Monday, January 31, 2011

Do you mind if I talk about you?

I have been thinking about my blog again and the seems to be a regular thing I do every six months or so. What's brought on my angst this time is my new job as midwifery lecturer. I would never talk about my students in a personal way, but I am wondering how much I will be able to talk about my new role and my experiences of teaching under-graduate midwifery students here?

The other thing I am thinking about is whether I should continue to process my thinking about things like assessment here on this blog. For example, I was about to write a post about my thoughts on assessing clinical skills at a distance. I have to put together an exam that tests certain clinical skills and plan to write a blog post about it because:
  • I will have a written record of my thoughts to look back on;
  • I will be contributing to educators' knowledge about this issue;
  • I will be receiving ideas and advice from others who have already developed this sort of assessment;
  • I will have evidence of my work for my ePortfolio.
This is all well and good but will processing my thoughts here make it look like I don't know what I am doing? Will that impact on students' perceptions of my knowledge and expertise? Does any of this matter because the chances of my students reading this rather boring blog about education are pretty slim?

On the other hand, if students read this blog and contributed their own ideas to help me develop their cool would that be?!

What do you think? If you are an educator, what do you blog about related to your job? If you are a student, how do you feel about reading the thoughts of your lecturer in relation to your course/program?

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Virtual International Day of the Midwife 2011: Count down is soon to start

On Friday 28th January the organising committee of the Virtual International Day of the Midwife 2011 had its second planning meeting. We've pretty much settled into a quorum of six people, with others dipping in and out when they can:
  • Sarah Stewart, Griffith University, Brisbane, Australia
  • Deborah Davis, University of Canberra, Australia
  • Pam Harnden, Melbourne University, Australia
  • Mary Sidebotham, Griffith University, Brisbane, Australia
  • Chris Woodhouse, Facilitator/Consultant, UK
  • Tracy Pemberton, Midwife, USA
  • Take a low-level project management approach to organising VIDM 2011. All collaborative work to be carried out on VIDM 2011 wiki. This will afford complete transparency and also allow anyone to contribute if they so wish.
  • At least two sessions quarantined for use of student midwives. At least one session quarantined for use by consumers.
  • Anyone interested in being a speaker will need to submit a 50 word abstract just to give us an idea about what they want to talk about.
  • If we have more than 24 speakers, we may consider having concurrent sessions, however I am concerned that this will be too difficult to manage, and may be a problem for Otago Polytechnic considering they will have classes running that day as well.
  • If we have more than 24 speakers, we may have to decline some, so we will need to develop some sort of criteria for accepting and declining.
  • We want to encourage thinking outside the square, and will welcome creative ideas for live sessions as well as asynchronous resources.
  • I suggested we use the international theme for the International Day of the Midwife taken to be consistent with the ICM: The World Needs Midwives Now More Than Ever
  • VIDM 2011 to maintain its aim that the day is a relaxed, non-academic opportunity to network with midwives all over the world, and increase our digital skills and explore alternative ways on celebrating midwifery and supporting each other.
Action points
  • Develop call for EOI on VIDM wiki. To be complete by 10th February. Deborah Davis and Mary Sidebotham to lead this.
  • Next committee meeting Friday 11th February Brisbane time
  • Begin dissemination of EOI on Monday 14th February - this will be done by as many people as possible.
  • VIDM 2011 Elluminate Practice Room - open now until May 5th. To have all meetings there from now on.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Is Facebook replacing midwives?

I have been following the blog of an Australian midwife and midwifery educator, and getting rather jealous of the response to her blog posts. MidwifeThinking, aka Rachel Reed, has been writing very thoughtful, informative and provocative posts about birth and getting heaps of comments - 75 comments at the last my average of two/three comments per post...hands down.

Birth stories
Once I got over my blog envy, I was fascinated to see how women had responded to Rachel's latest post; The Anterior Cervical Lip: how to ruin a perfectly good birth with so many birth quite a lot of detail.

Storytelling and social media
We know women love to tell their birth stories and debrief, and that it is very beneficial. But I have been left wondering how well we midwives support women to do this? As I read the birth stories on Rachel's blog and on Facebook pages I am wondering if this form of story telling is replacing the face-to-face discussions midwives have with women?

In other words is blogging...Twitter...Facebook...replacing midwives?

What do you think? What is your experience of telling birth stories as a midwife and/or as a birthing woman? Have you put your birth story out on Facebook or a blog? Why did you do it? Did it replace face-to-face discussions with your midwife? What did you get out of telling your story on Facebook or the blog?

Image: 'homebirth in a hippy shirt...'

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Thinking about a research topic for my EdD

One of the things that I am getting in a dither about is I have no real idea what to do for my EdD research. The most I have been able to narrow it down to is that my research is likely to be global and to do with social media...whether I look at how we use social media in education, or that I use social media as a research tool, or I do both.

The other thing I am dithering about is whether I look at education in a generic way and then apply to midwifery/health. Or look at midwifery/health education and then relate it out to education in a generic way. So...lots of questions which I don't think I'll answer until I get an epithany one day.

In the meantime, here is a mind map I did using Wordle which is the start of the processing I have to do to come to a topic.


This week sees the start of my new job...midwifery lecturer at Griffith University in Brisbane. I am going to be working there as a virtual lecturer 0.5, alongside my other 0.5 job as educational developer at Otago Polytechnic in Dunedin.

Brisbane flooding
I was a tad nervous about going to Brisbane so soon after the floods and wasn't at all sure what to expect. However, I haven't seen any evidence of damage where I am staying and living. But having said that, a number of the staff that I have been working with are affected.

I packed my umbrella but so far haven't needed it. The weather in Brisbane is beautifully sunny and hot.

My job
My responsibility this semester is to teach a second year paper that focuses on the surgical context of childbirth and the clinical skills that are required by midwives to look after women in hospitals, especially when they are undergoing surgical procedures such as caesarean section.

As I said before, most of my work for Griffith will be online. But I am travelling to Brisbane a couple of times a year to attend the program's "intensives" which is when the students come on campus for two weeks for "intense" teaching, mostly around clinical skills.

So I am in Brisbane for the next three weeks and our first intensive is next week where I will be focusing on teaching skills around cannulation, catheterisation, administrating medications, giving injections, intravenous therapy, aseptic technique, and so on.

The challenges for me this year will be:

  • to engage the students so they interact with each other during the semester when we are now longer meeting face-to-face;

  • build a community of learning within a learning management system (BlackBoard);

  • figure out what we can do outside the LMS...what students will be interested in and what they have the skills to work with eg will they find Delicious useful?;

  • not to overload students with my eternal enthusiasm for eLearning and online networking;

  • maintain the link between a very clinical and practical topic and learning online.

I'd love to hear from any midwife or health educators who are teaching clinical skills and topics online. How do you engage your students? What resources do you use? What problems have you encountered, and how have you solved the problems?

Image: 'DSCN2340'

Monday, January 24, 2011

Starting an EdD at the University of Otago

As some of you may know, I withdrew from a PhD last year and just now have started an EdD at the University of Otago in Dunedin.

Program structure
The program has been developed with working students in mind. Most students appear to do it part time, although there is the opportunity to go full time in the second year if you wish, which may be an option for me.

The first year is spent looking at research as a class. There are a number of assignments including a literature search and exploration of methodology. These essays will hopefully contribute to my thesis. Current students have told me that this year is full on and the most difficult year of the course. However, one of the reasons I did not complete my PhD was that I lacked structure, so hopefully the way this EdD is structured will support me and keep my motivation going...even if it is a 'stick' approach as opposed to 'carrot'.

The second year is developing a proposal, getting confirmed and submitting an ethics proposal. The following years are spent doing and writing up the research.

Along with the thesis, we have to submit a portfolio that will provide evidence about how our research connects to our work as a practitioner.

Community of learning
The other thing I really like about this program is that it relies heavily on the concept of a community of learning. When I did my PhD, I was a distance student and felt very isolated. In this EdD program, there are six of us, and it has been heavily stressed that we all support each other along with the teachers on the course. I am hoping we do this well because I think it will be peer support that gets me through the EdD.

Face-to-face vs distance
One of the other things I am enjoying already is being a student on campus. I realised the other day that whilst I have been studying since 1992, this is the first time I have been living in the same town as my educational institution. It feels like such a luxury to be able to nip into the library or take five minutes to sort out an administration problem, or even be able to have regular face-to-face meetings with staff. So despite my great passion for distance education, I must admit to secretly loving being to access teachers and resources face-to-face.

Are you doing a higher degree? What tips would you pass on to me as I start this research journey?

Image: 'ou 019'

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Does LinkedIn work as an ePortfolio?

One of my little jobs this year is to work with the School of Business at Otago Polytechnic to look at whether LinkedIn could work as an ePortfolio.

For those of you who have never looked at LinkedIn, it is a website that has similar functionality as Facebook, but is used for professional networking and marketing oneself for employment. My understanding is that LinkedIn is highly used in the USA and I saw somewhere (sorry I cannot remember where) that in the USA, having a LinkedIn account increased your chances by 30% of getting a job.

Business students
The Otago Polytechnic School of Business is going to require its students to have a LinkedIn account this year. To me, it seems a logical thing to do in view of it being a tool that is used so much in the business field (although I have to admit, I do not know how effective it is in New Zealand as a means of finding work).

We're also looking at ePortfolio, so rather than adding yet another thing for students to do, and incurring additional cost, I am looking at the feasibility of LinkedIn as business tool and ePortfolio.

More than a CV
There's no doubt that LinkedIn is a user-friendly CV tool. You do have the ability to write additional information about your job, education experience etc. I like the way you can connect with others, and really important...that you can join networking groups that explore any number of professional interests. I also like the way you can feed in other applications like SlideShare so people can see evidence of your work.

Reflective practice
What LinkedIn lacks in terms of ePortfolio is the ability to extend your thoughts, reflections, goals and aims for life, and other work that does not clearly fit into the "employment" or "education" categories.

What LinkedIn does allow you to do is feed in your blog. So I think the thing to do is keep a blog that records your reflective writings and other activities that do not fit into the current LinkedIn framework. Having said that, when I tried to feed this blog into my LinkedIn account, it didn't work very well for me. So this is something I need to investigate further. I also need to investigate further how easy it is to attach documents like certificates into LinkedIn.

How do you use LinkedIn?
I'd really love to hear from anyone else who uses LinkedIn, especially with students and in the education setting. Do you think LinkedIn can be used as an effective ePortfolio or should it be regarded purely as a CV tool? What do you see as the advantages and disadvantages of LinkedIn as an ePortfolio platform?

Image: 'Panama Business 2'

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Wanted...a couch to burn

I am now officially a student of the University of Otago, having enrolled and started EdD classes this week.

Students of the University of Otago who live in Dunedin are called scarfies. There are certain expectations that as a scarfie I will be called upon to uphold. I will be expected to drink a lot of Speights beer and get drunk...a lot...and often. I will be expected to go to all the local Highlanders rugby games....dress up in silly blue and gold costumes...and stand on the Terraces at Carisbrook and throw beer at people.

But the thing I am most excited about I am a scarfie I will be entitled to join the yearly student riots and get involved with a much-loved student activity...burning couches. It just so happened that when my son moved back home a couple of weeks ago, he brought with him his couch which we really don't have room for. So now I know what I can do with it...take it out onto the main road and burn it.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Congratulations to Colin Firth

I was really pleased to see that Colin Firth won a Golden Globe for his performance in "The King's Speech". I hope this is a precursor to an Oscar.

But to me, Colin Firth will always be Mr Darcy with the lake scene being an all-time movie highlight.

What is your absolute all-time favourite film moment?

Monday, January 17, 2011

Home to roost

My two adult kids have been flatting for the last couple of years. But now they have finished their various university and polytechnic courses and are bankrupt as a result of student loans and overdrafts, they've moved back in with us while they work out what they want to do with their lives.

Not only have we had to squeeze two flats' worth of rubbish back into our house but our son has brought home a cat, Narla, which he got about a year ago. So now we have to get used to having the kids around again...eating us out of house and home... another animal in the house....and more cat poo in the garden.

Running away from home is getting to look more and more like an option!!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Pots, concrete and vegetables

I just wanted to thank everyone who encouraged me with my gardening in my last post: A little disheartened. Here's a few pictures of my garden and my pots so you can get an idea of what I am trying to achieve in my urban garden this year.

Dwarf beans that look really bedraggled because they have been badly battered by wind.

Dug up my flower border and planted broccoli, which seems to grow well.

Pots of broad and climbing green beans in pots around the back of my house. Broad beans are as sweet and tasty as beans but have not produced enough to eat as part of a meal.

The other small piece of garden where I am successfully growing more broccoli and beetroot. Getting heaps of caterpillars attacking the broccoli.

Pots of dwarf beetroot and carrots, as well as tomatoes and zucchini.

This is a little corner around the back of the house that has zucchini and cucumbers growing. I experimented with using eco-friendly shopping bags instead of pots because I thought they'd be cheaper and easier to move around the place. But I am not liking them that much...I prefer the rigidity of pots. At the back you'll see a plastic version of a built -up bed which I bought from The Warehouse. But I haven't been that pleased with it because it lacks rigidity. And all the cats from Christchurch to Invercargil have been using it as their private toilet. I think if I want to persist using this space I'll have to get my hubby to build a proper raised garden bed.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

A little disheartened

I got very excited back in October about the veggies I was attempted to grow in big pots in my very small, urban garden. But I have to confess, I am a little disheartened with the results so far.

What I have learned is that it is a waste of time growing dwarf veggies. I harvested a big pot of dwarf carrots last night, which fed my family of four. I worked it out that the carrots for four people was worth about $24...not very cost effective. I have harvested about six broad beans...beans that is...not pods. And my dwarf beetroot are about the size of a large marble.

Oh well...back to the drawing board....

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Free education conference in Second Life, March 2011

I have had an increasing numbers of queries from health professionals interested in the potential of Second Life for education. So if you are one of those people, not just health professionals, who are interested in SL and education, I can certainly recommend this free international conference which is about SL...held in SL.

The Virtual Worlds Best Practice in Education 4th Annual Conference – March 17-19, 2011

Call for abstracts:

For more information, go to the conference web site:

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Placenta, students and Facebook

There's been a story doing the rounds about a student nurse who posted a picture of herself with a placenta onto Facebook. As a result, she was dismissed from her nursing college just a few months before she was due to graduate as a registered nurse. At face value this appears to be extremely harsh, but I suppose it depends on your beliefs about the placenta.

I have to admit, until I moved to New Zealand I never regarded the placenta as more than an amazing piece of machinery that grows a baby for nine months. In the early 1980s, in the English hospital where I worked as a midwife, we used to collect and freeze all placenta and send them off to be made into make-up. For a while we also collected amnion (one of the membranes) to be used by the hospital's plastic surgeons to put on skin graphs. But when we became knowledgeable about HIV and AIDS, these practices stopped.

Physiological birth
When I moved to New Zealand and became a LMC midwife ( a midwife who carries her own caseload from conception until six weeks following the birth of the baby) I became more aware of birth in holistic terms and supported women to birth their placenta physiologically. The placenta became more than just another piece of birth debris...I recognised it as a vital and integral part of the birth process that midwives and women often ignore or at least, do not give full attention to.

The other thing I learned about the placenta is that it has cultural significance to some peoples. Many of the Maori women I worked with would take their placenta and bury it at a place that had family and/or tribal significance. It took quite a while for me to remember to return the placenta to families and not chuck it straight into the bin.

Lotus birth
I have to admit I have never seen a greater spiritual significance in the birth of the placenta like some people do. For example, some people practice what is known as lotus birth, and keep the placenta attached to the baby until it separates naturally. To me, the birth of the placenta marks (for the most part) the safe health of mother and baby, and is the time when I can relax (like I said...for the most part).

Going back to this case, I agree with Pam Harnden who felt that the nursing college missed an opportunity for education...that rather than sacking the students they should have explained why publishing this photo on Facebook could have been offensive and disrespectful to some peoples and cultures. As a midwife it doesn't matter what I feel about the placenta...what is vital is I respect and support the beliefs of the families I am working with.

Social media policy
It looks like the student nurse will be reinstated following a court ruling. And I would suggest the moral of the story for the school of nursing is to put a clear policy about the use of social media into place.

As for my advice to nursing and midwifery NOT put anything on Facebook or the Internet that is related to the women and families you work with without clear guidance or permission from your lecturers. And remember that your actions and beliefs may be innocuous as far as you are concerned, but may have very different cultural and spiritual significance to others.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Delicious turns sour

The big shock I had over the Christmas holiday was hearing the news that the social bookmarking website "Delicious" was being closed down by Yahoo. Delicious has always been in my top 10 favourite online tools because it allows me to store my favourite websites in a portable way that I can take from computer to computer. I also use it as a basic ePortfolio in which I display citations about my work.

Reflecting on my use of Delicious, it has dawned on me that I do not use it in a social way...I do not use it to share with others and I rarely check out other people's collections. I have tried to use it as a research resource for students but have had similar experiences to educators such as Anne-Marie and found that students have not engaged with it at all. It looks like my experience is not out of the ordinary - Alan Cann has also talked about Delicious being a storage tool only. So is social bookmarking all it's cracked up to be?

I think social bookmarking is vital and is going on all the time...we're just using different tools. Twitter and Facebook are the tools I use to share the resources I think people would find useful.

As for Delicious, it appears to still be up and running. Yahoo is currently talking about selling it as opposed to shutting it down. In the meantime I am taking Alan's advice and trying out other tools for storing my bookmarks just in case Delicious does suddenly disappear. At the moment I am looking at Google Bookmarks but am interested to hear about other tools as I am keen not to place all my eggs in the Google basket.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

What are your goals for 2011?

I have just given myself two weeks off blogging as I have wound down from 2010 and enjoyed the Christmas holiday. I am now in Sydney for a week's holiday with my hubby, enjoying fabulous hot weather and hopefully having a really good look around all the museums and art galleries that I never got to see when I came here last with my kids. In other words...doing grown up things.

So while I eat my breakfast on King Street in the sun, I have been thinking about what I want to achieve in 2011.

Time management
I have really enjoyed having a break away from the computer and am now feeling refreshed and ready to get going again. This is just as well because I have a really hectic year coming up with much of my work being online. Like Claire and Jean, organising my time and making sure I have time away from the computer is going to have to be a really big priority for me. At the same time I do waste time when I am online, doing stuff that isn't necessary in the name of "networking". So DISCIPLINE is going to have to be the name of the game in 2011....oh well...I can dream can't I?!

What with starting my EdD in a couple of weeks and going back to teaching midwifery I am going to have to get more focused with my reading again. I do not have a clue what I am going to research for my EdD other than it will be something to do with eLearning, so I think I am going to have to start reading broadly until I know what to narrow down on. Getting my head around the learning theories informing connectivism and un-schooling for adults will be one of the first things I want to do. I am not a great theory girl, so I'll be needing yet more of that darn discipline for this.

The next round of Performance Based Research Funding (PBRF) is looming for New Zealand academics. So this year is the last chance I have for getting some peer-reviewed journal articles under my belt. Having made the decision to only publish in open access journals I am going to have to be quite strategic about where I submit my work ie somewhere that will earn me PBRF brownie points yet maintain my philosophy of open access.

In amongst all this I am thinking I will need to make a trip back to the UK for family reasons. And I need to get fit and slimmer to get my blood pressure down...cutting right back on chocolate and wine!

So 2011 is going to have to be the year of discipline and focus for me. How are things looking for you in 2011? What are your goals and plans?