Friday, June 29, 2012

Time to re-think midwifery conferences?

I have been following the discussion about the sponsorship of midwifery face-to-face conferences by infant formula and baby product companies, in the Facebook group: British Journal of Midwifery- You can't be Serious! The argument is that conferences are too expensive to run without sponsorship from these companies. My feeling is that if we have to compromise our professional integrity for the sake of a free pen and conference bag, then maybe it's time to re-think conferences and their appropriateness as professional development.

Too expensive?
Conferences have always been a popular mode of professional development for midwives. If nothing else, they are an opportunity to get away from the daily grind of life, family and work. Midwives love nothing more than meeting up with colleagues and having a good natter. I have often heard them saying the best part of a conference is the dinner when everyone lets their hair down, and when the serious networking is done. But I was recently horrified to see that a conference I was planning to attend later this year was charging $155 for the conference dinner, and $80 for the welcome reception. Honestly....I could feed my whole family at a restaurant for $150!! I don't know about you...but I just cannot afford those kinds of fees.

Effective learning?
Apart from being a financial and sustainability issue, conferences are now considered to be an ineffective model for professional development. Rather than one-off meetings that use a "one-size fits all" approach, professional development is effective when it takes a long-term view of learning, and is designed to meet individual learning needs. There also needs to be follow-up, and on-going support for professional development activities to have concrete outcomes.

Time to re-think?
I think it is time to re-think face-to-face conferences as a mode of professional development. Whilst they will always have their place, I think we need to be open to other ideas, and be creative about our approach to PD.

If we continue to value face-to-face meetings, I believe we need to consider how we can make them more affordable so that we do not need to rely on sponsorship. This may need us to turn the traditional conference format on its head...that expensive, luxury conference dinner has to go!

Are you up for it?!

TR Guskey. 1999. Evaluating professional development. Corwin Press. 
Lynn Anderson and Terry Anderson. 2010. Online Conferences: Professional Development for a Networked Era. Information Age Publishing.
S Stewart, M Sidebotham, and  D Davis. 2012.  International networking: connecting midwives through social media. International Nursing Review.
S Kildea., L Barclay. & P Brodie. 2006. Maternity care in the bush: using the internet to provide educational resources to isolated practitioners. Rural and Remote Health, 6, 1–12.
J Patterson. & D Davis. 2007 New Zealand midwives and tertiary study. New Zealand College of Midwives Journal, 36, 13–19.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Birthzillas, wars and midwives

I have had many midwives say to me over the last few months that they don't want to engage with social media...that's it's a waste of time....and that it is irrelevant to their roles as midwives. I believe they are wrong. And it's the "Birthzilla" post that brought it home to me.

Online wars
If there's one thing I have noticed on the Internet, it is that there are many vocal opinions about childbirth. Nothing gets the blood heated (or nasty bullying) like an article on birth - the more extreme it is, the more comments it attracts. This is becoming particularly noticeable in the Australian media. Laureen Hudson, a social media expert, has talked about "war"...and that's what it feels like at times.

One recent example of these "online wars" is the post  "Birthzillas: when it’s all about the birth, not the baby", written by Mia Freedman, a few days ago. In this post, Mia talks about birth plans and the danger of focusing on the experience of birth,  to the detriment of the baby.

This post garnered over 1,150 comments (which is a huge number for a blog post) with a diverse range of opinions. What has struck me is two things. Firstly, the amount of unsubstantiated, mis-information that is spread about. For example, Rita says "Homebirth has a 3x greater risk of fetal demise…how can anyone say they’re thinking of the baby when they choose it?" This is a very scary statement with no reference, no context, and is certainly is not my understanding of the research around home birth.

The second thing that is apparent is the passion displayed by commentators, and in some cases, darn right rudeness and nastiness. One commentator, who identified herself as a senior student midwife wrote,

"This article is a prime example of pure stupidity and ignorance. I am nearly registered as a midwife, and I can tell you that just because you have had a couple of babies, does not make you an expert in the safety or the science of birth...... Read the evidence and get your opinions off such a public forum! People are too ignorant and unaware to be exposed to this kind of crap – it only adds to the problem!"

The problem with this sort of comment is that it can incite further nastiness, and does not contribute constructively to discussion. And I am concerned about how it reflects on the midwifery profession.

I think it is important for midwives to get involved with discussions such as this, to provide evidence-based research to counteract the erroneous information that is propagated in some areas. But there are a couple of tricks to engaging in these discussions.

1. Know your evidence
Make it your aim to provide evidence-based information in a way that can be understood by the average mum, and link to that information, so mothers can check it out for themselves.

2. Do not engage in an emotional way
You must remember that everyone is entitled to their opinion. And also be mindful some writers like to be deliberately provocative to increase readership and comments (don't we all!). The aim of the game is to educate people, not get into flame wars. Here is Tara Moss's response to the Birthzilla article: In defence of birth plans. Tara resists the temptation to be rude, derogatory or patronising, but rather writes a reasoned, balanced response - a lesson for us all to remember.

3. Remember you are representing your profession
I'll be the first to admit that I have got caught up in flame wars. And however much you disagree with a writer, you must remember that you represent the profession as a whole. If you're in doubt about the topic of the discussion and the evidence you can contribute, my advice would be not to engage at all. Or at the very least, wait 24 hours before you comment, or run it by someone else before you post.

Do you comment in online discussions? What tips would you pass on about how to do it safely and professionally? Have you ever got yourself into "trouble" online? What did you do about it?

Image: 'untitled'

Monday, June 25, 2012

Will the Virtual Birthing Unit ever make a come-back?

The other day I gave a talk in Second Life (SL) to the American Association of University Women,  Department of Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies at The Ohio State University, about midwifery in New Zealand, and the Virtual Birthing Unit, at the invitation of Dr Sharon Collingwood.

This was the first time I had been in SL for ages. I was very nervous about it, especially because there is now a new viewer. But I got around OK, and there were no technical hitches.

Learning in virtual worlds
My talk was the usual one I give about the challenges we face in educating midwifery students, and how simulation in virtual worlds such as Second Life can provide opportunities for authentic, yet safe learning. However, the Virtual Birth Unit has not been taken up in a global sense, because it was really a bit before its time ie it was too complex and time-consuming for lecturers and students who only had limited digital skills.

The future?
The issues that impact on the provision of adequate and quality clinical experience for healthcare students are not going away.  And as educators become more experienced with online technologies, and more programs are delivered in a blended way, I think the Virtual Birth Unit will come into its own.

I am not sure if it will be successful as it is - it may well be "re-born" in another form, in other virtual worlds such as Open Sim. And clearly there are a lot of things about sustainability to think about, when embedding an initiative such as this in an education program. But for the first time in over 18 months, I am feeling a lot more positive about the future of the Virtual Birth Unit and simulation in midwifery education.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

How to make your CV stand out in the crowd?

I have been thinking about CVs lately, and wondering how to develop a CV that stands out, especially amongst other job applicants.

Video CV
There is quite a lot of talk about alternative formats, such as video CVs. This one by Graeme Anthony made quite a splash a couple of years ago. The snag with video, is you have got to know what you're doing, and make a proper job of it. I would imagine an amateur effort is likely to turn employers right off. And there's the issue of time...skimming through 300 odd paper CVs will be a lot easier than watching 300 videos.

Some people are advocating LinkedIn as a CV. The problem with LinkedIn is that it takes a generalised approach to job hunting.  In other words, you cannot tailor your profile to suit specific jobs, in the same way you can with traditional CVs. Also, you are stuck with the LinkedIn format...there is little room for creativity.

Visual CV
Another way to provide a visual CV, other than video (and easier), is with a presentation software such as PowerPoint (like this one by Nicole Jenssen) or Prezi (such as this one by Kelsey Brannan). Or,  you can jazz up your CV with software specifically designed for the purpose,  such as - here is my CV, which I made by directly importing my LinkedIn profile.

Creative CVs - a bridge too far?
Alison Doyle from About.Com says you don't see many paper CVs about these days. That might be true in the creative industries, and in the USA and UK, but it isn't true in health or education....and certainly is not true in New Zealand or Australia. But maybe it's time to change...are you prepared to risk it?!

Have you ever submitted a creative CV? What format did you use? How did you get on?

BTW: If you're interested in the difference between LinkedIn and paper CVs, have a read of this article by Gerrit Hall and the fascinating conversation that follows - there is some really interesting information about how recruiters look at CV etc: 6 Things on Your LinkedIn Profile That Shouldn’t Be on Your Resume

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Have you updated your CV lately?

My CV is due a bit of a facelift. Being a tad out of date with the latest thinking about CVs, I went to a workshop the other day led by Jane Field, a careers adviser at Otago Polytechnic. Keeping in mind that employers are supposed to take only six seconds to read your CV before they move onto the next one, here are a few tips that I gleaned from Jane that you might want to consider if you're updating your CV. 

1. No more than two or three pages
  • One page means one side
  • Do not staple pages together or double-side them
2. Style
  • Use black on white
  • No front sheet
  • Must be grammatically correct with no spelling errors.
  • Use a font that is easy to read eg Calibri 1.15 space
  • Use single space when writing contact details.
  • Don't go back more than 10 years.
  • Your name should be printed on every page, preferably the top right hand corner, in a "header".
  • Be consistent throughout your CV ie make sure your font and style is consistent, and it matches your cover letter
  • Use bullet points if you wish to emphasise elements.
  • Don't use your photo.
3. Personal statement
Make the first quarter of the first page a personal statement. Concisely sum up what sort of person you are. This is your voice and your chance to capture the reader's attention, and tell the future employer why it is he/she should hire you.

4. Pages two and three
One page is used to talk about employment and one page is used to talk about skills.  Emphasise your skills as opposed to where you worked, unless the place you worked is extremely prestigious ie if I had worked as a lecturer at Oxford University, I'd probably make a bit of a song and dance about that. If you are just entering the job market, you might want to fill out space talking about volunteer positions and activities.

5. Other information
If you are an academic with lots of publications and conferences, just take a few key examples to list. Don't waste space listing referees, after all, you will be asked to provide them in a job application form. Leave out personal interests unless they provide evidence of specific skills.  No one really needs to know that you like walking and watching TV! However, if you're the treasurer of  your local tennis club and applying for an accountancy job, that might be a very relevant piece of information to supply.

I have over 30 years of experience and achievements to condense into my CV so, to be honest, I am not sure how I would be able to stick to three pages.  So I am thinking I would need to be strategic with how I integrated my CV with my cover letter. At the same time, I'm quite keen to think about how I can present my CV completely differently...but that's for another blog post!

What tips about CVs have you learned along the way, that you would pass on? What has worked for you? Is there anything here that you disagree with, or would add?

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

The Virtual International Day of the Midwife 2012: Final report

Here is my final report about the Virtual International Day of the Midwife 2012, based on my own thoughts and the debrief document on the wiki, which I will be presenting to the committee in a few days. If you have any feedback you would like me to present along with this report, please feel free to leave a comment.

1.  Speakers
We have now got to a point where we don't have to take "first come, first serve". Next year we really will be able to use the "submit by" date, and choose speakers according to merit and relevance. This will also help us decide whether we need to run concurrent sessions, or even extend the conference to 2 days, as opposed to one day.  In order to make these sorts of decisions, we may need to start calling for EOI earlier. At the same time we need to make sure we maintain our "unconference" feel so we do not become too academic, and discourage midwives who otherwise would have have a voice in this sort of arena.
  • We do not know if the topics of the sessions are relevant to midwives in resource-poor countries, so I would like us to think more carefully about this. Recommendation: Invite midwife representation from resource-poor countries to be on the committee, and give us feedback about topics for sessions.
  • The vast majority of speakers were very diligent about checking in with their facilitators before the day, making sure their technology worked, and ensuring their slides were appropriate. In the one instance when a speaker did not do this, the session was very difficult to manage, and the overall satisfaction with the session was decreased. Recommendation: Speakers are given a date by which they check in with their facilitator etc. If they do not comply, they will not be allowed to give their presentation. 
  • Recommendation:  We need speakers to prepare a short biography so we can introduce them more professionally than we did this year.
  • Recommendation: Speakers will be required to use some sort of presentation to make it easier for participants to follow their talk. We also received feedback that participants would like access to the presentations in a separate format from the session recordings.
  • The Maori welcome was especially well received by participants. Recommendation: Rotate an indigenous welcome around countries eg ask an Australian Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander midwife to welcome us next year.
2. Technology
I was very pleased with how Adobe Connect performed. Any problems that we had were mostly due to human error, or because the user's internet connection was poor.
  • The main technological problem was that we did not have enough seats - 100 seats were not enough, especially for the more popular sessions (this is reflected in the evaluation feedback). Recommendation: To remain with Adobe Connect next year to consolidate our skills, but find some way of accessing a room with a minimum of 200 seats.If we cannot do that, then look for an alternative such as Wiziq.
  • The evaluation shows that the vast majority of people access the VIDM from home, and from their lap tops and PCs. Recommendation: Think how we can bring the VIDM to more organisations and facilities. Also explore how we can make it more "mobile".
  • In the feedback a few people said the information on how to use the technology needed to be improved - this is an ongoing issue to be addressed each year.
  • Recommendation: Speakers must be required to use headsets - integrated mics do not work well and cause a lot of echo and background noise. If they cannot or will not use a headset, they will not be allowed to present. 
3. Facilitation
From my perspective the model we use, that of master facilitation and facilitation works well. It would be good to get more master facilitators next year to lighten our load. Having said that, it is good to "master facilitate" a few sessions to get a sense of how things are working in a more global sense.
  • I thought the facilitators did really well, especially considering a number of them were new to the job.  However, I think the same applies to facilitators as does the speakers - facilitators must be involved from the outset so they understand what is going on, and why certain decisions have been made the way they have.
  • The format of the room, and decisions about using webcams were changed during the day. I don't know why this was, or who made that decision. It would be good to keep to the format that the masters facilitators decided on before the day, so there is no confusion at the time. Recommendation: To give speakers the opportunity to use webcam if they wish, as long as it does not interfere with the quality of the session. Also, to keep the chat box enlarged, so that it is easier for the facilitator to follow questions and comments.
  • There were one or two comments from speakers and participants that they would have preferred a facilitator who was a midwife, because the facilitator understood the topic. Maybe one day we will have that capacity, but in the meantime we rely very heavily on facilitators who are not midwives, who volunteer for the job because of their commitment to learning. I am extremely grateful to these facilitators, and think this feedback is a little unfair. Having facilitators and participants who are not midwives adds to the diversity and richness of the event.
4. Advertising
Feedback shows that Facebook and email is the most effective way of advertising the VIDM.  But people also wanted more information about the VIDM beforehand, so they knew when, where and why they should attend.
  • Feedback also suggested a newsletter may be helpful to advertise more fully. However, I am not sure how we can do more than we already do. I send email updates via the main email lists, VIDM wiki, Facebook page and my contacts. Any other ideas?
  • Recommendation: Prepare a press release that can be sent to the media in our respective countries.
  • Do we need sponsorship next year to expand? If so, what do we need it for? If we decide we do need sponsorship, someone will need to take charge of this and prepare a sponsorship package to start seeking this soon, so companies can budget for it next financial year.
  • Do we need a more professional-looking website? The advantage is it will look more professional. The disadvantages are that it will cost us, and stops us modelling how "free stuff" can be used effectively for professional development.
5. Social media
Having several people "dedicated" to run the Facebook page and Twitter account certainly worked, in my view.  Our followers and reach increased. We recruited speakers and facilitators via FB. In the feedback, over 60% participants found out about VIDM via Facebook, as opposed to 30% email.
  • What is our ongoing social media strategy? Do we keep the FB page ticking over with, say, weekly posts? Or do we leave it unattended until we start again for 2013?
  • Recommendation: Write a paper about how we use social media and technology for this event.
6. Evaluation
I have only looked at the evaluation quickly. We received 99 responses -  84 from people who attended, 15 from others. Here are the key points that I haven't already mentioned:
  • Majority of respondents were students or clinical midwives, mostly 30-39, & 50-59 years old.
  • Majority of respondents came from USA, UK, Australia. Other respondents came from Bermuda, Canada, Brazil Cyprus, Denmark, Ethiopia, Kenya, Slovenia, Netherlands, Jordan, Germany, Greece, Latvia, Peru, Portugal and Slovenia .
  • Most attendees rated VIDM 2012 very good or good. The main reason people didn't attend was because they were working.
  • In order to attend next year, respondents felt they needed time, adequate technology, and digital competence and confidence.
  • What people liked about the VIDM were (and this reflects what has been said in previous evaluations): a sense of belonging to an international community; opportunity to learn for free, in easily accessible and flexible environment; being able to access eminent speakers. 
  • Recommendation: Write up evaluation report and publish on FB page as well as wiki. Also, submit for publication in midwifery journal.
  • To increase response rate next year, shall we link the attendance certificate to the survey, so attendees only get their certificate on completion of the survey?
7. Other thoughts, recommendations and questions
  • Next year the 5th May falls on a Sunday. Do we stay true to the spirit of the day and hold the conference on Sunday, or do we change it? Keep in mind that this year fell on Saturday, and we did not change it for midwives who have their spiritual day of rest on Saturdays.
  • This year's conference ended rather abruptly. Should we develop some sort of slideshow to play next year, or some other such activity, to end the conference in a nicer way?
  • Should we require participants to register so we have a better sense of who will be attending?  The disadvantage of this is it may cause a barrier for some people.
  • I am planning one more year as VIDM facilitator. Do we need to start succession planning now? Alongside this question is whether we make more concrete moves to integrate the VIDM with a midwifery organisation such as the International Confederation of Midwives? The president of the ICM is very interested in talking to us about this. The advantage is that it will support us to get bigger and better. But at the same time, it may mean handing over some control, which may impact on the spirit of the VIDM.
  • I think we need to think about how we keep conversation going after the conference. We need to encourage speakers to leave their presentations, and provide an area for people to leave comments and questions to speakers. area where people can start the conversation even before the conference. The Facebook page is already preforming this, to some extent. Do we put our energies into making this our official conversation space. Or do we look at something else? I don't think enough people understand how wiki works to make the VIDM wiki our official space, although it has the technological capacity to do it. Here is an example of how another online conference is organised, which is based on Moodle: If we decide to do something separate again, like this example, we will probably need to pay someone.
Do you have any additional thoughts, questions or recommendations?

Monday, June 18, 2012

"Breast is best, but choice is paramount" - a contradiction in terms?

The British Journal of Midwifery has been getting some flack recently because of it's association with an infant formula mild company, Cow and Gate. The concern is that Cow and Gate is breaking the International Code of Marketing of Breast-Milk Substitutes by influencing midwives' practice through providing free professional development. What is especially concerning is that a highly respected midwifery journal is supporting this practice.

Informed choice
The Facebook group  "British Journal of Midwifery- You can't be Serious!" has been highly critical of this, and is campaigning hard for the BJM to withdraw from this partnership. In response to the campaign, Professor Paul Lewis, a British midwife and midwifery academic, has replied in the BJM, with an article entitled "Breast is best but choice is paramount". In it, he says it is vital that midwives are informed about formula feed so they can provide information to women, so that women can make an informed choice about infant feeding.

Devil's advocate
Before I go any further, I have to say that I am not attacking individual women who make the choice to formula feed. What I am interested in, is the political, public health and financial agendas of this story. And I would like to be devil's advocate.

Informed choice is so often used to defend the use of formula feed, despite over-whelming evidence that breastfeeding is far better for babies, has far more health benefits, and ultimately will save the tax payer money (if a baby is healthier, he will not be needing healthcare). Smoking is a similar population health issue. It impacts on the health of the population, and burdens healthcare provision with illness such as cancer and heart disease. Yet, in the case of smoking, people are having their choice taken away from them. Increasingly, the freedom to smoke is being curtailed, with some countries even declaring an aim to be smoke-free in the not-so-distant future. Yet you never hear commentators talking about "informed choice" with regards to smoking.

Let's be honest
Please don't get me wrong...I am not saying women should be forced to breastfeed. But I do wonder if "informed choice" is used by health professionals to meet their own agendas.

All I am asking for is for the British Journal of Midwifery to be honest and say it as it's all about money, and little to do with informed choice.

What do you think?

Paul Lewis. (2012). Breast is best but choice is paramount.  British Journal of Midwifery. Vol 20:6 386-387.

Image: 'me_and_the_twins'

Sunday, June 17, 2012

The Virtual International Day of the Midwife 2012: My personal reflection

Already more than a month has gone since the 4th annual Virtual International Day of the Midwife, and I am only now getting around to reflecting on how the day went. Our final VIDM committee meeting for this year is due any day, so I have had to get organised with a few thoughts about what went well and what I would like to change for next year.


My own personal experience of the day was initially a stressful one. I was on holiday in England, and was making my way up to Liverpool to join my family. We had rented a private house for a couple of days, so I was stressed to the max...worried sick that we'd break down..get lost...the Internet wouldn't work...we'd get caught in bank holiday traffic. This was especially worrying, because I was taking the first block of master facilitation. I needed to get things working well, to get the conference off to a great start.

Out on a limb
My other major concern was how well the technology would hold up. This was the first year we had used Adobe Connect, and it was the weekend with no institutional support. On top of that, I was in the UK with little or no access to the IT team back in New Zealand.

Night shift
Thankfully, everything went like clock work, and I had the best internet connection ever. I did the night shift which meant I didn't miss any time with my family, and was able to rest easy once my "shift" was done because Adobe Connect worked as well as it could. Any problems we had was either due to human error, or internet connection at the users' end, which we had no control over.

Overall reflection
From a personal view I feel that the VIDM is getting better and better each year because we (the VIDM committee) are improving our facilitation skills, and getting better at managing the event. I have been able to hand over some of the work load, which is extremely hard for me to do, seeing as the VIDM has been my baby. Having said that, it is wonderful to see how others are coming on board because they are as excited about this event as I am. It is also gratifying to see that the VIDM is supporting digital capability building, so we're having more and more people with expertise and competence, volunteer to help, which in turn allows me to stand back.

The future?
The immediate future is to research the impact of the VIDM to see if it is a relevant and appropriate means of professional development, and to see what the impacts are on learning outcomes. This is turning into the topic for my EdD research.

As for me, I have said I will facilitate the VIDM for one more year and then hand over to someone else.  Will that "someone else" be you?

In my next post I will take a closer look at the various aspects of the VIDM 2012, and make recommendations for 2013.

Friday, June 15, 2012

LinkedIn Recommendations: narcissistic nonsense or essential feedback?

One of the things I have been advised by James Hacon to do with my LinkedIn page is to gather some recommendations.  Recommendations are not necessarily references, but feedback about your skills and achievements. But do they really work? And, how do you go about getting recommendations?

Why do you need recommendations on your LinkedIn page?
I have to be honest...I have always thought that recommendations were fluff that meant little or nothing, especially when they were other words... "I'll give you a recommendation if you give me one!" 

However, recommendations help to capture the attention of recruiters and future employers. Apparently, the more recommendations you have, the higher up in the searches you will appear.

How do you get recommendations?
The easiest way to to ask for recommendations. Click onto "Profile", and then go to "Recommendations" and then ask your contacts for recommendations. I think it is good manners to explain why you are asking for a recommendation, and even give the person an idea what you are seeking feedback about. It is also inadvisable to send out a blanket request for recommendations to all your contacts, but just to focus on people who know you and your work. Whilst you want to gather recommendations, you need them to be meaningful. It is better to have quality, rather than quantity.  

I have just asked a few people for recommendations, and feel a bit weird about it. But at the same time, I do a lot of "free" stuff for people, so I thinking that in the future I will ask for a recommendation as "payment". It is good practice to seek feedback on one's activities. But if the recommendation is not what you want, you can choose not to publish it. I appreciate that it takes time for someone to do it, so have made a point of thanking the person, and/or writing a reciprocal recommendation, if it is appropriate. 

How to write a recommendation
It is important to think about how you write a recommendation because it will show up on your profile. Be clear what it is you are recommending...a specific activity...skill..or characteristic. Describe how you know the person, and talk about results. Be honest and concise, but don't gush

If someone asks for a recommendation, and you're not sure if you can give one, don't ignore the request...ask the person what exactly they want feedback about. Just be mindful that a recommendation that you have written reflects back on you, just as much as a recommendation that has been written about you.

Do you have any additional thoughts, comments or tips about giving or receiving LinkedIn recommendations? What has been your experience? Has LinkedIn recommendations helped you get a job?

Image: 'What is it that makes a good Real Estate Agent Great?'

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Using LinkedIn to review your career, professional skills and experience

One of the things I have been doing recently is update my LinkedIn account. This process is turning out to be really useful, because if nothing else, it is getting me to think about how I frame up my skills and experience.

How necessary is having a LinkedIn account?
On the whole, I haven't engaged with LinkedIn, other than ponder on its use as an ePortfolio in education. It doesn't seem to be used extensively in New Zealand and Australia, especially in healthcare and education. However, I know it is a "must" if you're looking for work in the UK and USA. (If you want to know more, just google "how to use LinkedIn to find a job").

As I work through the process of updating my LinkedIn account, I have come to realise there are four key things you need to do to make your LinkedIn account effective for job hunting. 

Identify and quantify your skills and experience
The first thing I realised when I looked at my account was how dense it was...very wordy...boring...and very difficult to pick out key skills and achievements.  Yes...I have worked for Otago Polytechnic for 12 years, but it was difficult to see, from a recruiter's point of view, how that work experience could be applied in a more general sense.

So, have a think about your experience, and reflect on your skills. Then, quantify them by telling stories, providing evidence, and asking people to write a recommendation as additional evidence.

Getting the key words right
This flows on from the previous point. You have to find the right words to explain what you can do and offer employers, that capture the attention. One of my key words was "educator", which could mean an hundred things. It didn't tell any one that I use eLearning technologies, that I facilitate webinars, design adult education courses, or run workshops on how to use social media for learning and teaching.  So I am changing my key words to "online facilitator", "instructional designer" and "staff developer".

Work out who you want your audience to be
I have found this to be a lot more difficult than I first thought it would be, because I am not sure what I want my next job to be. If I wanted my next job to be a clinical midwife, then clearly I would emphasise my experience and skills with catching babies.

What you have to remember is recruiters and employers troll through LinkedIn to find potential employees. The challenge is to provide information that will catch a potential employer's attentions so that he/she goes on to engage with you.

Marketing yourself
Be honest, but don't be afraid of singing your own praises. I think a lot of us find this difficult to do. But the reality is, if we keep our light hidden under a bushel, how can we expect anyone to find us?!

The beauty about updating your LinkedIn account is that it is not wasted time or energy. I have found this process has helped me to frame up my skills and experience, which has helped me strengthen my CV and prepare for interviews. It has also helped me become a lot clearer in my mind about what I want to do when I grow up!

In my next post, I'll pass on a few tips that I have recently learned about LinkedIn Recommendations - are they narcissistic nonsense or essential feedback? 

Image: 'James, I think your cover's blown!'

Tuesday, June 12, 2012


The main focus of my life at the moment is the disestablishment of the team I work in - the Educational Development Centre at Otago Polytechnic, Dunedin, New Zealand. I work 0.5 in the team as a program developer which means I support teachers to look at their courses and programs, and support them to make changes, or develop new ideas. I do some technical support with Moodle.....teach in the Graduate Certificate of Tertiary Learning and workshops on how to use social media for learning and teaching....and any other bits and pieces that comes through the door.

EDC as a whole is being re-organised into three separate units which I think is a good idea. It will allow a much more focused approach to staff and program development. The downside for us, as a team, is we have to apply for the new jobs or take redundancy.

My initial reaction was shock...I think that is only natural when you are faced with redundancy. However, now I have had time to reflect, I am thinking this is a great opportunity to review what I have been doing for the last few years, do a skills and experience stock-take, and think about my future direction.

It's time for a change....

“20 years from now you will be disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the one’s you did. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” -Mark Twain

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Petal goes on a diet

On Monday I went into Second Life (SL) for the first time in ages. This was to give a talk about midwifery in New Zealand, and the Virtual Birthing Unit to the Department of Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies at The Ohio State University.

It's all about appearances
When I arrived, I got a very nasty shock. Petal, my avatar, had changed! She was slim! I had forgotten that I had "loaned" her to a student midwife, who had changed her from her usual cuddly self to a slim Petal.

Petal changes
This leaves me in a bit of a quandary.

 On the one hand, slim Petal doesn't feel and look a bit like the old Petal. Old Petal was short and fat. She was fun. She reflected who I felt like in real life. She was also making a statement. She wasn't going to be tall, blonde, slim with big boobs, and look exactly like the other avatars in SL.

 The new Petal
On the other hand, the new Petal is slim. But so am I, now that I have lost four stones in weight. But somehow she feels and looks bland. She lost that certain something that makes her special. Indeed, a little while ago a colleague remarked to me that she missed the old Petal.

What does this all say about identity?
So the question I leave Petal as she is, reflecting my new "real life" image? Or do I put her back to how she was? And what does all this say about how I see myself, and how I regard my identity?

 I love the new "real me". I look and feel so much better now I have lost weight. But I am afraid I don't like the new, slim Petal quite so much...I cannot relate to her... so she's going back to be short and fat again!

Do you have any kind of avatar, or image that you use to represent yourself anywhere, like Second Life, Facebook or Twitter? What does that avatar or image say about you? How often do you change it, and why?

Friday, June 8, 2012

How do you use Facebook for learning and teaching?

The other day I asked my friends on Facebook how they used it for learning and teaching.

Here are their responses (I especially love the response from my sister, Catherine!)

How do you use Facebook?

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Telling stories with Storify

I am having a lot of fun playing with Storify at the moment. This is an online tool that allows me to bring together websites, tweets from Twitter, Facebook updates etc to tell an online story. 

It uses 'drag and paste' functionality which is extremely easy to use. And better still, you can use a Storify book mark that sits in your browser to capture items to put in your story line (sorry, not easy to you go and have a play yourself to see what I'm trying to say).

At the moment, I have only used it to capture conversations on Twitter but am sure it can be used more extensively. 

Have you used Storify? What do you use it for?

Image: 'Reading Time'

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

How real do you want your TV birth and midwifery?

One of my pet hates is how birth and midwives are portrayed on TV. You know what I'm talking about. The pregnant woman suddenly gasps...she lets out a scream and then the baby is born.

Or, the baby nearly dies, but doesn't ...thank goodness...because the doctor and fancy hospital equipment is there to save it!

I shall never forget one episode of American drama...ER, I think...The doctor was in remote place in the depth of the American swamp land, and visiting a pregnant woman at home, who was in labour. The baby was breech (bottom coming first) which the doctor perceived as a life-threatening situation. Panic stations were put on high alert because the doctor didn't know how to "deliver" a breech baby. But never fear...he had his lap top with him...and was able to "google" how to deliver a breech baby, and all was well!

So it is always with some trepidation that I start to watch TV programs related to birth and midwifery.

I'm delighted to say that I am enjoying "Call the midwife", which is a TV series based on the books written by midwife Jennifer Worth. The series tells the story of Jennifer's life as a midwife in the mid 1950s in the East End of London.

Of course, I cannot help myself...I can't help but watch out for the authenticity of story lines, and midwifery details. The midwifery adviser to the program is Terri Coates (who I used to work with many years ago in the UK), so I know things will be pretty much spot on. But even so, I was interested in one episode that had the midwives measuring a pregnant abdomen in centimetres to ascertain how far on in pregnancy the woman was - this was not a small detail, but reasonably important to the plot.

 I was rather surprised by this because decimalisation didn't come into use in the UK until the early 1970s. And my 1982 "Mayes Midwifery" (which was my bible when I was a student midwife in 1984), says nothing about measuring pregnant abdomens with tape measures. When I was a student, we were taught to use our fingers in relation to the umbilicus.

I had a great conversation on Twitter about this, which included one of the actors who plays the local GP, Stephen McGann. He has written a very interesting blog post about the issues of authenticity on TV : Honest Labour. I agree with him when he says that for all the adherence to authenticity, "Call the midwife" is still a drama, and its focus is to engage the audience and tell a story.

As for me, what this program (and the ensuing Twitter conversation) has done, has got me reflecting on what I do, why I do it, and what were the origins of that action. Is the activity based on research evidence, or has it become so engrained in practice that it has become folk much so that we cannot even remember, or trace back to when and why it started?

As for measuring the pregnant abdomen with tape centimetres...I think it came into practice in the late 1980s/early 1990s. If you know any more than that, I'd love to hear about it.

Image: '... holding her head on'

Monday, June 4, 2012

A broken promise

I am afraid I have to admit I have broken a promise that I made a couple of years ago.

Exactly two years ago I promised that I would only submit articles for publication in open access journals. The reason for this was that I am very committed to making research openly and freely available to everyone, especially colleagues who live in resource-poor countries. But the reality has been more difficult that I thought it would be.

Over the last nine months I have submitted five articles to six journals for publication. One was flatly refused, so I submitted it to another journal.
  • One article has just been published in the Australasian Journal of Educational Technology:  On the MUVE or in decline: Reflecting on the sustainability of the Virtual Birth Centre developed in Second Life. This journal was chosen because it is open access, and because it was calling for articles about Second Life, so the timing for submission was fortuitous.
  • One article has been published in the International Nursing Review: International networking: connecting midwives through social media. This journal is not open access, but the article is freely available at the moment. 
  • Another article about the Virtual International Day of the Midwife has been accepted by the Nurse Education in Practice, subject to changes - we're still waiting to hear what the outcome is about this article. This is not an open access journal, but was chosen because it best suited the article.
  • The fourth article about my e-mentoring project with aged care has been submitted to the Health Informatics New Zealand journal. I am waiting to hear if this has been accepted or not. This is an open access journal.
  • My last article has been submitted Women and Birth, and I am waiting to hear if it is accepted or not. This is the only "quality" open access midwifery journal that I am aware of.
Why it is difficult to publish in open access journals
There are several reasons why it has been difficult to publish in open access journals. The main reason is because there are so few suitable, quality open access journals for midwives and nurses to publish research. This is concerning for me as a midwifery academic, especially in view of the pressure put on me to publish in "top rated" journals. I want to support open access journals, but at the same time, I have to think about my academic career progression, which highly driven by publications, as far as universities are concerned.

I have also turned down requests to write opinion pieces in magazine-type journals, which  are not open access. But I do wonder if I have shot myself in the foot by taking this decision. If the greater midwifery audience reads these types of journals, how can I get any message across if I do not engage with them? How do you balance deeply held beliefs with every day pragmatics? 

The future?
For all my angst, I think the future is looking very good for open access journal publication. Only the other day, Harvard announced it is encouraging its staff to publish in open access journals because it cannot afford the incredibly expensive journal subscriptions it pays. Another glimmer of hope is the Australian Health Research Council has mandated that any research it funds must be made freely available within a year of publication, as from July 2012.

As for nursing and midwifery, the time is ripe to start exploring how to support open access research publication. Any ideas?

Image: 'Broken Rusty Lock: Security (grunge)'

Saturday, June 2, 2012

What do you love about Twitter?

I was talking about Twitter in a workshop yesterday, and asked my followers what they loved about Twitter. This was to demonstrate how Twitter worked in real time, but also get a sense of why people use Twitter.

Using Storify, I have amalgamated all the responses.

If you use Twitter, what do you love about it?