Friday, April 29, 2011

Standing out in the social media crowd

I am currently using social media to market a free online conference for midwives on the 5th May called the Virtual International Day of the Midwife (VIDM). But with the plethora of Facebook pages and Twitter accounts out there, I am wondering how to stand out amongst the crowd.

Leading the social media charge
This is the third year I have been managing this event. The first year I had a very poor response. Last year I started to use Facebook and Twitter. There were very few midwifery organisations using Twitter or Facebook so I was very pleased when my "VIDM 2010" Facebook page reached 2,500 followers and the event had at least a 1000% increase in attendance. The only midwifery organisation that had more followers than us was the midwifery journal "Midwifery Today" with 10, 000 followers.

Increase in midwives' use of Facebook
This year I started a Facebook page that was more generic to our event - "Virtual International Day of the Midwife". I have not attached a date to the page so that we can continue to use it year after year. What I have noticed is that the number of followers has been very slow to get going - at the moment we have 539 "likes". The other thing that has become evident is that there are many more midwives and midwifery organisations using Facebook. Midwifery Today is currently standing at 25,000 "likes".

Standing out in the crowd
So I am wondering how I can make the VIDM voice heard above very famous organisations such as the International Confederation of Midwives, UK Nursing and Midwifery Council, or even the spoof Facebook pages The Midwife and The Student Midwife.

Is Facebook a waste of time?
Or is Ashley Morgan correct when he says that "Facebook is overcrowded and is fast becoming the new myspace. A total and utter waste of everyone's time"? And that the best way to stand out in Facebook is not to have an account there?

Would love to hear what you think. Has Facebook lost it's effectiveness as a marketing tool, or is having a Facebook page still a vital part of an organisation's communication strategy?

Image: 'yellow umbrella'

More information about the Virtual International Day of the Midwife 5th May 2011

Go to the VIDM 2011 website for more information, or contact me.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

One week to go!

This time next week I'll be getting my knickers in a twist because the Virtual International Day of the Midwife will be hours from starting at 12.00 hours on the 5th May New Zealand.

Here's a short Animoto video that I made yesterday advertising the event.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

What Amazon can teach us about eLearning

Don't laugh when I tell you.......I read trashy historical romances...not the serious ones that educate and become literature classics....the Mills and Boon bodice rippers sort. And to make things worse, I review them on long term aim is to become an Amazon top 1000 reviewer - I am currently number 3,840. The other thing I love about Amazon is the online communities. Needless to say, I belong to various online communities about romance. The communities have thousands of members and posts, and I go there regularly to see what is being talked about and to join in conversation.

Online community
On a more serious note, I have been reflecting what my experience of being a member of these Amazon online communities teaches me about how to engage students in online discussions. I am sure I am not the only one who has struggled to get students to join discussions in emails groups or online forums. Here's what I've come up with.

1. I like to lurk. However, just because I haven't answered a post doesn't mean I haven't read it, enjoyed it or acted on what I have read.

2. The posts I respond to are the ones that interest me - I don't waste my time on something that has no interest or relevance to me.

3. I like to 'help' people and share my experience and/or resources - my favourite posts are those where readers ask if anyone can help them remember the title of a book - I love to be the one to get there first with the right answer (yes, you're right...I don't have a life!!).

4. I like to receive a reward. By that, I mean I like to be thanked, or have someone acknowledge that they've enjoyed my contribution to the conversation.

5. I love a bit of controversy and heated discussion. There's nothing like an argument about an author or book on Amazon to get the blood flowing.

6. I go there to receive help - maybe a recommendation with what to read next, or I might be the one having trouble remembering the title of a book.

7. I love the way people are so generous with their time - it is very rare that you do not get an answer to a question or comment.

Engaging students online
So if these things are important to me on a recreational online forum, I cannot imagine that things are much different for students on educational online forums. There may be a few differences. For example, you wouldn't want the same level of argument on an educational forum that you sometimes get in Amazon, where conversation can get very heated. And the reward students get may be marks toward an assignment, or formative feedback from the lecturer.

The challenge for us as educators is to design discussions and activities that generate the same level of enthusiasm and motivation that we feel when we engage in non-compulsory online activities.

What motivates you to join in with online discussions? What tips would you pass on either as a teacher or student? What do you think is the secret to a successful online discussion for students?

For those of you who would like to read more about how to design online discussion groups and forums for students, I would strongly recommend the CU Online Handbook published by the University of Denver, and Terry Anderson's Theory and Practice of Online Learning published by the University of Athabasca.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Help! I need a star!

I am really thrilled to be able to announce that the program for the free online conference the Virtual International Day of the Midwife has been confirmed for 5th May 2011. Even though I say so myself, we have some fabulous sessions lined up to appeal to everyone - midwives, students and anyone else interested in birth.

The only snag I have just run into is...the opening speaker has had to pull out.

So now I am looking for someone to open the conference...someone who is relatively famous...and has something exciting to say about midwifery and birth that will appeal to a wide audience. If you know of anyone who could help, please let me know as soon as possible.

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Friday, April 22, 2011

Just to let you know...Facebook does not have the ability to cure cancer, solve global warming or make you a better teacher

Recently I have been listening to educators who have been reviewing their work over the last year, and thinking about how to better support and engage students, with the outcome of improving retention and increasing pass rates. One theme that has emerged is a sudden interest in Facebook.

The rationale for this interest in Facebook is that this is where students meet and communicate with each other. So if educators want to engage with students, Facebook is the logical place to go.

Don't get me wrong. I think that it is fabulous that educators are questioning their practice and looking at ways to engage with students. But I am extremely concerned that educators think that Facebook will cure all their problems and suddenly make them better teachers.

So here's a few thoughts you may wish to consider before launching into Facebook as a teacher.

1. Facebook is not going to make you a good teacher. If you're having problems engaging and retaining your students, you must have a careful look at your teaching. There may be far more serious problems you need to address than what communication technology you use. In other words, it is not the tool that is important, but how you use it.

2. Facebook is not a quick fix for your teaching and learning problems. Facebook is a tool, just like any other technology such as email, discussion forums....blackboards and over-head projectors. Students aren't going to chat on Facebook any more than they do in boring email discussion forums unless you think about the pedagogy behind what you want to achieve, and have an understanding of how eLearning works.

3. Facebook is about social networking, which means you need to understand what social networking is and how it works. This is best done by doing it yourself. It's no good suddenly deciding you'll use Facebook as a teaching tool if you do not have a Facebook account, and do not understand all the issues involved in using it such as the confidentiality. It is also no good setting up a Facebook account and nothing else. It's not like face-to-face teaching when you give a two-hour lecture and that's it for the week. Effective social networking requires time, consistency and commitment - it only works when you engage with others on a frequent, regular basis.

4. Ask yourself is it ethically responsible to insist your students have a Facebook account when there are clear concerns about confidentiality and what Facebook does with personal information. Obviously if students already have accounts, this isn't so much of an issue, although I would suggest that you should remind them about the concerns around Facebook. On the other hand, there are people who have chosen not to have Facebook accounts, so you should respect that decision and think how to address their communication/learning needs.

5. You cannot assume that young adults have mature digital literacy skills that would allow them to use Facebook for learning. Yes, they may have Facebook accounts, but if my kids are anything to go by, all they use it for is sharing YouTube videos, letting the world know when they've broken up with their latest boyfriend, and playing games. This then leads into my next point.

6. Not all students will want to use Facebook for educational purposes. Many are quite happy to have it as a fun activity but they do not want to have to be "serious" in Facebook, and they definitely do not want to socialise with you there...they have enough of you at college or university. This is what is known as the "creepy tree house" syndrome - when teachers try to lure students into the treehouse (or Facebook) on the pretext of playing when actually what they want to do is "teach".

7. I am probably repeating myself, but I think it bears saying. When you use social media tools with a social networking approach, you need to change the way you teach from delivering content to being a facilitator. One of the first questions you have to ask yourself is whether you are ready to make that change? Your focus will change to developing a community or network of learning, and facilitate opportunities for student to network with each other and the outside world in order to learn. If you're not sure how to do that, here's a couple of references to start you off.

Have you used Facebook in your teaching? How do you use it? How effective has it been?



Why I don't follow you on Twitter

I have a lot of people ask me to follow them on Twitter. If you are one of them, and you are wondering why I do not follow you, here is probably the reason why.
  • Because you have a stupid name like "fluffy smoochy kitten".
  • Because your profile picture is of a teenage girl with triple E cup breasts.
  • Because all you do is advertise products or services.
  • Because you call yourself a coach or mentor, and your tweets are all about how to improve my life. I am quite happy with my life, thank you. I do not want to know the Dala Lama's 100 best ways to achieve beautiful toe nails. If I want to be happy, I'll have a glass of wine!!
  • Because you call yourself an expert at something or another. I have an instinctive distrust of anyone who calls themselves an expert. The chances're probably rubbish!
  • Because you are a famous person, either a celebrity or someone well known in a particular field. Famous people generally are only interested in promoting themselves and never engage with the hoi polloi.
  • If you have thousands of followers and follow thousands of people. The chances are you are only interested in collecting followers, which I think is a complete waste of time.
  • If you have a protected account. I do not follow anyone that I cannot check out before hand.
  • If you do not talk to people. There's nothing I hate more...apart from talking to people on Twitter who ignore me.
  • Because you are a company or organisation who doesn't understand what Twitter or social media is all about. You think that having a Twitter account will instantly solve all your marketing needs. It won't. You have to understand that Twitter is all about networking, engaging and giving time to your followers. If you don't get that, then I haven't got the time to give to you.
  • Because you talk about things that have no particular relevance to me. I am sure you are a lovely person, but I only have time to read so many tweets. I cannot cope with following many more than 500 active people. So I am afraid I only follow people who talk about things that address my particular information/networking needs.
  • Because you never say anything.
And my last reason...
  • Because you're boring!!!


Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Only three weeks to go to the Virtual International Day of the Midwife 5th May 2011

Crickey, only three weeks to go...where on earth has the time flown. Here are the outcomes of the VIDM 2011 organising committee meeting this week.

1. Program
The program is now almost complete. We have three slots that have yet to be confirmed - 5th May 18.00 & 21.00 hours, and possibly 01.00 hours on the 6th May New Zealand.
  • If you know of anyone who you think would like to be involved, please feel free to shoulder tap or volunteer yourself. This does not have to be a formal presentation - a story about your practice, or discussion of an issue that interests you would be fabulous.
2. Master facilitators/facilitators
I will be the master facilitator from 12.00 - 23.00 hours on 5th May. Lorraine will master facilitate from 6th May Midnight until 06.00 hours, then I will take over again until mid-day. Our responsibilities will be the big picture stuff, supporting the facilitators.

Each session will need an individual facilitator who will run the session and support the speaker before the day and during the session. It will be the facilitator's responsibility to make sure the speaker is all ready to go. It will also be the facilitator's responsibility to come up with Plan B if the speaker doesn't turn up on the day. My suggestion is the facilitator is prepared to facilitate an open discussion, either on a prepared topic, or on a topic that the audience requests. We had to do that a couple of times last year, and it worked very well.
  • If you are prepared to be a facilitator of a session, please let me know or put your name on the program in the column "Facilitator" right at the end of the program.
3. Information for speakers and facilitators
There are pages with information for both speakers and facilitators on the VIDM wiki. Chris will have a look at the pages and add information or edit when relevant.
  • If there is any information missing, please feel free to add to wiki. You do not need to have an account to be able to edit.
4. Marketing VIDM2011
For the time being I have filled the three empty slots with asynchronous resources which can be shifted if and when we can organise a live session. This means we can get on and market the program from now on.
  • Please feel free to advertise the VIDM 2011 where ever you like!
5. Facebook and Twitter
Lorraine and Pam are increasing postings as we get nearer the 5th May. Our new Facebook page is down on followers quite significantly from last year so we need to work hard to increase those followers. On the other hand, our Twitter followers are growing fast.
  • Feel free to spread the news about VIDM on all your Facebook pages and via Twitter.
The other job we need to do is set up each session on the program as an event on Facebook so people can follow what we're doing on Facebook as well as on the wiki. This is a time-consuming task so it would be great if all committee members lend a hand doing that - every committee member is an administrator of the Facebook page.

6. VIDM 2011 website
I think the VIDM 2011 wiki looks pretty good but I would appreciate a "critical" look being cast over it. Any feedback about how it could be improved would be gratefully received. Have a look at this use of Wikispaces to facilitate a conference: TCC Conference:
  • Have an good look at the program and see how they have organised it so there is less scrolling down. Do we need to do the same with our program?
  • Also, have a look at how they have structured their information about using Elluminate. Can the way we have given information about using technology be improved?
  • Same applies with the information we are giving speakers and facilitators.
  • Is there any ideas from the TCC website that we can borrow?
7. Practice sessions
We need to advertise practice sessions in Elluminate, in the lead up to VIDM 2011. Please can I ask that we arrange dates in the week-10 days beforehand where the organising committee each run a practice session.
  • Please can you give me a time and date that you would be free to facilitate a practice session, in which you show people how to do basic things in the Elluminate room. We need to be mindful that we cover the 24 hour clock, and service time frames where speakers are situated.
8. Feedback from speakers and facilitators
I am in the throes of developing a feedback form for VIDM participants. Chris will think about how we can get feedback from speakers and facilitators.

9. Next committee meeting: Wednesday 27th April 10.00 hours New Zealand.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Top secret news about the Virtual International Day of the Midwife on May 5th

The program for the Virtual International Day of the Midwife on May 5th is almost complete. If you don't know what this is, it is a free, online conference that aims to encourage midwives to network online and freely share knowledge and resources. Here is the website for more information:

We have managed to secure a top, international "name" to open the day for us, so keep an eye out to find out who it is.

In the meantime, we have four slots left to fill, so if you'd like to talk about your midwifery practice or any topic that will interest midwives, please let me know. The details about the program and the time slots that still need to be filled can be found here.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Natural caesarean section? CODSWALLOP!

It is not often I rant on this blog. I deliberately try to steer clear of controversy because I hate online arguments. But honestly...natural caesarean section...what a load of *****!!

How can there be such a thing as a "natural" caesarean section? It is a serious surgical operation, for goodness sake.

What has set me off is this video that I was introduced to the other day. Have a explains what a natural caesarean section is.

What has really annoyed me is the obstetrician talking about siting intravenous infusions in the non-dominant arm and keeping the blood pressure cuff clean. Am I missing something?! Surely this is common sense and has been routine practice for years. Keeping the blood pressure cuff clean is not a natural caesarean section!!!!

I am 1000% behind making caesarean section as family-friendly as possible and I totally applaud obstetricians and midwives who encourage things such as immediate mother-to-baby skin-to-skin contact. But please don't try to sell caesarean section to mothers or midwives as being "natural" isn't and never will be!!!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Planning my funeral

The sad events over the last few weeks caused by the earthquake in Christchurch has got me reflecting on my own mortality. Now that I am heading to the wrong side of 50 I am wondering if I should start thinking about my own funeral.

Start saving
Recently I spent a weekend with a friend who is a funeral director and I have learned lots about funerals. What I didn't realise is that they are jolly expensive - approximately $7000 for a cremation and $9000 for a burial. So I am thinking that I need to start saving now or start one of those special funeral insurance schemes.

On the cheap
One thing I am sure about is...I got married on the cheap and I want to be buried on the cheap. I cannot see any good reason for spending heaps of money on a coffin that will go up in smoke. I cannot bear the idea of people standing around sobbing...I want people to have fun at my funeral, so here's my requests:
  • I want to stay at home until my cremation
  • I don't want an expensive of those sustainable, cardboard boxes will do me
  • I don't want a funeral service...just a gathering of friends at the beach, remembering the good times...and drinking lots of Lindauer (New Zealand sparkling wine)
  • I would like to be cremated and then my ashes scattered on Allan Beach, along the Peninsula in Dunedin.

Image: Allen's Beach, Dunedin:

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Fight for homebirth in Hungary

I am a bit slow off the blocks.... I have only just visited the Aljazeera news website. I don't know if you've ever looked at it, but despite having it recommended to me, I haven't engaged with it because of the connotations that run through my head whenever I hear the name. When I put my prejudices aside, I found that it is a really informative website which gives access to some fabulous articles and videos about childbirth and maternity care.

One of the programs I found is about the fight over homebirth that is currently going on in Hungry. A very prominent homebirth midwife, Agnes Gereb has just received a sentence of two years for her practice. I don't know the ins and outs of the case, but it has certainly caused a stir in the international midwifery community. And clearly it is being used to score political points in Hungary.

Here's the link to the program: The battle over birth. A pioneering midwife takes on Hungary's male-dominated medical profession in a bid to change approaches to childbirth.