Friday, November 30, 2007

Off to Singapore

Well, I'm off to Singapore first thing tomorrow morning to go to The Australian Society of Use of Computers in Education (ASCILITE) Conference. I am also going to be catching up with a friend who is a local Singapore person, and she's going to show me around. I cannot wait to see sides of Singapore that I would not see as a tourist.

I'm sure I'll be able to keep up with my blogging and email because there appears to be wireless Internet everywhere in contrast to the recruitment conference I went to a couple of weeks ago. I'm really looking forward to going to this conference; I am hoping to learn a lot more theory and research about e-learning as well as look at the practical applications for the midwifery program I teach in. Will let you know how I get on.

Image: 'Skyline at Night'

Midwifery in New Zealand

Here is the slide show I presented at my first online meeting about midwifery in New Zealand.

Midwifery research in New Zealand

Tonight I gave a very short presentation about midwifery research in New Zealand at an online midwifery meeting that I organized.

I would say that midwifery research is in its infancy in New Zealand. There have been a number of fabulous small projects going on, many of them as a result of postgraduate education programs at Masters and PhD level. The research at PhD level, to my knowledge, covers fetal monitoring in labour, mentoring, e-mentoring and rural midwifery. I am sure there is more going on, but I am just not aware of it.

The New Zealand College of Midwives developed the Joan Donley Research Collaboration a few years ago. At the moment it facilitates a bi-annual research forum and provides small postgraduate grants, but has the long term aim of being the focus point of midwifery research in New Zealand.

Nevertheless, we have a number of challenges to face, not least that we are a very small profession and funding is very difficult to come by. Major funding from the New Zealand Health Research Council tends to go to medical projects. The majority of midwifery researchers are 'new' researchers and still building a research history.

So I personally see the way forward is through collaboration, not just within New Zealand but overseas. As a new researchers, I think it is prudent for us to become involved in team research so that we can develop research platforms and histories.

I'd love to hear from you if you are a midwifery researcher or researching topics of interest to midwives, whether you are based in New Zealand or overseas. How do you feel about my summary of midwifery research in New Zealand? What do you see as the future for midwifery research globally? How can we strengthen midwifery research? Any personal tips for me as a 'new' researcher?

Here is my slide show on Slideshare.
Here is a recording of my presentation and the short discussion that followed.

Image: 'Midwife taking stock'

The outcome of the online midwifery research meeting

Tonight I had the second of my ad hoc online meetings for midwives. This meeting had a research focus. As a PhD candidate, I feel quite isolated at times. My research supervisors are both in Australia as are my fellow students who are involved in e-health research. There are a number of midwives in New Zealand who are carrying out PhD research but I do not ever see them as they are in different parts of the country. I co-founded a PhD support group at Otago Polytechnic, but that has virtually folded. So I really miss that sense of fellowship that is generated when a group of students/researchers get together to support each other and exchange information.

I have been particularly envious of midwives who have been able to attend research groups that have been organized in the UK, especially as those midwives are able to 'access' midwifery researchers who are leaders in the profession, not just in the UK but also internationally. So this is the rationale for organizing an online meeting - to increase access to information, support, networking and collaboration that those of us who work in isolation would not normally have.

This is a good idea in theory, and there has been interest expressed in this concept, but sadly only one other person turned up to the meeting. We had a great chat about our research and have plans to collaborate on several projects after Christmas, although we will probably use Skype for our personal communication.

So why have my two online midwifery meetings been relatively unsuccessful?

I think the key reason is that midwives are still relatively unfamiliar with online tools - they lack the confidence to 'give it a go', especially with the level of computer skills required to use Elluminate. Having said that, my colleague who joined me tonight calls herself a technophobe, and she found the session relatively easy to access.

Midwives also have to see the benefit of this form of engagement. Life is extremely busy and stressful at the best of times. So unless there is a clear benefit to the midwife, then it is unlikely she/he is going to take the time out to attend such a meeting. No doubt access to computers can also be problematic. Maybe, the timing is bad being that it is very near to Christmas?

So where to from here? Is this worth pursuing - is it worth me putting energy into organizing regular meetings next year or should I drop it for the time being? Is this something midwives are interested in and have the time to engage with? If I pursue it, what should I make the focus - midwifery in general or midwifery research?

If I pursued this and planned monthly meetings, I think I would use the same format that Leigh Blackall does with his online meetings - 10 minutes presentation and then open discussion. How would you feel abut taking part and giving your time to give a presentation, especially if there was no payment?

So there a few questions and issues to mull over. I would really welcome any thoughts, comments or volunteers to be a speaker next year!

Reference: Stewart, S. 2006. Delivering the goods: Midwives use of the Internet. In M. Murero & R. Rice (Eds.) The Internet and Healthcare. Mahwah, Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Image: 'meeting adjourned'

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Midwife shortage in Wellington, New Zealand

Apparently, there is such a midwife shortage in Wellington that women are being 'bribed' to go home straight after birth.

In some ways, that's not such a bad idea. Post natal wards are notorious for providing conflicting advice to new mothers, especially about breastfeeding. And there's the risk of infection, lack of privacy and inconvenience of being away from home and family, which is accentuated if home is some distance away from the birthing facility.

In New Zealand, we have a post natal follow up system of at least five midwifery home visits, up to six weeks post partum - this is set out in the Section 88 Maternity Notice 2007 which is the document that prescribes what services lead maternity carers/midwives must provide . Many midwives carry out far more than five visits.

As a practicing midwife, I am very keen to get women home as soon as possible because I believe it is easier for them to bond with their babies at home. This can require a significant commitment from me, especially if the woman is having breastfeeding problems and needs me to provide frequent home visits to support her feeding.

But in the end the choice must be the woman's. If she has little or no back up at home, or if she has had a difficult birth, she may be better off staying in hospital for a few days. A $100 food voucher is a poor exchange for a woman who is unable to breastfeed due to lack of midwifery support. What do you think - should there be a minimum stay in hospital following the birth of a baby?

Suffice to say, the underpinning problem of the shortage of midwives is concerning. I am convinced that one way to go is to offer free undergraduate education to women to encourage them to become midwives. What would encourage you to become a midwife? If you are a midwife, what do you see as the problems that threaten retention?

Reference: Chapter 45. Mother and Baby: A guide to effective in pregnancy and childbirth. 2000. Murray Enkin, Marc J.N.C. Keirse, James Neilson, Caroline Crowther, Lelia Duley, Ellen Hodnett and Justus Hofmeyr. Oxford University Press.

Image: 'Wie ben jij?'

My online identity: progress!

I have been working on developing an online identity for a couple of months now. I have material on FlickR, Slideshare and Facebook as well as this blog. When I started out I had an online identity score of 0. Now it is a grand total of 3! I'm coming up in the world!

Image: 'Miss Marple'

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Does your control freak need liberating?

I really love this slide show because I think it epitomizes where I want to go with regards to my presentation style - lots of fabulous images backed up with minimal but relevant text. The show is called 'How to liberate your control freaks' authored by Stephens Collins.

Reminder: Online Midwifery Research Meeting

This is a reminder that the next online midwifery meeting is being held tomorrow - Thursday 29th November at 10pm New Zealand time (London Thursday 29th 9am UCT/GMT). Check here to see the time where you live - Time Zone.

This meeting is going to be focused on research and is open to anyone interested in midwifery research, especially postgraduate students and their supervisors. This is an opportunity for researchers, especially students to network and share information about their research. This is particularly aimed at midwives who are studying/researching in an isolated context. The meeting will also be of interest to anyone who wants to get experience of using online meeting software, in particular Elluminate.

The meeting will start with a very brief overview of midwifery research in New Zealand and then will be open to general discussion about whatever interests and benefits participants.

Check here for more detailed instructions. I will be online a couple of hours before hand so if you have any queries please contact me by email: sarahstewart07(at)

or Skype:
sarah.m.stewart or sarahstewart07(at)

Be there or be square!

Image: 'Cat volume computation'

Virtual role play in midwifery education

As I have mentioned before, I am off to the ASCILITE conference in Singapore on Saturday. One of the workshops I have registered for is about using role play in education. People who know me will attest to the fact that I am a real drama queen so this form of learning/teaching really appeals to me.

I have used it in class for getting ideas across for example, asking students to act out a scenario about a midwife giving information to a woman in a way that facilitates informed choice. I have always found it to be a fun class activity, although I know it does not appeal to all students. But virtual role play is something very new to me.

The first thing of note is that the workshop facilitators are using BlackBoard as a platform for this. I am finding this quite a challenge because there is heaps of information and it has taken me some time to work out where it all is and where it fits. I would love to try out SecondLife for this sort of activity - I bet it works really well.

The second thing that has struck me is how much preparation and thought has to be carried out by the facilitators behind the scenes. I would imagine that if you do not put enough thought and preparation into an activity like this, it will be a real disaster. Yet at the same time, if you overload students they will not engage with it.

Anyway, the scenario I am involved in is one about plagiarism and the development of a policy in a university. There is concern that it is on the rise, especially amongst foreign students. I am the rep for foreign students and I have to defend their position and make sure the new plagiarism policy does not discriminate against them. I am just getting my head around this so will let you know how I get on.

I would love to hear from anyone who uses role play, virtual or otherwise in their teaching. What have you found to be the advantages and/or disadvantages? Do you have tips about it from the facilitators point of view? How have you used SecondLife for role play? How have you incorporated assessment in role play? If you are a student, what have your experiences been?

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Using key words to increase visits to your blog

According to Google Keyword Analysis, 'midwife' and 'mentoring' are the top most searched terms compared to terms like midwifery, midwifery education, mentor, mentoring programs, peer mentoring. From now on I am going to have to think about how I can incorporate those terms into my post titles so that people have a greater chance of finding me.

Umm... that's going to test my ability for lateral thinking! Any suggestions will be gratefully received.

Image: 'Rusty Old Key'

Sharing the 'personal you' on your blog

Those of you who know me and have been following this blog know that I have spent some time angsting about how personal I make this blog. Here is a blog entry by Jeff Jarvis on this very subject: How personal should a blog be?

The ASCILITE Mentoring Program

Image: 'One Of These Buttons Will Get Me Out Of Here'

At the end of last year I became a member of The Australasian Society for Computers in Learning in Tertiary Education. As a midwifery educator, I have been very conscious that I approach my job from a midwifery perspective rather than an educational one. So I joined ASCILITE as one of my strategies to get to know more about e-learning on a more generic level, not just pertaining to midwifery education. A further aim for joining was to network and 'meet' e-learning experts.

At the beginning of the year, I was accepted into the ASCILITE mentoring program. One of my aims for this year and the next couple of years is to improve my academic writing and increase my publications in international, peer-reviewed journals. I have had a number of articles published in midwifery press, but I felt that I should also be looking to publish in educational press, especially as my PhD research has an education focus; looking at the life-long learning and professional development of health professionals. So I was allocated a mentor who has a strong background in education and academic writing.

My second aim for applying to this mentoring program was to experience being a mentee first-hand. I have been a mentor in many guises over the years but this is the first time I have been formally identified as a mentee. I thought it was important to see things from the mentee's perspective, especially as the situation I have been placed in replicates that of my own research participants ie building a constructive relationship with a stranger, mainly using electronic communication.

We started our relationship with a brief face-to-face meeting where we identified our aims and the roles we would both take in fulfilling the aims. Ensuing communication was by email. We talked about using Skype but never got around to using it. Our aim was to write a 7000 word academic paper about designing an e-mentoring system. The paper would be submitted for presentation at the annual ASCILITE conference in Singapore, December 2007. One of the benefits of the mentoring award is that I have free registration to the conference. The paper was accepted and I am looking forward to heading off to Singapore next week courtesy of my dear husband who gifted me his air miles!

Image: 'Literary cat'

On reflection, I have had a number of important insights during this process about me as a learner, the e-mentoring process and electronic communication (computer mediated communication (CMC)). Firstly, I am a terrible procrastinator but I have to be 'allowed' to get to things in my time. Only then will I produce good work. This is my style of learning and on the whole it has worked for me. But it does not work when you are collaborating with other people, especially when you have tight time frames. So I must thank my mentor for being extremely patient with me; a necessary skill to being a mentor, I would say.

The second insight backs up everything that is
said about formal mentoring coupled with CMC. It is difficult developing an electronic relationship with someone you do not know, especially if you do not meet them regularly face-to-face. But having said that, it is possible to do. We had a concrete aim and have achieved that as colleagues. I would not say that we have built a deep, meaningful personal relationship but then again, that was not an aim of this exercise. It does take commitment from both sides and both parties must take responsibility for persevering at relationship building.

I did a reasonable amount of avoidance, which is easy to do electronically. I ran behind schedule, not doing as I was supposed to do. I became embarrassed about that and did even more avoidance which only made matters worse. I also see this behavior in my PhD research participants. My personal experience casts some light onto why people do not engage with electronic relationships, which reinforces the importance of some sort of e-moderator, as outlined by Gilly Salmon. Having a supporter or motivator external to the mentoring dyad has been shown to be very effective, far more so than leaving the participants to find their way by themselves. If I was having trouble, how much more are my research participants who are far less computer literate than me? A very important point for me to remember.

My mentor was able to cast an educational light onto my work, whereas I came from a health perspective which focuses much more on the clinical context of practice. I believe that both of us have benefited from learning about each other's views and theories. I am certainly a lot more informed about educational concepts such as communities of practice and social networking. The frustrating thing about this is that I wish I had this knowledge two years ago when I first conceived my e-mentoring scheme. I would do things quite differently if I was setting up the scheme now for example, I would think about how mentoring can be a community experience. But that is an important discussion I can include in my PhD.

We used email to communicate and collaborate. I found this to be a tedious way of managing a large word document. I have never been comfortable with 'track changes' which usually drives me mad. For future corroboration like this, I will consider using Googledoc or a wiki which is web-based and can be edited by all without the inconvenience of the document going back and forth all the time.

Overall, this has been a great experience which has strengthened my knowledge and understanding about mentoring, professional development and life-long learning as well as widened my perspectives on education and e-learning. I am not sure I feel any more confident about writing, but I believe that will come with experience. Now I am looking forward to meeting my mentor again in Singapore and co-presenting the paper together.

Image: 'Multicoloured Splash'

Friday, November 23, 2007

Online midwifery communities

I have been asked to write a little about the midwife group in Facebook. I have to say that I have not gelled with Facebook. I think it has the potential to soak up a lot of time, and I have made a conscious decision to put my energy into this blog. However, when I was thinking about advertising my online midwifery meetings I thought I would look to see if there were any midwives in Facebook - it is too time consuming going to individual blogs to give people information. Plus, I have found that the midwives I have visited via their blogs have not been very interactive.

What has fascinated me about Facebook is that the majority of people who identify themselves as midwives live in New Zealand (yes, I made sure my search was for all of Facebook not just New Zealand) and... quite a number are graduates of Otago Polytechnic School of Midwifery!

There are a number of midwifery related groups in Facebook but the biggest is
Bein a Midwife is the best job in the world!!!! It has nearly 1300 members but does not appear to be very active - I haven't much of a sense of community with this group. There is very little activity on the community 'wall' and the discussion posts are only answered by one or two participants. Certainly it is a growing group but I am not sure what people would get out of it.

I personally prefer the midwifery research discussion email list I am a member of. It was founded by Jane Sandall a few years ago as an initiative of the International Confederation of Midwives. It has just under 500 members. It is primarily an academic research group and what I love about it is that it has the potential to put me in touch with some of the top researchers in midwifery. What frustrates me at times is that people do not engage as much as I would like. For example, I put out a post once asking people to share their experiences of research that did not go as well as planned - no one replied. It may have been because they didn't like the topic but I suspect it was because the list members are very selective about what they engage with probably because of time constraints. Having said that, there are clearly topics that get people excited and they tend to be around how midwives can keep birth normal and prevent the increasing medicalisation of birth.

What online communities are you a member of that you find really helpful/interesting?

Student midwives and Bebo

Our new third year student midwives are about to launch into their final year of a three year direct-entry midwifery program when they are placed anywhere in New Zealand and overseas to work with midwives to consolidate their midwifery education. Keeping in touch and maintaining a sense of community can be very problematic because the students are scattered throughout New Zealand. I have tried to encourage students to use the discussion board in BlackBoard in the past but this has never taken off. So I thought I'd try something different this year - set up a secure blog that they could use to keep in touch, pass on information and use as a reflection tool.

Well, blow me down, they have beaten me to it. One of the students has set up a Bebo site especially for their use and have declined the use of the blog. Bebo is a social networking platform similar to Facebook and MySpace. It is going to be an informal tool ie set up by themselves for their own use - not directed by us, the midwifery educators. We, the educators, have said we do not want to be included in it because we want them to have their own space.

However, I have indicated that I may be interested in analyzing its use at the end of the year. I would be very interested in seeing how/why/where they use it and then look at whether we can or even want to incorporate that into the resources we provide. It would be interesting to compare their 'informal', spontaneous use of Bebo to that of social networking platforms developed specifically with an education focus, such as that developed by Russell Butsen and the Otago University School of Dentistry. If you have any ideas about how I would go about evaluating the students' Bebo site I'd love to hear them, especially if you have taken on similar projects.

If you are a student, how do you feel about using social networking platforms such as Bebo and Facebook for social networking and/or educational purposes? If you are a teacher, how have you used this platforms in your teaching?

Image: 'flickr contacts - March 28, 2005 {notes}'

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Using photos to improve your presentations

I have mentioned before how to use Flickr as a source of images that you can use in your presentations. However, you do have to be careful that they have an appropriate creative commons license attached to them, which means you can use the photo without asking for special permission. Having said that, you must check what form of attribution you must make.

I have found that it is very time consuming searching Flickr to find an appropriate photo that has a creative commons license, and I am too lazy to email people asking for permission to use their photos if the license is 'all rights reserved'.

But Sue Waters has come to my rescue, yet again, in her post: Quick and easy ways to get more out of images. Sue recommends Flickrcc which is a search engine that quickly searches Flickr photos that have a creative commons license. I love this tool - it is very convenient and gives you access to some amazing images without having to spend ages trolling through Flickr. I wish I could thank all the people who are generous enough to put a creative commons licence on their work.

Just remember:
1. to acknowledge all images according to the license when you use them in your presentations;
2. to add a creative commons license to the photos you are happy to share when you put them up on Flickr - an 'all rights reserved' license is automatically placed on them until you change the default setting to a creative commons license.

Image: 'Emerson9s computer labs love Creative Commons'

Be a drama queen: more tips on giving presentations

Just found another blog with some excellent advice about how to give presentations. Darren Barefoot has written a great post based on his experiences in drama school.

My main problem is getting my timing right and not speaking too fast. I think that lots of rehearsal is the answer to this problem.

Image: 'Bette Davis & The Little Foxes'

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Slidecast: E-mentoring as a strategy for recruitment and retention of health professionals

This is a slidecast of the presentation I gave at the recruitment and retention conference last week. It is a better attempt than my previous slidecast but there is obviously a skill to narrating a slide show which I have yet to learn.

This slidecast tells the story of my PhD research so far: e-mentoring for health professionals. It is not perfect but hopefully it will give you an idea of what I am up to.

My first online midwifery meeting

Photo: Sandfly Bay, Dunedin, New Zealand

This morning I facilitated my first online midwifery meeting with Carolyn McIntosh. It was a daunting experience - I hardly slept a wink all night worrying about the technology and how it would all work. But in the end, it all worked really well. Everyone was able to log in without any problems and worked out all the buttons. We had great fun exploring Elluminate and working out how we could do various things. I am very grateful to David McQuillan for hanging around and giving me some guidance so to how things work.

I was a bit disappointed that we only had a few people attend but three of them were in Australia, so it was fantastic that we were able to connect with them. No doubt timing is a big issue. It was really difficult deciding when to hold the meeting and possibly we didn't get anyone from the UK because it was later in their evening. It will be interesting to see if the next meeting I have planned attracts a greater number - the timing should better suit people in Europe. I advertised this meeting on the midwifery research list and to a large midwifery group on Facebook as well as to personal contacts. Maybe I need think again about how/where/when I advertise these meetings.

I ran through my slides about midwifery in New Zealand. I must admit, I got a bit flummoxed at one point when one of the participants (my best friend, I have to say!) was playing around and sabotaged my PowerPoint slide. That wouldn't happen at a face-to-face presentation! However, I think I managed to survive. It certainly is a challenge to present in an interesting way when you cannot see the audience, and have to keep an eye on the running text at the same time. I was really grateful to have Carolyn with me-her role was to watch the running text so she could answer any queries as I was speaking.

The discussion following my presentation was a lot more interactive - we talked about how we could keep midwives in the profession. Ongoing peer support was seen as one way to do that, which ties in with what we were doing this morning. We also considered how we can attract young women into the profession, which is an ongoing question. We believed it is very important to keep campaigning to raise midwives' profiles, especially in Australia where the midwife is not known as well as she is here in New Zealand. We also need to be working with our professional bodies to continue exploring how we can support students, especially on a financial basis.

To summarize:

1. Invaluable to have at least one other person to facilitate - to help keep the conversation running and answer queries.
2. Be available on Skype or similar communication mode so that people can discuss any problems they have with logging in. That is another good reason for having a support person so that he/she can watch the main group as you sort out individual problems, or the other way around.
3. This is a very small beginning, and I must not have unrealistic expectations about how I am going to solve all midwifery problems along with global warming, and alien abductions with Elluminate! If nothing else, we were able to start some dialogue and promote networking today, which is a great outcome.

A recording of the meeting can be found here:

The next meeting is being held on Thursday 29th November at 10pm New Zealand time (London Thursday 29th 9am UCT/GMT). Check here to see the time where you live - Time Zone.

This meeting is open to anyone interested in midwifery research, especially postgraduate midwifery research students and their supervisors. This is an opportunity for researchers, especially students to network and share information about their research. This is particularly aimed at midwives who are studying/researching in an isolated context.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Tomorrow's the big day: facilitating an online midwifery meeting

I'm getting rather nervous yet excited about the online midwifery meeting I have advertised; the first being tomorrow morning (NZ time). A number of people have said they want to attend and I have answered some common questions. Several colleagues from Australia have tested the URLs I have posted and have been able to access Elluminate without any problems, so that's encouraging.

I shall be online several hours beforehand (from 6am New Zealand time) and contactable by email: sarahstewart07(at)

and Skype: sarah.m.stewart

If you are planning on attending and have any problems logging in, please feel free to contact me and I will help you as much as I can.

The aims of the meeting are to discuss New Zealand midwifery and give people the experience of using Elluminate and be involved with online conferencing. Hopefully, this will be the beginning of international networking and in the future result in some sort of collaboration using social networking. Anyone is invited: midwives, students, people interested in midwifery in New Zealand, people interested in using Elluminate for networking and teaching.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Recruitment and retention in health-where to from here?

Photo: Doing some serious conference networking.

There's no doubt that there's a very serious problem with recruitment and retention in health on a global level as reiterated at the 2007 Recruitment and Retention in Health Conference at the Gold Coast - and it is not going to get any easier. There are a number of reasons for this: poor pay, working conditions including shift work, aging workforce and less interest in altruistic health professions ie people want to do more than just 'help people' - they want a career that is going to pay them a decent salary and so on.

A number of solutions were mooted at the conference such as re-branding of institutions that are trying to recruit, professionals given incentives to work at an institution, retirees enticed back into the workforce as volunteers and family members encouraged to provide basic 'nursing' care in the hospital. But none of these measures, especially those that involve re-branding or developing fancy new web sites address the underpinning issues of working conditions at floor level. You can throw all the money you like at nurses and midwives but if their working lives are made a misery by horizontal or vertical violence, or they cannot have a social life because of shift work, you are not going to keep practitioners especially young people.

The two presentations that were of most interest to me were those presented by Associate Professor Sandra West from the University of Sydney. The first session was about her work with new graduate nurses, looking at how they adapted to shift work. Whilst they seemed to adapt physiologically by one year, they were still struggling to sort out their social/domestic lives. They were also starting to show signs of burnout, which I think is an alarming result. Sandra called for regular and reliable shift patterns that enables work-life balance and effective work/sleep patterns.

The second presentation was based on Sandra's work with mid-life women and how they cope with shift work, particularly through menopause. The first shock I got was that I am defined as mid-life!! I took immediate umbrage with this! Suffice to say, it was no surprise that women find it very hard to juggle work demands of shift work with family/home commitments which often or not included elderly relatives as well as young families. The menopause is a time when additional stress and pressure is thrown into the mix, and Sandra suggested that during that time, women should be encouraged to work 'nine-to-five' hours which did not interfere with their sleep patterns, which are being affected by the menopause. She felt that that would help to keep women in the profession.

What did I personally get out of the conference? It certainly reinforced my interest in employment issues. I dearly want to look at the effect of shifts and on-call duties on midwives in New Zealand and incorporate that into a national study of why midwives are (if, indeed they are) leaving the profession. So if anyone has any ideas about collaboration or funding, please let me know.

The other valuable outcome was the networking I did, which usually is the main value of conferences. There was great interest in my concept of e-mentoring as a means of addressing some of the issues that face people in the workplace. So, watch this space to see what eventuates from this conference.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Blogging a conference

I am currently at the Gold Coast attending a conference about recruitment and retention of health professionals. I had great intentions of writing heaps about all the sessions but needless to say, that hasn't happened. One problem is getting access to the Internet. I have my lap top but wireless Internet at the hotel where I am attending the conference is charging $14 per hour!!! So here I am, back with the sweaty geek boys at an Internet cafe.

Yesterday was great because I met up with a fellow Pom and PhD student, Mary Sidebottem. Mary is looking at the experience of British midwives who re-locate to Queensland. The main reason for emigrating is for a change of lifestyle. But they find midwifery very different in Australia than it is in the UK, especially in the private sector. The lack of autonomy is a real challenge and in some cases has led to midwives wanting to return to the UK. Mary's research is ongoing but should be really interesting to us in New Zealand because we have a lot of UK midwives moving to NZ. This is something I have thought about for a long time and I believe would be worth replicating here. Mary is hoping to join the online midwifery meetings because she working on her own and misses the support of fellow students.

I have been focusing on people's presentation styles following my own change of style to use 'presentation 2.0'. People are still using a lot of text but in the end I didn't care as long as the speaker had a interesting presentation style and didn't read from their notes all the time. I thought my presentation went well and I was pleased with the images I choose. I ran out of time so really need to pay attention to that. I will put some audio to my slides when I get home and post them on Slideshare.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

A good PhD day

Yesterday I visited The Centre for Online Health at the University of Queensland, Brisbane. It is through COH that I have my PhD enrollment. It is not easy being a distance student and my visit yesterday really brought home the value of face-to-face interaction and how difficult it is being a distance student. It is not so much the supervision that I find difficult by distance-I speak to my supervisor by email and that works relatively well as long as I am motivated to write the email. What I really miss is the fellowship with fellow students and like-minded scholars. My visit re-energized and re-motivated me, just like that plant being watered after months of drought. This is something we really must remember when we are planning distance programs. How do we provide that re-energisation to students who cannot have face-to-face meetings with teachers, and more importantly, fellow students?

As for my PhD, I am having issues with recruiting participants and getting them to participate in the e-mentoring system but do not want to write about it at the moment because I must do some thinking and make some decisions about where to go from here. I wish I had known about Gilly Salmon's e-moderator theory before I started my e-mentoring project. Never mind! It's all about the journey I am told!!!

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Tips for successful breastfeeding

Photo: Browsing and Breastfeeding: Pinot Dita

Having just written a post about successful presentations, I have turned my eye to breastfeeding although at this stage, I haven't quite worked out the connection! I have to say, that this post has been inspired by Dot's birth story. She had a relatively 'easy' birth and is now trying to get her breastfeeding established. I wrote a comment to her post and thought I'd repeat it here. These 'tips' are based on my experience as a midwife and breastfeeding my own babies. I haven't put any references - this isn't an academic exercise but a completely 'off the top of my head' response to Dot. If you want more information, please ask a midwife.

My golden rules for successful breastfeeding:

1. Feed on demand
2. Make the most of the night feeds because they are really important to keep your milk supply going for the next 24 hours
3. If you’re up all night feeding, stay in bed all day resting!! The house work can wait for another year or two! Better still, get your visitors to do it!
4. Relax - do your own thing - follow what your body and baby tells you to do.
5. Don’t listen to old wives tales or “in my day we did…”
6. If baby has a demanding 24/48 hours, go back to bed and concentrate on your feeding
7. Enjoy it. The first 6 weeks can be really challenging but it does get easier as time goes by and you’ll get such a great sense of achievement in months/years to come
8. Get your partner to monitor visitors - don’t let yourself be bombarded because they will make you tired even though you love them dearly-take the phone of the hook and put a ‘do not disturb’ note on your front door.
9. Build up a support network of people who have successfully breastfed and are able to help you with any hiccups, or access the advice of groups like La Leche League. But make sure they are giving you advice that will promote breastfeeding and not undermine what you are doing.

What are your experiences? Is there a tip you would add? Is there anything I have said that you disagree with?

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Improving your presentation skills

The other day I marked some presentations given by students which had a common theme: their presentation skills needed some more work. This made me reflect on my own performance especially as I am about to give a presentation next week at a conference about recruitment and retention of health professionals. I recently gave a small presentation at Otago Polytechnic and whilst I think it went well, I definitely went over time.

So I have revisited Sue Waters' blog posts about effective presentation skills and hope to incorporate them into my presentation. The key points for me are:

1. use humor and be entertaining - that doesn't just appeal to the audience but it relaxes me as well;
2. don't read from notes - I wish my students would take this point on board!;
3. be enthusiastic about your topic - that will draw in the audience;
4. minimize bullet points - use lots of images and keep font size large;
5. capture the audience's attention from the start - this may mean re-ordering what you were going to say.

The main thing that has struck me from reading Sue's posts is that there is a changing view of presentations and that bullet points are out - Sue calls this 'presentation 2.0'. Instead of using a lot of text, one uses images. This comes as a bit of blow to me because a. I like to use the text as a prompt for me and b. I am not very imaginative, so how am I going to come up with relevant images?

The outcome of all this is that I have become a lot more familiar with Flickr which is a great repository of images that can available for use as long as there an open or creative commons copyright attached to the image. The other outcome is that I am going to have to remember to take my camera around with me more so I build up a library of my own images to use. This may mean I have to get a smaller camera that is easier to cart around and even take a few photographic lessons, but at the very least I need to engage more with the creative part of my brain (I'm not even sure I have one?!?) and be proactive about looking for images to capture. So, I'll give presentation 2.0 a go next week and see how I get on.

Thinking about recruitment and retention in health


I am off to Brisbane and the Gold Coast tomorrow, primarily to attend a conference about recruitment and retention in the health professions. This is an issue I am extremely interested in as it is a prevalent problem throughout the health professions internationally, not just here in New Zealand. Obviously I come from a midwifery perspective but I believe the issues are generic: aging population of practitioners; recruiting young people into the professions; supporting new graduates; supporting rural & remote practitioners; encouraging professional development -these are just a few of the issues.

So my aims for attending my conference are:

1. to find out more about what can be effective strategies for improving recruitment and retention;
2. to network with people I wouldn't otherwise meet;
3. get my name known as a midwife and midwifery educator who could be a collaborative partner in research/project work in the future.

I will be presenting a paper about the efficacy of e-mentoring as a recruitment and retention strategy. This will be more of a theoretical perspective because I do not have any solid data to present about my study yet. However, hopefully it will get people thinking about the possibilities of social networking as a means of supporting staff, with the end result of retaining them in their jobs.

Get out of my Face (book)!

Ever since the discussion I was involved with about the use of Facebook in education I have become conscious of the arguments for and against it. Clearly networking and collaboration in education is vital especially for distance students, and it is a lot easier and cheaper to use a tool that is already up and running. Facebook is hip and trendy and why wouldn't you want to hook into that as a teacher wanting to capture a student's attention? Nevertheless, there is a strong argument from students that they do not want educators to get involved with something which is theirs outside of school/university - Facebook is their recreation activity and they want to keep that separate from study. This has been my exact argument as to why I would not want to interact with students in Facebook - I want to keep work separate from my private life. George Siemens has written about this in his blog: elearnspace. George urges educators to consider how students feel about the use of all these interactive social networking tools. When we are developing ideas for using Web 2.0 resources in our education programs we need to collaborate with students to ensure, as George says, we do it with them and not for them to ensure we are meeting their needs, not what we think they need.

On a lighter note, once you have seen this video ask yourself: do I really want to educate my students using this? Thanks to AJC for the link on his blog: Science of the Invisible.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

E-portfolios, communities of practice and education

I attended a very interesting session this morning. Russell Butson who works for the University of Otago, is currently involved in a project working with the Dental School. He has developed an e-portfolio for students and dental practitioners as well as a social networking platform that students use for collaborative work.

There appears to be two elements to Russel's project. The first element is the e-portfolio itself. This is the digital repository where people put the artifacts about their professional practice. This is being driven by the statutory and professional requirements that most health professionals including OTs, nurses and midwives have to fulfill in New Zealand. So I identify that I have a need to update my skills with perineal suturing - I attend a workshop-workout a program for developing my skills which may include asking someone to supervise me-I reflect on how I have done and plan how I will maintain my skills. I write this up and upload into my portfolio. I may have to scan documents like my 'certificate of attendance' into my portfolio as a means of verifying my activities as well as a reference from my supervisor to acknowledge my competency. Of course, there are a number of issues to address, not least the computer skills and confidence of practitioners, but in the long run this is a lot easier to manage for both the practitioner and auditors/professional bodies to manage than hundreds of different pieces of paper.

Working backwards from the professional portfolio for registered practitioners is the development stage that is carried out in the undergraduate program. This is the reflection, problem solving, development and collaboration that is done before the final product is produced, which then goes into the portfolio. To do this, Russell has built a social networking platform not dissimilar from Facebook and Bebo which forms communities of practice amongst the students. Interestingly, teachers have very little input into this - it is completely led by the students.

I don't think I have described this very well and probably have to go back to my notes so I can clarify things. Suffice to say, the messages that came home to me are that the software and ideas are already out there, so don't spend heaps of money re-inventing the wheel, especially if the software is open source.

The second discussion is not to focus on tools but think about your principles and goals and use the tools to fit those and not the other way round. If we have a set curriculum that works only one way, introducing a social networking collaborative model/platform/community of practice may not work if the curriculum does not support those ways of teaching/learning.

Use the professional frameworks that are out there for registered practitioners and bring them into undergraduate education. In other words, if midwives have to have a portfolio, get students to start thinking about developing goals, reflecting on their learning, gathering evidence and so on before they even leave the program. This is what I am getting the third year students to do next year although it will still be in paper form. But I would suggest that this needs to be ongoing right from the beginning of the degree program.

I would be very interested in hearing from anyone who uses e-portfolios either as a means of teaching/learning or in a professional capacity.

Afternoon tea at the Savoy, Dunedin

I know I wasn't going to post many personal posts but I've just had such fun, I had to post up some photos. I went to The Savoy in Dunedin, for afternoon tea with some of my dear colleagues from the School of Midwifery, Otago Polytechnic. The Savoy used to be an old tearoom and restaurant in Dunedin about 100 years ago. Now it is a function centre. Every now and then, they put on afternoon tea and everyone gets dressed in their finery-then we came along!! I also took along Andrew and a couple of his girl friends. He was about the only chap there and the average age of the women had to be at least 60. Needless to say, he ate his sandwiches and flew off. Meanwhile, us girls/grown up women had great fun trying on different hats. After having tea at The Savoy in London (and paid a fortune for it) the tea here in Dunedin didn't quite live up to standards. However, we had great fun and I've posted heaps of photos on FlickR. The lovely ladies below are Carolyn and Rae.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Using Elluminate to discuss Facebook in education

Here is a recording of the Elluminate session in which we discussed the use of Facebook in education. It will be of interest to people who want to explore the educational value of Facebook and also people who want to get their head around how Elluminate works.

1. Elluminate recording
2. Audio recording on

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Using stats to monitor your blog

Just got another obsession to distract me from my PhD - checking my blog stats. I didn't realize the amount of information I can get from my stats such as which pages are the most popular and the location of my visitors. The majority of my visitors are from the UK and USA but I have had visits from people in Belgium, Spain, India, Saudi Arabia, UAE and Australia. As you can see from the graph above I had a large number of visits following my email advert I sent out about the online midwifery meetings I am hosting.

What is most interesting about blog stats as far as I am concerned is seeing which are the most popular posts. Suffice to say, my post about the online midwifery meeting has been the most popular because I have advertised it widely to my other midwifery networks - 78 visits. What will be interesting to see is how many visits turn into actual participants in the online meetings. The post that provides Q&A about the online meetings have only had 6 hits. The next most popular visits have been the ones in which I talk about Second Life - my virtual appearance has 16 hits, the naked men has 14 hits and Petal's adventures has 12 hits.

There are two points of interest to me. Firstly, I wrote a column in the New Zealand College of Midwifery Journal that came out last week about this blog and other social networking tools. I wrote the column with the hope that New Zealand midwives might be inspired to come and have a look and even leave a comment or two. I wrote a post that was heart-felt and would generate discussion, or so I thought. However, that post has only had 11 hits and has had only one comment from someone outside my immediate circle of friends and colleagues. I did have an email from a colleague who thought the post was very relevant but she did not leave a comment on the blog and I do not know the answer for that. The second point of interest is that my personal posts have not attracted any hits.

So what are the conclusions I can draw from this and how do they influence how I develop this blog in the future? I think my first conclusion is not to bother with too much personal stuff - I think that is more for my benefit than anyone else's. The second thought I have is that this blog is still not attracting midwives. This is interesting when I compare my stats to those of Carolyn McIntosh, who is my virtual partner in crime. Her top post 'Structure of the midwifery services in New Zealand' received 44 hits. So if I want to attract more midwives, maybe I need to focus more on midwifery and choose topics to talk about that may attract midwife visits? Or are the lack of midwife visits an indication that midwives do not use social networking tools? On the other hand, I enjoy blogging about online education and my experiences with Web 2.0 etc and am receiving visitors so maybe I should not change my format? The other answer would be to forget about it and concentrate on more important things!! What do you think?

Using Facebook in midwifery education

Facebook is a social networking site very similar to bebo and MySpace. For explanations of what they are, have a look on Wikipedia. I have always thought of these sites as being frivolous fun for children and teenagers, but it has struck me lately how huge these sites are and how many people use them, even 'grown ups'.

On Monday my daughter, Ellen, gave a presentation using Elluminate to explain what Facebook is and how it might work in education. She was of a mind that Facebook was 'fun' and that she didn't want to mix school/university with fun, which is an interesting idea in itself-can we not have fun at school!? Having said that, she could see it had possibilities for example, it could encourage networking to solve assignment questions. Ellen did feel that if teachers were going to use it for education, the framework of the group should be kept basic and professional ie not to add all the extras that can distract people. She also thought it might be quite time-consuming for teachers to keep up with all the happenings that go on in Facebook.

Sue Waters uses Facebook for interacting with her students. She feels it allows her to get to know her students and visa versa. I have mixed feelings about it. I think it's great as a personal tool for keeping in touch with people, having fun and finding people you have lost touch with. Ellen made me an account and I got sent a 'slippery nipple' but am yet to find out my stripper name! I am not so sure about using Facebook in midwifery education. I acknowledge that you only need add the people you wish to add but I am not sure I want students to have access to my personal 'silliness', but on the overhand it might add another dimension to our interactions that would be fun, especially for distance students. Probably, we need to go back to the students and find out what they would like and experiment over the next few years with the various tools to see what works best. In the meantime, I'm off to drink a virtual glass of chardonnay that was sent to me by my good friend Sandra - just wish it were real!

Who am I? How do I present myself as a midwifery teacher?

One of the themes of this blog has been how I present myself in the online environment. My thoughts about this have extended into the 'real' world and I have been challenged about how I present myself as a midwifery teacher to my students in the face-to-face environment as well as the virtual world. This has come about as a result of three different discussions. The first discussion has been a bit of an ongoing one that I have had with Sue Waters. On Monday we had a talked about the use of Facebook, which is a social networking site. Sue 'allows' students into her Facebook account and feels it is a great way for her to get to know her students and visa versa. I had my concerns - I have felt very strongly that I want to keep my private self and life separate from my professional one, especially the professional self I present to students. But is that a helpful thing to do? Would I be a better teacher if I allowed students to see more of who I really was? How do distance students get to know me and visa versus when we never have face-to-face interactions? How much do we need to know about each other to have an effective teacher-student relationship? Should we have a teacher-student relationship, especially in the tertiary setting where we are all adults - should it be more of a collegial friendship? How does that notion work when teachers still have power over assessments?

The second thing that happened was that I had my annual performance review at work. One of the things that was said was that students think I am fun and one of their abiding memories is meeting me at Carisbrook, our local rugby stadium where I go to support the mighty 'Highlanders'. What perplexed me somewhat was that that happened two years ago and yet it sticks with the students. The third thing was feedback from students that they'd like to do more with us lecturers - to learn what we're up to and have more personal interactions with us. They feel this would promote a more cohesive feeling in the school.

The truth is: I have had some pretty painful experiences a number of years ago as a new teacher that I have never wished to repeat. The way I have kept myself 'safe' ever since has been to keep a distance from students and not to let them see Sarah - the mad rugby fan who reads trashy historical romances, who would do anything to win a competition prize and dreams of being on TV one day.

Maybe it is time to change that? Maybe, now I am an experienced teacher and have worked out my boundaries and how to protect them, I should enjoy the students for who they are and 'allow' them to enjoy me? Maybe, I need to own who I am as a midwife and lecturer, faults and all and share that with my students? I have a feeling that will be far more beneficial for our mutual learning and development. How do you feel about maintaining your professional boundaries in the job you do? As a teacher, how do you maintain a professional relationship with your students that promotes learning yet allows social interaction? As a student, how much interaction do you want with your teacher?

PS: The significance of the photo? My daughter and I are all dressed in our glad rags because we had just won a radio competition two weeks ago which took us on a return trip to Christchurch in a limo to a concert (Silverchair and Powderfinger) with a night's free hotel accommodation. How cool is that!

PPS: In my attempt to be a more 'caring and sharing' person I have put some photos on FlickR to look at. There are some nice photos of the rhododendrons at Glenfalloch Gardens in Dunedin.