Sunday, December 20, 2009

Saying "good-bye" to my children

Strictly speaking I am not saying goodbye to my children...they only live five minutes drive away and I see them at least a couple of times a week. Andrew drops in when he cannot afford to buy food, and Ellen comes round when she is in the mood to be fussed and spoiled by mum. What I have had to do is say goodbye to their childhood and come to terms with the fact they are adults now. And this has been a rather sad process.

Leaving home
Ellen and Andrew moved out six months ago. They packed up their childhood things into boxes - Ellen's stuff went up in the loft and I threw out most of Andrew's rubbish ...need I say more! The one thing they agreed was that we could not get rid of the family trampoline.

The family trampoline
We bought the trampoline when we first moved to New Zealand 13 years ago. It made us feel like we were real Kiwis, joining the many Kiwi families who have trampolines in their gardens.

It cost us nearly $1000 and was a really sturdy trampoline. It is very difficult to get ones like it these days, cos the ones on sale now are namby pamby ones with nets, landing pads and emergency helicopters on call to fly you to the dentist the minute you fall over and knock your teeth out.

Happy times
The kids spent many happy hours on the trampoline. One of their favorite things was to pour water over it and see how long it took before someone slipped up, fell, and broke their neck. Latterly, it became the place where they did their courting. They sat up on the trampoline with the new girlfriend/boyfriend, where I could still keep an eye on "things", as I peered out from behind the curtains in the living room.

Time to go
But it was very large and took up most of our very small garden. And now the kids have left home, they do not play with it any more. We have no where to store it, and please God, it will be some time before there are grand children to play with it. So after much debate and arguing, I took things upon myself and advertised to give it away on the Dunedin Freecycle email list. And needless to say, someone came and picked it up within a couple of hours of advertising.

Feeling sad
Now the trampoline has gone I am feeling rather sad because time is marching on so fast. I mourn the passing of those days when the kids were little. At the same time I am filled with pride and excitement as I watch them grow into beautiful and loving adults. As a family we have moved into the next stage of our lives - I can't wait to see what that brings us.

And in the meantime, we have our lawn back which means we have some serious lawn mowing to do!

Friday, December 11, 2009

"Facilitating Online" 2009: Evaluation

For the last few months I have been facilitating and teaching the online course "Facilitating Online". This is the first of three posts that will report on how the course went. In this post I will report back on how students felt about the course, and my recommendations for the future based on their feedback. In my second post, I will talk more about my own learning about being an online facilitator. And in the third post, I'll ask at whether open educational resources work.

Student numbers
When the course started back in July, we had 15 formal enrolments and 22 informal students. Of the 22 people who indicated an interest in being informal students, five got past the first couple of weeks. Of those five, two ended the course - one student completed all the assignments and was presented with a "certificate of participation".

Of the formally enrolled students, two dropped out and 13 completed, which is a 87% completion rate.

Student evaluation
The students had three ways of evaluating the course. The first way was to give oral feedback at our last live meeting. The second means that students could give feedback was on their blogs. The third method was via an anonymous online survey - three students used this method of feedback. The general consensus amongst the students was that the course was a great learning experience.

The most enjoyable aspects of the course
  • Organising and attending the mini events. The mini conference put things into perspective for people, and was a great way to put theory into practice.
  • Understanding the difference between facilitation, teaching and moderation
  • Exploring other technologies - the course opened eyes to potential and possibilities of online communication tools.
  • Interacting with other participants - a very supportive group.
  • Having synchronous meetings via Elluminate - helped people feel more connected.
  • Blogging - useful way to learn and interact with other participants.
  • Support and feedback from the facilitator.
  • Feeling confident to have a go and explore further.
The most challenging aspects
  • Managing the workload - the work load is too great for a course of 10 credits.
  • Managing the online events.
  • Finding more time to interact with their blogs - participants see the value of blogging by the end of the course.
  • Getting the hang of things and building up enough courage to 'talk' online.
  • Elluminate's unreliability made life difficult for people who already were challenged by technology.
  • Technical difficulties were a barrier at times.
  • The course wiki was the most difficult tool to interact with.
Suggestions for improvements
  • Increase credits of the course, or reduce workload - look at the weekly "to-do" activities, which were difficult to keep up to date with.
  • More practice with communication tools before the mini conference - more experience at facilitating live events as the course unfolded, instead of being dropped into things at the mini-event.
  • Preferred a set time each week for live meetings, rather than my approach of changing days and times each week.
  • Participants felt they were thrown in the deep end - would appreciate some sort of pre-course preparation.
A number of participants said they would like to do the course again now they have the hang of the technology, and understand what the course is trying to achieve.

My thoughts
I really enjoyed being involved in the course. I found it fascinating to watch the movement that participants made from being totally confused to having an understanding of how and why networking and connecting is so important. I felt that the group moved from being individuals struggling to organise their thoughts, to a learning community who actively supported each other. I was blown away by how supportive and patient people were, especially at the time of the mini event.

For me, the highlights of the course were:
  • watching the self-organisation that participants did eg the setting up of a Pageflakes page by Chris Woodhouse;
  • discussions that evolved that were driven by students, not by the course eg personal information security and Twitter;
  • involvement of informal students who added different perspectives and helped keep everyone motivated;
  • the mini-conference - diversity of subjects, speakers and communication tools.
Moderation conversation
During a conversation I had with Bronwyn Hegarty as part of the moderation process, we talked about how the students did with their facilitation in the mini event. We agreed that there needs to be more emphasis in the course on the practicalities of how to facilitate, not just focusing on technology - thinking about what makes a session interactive, being prepared with questions and activities that lead the audience in discussion.

My recommendations for the future
  • Increase the credits of the course, rather than reduce activities. My understanding is that is going to happen in 2010.
  • Spend more time looking at the theory of how to facilitate online - have a look at work of people like Nancy White and Gilly Salmon. I think there is a tendency to get hooked up on the technology and we forget that we are there to learn about facilitation. If people are better prepared to facilitate, maybe we won't have the problems that we had this year with the technology failures at the mini event eg empathize the importance of having a back-up strategy that works.
  • Give people opportunity to practice with the technology- I did try this at the beginning of the course but people were too 'shy' at that stage...obviously is a concept worth pursuing. Having said that, there's nothing stopping people from trying out tools at their own instigation.
  • Be consistent with times for live meetings. This is difficult to manage when you have people attending from different time zones. Maybe the best thing to do is alternate an evening meeting with a lunch time meeting.
  • Look at facilitation in more general terms, not just in the educational context - think about facilitation of events, not just as a way of delivering educational content. Important to remember that participants may be from areas other than education.
  • Think about a follow-up to this course as a way of maintaining people's interest and support them to develop their facilitation skills further.
In my next post I will reflect on what I learned from my experience of facilitating this course.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

New thinking about the third stage of labour

For years it has been accepted by many that active management of the third stage of labour is the preferred way of birthing the placenta and membranes. But in New Zealand, midwives have been questioning this, saying that physiological birth is far safer for women who have had normal labour and no risk factors.

The latest audit of New Zealand midwives that has come from the New Zealand College of Midwives (NZCOM) suggests that women who have physiological third stage of labour, overseen by midwives who know what they are doing, are less likely to bleed heavily compared to women who have active management. This result is contrary to the commonly held belief that active management of the third stage reduces blood loss following birth.

Follow-up to this audit is going to be carried out by Professor Cecily Begley (Dublin) - she is reviewer for the Cochrane Database. Professor Begley is coming to New Zealand in January 2010 to talk to midwives who regularly carry out physiological management of the third stage. If you are interested in knowing more, please contact NZCOM.

Dixon et al. (2009). Midwives care during the third stage of labour: an analysis of the New Zealand College of Midwives Midwifery database 2004-2008. New Zealand College of Midwives Journal, number 41, October, p. 20

Image: 'placenta and amniotic sac - _MG_3995' sean dreilinger

Monday, December 7, 2009

Otago Polytechnic and the International Centre for Open Education

Here is a link to an interview with Dr Wayne Mackintosh called "Making Connections" which was published in the Otago Daily Times this weekend. In the interview Wayne describes the work of Wikieducator, which is a wiki devoted to sharing resources with educators. Wayne also explains the work of the International Centre for Open Education which is being supported at Otago Polytechnic.

Wayne shares my office so I am finding I am learning a lot about open educational resources (OER). I am off to Christchurch to a OER workshop with Wayne on Thursday and look forward to being involved in the move to bring OER to New Zealand schools in 2010.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Wanted: collaborators for virtual birthing unit project

Over the last couple of weeks I have been talking to midwifery educators in New Zealand about the virtual birthing unit in Second Life and how they can integrate it into their program next year. I have always felt that it will only be used as it was designed if it becomes part of the students' lessons, as opposed to an extra, voluntary activity.

Too much, too soon?
But it looks as if we have really bad timing. The five schools of midwifery in New Zealand are all focused on implementing a new curriculum next year, and do not have the time to try something as new or complex as Second Life. The issues of technology that does not fully work in educational institutions, and the time it takes to become skilled in Second Life continue to be the main barriers to the uptake of the virtual birth unit.

Looking for collaborators outside of New Zealand
So this leaves me in a bit of a catch 22 situation. I need to continue the evaluation of the virtual birthing unit in relation to full integration into a midwifery program and learning outcomes. But I have no midwifery program willing to collaborate with me as yet.

So, if you are a midwifery educator interested in virtual simulation and role play, and/or Second Life, and would like to investigate its effect on the learning of midwifery students , please get in touch.

Friday, December 4, 2009

How NOT to give a presentation

I have been interested to read a personal account of a presentation by Danah Boyd that went badly wrong. In her blog post, Danah gives a very emotional account of what she did, and her reaction when things turned to custard. I applaud Danah's honesty, however I believe her account demonstrates beautifully how NOT to give a presentation.

There were a few issues going on that I do not want to go into here - you can read about it in Danah's post and the following comments. Nevertheless, here are the lessons about presenting that have been reiterated to me by reading Danah's story.

"A week before the conference, I received word from the organizers that I was not going to have my laptop on stage with me. The dirty secret is that I actually read a lot of my talks but the audience doesn't actually realize this because scanning between my computer and the audience is usually pretty easy. So it doesn't look like I'm reading. But without a laptop on stage, I have to rely on paper."
Do not rely heavily on technology

"I basically decided to read the entire speech instead of deliver it."
Do not read a talk/speech/presentation

"When I showed up at the conference, I realized that the setup was different than I imagined. The podium was not angled, meaning that the paper would lie flat, making it harder to read and get away with it. Not good."
Check out the venue and equipment beforehand

"... figured that I knew the talk well enough to not sweat it."
Know your talk inside out

"I only learned about the Twitter feed shortly before my talk. I didn't know whether or not it was filtered. I also didn't get to see the talks by the previous speakers so I didn't know anything about what was going up on the screen."
Be familiar with the program, not just what you are talking about

Questions for us to consider
In a follow up comment, Jeff Hurt asked Danah some hard questions about her attitudes to presenting...questions we can all think about as we prepare to give presentations.

1) Who is the presentation for? You, your audience or your conference organizer?
2) When did you really lose the audience's attention?

3) If the audience is not getting your message, is it their fault or yours?

4) Are presentations supposed to be data dumps, even those by scholars and researchers?

5) If you could have a magic wand, stop time and walk around the room to peek inside each attendee's head to see how they were reacting to your presentation, would you do it? And if you would do it, what if what you saw them thinking was totally different than your scripted speech? What would you do then?

6) Have you thought about getting more formal training in presentation delivery skills, how to handle hecklers (whether verbal or in writing), how to engage your audience, how not to read a speech, etc?

7) Have you thought about getting some coaching on how to manage your emotions so this doesn't happen again and so you walk on stage confident in your message and in yourself as a presenter?

8) Do you really want to continue professional speaking? Is that your passion, your best and highest use?

What we can learn from Danah's experience
Here are some key pointers to help us become better presenters.
  • Know what we're saying
  • Know our audience
  • Know where we're saying it
  • Know how we're saying it
A big 'thank you' to Danah for being so open with her reflections and allowing us the opportunity to learn from her experience.

Image: 'danah at the OCLC event at ALA+2007+in+Seattle' Marc_Smith

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

2009 Edublog Awards

The 2009 Edublog Awards are upon us again. Here are my nominations for this year.

Best individual blog: Mike Bogle -
Mike is incredibly reflective and models reflective practice so effectively. At the same time, his posts are challenging and informative - I learn so much from him.

Best individual tweeter: Jo Hart -
There are heaps of people in my Twitter network I would like to nominate, but I have narrowed it down to Jo. This is not so much for the content of her tweets but because she always responds to my calls for help, information and support. I would like to thank her (and her husband Phil) for responding so generously to my call's for help when I was organizing and facilitating the virtual 24 hour International Day of the Midwife back in May. She donated her time freely at all hours of the day and night, and for that I am really grateful.

Best student blog: Rachel Byers -
Rachel is a student in the course 'Facilitating Online'. She is reflective, honest and open and demonstrates beautifully how blogs can be used for processing learning and documenting reflection.

Best resource sharing blog: SLENZ -
I have to admit to some bias in nominating the Second Life Education New Zealand project blog because I was part of the SLENZ team. Nevertheless, it is an amazing blog that has shared every resource, process and document to do with the SLENZ project. This is an essential place to go if you are planning an educational project using Second Life.

Most influential blog post: Ann Marie Cunningham "Tech addiction 'harms learning' .....really??? $24.99 and I am no wiser" -
To me, this post really demonstrates how blogging can be an academic exercise. In it Anne Marie models critical thinking and reflective practice. Anne reminds us of the importance of not taking research at face value, and how to critique information and ask probing questions about reports that come from very credible websites.

Best teacher blog: Leigh Blackall
Leigh continues to challenge my thinking about education. I still don't understand half of what he talks about, anymore than I did when I nominated him last year, but I never stop learning from him.

Best educational use of video/visual: Pam Harden
Midwife Pam is using YouTube videos that she has made to deliver pregnancy and birth information to young women in antenatal classes. She also incorporates Twitter and Facebook into her teaching. She is way ahead of her peers in the field of childbirth education.

Best educational wiki: Wikieducator
Not just a place to find open educational resources but also has an amazing international community of educators behind it always willing to help and support.

Best educational use of a social networking service: Australian Flexible Learning Framework
This site has changed my thinking about the value of Facebook. It informs me, provides me with resources and updates me on events. It also gives me the opportunity to connect with others who are interested in the same issues as myself. I have found this to be an invaluable service.

Best educational use of a virtual world: The UC Davis Virtual Hallucination simulation
I would really like to nominate the virtual birthing unit but I feel that wouldn't be allowed because it would sort of be nominating myself! So instead I would like to nominate the Virtual Hallucination. This is a very simple build and has been around for a few years. But it's potential to change people's views, knowledge and understanding of what it feels like to have schizophrenia is huge. I believe it is a 'must' for any student studying to be a health professional.

Lifetime achievement: Stephen Downes
What can I say about Stephen that hasn't already been said! A great contributor to the world of education.

What are your nominations going to be this year? For more information about how to nominate people, please go to the Edublog Award website.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Where can I go for Afternoon Tea in Dunedin?

I am gutted to find out that Corstophine House in Dunedin has been sold and is changing from a hotel to a private residence. I was about to take my daughter there for afternoon tea to celebrate that she has passed her second year university exams. We went there back in May and had a fabulous time.

So this leaves me wondering where else I can go for a posh afternoon tea in Dunedin? Do you have any suggestions?

Monday, November 30, 2009

Off to buy new knickers!

I just found out today that Tom Jones is coming to Dunedin for a concert in February 2010, so I'm off to buy a pair of new, flash knickers to throw at him. I couldn't possibly throw my old baggy, no-elastic granny knickers!

Image: Tom Jones and undergarments Burns!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Indigenous people, technology and aged and community care

This is my last post about the symposium I facilitated for indigenous and Torres Strait people this week, looking at their use of technology in aged and community care.

Here are the key points that came out of the symposium.

Thoughts about technology
  • Indigenous people would rather meet face-to-face than communicate electronically.
  • They recognise that they have to get their heads around technology as their young people become more familiar with it.
  • They are visual learners and like the idea of using tools such as Skype and webcam to see the person they are talking to.
  • Professional development and education must be flexible in time and mode of delivery.
  • Education and professional development must be culturally appropriate.
  • They recognise the potential of technology to help them with networking and sharing resources.
Barriers to implementation and integration of technology into workplace practices
  • Lack of access to the Internet because of rural and remote geographical location.
  • Concerns about mis-use of the Internet by staff at work.
  • Concerns about security of organizations' networks.
  • Lack of understanding of role of technology by management and board of governors.
  • Concerns about inappropriate organizational sharing in context of highly competitive finding applications.
  • Attitudes about what is 'work' and 'play' in the workplace eg see Facebook as a 'play' tool as opposed to one that can be used for professional purposes.
  • Cost of hardware and Internet infrastructure.
Where to from here?
The majority of symposium participants were very interested in how they could use technology for better workplace practices and networking.
  • They were positive about Skype and Google Docs which they saw as tools for effective collaboration.
  • Thought it would be better to keep a computer free from the organization network to reduce risks of security breaches.
  • Many felt the first step would be to try out the tools on a personal level before they attempted to introduce them organization-wide.
Some of the advice or thoughts I passed on
  • I urged the participants to think outside of their organizations, to consider where in the community they could access computers and the Internet - make it a community issues, not just one for the organization they worked for.
  • Advised them to look beyond aged care and Queensland to see how indigenous people were using technology, and network with people beyond their immediate professional and geographical locality.
  • Advised them to think how they could mentor each other as they explored the potential for electronic networking.
I drew a picture of my vision for have an online space or community where they shared resources, networked and supported each other; held synchronous meetings/seminars that were culturally appropriate and brought in people that they normally would not have access to on a face-to-face basis. Recordings of the meetings would be made for those who could not attend and dispersed in other media such as CDs for people who could not access the Internet.

The participants acknowledged that this vision may be a few steps too far at the moment, but they recognized that they seriously had to consider anything that brought them together in a way that made them culturally and professionally stronger.

What advice or tips would you give pass onto people who are new to technology and thinking about how they could integrate it into their work practices?

Facilitating an indigenous symposium about the use of technology in aged care

This week has been a very hectic one for me as it has included a quick trip over to Cairns. I was employed by Aged Care Queensland (ACQI) as a consultant with the remit of facilitating a symposium of indigenous and Torres Strait staff working in aged and community care. The focus of the symposium was their use of technology, especially in relation to eMentoring. The participants ranged from care givers to managers.

In this post I want to focus my reflections on my facilitation - in the second post about this symposium, I will report what participants discussed and how they saw the use of technology amongst indigenous people in aged and community care.

What happened
The symposium lasted over two days. During the afternoon on Wednesday we sat around and had a discussion about technology; how it could be used, if at all, by aged and community care staff; what the barriers were and what education and resources they needed to be able to use technology effectively. The second half of the symposium on Thursday morning was planned to be a computer skills workshop. The participants had access to laptops and wifi, and we planned to help them look at Skype, Google Docs and other tools that they might find useful.

What went well
The two days were very social. We had lots of frank and honest discussion. Initially, I was nervous because I hadn't worked with Australian indigenous people before and I was mindful about cultural differences. I did not want to be disrespectful and offend anyone. However, we had a simple 'welcome to country' and I felt very welcome to the place and gathering of people.

Initially, there appeared to be considerable confusion about the purpose of the two days, and people appeared to be resistant to the idea of technology in their workplaces. However, at the end of the symposium the evaluations were very positive. Everyone went away with at least one thing to think about, whether it was a tool to explore or recommendation/s to make to their organizations.

What didn't go so well
There were two main things that didn't go so well as far as I am concerned. The first session was very muddled. I had a plan for what we would discuss and the sequence for events. But there appeared to be considerable confusion about aim of the symposium, what eMentoring was, and little or no understanding about the ACQI eMentoring program. Consequently, we seemed to go round and round in circles getting more and more confused. Eventually I was able to pull things together with a simple definition of mentoring and a demonstration of Skype which showed people what could be achieved using electronic communication.

Break down of technology
The computer workshop was a shambles because the wifi network kept dropping and the lap tops were not set up properly for us to use them. I spent far too long trying to fix the technology than I normally would. I felt a keen responsibility to ACQI to 'succeed' with the demonstration of technology because that was an important part of my brief. Once I gave up worrying about that, I was able to relax and lead a discussion about the tools I recommended and how they could be used.

In terms of my own evaluation, I am not really sure what to think. I don't feel things ran half as well as other workshops I have facilitated. Yet at the end of the two days, the participants sounded very positive in their comments - they had definitely moved in their appreciation and understanding of technology in the workplace.

The feedback I was given by someone at the symposium was that facilitation did not appear to be my natural role and I did not cope well when things did not go to plan. I certainly agree that I was not so relaxed as I usually am because I was very conscious of the outcomes that I had to achieve on behalf of ACQI. At the same time, I believe I coped extremely well considering the technical difficulties that were thrown at me.

What I'll do differently next time
1. Insist that a computer workshop is held in a computer laboratory set up for the purpose.
2. Make things very simple, go right back to basics and assume people know nothing, and build from there.
3. Start the session with a demonstration of the technology so people immediately know what I am talking about.
4. Have a fully developed Plan B - something I can do or present if the technology fails.

What are your tips for good facilitation?

Top 10 virtual places in Second Life for nurse and midwife educators

I have been asked to compile a list of places in Second Life that are useful teaching tools for nurse and midwife educators. So here's ten suggestions from me - please let me know if you know of any other places.

1. The virtual birth unit
Of course I had to put the virtual birth unit at the top of the list considering I was the lead midwifery educator on the SLENZ project. This place is designed for midwifery students who want to learn about birth environment and caring for a woman in normal labour. It can also be used by anyone interested in birth including medical students, obstetric nurses and doualas. What is particularly unique about the birth unit is that the interactive normal birth scenario is open and free to use - here is a video that explains how it works, and here are the teaching resources and plans that go with the birth unit.

2. Virtual hallucination
I have written about this place in Second Life before and feel that it is one of the most moving and effective learning experiences I have ever encountered. Suitable for all areas of health education, this simulation gives you the visual and audio experience of a person with schizophrenia. I think it is worth watching this video if you are going to use this resource with students to be sure that you do not miss any aspects of the simulation.

3. Post-partum hemorrhage simulation
The post-partum hemorrhage simulation is part of the virtual hospital built by the University of Auckland. Particularly relevant to midwifery students and obstetric nurses, this simulation allows you to direct students in their management of a post-partum hemorrhage. For further information, contact Scott Diener.

4. Genome Island
Genome Island is a fun place to take students when you are teaching genetics. There are a number of activities that give a visual element to a topic that can be difficult to teach and learn. This is a place that is open to walk around so needs no special permission or funding to use.

5. Menstrual cycle
One of the things I took ages to get my head around as a student was the menstrual cycle. So if you're involved with teaching this to students, take them to the OSU Medicine site. At this place you can follow the growth of a follicle and take a quiz on how the menstrual cycle works.

6. Da Vinci Gardens, Kalepa
Another 'dry' subject is the anatomy and physiology of the cardiovascular system. If you want to put some fun into your teaching of blood, take your students to the Da Vinci Gardens at Kalepa. Once there, you can be miniaturized, put on a diving suit and swim through a blood vessel.

7. Second Health Orientation Experience
If you and your students are completely new to Second Life, you may first wish to work your way around this orientation trial. During your walk around you will find out how to move around, change your avatar and manage your inventory. Once you have finished the trail, you'll be directed onto the Second Health Virtual Hospital. Personally, I do not find looking around empty hospitals very exciting or engaging, so you'll have to develop lesson plans that take this into consideration.

8. Imperial College London
This simulation gives students an opportunity to investigate respiratory disease in the Respiration Ward. Whilst this sim is designed for medical doctors, I feel it is just as useful for nursing students. I found the sim quite complex initially so if you're a newbie, it is worth taking the time to sort out what to do before you introduce students. Here is a video that gives you an overview of what to do.

9. HIV Prevention and Education Center
The HIV Prevention and Education Center is jammed packed full of information about HIV and AIDS. A treasure hunt type activity may work well as a lesson plan for this place. It is also probably worth checking that the information is up to date before you recommend it to students.

10. Free stuff
Whilst this may seem frivolous, part of the learning experience in Second Life is tied up with the appearance of your avatar and how he or she behaves. To get your avatar looking how you want and to improve your SL skills, I suggest you go to the Forou Freebies Store where you can acquire all sorts of free things like hair, clothes, shoes, jewelry etc. Pottering around this store will help your students gain confidence in Second Life which in turn will improve their learning experience.

What places in Second Life have you found and would recommend for nurses and midwives?

Talking about open research at the IRGO unconference

At the beginning of the week I chaired a panel at the IRGO unconference at Otago University. The brief of the panel was to consider how we can be more collaborative in our Internet research in New Zealand.

Our brief
I started off the session by explaining that one of my great passions is to encourage researchers to work more collaboratively together. I see this gaining more and more importance as research funding becomes increasingly difficult to access in New Zealand. In particular, I made a plea for researchers in universities to remember the polytechnic sector because a lot of great research is being carried out by polytechnic staff.

Open research
Wayne Macintosh, member of the Board of Directors of the Open Education Resources Foundation, talked about research in an open environment. Wayne talked about the importance of putting our material in the open domain as a moral and ethical duty to the greater good. At the same time, he did not deny the importance of being able to earn a living from the production of education and research material. The challenge for us as educators and researchers is to figure out how we work in an open and collaborative environment at the same time as fulfilling the demands of our employers.

Wayne also announced the beginning of a new wiki: Wikiresearch. The wiki will work on the same lines as all other wikimedia projects and will be a place where researchers can collaborate, seek funding, plan, conduct and publish research.

Collaborative research in action
I told the story of the Second Life Education New Zealand project as an example of how people from all over the country and many institutions can come together and collaborate on a research project. Every aspect of the project has been openly published on the project blog and the research outputs are available under a Creative Commons license, which means anyone can use the research that was developed in Second Life. I explained this approach to research came about for many reasons, one of which was our responsibility to be completely open to our funders ie the tax payer of New Zealand.

Barriers to open and collaborative research
Cameron Campbell was given the job of playing devil's advocate and outlined the barriers to being open and collaborative. The commercialization of research and government funding of academic institutions based on research outputs are huge barriers, as are the locked-down intellectual property policies of academic institutions.

The group had a lively session of discussion which focused on research publishing. There was a lot of concern about the way traditional journals control the publication of research. At the same time, researchers are forced to comply because of the "publish or perish" attitudes that prevail in universities. Whilst the group consensus appeared to support open publication of research, people were also concerned that this would adversely affect their opportunities for tenure, or ability to make money from their research.

My personal thoughts
We did not really address how we could work more collaboratively or come up with concrete strategies which I was a tad disappointed about. I am thinking that a follow-up workshop may be one way to progress this further. However, from a personal point of view, I appreciated the opportunity to meet people and strengthen networks between Otago Polytechnic and the University of Otago. If this panel leads to more conversation and activity between the two institutions in the field of Internet research and education, then I will feel the panel had a constructive outcome. Just little things like making sure each institution is aware of research-focused activities makes a difference.

What suggestions can you make that will help build a more collaborative research environment in New Zealand?

Image: 'Otago University campus' themachobox's photostream

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Normal Labour and Birth: 5th Research Conference

The 5th Normal Labour and Birth Research Conference is coming up next July in Vancouver.

This session will specifically focus on concepts and controversies around the experiences of physiologic birth by providers, women, families, and systems of care within the current social, political, and economic context.

The conference will provide the opportunity to develop and disseminate evidence related to the benefits and challenges of preserving normal labour and birth with a particular focus on the multidisciplinary perspectives on the implications for clinical practice, perinatal outcomes, education, management, collaboration, and policy.

I am thinking I will submit an abstract, talking about how we're using the Second Life normal birth scenario to teach midwifery students about birth environment and how to work with women in primary birth units.

Image: Vancouver at night
janusz l

A challenge for my facilitation skills

I am off to Cairns for the few days next week to facilitate a symposium about eMentoring on behalf of Aged Care Queensland. This is an extension of the eMentoring project I was involved with earlier in the year. The aim of the symposium is to explore the issues around eMentoring related to indigenous aged care and community staff - to find out what the barriers and enablers are, and how eMentoring can be progressed in a way that benefits staff.

Working with indigenous people
The symposium will be made up of Australian indigenous and Torres Strait people. This is the first time I have worked with Australian indigenous and Torres Strait people so I have been concerned that we develop a program that will be relevant, and in particular my facilitation is done in an appropriate and respectful way.

I will be co-facilitating with Steve Begg, who has done a lot of work in aged care in Australia and is an indigenous person himself. It has been very interesting talking to him and comparing approaches in Australia to how a Maori hui in New Zealand would be facilitated.

Facilitating a conversation
I'm still not sure that we have things right. I'm not sure I'm the right person to facilitate the session - I think it should be an indigenous person. But having said that, I am the one with the in-depth knowledge of eMentoring so that is the justification for having me as facilitator. I am still a little fearful that we're coming into the symposium with our own agenda which may inhibit responses. Time will tell.

The key things for me are to:
  • acknowledge the people of the place - and bring greetings and acknowledgment from my own land
  • give people time and space to get to know each other and get to know me
  • keep the symposium as a flexible conversation as opposed to regimented formal program
  • make sure we achieve ACQI outcomes ie answer the questions we have to ask
  • give people opportunities to answer the questions in different formats - verbal and written...paper and online
  • give people the opportunity to give feedback in a supported way that does not shame them.
How to facilitate in-depth discussion
I feel that my main role is to encourage conversation and discussion in a way that feels safe to the participants. When it comes to asking about their personal skills and experiences I aim to use anonymous methods so that people can disclose without feeling shamed. I'm going to use small groups to discuss questions about cultural issues pertaining to eMentoring. And broad issues such as organizational barriers, which hopefully do not feel personally threatening, will be discussed as a large group.

Do you have any advice or tips on how to facilitate discussion that generates lots of information but keeps people feeling safe?

Image: Great Barrier Reef, Cairns, Australia The Lightworks

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Joining a "Learn4Content" workshop

I have just joined a free two week workshop called Learn4Content facilitated by Wikieducator - it starts on Monday 23rd November if you're interested in joining.

What is Wikieducator?
Wikieducator is a non-profit wiki that is used by teachers to develop teaching and learning resources that are open and free for use by everyone. It works in the same way as Wikipedia. I have always complained that Wikieducator is difficult to use for newbies, especially compared to wiki such as Wikispaces. However, I am feeling a lot more confident since I started using Wikieducator for the Second Life Education New Zealand project:

What I want to achieve

I feel comfortable with very basic wiki skills so my aim for the course is to grow my skills so I can do more complex things in the wiki such as add media, construct brochures, and develop my personal page. Ultimately, I want to feel confident enough to edit Wikipedia.

Online facilitation
The other thing I am interested in is seeing how other people facilitate online. Willie Campbell did this workshop last time and recommended I did the workshop because it is such a wonderful example of online facilitation. In view of the fact that I teach online facilitation and can always improve my own skills, I thought it would be a good opportunity to experience differing facilitation styles and methods.

...and it is that's all good.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Sarah Stewart, facilitator and consultant

After nearly a year of swanning around and having my mid life crises, I have come to the stage I have to decide what I want to do when I grow up.

What I'm planning for 2010
I have been offered a job working 0.5 at the Otago Polytechnic Educational Development Center as an educational programmer/facilitator. But that leaves me to find other work and projects. After consideration, I've decided that my best option is to become a self-employed facilitator and consultant in education, eLearning and workplace learning, focusing on heath professionals in New Zealand and Australia.

The way forward
I am looking forward to being flexible and picking up projects that I find suits my interests. But I have a lot of things to do before I am able to get my new business off the ground including deciding on a slogan, designing a logo, setting up websites and domains and marketing my services.

Do you have any advice for me to help me set up my business?

Image: Astra křovinatá - Bee is busy [Aster dumosus] fesoj

Off to my first ever "unconference"

I am off to my first ever 'unconference' on Monday at Otago University - Internet Research Group of Otago. I am chairing a panel entitled "Becoming more collaborative"

I would like to think about how we can become more collaborative and open - between professions, educational and professional institutions and work places so that we reduce all the 'wheel reinvention' that goes on, and work together across settings & contexts.

Along with me is Dr Wayne Macintosh, founder of Wikieducator, who is going to talk about 'open research'. I am going to describe how the SLENZ project worked in an open, collaborative environment, and Cameron Campbell is going to play devil's advocate and explain why open, collaborative research is a pipe dream in today's competitive research market.


I have never been to an unconference before so it will be interesting to see how everything pans out. The organizers have left the topic choice and panel selection up to the participants. The result should be that the conference more fully suits the needs of the participants compared formally arranged conferences.

Online unconference for health professionals?
I was thinking how I could organise an online unconference for health professionals - is it something you'd be interested in? What topics would you like to see addressed, by whom and by what online tools?

Image: blue rose macro atomicshark

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Would you donate your body for medical students to cut up?

I watched a fascinating and touching TV program last night about the people who have donated their bodies to the Dunedin School of Medicine for student doctors to dissect.

You would think, being a health professional, that I would have thought about how student doctors learn about anatomy and physiology, but I haven't. As a student nurse and midwife, I never did anything more exciting than inject an orange. So I sort of assumed that doctors learned about anatomy and physiology out of a book, the same way I did. I was once offered the chance to go to an autopsy as a student nurse but declined the offer.

The program was very sensitively filmed, I thought, and at the end I was in tears with the students as they watched the interviews of the people who they had cut up, and heard the reasons why they had donated their bodies.

I don't know if I would want to donate my body to science. On the one hand, I feel very squeamish about the idea. But on the other hand, a dead body has no soul...and if it benefited the learning of young doctors, then all to the good.

Would you donate your body to science?

What do you do in your sleep?

I have been horrified but morbidly fascinated to read the story about the man in the UK who killed his wife in his sleep. Apparently, he was dreaming he was fighting an intruder but was actually strangling his wife. He is pleading innocence by way of insanity.

I have been in danger of being murdered in my sleep by my darling hubby who regularly gets very fed up with my snoring...

What terrible or funny things have you done in your sleep?

Sick of spam

I am afraid I am going to have to do something I swore I would never do...and turn on 'word verification'. This means you will have to verify a word before you can post a comment. I didn't want to use this feature because I believe it reduces the spontaneity of commenting, but I have started getting so much spam that I have no choice.

Do you have any other suggestions about how I can solve the spam problem without having to resort to word verification?

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Learning a few painful lesson about presenting in Second Life

I had the life scared out of me last Friday morning in Second Life and as a result have learned a few painful lessons about presenting in Second Life.

Virtual birthing unit becoming famous
A few weeks ago I was approached by the Gronstedt 'Train for Success Group, one of the biggest education and research groups in Second Life...except at the time I didn't know that. They asked if I could give a presentation about the virtual birthing unit and show them around. I said 'yes' and didn't think much more about it. I am so used to planning virtual events and no-one turning up that I didn't put any thought into how I was going to manage the presentation and tour.

Do what I say and not what I do
The irony is that I am currently teaching students how to facilitate online and yet I didn't take my own advice. I under estimated the number of people that would attend and the effect it would have on the technology of Second Life, and I didn't consider the practicalities of showing 40-50 people around the birth unit by myself. Luckily for me, I managed to secure the services of John Waugh who is one of the SLENZ team to help me out.

How things turned out
In the end things didn't turn out to badly, although they could have been a lot better if I'd been more organized. I am not sure how many people turned up but it must have been over 35 people. The technology held up well, but I have to acknowledge that it is a challenge showing more than 10 people around because of time lag and keeping people together.

What did I learn about presenting in Second Life?
Giving a presentation in SL is no different from any where have to be well prepared. The main lesson for me is that I need a lot more helpers in SL than I would need in another web conferencing environment. This means I have to be a lot more organized...give my helpers plenty of notice and make sure at least one of my helpers is very skilled at sorting out problems in SL.

It's also a good idea to have a notecard to hand to people, like a business card, with the contact details of everyone involved in the birthing unit project.

Feedback about the birth unit
We had great feedback about the birthing unit. One of the group said it was one of the best educational resources that he had ever seen. And we had lots of comments about the toilet being the first one that people had come across in Second Life! :)

What tips would you give people about presenting online, especially in Second Life?

PS: Keep an eye on the Gronstedt website because a recording of the presentation and tour will be available in a few days.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Do you have a public Google profile?

I have just discovered a new element of the Google range and that is the public Google profile - here is mine:

Having a public Google Profile will increase your presence on the Internet which is particularly important if you want to promote yourself online for whatever reason. The instructions on how to do it can be found here.

What I like about it is that it very easily hooks in your other online channels like YouTube, Slideshare and blog accounts. Let me know how to find your profile - I'd love to have a look to see how you use it.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Which is more effective - a team or community of practice?

I am writing an abstract for the conference "Breathing new life into maternity care". This conference is a multi-disciplinary conference held in 2010 in Alice Springs, Australia.

Team or community of practice?
One of the main aims of the conference is to bring midwives and obstetricians together to encourage more collaborative teamwork amongst the two professions. I was all set to write an abstract talking about how we can use online communication tools to work more effectively as a virtual team. But I have got side tracked into asking the question: should we be aiming to form virtual teams in maternity services or would it be more appropriate to think in terms of communities of practice? What is the difference? What will work better?

Working in teams
I have to be honest and admit to some suspicion when I hear the call for 'teamwork'. I welcome inter-professional collaboration but my idea of teamwork sometimes differs from that of other health professionals. I'm all for teamwork but in a team where I am an equal partner, bringing my own strengths and perspectives that are valued along with every other member of the team.

Developing communities of practice
So maybe we should be focusing on developing communities of practice as opposed to teams. I see communities of practice being less hierarchical than teams and more inclusive...where members work together to support, mentor and develop each other....and where consumers (and their families) can join and contribute.

What do you think - is there a difference between teams and communities of practice, or is it just a matter of semantics?

Image: '3D Full Spectrum Unity Holding Hands Concept' lumaxart

Embedding the Second Life virtual birthing unit into midwifery education

I have been invited to the schools of midwifery at Hamilton and Wellington later in December to demonstrate the virtual birthing unit and brain storm ideas about how it can be embedded into midwifery education.

Plan for the sessions
I thought I'd break up the days into several sessions. The first session I will talk about the Second Life Education New Zealand (SLENZ) project and how the virtual birthing unit came about. I'll also describe exactly what the birth unit and normal birth scenario do and achieve. Then, I'll run a Second Life workshop and orientate the midwives to SL. At the same time I'll talk about some of the barriers to SL and how we can overcome them. In the last part of the day I'll ask the midwifery lecturers to brain storm how they could use the birth unit in their program next year.

Where does the birth unit sit in a three year midwifery program?
I haven't seen the SLENZ student evaluation so I feel a little as if I am groping in the dark. But my sense is there are three options for the birth unit:
  • orientation to the clinical context for first year students
  • activity for second year students as they learn about normal birth
  • revision activity for third year students.
In view of what I have heard from students, I wonder if the scenario is sophisticated enough for the senior students - I get the sense that it is more appropriate for junior students. We need to do more development, giving a wider range of options and variables before it will capture the attention of senior students. In the meantime, it is an ideal orientation tool for junior students - it makes them think and really stretches them, yet at the same time they feel safe because they are unable to 'harm' anyone and feel protected from the less forgiving real-life clinical situation.

Other options in Second Life for midwifery education
I was thinking that it would be worth talking about other resources in SL that midwifery educators could utilise in their program. The first thing that obviously comes to mind is the post-partum haemorrhage scenario that has been developed by the University of Auckland. There is also the heart murmur simulation and Genome Island.

The Virtual Hallucination may also be of value. I would love to see it adapted to fit the context of post-partum psychosis but it is still relevant to midwifery students who will come across women (and their families) who have mental health issues.

Working with midwifery educators outside New Zealand
I'd love to hear from any educators outside New Zealand (or outside midwifery) who are interested in using the birth unit and normal birth scenario in their own programs. I am very interested in setting up an international collaborative evaluation/study so please let me know if you'd like more information.

In my next blog post I'd like to talk more about how the birth unit and its impact on midwifery education can be evaluated.

Image: Visiting Genome Island

Monday, November 9, 2009

Free mini-conference starts today

The course 'Facilitating Online' has a mini-conference that starts today - details can be found here. There are a range of free synchronous and asynchronous events that you can attend - if you want to know more about a particular event, please contact the individual facilitator.

This mini-conference is the highlight of the course I have been facilitating over the last few months - I feel like a new mum about to give birth :) I'm a little nervous but also very excited.

So please feel free to attend and support the students - I'm sure you'll find heaps to interest you, especially if you want to know more about social networking and eLearning:
  • All you need to know about Twitter
  • Going online to save the mala - early lessons from a web-based conservation planning process
  • Use of wiki in education
  • Implementing online tools into your teaching
  • Google Reader and Delicious
  • Moodle, Ning, Wikieducator,Facebook and WiZiQ
  • Too many cooks spoil the broth, so they say....So what of Too many Tools?

Image: 'yellow umbrella' // solidether

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Second Life and science teachers

I have been asked by one of the science lecturers at Otago Polytechnic to show her Second Life. She is involved with teaching foundation science to students who want to go on to programs like nursing and midwifery.

I want to show her some sites that would interest her and that she can use with her students. The one place I know of is Genome Island, which is a place where you can explore resources and activities that focus on genetics.

Do you know of any other places that would interest a science teacher, especially with a health focus?

Saturday, November 7, 2009

A disturbing experience in Second Life

I had a very intense, disturbing experience in Second Life last night.

I went to see the Virtual Hallucination simulation that has been developed by UC Davis. It has been designed to give us a better understanding of what it feels like to have schizophrenia. Based on the stories of two people who have schizophrenia, it aims to provide an auditory and visual experience that simulates how schizophrenics see and hear the world.

To my mind this is the most powerful teaching/learning experiences in Second Life - it moved and disturbed me. If you have any interest in mental health, especially if you are a health professional working in the area I would recommend you visit this place. But be warned that it is an intense experience.

If you cannot access Second Life, have a look at this video which will give you a feel for the place.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Vuvox: a great alternative to PowerPoint

I have just been introduced to a nice alternative presentation tool to PowerPoint by @carlosrizo: vuvox collage. It's very easy to use and looks really nice. The only thing I need to work out is if I can download the collage so I can use it if I haven't got access to the Internet.

Here's a collage I have made about Flickr and Creative Commons.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Meeting people who actually read my blog

It was very exciting on Friday to meet people who actually read my blog. I don't have a large readership and use this blog primarily to process my own thinking and learning. But it's lovely hear that people find my writing interesting (although goodness knows why!?) and get some useful information out of it.

So a big 'hello' to Susie Lepage, Yvonne Rika and Jean Jacoby who are nurses and educators interested in exploring Second Life for nurse education. Thank you for reading my blog. I hope you'll find what I have written to be of help as you plan your Second Life project, especially my experiences of working on the virtual birthing unit.

To anyone who reads this blog: please don't be afraid to leave a comment to say 'hello'. It feels very lonely here at times and is always nice to hear from people, even if it's just a quick word or two :)

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Nurses and Second Life

I was invited to a meeting of nurse educators in Wellington on Friday. They were from a number of New Zealand educational institutions and were very interested in the potential of Second Life for nurse education. Needless to say, they were especially interested in hearing about the Second Life Education New Zealand project and in particular the virtual birthing unit.

Nursing and medical resources in Second Life
There are few avenues these days for educational funding in New Zealand so these nurses are going to have to think about how they can utilize resources that are already available in Second Life. So the first step in their collaborative project is to review how nurses and health professionals are using SL.
My advice
My advice to nurse educators looking at Second Life is to:
  • find a SL mentor and learn as much as you can about how SL works;
  • network with other nurse and health professionals using SL using online communication tools such as blogs, YouTube, Slideshare and of course, Second Life;
  • develop learning activities in SL that require little or no development to keep things as cheap and easy as possible;
  • work alongside your educational institution to ensure you have full access to SL;
  • collaborate with each other using virtual tools such as wiki, Google Docs, Skype and SL.
I would love to hear from you if you are involved in nurse education and Second Life - what do you teach in SL? How effective have you found it? What would you advise nurse educators starting out in SL?