Saturday, May 31, 2008

Comment Challenge Day 21: Making a Recommendation

For the Comment Challenge today, I have to make a recommendation about a resource in a comment.

Nurse educator's blog
I have been following a new blog started by Raewyn who is a nurse educator. She is also taking part in the same digital literacy project as me. Raewyn wants to set up a resource for her nursing students but cannot make up her mind whether to do it in BlackBoard or in wikieductaor, which is an open environment.

Developing an open resource
So my recommendation to Raewyn is the page on wikieducator that Carolyn has set up. She is doing a similar thing to Raewyn and collecting resources for our midwifery students, including videos of clinical skills such as catheterisation and suturing. This might give Raewyn some ideas for her own work.

Image: 'Nonchalance' matteo_dudek

Is competitive research possible in an open environment?

I have been invited to collaborate in research that involves developing e-learning projects for midwives. I am very excited about the projects because of their opportunities for international collaboration and because they will be building on the work I am already doing with free, online professional development.

Using a wiki to develop a research proposal
I was instantly enthused about developing the research projects in a wiki such as Wikieducator because that would give us access to advice and support from a wider community of educators and researchers. It would tell the research story which would benefit other people involved in developing similar projects. I also saw it as an opportunity to role model the use of wikis for midwives, which would ultimately end up in publications, which is what academics are always aiming for these days.

Competition versus sharing
But the problem with developing research proposals for funding applications in an open environment is that there is the potential for 'competitors' to 'steal' your ideas and work. A lot hinges on the procurement of research funding for an academic. Other than the obvious - money enables the research to go ahead - obtaining research funding adds to an academic's credibility which ultimately affects career pathways and promotion. So with all that at stake, one doesn't want to put a research proposal at risk - collaboration is one thing, being pipped to the post is another.

The future for research
Collaborative research is being recognised as the way to go, so hopefully the next step is into an open environment. But while the funding of universities and education institutions as well as individual academic career pathways are based on competitive models, I am not sure how feasible that will be.

In the meantime, I feel it is vital for me to contiue to advocate for open collaboration and whilst these particular projects cannot be developed on Wikieducator, it will be good to think about what can be developed in this way.

Open midwifery research
Any ideas about collaborative midwifery projects that could be developed using social networking tools such as a wiki? For example, would you be interested in becoming involved in developing clinical scenarios in a wiki that could be used for the teaching and professional development of midwives? Do you know of any research funding bodies that would be particularly welcoming of open research applications?

Image: 'testing tube' wader

Friday, May 30, 2008

I am only human

Image: 'Sunflower' wabberjocky

One of the main concerns that people have about the Internet is security of information, privacy and the effect of online behavior on professional reputation. This issue came up again when I was talking to a group of people taking part in the digital literacy research that I am involved with.

The concerns of a newbie blogger
One of the people who heard me talk about my experiences of blogging was really surprised at how open I was and how keen I was to share my thoughts. It appeared to her that I was not worried what people thought about me. To her, privacy was an issue. She was concerned about the consequences of saying something controversial or insensitive. Could the written word in a blog be used as evidence, especially in a legal case? What would happen if words were taken out of context or misconstrued?

Being honest and open
I have looked at this issue before, particularly in relation to what I write in my ePortfolio about my clinical midwifery practice. I have come to the conclusion that it is important to be transparent because it allows people to see the hows, wheres and whys of my learning.

I have made mistakes. Very recently I became embroiled in a wider flame war and wrote a post about another midwife. It was meant to be a generic comment on how health professionals behave online but reflecting back on it, I think I was out of order in what I wrote and how I said it. I know now that it was very hurtful to the person involved and for that I am deeply sorry. Whilst I cannot mend that hurt, I have taken on board some valuable lessons about the importance of being professional in the way I write this blog and how I comment (or not, as the case should probably be) about other people's behaviour. If I have any doubts about what I am about to post, I will ask for some sort of peer review before I hit the 'publish' button.

I do worry about what other people think, but I also believe in the importance of reflection and the shared learning that comes from reflection in an open environment.

Why should you be open about your mistakes?
Michele Martin has written a number of posts about this including 'Lets get naked', 'With Web 2.0, You Can Run, But You Can't Hide: Tools and Resources for Managing Your Online Reputation' and 'Is An Online Identity Necessary and What Should You Do to Maintain It?'. Michele feels it is important to be seen as " authentic" and to "present yourself as a multi-faceted human with strengths and weaknesses". Whilst it is probably not a good idea to be blogging about how drunk you got at the weekend, admitting to one's mistakes allows you to control what is said and how the message is put out. That degree of open honesty requires you to be truthful with yourself first, which Michele maintains helps one's own personal learning as well as contributes to the learning of others.

Does admitting to your mistakes damage your professional reputation?
Michele doesn't believe this is the case. Open discussion allows people to contribute to your learning by sharing advice, support and ideas. People are more likely to honour your honesty and come to like you because they see you as 'human' with human frailties.

This was highlighted by Nancy White, who is an extremely well known consultant who works as a facilitator of groups. Nancy admitted on her blog that she had made a mistake in one of her sessions. She blogged about it, reflected on what she did and recounted the lessons she learned from the incident. That was an amazing 'risk' for someone of Nancy's standing to take but if the responses to that post were anything to go by, people really appreciated her honesty, learned from it and value her work even more. I certainly feel I know her a lot better and feel a connection with her that was not there before.

Being a reflective practitioner
Being totally honest about clinical mistakes which may include life and death issues is problematic for health professionals. How I can talk about my clinical practice in an open environment in a way that keeps me safe as a professional, yet aids both my learning and that of my colleagues is something I still have not quite worked out. But, going back to the comments made by the newbie blogger, I do believe it is important to think about what you say and how you say it. I would not publish personal details of midwifery clients that I have looked after. And I have made a personal decision not to publish birth stories other than my own. But for me to be a reflective practitioner, it is equally as important to be able to talk about my mistakes as it is to talk about my successes.

How do you feel about this? How would you feel about talking about your mistakes online? Or do you feel that professionals (whatever profession) put their reputation at risk by doing this?

Image: 'Poppies in the Sunset on Lake Geneva' Pear Biter

Do you have time to learn?

Last week I presented my blog to a group of people involved in the Digital Information Literacy Research project with me. It has been fascinating to read the responses to my short presentation and I have been gratified that people enjoyed my enthusiasm for blogging. However, there have been two concerns that have arisen in the ongoing discussion: time and privacy.

Not enough time
Heath professionals' perceived lack of time is a constant theme in research regarding professional development and education. For example, I surveyed New Zealand midwives in 2005 about their experiences of being a mentor and being mentored - lack of time was one of the main barriers to mentoring. I had similar feedback from midwives about time constraints when I surveyed them about their use of Internet resources in 2002.

The other thing I hear about professional development and ongoing education from nurses and midwives is the expectation that it should be done during working hours - that it is unrealistic to be expected to take part in learning activities in one's 'own' time.

Making time
Michele Martin believes it is vital for us to look at how we prioritize our time - it is very dangerous to take the attitude that professional development is only something we do if we are paid for it. When thinking about priorities, we have to ask ourselves the hard questions. For example, how many hours do we spend watching television? How valuable is watching 'Wife Swap' compared to having a conversation with a midwife or nurse in another country on Skype? Clay Shirky explores this very point in this enjoyable presentation.

What do we believe about learning?
Maybe what we need to be doing is explore our attitudes to learning. Learning is not just something that is delivered in a formal classroom or in a skills laboratory. It is something we are always doing - learning does not end the minute we leave our work place. If we as nurses and midwives wish to be viewed as professionals, then we must take a professional approach to our learning and professional development.

Blogging, sharing and collaborating in wikis, communicating with Skype and Facebook is not a 'waste of time' nor is it an luxurious 'extra', of limited relevance to computer geeks only. So I would reiterate the question asked by Kevin Shadix in response to a post by George Siemens about the importance of taking time to consider one's personal learning networks:

"how can we NOT afford the time?"

Some thoughts on privacy and online reputation will come in a future post.

Stewart, S. 2006. Delivering the goods: Midwives use of the Internet. In M. Murero & R. Rice (Eds.) The Internet and Healthcare. Mahwah, Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Stewart, S & Wootton, R. 2005 . The practice and potential of e-mentoring for New Zealand midwives Journal of Telemedicine and Telecare, 11 (Suppl. 2): S2: 90–92

Looks like I'm the one left to turn off the light!

That's it...everyone's gone and left me.

I'm left all on my own to turn off the light....

Most my midwifery colleagues are off to the International Confederation of Midwives conference in Glasgow which starts next week. Even the midwifery bloggers I follow like Lisa Barrett and infomidwife are on their way.

So if you are a midwife who feels a little left out like me, drop me a line for a little reciprocal commiseration. If you have been left home to hold the fort and would be interested, I can organise a spontaneous online get-together - a sort of mini ICM conference using Elluminate or Skype. Let me know if that is something you'd like to do in the next week or two.

Meanwhile, to all the midwives on their way to Glasgow - travel safe and have a wonderful time! Look forward to hearing about it when you get home.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

My PLE is like my cookie baking

I have been thinking about my personal learning environment and how it looks. I was doing some baking the other night, which in itself is a very rare event, making walnut and chocolate chip cookies. But as you see by the photo above, they did not stay in the separate blobs I put them in but rather, all merged into each other when they were baking. Looking at them reminded me of my PLE - lots of individual online tools and activities that all merge into one PLE.

How do others see their PLE?
When I first started thinking about making some sort of diagrammatic representation of my PLE, I had a look at how others saw their PLN.

Stephen Downes depicts his PLE as something like a river - inputs flowing into content editor and from there into outputs such as MySpace, Blogger and Flickr. Martin Weller sees his PLE as more of a sunflower - his learning environment is at the center of the flower with tools and activities branching out as petals. David Delgado's PLE looks similar to that of Martin Weller but there is more two-way interaction between the tools, activities and the hub of David's PLE. David identifies Elgg, which is a social networking platform, as the centre of his PLE.

The hub of my PLN is this blog, alongside my ePortfolio. I chart my activities, learning and reflections in this blog and then gather them up in my ePortfolio for display. Ultimately, my blog is the most important aspect of my PLN, which is why I have made it bigger than my ePortfolio in the diagram below.

In the diagram you will see all the tools I use for gathering and processing information, communicating and collaborating, learning, reflecting and publishing. All these tools and activities are so inter-related I thought it was more meaningful to encapsulate everything within my PLE, rather than have my PLE at the centre with arrows spreading outwards. The size of the icons indicates how important the tool/activity is to my learning.

How do you feel about this diagrammatic depiction of a PLE? Does it make sense to you? How does your PLE differ from this?

My PLE - 2009
My PLE - 2010

Comment Challenge Day 20: Following Links

My activity today is to follow three links from a blog that I read regularly. Then I must leave a comment at the blog where I have landed.

I started at Sue Water's blog and ended up at the blog of Roxanne Glaser who is Distance Learning Specialist in the USA. The post I found 'Have you thanked a soldier today? was her account of how she facilitated panels of war veterans who told their stories and answered the questions of school children.

I was struck at what an amazing learning opportunity this was for the children and how it would have brought history alive for them. I wish my son (who studied the Vietnam War last year) had had a similar learning experience - I am sure it would have meant so much more to him than wading through numbers of very dry books.

Image: 'Twelve-Spotted Skimmer' furryscaly

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Comment Challenge Day 19: Responding to a Commenter On my Blog:

I'm very pleased that Day 19 of the Comment Challenge is a very easy one. The task is to reply to a comment left on my blog. This interaction between blogger and readers encourages further conversation and shows the readers that you value their input.

I always respond to readers when they leave a comment. The only occasion that I didn't was on the advice of experienced bloggers because I did not want to get embroiled in a nasty argument that was going on in a wider context.

Image: 'Thunderhead' Nicholas_T

Monday, May 26, 2008

My first ever movie

I've done it - made my first movie using Windows Movie Maker - yippee!

I have managed to work out the basics of how WMM works and found it fairly intuitive. I am really pleased with the quality of the picture taken by my little 'point and shoot' camera.

The music was downloaded from Jamendo, which provides music free to download under cc creative commons license.

Here's my movie - some pictures taken of my local neighborhood as I took my dog for a walk this afternoon.

My next task is to make a movie made of photos and improve my editing skills, as well as make a video demonstrating a midwifery clinical skill.

Comment Challenge Day 18: Analyzing the Comments on my Blog

The activity for Day 18 of the Comment Challenge is to analyze the comments on my blog. This audit aims to show me what generates conversation so that I can replicate it in future posts.

Which of your posts have generated the most comments?
My top posts are a mix of topics:
  • Talking about clinical practice on the Internet 19 comments
  • Midwives who are inspiring 24
  • Advice to student midwives 14
  • Blogs for student midwives 14
  • Twin birth video 15
  • Pregnancy ultrasound scans 15
  • Leaving comments on my blog 18
  • Improving presentation skills 16
Which has generated the best conversation?
The posts with the 'best' conversation are not necessarily the ones with the biggest number of comments.
  • What has web 2.0 got to do with catching babies - evolved into discussion about evidence-based midwifery practice.
  • Pregnant women having too many scans? - discussion about effectiveness of scans versus assessment using traditional skills.
  • Web 2.0 teacher - discussion about using technology in teaching.
  • Excluding midwives from learning - examination of midwives' use of technology for learning.
  • Advice to midwifery students - conversation about 'surviving' life as a student midwife.
Are there any patterns to the commenting on your own blog? Do certain types of posts generate more comments than others?
I cannot really see a pattern - there appears to be a wide range of topics and type of post that attract comments.

If you do see a pattern or commonality between posts that generate good comments, what can you do to increase those qualities in other posts?
The commonality appears to be when there is a difference of opinion between readers. It does not necessarily lead to an argument, but I find it difficult to judge what will spark conversation. I do not deliberately set out to be contentious and often posts that I think will attract attention do not, and visa versa.

A comment strategy?
To be honest, I don't know if I can come to any conclusion doing this audit. For example, the post that I thought was one of my most 'boring' posts attracted the most attention. Yet, the post that I wanted to create discussion only attracted comments from two of my immediate colleagues. So I cannot see rhyme or reason to what attracts comments on this blog.

I will continue with my strategy of trying to write interesting post titles and asking questions to attract readers and generate conversation but other than that, I do not have a specific plan for generating comments.

What attracts you to make comments on this or other blogs? What type of posts do you find attracts comments to your blog, if you are a blogger?

Image: 'The Evilution of Communication' Torley

DIL: At last!

I have managed to make a screencast using Camstudio, compress it with Windows Movie Maker and upload it onto YouTube.

Notes to self:
  • Keep things short and sweet, only 10 minutes if I want to upload to YouTube
  • Be organised and know what I want to say/do in advance - be concise
  • Be mindful of quality of end result. This video is over 40mb (20mb is the recommendation). But when I dropped it to 20mb, I lost the quality of picture.
  • Region size was 640 x 480 - next time I'll try 420 x 240 to see how that improves quality of picture.
Here is the screencast I made which explains how I have developed my ePortfolio.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Comment Challenge Day 17: Commenting on Five blogs in Five minutes

I have got really behind with the Comment Challenge because I've been distracted with other projects. Thankfully, Day 16 was a rest day. Today's Challenge is designed to be a bit of fun but I think it sounds hard work - I have to comment on five blogs in five minutes.

My five comments
The posts I commented were all on blogs who are doing the Challenge. Interestingly, there was a bit of a theme - people were loving the Challenge and learning heaps, but they were getting tired. So my comments tended to be a little repetitious - I agreed that I had got a little tired of the Challenge so had taken a few days off to focus on other things. Now, I am feeling re-energized, motivated and ready to get back into things again.

My time
I have to say that I was blown away when I looked at my time. I thought I had stuck well to the five minutes. But when I added up my time, it came to 30 minutes - and that was just to make quick, reasonably unconsidered comments. Goodness only knows how much time I spend when I am thinking hard about a comment.

Lesson to be learned
I think the thing that has really struck me about this exercise is to value people's comments on my blog because they invest so much of their time into making them.

Image: 'Wishes away' davebluedevil

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Google Video versus YouTube?

If you have been reading my last few (rather boring) posts you'll know I have been struggling to make a screencast and uploading it as a video.

At last!
I had got to the stage where I had my screencast and I had worked out how to compress it, but I just could not get it to upload on YouTube because it was longer than the 10 minutes that YouTube accepts.

For some reason, I couldn't get this blog to upload the video either. Thankfully, Sue Waters had the patience to read my excruciating story about how I wasted the whole of a perfectly good Saturday and took pity on me. She advised me to use Google Video which does not have a time limit like YouTube. So at last, I have managed to publish the video and from there, I have been able to embed it into this blog.

Warning: my husband says this video is so boring that it made him want to go back to bed for a nap.

What do you use?
I do not know much about Google Video. My natural choice is to use YouTube to host my videos because it is my perception that it is more popular that Google Video. However, in view of the difficulties I have had with YouTube, I may re-consider that decision.

What do you think? YouTube or Google Video? Why?

DIL: Compressing my screencast into a format for YouTube

Having spent all morning to make a Camstudio screencast, the next task to address was to compress the file into a size that can be uploaded to YouTube or my blog using Windows Movie Maker (WMM).

Learning styles
How long I persevere at working my way through 'problems' depends on what mood I'm in and what other jobs I am trying to avoid. Today I was trying to avoid housework and playing golf with my husband, so I decided I could not wait until the next DIL workshop and would try to work out how to compress the video file myself.

I dragged my husband out of bed to help me but he just annoyed me, and I know I annoyed him because I kept interfering. He has a slow but methodical approach to sorting things, but I just want to barge in and not take time to read and think. Suffice to say, he was right about what to do but by that time I'd worked that out, I'd sent him on his way.

Resources I used
First of all I had a play with WMM to see how intuitive the program was. It was intuitive to a point but then I had to seek help. The WMM 'help' section wasn't much help at all so I turned to YouTube and watched several videos, but they didn't get me too far. Then I did the 'man' thing and blamed my tools - my computer and the WMM program, but it appears I have the latest version. Eventually, I found a great blog post by Caffeine for Bloggers that made me understand about file size and walked me through each step, using pictures.

Are we there yet?

Along the way I experimented with different file sizes but none were being accepted by YouTube. Eventually, I sent out a plea to Twitter for advice and Sue Waters replied that I needed to aim for:
  • less than 20MB
  • less than 10 minutes
  • Broadband 514 kps., I am not there yet, but I have learned it is important to keep my screencasts under 10 minutes if I want to post them on YouTube.

Back to drawing board
I went back to WMM and had another play to try and reduce the video length but had to admit defeat because of time restraints. I think I'll start again with another completely new screencast and see how I go with that.

Aim for next DIL workshop
Have a play with WMM and learn how to edit and add special features like effects.

Image: 'A view to a kill' kurafire

DIL: Learning how to make a screencast with Camstudio

The second half of the Digital Literacy Project workshop I attended the other day was spent learning about Camstudio.

Making screencasts with Camstudio
Camstudio is a free program which allows you to make a screencast, which is a video of your computer desktop. A screen cast is very useful for showing people how to use different computer features, programs and software.

I have used Jing in the past, which is a similar program for making free screencasts. Jing is an extremely easy tool to use and I love it. But I have found it difficult to store the completed videos and impossible to embed into my blog and/or YouTube. Nevertheless, it is still my preferred tool for working with still photos. Sue Waters has given instructions for utilizing Jing but I haven't got around to looking at them yet. I thought it might be easier if I bit the bullet and learned about Camstudio.

Learning about Camstudio
I had already downloaded Camstudio and faffed about with it using instructions from videos on YouTube. But I didn't find it very intuitive and being my usual impatient self, gave up on it fairly quickly. So it was a relief to have Leigh and Lyn show me how to use it and be on hand to answer my questions. I think my problem with it initially was that I was making life too complicated for myself.

Main things I learned were:
  • keep 'Region' fixed;
  • if you increase the size of the region you are recording, do it in proportion;
  • if you try to record the full screen, you lose quality of picture;
  • set 'Options' to 'autopan'. This means the 'camera' will follow your mouse and record what your mouse is pointing at;
  • once the screencast has been made it has to be compressed so that I can save it in YouTube. I should be able to do this with Windows Movie Maker.
Making the screencast
So my homework has been to come away and actually make a screencast. And I choose to make one showing how to make a video using Animoto.

It was really easy to make the screencast. I am not one for using keyboard shortcuts but it was definitely easier using them to pause, play and stop the recording. I found the photos did not show up very well and audio that came from the computer (as opposed to my speech) did not record well eg when I eventually show the video I made, you cannot hear the music that goes with it.

Disaster strikes
In the end, it was Animoto that let me down. For some reason it could not process the video. But hopefully I was able to demonstrate enough for people to be able to use this screencast to make their own Animoto video. I do not know if Animoto was having an off day or if it did not like me using Camstudio in conjunction.

The next step
The next thing I need to do is find out how to compress the screencast so that I can embed it in YouTube and this blog. Any advice on how to do this will be gratefully received.

Image: 'camera tossings for TV' clickykbd

Collaborating with midwives in Pakistan

Rafat and I had another wonderful web meeting on Thursday. We were joined by midwives in Texas, Kenya, Pakistan and Tanzania. I presented some slides about midwifery in New Zealand and we had a general conversation about midwives' scope of practice.

Here is the link to the recording of the meeting. Make sure you access the meeting dated 22nd May 2008.

Future web meetings
Rafat is going to reciprocate soon and organise a meeting where she will talk about midwifery in Pakistan. When I have the details, I will post the information here and on the midwifery professional development wiki.

Online collaboration
Meanwhile, what we thought we'd do is collaborate on a small project like developing an online midwifery resource, using Elluminate and other online tools. And then we'll write up the process and outcomes for publication as a way of illustrating what can be achieved by online communication and collaboration.

So if you are interested in our discussions or would like to become involved, we are meeting on Tuesday 27th May 10am Pakistan Time (5pm New Zealand Time) - International Time.

Here is the link to our meeting:

Image: 'Collaboration' quinn.anya

Breastfeeding saves the day

I just love this story about Jiang Xiaojuan, who is a female police officer working with refugees from the earthquake in China. She is a lactating mother who has a six month old baby. She has been breastfeeding a number of babies who have been orphaned or separated from their mothers in the earthquake. Apparently, she was feeding nine babies at one point. Now, that's my idea of heroism!

Beautiful waterbirth video

Here is a beautiful waterbirth video courtesy of Sage Femme. It has been flagged by the YouTube community but I have chosen to show the whole video here because it is a beautiful birth video.

The main reason I love it is because it shows big sister being there to see her little brother born. I am hugely in favor of siblings being present at births, especially when they are at home. Parents fret far too much about this - children take birth in their stride and it is usually a very positive thing for them. The main thing is that everything is explained to them especially about mummy being in pain, and that there is someone available to support them.

The other interesting thing about this video is that the birth is unassisted ie no health professional is present, not even a midwife. The whole issue of unassisted birth is an interesting one, but that discussion will have to wait for another day.

I absolutely love the slogan at the end of the video:


The beauty of books

I know there is discussion and even concern in some quarters that one day books will be obsolete. But I am convinced that that will never be the case.

I went to the Regent Theatre 24 hour second hand book sale yesterday, which is held every year in Dunedin. And it was packed, as ever, by fervent book readers. There just isn't anything that can beat that feeling of triumph when you find a book that you've been looking for, especially if it is at a bargain price.

Unfortunately, I didn't find any old midwifery or medical textbooks to add to my collection. But I did find a book called "The 100 greatest women of our time" by Deborah Felder, which I am looking forward to reading, and will be able to pass on to my daughter who is doing gender studies at university.

I found a book about how to write academic papers but I didn't buy it because I thought I could get that sort of information on the Internet. But I did buy a pile of historical romances...the Internet will never, never be able to replace soaking in the bath with a good, soppy romance!

Thursday, May 22, 2008

DIL: Caught on the hop

Yesterday I attended the second workshop of the Digital Information Literacy Research Project that I am taking part in.

Showing my blog
We were asked to expand on the thinking we had done on what our goals are for the project. My goals are to become familiar with Camstudio so that I can make 'how to' screencasts. I also want to become familiar with making and editing video. I have been documenting my thoughts and actions here on this blog and even had a 'play' with Animoto over the weekend.

I decided that I wasn't going to say anything because I tend to be very vocal at the best of times, and I didn't want to hog proceedings. But my good intentions came to naught, but it wasn't my fault...honest!

I was asked to show the group my blog and explain how I use it to document my thinking, actions and reflections. So I showed the group my posts, how I responded to comments and explained how feedback from the wider blogging community has led to interactions and further actions eg my conversations with Kate Foy led to me making an Animoto video to put in my ePortfolio.

Enjoying the limelight
I never have any problem talking to people, especially if it is about myself and something I am passionate about. But I wasn't too sure what exactly was required of me, so I felt I jumped around a lot from one blogging issue to another in no particular logical sequence. Talking about blogging is a huge topic and not one I could do justice to in a couple of minutes. The Animoto video didn't show up very well because of the classroom lighting. This was a tad disconcerting because I had been raving on about how good it was.

But it was very interesting to see what issues emerged in just that short period of time.

I have no qualms about publishing my personal thoughts and details of my personal and professional life. My children are now adults so I do not publish any more information than they do on their Facebook and Bebo accounts. I always try to behave in a professional way (although I do have the odd slip) but I would never do anything like publish my bank account details.

I feel that I am claiming my online identity and taking control of my online presence. By setting up a strong online 'brand' I have a much better chance of setting people up to see what I want them to see, as opposed to having no control of what people see about me.

Yes, I do spend a lot of time online - writing, thinking, reading, talking, strategising, developing, innovating & networking. But this is my deliberate choice - I do this rather than sit around watching TV (although I never, never miss 'Top Gear' and 'America's got talent'). I do not see it as a waste of time because it is my way of learning and it has had academic outcomes already eg I have had one conference paper and a book chapter accepted within the space of 9 months, based on my online experiences and learning.

Open access
By telling my stories and reflecting online in an open environment, I am opening myself up to an international audience which hugely increases opportunities for peer review, collaboration and learning.

What I got out of the session
I didn't 'learn' anything as such but the session did make me realise how much I have learned in the last few months and how far I have progressed with the development of my own digital literacy skills, which is very pleasing.

At the same time, it also emphasized how important it is that I do not make assumptions about other people's digital literacy skills. Most people are not at the same stage as me, so I must be very careful to give information about using the Internet at a level that people can understand. And I must accept when people do not embrace the Internet with the same 'obsessive' fervor as I do.

Image: 'reach' sadaiche

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Meeting with Pakistani midwives - all welcome

Tomorrow I am having another Eluminate meeting with Rafat and her colleagues in Pakistan. I believe we're also connecting up with midwives in Eygpt, Afghanistan and East Africa. We're going to be discussing midwifery and midwifery education.

Anyone who is interested is very welcome to attend.

Date/Time: Thursday 22nd May 2.30pm Pakistani Time: International Time

Here is the Elluminate link:

Here is information about how to use Elluminate.

'Defining' my personal learning environment

I have just had an abstract accepted for a book chapter that talks about my personal learning environment (PLE). The focus of the chapter is to explore how web 2.0 technologies and social networking contributes to my learning and professional development as a health professional.

This post is the beginning of a series of posts in which I will work through the issues of how I integrate my PLE into my professional life, which will ultimately become my book chapter.

What is a PLE?
The last time I looked a couple of weeks ago, there was no mention in 'conventional' health literature about PLEs. Nevertheless, there is a glimmer of interest amongst health professionals in exploring the concept of PLE.

Bill Perry is a nurse and Clinical Information Specialist and has the same interest as me in how PLEs impact on health professionals. He has clarified for me that a PLE is not a specific place or technology, but rather it is a concept about how we gather information and process it. Bill has listed a number of places where one can go to learn more about PLE.

I have been confused at times when people have talked about a PLE being a specific technology or 'thing' such as My Portfolio or learning management system like BlackBoard. To my mind, my PLE is a loose, evolving network of places, tools and people. Alan Levine puts it in his comment to a post by Chris Lott:

Frankly, the “PLE” to me is like air, its just there. Its the way I operate, think work, live, goof off, and obviously, sometimes manage to piss people off. Its not really a thing to me with a name.

Open environment
It is essential to me that my PLE is in an open online environment because my learning and professional development comes about by being able to freely access people, networks and information that would otherwise be unavailable to me in a closed learning management system. Presenting the outcomes of my learning in a PLE allows for peer review and ongoing development and learning. In other words, as Darcy Norman says in his post "on the PLE", my PLE is ultimately about people - technology give me the means to communicate with people, exchange and process information.

Still a little confused
I am still getting my head around this idea of a PLE and occasionally someone throws in a question or comment that gets me thinking again. For example, in a reply he wrote to a post by Brian Kelly "PLE 1.0 and PLE 2.0", Tom Franklin asked:

what is special about a personal learning environment that distinguishes it from your personal work environment, your personal entertainment environment, your personal community environment etc

I do not have the answer to that question especially as all these 'environments' are so closely intertwined for me these days. For example,I use Twitter to ask questions and seek information but I also use it to have social interactions. So maybe I should be talking about 'my environment'. Or should I talk about my 'online environment'? Is a PLE just about how I am in the online environment or is it about how I learn in the 'real' world as well as online?

Taking control
What I am sure about is that I agree with Screensailor in the post "A PLE of one's own": my PLE is all about me taking control of my learning, identifying my own learning needs and goals, and working to achieve them in a way/time that suits me, and is not dictated by a teacher, professor or university committee.

What do you think about any of these issues I have discussed? If you are a midwife, how would you describe your PLE? Does PLE have any relevance to midwifery or any other health professions?

In my next post, I will talk about the tools that make up my online PLE.

Comment Challenge Day 15 - and the award goes to...

Day 15 of the Comment Challenge involves giving a Comment Award to my favorite commentator.

Michele Martin and Sue Waters have been two of my most helpful, supportive and consistent of commentators, so thank you both very much. This blog would never have got off the ground without your help.

But the award goes to Rae and Carolyn McIntosh. They get the award because they always generously comment and have significantly contributed to the growth of this blog. Their contributions are always thoughtful and insightful. And to top it all, they are both fabulous midwives.

Rae and Carolyn - thank you for all your support. Have a great trip to the ICM in Glasgow - I will miss you both.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Comment Challenge Day 14 - here's a question for you?

For this challenge I have to turn my blog over to you guys, the reader. The idea is that I ask a provocative question which gets you thinking and encourages you to answer and comment here.

The trouble is, I don't know whether to ask a question directed at the midwives and students who read this blog, or more of a technical question for those interested in web 2.0.

At this moment, what I am really interested in is what online resources midwives and students would like to see made available. So my question is:

Do you know of any good audiovisual midwifery resources that are available free to share?

What audiovisual resources would you find useful to have access to?

Image: 'Got milk?' OLD SKOOL Cora

Monday, May 19, 2008

A 'naughty' midwifery video

Having looked at YouTube for video resources that can be used in midwifery education and practice, I found this video about mike the midwife. It's a bit naughty but I think it's really funny.

Totally hooked on Animoto

It's Kate Foy's fault!

She challenged me and I couldn't resist.

Kate said "OK, I wonder where we'll see the first one being used in a portfolio? Hmmm ... :-)"

Well, here's my video that will go into my ePortfolio, illustrating what I got up to on International Day of the Midwife.

Video, kissing and Ina May Gaskin

I have talked in previous posts about how we can use video and audio to tell and share midwifery stories and teaching resources. Here is a lovely example that I found on YouTube.

Ina May Gaskin talking about natural childbirth
Ina May Gaskin is an American midwife who has had an amazing influence on the way women and midwives think about childbirth over the last thirty years. She is one of the key international childbirth 'gurus' in the world and a great proponent of natural childbirth. Her work with birthing mothers at The Farm is legendary and truly inspiring.

Connecting with people on YouTube
But the chances of actually meeting her are very slim for most people. So video and audio that is shared on web sites like YouTube gives us a chance to connect with her and hear her ideas in a way that would otherwise be denied us.

Making connections with people in shared spaces is one of the reasons I want to explore the possibilities of video/audio. I want to be able to make my own connections and facilitate them for the students I teach and the midwives I work with.

Comment Challenge Day 13 - Reflecting on my digital information literacy project

Today the Comment Challenge requires me to write a post based on the comments that have been left on my blog. This is a way of expanding conversations and encouraging deeper reflection. So I am going to kill two birds with one stone and use the opportunity to expand my thoughts on the digital information literacy project I am involved with.

The goals I wish to achieve in this project are to increase my skills of making and editing audio and video stories and teaching resources, and become more familiar with tools such as Camtasia and Audacity.

Bronwyn wrote:

As part of your action research cycle, it would be useful if you could identify the issue(s) which have led you to choose these goals.

To be honest, I do not have a really specific idea about how I will use these skills - my aim for learning them is more about being ready to develop an audio/video resource as and when the need arises. Or rather, removing the barrier of lack of skills to my thinking about how I can deliver teaching content in a more innovative way. In other words, I don't have any plans to start a project on collecting midwifery stories but I can see that having a couple of stories presented in an audio or video form will give context to my teaching undergraduates about the history of midwifery. It makes a lovely change to delivering content from miles and miles of PowerPoint slides. This is especially important as my department at Otago Polytechnic is moving into distance education for midwifery students, so the content we deliver must be as engaging as possible. The other side to this is facilitating students to use video and audio themselves to record their own learning journey and make connections with people as they go.

From a personal point of view, I would like to use video and audio to record my own learning particularly to put in my ePortfolio as well as to record family events, thoughts and history. My children are leaving home and I want to capture our moments together before they completely leave the nest.

I want to get to the stage where making a short information video about something or interviewing people becomes second nature, like Beth Kanter does on her travels.

For example, is midwifery history "thin on the ground" or is there a lack of audiovisual material? and why is it important to have this form of recording midwifery history?

High quality midwifery audiovisual material is thin on the ground and usually costs a reasonable amount of money. My dream is that we (the profession) builds a wide-ranging library of free of resources that we share, which can be accessed anywhere in the world. Then the time and resources we spend in 're-inventing the wheel' can be spent in other ways.

Also why is it important to create videos of clinical skills?
Watching a video gives a dimension to learning a skill that cannot be captured in a text book. But when you look on YouTube for a video on perineal suturing, for example, it is very difficult to find one that encapsulates all the elements of suturing that I teach. If I can make a video that meets the learning outcomes I have identified and fits the context I teach in, the likelihood is that it will also meet the needs of midwifery students in other areas.

Before you start making your own resources - how do you intend to go about searching for existing material?
I will do a search of the Internet including sites like YouTube, Google Video and Howcast. I will look at blogs and send out requests for information to my midwifery support network including the various midwifery email groups I belong to. I may even send out a question about resources to the various student midwife forums that are about.

So my question to the midwives and students who read this blog is: do you know of any good audiovisual midwifery resources that are available free to share?

What audiovisual resources would you find useful to have access to?

Image: 'untitled' toner

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Making a video using Animoto

Just discovered Animoto which is an online program that puts your photos and music together to make a video. I used free music from Animoto because I couldn't upload music from my computer (and it probably wouldn't have been legal anyway). I also compressed the size of my photos first so they would upload quicker. The free version makes a 30 second video.

It is so much fun and very easy to use - I'm just loving it.

Here is a video celebrating my son's 18th birthday the other day.

Comment Challenge Day 12 - Make Sure Your Blog Technology is "Comment Friendly"

Today's activity requires checking to see how easy it is for people to comment on my blog.

I think it is as easy to comment on my blog as it can be. Here are the things I do to make things easy:
  • I do not 'moderate' because people like to see their posts published immediately. This is a validation for them especially if they are new to the blogging process.
  • I do not use the spam screening letters, whatever they are called, because I hate, hate HATE them!! I think they are a real barrier to comments. I was concerned that I would get a lot of spam but thus far, I have only had a couple of spam comments which I have deleted ASAP.
  • I 'allow' anyone to comment, even in an 'anonymous' form. Requiring people to have an account is hugely off-putting, especially if they are casual readers or new to blogging.
Any other suggestions are gratefully received.

Image: 'Clowning Around' Felix42 contra la censura

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Some breastfeeding videos

Here are a couple of videos about breastfeeding that I have found on BreastfeedingBabies. You may think there's a little too much 'man-handling' going on but they show the importance of a good 'latch'.

Comment Challenge Day 11: writing a comment policy

Day 11 of the Comment Challenge involves writing a comment policy. I was congratulating myself that I already had done this. But when I reviewed the information I have written about comments, it is more of a 'how to' as opposed to a specific policy.

A conversation getting out of hand
The idea of a comments policy is one that has resonated with me over the last few days as a result of a conversation that was developing last weekend around a post that I wrote about the online behavior of health professionals. I wanted to discuss how we as health professionals should behave in a professional manner in the online context, but the conversation looked like it might disintegrate into a series of personal attacks on a specific person.

I was not at all sure how to deal with it because whilst I did not want to interfere with the freedom of speech, I did not want my blog pulled into other people's arguments. I also did not want my blog to get a reputation other than the one I am trying to build for it as a place for friendly learning and discussion.

I have chosen not to moderate comments because I believe it adds a barrier to commenting. And the vast majority of the time, the comments on this blog are very polite and constructive. But a policy will help me when dealing with difficult situations in the future.

Ideas for my policy
I like the comment policy used by Lisa Barrett, a midwife whose blog is called 'Homebirth: a midwife Mutiny'. She writes

I genuinely welcome your comments, whether you agree with my posts or not. Debate is healthy and we can all learn from it.

However, comments that are plain rude, demeaning or inciteful are going to be deleted pretty sharpish.

There are plenty of futile flame-wars over the Internet, where everybody wants to be heard but nobody wants to listen. This blog will not be joining them.

My policy
My policy will be based on Lisa's policy and include a few extra clarifications taken from Lorelle VanFossen in her post 'Does your blog have a comments policy?'.

In view of last weekend's events I have written this policy as a reminder to me about my online behavior as much as anything.

I have added my new policy to my information page - what do you think?

Image: 'self explaining addiction' procsilas

Friday, May 16, 2008

31 Day Comment Challenge - Day 10

I am trying to catch up with the Comment Challenge so here goes with the activity for Day 10. Today I have to do an audit of my blog looking at what encourages people to comment here, and what puts people off. My guide for this exercise is Michele Martin's 'Six reasons people aren't commenting on your blog'.

1. You sound like a press release
I do have a range of posts on this blog. Some posts aim to deliver information in a factual way that are not meant to engage discussion. Some posts are a personal statement from me and whilst it is nice to hear people's opinions on the post, it is not the post's primary function. But the majority of my posts are personal comments that aim to start discussion and I usually end them with a question that hopefully encourages interaction from the reader.

2. You sound like an infomercial
I do not use this blog to sell products but I do like to advertise my own activities such as the free midwifery web seminars that I am trying to promote. But I am confident that these posts are minimal.

3. You sound like a know-it-all
Umm. I don't think I do. I know I might be a little didactic at times but this is 'my' blog so I am allowed to voiced my own opinions. But I am open to challenge and I think I am very honest about my feelings and thoughts so I do not think this is a problem.

4. You haven't showed them how
I have developed an information page about making comments as a result of my learning from the 31 Day Blog Challenge. I am not sure how many people look at the page but the feedback on the page itself has been that it is clear, detailed information. Have a look and tell me what you think.

5. You haven't created the right atmosphere
I don't think that is a problem and I do take deliberate measures to create an inviting atmosphere such as adding personal information and photos that gives the readers a sense of who I am as an individual; make sure I add touches of humor; ask questions to engage readers and respond to all comments and emails.

6. You just don't seem that into it
I'm sure that is not a problem - I am passionate about midwifery, blogging and social networking. If anything, I am too into it!

I'd love to hear any feedback from you about these points and how I can encourage people to leave comments on this blog.

Image: 'Quaaaaack' tifotter

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Digital Information Literacy (DIL) research project

DIL poster        Image courtesy of Sunshine Blackall

DIL poster
Image courtesy of Sunshine Blackall

I have just volunteered to be a participant in the DIL research project. This collaborative project is funded by the New Zealand Ministry of Education and aims to support participants as they explore their digital information literacy needs.

My strengths
I am confident at using text-based tools such as blog, wikis and Twitter as well as web conference programs such as Skype and Elluminate.

I have also got my head around adding audio to PowerPoint presentations and putting them on Slideshare as slidecasts.

My goals for learning
What I want to do now is develop my skills of using and editing audio, becoming more familiar with tools like Audacity, particularly to do things like record digital stories. I see this as being particularly relevant when telling students how midwifery and childbirth was in the past - recording midwifery history. I would also like to record and store family stories for my own use.

In a similar vein I wish to develop my skills in making and editing videos. I would like to become familiar with Camstudio/Camtasia to make 'how to' videos. I also want to make good quality videos that I can post on YouTube so that I can develop resources, especially to teach clinical skills.

These skills can be used to develop my own artifacts to be kept in my ePortfolio.

Learning about action research
The other reason for joining this project is to learn more about the research process from the participant's view. Being a researcher and teacher of research, I find it is really useful to take part in research projects. The experience of being a participant informs my own research and teaching eg completing a questionnaire shows how well questions work or not.

My Portfolio: an ePortfolio platform

Last week I went to a presentation about an ePortfolio platform called 'My Portfolio' that has been developed from Mahara which is an open source ePortfolio.

My requirements of an ePortfolio
I am very interested in ePortfolio programs and have recently been developing my own portfolio using Wikispaces. My requirements for an ePortfolio program is that it is easy to use; available to health professionals as well as students; adaptable for my specific requirements as a midwife as well as an academic. I am also keen that the ePortfolio program is open access although I do recognise the necessity for some aspects to be closed, especially as midwives reflect on very sensitive issues at times.

'My Portfolio'
'My Portfolio' looks good and has a number of facilities that would be useful in an educational context, but it feels a lot like another form of learning management system to me, not dissimilar to BlackBoard.

The other problem is that at the moment it is associated with educational institutions in New Zealand which means only students of the institution can use it. Once the students have left the institution, they are no longer able to use it. It is my understanding that that may change as time goes on and alumni will be able to continue to use it for a small cost.

The future for ePortfolios
I am still not convinced about keeping my portfolio in a closed system so I'll keep working with Wikispaces. I want complete control over what I display and how I display it. However, I recognise that people who are not so used to the wiki format may find a more prescriptive portfolio system useful.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

The Cape Town Open Education Declaration & midwifery education

Last week Otago Polytechnic was the first educational institution in Australasia to sign The Cape Town Open Education Declaration.

Open access

The Declaration supports the principle of free and open access for all to education resources. The underpinning philosophy is that open access will support educators and learners to "create, shape and evolve knowledge together, deepening their skills and understanding as they go".

I have taken the Declaration at face value but I believe that there has been some concern about it, and people such as Stephen Downes have pointed out that the process of developing the Declaration has not been an open one. And the Declaration does not take into consideration the millions of people who do not have access to the Internet.

However, Otago Polytechnic has decided to support the Declaration because it agrees with the spirit of open and shared access to resources, collaboration and learning.

Implications for midwifery education
Quite how the Declaration will impact on midwifery education has yet to be debated. However, we are making small but positive steps to sharing resources starting with the web seminar that Sally Pairman hosted last week.

I would love to hear from any midwives or midwifery educators who are interested in the concept of open access education and professional development. How do you think the Cape Town Declaration is likely to be taken up in midwifery education?

Image: 'Table Mountain panorama' coda