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?