Friday, July 30, 2010

How can I measure the effect of the support I provide on teachers' practice?

I had a great day on Tuesday when I went to a meeting of the Southern Hub of Ako Aotearoa staff developers group in Christchurch. This is a meeting of people who work in New Zealand polytechnics who work with institute staff to develop their teaching and learning skills.

The main reason for going along is because I have a new mini-project which is funded by Ako Aotearoa: to develop a proposal that can be submitted to Ako Aotearoa for further funding to carry out a collaborative project. The project will consist of researching and collating digital resources that can be used to support teachers as they improve their teaching and learning skills.

The question I am pondering is: how can we as staff developers measure the difference it makes to staff when we share resources with them ie if I share a video with a teacher showing her an example of best-practice, how can I measure what effect that video has had on the teacher's practice?

Any ideas?

Image: 'Yellow Tape Measure' Darrren Hester

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Mapping the skills I want to strengthen as an online facilitator

I have been monitoring the blogs of the participants of the "Facilitating Online" course, and a number of them are being very creative with their mindmaps and thinking about what they want to achieve, which is the requirement of week 2 of the course. I decided I couldn't let them beat me. So here's an Animoto video that depicts what I want to do to improve my performance as an online facilitator.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

More about the Dunedin Digital Strategy

On Monday I went along to the hearings of submissions to the Dunedin Digital Strategy. It was very formal...just like the USA congressional hearings you see on the TV so I think a number of us found it intimidating at first. Having said that, I enjoyed talking to my submission and listening to other points of view throughout the morning.

The highlight of the morning was hearing the common threads such as ensuring no-one is disadvantaged by lack of access and supporting a community approach to projects and processes. I really enjoyed hearing from people in the community who I have never met but have the same philosophy, including a representative of the Dunedin rates payers who talked about encouraging people to use free software such as Linux and Open Office.

The other thing that struck me was how much the Digital Strategy opened up wider issues. For example, Sam Mann talked about eParticipation and how the Digital Strategy encourages us to think about how opening up the processes of the Dunedin City Council. The morning really emphasised for me how being 'digital' isn't just about Internet access but is about a way of business...

I was especially challenged by Richard Hutchings (not sure if that is his name) who talked about the electro-magnetic radiation emitted by wireless Internet that has a health impact on people. I have no idea if there is anything in what Richard says, but it did bring home to me that for everything I am enthusiastic about, there will be someone else who does not agree. I'll be interested to see how the DCC manages this particular issue.

The other highlight of the morning was being introduced to white chocolate Tim-Tams at morning tea...yummy!

The question is now...if, how, when and where the Strategy will be taken up and how much the up-coming local elections will impact on that uptake.

Monday, July 26, 2010

It's my 25th wedding anniversary today

It's my 25th wedding anniversary today.

Of course, I was a child bride...

Well, actually I was 23 year old when Mark and I got married...he was only a year (and still is, funnily enough) older than me. I tell you...if my daughter came home and said she was getting married in a year's time at the age of 23 ...I'd go ballistic!

Falling in love
I was nearly 19 years old when we met...six months into my nursing training. We met at a party in the nurses' home. I fell in love with his very cute butt, which I have to say he still has. And the fact that he had a black JPS Ford Capri helped a lot too. He would pick me up from Salisbury General Infirmary in the summer when I'd finished an 'early' shift and we'd drive down to the beach at Bournemouth...with the car windows wide open..wind in our hair (that was in the days when we both had hair) and 'Earth, Wind and Fire' blaring out from the tape deck.

Getting married
Once we decided to married, we did it in three weeks. I think everyone thought I was pregnant although no-one ever came out and asked me. We had very little money so we got married in the local registry office...I wore a nylon dress I bought in an ordinary dress store...and we had sandwiches in the back garden with just our close family.

What money we had we spent on our honeymoon -we went to Greece and stayed in a resort just outside of Athens. The only snag was the beach was right in the flight path of Athens airport and Mark spent most of his time plane spotting rather than romancing me! He even started giving lessons to the other guests about how to identify the various planes. I got horrible heat stroke and was extremely sick on the door step of an outdoor restaurant, in front of all the diners. My other memory of our honey moon was Mark buying a huge water melon from the market and bringing it back to our hotel room, on his shoulder because it was so heavy. He only had a knife from the resturant to cut it up so he ended up making a terrible mess all over our room - everything was really sticky. He ended up giving pieces to other guests because there was too much for us to eat.

Married life
We lived in Salisbury, UK until I finished my midwifery training. When we decided to think about having children, we moved to Pitton which is about 12 miles outside of Salisbury. Ellen came along when I was 26 and Andrew was born when I was 28. Life continued to be pretty hectic especially when we both had jobs that meant we were commuting and I had to get a live-in au pair to look after the kids. It was at that point in 1996 that we decided to move to New Zealand to have a change of life style. And here we are...years later ...with two beautiful young adult children and a new lease of life to our marriage now they've moved out of home...even though it's only five minutes drive down the road!

So different
When I reflect on those early days of our marriage I wonder how we ever stuck together all these years. We were so different...came from very different backgrounds. He voted Labour and I supported (much to my shame) the Conservatives. He was an atheist and I came from a staunchly Christian family. He left school when he was 16 and I have never really stopped studying except when I had children. He loves to be active all the time...I can lie on the sofa all day doing nothing except read.

But if you were to ask me what achievements in my life I am most proud of, I'd say there are two things that I immediately think of. The first thing is that I breastfed my children for a year each, giving them the best start to their lives in an environment that did not support breastfeeding. The second achievement is our marriage. I am incredibly proud of the fact we are able to role model a successful marriage to our kids at a time when 1:3 - 4 marriages end in divorce.

Secrets to a long marriage?
So what is the secret to a successful marriage?

My reply is probably nothing you haven't heard before.

1. Be friends as well as lovers.
2. Spend time apart to follow your own dreams and have 'me' time - don't be upset when your partner wants to go off and do their own thing at times.
3. Never let the sun go down on an argument.
4. Keep the romance going - please would someone kindly tell my husband about this rule!!
5. Have a laugh with each other every day.

What do you think is the secret to a long marriage or relationship?

Saturday, July 24, 2010

How to listen to the fetal heart rate in labour

One of my midwifery friends, Robyn Maude, is currently doing some fabulous research for her PhD looking at fetal monitoring in labour in low risk women. She recommend intermittent auscultation for women who have no risk factors. I think her research will become significant in this topic area.

Here is an audio recording of the presentation she gave for the Virtual International Day of the Midwife.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Cascade of normal, birthing on country and social media activism

The "Breathing new life into maternity services" earlier in July was one of the best conferences I have been to for a while. The conference aimed to bring midwives and obstetricians together to look at how they can improve communication and collaboration in Australia. The conference ended on a very optimistic note with the presidents of the Australian College of Midwives and RANZCOG committing to work closer together. I'll be very interested to see how long that resolution lasts.

I gave two presentations about Second Life and using social media for inter-professional collaboration which I think were well received.

Two main themes emerged for me from the conference: supporting indigenous women to birth on country and the use of social media for consumer-led activism in maternity services.

Birthing on country
A large number of indigenous women who live in rural and remote locations in Australia are moved to urban centres to have their babies. This has devastating effects on the family and their culture identity. The argument for doing this is that it is much safer to birth in an urban compared to the back blocks. However, this is being looked at closely especially in the light of the work that is being carried out with the Inuit people in Canada.

Birthing in remote Canada

A/Professor Vicki Van Wagner, Mina and Harry Tuguluk gave a very moving presentation about a project that has brought birthing back to the remote community of Nunavik with amazing clinical outcomes. Vicki talked about the 'cascade of normal' which I think is an attitude of mind as much as anything - thinking about birth as normal leads to a normal birth - a wonderful alternative to the cascade of medical intervention.

I was very touched by the comment made by an elder who talked about birthing away from country as more harmful than birthing in a remote community. It has got me reflecting on Maori women and birth. Whilst we do not have the same remote communities as Australia and Canada, I wonder how much harm we have done by bringing Maori women to European hospitals to birth in New Zealand?

Social media: the new political activism?
The other theme for me was the use of social media by consumers. It was really a throw away comment by Professor Eugene Declercq in his talk "Improving Policy, Practice and Outcomes". He confirmed what I have been saying for some time: midwives cannot ignore consumers' use of social media to campaign for better maternity services. Consumers are media savvy and not afraid to put forward their opinions on Facebook, Twitter etc. Midwives ignore this activism to our peril.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

My PLE 2010

Every year I have a look at the tools I use for organising my teaching and learning - the tools that support my personal learning environment and help me sustain myself as a life-long learner.

Here is my PLE in 2008.

My PLE in 2009

My PLE in 2010
There hasn't been much of a change in the number of tools - I have a core number of tools I use for most things. But they vary depending on the sort of project I am involved with at the time. In other words, some tools are dictated to me because of my work, as opposed to tools I choose for my own personal learning. For example, Second Life was significant last year because of my involvement in the Second Life Education New Zealand project. This year it does not feature at all - now that the SLENZ project is finished, I do not use SL.

As you can see, my blog and ePortfolio wiki remain at the centre of my PLE.
My ePortfolio is bigger this year because it was an integral part of my midwifery accreditation process earlier this year.

What has gone?
As I have already mentioned, Second Life does not figure in my PLE. I will use it if particular projects crop up but I do not use it for personal learning on a regular basis. Google Reader, iGoogle and RSS has also disappeared because I get links and information from Twitter. This makes my reading a little more random and haphazard, but Twitter is a much better provider of information about synchronous events - it leads to many more serendipitous learning activities than Google Reader and the like.

What stays the same?
My blog continues to be my major place for reflection, development and process work. I found it difficult to blog regularly last year because of the intensive eMentoring project I was involved with. But this year I have made a point of blogging at least three times a week as a renewed attempt to connect with readers.

Slideshare and YouTube continue to be the main places I deposit my material and the first places I go to when I am searching for information, especially for course development. I have also used Blip.TV at lot this year, mainly for storing audio recordings of the Virtual International Day of the Midwife (VIDM). I have also increased my use of Animoto and Screenr to make videos and screencasts for class materials.

What has changed?
I have increased my use of Delicious as a way of collecting materials for course development and sharing with students. My connection with Elluminate has also grown, not only because of my teaching but also because of the significant number of free professional development sessions that are offered every week by people such as Steve Hargadon and Carole McCulloch. And of course, it played a huge part in the success of the VIDM.

Facebook continues to grow in importance, not just for connecting with people but also for sharing information. I know I have said it before, but I cannot ignore Facebook because so many midwives use it. It played a significant role in advertising the VIDM and disseminating the recordings of the sessions. It is slowly but surely starting to turn into an ePortfolio platform for me. I post links about what I am doing there, and I get tagged by other people connecting to the same events as I do. I firmly believe Facebook can be used as a professional ePortfolio with a feedback mechanism built in that is far more user-friendly than the wiki I am currently using. This is definitely an idea I am going to play with more over the next few months.

Finally, the other platform that is grown in relevance this year is Wikieducator. This is mostly because I have developed the open, online course 'Facilitating Online' in Wikieducator. I have become a lot more confident with it's use and feel very comfortable there as opposed to a year ago. What I am finding is that I learn little tips and tricks as I go along. It is quite a time-consuming process but it has been effective because I have learned as the need as arisen.

I'll leave you with the same questions I asked last year. How is your PLE looking these days? How has it changed in the last year? What are your favourite tools now, and why?

Monday, July 19, 2010

What I want to achieve in 'Facilitating Online', 2010

The open, online course I am facilitating called 'Facilitating Online' starts today. I am very excited about it because we have a wonderful diverse group of people joining us, both from New Zealand and overseas. Of course, it remains to be seen how many people complete...keeping in mind the 1% rule, I am looking at about three informal participants making it to the end of the course.

My learning
The course has already enabled me to develop my instructional design and wiki editing skills. Now I am looking forward to further developing my facilitation skills, especially in the context of an open, online course. It's going to take quite a lot of juggling to make sure everyone has access to the course across a number of time zones, especially the real-time activities.

Time management
I think the challenge for me is going to be time-management. I must make sure I do not end up spending lots of unpaid hours supporting informal learners ie the participants who are not enrolled on the course and thus are not paying fees. The focus of my attention has to be the formal learners who are paying for support and assessment services. At the same time, I want to ensure that the informal learners enjoy themselves for several reasons:
  • I wish to contribute to people's learning in the same way I have gained from others over the last couple of years;
  • informal learners may end up being formal students.
I plan to contact David Wiley, Alec Couros, George Siemens and others who have facilitated open courses to see how they have addressed the time-management issue.

Focusing on facilitation, not tools
I am really looking forward to seeing how the new course format pans out. I have integrated facilitation activities into the weekly schedule so that participants can practice as they go along, as opposed to leaving it until the end of the schedule and the final assignments. It will be interesting to see if that makes a difference to facilitation skills development, or whether the course ends up being a focus on tools, which is what I want to move away from.

The other thing that interests me is the difference in the feel of this course compared to last year. Last year the course was nearly totally made up of 'newbies'. We had a fabulous time but I felt we focused on the tools as opposed to developing our online facilitation skills. This year we have a number of very experienced people joining the course. Initially, this made me feel very nervous - what on earth could I teach them?! People like Carole McCulloch are far more experienced then me. What I am hoping will happen is that people will organise themselves (this may need a little input from me as facilitator) into mentoring relationships so that the experienced people support the newbies...which will also lighten my workload.

This would lead to a nice research question...what motivates people to mentor and provide unpaid help to others in the online environment?

Questions that I want to answer
I am planning to write a joint article with Leigh Blackall (who originally developed 'Facilitating Online) about the course and how it has performed and evolved over the last four years. I would especially like to compare our experiences with the other open courses that are currently available like the 'Connectivism' course. Here are a few questions I would like to investigate further and integrate into our article.
  • What makes people enrol as informal learners?
  • How many people complete the course? What influences them to complete or drop out?
  • How many people enrol as formal students? What influences participants to become enrolled?
  • What are the benefits and disadvantages of this model of delivery to the facilitator and institution?
  • What are the financial costs involved?
I'd love to hear from anyone who has some thoughts about any of the points I've raised, especially the questions I have just asked.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

My take on the Dunedin Digital Strategy

I sent my submission to the Dunedin Digital Strategy on Friday.

I am very supportive of the Strategy and very excited about the prospects for Dunedin.

Digital skills
The main points I tried to make in my submission are that we need to think beyond machinery and free Internet access. We have to understand how people learn digital skills. A new report about digital literacy is just about to be published by Bronwyn Hegarty and Merrolee Penman - I was one of the research participants - which confirms what I have come to understand...that one size does not fit all, and that people will learn digital skills when and where it suits them ie they have to have a reason for learning a particular has to have a relevance to them. The Strategy has to reflect this by moving beyond the provision of drop-in centres.

Community focused and community led
My second point is that the various projects need to be community focused. By this I mean, it must meet community needs which are defined by the community. But more important, we need to move away from thinking about delivering content to the community. I take the view that the community should be developing it's own content. Dunedin is already doing only have to look at what's happening in Flickr to see this. I firmly believe that if the community feels it is owning what happening, the projects will be sustained beyond the their official end date.

Open content
One of the keys to this will be to make content open and published under a Creative Commons licence. Dunedin is well situated to follow the example of the Australian government and develop the Dunedin portal under Creative Commons, as well as as publish all DCC documents as CC.

Making the most of what we already have
I have gone on and on a bit in my submission but my third main point is that we need to make the most of what we have in terms of people who are already doing great work in the digital world here in Dunedin, as well as the online networks and communities of practice. You only have to look at people such as Wayne Mackintosh (Wikieducator) and the Otago Polytechnic Educational Development Centre who is leading open education with the free, open courses such as 'Facilitating Online'. There's also myself and the chaps at the University of Otago who are developing expertise in virtual worlds.

Network Weaver
Having said that I think the projects should be community-led, I appreciate you need project managers that support the projects. I feel very strongly that whoever leads the various projects should be embedded in the online world so they fully understand what the issues are and how to address them. One role I have suggested in my submission is that of network weaver - I LOVE this term. A network weaver is someone who brings networks together to strengthen networks and strategically bring people together.

There you have it. My submission is a bit wordy, but here's the original if you're interested in reading the full document. I have indicated that I will speak to my submission on Monday 26th July. I have never done anything like this before, so it will be a nerve-wracking learning experience. I'll let you know how I get on.

PS: Here is the submission by Dr Samual Mann who has made similar points (although in a far more articulate way than me) - he stresses the potential for the DCC to use web 2.0 for increased dialogue with the public and transparency of processes.

Hegarty, B., Penman, M., Coburn, D. , Jeffrey, L. , Kelly, O., & McDonald, J. (2010). Digital Information Literacy: Supported Development of Capability in Tertiary Environments. Final report for Ministry of Education Tertiary eLearning Research Fund (TeLRF), New Zealand.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Cold and wet in Alice Springs

I haven't said anything about my trip to Australia a couple of weeks ago. I had a fabulous time in Canberra and Alice Springs. The highlight of the trip was meeting old friends and networking with new contacts.

Thinking about granny-hood
The first few days I spent with Leigh Blackall, Sunshine and baby Eve. It's been years since I have spent any time with a wee baby, and those who know me know I'm not into babies. But Eve is an absolute sweetie and got me thinking about the joys of being a granny. I'm not getting my knitting needles out yet, but it hit home that it will not be many more years before Mark and I become grandparents. (To my darling children-I know you don't read your old mother's blog but can I make a plea...I'm far too young to be a granny, so don't think about it for at least another 10 years!!)

Evaluating "Facilitating Online"
The main thing that came out of my discussions with Leigh is a commitment to chart and evaluate the progress of the open, online course "Facilitating Online" which is just about to enter its fourth season. What I am interested to look at is how informal learners progress through the course - how many people complete the course and enrol to become formal students. I'm also interested to look at issues of motivation. This work will follow in the steps of the Antonio Fini who evaluated the 2008 Connectivism course.

Alice Springs
I am afraid I didn't get to see much of Alice Springs but plan to return to have a proper look around one day. What I did see was a buzzing little town which held no resemblance to my vision of a one-street town with dust and tumbleweed blowing around. What did make an impact was the fact I had to line up in a very long queue at a specified time for my bottle of wine and show my ID. But the queue turned out to be fun because just ahead of me was a midwife from Dunedin who has just joined the Flying Doctor Service so needless to say, we had a great chat and catch-up.

Beautiful country
I did have one day doing some sight-seeing and what I saw of the country was magnificent. I got a real sense of the vastness of Australia and how old the country is. And to make my day, I saw a family of kangaroos.

Old friends
Even though I spend so much time online, it is always a highlight to meet people face-to-face. I was delighted to meet a friend, Pauline Costins who is an Australia midwifery blogger who has been a great supporter of the Virtual International Day of the Midwife. I feel like I have known Pauline for many years but in reality we have only been talking online for three years.

And here I am with Jean Patterson and Deborah Davis who are very dear midwifery colleagues from Dunedin and Sydney.

More about the "Breathing new life into maternity services" conference in my next post.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Last minute quality checks

'Facilitating Online' starts next Monday so I am doing last minute checks to make sure everything is set up and ready to go.

I would really appreciate any feedback that you may have, keeping in mind that it is too late to make any big changes to the course.
  • How do you find the wiki and blog to navigate?
  • How easy is it to understand instructions - is there anything that needs further instructions?
  • Is there anything I need to do to make it visually more pleasing?
  • How easy is it to access resources?
Any other comments will be gratefully received.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Wanted! Someone who does online stuff with non-profit organisations

I am looking for a volunteer who would be willing to talk to the "Facilitating Online" course participants about how to facilitate online campaigns, disseminate information and develop online communities for non-profit organisations.

The date and time would be up to the speaker as long as it is in the week of the 9th August, 2010 and fits with New Zealand time. We'll be using the web conferencing platform, Elluminate.

Please let me know if you can do this, or can recommend someone who can help me.

Image: 'Roshi training facilitators in Holland.jpg' Big Mind Zen Center

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Starting to feel nervous

The online course 'Facilitating Online' starts in a week's time - go to the course wiki to find out more.

Being a role model
This is the first year I have been "in charge" and I'm starting to get a little nervous about it. I have re-developed the course so it is different from last year. Now I have no one else to blame if everything turns to custard.

It has suddenly hit me since reflecting on how culturally competent I am in the online environment, that I really have to practice what I preach. So now I am worrying that I am not doing all the things in this course that I say you should do, both from an instructional design and facilitation point of view.

Teaching in an open environment
Running an open online course can go one of two ways - you can gain international recognition, fame and glory, or people discover that you really are quite hopeless. Teaching in an open environment makes me feel quite vulnerable and I am thinking that I will have to develop a strategy for dealing with this.
  1. Being quite clear from the outset that I am not an expert - I am learning as we go along, so the relationship I have with the course participants is a two-way relationship - I will learn from them as they will learn from me.
  2. Continually seek feedback so I can be confident the course is meeting the needs of the students.
  3. Be flexible and prepared to deviate from the course schedule if required, to meet students' needs.
  4. Get support from colleagues to help me keep a perspective on things and carry out quality checking.
Is there anything you can suggest that I can add to my strategy?

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Cultural competence in the online environment

I am putting together the materials for the course I am about to facilitate called 'Facilitating Online' and one of the things I want students to think about is cultural competence in the online environment. This has become important to me personally because I have a number of overseas students joining the course as informal learners for whom English is not their first language.

What does it mean to be a culturally competent online facilitator?
The definition of cultural competence according to Wikipedia is:
"an ability to interact effectively with people of different cultures. Cultural competence comprises four components: (a) Awareness of one's own cultural worldview, (b) Attitude towards cultural differences, (c) Knowledge of different cultural practices and worldviews, and (d) cross-cultural skills. Developing cultural competence results in an ability to understand, communicate with, and effectively interact with people across cultures."

Working in an online environment adds an extra dimension to cultural competence because we do not have the markers that we have in the face-to-face environment to guide our behaviour. At the same time, being online allows us to break away from traditional, stereotypical behaviour and supports us to communicate in a non-hierarchal way.

Here are a few points that stand out to me about being a culturally competent online facilitator.

1. Be mindful that English may not be the participant's first language.
Have a think about how much language difficulties is going to impact on participants' ability to interact, participate in activities and learn with other students? What can you do as an online facilitator to support participants to overcome this difficulty?

2. Use translation tools to communicate with people using other languages
The ability to speak more than one language is a vital skill for today's life-long learner (Van de Bunt-Kokhuis and Bolger, 2009). In this context I would substitute the works "life-long learner" for "online facilitator". How will you function in an online environment where more than one language is spoken, especially if you can only speak English?

I use Google Translate to help me communicate with people using other languages, especially in blog posts. It usually gives me a good gist of what the other person is saying. I also use it to translate a reply but I have been warned that it can be inaccurate, so you do carry a bit of a risk. I always write my comment in English as well so the reader can double check what I was trying to say. There are a number of online translating tools that you can find on the Internet - please let me know if you find one you think is easy to use but also very accurate.

3. Design your activity or project using appropriate of methods of communication
Is the activity and how it is being carried out using appropriate communication tools for the people you are working with? For example, open discussion forums may not be appropriate for people who do not like to make their thoughts visible, and may not wish to engage for fear that they lose face if they make a mistake (Takagi, 2008). The other thought I have had is about the resources you use - are they enforcing a particular world or cultural view to the detriment of another?

4. Think about how you will engage online with people who ultimately prefer face-to-face communication
Many cultures prefer face-to-face communication so people of those cultures may find online interactions very difficult. I thought about this a lot last year when I was developing an eMentoring program for indigenous Australians. I ran a workshop where we asked Aboriginal and Torres Strait people what they thought about eLearning and online communication. Whilst they preferred face-to-face communication because they acknowledged they were visual learners, they really enjoyed using webcam and Skype because they could see who they were talking to.

5. Do not make assumptions about learners and participants according to their culture or disability
I think it is extremely important not to make assumptions about the online behaviour of participants and students because they appear to be from a certain culture - this in itself may set up barriers to their participation.

6. Remember that culture is about gender and sexual identity as well as ethnicity and nationality
Remember that women in some cultures are subordinate to men (Farmer, 2010). In the online environment, these women may find it very difficult to speak up, argue or disagree with you especially if you are a man. As a facilitator, you will need to think about how to encourage and support their involvement especially if it goes against the social norms of their face-to-face context.

7. Be as flexible as you can to meet everyone's needs
This is tricky especially if you are working in a virtual team that has very prescriptive goals to meet, or you are working in a culturally-diverse group. But be prepared to invest time supporting participants and students, especially if they are new to online communication (McCloughlin & Olivier, 1999).

8. Encourage collegial mentoring
I think that one of the skills of the online facilitator is to connect people up with each other, sort of like a match-maker. As the facilitator you may not be able to mentor every participant or student. However, what you can do is connect people so they can mentor each other, which may be particualrly useful for those who feel marginalised because of their culture. At the same time, it is important to check out people's individual needs rather than blundering about trying to force things on people that they do not want or need.

9. Pay attention to how you transfer specific cultural customs from the face-to-face to online environment
Here I am thinking about my own cultural context in New Zealand (Timms-Dean, 2010). If I am facilitating a face-to-face meeting in New Zealand with Maori participants (the indigenous people of the land), I will invite someone to open the meeting with a mihi or greeting. But it dawned on me the other day, that I never think to do that when I am facilitating an online meeting. It also struck me that a custom that is culturally appropriate for a face-to-face meetings may not be so in the online environment - this is something for me to explore further.

10. Reflect on your own skills as online facilitator
Nancy White (2001) has identified many skills and qualities of an online facilitator in her article: Facilitator Qualities and Skills. Have a look at this list in the context of online facilitation especially when working with people of other cultures. Reflect about the areas that you need to develop, and make a plan for how you will go about it.

This list of issues to consider are in no way exhaustive. I would urge you to dealing deeper into these references and come up with your own challenges to reflect on.

What advice, comments or tips would you pass on about how to be culturally competent in the online environment?

Farmer, L. (2010). Culturally-Sensitive E-Learning Practices for Library Education. Available:

McCloughlin, C., & Olivier, R. (1999). Instructional design for cultural difference: a case study of the indigenous online learning in a tertiary context. Available:

Stewart, S. (2009). Flexible learning, eMentoring, cultural differences and sustainability. Available:

Stewart, S. (2009). Indigenous people, technology and aged and community care. Available:

Takagi, A. (2008). Intercultural communication by non-native and native speakers of Japanese in text-based synchronous CMC. Available:

Timms-Dean, K. (2010). Indigenous learners and flexible learning. Available:

van de Bunt-Kokhuis, S., & Bolger, M. (2009). Talent competences in the new eLearning generation. eLearning Papers, 15, pp 1-12. Available:

White, N. (2001). Facilitator Qualities and Skills. Available:

Image: 'Girls Out!!'

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Absent from Second Life

I have been very absent from Second Life for the last couple of months because I have been having major technical difficulties. It started when I bought my new lap top. It's an all-singing, all-dancing lap top but since I downloaded Second Life onto it, I have not been able to get into Second Life. This has been extremely frustrating because I have quite a few jobs to do in and about Second Life in the next couple of weeks. This has driven another nail into the Second Life coffin as far as I am concerned.

However, it is the new version of the Second Life viewer which has been causing me problems but I have just realised I can still use the original viewer. So I think I will go back to that. Hopefully, you'll see me back in SL soon as my alter ego Petal Stransky.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Dunedin digital strategy

There are currently calls from the Dunedin City Council for submissions about the Dunedin Digital Strategy. We have two options for giving feedback - send in a submission and/or complete an online survey. The submission date is the 16th July and they will be heard at a meeting held on the 26th July.

I am planning to send in a submission but am just mulling over what I want to say. I think the main points I want to emphasise are:
  • Dunedin should have widespread quality Internet connection;
  • people need to be supported to learn what to do with the Internet once they have access to it;
  • steps should be taken to make sure everyone has access to the Internet and no one is excluded.
What would you include in a digital strategy?

I have never written a submission before so if anyone has any tips on how to do it, please feel free to let me know.