Friday, May 30, 2008

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


Angela said...

Hi Sarah
Great post - have cited this on our blog:
and recreated a discussion aimed at issues of CPD etc within the UK - hopefully it will generate some more thoughts. Thanks

Sarah Stewart said...

Thank you for that, Angela. Do you see this as an issue in occupational therapy?

Anonymous said...

Hi Sarah and Angela
Yes I do see this as an issue for some occupational therapists, and indeed wonder why it is an issue for us? I think there are two groups or perhaps there are more - there are people (irregardless of their profession) who have a thirst for knowledge. They will be the ones who take a journal article home and read it, who may keep up a journal or a blog, or who willingly seek out opportunities to debate their ideas - they are in effect people who like 'playing' with ideas. To them having a nose in a book or journal is not work - it is 'play' in that they are engaged, challenged and in some way shape or form find it 'fun' (need to remember more of the characteristics of play). Then another group (and there could be more)... do not find thinking 'playful'. Its hard for me to work out what they do believe (cos I'm in the playing with ideas camp)... but the gaining of knowledge is still important to this group, but the process is less important - its about getting the answers to the questions they have when they need it. With this approach to learning, then it is logical perhaps to consider that all learning will occur in the workplace and that it doesn't need to continue at home?

Be interested in what you both think!

Sarah Stewart said...

I really like this idea of 'play'. Certainly maintaining this blog and all the other things I do online do not feel like learning but more like 'play' and having fun. And I wonder if that is a reason why people do not engage with this sort of activity at work, especially health professionals. This sort of activity is considered to be 'play' so is not appropriate when you are 'at work'. Have you read anything about this?