Sunday, October 12, 2008

Reflection on Practice: starting to rock

This is the end of the second week of M503.7 Reflection on Practice, which is the online course I am running for registered midwives: we have been exploring our philosophies of practice. I have felt rather disconnected from things this week because I have been unwell. But at least I haven't needed to struggle to a face-to-face class to deliver material.

Elluminate meeting
The week started off with a hiss and a roar, with our first Elluminate (online web conference) meeting.
  • Used cellphone text to remind everyone about the meeting
  • Rang the students before the meeting I knew had not previously connected with Elluminate to offer technical support, but in fact all offers were declined.
  • I chose to have the meeting in the evening, hoping that this would better suit people who worked during the day. Everyone was able to attend apart from one midwife who got caught up at work.
Computer skills
I was totally blown away by the ease with which the students took to Elluminate. We did not have one technological problem. YEY! At this point I would like to thank David McQuillan who volunteered to stand by on Skype in case I needed a hand.

In the previous week's survey I asked students about their computer skills. One student felt very confident; four students had basic skills but felt they would need help with Elluminate; one student felt she would need help with everything. But the way the students took to Elluminate makes me think they under estimated their abilities. Having said that, a few students have had previous experience with Skype, so they were able to transfer their skills.

This leaves me with the question: is computer literacy for midwives more about confidence than competence?

The first session
Instant messaging was no problem. Nearly all the students had microphones so could talk, and those who didn't have one said they'd get one. We had a play with the white board to brainstorm our philosophy and we uploaded photos of ourselves.
  • I went over time and finished nearer 9pm than 8.30. By that time I was getting tired, and I think the midwives were as well. Action: Keep to time because I think one hour is more than long enough for an online session without break.
  • I used a class whiteboard brainstorming session to try and break things up, and appeal to visual learners in the group. I didn't feel the whiteboard exercise went as well as it could - the result wasn't half as pretty as I have seen when experts like Nancy White has done it. But then, this is the first time I have used this exercise. I might need to give better instructions and have a clearer idea of what I want to achieve next time. I left this segment to the end and ran out of the time to do the session justice. I also have to recognize that I am not a very artistic person; I see things in words as opposed to pictures, so I don't feel as comfortable with this teaching method. Action: Learn more about facilitating online whiteboard, brainstorming sessions, and keep honing my skills.
  • Need to learn how to capture the whiteboard as a screen shot.
  • I advertised the session at the last minute on my blog, and was surprised that the session was attended by an undergraduate midwifery student. From my point of view, I thought that worked really well. The midwifery student was able to add a fresh perspective which I found uplifting, speaking as an 'old' midwife who gets quite tired and cynical at times. I think the other midwives enjoyed this as well. I haven't had any feedback to gainsay that. But then again, would the midwives feel able to give that feedback knowing that I am so keen to promote open networking? The motivation for the student attending the session was that she had an assignment on reflective practice coming up, and wanted to know a little more. I am not sure how helpful she found it, but she stayed for the whole meeting which was fabulous as far as I was concerned.
  • I recorded the session for the midwife who was unable to attend. But I haven't published the recording to the open environment because we did talk about some personal things, which is what you'd expect in a discussion about personal philosophy of practice. I'm the first to admit that some things just must stay within the class.
  • Anonymous feedback from the survey shows three students thought the session was great and cannot wait until the next one.
Developing a community of practice?
I don't think we are developing a community of practice, but I thought there was a community feel to our meeting, which I do not see so much in our asynchronous blog discussions. Everyone joined in with discussion and chat, whereas the course blog discussions are mostly between two or three people. It will be very interesting to see what form of communication the midwives feel more comfortable with, and most beneficial for their learning.

What form of communication do you prefer as student and teacher, particularly in regards to the facilitation of learning; synchronous (voice/video) or asynchronous (email/blog/discussion board)?

Image: 'group airtime' *vlad*


Anonymous said...

Thanks for having me Sarah! I really enjoyed listening to more experienced midwive's perspectives and find this so valuable to my own learning.

Sarah Stewart said...

Thank you so much for coming along.
BTW, have you used Elluminate before? Do you have access to Elluminate where you study?

What do you think about your generations' digital literacy as opposed to us old folk? Do you think midwives coming out of university now have better computer skills and are more willing to engage with social networking, or do you think it very much depends on the individual?

Sarah Stewart said...

From Valerie Schreiner @ Elluminate:

I noticed your blog about using Elluminate. Glad your first session went so well. If you want to save the results of your whiteboard exercise you can easily choose File-Save-Whiteboard and save it as a PDF file. The save button on the toolbar (looks like a floppy disk) will give you the same choices as File—Save from the menu. When you save, you can save the whole set of slides or just one or selected slides including those that you may have uploaded from PowerPoint and those that you created in the session using the tools.

(You can save the whiteboard while you are in the live session but you can even go back and save it from the recording if you want to try this out.)

All of our training and resources are free and they’re available here:

David McQuillan said...

In answer to your question
"What form of communication do you prefer as student and teacher, particularly in regards to the facilitation of learning; synchronous (voice/video) or asynchronous (email/blog/discussion board)?"

I think they both have their benefit. Assynchronous is really good for reflection, and considered answers. I think it's worked best in our course with work on case studies (using Google docs). Reflective blogging's been useful for my own learning & being involved being involved in a blogging community has also been beneficial. But I think you're right - nothing like synchronous communication for the development of relationships/community.

Sarah Stewart said...

I think in the end it's important to have a mix so that everyone is catered for, and their style of learning. Knowing what midwives are like for talking, I suspect that sessions with Elluminate and platforms like it will be successful, as long as they can attend.

What has been interesting is that I have had excellent attendance at my evening sessions. A couple of years ago I tried teleconference, using phones, which I thought would be the most effective means to reaching midiwves as they use their phones so much. But that method of communication was not at all successful. No-one turned up for sessions. Whether it was because the sessions were in the day when midwives were a lot busier with routine work, I don;t know. Or, maybe I have a group of particularly enthusiastic students this time. Or maybe midwives are more confident about their use of technology? Who knows?