don't think this set up will be much fun for my husband, but I am planning to be back in New Zealand at least one week out of four, and he will come and visit me in Brisbane. I believe that this sort of arrangement and eCommuting will become more and more attractive as people look for flexible working practices. It will certainly give us the opportunity to test how good Skype, Twitter and so on, really is.

    I will also continue leading the SLENZ birth unit project which is another reason why I need to keep coming back to New Zealand.

    Looking at the future
    This is a wonderful opportunity for me to spread my wings outside of midwifery and one that I am very excited about. Nevertheless, in six months I may be unemployed, so I need to start thinking ahead about how I am going to market myslef for future employment. I do not necessarily want to go back into midwifery education but would rather continue my work managing projects that involve life-long learning etc in generic health contexts. I also want to stay in a position where I have access to support for research into e-learning etc.

    Things to think about:

    1. What is my brand? How do I apply that brand, especially online?
    2. How should I market myself and seek jobs? How do I make myself more 'professional'?
    3. How this blog will look? Should it continue as 'Sarah's Musings' or become something else? Should I start a completely different blog, and if so, what should it contain?
    4. I know I need to get my own domain, but I'm not sure what to do with it once I have it.
    5. Should I keep blogging about midwifery matters?
    6. Need to update my ePortfolio - do I need to do anything with it, such as make it more 'generic'?
    Online midwifery professional development seminars
    The other thing I need to think about is the program of online midwifery seminars I have been facilitating. Now that I am no longer affiliated with an educational institution and no longer have access to Elluminate, should I continue to run the program? Or should I try to make it more generic? And what software should I use?

    Food for thought
    Lots of things to think about and address in the next few weeks. And I would really appreciate your feedback on any of these topics and questions I have raised.

    Have a look at Tony Karrer's blog for other people's challenges in 2009. What are yours?

    End of a decade

    Just before Christmas I accepted a six month contract in Brisbane, Australia to work as a project manager implementing and evaluating an e-mentoring scheme for Aged Care Queensland. So, for the time being I am leaving Otago Polytechnic but am maintaining my connections with midwifery education as I continue to lead the SLENZ birth unit project - more about my new job and the SLENZ project in later posts.

    Reflecting on the last 10 years of my life
    I have been a midwifery lecturer for nearly 10 years. I would say that being an educator is not for the faint-hearted. It is not an easy option compared to clinical practice. The pressure on lecturers is immense - to be an excellent teacher, research and publish, continue clinical practice, be mother, father and fairy god-mother to students. There are incredibly high expectations of you from colleagues, students, institution and profession. And a lot of the time, there are few pay backs.

    All worth while

    But on the odd occasion I have had midwives say to me that they remembered what I taught them, for example, about post partum hemorrhage or suturing that has guided them as they have dealt with clinical situations. And that has been what has sustained me over the years.

    Lows and highs
    The lows of the last 10 years has got to be the times of conflict, when I have had to work through situations where students have failed assessments or placements. Dealing with conflict is always very difficult but the way I manage that now is to make sure there is a clear process in place and follow that accordingly. In other words, the process sorts things out, not me - I do not have to take ownership of what is happening.

    The highs has to be the wonderful team of women I have worked with over the years. They are amazing women who are truly dedicated to the midwifery profession. They have so many skills and attributes, are incredibly warm and generous in how they have supported me, and are amazing midwives. I shall miss them.

    What I have learned about being a teacher
    When I look back at my early teaching days I cringe with embarrassment. And in many ways it is only over the last few months that I have really got my head around what being a teacher is all about. As I have said before, teaching is about more than content delivery. I feel the challenge for today's educators is how we can support students to look beyond the next assignment and exam to how they become life-long learners. This is not an easy task when undergraduate (and postgraduate) education is so focused on assessment and outcomes.

    My passion
    This leads me to my great passion: supporting life-long learning in the workplace, as opposed to the educational institution. In today's context of increasing demands, cut-backs and staff shortages, workplace 'education' gets put on the back burner. Yet, professional development, learning and support is vital to maintain a motivated and skilled workforce in health.

    I believe the key is networking and supporting each other to support each other. In other words, if there's free time at work, we should be encouraging each other to go online and 'talk' to someone or read a blog post as opposed to being made to feel guilty about "not doing anything" and being sent off to do meaningless cleaning.

    A new challenge
    So, I'm off to face a new challenge and follow my passion and dream into project management, mentoring, professional development and life-long learning in health. Where I'll be in six months time, I do not know. It's going to be a crazy ride - I hope you join me!

    Best wishes for 2009

    I have been very privileged to have had a wonderful Christmas with my family. Unfortunately, everyone has been working for most of the time but we still managed to be all together on Christmas Day. I had lots of great gifts including some gardening tools, perfume, and a sexy nightie from my daughter (am not too sure what she's trying to say with that gift!)

    Now I am looking forward to the new year which is going to be a big year for us as a family. Each one of us face new challenges and big decisions about our individual futures. I have a feeling that 2009 is going to be a huge roller coaster ride, but I am up for it!

    What is 2009 going to bring you?

    I would like to wish you all a wonderful new year and thank you for your support in 2008. Please leave a comment now and again to let me know how you're doing.

    Tuesday, December 23, 2008

    Meeting my virtual nephew

    I met Dot about 18 months ago via her blog when she wrote about the difficulties of finding information that she could use to make informed decisions about childbirth. And we've kept in touch ever since through our blogs.

    I had a great laugh (although I am sure she didn't laugh at the time) when I read that baby Hugh was unexpectedly born at home. I've felt like a proud aunt as I've looked at photos of Hugh growing up. I've empathized as Dot has wrestled with issues around breastfeeding and going back to work, when really all she wants to do is stay at home with Hugh.

    In turn, Dot has contributed many thought-providing comments on my blog on issues from a mother's point of view. And I have been fascinated that she teaches medieval literature - medieval history is something I want to study one day when I have nothing else to do.

    So it was my great pleasure to meet Dot and Hugh in real life when they came to visit on Sunday. They live in Ireland and are over here to visit family, and I was thrilled that Dot was able to take time out to drop in on us in Dunedin. Hugh is the most gorgeous little chap with dark eyes and lovely long eyelashes.

    I am very grateful for the wonderful friends I have made via this blog and others.

    Saturday, December 13, 2008

    How honest can you be when you're looking for a job?

    I am all for being open and honest on my blog. I like to think that I am showing what can be achieved by talking about things like my mistakes, the areas I want to strengthen and how I am progressing in the development of my skills. But it suddenly dawned on me the other day that the way I present myself on this blog may be taken the wrong way by future employers if I were looking for a job. Is it time that I looked at my online image?

    What brought this on?
    I was re-reading my post about what I wanted to achieve from my involvement in the Second Life midwifery project. I wrote the post thinking about how it would go into my ePortfolio and be the beginning of the story of my growth in this area. I wrote things about my aims: to "increase my project management skills such as communication, time management and collaboration management."

    Then I suddenly wondered how this would look to a future employer who I was canvasing for a job. Would that employer think that I had admitted I didn't have these skills or that they weren't sufficiently developed? And would that stop the future employer actually employing me? Whilst this may be acceptable from a person new in their career, is it really an image I wish to project at the stage I am in my career ie wanting to step up to a higher level of consultancy and mnagement? Is this blog post even appropriate - should I be sharing these sorts of thoughts in an online environmeent?

    How should I market myself?
    Then I started paying closer attention to the people whose blogs I read, especially people who are 'names'. Very few of them write personal thoughts about their achievements and how they wish to develop in the future. And if they do write questioning posts about learning and performance, it is in a generic way as opposed to a personal reflection.

    So should I keep my personal questioning reflections to myself, and concentrate on presenting a more professional and confident image of myself online? In other words, as I think about my career and possible job changes, how do I market myself? What should my 'brand' be?

    I woud love to hear your thoughts or advice on this topic.

    Image: 'The Burden of Thought' David M*

    Wednesday, December 10, 2008

    A tale of two cabbages

    After a fair bit of nagging, my husband finally relented and has allowed me to experiment and grow a few vegetables in my urban garden.

    Now, to be fair to my husband, I am known for my wild ideas about the garden that I never follow through. And I always leave him to clear up the mess. So this is why I had to prove to him that I could be responsible and not cause him yet more grief, garden-wise.

    I've planted a few lettuces, parsley, tomatoes, spinach, celery and two cucumber plants. I've had my first harvest of lettuce- three leaves - don't laugh, it was enough for one salad!

    But sadly, the cucumbers have come to grief.

    The other success story is that we have made our own compost and put it around the tomatoes and roses. But the dog has eaten a lot of it, so I am not sure what good it has been!

    What are you most successful at growing - flowers, vegetables or weeds?

    Tuesday, December 9, 2008

    Networking with health consumers

    I have been following the blog of Anne Cunningham, who is a GP and clinical lecturer in Wales, UK. Although we work in different health professions, we face identical issues in education.

    Patients online
    Anne recently talked in her post "Students learning from the patient's online voice" about how medical students could learn from patients. And of course, the issue is just as relevant to any health student.

    Students learn from the narratives of the patients they meet face-to-face in practice. This is central to medical education. It seems that their could be many valuable opportunities for students to learn from the patients online as well.

    She cited the example of a student who wanted to know about cholestatis in pregnancy and the only place Anne could find qualitative information was in an open discussion board. Anne went on to ask if people thought there was any problem with students accessing information from sources such as online forums?

    Networking with health consumers
    I agree that the opportunities for learning from health consumer and patients online is by and large unexplored. When you consider how much health information is shared on the Internet, the potential for students to learn from patients is immense. I really love Anne's idea of utilising resources like forums to educate her students. And what I would like to do is take things a step further and think how we can actively facilitate networking with health consumers that enhances learning for both groups. And I'm still mulling over quite how you go about it.

    How do you think we can tap into the wealth of knowledge that health consumers have? How can networked learning benefit both health students and consumers? What are the risks and benefits? Would you want to network with a medical or midwifery student, and how would you be prepared to do it?

    Image: 'Woman in the Wheelchair' neovain

    Sunday, December 7, 2008

    Supporting students' learning

    "Supporting students' learning" - free online seminar

    Speaker: Pam Harnden

    Day: Monday 8th December Time: 7.30 NZ International time

    Link of Elluminate meeting:

    Click here for information on how to use Elluminate. Feel free to contact me if you would like to join the meeting but are not too sure how the technology works.

    Image: 'First day of school point of view' Iguana Jo

    Saturday, December 6, 2008

    CCK08: A message for George and Stephen

    This is a message to George Siemens and Stephen Downes with my take on the connectivism course now that it has finished.

    Midwives and Second Life

    One of the things I have been interested in for some time is the virtual world Second Life and its potential for midwifery practice and education.

    Virtual birthing unit
    One of the ideas I have been playing with is a virtual birthing unit; a place where midwives and students can think about normal birth without the constraints of physical space, policies and constant surveillance. I am aware that there are places in Second Life that are designed for medical education but I haven't come across anywhere that would suit midwives' particular needs. But then again, until recently I hadn't really thought about what needs midwives have that can be addressed in Second Life other than providing a place to meet.

    A few weeks ago, I submitted a proposal along with a colleague, Deborah Davis to Second Life Education New Zealand (SLENZ). This proposal was accepted and I am thrilled to be the lead educator on the project. The project will consist of collaborating with midwifery educators in Christchurch and Auckland as well as SLENZ to design, build and evaluate a virtual birthing unit. The learning activities planned will meet some or all of these learning outcomes:

  • demonstrate an understanding of the role of the independent midwife;
  • demonstrate effective evidence based, midwifery practice guided by a sound knowledge base;
  • demonstrate the ability to make appropriate midwifery decisions, including the appropriate referral of clients to other health professionals;
  • demonstrate beginning professional midwifery practice using a clearly articulated framework within which decisions can be made and documented;
  • demonstrate an understanding of significance of concepts of accountability, responsibility and independent practice as they relate to midwifery practice in New Zealand;
  • critically reflect on meaning and knowledge embedded in practice in development of midwifery role;
  • demonstrate effective communication skills;
  • demonstrate an understanding of the role of the midwife in the normal childbirth process.

  • What we want to achieve
    The first thing that has to be done is firming up an idea of how we want to achieve these learning outcomes. We do not want to go down the road of developing a lot of medical artifacts ie machines and procedures, because our focus is normal birth. Having said that, the virtual environment allows us to 'practice' and work our way through scenarios in a way that we could not in real life.

    To get an idea of what could be achieved, I met Scott Diener (Professor Noarlunga) in a space "Long White Cloud" (picture above). In the hospital Scott has developed a post partum hemorrhage scenario - the student sees the hemorrhage, and has to deal with it - the woman is played by an instructor. Scott also showed me an emergency room scenario which could be adjusted to become a maternal or baby emergency, supporting students to learn about heart monitors and resuscitation. The other thing that can be developed is scenarios based around the one-to-one communication that midwives do with women such as assessment and booking.

    The thing that particularly struck me was that the scenarios were not run by robots as I expected, but by real people (instructors) who 'sat' behind the avatars. This has interesting implications for staffing. I am also not sure how one would manage the 'sharing' of the resource with people who are not directly involved with the project.

    Wellington workshop
    The first real job I have as lead educator is to attend a three-day workshop in Wellington next week. I will be expected to present a brief overview of our proposal and provide some visual aids that will give background information to the other members of the SLENZ team.

    Facing a challenge
    This will be a challenge and steep learning curve for me because Second Life is not my favored online environment. However, I am thrilled that this project has been chosen and honored to be lead educator. And I am looking forward to working with midwives at other institutions on this incredibly innovative project, as well as the SLENZ team.

    My own personal learning goals:
    • have a better understanding of how SL works, both practically and pedagogically
    • increase my practical SL skills
    • increase my learning/teaching design, implementation and evaluation skills
    • learn how to build SL artifacts
    • become a SL mentor
    • increase my project management skills such as communication, time management and collaboration management
    • lead and submit publications

    Do you have any experience of Second Life? What tips or ideas would you pass on?

    Please, please, please vote for me!

    I have been nominated for two Edublog awards for the first time: Best Individual Blog and Most Influential Blog Post - "Getting our knickers in a twist?". And I have been mulling over how I will react to my nominations and plan my campaign for getting people's votes.

    Plan of campaign
    There appears to be a number of approaches to campaigning for votes and I am not quite sure which I will take.

    There's Nancy White's cunning reverse psychology approach for the Lifetime Achievement award in which she says "don't vote for me". Nice touch, Nancy - I know reverse psychology always works with my kids :)

    Then there's the "whateva" approach taken Alan Cann, who has been nominated for the Best Teacher award. Whateva, Alan - we know you care really.

    I could be "bemused" like Stephen Downes who doesn't know why his blog wasn't nominated. Thankfully I don't need to take that stance because my blog HAS been nominated. Hopefully, Stephen isn't so bemused about his nomination for the Lifetime Achievement award.

    I could be intellectual about the awards like Tony Karrer, who is nominated for Best eLearning Blog and has just written a long expose entitled "You like awards?". Oh yes, I do! Would love one...pretty please!

    Or I could take this all far too seriously which is what Doug Johnson appears to have done in his posts like "Poking the wasp nest". I wonder if Doug will hand back his award if he wins his nomination for Best Librarian.

    My approach
    I've decided that the best approach is for me to beg and plead - please, please, please vote for me because let's face it, I haven't a hope in hell of winning an award when you see that I am up against such wonderful people as Michele Martin, CityTeacher, Al Upton and Matthew Needleman.

    Yes, awards mean a lot to me - they fulfill my need to be noticed and acclaimed-and yes, I am a drama queen, so if you have a spare 'pity vote', feel free to spend it on me.

    ...and I'd like to thank my pet gerbil, my Great-Aunt Betty, the lady down at the local fish-and-chip shop and.........

    Final round up of "Reflection on Practice"

    This is my video presentation of how "Reflection on Practice" was developed, implemented and evaluated. I would like to give a big 'thank you' to Animoto for providing such an excellent service, especially now I have been given education status.

    Wednesday, December 3, 2008

    Reflection on Practice: Evaluation

    The online course I was running has come to a close so now I need to bring together my thoughts, students' feedback and peer review in order to evaluate the course and discuss any changes I would recommend - this is a long post written to fulfill terms of a 'design and construction course' I am currently taking, so you may want to give it a miss if you're not interested in education.

    My plan for evaluation was:
    1. Feedback from students as we went along on blog, email, Elluminate, and one-to-one phone calls.
    2. Anonymous weekly poll on course blog.
    3. Formal institution student evaluation at end of course
    4. My personal reflections and evaluation in my blog that were open to students for comment - could be anonymous if they wished.
    5. Peer review during development and following course completion.
    6. Blogging network to run issues by throughout development and implementation.
    Feedback from students
    I used a number of methods and media to provide course content, including video, PowerPoint presentations with audio, and synchronous lectures and discussions. I also suggested students worked their way through several modules pertaining to reflective practice that are embedded in the Preceptor Education Program which has been developed in Canada.
    • Delicious - excellent. Very valuable means of making working at computers more portable for me.
    • Sarah, first of all I want to thank you for all the incredible posts and links that you have made available. They are very inspirational and have given me a huge collection of resources, to be use now, and in the future.
    • Elluminate was excellent: great way to interact with fellow students, and very simple to use.
    • I have finally had a chance to sit down and listen to the recording from Monday night. What a wonderful session. It has really got me inspired to write a reflection? I found the PEP modules all very interesting.
    • Just wanted to say although I have only done the first P.E.P. module I thought it was excellent. I liked the video's as they really highlighted what reflective practice is, and how it is done, with live people!
    Sense of community
    I was surprised how quickly a sense of community developed with no formal intervention from me. I am positive this is because of the synchronous sessions we had on Elluminate which quickly grew from an initial plan for 2/3 sessions for the whole course, to weekly sessions. Even now, I really miss our get-togethers.
    • I have felt a friendship between the group which started very early – I think from honesty and respect.
    • Highlight of the course for me was the generosity of everyone in sharing their reflections and comments: nice to know midwives all over have shared common experiences: and the generosity of Sarah in sharing all her cool web sites and links.
    • The highlights of the course for me have been the introduction and interaction with other midwives from other areas.
    Use of technology
    I was also surprised at how quickly the majority of students connected with the technology, but I did have to make a few adjustments: "Reflection on Practice: up and running" and "Reflection on Practice: starting to rock". Using a 'short and sweet' poll was a great way to get feedback from students as we went.
    • I enjoyed learning about new forms of communication such as blogging....
      I enjoyed the technological aspects of the course....The different technologies have help engage and maintain my enthusiasm.
    • Although I have not been an avid Blogger (yet) I have enjoyed reading all the posts and have found the links amazing.
    • The blog is a great resource to access and I enjoyed the elluminate sessions.
    • I have not used blogs before or the other online tools such as eluminate and skype, but find I am really enjoying learning about and playing with these programmes. I have downloaded skype and bought a skype phone off trademe - all ready to go. I have told family members about skype and they have downloaded too, what a neat way to keep in touch. (I’m also hoping to save on toll calls).
    • I am so proud! It was great to have a play but feel free to cut me off if I start to sound like I`m on a soapbox! My 7yr old daughter also became fascinated with mummy talking to the computer I didnt realise she was stood behind me!
    Blog vs BlackBoard
    Students appeared to enjoy the blog compared to BlackBoard
    • I have done two papers via the blackboard medium and your paper Sarah using the blog. It has been a learning curve for me to come to grips with how the blog worked. Overall I would say I enjoyed the opportunity to come to grips with a new mode of working with the learning material mainly because it has opened up a new world for me. I can see a lot of potential for using blogs and such mediums; eg wikispaces for an eportfolio, and am even exploring carrying these ideas over into different arenas of my life. In summary: the blog took a while for me to get a handle on but once I knew how to work with it - I liked it. I liked the use of illuminate, inviting guests, live chat, all of which make a learning experience more valuable because ideas are drawn out and articulated in the context of conversation. Blackboard I got used to more easily and was getting more familiar with it after 2 papers. I'm not aware wether live chat can be used on blackboard. The chatroom part is good though and is similar to the email part of our blog.
    • I used Blackboard for 4 papers this year and much prefer a Blog. Much more fun and easier to use (once you get the hang of it!). I found Blackboard time consuming opening up all the comments.
    • I know I haven`t used blackboard but I just thought that it may be worthwhile to let you know that because I didn`t know any other way of doing things that the blog seemed straight forward. 1. The information was easily accessed 2. It was very easy to make a comment and worthwhile contribution to each blog. So I know I can`t give you any comparisons I felt I had an advantage not having any preconceived ideas,if that makes any sense.
    • Overall I enjoyed, and therefore felt as though I learnt more using blogs. Blackboard was not as user friendly. I always seemed to have difficulties logging in, and making posts to the discussion board. That may have been software issues, as things improved a little when I started using firefox as my internet browser. No logic to this statement, but I found Blackboard a little intimidating, as I felt as though everything I posted had to be 'proper'.In a strange way once I started posting on the blog I felt a dramatic improvement in my confidence to post comments, I felt more creative. Words that sum up a differences between blog&blackboard. Blogging is more colourful, whereby blackboard is black and white, and flat!!!!not open-topic.
    A number of 'housekeeping' issues cropped in the feedback that students gave as the course ensued which required that I provide additional support and information:
    • blog log in
    • how to write a comment on the blog
    • access as remote student to online library databases
    • referencing
    • option for future study - students found it extremely useful to be able to have issues clarified by the postgraduate program coordinator on Elluminate.
    Unexpected outcomes
    Nearly all of the students have started up their own blog/wiki or ePortfolio. This was not a requirement of the course, so it will be interesting to see how these develop now the course has ended. In future course, the students wanted to be able to contribute to course blog as authors, so I will need to look at how I can facilitate that next time.
    • My suggestions for next course would be perhaps the ability to contribute to the blog itself, i.e. being able to make posts.
    The other unexpected thing was that a troll found two of the personal blogs and behaved in a very offensive manner. As a consequence, the students had to look at how they would manage this, and activated their ability to moderate comments. It was a salutatory lesson as to the downside of blogging and online communication.
    • I'm not pleased with the troll though and think that if this type of situation is not able to be resolved it does make a blog less workable.
    Ongoing learning and development of a community of practice
    The students have also formed their own group blog: New Zealand Midwives Practicing Reflection.
    • I have really enjoyed this paper, and are sad to say goodby. Perhaps as a suggestion we could form a 'Lounge' type of blog, as a means of keeping in touch and sharing our progress?
    • After my week's rest from the computer, I am itching to get started! I am planning BIG. I hope do do a e-port. as part of going for QLP program
    • I am so pleased that I chose to do this paper. I will spend my spare time now writing Reflections to complete my Portfolio (on paper) then work on my e-portfolio.
    • I haven’t done any writing abut these situations as yet however I find myself challenged by this paper to begin some sort of journal to record my feelings, ideas and reflections within my practice. I would like to experiment with a blog as I use the Internet quite often and it may be a helpful way for me to get over the hurdle of putting pen to paper. I have registered one but haven’t started using it yet.
    • I have a paper portfolio but in the next few years I envisage having an internet based portfolio as well...The beauty of Web 2.0 is that I can combine reflections with computer mediated applications. I know it is not a new concept for you Sarah, but for me it is revelation that has motivated me. I feel engaged in the process of integrating it into my professional development and ongoing learning, rather than filing my portfolio away for another year or two, as I have done in the past.
    The general consensus is that they want to become more faimliar with the concept of ePortfolios so they can advise Midwifery Council if/when the time comes that Council opens a debate on the place of ePortfolios in the profession. I plan to investigate how this developing community of practice can be integrated into a research project which would look at ePortfolios and midwifery.

    My personal reflections and evaluation
    I was happy with my use of Elluminate to deliver content. And I think one of the reasons the meetings were successful was because I ran them in the evenings which appeared to best suit people's commitments. It was also good to have a guest speaker at one of the sessions which took soem of the spotlight off me. And using cell phone text to remind people of the real-time sessions was very effective-I'll definitely do that again. But after attending the session led by Sue Waters and Jo Hart, I know there are ways I can make these sessions more interactive.

    With less motivated or interested group of students, I may need to facilitate more activities to encourage community-building and help familiarize students with the technology. And clearly, it is important to foster a sense of honesty and respect, especially when looking at reflective practice which requires people to be very open about their feelings and actions.
    • Firstly I have to say that my biggest achievement so far is just finding out what a blog is and hopefully replying to it. We Will have to wait and see if I can get that son who still lives at home, he is totally into computers and spends a lot of time tutting and rolling his eyes at me when I ask for any help.
    • This is the first time I am posting a comment two weeks Late!! I am still trying to get a handle on blogging as some things seem mysterious to me.
    Thus, it will be important to set up strategies accordingly to meet their needs. Keeping in touch in an individual basis, I felt, was extremely beneficial although I have had no specific feedback to corroborate that.

    Growing a learning network
    Whilst the students have gone a long way to develop a community and they have very enthusiastically seen the potential of the tools I have introduced to them, I do not know if I can say that they have been effectively networking. But having said that, the course only lasted seven weeks, which is far too short a time to develop an effective network. However, even in that short time, the students made connections with each other and started to self-organize and support each other.
    • I wonder if I could offer some student help to... I know how she feels. I am not sure how I could help, but let me know if I could.
    • I have taken advantage of the free Elluminate room on offer. If anyone wants to have a play let me know by email and I will send an invite to you to join the room for a "orientation party".
    Moving away from a learning management system
    From my point of view, moving from BlackBoard to a blog and email group has hugely reduced constraints on the way I deliver content, facilitate communication and link to external resources (I had previously delivered a similar course to this on BlackBoard). I felt it was much easier to link out to external resources, and there was generally a more relaxed approach to the course. I enjoyed myself far more, which in turn motivated me to be more creative eg I organised the real-time sessions in the evening when I normally would do it during 'working hours' - I didn't mind doing this in 'my own time' because I knew it was appreciated by the students and I gained a lot from our sessions.

    I was concerned that this more relaxed approach would result in a drop in academic standards, but students all passed the course with very good grades. However, I feel this is something that needs to be monitored - it is easy to fall into the trap of just chatting in a blog environment which is great for establishing social relationships, but I also want to ensure that students think and write critically and 'academically'.

    When it comes to looking at numbers, initially it looks as if the discussion board on BlackBoard was utilised more readily:
    • BlackBoard - 18 comments per person
    • Blog - 16 comments per person
    However, alongside the blog were 151 emails which were mostly initiated by me. And the weekly Elluminate sessions which had a minimum of 67% weekly attendance rate - this is very successful compared my use of teleconferencing in a previous course when average participation was 25%. Students also shared information with each other through individual blogs and wikis that they started to develop. So I would conclude that at the least, the blog course did not reduce communication compared to the BlackBoard course.

    One of the reasons I am so keen to move away from the LMS is that I believe an open course encourages networked learning. In this instance I was required to keep the blog closed which initially did not sit well with me. I believe there is a lot of interest in reflective practice, not just in the midwifery profession so it would be great to network with people who have the same interests. Having said that, students were incredibly honest in their comments on the blog which contributed to this great sense of trust and respect in the group, and I wonder how much that would have been affected by having the course open. Students had mixed feelings about having the course completely open: Reflection on Practice: end of week three. However, I can see no reasons why you could not completely open a course that dealt with less personal topics.

    I did open some of the Elluminate sessions and we had a couple of visitors who were not part of the course, which I enjoyed because they added different perspectives to our discussions: Midwifery and ePortfolios. However, I did not make all the recordings openly available because I took the decision that the discussions we had were too personal to publish. I know I could have asked the students, but instead I chose to make unilateral decision about this.

    I was mindful of not overloading people by requiring them to engage with too many technologies. However, I thought that using different media to present content would role model how people could use technology for learning. And on the occasions I did introduce them to tools, I tried to make it fun, and did not require them to do anything with it. However, students went way beyond my expectations and quickly explored the tools with little or no instruction from me: have a look at how this student used Wordle to explore her personal philosophy.
    • I have been playing around on a wikispace since the weekend trying to figure out how to do an eportfolio. I tried using glogster but wasn't so successful because I needed someone to tell me what to to. Anyway What I have done is opened your eportfolio on wikispace Sarah and kind've copied it. Is that OK. That way I am getting to figure out how it works and I have a primitive type eportfolio happenning!! I am really pleased. I am due for review early next year so have a goal in mind and hope it work
    Peer review
    Two colleagues gave me feedback. Deborah had facilitated the course when it had previously been hosted on BlackBoard.
    • I am just so impressed with the content, presentation and student response to this course. The course looks fabulous and interesting and is a far cry from its previous life (well it was more like a corpse actually) in Blackboard... I can see that you have facilitated student learning in a way that encourages their independence and provides them with skills that will carry through to all other aspects of their professional lives. Sarah, I cannot say enough about the student response! I have never seen students so enthused about reflecting on practice! I am also really impressed that the students are so keen to maintain links with other students in the course as they continue to focus on their professional development.
    Bronwyn also reviewed the course, particularly paying attention to the assessments. She suggested that I scaffold the assessments as opposed to expecting them both at the end of the course. She also felt that I should make the development of the portfolio a more integral part of the course and encourage the students do small group collaborative work in Elluminate. I am keen to consider this for the future, but I am also concerned that students engage in constructive discussion on the blog and am not sure that is guaranteed unless I make it an activity that is assessed.

    Input from blogging network

    Image: 'Hair Selection Practice' chefranden

    Friday, November 28, 2008

    CCK08: Motivating and engaging students in networked learning

    The connectivism course that I have been following as an informal student is coming to a close, and now I am left to think about how I can apply what I have learned into my teaching. In particular, I am thinking about how I can work with students in a way that captures their imagination and increases engagement with the course.

    I also want to evaluate the 'Reflection on Practice' course I have been running, and to do that I want to provide myself some 'standards' with which to compare the course design and construction against.

    The networked student
    To be honest, I could just finish this post with Wendy Drexler's video because it encapsulates what I have learned about connectivism over the last few weeks, and illustrates so beautifully what networked teaching and learning is all about.

    Back down to earth
    But the reality is that I have to run a course and deliver online content in a way that is meaningful to the student. I've got all fired up about networked learning, but wonder if the existing online midwifery network is 'strong' or 'big' enough to support midwifery students, especially undergraduates looking at clinical issues? When you look at the material relating to midwifery in Delicious, YouTube and SlideShare for example, there is very little that can be used in an 'academic' way. Peer-reviewed articles in credible journals that you find in Google Scholar are often unavailable without paying. And there's only limited access to full text articles through online databases. Blogging midwives are currently extremely wary about what they write and many have closed their blogs to public view.

    Quality of the network
    And what about the quality of information that is freely available? Is it information we want undergraduate midwifery utilizing in their practice? It's one thing for a history student to get a date wrong, but if a midwifery student accesses and implements wrong information there could be fatal results. How do we manage this?

    Is networked learning enough?
    As you can see, I have more questions than answers. Is networked learning sufficient motivation in itself? How do I help students develop networks - what about those students whose learning style does not suit this methodology? Is networked learning more suitable to post-graduate students who are already registered midwives with a little clinical experience under their belts; who are already familiar with the concept of networking, and have an understanding of midwifery principles? On the other hand, if we do not introduce undergraduate students to the concepts of networked learning, are we not disadvantaging them and reducing their ability to become life-long learners?

    Where to from here?
    Whilst I am still working my way through these questions, there are several aspects of design that I feel is important to be mindful of in relation to online courses

    E-teaching is more than content delivery
    In order for students to be motivated and engaged with e-learning, courses have to be more than just content delivery - courses need to be interactive. To my mind, the problem in the past with e-learning has been that many teachers (myself included) have considered that all you have to do with an online course is to load up some PowerPoint presentations into a learning management system (LMS) like BlackBoard, and throw in a few questions on the discussion board. But my experience (as a teacher) has been that these courses are boring and fail to engage the majority of students.

    Klemm (2005) contends that teachers should be using activities and technologies that encourage students to share learning and resources, and form communities or cooperatives of learning. He says that students should be encouraged to
    "build their own knowledge and understanding, typically by doing some task and producing some kind of deliverable. The deliverable could take the form of a report, a plan or recommendations, a literature review or Web quest, a data sheet, problem-solving exercises, insight challenges, a presentation, Web pages, portfolios, or other tangible materials that emerge as learners construct their understanding of the required subject matter".

    Even synchronous teaching using tools such as web conferencing requires careful thought and planning, with an emphasis placed on involving students in activities that will orientate them to the technology and support them to interact with each other. Strategies include making full use of white boards, quizzes and 'games' to encourage participation - ideas for using Elluminate can be found from Jo Hart and Sue Waters.

    Initiating a sense of community
    What ever learning theory and methodology you subscribe to, it appears that students in the online environment learn more effectively when there is interpersonal interaction, sharing and a sense of community. Klemm also talks about cooperative learning that brings the students together to support and learn from each other.
    "Cooperative learning requires a group of learners operating as a team to help each other learn. Paradoxically, though seldom used in E-learning, cooperative learning works better on-line than it does in face-to-face classrooms. The reasons include: 1) All students can find the time to do their share of the work. No longer do they have the excuse of conflicting work or study schedules; 2) Thinking is more focused and clear because everything is done in writing; 3) Everybody is more accountable. Everyone sees what everyone else is doing (and not doing); 4) All inputs are organized and archived for later review and update" (2005).

    McElrath and McDowell suggest that a sense of community can be fostered by using three steps, first suggested by Ruth Brown (2001, cited by McElrath & McDowell, 2008):
    • making friends
    • community conferment
    • development of “camaraderie”
    It is important that this is done as soon as possible after commencement of the course to reduce likelihood of drop-out (Berge & Huang, 2004). From a practical point of view, this means the teacher needs to capture the students' interest from the beginning; orientate the students to the course and the technology; role model by using personal examples; provide opportunities for students to share ideas, resources etc, and listen to students' feedback (McElrath & McDowell, 2008).

    Growing a learning network
    Beer and Jones (2008) suggest the best way for students to grow learning networks is to move courses out of the LMS, and instead encourage students to develop a personal learning environment (PLE). The PLE overcomes the restrictions that LMS put on the learning experience by allowing students to take control of their learning as opposed to it being dictated by the teacher and LMS functionality. The PLE allows networking with the wider professional community and provides ongoing support and learning after students have finished their formal course (Beer & Jones, 2008). For further information about the concept of the PLE and the tools that may make up a PLE, have a look at this slideshow by AJ Cann called "What the heck is a PLE and why would I want one?".

    Cognitive overload
    Whilst an aim of a course may be to encourage students to utilize a variety of technologies to develop a PLE, it is important to avoid cognitive overload which has been shown to cause high attrition rates, especially for first time students in the online environment (Tyler-Smith, 2006). Overloading students at the beginning of a course with information and material, as well as requiring them to engage with many different pieces of unfamiliar technology may cause students to lose confidence. This in turn affects their ability to learn and ultimately leads to drop-out.

    Remembering that students have a life
    A lot of the research that looks at students' satisfaction with e-learning concludes that they are motivated by online courses that are flexible in delivery - that fit in with their various life commitments, give them geographical freedom and allows them access to learning opportunities that would not otherwise be available to them (Jain & Ngoh, 2003). A flexible approach to teaching and learning will involve thinking outside the square and being creative when it comes to communication, delivering material and designing assessments. And the teacher has to be especially mindful that students have other life pressures on their time and resources which impact on their learning and academic performance. Therefore, it is really important to make sure content, tools and assignments are relevant and appropriate so that students do not feel they are wasting their time, and can see the practical application of what they are doing (Anderson, 2008; McCloughlin & Luca, 2001).

    Scaffolding and support
    Finally, but by no means least, students will be motivated when they feel they are being well supported by their teacher and education institution. This support may range from help with study skills and digital literacy, to regular formative feedback on their progress through the course and in relation to assignments (Allen, 2003). Scaffolding students through the course is vital (Caplan & Graham, 2008);
    • providing clear information and support at the beginning of the course, especially if unfamiliar technology is being used
    • keeping in touch with the student whilst she is working her way through the course, especially when she faces issues that have the potential to impede her learning
    • making use of a range of communication tools as the student becomes familiar with online tools eg text reminders of online meetings and assignment due dates
    • creating opportunities for problem-solving as individuals and as a group or community
    • create activities and opportunities for reflection and community dialogue
    • building assessments in a way that supports students to grow and learn, and receive feedback as they work their way through the course (Wilson, 2004).
    This post was written as part of course requirements (which is why some of you may find it rather boring). Is there any comments and feedback you would like to give on any of the topics I have raised here? What are your experiences as a teacher or learner with regard to motivation and e-learning? What works for you and what doesn't?

    Allen, M. (2003). Michael Allen's Guide to E-Learning. Hoboken:Wiley. Retrieved 3 December, 2008, from,M1

    Anderson, T. (2008). Teaching in an online learning context. In T. Anderson (Ed.), The theory and practice of online learning (pp 245-263). Athabasca: Athabasca University Press. Retrieved 18 November, 2008, from

    Beer, C., Jones, D. (2008). Learning networks: harnessing the power of online communities for discipline and lifelong learning. In D. Orr, P.A. Danaher, G. Danaher & R.E. Harreveld (Eds.), Lifelong Learning: reflecting on successes and framing futures. Keynote and refereed papers from the 5th International Lifelong Learning Conference (pp. 66-71). Rockhampton: Central Queensland University Press. Retrieved 1 December, 2008, from

    Berge, Z., & Huang, Y. (2004). A Model for Sustainable Student Retention: A Holistic Perspective on the Student Dropout Problem with Special Attention to e-Learning. DEOSNEWS, 13, 5. Retrieved 2 December, 2008, from

    Caplan, D., & Graham, R. (2008). The development of online courses. In T. Anderson (Ed.), The theory and practice of online learning (pp 245-263). Athabasca: Athabasca University Press. Retrieved 18 November, 2008, from

    Klemm, W. R. (2005). Interactive E-learning - Why Can’t We Get Beyond Bulletin Boards? Educational Technology & Society, 8, 3, 1-5. Retrieved 30 November, 2008, from
    Jain, K., & Ngoh, L. (2003). Motivating Factors in E-learning – A Case Study of UNITAR. Student Affairs Online, 4, 1.

    McCloughlin, C. & Luca, J. (2001). Quality in online delivery: what does it mean for assessment in e-learning environments? Retrieved 3 December, 2008, from

    McElrath, E., & McDowell, K. (2008). Pedagogical Strategies for Building Community in Graduate Level Distance Education Courses. Journal of Online Learning and Teaching, 4,1. Retrieved 30 November, 2008, from

    Tyler-Smith, K. (2006). Early Attrition among First Time eLearners: A Review of Factors that Contribute to Drop-out, Withdrawal and Non-completion Rates of Adult Learners undertaking eLearning Programmes. Journal of Online Learning and Teaching, 2, 2. Retrieved 2 December, 2008, from

    Wilson, C. (2004). Learning about e-learning. Retrieved 3 December, 2008, from Retrieved 2 December, 2008, from

    Wednesday, November 26, 2008

    Compliant students?

    By hook or by crook I am determined to introduce my third year students to one networking tool that will stand them in good stead for their studies and ongoing development as new graduate midwives. So I made them join Delicious with the view that it is a tool that will help them with their academic assignments in the research course that I coordinate. So the allusion to compliance in the title of this post comes because I gave them no choice about joining this particular network!

    The question is...will they use Delicious; how will they use it; and what will they think of it?

    Research project
    So my plan is to carry out a very small audit project and review the students' use of Delicious and ask them what they think of it in six months time when their course comes to an end.

    On Monday I carried out a session with the students and asked them all to set up a Delicious account. I also set up an account called 'MidwiferyResearch' which will be the account that I feed resources into for the whole class. The only thing I didn't get around to showing them was how to share resources to other people in their network. And I am not sure they realize how they can see all the bookmarks saved by their network. I plan to rectify this by showing them this screencast.

    48 hours later
    So, 48 hours after I ran the Delicious workshop, here are a couple of facts that I will review in six months time to see how the students have used their accounts:
    • All of the students have networked to each other bar one student (and I haven't looked to see if it is a specific person)
    • Eight of the 13 students have networked with the course account
    • The number of bookmarks saved by the students linked to the course account range from 1 - 12. The average number of bookmarks saved by those students is 6.5
    • The most popular tags are: midwifery and guidelines
    • The course account has 14 bookmarks saved with 8 tags. The most bookmarks saved are tagged: guidelines, nzmidwifery and presentation. As I am the account manager, I am saving the bookmarks that I think will be most helpful and interesting to the students which will be pertaining to research, midwifery practice and academic study.
    Is there anything else you think I could include into my analysis? Do you think it would be a good idea to run a very quick survey to ask them what their experience of social bookmarking is up to now? Have you used Delicious either as a teacher or student? If so, how has it gone?

    Image: 'alpine strawberry' van swearingen

    Advice needed on how an organisation can form a network using web 2.0 technology

    I have been asked by an organization for ideas on how to develop a network between themselves and other organizations who are interested in the same issues. And I wondered what your advice would be.

    The organization is a non-government organization(NGO) made up of members who provide health care and accommodation services to the community. The NGO is particularly interested in how it can provide education and professional development opportunities to its members. It is also very concerned about recruitment and retention, and is keen to investigate ways of supporting staff. And it is very keen to communicate and collaborate with other organizations who are looking at the same employment issues, not just in health.

    Where to from here?
    The NGO would like ideas on how it can utilize social networking technology and networked learning to reach out to organizations and individuals who are interested in similar issues. It has a traditional website and uses Elluminate to deliver education packages.

    Initial ideas
    Here are some of my initial ideas:
    1. Contact and network with people who are 'experts' in social networking in the NGO context such as Beth Kanter. Network with them, see what they say and seek their advice. For example, Beth has a great blog called 'Beth's Blog: How nonprofits can use social media'. In it she talks about issues facing NGOs, develops strategies and shares links and resources.
    2. Also, contact and follow people who specialize in workplace learning, life-long learning and professional development such as Michele Martin and Tony Karrer. Their blogs are hugely rich in ideas and resources. They are also founders of the Work Literacy project which aims to support "individuals, companies and organizations who are interested in learning, defining, mentoring, teaching and consulting on the frameworks, skills, methods and tools of modern knowledge work."
    3. Become familiar with the technology that is available, and think about how it could be utilized to communicate, collaborate and share. Going back to Beth, she uses Slideshare to publish and share her presentations such as this one: Nonprofits, healthcare and social media.
    4. Don't waste time looking at media and technology that costs - make it a rule to only utilize 'free stuff'.
    5. Make use of free learning events and opportunities that will help educate everyone on how to use technology. For example, for information about the ins and outs of blogging, I would recommend the 31 Day Bogging Challenge and 31 Day Comment Challenge.
    6. And don't forget that YouTube provides thousands of instructional videos that gives information on how to use particular tools and resources. Here is a video on how to make baked lemon cheesecake which I know has nothing to do with social media, but I think it illustrates really nicely how YouTube can be used to teach and share collaboratively.
    7. Start to incorporate social media into everyday working life. For example, for collaborative projects that requires the development of a document, use Google docs instead of sending emails back and forth. Another suggestion would to be to use a social bookmarking web site such as Delicious to share resources, which is particularly useful if working on a collaborative project.
    8. Start to build a network by 'getting out there' and sharing ideas and resources. Start to build a reputation for sharing and collaborative work, and then people will ask to connect with you. This may involve starting an organization blog or wiki. But at the same time, be mindful that it can take time and effort to develop a meaningful network.
    Over to you
    What other tips would you pass on? What has worked well for you and what hasn't worked at all? Is there any difference in how an organization would approach networking to an individual?

    Image: 'Meeting Table' mnadi