Thursday, February 26, 2009

Talking to young people in aged care about networking

Tomorrow I am talking to a group of young people who work in aged care about how to use the Internet to build networks. I wouldn't normally be allowed to join the group because their definition of "young" is up to the age of 40, so that rules me out. But being that I am a speaker to the group, I have a special dispensation to attend.

To be honest, I haven't given my talk much thought up to now. I had planned on reguritating a similar talk I gave at the Aged Care Queensland conference last November. But some of the people coming to the meeting tomorrow may also have been to the November conference, so I need to put a slightly different slant on things. I also have to remember that my audience will be slightly younger than I am used to talking to - the 'dreaded' Generation Y. So whilst it would be easy to assume that they know about social networking, that may not actually be the case.

Key points
Here are some ideas for my talk:
  • Why networking is important as a young person starting off in a profession.
  • What an online network is.
  • What online social networking can offer a young professional.
  • How to build a network.
  • What issues you need to consider with online networking.
  • Some tools to consider using.
Is there anything you think I could add? What points do you think it is important for me to include in my talk?

Image: 'Happyness' zanzibar

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Missing my girl

I am extremely privileged to have a wonderful daughter who I am very proud of. We are best friends as well as daughter/mother. We have missed each other very much since I have moved to Brisbane although we speak to each other most days via Facebook and MSN. I have even been able to give her my advice on what to wear on a date as she showed me the various choices of outfit by web cam (not that she took my advice, of course!).

Visit to Brisbane
The last couple of weeks she has been here on holiday with a friend. They have done the Gold Coast and Surfers Paradise, and dropped into Brisbane for a few days to see me.

Catching up
We had a fabulous time catching up, shopping and doing lots of eating. The highlight of her visit was having a ride on the Brisbane Wheel and going to the Sunday markets.

Back to the cold and wet
She's gone back to New Zealand and we'll be seeing each other again at Easter. In the meantime, we'll keep in touch with the wonderful communication tools that are the available on the Internet.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

To choose or not to choose: matching participants in an eMentoring program

This is the second post about matching participants in formal mentoring programs. I would be very interested to hear your opinion in how I should match participants in the eMentoring program I am managing.

Here are the three options - what do you think would be most appropriate, keeping in mind the issues of matching that I discussed in my previous post.

  1. I match the mentors and mentees myself - I take all the information that the participants send me and match the skills and experience of the mentors to the goals and needs of the mentee. This is done before the mentoring workshops so that they can meet face-to-face, and then go on to develop their mentoring contracts.
  2. I ask the mentors to provide biographical details and photos and I post them on a web site. The mentees choose who they want as mentor. This is done before the eMentoring workshops. Then they meet at the workshop etc.
  3. They meet up at the workshop and choose then. The problem with this is that they will not all be at the workshop - I will be running small workshops of no more than 10 mentors which will restrict the choice for the mentee. And what if all the mentees go for the same mentor?
What do you think is the most effective way of matching that causes the least amount of trouble for me, yet meets the needs of the mentees and mentors?

Image: 'match bouquet' ḃĭțʑḯ

Matching participants in eMentoring programs

One of the big issues I need to address in the eMentoring project I am managing is how to match the participants ie which mentor to put with each mentee. This is the first of two posts about the issues of matching participants in a formal eMentoring programs.

Blind date
My original intention was to match the participants myself according to the information they give me, a bit like a dating agency. The mentors will provide information about their skills and experience which I match with the goals and needs of mentees. I will also ask participants to provide information about personal interests with the aim of matching people with similar interests, so they have something in common to provide a foundation on which to build the mentoring relationship.

Face-to-face connecting
One advantage that these participants will have is that they will be able to meet face-to-face at the start of their relationship. The project has funding that will allow participants to attend mentoring workshops to learn more about the mentoring process. The participants will meet their mentoring partners, develop their contracts and agreements, and make a start to getting to know each other.

Nevertheless, there are a number of issues to consider when matching people in formal mentoring programs. One issue is gender and how that effects relationships. Ehrich (2008) cites a number of authors and studies that state that cross-gender mentoring can lead to romance and sexual intimacy which result in professional and personal problems. Participants can be pressurized to enter a sexual relationship because of power imbalances. At the same time, people may be dissuaded from entering a cross-gender mentoring relationship because of the potential of these problems developing. I would imagine that online relationships are less likely to have that problem because of the physical distance between participants, but it should still be considered.

A further problem can be that stereotypical behavior between male and females is accentuated ie females are submissive and males are dominant or paternalistic (Ehrich, 2008). If this is the case, the mentoring relationship will be dysfunctional.

Cross-ethnic mentoring can be similarly problematic if power in-balances come into play. People who struggle to maintain their ethnic identity are more likely to connect with mentors/mentees of the same ethnic origin (Darling et al, 2006).

Different disciplines
The other issue to consider when matching people in this project is the difference in professions and role. This may cause difficulties because of a lack of understanding of people's contexts and backgrounds (Stewart & McLoughlin, 2007). But as mentoring is about reflection, learning and development, this should not be a major problem. But it will be interesting to see if occupation has an effect on the 'success' of the mentoring relationship.

At the same time, diversity is to be celebrated, and too much similarity should be avoided because it may dampen down the challenges and stimulation that occurs when there are differences in approach and opinion (Klasen & Clutterbuck, 2004). Cross-gender and cross-ethnic mentoring encourages people to be accepting of differences.

It may be that I am restricted on how I match people by the numbers and locations of people. I am keen to match people to ensure they are not in the same geographical location so as to test the efficacy of computer-mediated communication, and to increase confidentiality. But in the end, it may be pragmatics that underpin the matching process.

What is your opinion - what do you think are important issues for me to consider when I think about matching participants? What would you want from your mentor/mentee if you were in this project?

My next post is considering exactly how I should match participants in the eMentoring program.


Ehrich, L. (2008). Mentoring and women managers : another look at the field. Gender in Management : An International Journal, 23(7). pp. 469-483. Retrieved 21 February, 2009, from

Darling, N. Bogat, G., Cavell, T., Murphy, S., Sanchez, B. (2006). Gender, ethnicity, development, and risk: consdieration of individual differences. Journal of Community Psycology, 34, 6, 765-779.

Klasen, N., & Clutterbuck, D. (2004). Implementing mentoring schemes. London: Elsevier.

Stewart, S., & McLoughlin, C. (2007). Design features of an e-mentoring system for the health
professions: Choosing to learn in partnership. In ICT: Providing choices for learners and learning.Proceedings ascilite Singapore 2007. Retrieved 20 February, 2009, from

Image: 'la cumbre de los fósforos' yakanama

Linking objects to information in the Second Life virtual birth unit

I am feeling that at last I can see the light at the end of the tunnel for the first stage of the Second Life birth unit project. And my feelings of frustration are changing to optimistic excitement. Yesterday, Leigh Blackall, Deborah Davis and I had a meeting which has led to an agreement to the learning activities and time lines for stage 1 of the project.

Lesson plan
I have the responsibility for developing the lesson plan/s for the activities the students will be engaging with in order to meet their learning outcomes which are:
  • demonstrate an understanding of the role of the midwife in the normal childbirth process;
  • demonstrate effective evidence based, midwifery practice guided by a sound knowledge base.

These plans are for self-directed activities that encourage reflection, which will complement the students' formal lessons. The ideas so far are a treasure hunt, writing a reflection, completing a questionnaire, taking part in a discussion in the class Facebook group. What do you think we could get the students to do that will not be too onerous for them, but be a useful activity that will fit the learning outcomes.

There will also need to be a notice board or such like that gives the students instructions.

Deborah and Leigh have responsibility for developing a short video that will act as an advert for the birth unit; something that can be lodged in YouTube and similar places as well as the birth unit itself, and sent around the place by email, or linked into the institutions' learning management systems.

The video will consist of interviews with everyone involved with building the birth unit.

The other really important job that Deborah and I have to do is agree on what objects we need in the unit; decide how they are to be animated, and how they are to be linked to research evidence. We will then need to summarize the evidence in a short paragraph for the students to read.

What will happen is that a student will see a glass of water, for example, click on it and be shown research evidence about hydration in labour. The student will also be able follow links to the information on a web site (probably Wikieducator). This will allow them to 'bookmark' the information. It will also be a resource that people outside Second Life will be able to utilize.

The objects are:
  • Water pool – link to information about use of water in labour & evidence about waterbirth
  • Sink-link to information about hand washing & infection control
  • Gloves – link to information about sterile technique
  • Bed-link to info about evidence of around birth positions & birth outcomes
  • Food – link to evidence about nutrition in labour
  • Glass of water – link to information/evidence about hydration in labour
  • Rope/birth ball/birthing stool – links to information/evidence about positions in labour
  • Toilet – links to info/evidence about maternal output eg why we test urine in labour
  • BP machine-info/evidence about monitoring in labour
  • Pinard – info/evidence about baby monitoring in labour
  • Vomit bowl – info/evidence about dealing with nausea
  • Fridge – information about ecbolics & active management of third stage
  • Object – information about physiological management of third stage
  • Object-information about vaginal examinations
  • Object – info about hands off’ approach to birth
  • Filing cabinet in midwife’s office – information about documentation
  • Mucus extractor - evidence about sucking out a baby at birth
  • Syringe - evidence about the administration of vitamin K at birth
  • Towel rail to warm towels for baby at birth - information about keeping baby warm at birth
  • Cord clamp - evidence/information about timing of cord clamp

Can you think of any other objects we would need in the birth unit that would link out to research evidence?

The birth unit including objects is due to be finished by the middle of March which is when the SLENZ team has its next face-to-face meeting. It looks as if we'll be introducing the first year midwifery students to the birth unit in the middle of June when they start to look at labour and birth.

We'll be having a grand opening which will include a panel discussion about the principles of birth unit design and how that was integrated into the Second Life project. At this stage, a date has not been decided but it will probably be in May. Plenty of time for me to get a new frock and tiara in honor of the occasion!

Image: 'Evan cuts the umbilical cord' Natashalatrasha

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Finding your way around Second Life

I do not find it particularly easy to find my way around Second Life, or tell people how to get to places. So I am very pleased to find a web site that allows you to make a location link that you can use to tell people where to go.

All you need to do is feed in the location of the site you are visiting to SLurlBuilder, and that then gets made into a link for people to follow.

Here is the link which will take you to the virtual birth unit I am working on in the SLENZ project, in Kowhai.

Go and have a look and get back to me with what you think.

Decorating the virtual birth unit in Second Life

Here is Petal (me) and Aastra Apfelbaum (Deborah Davis) trying to decide on a colour scheme for the virtual birth unit in Second Life.

Thinking that the floor is too orange.

I love this colour but it's probably too crazy for a birth unit.

Planning dark, warm cave-like colours for the birthing rooms.

What do you think?

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Super 14 Rugby 2009

One of the downsides of moving to Brisbane for the next few months is that I am going to miss all the home games of my beloved Highlanders in Dunedin, in the Super 14 Rugby this year. It will be just typical - the year I am not there will be the year the Highlanders do really well....I can dream, can't I??!!

A big decision
So the big moral and ethical question I must answer is..........who do I support now I am living in Brisbane? Do I cheer for the Queensland Reds, or for any of the sides that play them that come from New Zealand?! Maybe I just go for which ever side has the cutest players!?

If all else fails, I may have to start going to rugby league games. The advantage of rugby league over rugby union is that the players wear tighter shorts. So you see......a silver lining?!

Virtual rugby
In the meantime, I am signed up for the virtual rugby again. It appears that people have been having problems with the web site, so I hope that gets sorted soon.

If you wish to follow my progress, my user name is "Hototagogirl" - good luck.

Image: 'Ce International Rugby7 14' vampirogordo

Learning about high blood pressure in pregnancy

I am thrilled to see that my best mate, Deborah Davis, dipping her toes in blogging waters. Deborah is running a postgraduate midwifery course "Hypertension in pregnancy" on the blog: Jan's Pregnancy Adventure.

I am sure this blog will be a great resource for midwives who want to update themselves; student midwives who wish to learn about hypertension, and women who want to know anything abut pregnancy.

Go and have a look and join in the discussion. The more people take part in sharing information and ideas, the more useful learning will achieved by the students/midwives taking the course.

Image: 'Baumanometer' derklbot

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Using Skype to get my adrenaline fix

Do you ever do things that you know are wild and dangerous, and potentially fatal like skydiving or white water rafting, but you can't stop yourself doing it? Well, I did that today - had a very scary ride but would do it again at the drop of a hat.

Long distance collaboration
I was asked to work with Sue Hickton to help her present the joys of Web 2.0 to a group of health professionals in Perth - Sue would be talking to the class face-to-face, and I would join in some sort of online form.

We started off a few days ago having a brain storm about what Web 2.0 means to me, and how I use various social networking tools as a health professional. There's nothing I love more than talking about myself and talking about Web 2.0 tools, so this presentation was going to be easy.

Presenting with Skype
Sue and I decided we would try to beam me in using Ustream.Tv because neither of us had used it before and were excited about the opportunity to test it out. Unfortunetly, I do not have administrative rights on my work lap top, so I cannot download Flash and hence am unable to access a number of web sites. But as I can use Skype, we decided we'd have to stick with that.

Taking a risk
You can bet your bottom dollar that when you want to highlight technology, it doesn't work. Sure enough, Sue did run into a few problems, but we eventually got sorted as long as I didn't run Skype video. I felt on tenderhooks the whole time in case my lap top blew up, or Sue was abducted by aliens, but on the whole I think things went very well.

We talked for an hour and Sue showed the group the MindMeister mindmap we made, and a number of online tools including Twitter and Delicious. The thing I wanted to get over was that it isn't about the tools, but how we use them to connect with people - it is in the connections that we find knowledge and learning.

The group had a number of issues. They find it frustrating how the institution they work for restricts their access to tools (which seems to be a theme of my blogging these days). They were also concerned about how they could differeniate between online rubbish and professional networking, and how they could access quality information. I made the point that we shouldn't bury our heads in the sand and ignore social networking because our students and patients/clients are using it to connect with each other, find and disseminate information.

Being blind
I am starting to get used to presenting to groups without seeing them - I did a similar thing last week when I talked to my colleagues at Otago Polytechnic about ePortfolios. It is a little disconcerting when you cannot see who you are talking to, and are getting no feedback at all about how things are going, even in the form of instant messages.

But I had fun, and will use this model of presentation when I come to talk about Web 2.0 with the people I am working with in aged and community care.

Online resources
Here is a wiki page with a list of online resources that Sue has put together as a result of our presentation.

What would you say was the important thing to get across to Web 2.0 newbies? What are your concerns about using online social networking tools?

Collaborative mindmaps with MindMeister

I have never been a particularly visual person and have always done my brainstorming in text. But over the last couple of years I have been relying more heavily on diagrams and mindmaps to plan projects, and process my thinking.

I have just been introduced to MindMeister by Sue Hickton, which is a great mindmapping tool . What I really like about this tool is that you can collaborate together on the mindmap at the same time. The other thing I liked about it, is that you can make notes about each node and add a url.

Alternative presentation tool
I think this is a great way of presenting ideas as a change to PowerPoint. I have been asked to talk to young professionals in aged and community care about networking in a couple of weeks - I think I will use MindMeister as my presentation tool.

What alternative presentation tools to PowerPoint do you use?

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

ePortfolios for health professionals

The last couple of days I have been at the second Australian ePortfolio symposium at the Queensland University of Technology. The reason I went was because of my continuing interest in ePortfolios and reflective practice. I also wanted to gather ideas and information because of my ultimate aim of wanting to head up a research project to look at ePortfolios for professional development for health professionals using web 2.0 tools. This research is a bit of a pipe dream at the moment, but it continues to be in the forefront of my mind.

I have to say that the highlight of the symposium was meeting several people I know on Twitter. I have been talking to Colin Warren and Alison Miller for some time, so it was a delight to meet them face-to-face. I think we all felt like it was like meeting old, dear friends even though we have never met before.

Alison was able to tell me about the Australian Flexible Learning Framework which may be one avenue for funding for my potential ePortfolio project. What I need to do now is get my head around the VET sector (vocational educational training) here in Australia to find out the best way to package a proposal.

What I learned
I don't know if I learned anything new at the conference. I have been working with portfolios since 1992, when they were first talked about as a statutory regulation tool for nurses and midwives in the UK. My focus has been on portfolios as a reflection and development tool, aside from formal education programs. So to me, nothing was said that I didn't hear 15 years ago.

I was interested to hear about the examples of ePortfolios being used as assessment tools for students. But the main messages I heard time and time again was;
  • ePortfolio needs to be embeded into the curriculum, so it is a true reflective tool as opposed to merely a repository for documents
  • ePortfolio has to be under the students' control
  • students/practitioners need to be able to choose what they make public, and what they keep private
  • when we think about ePortfolio, we should be thinking about the process, and not the tools.
My presentation
I gave a presentation which looked at my experience of developing an ePortfolio as a health professional. There was some discussion afterwards about the problems of confidentiality which is an old nutshell. I got the impression that the other health professionals were not keen on the idea of open reflection even though I acknowledged that not all health professionals would want to follow my example, but rather keep their ePortfolios in closed environments. What I tried to emphasise is that ePortfolio allows for shared reflection, communication and collaboration, which is particularly important to me.

Another doubt raised was whether keeping a portfolio would make me, or anyone else a better midwife or nurse. What I would suggest is that any form of reflection makes for a better practitioner. What do you think?

Where to from here
For me personally, I will keep on charting my professional development in this blog and my ePortfolio. I was approached by one conference participant who said she modeled her ePortfolio on mine, so that was a very special endorsement for me.

Nevertheless, there is lots of opportunities to investigate ePortfolio and health care practice, which I am looking forward to pursuing further.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Restricting Internet access at work

Another issue that could impact on the eMentoring project I am managing, is how much people are 'allowed' to access the Internet at work.

Restricting the Internet at work
What I am rapidly realising is that a lot of employers are very reluctent to let their employees have full access to the Internet. Only the other day I was talking to an employer who had had to restrict use of the Internet because employees were abusing it, and spending all their time on Facebook and eBay. And the employer's system was flooded by spam as a result.

How do I answer employers when they indentify these sorts of problems? How can I work with employers to encourage them to allow full access to the Internet, yet educate employees about responsibile use of the Internet?

Fun and work
I have talked before that the delineation between work and play will become increasingly blurred. The 2008 Pew/Internet report "The future of the Internet" re-enforces this view and says "The divisions between personal time and work time and between physical and virtual reality will be further erased for everyone who’s connected."

I wouldn't have a problem with my employees using Facebook as long as the work was done. At the same time, I would look at how I could channel people's interest and skills at social networking into more 'professional' activites to facilitate learning in the workplace - eMentoring being one such activity.

Open access
My challenge as manager of the eMentoring project, is to find ways of selling this to employers in aged and community care. I believe one important way of doing this is to model how social networking can be incorporated into work practices. So I am going to start with using Google Documents to develop all the documentation for the project, especially those documents that I am collaborating on.

Does your employer restrict your use of the Internet at work? If so, how do you feel about that? If you are an employer, what are the issues you face with regard the Internet and employees' use of it?

Image: 'Ward at Alpha Hospital' tahitianlime

How liable are you when you give mentoring advice?

Have you ever wondered what the legal ramifications could be when you have given professional advice to a friend or colleague? What happens if you are sharing a coffee, and advise a fellow health professional to take a certain action which then turns to custard - are you liable for that advice? Is this just a potential problem for health professionals, or does it affect you whatever job you do?

Legalities of mentoring
The reason I ask this is because of a conversation I had the other day about the potential risks that I have to manage in the eMentoring project I am implementing for Aged Care Queensland (ACQI). The concern is about the liability of the mentor and ACQI, if a mentee implements advice from a mentor that results in litigation.

Managing risk
My thought is that every mentee is ultimately responsible for his/her own actions, and should sign off on this on a consent form at the beginning of the mentoring relationship. However, this may not be sufficently rubust if taken to court. I have said before that mentoring is not about the giving of clinical advice, but that may not stop clinical advice being given.

Position of mentor
Another issue is the resonsibility of the mentor if the mentee discloses information about bad practice - at what point should a mentor have to follow up disclosures from a mentee?

Supporting mentors
I think that one way to manage this is to make sure the mentor feels well supported by ACQI, to make sure they understand that they can refer to me and the project team at any time for help and advice.

The other thing I want to do is embed an online device for the mentors so they can support each other, especially when I am no longer involved in the project. This will add to the sustainability of the project. This may take the form of an email group, online discussion on the eMentoring project wiki/blog or synchronus meetings - I am not sure how this will pan out at this stage because it will depend on the needs of the mentors.

What do you think about these issues, and how would you suggest I go about managing them? Would the potential risk of litigation prevent you from being a mentor in a formal mentoring program?

Image: 'london 16082008-66' Walwyn

What is mentoring?

My new job is to implement an eMentoring program for Aged Care Queensland. But before I start planning the project, I think it is really important to tease out exactly what mentoring is, and how it will look in the context of aged and community care.

Definition of mentoring
I think of mentoring as a relationship between mentor and mentee that encourages growth and development in a respectful and collegial environment (Morton-Cooper & Palmer, 2000). The mentoring relationship may be an informal arrangement that happens naturally, or a formal relationship that is organised within the work organisation (Rose, 2005).

Who benefits from mentoring?
A mentoring relationship tends to be long term that can be entered into at any stage of one’s career, although it is seen as particularly useful when newly qualified, returning to practice, changing role or practice context (Northcott, 2000). The elements of mentoring in the health field are essentially the same as in education, business and industry: personal growth, career development, advice, sponsorship; critical reflection and problem-solving (Dancer, 2003)

Different meanings
In the health field there has been a degree of confusion and disagreement about the concept of mentoring and the role of the mentor. This has arisen because of the overlapping of mentoring with the concepts of preceptorship and clinical supervision (Firtko, Stewart & Knox, 2005).

Preceptorship has been defined as an experienced practitioner working with a less experienced person such as a new graduate, as she develops competence and comes to terms with working in the ‘real’ world (Morton-Cooper & Palmer, 2000). A preceptor is chosen to work with a practitioner in the clinical environment for a specified amount of time, and is often organised as part of a formal institutional orientation program. Skills acquisition and socialisation to the clinical setting tends to be the focus of a preceptorship program (Mills et al., 2005).

Clinical supervision
Clinical supervision has a number of definitions ranging from a formal structured process with a supervisor, to a clinical placement when a skilled practitioner works with another practitioner with the main aim of assessing clinical skills.

Difference between preceptorship, mentoring and clinical supervision
Armitage and Burnard (1991) summarise preceptorship as being more clinically focused than mentoring, and concerned with teaching and learning in the clinical environment. The mentoring relationship is closer and more personal, and not necessarily based in the work place.

Despite this analysis, there continues to be intertwining of the mentor, preceptor and supervisor roles. For instance, nursing and midwifery students in the United Kingdom are supervised and assessed by mentors during their undergraduate education programs. However, in New Zealand, mentoring is a supportive and developmental measure for registered midwives, in particular new graduates. And the preceptor role is one that the midwife takes on when she works with midwifery students. Again, in New Zealand, clinical supervision is a process a midwife goes through when her practice is being monitored by the Midwifery Council in a professional misconduct situation. While supervision in the UK is a statutory support and advice process that every midwife undertakes.

Mentoring in aged and community care
The very interesting thing about this project is that there will be such an eclactic mix of people recruited, both in terms of profession and role. We will have non-professionals and registered people, care givers, nurses, allied health staff, managers and educators. Because of the mix of people, I believe it will be up to each mentoring dyad or group to individually define what mentoring means to them.

The project see mentoring as a support process. I do not see the function of mentoring to be about solving clinical issues, but more about reflecting on situations, contemplating actions, attitudes and knowledge, and reflecting on learning that is uncovered by mentoring conversations.

What does mentoring mean to you? What elements of mentoring would you say will be important to the people in this project? How will the fact that communication is carried out via the Internet impact on function of mentoring? In other words, will the definition of eMentoring differ from traditional mentoring?

Armitage, P., & Burnard, P. (1991). Mentors or preceptors? Narrowing the theory practice gap. Nurse Education Today, 11, 225-229.

Dancer, J. (2003). Mentoring in healthcare: theory in search of practice? Clinician in Management, 12 (1), 21-31.

Firtko, A., Stewart, R., & Knox, N. (2005). Understanding mentoring and preceptorship: clarifying the quagmire. Contemporary Nurse , July-August. Retrieved February 8, 2009, from;col1

Mills, J., Francis, K., & Bonner, A. (2005). Mentoring, clinical supervision and preceptoring: clarifying the conceptual definitions for Australian rural nurses. A review of the literature. Retrieved February 7, 2009, from:

Morton-Cooper, A., & Palmer, A. (2000). Mentorship and preceptorship: a guide to support roles in clinical practice. Oxford: Blackwell Science.

Northcott, N. (2000). Mentorship in nursing. Nursing Management, 7 (3), 30-32.

Rose, M. (2005). Mentoring in the health professions, in M. Rose & D. Best (Eds), Transforming practice through clinical education, professional supervision and mentoring. Edinburgh: Elsevier.

Image: 'Pedantry' No Middle Name

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Thinking about Stage 1 of Second Life project

We've been going around and about in our thinking about the Second Life birthing unit. To be honest, I'm still probably a tad confused about exactly what we're doing and when. The difference in opinion appears to be what we do in the different stages of the project, and exactly when the stages are to be trialled with the students. What I have previously described as Stage 1, is now considered to be Stage 2.

Working the birth unit into midwifery education
My vision for the birth unit stage 1 is that it integrates into first year papers that look at birth from a philosophical point of view, looking at foundation knowledge and getting students to think about why things are the way they are in the birthing environment.

I also see the birth unit giving us the opportunity to demonstrate to students what research evidence is, and how and why we base our midwifery decisions on certain research. This would integrate into the first year research stream.

User story
Here is the user story for the birth unit ie what we would like the students to do in the birth unit that meets the learning objectives:
  • demonstrate an understanding of the role of the midwife in the normal childbirth process;
  • demonstrate effective evidence based, midwifery practice guided by a sound knowledge base.
Please feel free to read the document and give me any feedback and ideas about how we can use the birthing unit to achieve these learning outcomes.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

The context of midwifery education and Second Life

As the regular readers of this blog will know, I am lead educator in a project to set up a virtual birthing unit in Second Life as a teaching tool for student midwives. I haven't written about the project for a couple of weeks because we have been busy thinking, discussing and working through process issues.

Working out a process
I feel we have gone round and round in circles a number of times, but that is to be expected in a project of this size, and considering the diversity of people involved. So if you are going to start a project like this, make sure you factor in time for the 'process' that people have to go through with regards to decision-making before work can start.

Focusing on learning outcomes, not Second Life product
There has been concerns that we are focusing too much on the product of Second Life ie the birthing unit, and losing sight of the student and their learning needs. To an extent this is inevitable because the research funding has been granted to develop a teaching/learning tool in Second Life. Nevertheless, it is a waste of time and funding if we develop a place in Second Life that does not meet students' needs, which becomes an empty artifact of no use to anyone.

Thus, it is really important for the project to consider the context the midwifery students are working in, and design learning activites and resources that take this context into consideration, and also keeps the learning objectives of the project firmly in place.

Leigh Blackall has asked a number of questions that need to be answered in order for us to understand the students we are designing this project for. If you designing a similar project, it may help to ask yourself the same questions about your students.

The midwifery students we teach at Otago Polytechnic in Dunedin, New Zealand, range in age from school leavers to mid to late 40s (sometimes older). They are all women - we have never had serious applications from men at the time of writing this blog post. The women are mostly New Zealanders, but we also get a few overseas students from Canada and the USA.

Many women have their own families, but some are so-called 'young, free and single'. As well as their families to look after, they also have part-time jobs to help fund the course, which is very expensive. On top of the academic work they have to complete, the students have to be on-call for the pregnant women they work with, as well as work shifts in maternity institutions. In the third year of the course, they travel all over the country for their long clinical placements. Christchurch Polytechnic School of Midwifery runs an identical program, but the other midwifery schools in the country have different set-ups.

So our students have to be highly motivated to do the course because it is very expensive, requires a high personal commitment both in terms of academic and clinical work, and sets high standards for achievement. And their spare time is very precious to them, especially as the course has been elongated to 45 weeks per year.

What are the prevailing attitudes to computers, the Internet and if they have heard of Second Life, and what are their preconceived ideas of all that applied to their education?
I have been teaching midwifery students for nearly 10 years, and it has been my observation that their attitudes and computer skills have changed over the years, but not to the extent that I would have imagined. In other words, they have become more computer literate, but not necessarily more digitally literate.
  • Students are familiar with programs such as Word and Powerpoint.
  • Their knowledge and use of the Internet varies considerably, and it is erroneous to make judgements about their use of the Internet according to age ie just becase they are young doesn't mean they use the Internet for anything more than connecting with friends on sites like Facebook.
  • The younger students all have Facebook or Bebo accounts, but they do not know about or how to use tools that can help their studying, such as Delicious or RSS.
  • They would know about YouTube, but I don't think they would think to use it for educational purposes.
  • Use of Flickr is minimal and they have never heard of Slideshare, or recognise it as an educational resource.
  • The last two groups of students have made their own class Facebook/Bebo accounts. I don't know how they use it because they have not included lecturers in their group.
  • Very few students would have heard of Second Life, and probably none of them are gamers.
The priority for student midwives is to learn the skills to be able to catch babies as opposed to using computers. Having said that, I think that students are increasingly aware that the Internet is a tool for them to keep in touch with each other.

What might their motivation levels be like?
I would say that motivation levels would not be high unless the students could see that there was something in it for them. Workloads are so high and time commitments are so tight that students are unlikely to engage with anything unless it will help them pass assessments. And they have little or no time for anything that is not directly linked with helping them get their grades.

What is their access to computers with the right specs going to be, and what about Internet connection?
Having said all I have just said about the students, that picture is going to change from this year. The course is now being delivered in a blended mode, using face-to-face and online teaching. Instead of the students moving to Dunedin for three years, they are staying in their communities, and only coming to Dunedin a couple of times a year.

As a result, students have been given a computer specs list that they must conform to. They have been advised that they should have broadband access. However, there will be rural students who only have access to dial-up.

This new method of delivery may change what I have said about students' ability and motivation. Now that they are working more at a distance and do not see each other frequently on campus, their motivation to use the Internet for networking and finding information may change and increase.

Will they only be able to access from their school and so their setting will be computer labs under supervision? Or will some have access from home or outside, and want to (and/or be expected to) use the resources independently?
In the new program, students will be expected to access resources from their home computer as independent learners.

What sort of supports (if any) will be in place from the school?
Students will be given face-to-face training on how to use Internet resources when they attend classes on campus, in computer labs. The main resources that will be used are Moodle, Elluminate, Facebook and videos. At this stage, Second Life is not a resource that is being used outside of the SLENZ project.

What sorts of restrictions (if any) might the school have on the Internet and Second Life?
There are concerns about how the Internet is used in relation to patient/client confidentiality and privacy. Students often make mistakes as they learn, and need to be taught how to communicate and reflect in a professional way that minimizes risk to themselves, the school, the profession and women. Thus, the main restrictions at the moment appear to be where students work ie students will be restricted to closed spaces. However, as far as I am aware, no restrictions are being planned for the Second Life resources.

What else can you tell us about the context and frame of mind in which key people (especially other teachers) will be approaching these resources?
I believe the lecturers at Otago have mixed feelings about the Second Life project. On the one hand, they see it as exciting and innovative with a real potential to be a tool that helps students practice decision-making in a simulated environment. They are also very excited about its potential for networked learning.

On the other hand, they are stretched to capacity, especially with the development of the new program. They do not want to have to take on yet another project that is going to consume a lot of time, to both learn the skills to navigate Second Life and teach the students.

If you are a midwifery student, what are your attitudes to computers and to the Internet? How do you use it? What do you know about Second Life? How would you use it in your education?

If you are a midwifery teacher, what are your perceptions about students' use of the Internet? How do you think they would engage with Second Life?

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

eMentoring and aged care

I thought you might be interested in hearing about the eMentoring project I am currently working on at Aged Care Queensland (ACQI).

The aged and community care health sector in Queensland, Australia
ACQI is an association that has members from across the aged care sector which includes retirement villages, residential homes and community care providers. ACQI provides a number of different services such as education and professional development packages, advocacy and advice about a range of issues. Suffice to say, recruitment and retention is always a serious issue in this sector of health care provison, which ACQI is constantly working to address.

Staff recruitment and retention
It doesn't take much imagination to think why it is difficult to recruit people into aged care. The work is very challenging and can be physically very hard. Interestingly (and I am sorry I haven't got the reference to hand), people who work in the community ie those who provide care in the home, are happier and have greater job satisfaction. I suspect this is because they have greater control over how they work, and this equates to findings about the way community midwives work and job satisfaction.

Geographical isolation
The other major issue for Queensland is that it is a huge geographical area, and many health care staff work in rural and remote areas with little support, and minimal access to professional development. I have to admit that I didn't really appreciate just how isolated some communities are until I started talking to people here. It is so difficult to get a real sense of how big Queensland is until you come here and start looking around.

Supporting aged and community health care staff
The community care arm of ACQI has received government funding to implement an eMentoring scheme which aims to support staff, especially those who work in rural and remote areas, as well as indeginous and Torres Straits people.

My brief is to recruit people who feel they would benefit from being mentored, and experienced staff who have the skills and knowledge to pass on in the mentor's role. I have to match the couples or groups, provide mentoring education and support people as they develop their mentoring relationships. I also have to develop an eMentoring handbook/CD Rom which I am going to put a Creative Commons licence on.

Computer and digital literacy
It goes without saying that the biggest challenge for such a project is ensuring that people have access to appropriate equipment and the Internet. I will be required to do a needs analysis of people's computer skills and ability to access the Internet, and provide relevant training. I am hoping to introduce people to free communication mediums such as Skype, with the idea that this program is sustainable when the funding runs out.

Have you ever had anything with formal mentoring schemes? What were their good points and downsides? If you were going to join an eMentoring project as either mentor or mentee, what would be important to you?

Image: 'ekuverikamakee, gadha fadha baareh' notsogoodphotography

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Settling into life in Brisbane

Life has been mad for the last ten days or so, but I am starting to feel settled into my new temporary life in Brisbane.

Australia Day, South Bank, Brisbane

Finding my feet
The weather is much hotter than I am used to, so now I can understand people's attachment to their air conditioning units. I am hoping that all my excess fat will melt away.

I am living in one of Brisbane's suburbs and enjoying having access to big city facilities. I thought I had died and gone to heaven yesterday when I found a bookshop that specialises in historical romances, which I admit I read, much to my family's disgust. It has taken me a while to get the hang of the bus system, and have ended up in a number of places that were in the opposite direction to where I wanted to go. But now I zipping around like a long term Brisbane resident.

Factory Outlet right next door to my workplace-what more could a girl want!!

Internet access

I am still in the throes of organising permanent access to the Internet, and I have felt very isolated because I have not been able to fully interact with communication tools such as Twitter. But in the meantime, I have managed a few Skype and MSN calls back to my family in New Zealand. This has been a useful reminder of the problems and challenges that face people who do not have Internet access.

Internet at work
My access to the Internet at work is restricted ie staff are not given full and free access to all web sites. This begs the question why an organisation would wish to do this; is it a genuine concern about security or a desire to control how staff interact with the Internet? Whatever the motivation, it seriously restricts use of tools that otherwise I would use on a daily basis, such as YouTube, Slideshare etc. And is a barrier to showing people how they can utilise social networking sites for professional development, communication, learning and so on.

eMentoring project
The project I have been employed to manage is an exciting one. I have to develop an eMentoring program that matches mentees and mentors in the aged care and community care sectors in Queensland, and support them as they enter mentoring relationships. This project includes developing an eMentoring handbook and CDROM, delivering education workshops and supporting people as they learn about Internet technology to communicate with each other. I'll blog about this as I go along, and will be very interested in hearing feedback.

Aged Care Queensland, Jindalee - my new work place

Sharing the love

The staff in the community care section of Aged Care Queensland are very keen to learn about social networking, and very enthausiasic to explore and integrate tools into their every day working lives. They are also very supportive of the philosophy of sharing, networking and collaborating, so I am going to have great fun introducing them to tools such as Google Documents, wikis and Skype, as well as concepts such as Creative Commons license.

New work space

The next five months are going to very busy and challenging, but it is a great joy to work with people who want to learn, experiment and are willing to give things a go.

How are things going with you? How is your new year shaping up?