Thursday, May 11, 2017

What do you get out of being a volunteer?

I have the privilege of working for the Australian College of Midwives, and a lot of the work we do would be impossible without the legions of volunteers we have who help us out, from being a board Director to providing us with feedback for our submissions.

This week is National Volunteer Week, and we've been running a campaign at the ACM to thank everyone who works with us. I had my arm twisted to make a short video, promoting volunteering for the ACM - if you want to have a look, but I wouldn't recommend it! - you can see it here on the ACM Facebook page

This got me thinking about my volunteer work over the years and I have to be honest, I haven't done as much as I should have. Nevertheless, I am proud of what I achieved with the Virtual International Day of the Midwife, which is still going strong and just had its ninth year. And the Midwifery Evidenced-Based MOOC was another achievement that I am extremely proud of. Both activities have been about my passion for supporting the professional development and education of midwives, at home and in developing countries.

More recently, I have been a Board Director at the Canberra YWCA and am now on the inaugural executive committee of the complex of apartments I have just moved into. As much as I have volunteered for these activities and others for altruistic reasons, ultimately I have gained more in terms of learning and professional growth than I feel I have given. 

But that's the joy of get as much out of it as you put in. 

Do you volunteer? What do you do and why? What have you gained from your volunteer work?

Thursday, April 20, 2017

10 years of open access - a Slideshare case study

I have been passionate about open access and open access education for many years, and have been committed to sharing my content using creative commons licenses; allowing people to download and re-use, for over 10 years. So I have decided it is timely to review the responses to my online content, using Slideshare as my case study.

What is Slideshare?
Slideshare is a platform whereby you can upload and share PowerPoint presentations; it is similar to YouTube for videos. I published my first presentation on the 4th October, 2007 and as of the 16th April 2017, there are:
  • 76 uploads, with
  • 289,699 total views, and
What presentations are most popular?
The 10 top presentations with the most views can be found in Table 1. These statistics are based on the Slideshare analytics on April 16th 2017. 

Table 1. Top 10 views

However, the number of views isn't necessary helpful because you would expect the longer a presentation has been published, the more views it would receive. So to get a better sense of what presentations are more popular, I divided  the views of each presentation by the number of days it had been published to find out how many views a day each presentation had received, in Table 2.

Table 2. Top 10 views per day

Which presentation is most useful?
Views are one thing, but what I am really interested in is how useful my presentations are to the wider community. To measure that, I have looked at the total number of downloads of each presentation – my 10 top download loads can be seen in Table 3.

Table 3. Top 10 downloads 

As with the total number of views, the total number of downloads is skewed by the number of days each presentation has been published. Therefore, I looked at the number of views of per download, with the theory that the smaller the number of views per download, the more "useful" a presentation is. In my mind, a presentation that has 1000 views with 10 downloads is more “useful” than a presentation with 10,000 views and only one download.

Table 4. Top 10 must useful presentation (number of views per download)
You will see with both views and downloads that the picture changes a little when you drill down to views per day and views per download. For example, 'My midwifery philosophy' is in the Top 10 list for most views, but it is 'Introduction to midwifery documentation' that is in the list for most views per day, which is arguably the more accurate measurement. That being said, the presentations that were in all four lists were, which makes them, in my mind, my most popular and useful:
  • Intravenous cannulation
  • Amniotic embolism
  • What is evidence-based midwifery?
The topics of presentations that appeared in both of the two top views lists were the above, plus:
  • How to prepare a portfolio
  • Journaling and reflective practice
  • Types of reflection
  • Social media, birth and midwives
The theme starting to emerge here is reflective practice and midwifery. This surprises me on the one hand because I would have thought that people, especially midwifery students, would be able to access information about reflective practice from textbooks and course materials. On the other hand, reflective practice is a core principle of midwifery education, so I am making an assumption (but have no proof) that a lot of people accessing these presentations are midwifery students or involved in education.

What does this tell me?
To be honest, I cannot conclude anything much from this exercise because of the small numbers. However, it is interesting that my most popular presentations have a midwifery focus, as opposed to a more general teaching and learning. 

The questions I am left with are:
  • Does the number of views make a presentation more popular, or number of downloads?
  • Who are the people downloading my presentations?
  • Why do people download presentations?What happens to the presentations?
  • Should I endeavour to meet the apparent needs of the audience based on statistical analytics eg if it appears that clinical topics are most viewed and downloaded, should I deliberately publish presentations that address those topics, as opposed to the approach I have taken thus far which is to just publish presentation I give at conferences, tutorials, lectures etc. 
  • How does open education/access theory stack up 10 years or more down the line, when looking back at the reality of open content?
What is next?
The next activity I plan is to drill down more into the analytics of the downloads to find out what, if anything, that tells me. Depending on the quality of information I find via Slideshare, one idea worth exploring may be to contact the people who downloaded my presentations with a short survey to find out more about the whys and wherefores.

Do you have a Slideshare account? What are your most popular or most viewed presentations? Is there any other information I should look at to inform my research? Have you ever downloaded one of my presentations? Why, and what did you do with it?  

Monday, April 17, 2017

Three benefits to starting the day with standing meetings

A couple of weeks ago, I asked the team I work with if we could pilot the idea of starting the day with quick, 5 - 10 minute standing meetings. I am been pleasantly surprised with how well received they have been, and some of the unforeseen benefits that have materialised.

Standing meetings
The idea of of a stand up meeting is that it is quick and to the point, because standing around for too long becomes uncomfortable and stops people going off the point, or lapsing into gossip sessions. Of course, you do need to pay attention to people who, for whatever reason, cannot stand and make other arrangements.
What do you talk about
In standing meetings, participants are asked to talk about:
  • what they want to achieve during the day
  • what the barriers are
  • and what they'd like to acknowledge or celebrate in terms of success or achievement from the previous day/s.
Benefits of stand-up meetings
This idea has been around for some time, and has been considered a useful strategy for team building, reducing time wasted in pointless seated meetings, and getting people away from their desks.

Outcomes I have discovered
In the short time we have been trying out standing meeting to start the day, I have found:
  • We start the day as a group of people connecting with each other, rather than rushing into our various offices and not speaking to anyone for hours on end.
  • As manager, I have a better understanding of what is going on for people so I can focus on who needs support, and what form that support may take. I also have a better understanding of what people are achieving across the organisation as a whole, and have been enjoying learning all sorts of things about people's work that I never knew.
  • We have an opportunity to brain storm together and share ideas across the whole team. I have been delighted with how everyone has pulled together to share solutions to problems, so there has been cross-pollination across units, and everyone has a voice.
  • We feel an accountability, and therefore motivation to complete work. In other words, if we say we're going to do something but we don't do it, then we have to explain the next day to the team. That sounds a little scary, but team members have actually felt it to be a benefit to their work management, which has come as a bit of a surprise to me.
  • We enjoy celebrating the small successes we have with each other as we complete activities or overcome barriers.
  • This has been a great way to get to know new members to the team and introduce them to life in the office.
What I would like to explore in the future is the effectiveness of walking meetings.

Do you have standing meetings at your place of work? How effective do you find them? What are your tips and tricks for successful standing meetings?


Saturday, April 15, 2017

My PLE - reflecting on the last 10 years

About 10 years ago I became very interested in the use of social media for personal and professional teaching and learning, as well as development and networking. Over the years, as a clinical midwife, midwifery lecturer and eventually instructional designer and staff developer, I have charted my use of online technology and changes in my personal learning environment (PLE). I am just starting a project where I am looking back on the last ten years of open access education and all the concepts that interlink. So it's timely to reflect back on the evolution of my own PLE over the last 10 years.

I tracked my use of online technology for teaching and learning from 2008 to 2011. I haven't posted about it since then, probably because my job changed from working in education to industry, which raises an issue about relevance and applicability that I will come back to later.


In 2008, my blog and e-portfolio (which was hosted in a wiki) was the central point of my PLE, with tools such as Delicious, Wikispaces, Wikipedia and RSS hovering around the edges. I was talking about my blog being the central point of my PLE where I was doing all my thinking, recording and analysis, which resulted in outputs which I displayed in my e-portfolio. However, there was no sign of Facebook, Twitter or other social media tools.

2009 saw the appearance of Facebook, Twitter (more prominent than Facebook), and the virtual world, Second Life.
 My blog was still central but stating to drop off because of time constraints. Slideshare and Youtube were used heavily as alternative places to find information for my teaching, as well as display and share content.


The comment I had to make in 2010 was that my use of tools depended on the work I was doing. For example, Second Life had dropped from the PLE because I was no longer using it in my work. But that in itself is telling, because if it was worthy of use, I would have continued to use it even after my Second Life project had completed. Other tools had dropped off just because they were no longer available such as iGoogle and RSS. Facebook was growing in importance, as a means of networking and sharing information, and I was using tools like Animoto and Screenr to produce content for teaching and so on. I was also using wiki in various form to facilitate online collaboration. 


The last analysis of my PLE was in 2011 when I felt that my core tools remained much the same ie blog, e-portfolio, Facebook, Twitter, Slideshare, Youtube, Skype. However, the number of tools had reduced and I concluded that if a tool wasn't simple and intuitive, then I would not use it.


As I reflect over the last six years, I see that there are two major changes immediately noticeable.
  • My PLE has divided, like cell mitosis into two domains: desk top computer/lap top and mobile phone. As you can see, there are tools and activities that cross both domains such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Skype. But, there are other tools and activities that I use specific to a particular domain, not necessarily because they cannot cross into the other domain, but I choose not to use it. For example, I don't use Dropbox on my phone because it's a tool I use mostly for work; as my phone is my personal phone, I don't access work materials on it.
  • The second big change is that Facebook is now the hub of my PLE, with my blog, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn integrated into it. This is a complete change from before when my blog and wiki e-portfolio were the hub. I do not use wiki at the moment, and LinkedIn now acts as my e-portfolio.
As tools, apps and platforms have moved in and out of favour, there are a few that have remained my 'tried and true' favorites such as Slideshare, Flickr and YouTube.  I think this is testament to their usability, compared to other platforms that have been 'sparkly' in the short term but have faded from favour. But the range and use of tools may also reflect my own job. For instance, now I am not teaching, I am not using the tools that helped me to develop content. Similarly, BlackBoard and BlackBoard Collaborate are only in my PLE at the moment because that is where/how my MBA is being delivered.

The other thing that has changed, but might not be quite so obvious to people passing by, is that there is a lot less blurring of use across the platforms. For the most part each tool and platform has its specific target, audience, or place in my learning; Linkedin and Slideshare has professional uses; Facebook is mostly personal; Instagram is where I connect with the local Canberra community. Skype and YouTube  are the two main tools that cross over both personal and professional spaces. And as for my blog, I have just started blogging again after a time away, so not sure how that's going to go.

This is the start of a bigger project where I want to look at how my content has been accessed and used over the last 10 years, in relation to open access and open education. I think its going to be a very interesting journey.

How has your PLE changed over the years? Do you still blog or use wiki? How big a place in your learning does Facebook play? What the latest new tool that has come out that you love? Is the PLE such a thing, or just  trendy term that we used back in the day?

PS: If you're interested in tracking your use of social media and online tools over the years against the global trends, have a look at Jane Hart's Top Tools for Learning Lists which she has been amalgamating since 2007. 

Friday, April 7, 2017

The dark...where no one can see what you do *cue spooky music!

I am a fabulous dancer....a cross between Ginger Rogers, Margot Fonteyn, and the latest winner of "So you think you can dance"...or at least.... I am in my head!

The sad truth is that I am crap at dancing. I hear rhythm in my head, but somehow there is a break down in the message between my brain and the rest of my body, which means my coordination with the music is rubbish.
Like, I had ballroom dance lessons with my hubby and did my back in. Another time my daughter took me to Zumba classes but ended up banning me from going again because I ran over a beautiful little disabled lady at the back of the class - my daughter says she's never been so embarrassed....until the next terrible thing I did!

But this week I was thrilled, because my daughter gave me one last chance and took me to "No lights, no lycra", in Reid, Canberra. I have to admit to being rather nervous, but it turns out that it's a dance class that you do completely in the dark. The good news is you do keep your clothes on! AND, it's only 5 bucks!

I absolutely loved this dance class. I was able to release my inner wild child and dance my crazy moves which I think is innovative choreography, but daughter calls mortifying. To be completely uninhibited and not worry what anyone thinks is truly liberating. Plus, I got a great work out.

To all you people out there, or at least in Canberra, if you fancy a boogy-on-down, a bit of exercise, or just an hour of fun, I can't recommend the class enough: Wednesday evenings, 7:30-9pm, at St John's Church Hall in Reid - $5 on the door. Check out the details on the Facebook page here.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

What are your tips and tricks for getting "back to midwifery basics"?

I am on the editorial committee of the Australian Midwifery News and we're looking for articles for the next edition which has "back to midwifery basics" as its theme. The deadline for submission to the editor is the 10th April, but I am sure that can be negotiated if you would be interested in submitting an article.

This has got me thinking about what I would say about how to get back to midwifery basics.

There are lots of things, especially clinical tips and tricks, that I could talk about, but I feel they all lead back to four key 'back to midwifery basics' principles:

If you are a midwife, what do you feel we should be "getting back" to? If you are a pregnant woman, what "basics" do you believe midwives should be focusing on?

Image: Chlot's Run

Monday, April 3, 2017

A new, free e-portfolio for midwives and nurses

For years now I have been exploring and experimenting with online systems to develop a universal e-portfolio for midwives and nurses that they could use from day one of their undergraduate education; for the rest of their careers.

I would have loved to have seen this come via the profession or (with a little hesitation) the regulator. However, this vision has not materialized, not least because of funding constraints.

So, it was with great interest that I have had a look at a new e-portfolio tool provided free of charge to Australian midwives and nurses by Ausmed. Ausmed is a company that specialises in nurse (and midwifery) CPD, providing online education, conferences and e-news update.
The Ausmed tool is very easy to use and can be downloaded as an app on one's portable device, as well as a web-based application. Portability is a very desirable function as it allows midwives and nurses to record their CPD and learning activities in real time, which facilitates greater accuracy and engagement. I know that I forget to record what I have learned after a study day etc, and am much less motivated to engage with my portfolio as time goes by. So being able to record on the job, so to speak,  makes life much easier, especially when it comes to meeting registration requirements for the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia (NMBA).
What I like about this tool is you can record activities other than the standard conference or study day, such as reading or mentoring, as well as reflect on your learning.  
You are able to upload documents, such as attendance certificates, as evidence of your learning and activities. There is also an ability to download a report as a pdf. 
As well as recording activities, the app allows you to develop a learning plan, which is the other component of the NMBA CPD requirement. 
The other thing I like is a section called "Fast CPD" which has short articles focused on particular topics of interest that update or teach. The only snag is that there are very little articles of relevance to midwives - hopefully that will be rectified soon.
The other cool thing the app does is keep a track of CPD hours and lets you know how many hours you must record in order to meet NMBA requirements, and how many more days you have to meet the requirement before the end of the registration year. 

My concerns about this innovation is that it is managed by a commercial company, who clearly say in their Privacy Policy that they will use your information for purposes such as analytics, marketing and research. They even say in their Privacy Policy that they may "disclose your personal information to overseas recipients for the purposes of providing services or products to you". I would be very careful about information I save in the app/tool, and especially careful about disclosing information relating to patients, clients or healthcare.  
Ausmed does say "Please contact Ausmed using the information contained at the bottom of the Ausmed Websites, our emails, and this Privacy Policy to restrict Ausmed's collection, disclosure and use of your Personal Information." This 'opt out' system is designed so that we are unlikely to do so; again, my advice is to very carefully read and consider the Privacy Policy and its impact on you as a health professional. 
I would also carefully read all the terms and conditions because I am not clear about the IP of content stored in the e-portfolio. The terms and condition say "grant us a perpetual, non-exclusive, royalty-free, irrevocable, worldwide and transferable right and licence to use that content in any way". This needs to be clarified by Ausmed.

Other questions I have that I will check out with Ausmed include:
  • Where are the servers that keep our information? Are they in Australia liable to Australian laws, or overseas?
  • What are Ausmed's long term plans for the app? Will it remain free, or will a fee be introduced soon?
  • How often are backups carried out? What are the chances that data will be lost? 
  • Is there a limit to the amount of data that can be uploaded into an entry?
In conclusion, the Ausmed CPD organiser, or e-portfolio looks like a very easy and relevant tool for midwives and nurses. However, it is being offered by a commercial company, so it's worth being aware that there will be something in it for Ausmed, and think about how that may impact on your professional practice.