Thursday, July 30, 2009

Listening to the experts

Yesterday, I had a serendipitous moment that happens regularly when you spend a lot of time online. I attended a meeting in Second Life in which John Miller (SL: JS Vavoom) gave an account of the work he is doing in Second Life with nursing students. This meeting was part of a series of talks called ISTE Eduverse Talks.

What John had to say
The key things I picked up from John wasn't new to me but it did confirm what I have been learning about designing learning activities in Second Life.
  1. Learning activities in Second Life must be social - students learn better when they are with others - they will not learn by walking around empty buildings by themselves. We need to develop a sense of community for students - we can do that by emphasizing social aspects of Second Life. One thing John does is takes students to meet medical support groups in Second Life.
  2. Second Life gives us the opportunities to explore other ways of delivering information eg what's the point of delivering PowerPoint presentations in Second Life - we do enough of that in 'real life'.
  3. Why get our knickers in a twist about using Second Life for educational purposes - did you ever evaluate your use of overheads or PowerPoint for delivering information? Second Life is just another way of delivering education.
  4. Must make lessons fun in Second Life - be prepared to use games.
  5. Encourage students to personalize their avatars.
  6. Move away from using notecards to deliver information.
Social learning
The main challenge to me is how to make the learning activities associated with the virtual birthing unit more social. At the moment the birth unit is a static resource with little or no interaction. Once we have the role-playing birth scenes up and running, I am sure we'll see increased student interaction.

I love the idea of taking students to meet maternity consumers. This is an idea I have been playing with over the last week. One thing I would like to do to invite the owners of the established commercial maternity units to talk to us and tell us a little more about why people role play pregnancy in SL. The other idea is to see how 'real' pregnant women use SL.

Do you have any other ideas about how we can socialize learning for students in Second Life?

Image: Doing chicken dance with a midwifery student in the TLC Maternity Unit

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The empty nest

Last weekend was a momentous one for hubby and I as parents - both of our young adults left home...YEY!

It took precisely six days for our son to come back to borrow his father's drill (which he still hasn't returned despite promising faithfully that he would within an hour) and do his washing. Our daughter had a longer gap...she managed to last eleven days before returning home for a night because she's feeling very unwell.

And, apparently...what I have learned in the last twelve is obligatory to provide Sunday supper every week for your fledglings...preferably a roast dinner. And, if you're exceptionally good parents, you'll give the afore-mentioned fledglings left-overs!

You know the stuff you put in the garden to keep cats away...well, I wondering if there's the equivalent to keep kids away from home...a sort of child-repellent. What do you think? :)

Facilitating Online 2009

I am very pleased to be co-facilitating the Facilitating Online course with Leigh Blackall. If you want to join up either as a formal or informal student, it's not too late to enroll - have a look at the course details and get in touch with me.

I did this course as a student a few years ago and it had a profound effect on my life as an online educator and member of the international midwifery community. It got me thinking about how I communicate and facilitate online, and more generally about who and what I am online. Here are some of my reflections from the course.

What I want to achieve as course facilitator
The most important aspect of being course facilitator is meeting new people, re-connecting with people I already know and learning from each other. What always excites me about doing a free online course such as this is the opportunity to meet and connect with people I would otherwise never know about; people who work in different sectors and even different countries. I am still in contact with people I met on the 'connectivism' course that ran this time last year and they have become very important people in my personal learning network.

Framework for facilitation

The other things that I am going to enjoy is different perspectives and opinions about online facilitation, being a part of other people's learning and continuing my learning about the topic. For instance, I have already been challenged to think about what my framework for facilitation is. I am not sure I have a structured framework - I just get on and 'do it' - so maybe it is time I started to think about that in more detail.

My objectives
Here are my other aims or objectives for this course:
  • continue to develop my facilitation skills
  • continue to develop my experience of eLearning, especially in a non-midwifery education context
  • consider how I can apply my experience in this course into the midwifery context, especially as I start to think about how/if/why to facilitate the 24 hour virtual event for International Day of the Midwife in 2010.
Do you have a framework for facilitation or 'rules' you follow when you are involved in online communication?

Image: With Leigh Backall

Sunday, July 26, 2009

24 years of married bliss

Today is our 24 years' wedding anniversary.

We met a couple of days before Valentine's Day, 1981. I was a sweet, innocent student nurse and he was...drunk. I chased him around for two weeks until he finally got the hint.

We bought a house together in September 1984 and ten months later got married in the Salisbury Registry Office, England.

My daughter once asked me what the secret was to a happy answer was and still is that you must never think you're going to change your partner. If there are things about him or her that you want to change, then maybe that person is not the person for you. On the other hand, if you can live with that person faults and all, then you're on to a good thing.

What are your tips for a happy and long relationship?

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Teaching midwifery students in Second Life

Yesterday I had my first 'teaching' sessions with midwifery students as part of the Second Life Education New Zealand project. The sessions were based on the second learning activity that has been designed for junior midwifery students which you can learn more about in Wikieducator.

Suffice to say, there are a number of lessons I have taken out of those two sessions about teaching in Second Life.

Who turned up
The two sessions were repeated to suit everyone's time needs. At the first session I had two students from Otago Polytechnic, although one dropped out for technical reasons. Leigh Blackall also came along for most of the session. In the second session I had three students come along from CPIT. All the students had headsets and were able to use the voice mode once I had explained how to use 'talk'.

What I had to teach students about Second Life
Before we started I gave brief explanations about communication - how to use instant message, use local chat, teleport and find a friend. One thing that cropped up as we went along was how to make a landmark and manage that in their inventory.

One anxiety students had was getting lost, so we looked at how we could set the birth unit as their 'home' so they could always return there in a rush and start there whenever they log into Second Life. The students had a few problems making the birth unit their 'home', so I need to go back to the technology and make sure they are able to do that.

The first session
In the first session we went to the TLC Babies Maternity Pediatric Clinic which is owned by Contessa Marquez. Contessa very kindly allowed us to look at her birthing and examination rooms. She also had a quick chat with us about the types of people she 'works' with - she said that many women who role play pregnancy and birth in Second Life are women who cannot have children in real life. I appreciated being able to interact with someone as opposed to just wondering around, looking at walls.

We then went to Tempora Island. It was very busy which slowed down our connections quite considerable and I eventually crashed and had to re-boot my computer, which took at least five minutes. We had a look at hospital in Land of the Long White Cloud and ended up at the
Inspire Space Park.

All this took an hour and we didn't have time to do any discussion. So the plan was to continue the discussion on our group Facebook page.

The second session
The second session was a lot easier. I was feeling more confident and all the students took to the technology very easily...from my point of view. I skipped Tempura Island this time and just focused on the other three places. However, even this short tour took an hour so we didn't get much discussion done.

Lessons I learned about 'teaching' in Second Life
  1. If you are new to Second Life as a teacher, have someone with you who can help out until you grow more confident in your abilities. I am still learning about Second Life myself so found it really useful to have Leigh with me to support me.
  2. Check that the places you have visited in the past are still available. I wanted to visit several maternity clinics that I have visited before, but they could not be found.
  3. Arrange the visit with the owner so you can meet them (hopefully) and they can describe their place and interact with the group. I think there is nothing more boring than looking around empty buildings like virtual hospitals and there is no interaction, especially social interaction. My opinion is borne out by this feedback from nursing students carrying out a similar exercise to us.
  4. Don't be ambitious about what you want to achieve. Visiting three places in one hour was as much as I could manage...and that was with a small group. If you have a bigger group, it would be even more difficult.
  5. If you are facilitating a large group, it is essential to have someone else help you, especially if the members of the group are newbies and you have to sort their technical problems as well as 'teach'.
  6. If members of the group cannot hear audio, have someone with you who can type what you say. I could not focus on speaking as well as typing...thanks to Leigh for helping me with that.
  7. Avoid popular places at times when you know they will be busy because this slows down your connection.
  8. Make contingency plans with students so they know what to do if you crash and leave them alone for a period of time.
  9. Make sure students know where/how to find you when they first log in.
Final reflections
I really enjoyed taking the students around but was disappointed that we didn't get to do much discussion. I look forward to hearing what the student have to say about things so far. My final word to myself is to be very organized with what I do and say, and make sure I am as prepared for eventualities as I can be.

If you use Second Life for education purposes, what advice or tips would you pass on to teachers interested in using it as a teaching tool?

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Exploring birth places in Second Life

On Friday I am meeting midwifery students in Second Life as part of their learning activities for the virtual birthing unit project. This is the second learning activity for stage one of the project.

The aim of the session is to get out and about and look at alternative birthing environments in Second Life and compare them with "Te Wāhi Whānau/ The Birth Place".

Where to go
I only have an hour to travel around and have a discussion so I thought I'd start by taking the students to some of the other maternity units I have found on my travels:
Maternity hospital
I thought we could also have a look at some more 'serious/academic' hospitals that have maternity units such as The Land of the Long White Cloud. There is also the Anne Myers Medical Center but I can never get around it very well.

Alternative environments
Finally, to get students thinking, I'll take them to some alternative places that may or may not be appropriate birth places.
Discussion points
We will then discuss the following questions:
  • How could the features of the alternative birthing environments that we have visited be incorporated into the virtual birth unit?
  • How do the features of our idealised virtual birthing environment match up with what we see in real life?
Is there anything aspects of places you have seen in Second Life that you'd like to incorporate into a birthing unit either in Second Life, or real life?

If you'd like to join us, please come along on Friday 24th 10am and/or 1pm New Zealand time at the "Te Wāhi Whānau/ The Birth Place".

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

First stage of the virtual birth unit up and running

The first stage of the virtual birth unit in Second Life is completed and on a roll. This element of the project involves first year midwifery students being invited to look around the birth unit (which you can find here), join the birth unit Facebook Group and complete a series of four learning activities.

All the information and learning resources have been developed on Wikieducator:
Orientation to Second Life
Along with the birth unit is an orientation package that has been developed by the SLENZ team. It's well worth looking at if you are new to Second Life.

Challenges for the students
The students have been given brief introductions to the Second Life in a face-to-face session. Now, it's up to them to work their way through the learning activities. The learning activities have been designed to complement their formal lessons so the virtual birth unit puts another perspective on what they are already learning.

This is not a compulsory project that the students so we'll be testing how motivated the students are and how well they are engaged with the birth unit. The activities are an adjunct to classes so many students will have to access Second Life away from the campus. So we'll also be able to see what challenges face students from a technological point of view.

Meeting on Friday
We will be meeting every Friday morning at 10am New Zealand time for the next few weeks to discuss the birth unit, have a look at Second Life and think about birth and birth environment. We'd love to see you if you'd like to pop along. My name in Second Life is Petal Stransky.

This Friday we will be having a look around Second Life and particularly focusing on other birthing units, hospitals and places women could birth. This is part of the second learning activity. Please feel free to join us - the times for international visitors can be found here.

Where to from here
The second phase of the project is more complex scenarios based around labour and birth which our second and third year students will be invited to engage with. These scenarios will involve working in pairs as a birthing mother and midwife and working through a labour and birth.

If ever you want to have a guided tour around the birth unit, just let me know.

Monday, July 20, 2009

My memories of the moon landing

Today is the 40th anniversary of the landing on the moon. I was seven years old at the time. We didn't have a television at the time but I do remember my mother waking me up in the night to listen to the broadcast on the radio.

I didn't realize the significance at the time...I was more interested in the fact that I was allowed to stay up very late. But I do remember going out and standing on the doorstep, looking up at the moon and trying to see the astronauts.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Feeling the pain of childbirth

I had to laugh the other day. One of my favorite midwifery authors and researchers, Dr Denis Walsh has got himself into hot water.

Suck it up!
The world press has latched onto something Denis has said - essentially that us women should 'suck it up', and get on and 'grin and bear it' when we give birth. Suffice to say, this has drawn mixed reactions from women not least because he is a man and has no right to tell us girls what we should or should not put up with in terms of pain in childbirth.

Rite of passage
I haven't been able to access the original article so I am unable to make a judgment about what he said. However, I totally agree that childbirth is a rite of passage that has been heavily medicalised to the detriment of women and their experiences of motherhood.

However, I also think that we have forced women into very unnatural birthing environments and subject them to procedures that make childbirth far more painful than it would be in more natural environments. Is it any wonder that women request epidurals when we do things like induce their labour, give them drugs to force their uterus to contract and make them spend their whole labour lying flat on their backs?!

Supporting women in labour
What midwives need to be doing is looking for ways that they can support women so that women do not need to resort to epidurals to control the pain of childbirth.

Have a listen to what he says here. What do you think about Denis's comments?

As for poor old was years before I realised he was a man - I always thought he was "Denise"!

Image: 'The moment of birth' salimfadhley

Newborn resuscitation and the Internet

My only real concern about returning to midwifery practice and being a rural midwife is the fact I am a little out of date regarding neonatal resuscitation. I am very confident I can handle most obstetric and neonatal emergencies but resuscitation of the newborn has always been my one hang-ups. I attend resuscitation updates every year and theoretically know what I have to do, but I have never (and may that last!) had to resuscitate a really sick baby. This is a crucial skill when you work in a rural setting, with medical help miles away.

Resuscitation education
The problem I have found with resuscitation education updates is that they make things very complicated. I can never remember what they say - how many puffs of oxygen to a heart compression, when and where to start CPR etc. And I think this is why I also get my knickers in twist - I am too busy worrying about details like blood gasses when I should be focusing on the basics.

The other issue is that guidelines always seem to be changing. It is so important to provide evidence-based care but on the other hand, it can be really difficult to keep up with what is the latest evidence.

My challenge
So I have taken the rural midwives' challenge - to see if I can update myself on what are the latest newborn baby resuscitation guidelines just by using the Internet, focusing on videos and web sites such as YouTube.

Results of search
On the whole I didn't get on very well in my quest to find simple, up-to-date information about resuscitation of the newborn. The main problems were the currency of the information and credibility of the information and/or author.

I used the search terms "neonatal resuscitation" and "newborn resuscitation" and found no appropriate videos. The most visually appealing to me was a small diagram I found in an article written by Lindsay Milden, but the information was dated Summer 2006, so I do not know if it is the current guidelines.

Need for resuscitation video
I have concluded that there is a need for clear information about neonatal resuscitation - preferably a video - to be published on the Internet for use by midwives who do not have ready access to professional study days and/or updates.

So my challenge to midwifery educators - next time you demonstrate neonatal resuscitation, please make it into a video and post on YouTube or It doesn't have to be a real flash production, just make sure you identify your sources and the currency of the information.

Image: 'Louis learns his ABC's' digitalkatie

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Being a midwife again

For the last two weeks I have gone back to being a midwife again and worked as a locum down in the Lumsden Maternity Unit. This involved being on call for births, and carrying ante natal and post natal visits in the community.

View Larger Map

Returning to practice
I have to admit that I was nervous about returning to practice because I haven't had a midwifery client for nearly three years. To be honest, I got a little burnt out and have been very reluctant to return to practice. However, it was a matter of having to or else I would lose my annual practicing certificate which I need to be able to teach in midwifery programs. It is also important for me to keep in touch with latest practice, policies and procedures because of the research projects I am involved in.

Just like riding a bike
I was thrilled to find that I have not lost any of my clinical skills - that is was like riding a bike - you never forget. I took blood for blood tests, did heaps of abdominal palpations, carried out a vaginal examination, and took baby blood for a serum bilirubin (a job I absolutely hate!).

My decision-making was probably on the conservative side driven in part by the fact I was a locum and didn't know people or their context very well. Knowing we were so far away from medical help was also a major contributing factor I had to take into consideration when I was planning care.

The highlight of the two weeks away was the middle weekend when my mate, Carolyn McIntosh joined me. We have never worked together in a clinical setting before - our connection is through our jobs as midwifery lecturers at Otago Polytechnic. I was hoping that a woman would birth her baby during that time. I was really keen to have at least one birth so I could tick that of my list of 'to-dos' and I knew that Carolyn would be really supportive especially as she is a very experienced rural midwife. However, we were very quiet so we went shopping in Winton instead.

What has changed?
I didn't think things have changed much in the three years since I last practiced. The main things I noticed is that some antenatal tests are pretty much routine now such as the 12 week nuchal translucency scan.

Areas I need to develop
I was extremely pleased at how well I got back into the swing of things. The main areas I feel I need to re-visit and "revise" are current medications in use and how to prescribe them and antenatal tests. I also need to update myself on breastfeeding, which is a requirement to maintain an APC as well as maternal and neonatal resuscitation. Otherwise, I am extremely confident working in antenatal and postnatal areas.

I would like to attend a birth or two but I am very anxious about my back. I did find that it played me up although some of that I put down to the terrible bed I was sleeping in at the Lumsden Motel. However, now I am home and back in my usual routine, my back has settled back down again and I have stopped taking anti-inflammatories. Maybe the compromise will have to be that I am second midwife who offers support and back-up but doesn't take the lead for hours on end.

Plans for the future
It was great working with women and their families again and I thoroughly enjoyed my time in Lumsden. I have always enjoyed being a rural midwife even though you do an incredible amount of driving between home visits. And it was very satisfying to be able to support the local midwives to have some time off - they were and still are very much in need of it.

I hope to go back again and help out at some stage. It's convenient to do locum midwifery work at the moment because I can fit it in with the other projects I am working on while I look for more permanent employment. Maybe this is the way forward for me - temporary contracts while I build up a profile as midwifery and education consultant/project manager.

Dedicated midwives
In the meantime, I take my hat off to the dedicated midwives who work very long hours and are on call 24/7 (often to the detriment of their own families) to provide a midwifery service to rural woman who would otherwise have to go without.

These photos and more can all be found in Flickr:

Sunday, July 12, 2009

The end of my excellent adventure

I cannot believe it but six months have whizzed by and I am back in New Zealand. The Aged Care Queensland eMentoring project has come to an end and we have sent off the final report to the Department of Health and Aging. We are also putting the final touches to the eMentoring CD ROM which will be available at the beginning of August.

With Alison Miller and Colin Warren:

The highs

The high points of my stay in Australia have been meeting people. I have particularly valued meeting those who I have known online but never met, such as my Australian Twitter friends. I have also enjoyed getting out and about and seeing a little of rural Queensland and getting to understand a little more about the learning and networking needs of rural Queenslanders and indigenous and Torres Strait people.

Members of the eMentoring project Reference Committee

The other huge high has been what we have achieved in the eMentoring project. I really feel that I have done two years' work in six months. It hasn't been perfect by a long chalk. But we have set down a framework that can be built on in the future if Aged Care Queensland decide to take the eMentoring concept further. And finally, I am very proud of the fact we are publishing the eMentoring CD ROM under a Creative Commons license.

The other highs have been discovering Krispy Kreme Doughnuts (the best doughnuts in the world!); my weekly trips to the Rosemary's Romance bookshop (the best romance book shop in the world!) and my mega shopping trip with my daughter, Ellen, on the Gold Coast just before I came home to New Zealand!

...and the lows
The main downside has been that I just have not had enough time to develop the eMentoring project in the way I would have liked. For example, I would have liked to have set up an online resource such as a blog or wiki to support the project but I have have not had time to do so. The time frame has also been far too short for the mentors and mentees to develop a relationship and achieve constructive long-term goals. However, feedback from the participants has been that they have learned about the potential of online communication tools for networking and collaboration, and are keen to explore them further.

The other devastating low was that I didn't really see a live kangaroo in the wild apart from a brief glimpse of one as I sped down the highway from the Sunshine Coast to Brisbane.

What I learned in the last six months
  • Project management is not as easy as it seems - working to tight time-frames can be very stressful at times. Always factor in that things will take at least twice as long as you think it will.
  • Effective time management is a vital part of successful project management.
  • Never make assumptions about what people know and think - spell everything out in words of one syllable.
  • People are really interested in the potential of collaborative online communication tools, but it takes considerable time and patience to teach people to use the tools and for them to engage with the tools in a meaningful way ie people have good intentions but you need to keep pushing/pulling them to take the next step.
  • For people to engage with social media in the workplace you need to show them how to integrate the tools into their work practices - show them what's in it for them.
  • I do not want to go back to teaching undergraduate midwifery students. My passion is professional development, life-long learning and networking for midwives, health professionals and across the board. That is what I want to teach and/or facilitate in one way or another.
  • I am a hot weather person! The Queensland climate suits me down to the ground!
Mentor and Mentee in the eMentoring project

Where to from here?

As far as Aged Care Queensland are concerned, I am sure this is just the beginning for them. There is certainly a huge need for mentoring, support, professional development and networking in the industry. So I hope I can continue to support ACQI in one way or another as they build on the foundations that I have laid.

As for me, personally...goodness only knows.

I have the SLENZ project to see to the end in the next couple of months. I am also co-facilitating the Otago Polytechnic "Facilitating Online" course with Leigh Blackall. I have renewed my midwifery annual practicing certificate and doing some locum rural midwifery at Lumsden for a couple of weeks. Then, there's the small matters of finishing my PhD and the Graduate Certificate in Tertiary Learning and Teaching that I am enrolled in. So...plenty to keep me out of mischief.

If you would like a copy of the eMentoring report and/or the CD ROM when they are available, please let me know.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Friday, July 3, 2009

A 'down and dirty' assignment

OK! I admit it! I am a bad student! I haven't prepared my presentation for Assignment Two of the Flexible Learning course which is this afternoon. So here's a very, very quick summary (down and dirty) of what I am going to talk about in response to the feedback that was given to me in my original plan last week.

Concise explanation of flexible learning plan

  • Course for eMentors in aged care sector in Australia
  • Offered by RTO: Aged Care Queensland Inc
  • Certificate Level Four - I think this would be equivalent of certificate level in New Zealand
  • For mentors before and after eMentoring experience
  • Motivated students but time poor and geographically challenged
  • Most are likely to be managers or similar position, but at the very least will have Certificate Level Three or Four aged care qualifications (requirements to be eMentor)
  • Moderate computer skills - will be provided computer training and support to be eMentor
  • Prepare people for their roles as eMentors.
  • Provide a qualification for those who have already had the experience of being an eMentor - to support carer progression and evidence of their ability for future roles as eMentors.
How the course will be delivered
  • Distance - blended delivery - online and paper/CD ROM
  • Minimal face-to-face because of geographical and financial constraints but need to look at creative ways of dealing with this for people who prefer face-to-face interaction, maybe with local support.
  • Constructionist approach-making sense of their learning in their context of their work
  • Aligning assessment with what they are doing in their every day eMentoring practice - needs analysis to match up their learning needs with what they need to 'deliver' in way of assessment.
  • Portfolio - mix of personal reflection and evidence of eMentoring activities.
  • Certificate level does not require in-depth reflection and critical thinking but role of eMentor does - have to find balance in assessment evaluation.
Examples or methods that inspired your plan
How your plan fits within your educational organisation
  • ACQI - strongly support flexible approach to learning and education and reaching students in rural and remote locations.
Access and equity
  • Flexible modes of delivery to overcome constraints of time, location and learning skills/styles.
  • Flexible times for assessment and taking course to suit eMentors time constraints, being mindful that with rolling enrollment, it is more difficult to bring people together.
  • How can I facilitate social learning in context of rolled over enrollment - is rolled over enrollment appropriate or workable?
Cultural sensitivity
  • Make provision for indigenous students and people from backgrounds of cultural diversity.
  • How can I manage provide face-to-face support/education if that is their preference?
  • These students may not have the need for face-to-face in the way I assume they will - individual assessment
  • Material provided in way that meets their needs.
  • Open access education resources.
  • Encouraging ex-students to 'mentor' current students
I am not at all sure I have addressed any of the feedback on my original plan - at the moment I feel like I am going round and round in circles. This is why I have chosen to make a face-to-face presentation this afternoon. People can tease out the issues that I have been unable to articulate very well in my last few blog posts.

Wish me luck!!