Monday, September 29, 2008

I heart YouTube

I think one of the most useful and versatile resources on the Internet is YouTube. I just do not know how I've managed without it all these years.

Take today, for example.

Learning Styles
This morning I learned about learning styles and that good teaching is good teaching and does not need to be adjusted to suit different 'learning styles', according to Professor Daniel Willingham.

This afternoon I re-visited a video that I made about e-portfolios and posted on YouTube, and will be using as a resource in the course I am currently running.

Mouse in Amsterdam
And this evening I found an old song that was incredibly popular when I was a little girl. My husband and I still remember all the words, and drove our daughter mad when we gave an impromptu performance.

Do any of you remember this song?

Breastfeeding and Diabetes

Today we had a very successful online meeting led by Catherine Rietveld, who led an excellent discussion about breastfeeding and diabetes.

This is a great resources for students and midwives who wish to revise their knowledge of breastfeeding. It is also at a level that can be understood by non-midwives

Here is the link to the recording:

Online seminars
I was very pleased because we had an excellent turnout of midwives and non-midwives from New Zealand and Canada. Whilst the numbers are small in the grand scheme of things, there is a steady increase in interest in this program of online seminars.

Next meeting
The next meeting will be in October when we will be thinking about the role of the doula.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Should men be allowed to breastfeed?

OK. I admit it. I've been procrastinating. I just about got burnt out after studying 'connectivism' all weekend, and my attention started to wonder until I found a blog post by Suzanne Reisman entitled "When men breastfeed, what does it say about gender roles".

Men who breastfeed
In the post Suzanne talks about male lactation which mostly happens as a result of medication, although apparently there is a tribe of pygmies where men breastfeed. Suzanne also links to a video called 'Milk Men' that explores male lactation, which I must admit completely freaked me out - why, I just cannot articulate. And the video may be a joke - I'm not really sure.

What do you think?
Do you think that one day men will be able to breastfeed? Should they be 'allowed' to do so? If you're a bloke, would you want to breastfeed or are you completely happy to let the girls get on with it. Or, do you think breastfeeding is over-rated, who ever does it?

Image: 'Elephant with calf' Arno & Louise

It's true! Big brother really is watching

I got very excited the other day when I received notification that one of my students had added me as a Skype contact. I looked and saw that she was online the same time as me, so decided to call her up.

The call was answered and I started to chat away saying 'Hello, this is Sarah here. How are you?' and so on. But the call was dropped. I tried ringing several times but the call wasn't answered again.

The next day, my student said I gave her husband a terrible fright. He hadn't realized that she had installed Skype, so when he heard me talking to him, he thought someone was watching him through the computer.

Image: 'Self Portrait with Glass' Jacob Whittaker

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Key midwifery researchers on video

I have just discovered the Doctoral Midwifery Research Society which was founded by Professor Marlene Sinclair, who lives and teaches in Ireland. I am interested in joining because I am a PhD candidate.

Videos of key researchers
But what has really caught my eye is that the society web site has a number of videos and audio recordings of some key midwifery researchers including Soo Downe and Billie Hunter.

I just hope that the idea of recording and publishing presentations and lectures gains momentum in the wider midwifery world.

Image: Coaster clickykbd

CCK08: Chaos is good!

We have an advert for a hardware store in New Zealand headed up by Levi Vaoga, who has won a number of strong man competitions. His catch phrase is "big is good!". And I've been thinking that the catch phrase for connectivism could be "chaos is good!".

Element of connectivism
Chaos appears to be inevitable in courses where a connectivist approach is taken to learning. You only have to look at the 'Connectivism and Connective Knowledge' online course that is currently running, and to a lessor degree 'Facilitating Online Communities'. Both courses use an open learning environment, have networking as a main tenet and encourage the use of a number of online communication technologies. According to Stephen Downes, connective knowledge develops when learners engage in diverse environments, diverse discussions and with diverse information; and are in charge of their own learning environments and learning. But this lack of structure and control and resulting chaos can be very threatening and painful for both students and teachers.
Chaos and the student
The connectivist approach to learning can be very difficult for students who is used to being organized by their teachers and having their knowledge delivered to them. I am sure that Allison Miller is not alone when she says she has met many learners who do not know what questions to ask, are unable to filter information or construct new knowledge, have no idea how to use networks to build or share knowledge. Yet these skills are key for students to be able to make sense of connective knowledge.

Navigating chaos
For a number of students (and teachers) learning is about achieving a mark or grade. Mike Bogle writes in one of his blog posts about connectivism "Connectivism and childhood learning":

Worse still is the notion of learning being scripted, and the motivation to learn arising from the external in the form of lesson plans with a grade or mark associated with them. In those conditions, learning becomes something to get through in order to get back to real life, and the focus of the experience directed towards the achievement of a mark rather than the curiosity and fulfillment of the process.

What some learners fail to see is the value in the processing or navigating of the chaos, and this can be a huge stumbling block to their learning. This was very evident in the 'Facilitating Online Communities' course that I took last year. And I have struggled with this personally in the 'Connectivism' course I am currently involved with - it has taken me at least three weeks to sort myself out and make sense of what is going on. And I consider myself to be fairly expert at using networked learning principles and online communication tools. If I have felt anxiety about dealing with these complex issues, how much more will students who are completely unfamiliar with autonomous learning? Nevertheless, George Siemens believes self-organization in the face of chaos and making connections between sources of information is vital in today's climate of rapid information development and change.

Image: let's get on with the day woodleywonderworks

Chaos and the teacher
The students aren't the only ones threatened by chaos. Teachers can also feel vulnerable in the face of this chaos - they lose 'control', which in itself may reflect on them and their 'teaching' ability depending on the view of the person reviewing the teacher's performance. Courses can be difficult to 'manage' if the teacher is trying to constrain learners to prescribed curriculum and learning outcomes. They themselves can find it difficult to react and adapt to the changing needs of the learner. Nevertheless, as Bogle says: tying learning interests back to real life examples and applications - and importantly letting the learner dictate the flow of the experience - with all the tangents that may entail - you reinforce the idea that learning is something to be explored, discovered and enjoyed, rather than endured.

Why is chaos good?
Chaos means there is movement - there is action - the learners are doing something. Rather than trying to restrain or structure that movement and activity, it is my role to support students so they can make sense of what is going on and find their own connections and networks.

Image: 'gemini's' Puja

Working with students in the clinical setting

For ages now I have been meaning to write a few posts for health professionals who work in the clinical setting with students. I was planning to look at issues like giving feedback, dealing with conflict and assessment. But needless to say, I just haven't got around to it.

However, I have just been told about a wonderful online program that walks you through exactly these issues, as well as reflective practice, evaluation and setting goals and dealing with expectations. The program is called 'The Preceptor Education Program for health professionals and students' and has been developed by the University of Western Ontario. The staff working on this program are mostly occupational therapists, but the modules are generic and can be used by any health professional.

You have to register to use the program, but it is free. The program is very easy to use and professionally presented with a mix of scenarios, readings and video. I highly recommend it to any health professional is working or plans to work with students on clinical placements.

Image: 'east side VS west side' sashamd

Friday, September 26, 2008

CCK08: Not a theory girl

I admit that I am not a great one for theory. I can discuss the ins and outs of how to birth a breech (bottom first) baby and the evidence for and against vaginal breech birth until the cows come home. But if you start talking to me about Foucault and postmodernism, I'll just turn up my toes and rapidly decline into a semi-coma. So to say that I am struggling to get my head around connectivism is a huge understatement. The only reassuring thing is that I am not the only one by far.

What is connectivism?
Connectivism is a learning theory that has been mooted by George Siemens and Stephen Downes. The theory postulates that learning is based on networks and connections - people learn from the connections they make to other people and information. This is in contrast to other learning theories such as constructionism, behaviourism and cognitivism that suggest that knowledge is formed as a result of previous experience or is something that is given to the learner. Or as Ron Lubensky puts it:

Most people view knowledge in one of two paradigmic ways. First, as objective stuff to be acquired, stored, gained, transferred, distributed, etc. Second, as action depicted in skills, performance, problem-solving and professional identity. Connectivism articulates a third paradigm, locating knowledge in the relationships that we have with each other and objective resources. Knowledge is the network. Knowledge is rhizomatic (multiple entry points, rather than hierarchic) and fractal (portrayed at the social and neural levels).

Difficulties with conectivism
There are a number of people who criticize connectivism, and to be honest I am not knowledgeable enough to be able to comment sufficiently. Nevertheless, I do struggle along with people like Sinikka to see how this self-determining approach to learning works in a formal education context which is over-ridden by assessment, learning outcomes, structures and agendas.

Applying connectivism to my own teaching
But as Mike Bogle says, connectivism will not be all things to all people - it will depend on individual needs and context. And I would say that that applies to all learning theory. Indeed, one course probably contains approaches that takes its roots from a number of theories, depending on what is being taught.

Needless to say, connectivism challenges me to think about how I can encourage networked learning in a way that fulfills course outcomes.

You cannot empower learners and encourage them to seize hold of their own learning experiences while at the same time controlling what they learn, how they interact, who they listen to, the networks they form, the way they are exposed to the information, and the time frame in which they are expected to learn it. You can’t both give away control and keep it at the same time. Mike Bogle (2008).

So how I do that in the course that I have just designed and start teaching on Monday will be cause for reflection in the next few weeks.

Image: 'More closeups...' Xiol

Thursday, September 25, 2008

An introduction to Second Life

Second Life is a virtual world that is being lauded as having huge possibilities for midwifery networking, education and professional development. People are already thinking about using it for meetings, conferences, skill development, scenarios and problem-solving.

Second Life Unconference
If you have heard of Second Life and would like to know more, or would appreciate being shown around by experienced Second Lifers, here's your opportunity. A Second Life Unconference has been organised by for 27-28th September and hosted on Jokaydia. The program can be found here.

Second Life newbies
A large emphasis has been placed on SL newbies, so this is a great time to learn more with the support of very friendly and helpful Jokaydia residents who will work with you to sort out your appearance, dress and show you how to get around.

Meeting Petal Stransky
If you would like someone's hand to hold, please let me know and I'll do my best to meet you in SL as Petal Stransky. I am not a great expert, so will be planning to attend some of the newbie sessions, time constraints allowing.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

CCK08: Off to hell with my good intentions

I have been 'sort-of' following a huge online course that has been placed in an open environment: Connectivism & Connective Knowledge. This means I am able to access all the course resources as an informal student. If I am so inclined, I may formally enroll, complete the assignments and obtain the official course qualification. The course is being facilitated by George Siemens and Stephen Downes. My aims for doing this course can be found here.

Good intentions
I had great intentions for what I was going to do but the reality is that I have fallen rather short of my original plans. It has taken me these last three weeks to get my head around what is happening and how it is happening.

The course has hundreds of students, so the amount of information being generated has been phenomenal. And it has been difficult for me to decide how I am going to access the different forums where the course is being discussed.

Down to a fine art
I have needed to work my way through the process of filtering information before I could actually concentrate on the course context. But at last I feeling confident with how I am accessing information and ready to move on with engaging with the course.

My filtering journey
I started off joining the course email group but unsubscribed because I found it wasn't providing information that I was interested in. However, I have just re-joined in the last couple of days because I have become aware of a conversation about how health professionals connect in a global context.

I joined the course Moodle Forum but got fed up with being inundated with posts, so I unsubscribed to that. I know it is there and that I can access it if I wish. I have made a decision right from the start not to join the course Second Life or Facebook groups because I knew they would only increase my information overload. I set up a Netvibes page where I started a collection of blogs I thought would be useful to follow, but I haven't used it at all.

I keep meaning to attend the live sessions but either forget or can't make them because of time frames. But I know how to access the recordings when I am ready to listen.

Keeping things simple
The most useful tool I have found is the daily course email that updates me on how the course is going, and also links me to the latest blog posts by course participants. This has been a wonderful resource, effective in its simplicity. It brings all the information and links to me, rather than me having to go and look for it and getting totally lost in the course jungle. I can then choose what I am going to dip in and out of, and when I do that.

I am loving reading people's blogs and finding the different perspectives to be fascinating. I have no method to my blog reading other than to randomly pick blogs that have been listed in the course email. I thought I would prefer the running conversations in the email group and/or Moodle, but that has not been the case. I think I prefer the blogs because they feel more personal and considered than the emails/Moddle posts.

Designing online courses for midiwves
This has been an extremely valuable lesson for me to remember in relation to the online courses that I design and run for midwives. The course I am about to start is a lot smaller than the 'connectivism' course and has only two delivery platforms: blog and email forum. But I am also planning to use Elluminate, and I have linked to Delicious. I have also mentioned Skype.

This has the potential to totally overload students, especially those completely new to online communication and education. The course is only seven weeks long, so there is the potential for the students to take the whole time working out the technology and completely missing the content of the course.

So I think its going to be vital for me to monitor students' progress and support them as much as possible with instructions and scaffolding, and personal attention, such as regular phone calls. At the same time, I think it is important for the students to work their own way through the process of information filtering because at the end of it, they will be far more knowledgeable and confident with the technology and how they use it.

If you are following the connectivism course, how are you engaging with it? What do you find are the most useful ways of keeping in touch with an online course?

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

How to make a comment on a blog

Here's some visuals to help you understand the process of making a comment on a blog. The process may be slightly different on other blogging platforms, but the principle is the same. Thanks to Claire Thompson who gave me the idea for this post.

1. Look for the 'comment' button at the end of the post.
It may look like this.

Or this

Click onto it.

2. Look at the comments window
The comments window shows you all the other comments that have been left, if any at all. Leave your comment in the comment box.

3. Choose how you will identify yourself
If you have signed in with your Google account log in, you do not need to do any more.

If you do not have a Google account, enter your name where it says Name/URL.

Some blogs allow you to make posts anonymously, but I recommend that you always identify yourself. If you are a student in M503.7 'Reflection on Practice', you are required to identify yourself in all your comments.

4. Being notified of a follow-up comment
If you have a Google account, you will be asked if you want to be notified of any follow-up comments. This is particularly useful if you are interested in the discussion, or have asked a question in your comment for people to answer.

5. Publish
Once you have written your comment, decided what identity you wish to use and decided if you want to be sent follow-up comments, click onto the 'publish' button.

6. What if you make a mistake?
If you decide you want to delete the comment, go back to the published comment and delete it by pressing the rubbish bin symbol.

Monday, September 22, 2008

How to join Blogger and a closed blog

Here are some instructions for joining Blogger - developed for the students who are soon starting the 'Reflection on Practice' course that I am running in a closed blog.

1. Respond to invitation to join the closed blog
The invitation to join the blog will come to you via email. Click on the link that invites you to "view this blog"

2. Sign in if you have a Google account
If you have a Google account, sign in with your user name and password. If you do not have a Google account, create an account. You do not have to create a blog unless you especially want to.

3. Create your Google account

4. Once you have created your Google account
You are now able to view the blog once you accept the invitation.

5. View the blog

6. The next time you go to look at the blog
You will need to sign in so don't forget your user name and password.

Please drop a comment below if you are still having problems logging in to the M503.7 blog.

Active management of the third stage of labour

Here are two online events that enable midwives to become involved in an global discussion about how to keep women safe in pregnancy and childbirth in relation to the third stage of labor. The events are being facilitated by the Global Alliance for Nursing and Midwifery, sponsored by the World Health Organization.

Online discussion
Discussion board focusing on the active management of the third stage of labor from September 29-October 10, 2008.

Link to Registration Page for English discussion:

Link to Registration page for Spanish discussion:

If you have any problems registering contact the Johns Hopkins School of Nursing support team (Patti Abbott, Rosemary Mortimer) at Spanish language support is available.

The first several days will be general introductions and comments from the experts and from the individuals who are participating. Specific questions and discussions will ensue:

•Why have you joined the discussion? Why are you interested in this subject?

•What is the current policy for management of the third stage of labor in your clinical setting, educational program or hospital?

•Finally we will focus the discussion on what we need to do to translate research findings into clinical practice.

Online education session about the third stage of labour
Implementing Active Management of Third Stage of Labor: A case study in Morazan, Honduras. Our online expert will be Lisa Kane Low.

This session is free, totally online, and just requires a computer and a connection to the internet. We will record it so that all may watch a recorded version of the session (if you are not able to attend the live session). The session will last less than an hour.

Wednesday September 24, 2008. 9:00-10:00 AM EST (Baltimore, Md. time)

Check this link for the time in your area

Link to Elluminate classroom (University of Iowa)

Note: Be sure there is an 's' after http. You may need to put it in manually.

Enter your first and last name for user, leave password blank. The click "Log in".

Lisa Kane Low is an Assistant Professor of Nursing and Women's Studies at the University of Michigan where she also is part of the Midwifery Service at the UM Health System. Lisa has her doctorate in nursing and women's health from the University of Michigan, her Masters’ degree from the University of Illinois at Chicago where she did her midwifery program and her Bachelors in Nursing which is also from the University of Michigan. She has been in practice for over twenty two years as a nurse midwife in the hospital setting and during that time has found numerous ways to combine her love of clinical practice with education and research.

As part of that combination, she has been working i n Northern Rural Honduras for the last six years where she has been focusing on transitions in maternity care and the promotion of safe motherhood in this low resource setting. She works with Joanne Bailey, another midwife and director of the Midwifery Practice at UM and together they take students to Morazan, Yoro in Honduras to explore ways in which we can support the improvement in quality of maternity care services to all women within the region.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Reflecting on my teaching

I haven't done much 'real teaching' this year. Most of my work has been administration and clinical supervision. So I am very pleased to have been able to develop a course for postgraduate midwives around reflective practice. It starts next Monday and runs for seven weeks.

Open reflection
A number of things have cropped up in the last few days that have made me think about how I am going to reflect on this course and my role in it.

The first thing was a discussion that has been going on in the blog of my CEO, Phil Ker. We've been talking about how we can be more effective teachers, and how we can seek feedback and integrate that into our teaching practice. I do not like receiving anonymous feedback, especially if it is not constructive. I would rather have an open discussion about my practice. But I cannot expect to encourage that sort of dialogue without upholding my end of the bargain ie I need to be open about my own reflective processes.

In the same conversation on Phil's blog, Bronwyn Hegarty called for evidence of reflective practice in teachers' ePortfolios. This could be used for performance review as well as sharing information, ideas and impressions with colleagues.

I have started to put this sort of reflective evidence in my ePortfolio, but it's been more about non-teaching activities. I have already written a little about how I have developed this course on this blog, so it makes sense that I continue to reflect here on my progress once the course is up and running. Jeffrey Keefer is doing a similar thing on his blog: Silence and Voice. He starts teaching an online course in the next couple of days. His final checklist of things to do has been a great reminder/resource for me - this confirms how open reflection in a blog not only benefits the blogger but also the reader.

When to do the open reflection?
This question has arisen on a blog that I have recently read - I am very sorry but I cannot find the original source. The teacher said she was happy to blog her reflections, but wasn't sure she wanted to do it before the end of the course.

I can understand that being openly reflective about your teaching as it transpires can make you feel vulnerable in the classroom. But on the other hand, continuous, contemporaneous reflection and feedback can help you make improvements or validate your methods as and when the course progresses.

I acknowledge that my context is different from that of a school teacher. And I am not even sure how I feel about my interactions with my undergraduate students compared to the postgraduate students. I have this notion that postgraduate students are more likely to appreciate my openness because they'll have a greater sense of the big midwifery picture. But I suspect I am very wrong in thinking this. What do you think?

Walking the talk
It makes no sense at all to be 'teaching' a course about reflective practice and asking students for their reflections, if I am not prepared to model reflective practice myself. So I am going to take this opportunity to really think about how I teach, and encourage student feedback as we go along.

If you are a teacher, how do you reflect on your teaching practice? Is it something you do with your students? If you are a student, how do you feel about reading your teachers' reflections in a forum such as a blog?

Image: 'asl class' Trevor D.

Digital and computer literacy resources

I have been thinking about free online resources that can be used to support students and midwives as they develop their digital and computer literacy skills.

Online Information Literacy
One excellent resource is the Online Information Literacy project , which has been developed by Otago Polytechnic and the University of Otago. Particularly useful is Module 9, which is the Digital Literacy module. The module takes you through a number of tasks which are presented in a scenario including connecting to the Internet, using a browser, copyright, social bookmarking, creating a blog and working with collaborative documents.

Study Skills
David McQuillan has developed a study skills component on Wikieducator which he uses with his students who are studying massage therapy at Otago Polytechnic. It doesn't look quite as slick as the OIL project, but it does take you right back to basics including thinking about your attitudes to using a computer, and computer health and safety.

Digital literacy and art
Another project that can be found on Wikieducator is the digital literacy course developed by the School of Art at Otago Polytechnic. This resource covers topics ranging from how to make a blog and dealing with digital images to working with video.

What computer and digital skills and tools do you have problems with and would like to know more about? What resources are you aware of and would recommend to people, especially to computer and Internet newbies?

Image: 'Funky Abstract Background' incurable_hippie

Snoring etiquette

I'll be the first to admit that I have snoring down to a fine art. My snoring doesn't bother me - I sleep like a log. But it's driven my poor hubby to the spare room on more than one occasion.

Pyjama party
But I have to confess I have become more than a little worried about some news I received on Friday.

As a team bonding exercise, we are going to be spending a couple of days at one of our local marae in December. [A marae is a Maori community meeting place, not dissimilar to a church]. This is going to involve staying over night, sleeping on mattresses in one common sleeping area.

Team bonding?
I know my snoring is going to annoy everyone, and if we don't get our sleep, we'll be much less likely to want to 'bond'.

So what to do? What is the etiquette for this situation?

Image: 'Figures on Te Marae' pietroizzo

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Colostrum harvesting and banking

I am extremely pleased to be able to announce the next online Elluminate meeting. This meeting will not only be of interest to midwives, but also anyone who has an interest in diabetes and/or breastfeeding. All are welcome.

Topic: Will antenatal colostrum harvesting and banking improve the chances of breastfeeding for a woman with diabetes?
Health professionals agree that exclusive or full breastfeeding for the first six months of a baby’s life will afford lifelong benefits against many diseases. However there is a group of babies who are frequently deprived of the opportunity to be exclusively or fully breastfed. The group of babies born to mothers with Type 1, Type 2 or gestational diabetes mellitus are frequently separated from their mothers as a result of mode of birth and concerns about infant hypoglycaemia. This presentation evaluates whether colostrum harvesting and banking might improve the chances of a woman with diabetes exclusively or fully breastfeeding.

: Catherine Rietveld
Catherine has been a midwife for 28 years and during that time she has offered a range of maternal and child health services to the people of Canterbury, New Zealand. She has worked as a core midwife in both primary and tertiary units, independent midwife and was a Well Child nurse with the Plunket Society for 8 years. She is passionate about ensuring that all women and their families have the best possible access to maternal and child health services. It is this passion that is driving her to launch into the uncharted waters of antenatal colostrum harvesting an banking for women with diabetes.Catherine believes that in partnering with families she has a responsibility as a midwife to promote and protect their right to be in control of their lives. She also a mother, a musician, an alpaca farmer, a spinner and a secretary to her husband!! Variety is the spice of life after all!, says Catherine.

Date: Monday 29th September New Zealand

Time: 4pm NZ Check here to see international times

Meeting Link:

Just enter your name where it says 'user name'. You do not need a password

The meeting room is available from now so you can have a play with the technology before the meeting.

Using Elluminate
Please check here for more information about how to use Elluminate.

Need extra help?
Please contact me if you need help with setting up Elluminate. I strongly advise that you try out the technology before the meeting so that any problems can be ironed out and you don't miss the meeting.

Image: 'North Cornwall_Z18126' Ennor

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Being healthy to avoid cancer

I freely admit to being fat, extremely lazy and drinking too much. So it was with some trepidation that I read Megan Gibbon's latest blog entry.

Being healthy to avoid cancer
Megan reports back from a conference in which one of the speakers, Christine Thomson, lists the steps we can take to stay healthy to prevent cancer and other conditions like heart disease:

The nine recommendations are:
  1. Body Fatness - be as lean as possible within a normal range of body weight (waist circumference shouldn't be >102cm for males and >88cm for females)
  2. Physical Activity - be physically active as part of everyday life (30min of exercise every day, and as you get fitter 60min + of moderate exercise or 30min of vigorous exercise)
  3. Foods and Drinks that promote weight gain - limit consumption of calorie dense foods and sugary drinks (did you know we tend to eat the same weight of food each day so the higher the energy density the more calories you eat)
  4. Plant Foods - eat mostly foods of plant origin (at least 5 servings per day of fruit and vegetables, try to have unprocessed cereals and/or pulses, and limit refined starchy foods)
  5. Animal Foods - limit intake of red meat and avoid processed meat (eat <500g>
  6. Alcoholic Drinks - limit alcoholic drinks (no more than 2 for men/day and 1 for women/day)
  7. Preservation, processing, preparation - limit consumption of salt, avoid mouldy cereals and legumes
  8. Dietary Supplements - aim to meet nutritional needs through diet alone
  9. Breastfeeding - Mothers should breast feed exclusively for 6 months and baby's should be breastfed
Taking up Megan's challenge
Megan has put out a challenge to take at least one recommendation and make a change to enact that recommendation. Thankfully, I can say that I have achieved the last recommendation, having breastfed both my children.

So my challenge for the week is to restrict my alcohol intake to just one glass a day, or less. I've started easy and hope to take on a recommendation each week.

What recommendation would be a challenge for you?

Image: '#294: Out with the old' dejahthoris

Just a 'Doodle'

Have you ever been in the situation where you have to arrange a meeting between a number of very busy people. Finding a time that suits everyone can be a real problem.

'Doodle' a meeting
Recently, I was introduced to a tool called 'Doodle' which allows you to send a choice of dates and times to the people you are trying to organise. Once you have seen the dates that people have agreed to, then you can go on to set a fixed date and time.

It is very easy to use, and is a program that you do not need to download or make an account to join.

Image: 'Busyness' flgr

Monday, September 15, 2008

How to keep my hand in

One of the big issues for midwives (and any health professional for that matter) is how to keep current with clinical practice when you doing doing another full time job such as being a lecturer or researcher.

Walking the talk
On the one hand, it is vital to stay up to date and confident about clinical practice, especially when you are teaching it. I think students really respect their teachers when they see them 'walking the talk'. On the other hand, when do I fit it all in on top of my teaching, research, writing for publication, PhD studies...and, right at the bottom of the list, being a wife, mother and having a life!

There's no doubt that teaching keeps you up to date. In a lot of ways, I am probably more up to date that the average midwife, because perusing journals and reading research is part of my job. The students also keep me very grounded - I live vicariously through them. I teach clinical skills, so I do not feel I am lacking in competence. And, I have been a midwife for many years, so I do not feel I need particular experience. But having not worked in the clinical context for a while, it will be great to emerse myself in midwifery again and re-vitalize my love of working with women and their families.

The other thing that is driving this is that I have to do some clinical work next year in order to keep my practicing certificate, which I need to be able to teach.

Where, what and how?
I think the easiest way to manage this will be to take some time out and work in a maternity unit somewhere. I will be able to take two weeks from lecturing, and maybe even longer.

I could work at my local maternity unit at Dunedin Hospital, but as it is a tertiary unit (dealing with a lot of complications) I would want to be supernumerary. The advantage of that is that I wouldn't have to leave home. But I am not sure how beneficial that would be for my learning. I know I'd end up doing nothing but care for women who are having cesarean sections, and I do not want to spend my precious two weeks doing that.

Midwife shortages
I am sure I could be a locum anywhere in the country because of midwife shortages. I'd be welcomed with open arms at rural units, such as Queenstown. I mean, what could beat working there, one of the most picturesque places in the world. But at the same time, it's been a while since I've worked in the clinical context, so I'd want to feel I had lots of support, not to be the only midwife for miles around.

Or, I could take off and do something completely different, like work a stint in Samoa or Rarotonga, or even go to Australia.

Best learning opportunities
I guess I need to decide what I want to achieve in regards to my learning and midwifery competence before I decide where to go and what to do. I am also very mindful of my back and do not want to aggravate it in a setting where I will have to do a lot of bending and lifting.

What I think I will do first is go through the Midwifery Standards Review Process and get my portfolio up to date. This will help me decide what my learning aims are and how to go about achieving them.

How do you keep current if you are a health professional who is a lecturer, researcher or manager? Should a certain amount of clinical practice be part of our job requirements?

Image: 'Queenstown, New Zealand' slack13

Sunday, September 14, 2008

The joys of open access education

This week I am feeling a tad vindicated with regards to my enthusiasm for blogging and open access education.

Nutrition in pregnancy
One of my colleagues Megan Gibbons, has been running a short course on nutrition in pregnancy for midwives. It was only seven weeks long, but during that time she used an open blog for a role play scenario. I joined in, mainly to support Megan and the students. But I found it to be a really useful way of revising my own knowledge about nutrition.

What was even more fun was that hbacmama joined in the discussion and brought a very different perspective as a ' real woman' as opposed to midwife. She made some wonderful contributions and got us all thinking.

The students really enjoyed themselves and felt they became far more engaged with the subject matter and discussions than they did using a similar format in BlackBoard.

Small beginnings
OK. So in the grand order of things, you might ask what I am getting all excited about. After all, what are we talking about - three students - six of us all up - that's hardly going to break records or completely change the world view on open access education.

And that would be a fair comment.

At the same time, this small event perfectly illustrates the opportunities for open access education. At the very least the outcome been one updated midwife and three happy students who have had a positive learning experience.

Another fine mess, Stanley
The other outcome has been that we have all wanted to continue the dialogue about nutrition, so Megan has been 'forced' into continuing the debate on her personal blog: Megan's Mutterings.

So if you have any questions or comments about and nutrition and diet, in pregnancy or in general, drop in on Megan.

Image: 'A Vintage Kind of a Day' Niffty

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Reflective practice. Enough already?

I have just got back from the 14th International Reflective Practice Conference in Rotorua, and I have been reflecting on my experience of the conference.

Aims for attending
My main aim for attending was to present my paper on blogging and reflective practice, and to get feedback on what people think of the concept. And of course, there's always the brownie points you get from giving a conference presentation.

My other aim for attending was that I wanted to find out what other educators were doing, and to see if I could pick up any tips for my online reflective practice course I am developing for midwives.

My first impressions
I didn't really know what to expect but I think there was just a little too much navel gazing for my liking. I didn't really feel there was enough exploration of how theory could be applied to practice. There seemed to be a lot of sessions that involved self-reflection, and it just didn't 'teach' me anything. There was poetry reading, excerpts of readings from books and drama presentations. All very touching, but not useful for my purposes. I am not saying that the conference was bad; it just didn't meet my needs, which are to know the outcomes of reflective practice with regards to education.

On further reflection
I started writing this blog post on Saturday, and now it's Wednesday, so I've had a few days to think about my experience of the conference, and it's been fascinating to monitor my thoughts over the last few days.

I came back from the conference reasonably disgruntled because I felt I had spent a lot of money to attend and hadn't really got anything from the conference. If I wanted to spend over $1000 to have a theatre experience, I would have booked tickets to go and see 'Phantom of the Opera' in Auckland. But having said that, I have done nothing ever since but think about it, reflective practice and how I reflect.

The one thing I did start to think about was my understanding of reflective practice. I have viewed reflective practice in terms of 'solid' outcomes, particularly in relation to critical incidents. Something happens - you reflect and tease apart the issues - identify your learning - come up with a plan for the future.
Michele Martin talks about this in her post 'Debriefing yourself'.

Is it really possible to deeply reflect in an open blog?
This approach has always suited my particular learning needs and is what I teach my midwifery students. But now I am wondering if I go deep enough. And if I don't, why is that? Am I too afraid or unskilled? I certainly need to go back to the theories of reflective practice and find out more.

And I am
also wondering if it really is possible to deeply reflect in an open blog. Yes, I am very comfortable reflecting on how a teaching session didn't go as well as I thought it should go. But I couldn't write my reflections on my relationships with colleagues, students and clients if they were particularly 'negative', which brings me right back to the privacy debate. So now I am wondering if I am practicing what I preach.

Reflective practice - just another educational fad?
The conference has got me thinking and wanting to learn more, which in turn will inform my teaching. So it must have been a lot more successful for me than I first gave it credit.

I would certainly like to see more evidence about outcomes with regards to using reflective practice frameworks in education. So if you use it, both on a personal level and in your teaching, please let me know your thoughts and experiences.

Blogging and reflective practice

I have just given a presentation about blogging and reflective practice at the 14th International Reflective Practice Conference in Rotorua.

The last presentation I gave in July went extremely well because I did not use any notes and was very comfortable with my material. But I was a little nervous about this presentation because I have never given one about blogging before. But remembering the discussions in one of my earlier post about boring PowerPoint presentations, I was determined not to use notes and make my PowerPoint slides as interesting as possible.

How it went
I had a relatively small audience but there seemed to be real interest. I didn't feel the presentation flowed as well as it could have - I probably should have practiced it more than I did.

I ran out of time as usual. I wanted to show the blog post I wrote a couple of weeks ago about my blogging workshops - I feel that it models reflection and how reader participation contributes to information sharing and further learning - but didn't get time. However, I was able to hook into the Internet and give a couple of examples of me using video and audio to blog.

I think overall that it went well. Afterwards, we discussed privacy issues and the lack of international blogging guidelines. And I was thanked by a PhD candidate who thought that a blog would be a good tool for her research. People were also interested in how I used images from Flickr for my slides and we talked about the importance of license/copyright.

Moral of the story (but not rocket science): the better prepared, the better things flow.

Freaked out in Rotorua

I have just spent a couple of days in Rotorua to attend a conference on reflective practice. On Friday afternoon, I skived off and went for a walk to see the sights as I had never been to Rotorua before.

Living on top of a volcano
I am exaggerating slightly; Rotorua isn't exactly on top of a volcano, but it's not far from one. And every where you go, there are reminders of thermal and volcanic activity. There is a persistent smell of rotten eggs. Steam escapes from creaks in the ground, and water and mud bubbles away furiously.

Freaked out
Rotorua has made its fortune from this. People come from all over the world to see the geyser and bathe in the hot pools. But I got rather freaked out by the evidence of the fragility of the Earth's crust. Any day the whole area could explode or implode, depending on how Earth's mood. Or it could be engulfed by lava from the near by volcanoes such as Ruapehu. I tell you, I couldn't wait to leave.

The end of the world is nigh?
I do not subscribe to the beliefs of some that the biblical prophecies about the end of the world are being realized now. And I am not an environmentalist. I tend to live my life very selfishly, not really paying attention to any thing much outside of my daily routine, although I am proud of the fact I throw out my cans for recycling.

But I must admit that my trip to Rotorua has made me very aware of this fragile world we live in. And I do wonder how far we can push Mother Earth before she says that she has had enough, and she uses the full force of her immense power to wipe us away and stop us poisoning, slashing and piercing her any further.

Am I being fanciful? What do you think?

Emigrating to New Zealand: 12 years later

It struck me a couple of days ago that we have been living in New Zealand for 12 years now. These years have not been easy in many respects, and on some levels the move here was a poor decision.

Finding an identity
One of the things I have struggled with is finding an identity. Even though I have lived here for so long and have a Kiwi passport I still strongly identify as being English. And some times, when I am watching an English TV program or eat English food, I yearn to be back. I desperately miss the history and as I get older (and probably more and more senile!) I feel the call of generations and generations of family. I am an integral part of the country's fabric, and England is a part of mine.

Home at last
But yesterday, I fly the length of the country from Rotorua, back to Dunedin after being away for a couple of days at a conference. For most of the journey the sky was clear so I had a fabulous view of the land. And as my flight progressed and I got nearer to Dunedin, I was engulfed with a feeling coming home. I felt a really strong connection with the land I was flying over. It is my land. It will never be my land in the same way that England is, but it is now home. And I think at last I feel at peace about that.

Do you ever feel at odds about your cultural and spiritual identity? Do you live in one place but have a strong connection with another? How do you cope with that dissonance? What advice would you give people who are trying to settle in another place or land?

Postscript: If you want to know more about emigrating to New Zealand, here is some advice for people thinking about moving here, both in general terms and more specifically for midwives wanting to work here.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Reflection in Rotorua

I am off to Rotorua tomorrow to attend a conference: the 14th International Reflective Practice Conference.

Blogs and reflective practice
The main reason for attending the conference is to present a paper on how blogs can be effective tools for reflection and reflective practice.

This will be a challenge because this is the first presentation I have made specifically on blogs, apart from the more practical blogging workshops.

Main points
The main gist of my talk will be:
  • keeping a journal is considered to assist reflection, creative writing, critical thinking and cognitive learning
  • blogging is the next step in the evaluation of reflective practice
  • blogs traditionally are text but can be other media such as audio and video
  • linking to other blogs and the comments by readers encourages sharing, discussion and further critique of ideas, which further extends thinking and learning
  • privacy and confidentiality can be an issue
  • admitting one's mistakes in public may be seen by some as unprofessional but readers can learn from the blogger as she processes her experiences and learning, and can add their perspective to the blogger's reflections
  • there are concerns that deep learning can be achieved from blogging - jury appears to still out on that question
  • readers of this blog have enabled me to process ideas, and have supported me when my reflections have been painful and challenging - I would never have received that level of support or learning from a paper journal that was for my eyes only.

Do you have any thoughts about this or any questions? Is there anything I have missed or got wrong?

Michele Martin: Becoming a more reflective individual practitioner. The Bamboo Project. March 8, 2008
Merrolee Penman: The use of blogging to support professional learning. Healthcare and Informatics Review Online. June 2008.
Paul Trafford: Mobile blogs, personal reflections and learning environments. 2005. Ariadne. Issue 44.

Image: Heels Gate Thermal Reserve Percita