Monday, December 20, 2010

Planning for the Virtual International Day of the Midwife 2011

The Virtual International Day of the Midwife is a 24 hour online conference for midwives and anyone interested in the issues of childbirth. It is held on May 5th as part of the celebrations of the International Day of the Midwife - for those of you who are interested, you can follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

New organising committee
Last year's event was so successful we've had to follow the example of Merrolee Penman and her occupational theory colleagues and the World OT Day, and form an organising committee - the event is now too big for me to be able to handle by myself. The committee includes Deborah Davis, Pam Harnden, Chris Woodhouse and Tracey Pemberton.

Here are the decisions we made following our first committee meeting last week.

We are going to keep the current VIDM website which uses the Wikispaces platform. I had thought of moving to a different platform that would look more professional. But we decided to stay with Wikispaces because we are modelling the use of free, collaborative software. It is also telling the story of the VIDM which now has a valuable collection of resources for midwives. However, we will tidy up the website to make it look more professional, more along the lines of the World OT Day website, with photos of the participants and abstracts of their talks.

Format of VIDM
We have decided to keep the format of VIDM the same as the last two years - 24 live events and asynchronous resources. We did play with the idea of having just live events like the World OT Day, but I think that keeping the VIDM open to asynchronous events makes it more accessible to those who cannot get to the live events for whatever reason - the aim of VDIM has always been to be as inclusive as possible.

Recruiting speakers
We have decided to use a mix of recruitment strategies - shoulder tap and call for expressions of interest. Which ever way we recruit speakers, they will be asked to supply an abstract of 50-100 words so the audience can see what they are going to talk about. If we have more than 24 EOI, we will have to develop some sort of process by which we decide which speaker will be accepted. What continues to be vital to me is that we keep VIDM relaxed and accessible, and not turn it into yet another formal academic conference.

We have decided not to pursue sponsorship this time round, mostly because Otago Polytechnic is providing us with access to Elluminate again - thank you Otago Polytechnic!! However, we will keep an eye out for research funding that would help us employ a research assistant who can help us write up the event into a research paper.

Same strategy as always - to disseminate as far and as wide as we can.

Elluminate room or rooms
Over the last two years we have had only one Elluminate room which we used for the whole 24 hours. This has been great for people who have been logging on in a crowd - the room has been kept open and no-one has had to worry about doing anything else. The downside is that we have not been able to record the events very easily. We have decided to follow the example of the World OT Day and have 24 individual rooms. This may be a little more complex to organise, especially for those who are following us for more than one session. But it will make it so much easier to provide recordings.

We will need more facilitators across all time zones, and I think it will be best if they each do two or three sessions so they get into their 'facilitating groove'. And alongside them will be a small team of us who will keep an eye on the bigger picture, probably over a six hour slot of time. I hope that I will be able to incorporate the students of the course "Facilitating Online 2011" to give us a hand, and provide them with practical experience of online facilitation.

If you are interested in being involved in some way with VIDM, please let me know.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Can you get a degree using just Wikipedia as a text book?

My daughter has just graduated with a BA and she was telling me about one of the papers she took this year. She did especially well in the exam but confessed that the only reference material she used was Wikipedia - she didn't refer to any class notes or text books.

This left me thinking about the credibility and relevance of Wikipedia in education today. As an educator, I encourage students to have a look at what Wikipedia says about a topic, but tend not to consider it to be as "credible" as a textbook or journal article. But just think how much money students would save on textbooks etc if all they needed to pass their degree is Wikipedia!?

I am also left with this question. If all a student needs is Wikipedia to get through assessments and exams to obtain a degree, what does it say about today's education? Should lecturers totally ignore Wikipedia and similar resources, or spend time looking at how they integrate it into their information delivery? Is university education as special as we like to think it is if all a student has to do is memorise what she reads on Wikipedia to pass assessments? How outdated are text books these days?

What do you think?

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Goodbye to Mitzy

We got very bad news at the end of last week - our Mitsubishi Gallant had completely died and had to be towed to the wreckers. My hubby is very pleased because it gives him the opportunity to buy a new car. But I have been sad because to me, the car has represented our new life in New Zealand.

Mitzy was the first thing we bought when we arrived in New Zealand in 1996. We had an inauspicious start to our relationship because she broke down and stranded us in the Bay of Islands just a few days after we bought her. We were convinced we had been totally fleeced by the Auckland car salesman...who saw us as fresh victims just off the banana boat. But eventually she got fixed and away we went again.

Magic car
One of my fondest memories of the car was when we first bought her. She was programmed to make a ringing noise when we drove faster than 100 km/hour. At first we didn't realise what it meant but then we figured that it was an alarm to remind us about the speed limit. But we didn't tell the kids (who were 6 and 8 years old) - we told them that Mitzy knew if/when they were telling lies and made the ringing noise to warn us. So every time the kids talked, Mark would speed up over 100 km/hour and then we would tease them and tell them off for telling a fib. Of course they'd passionately deny it and it didn't take long for them to cotton on to us, but there for a moment they were extremely impressed with how clever Mitzy was.

Moving home
My other fond memory of Mitzy was driving her down from Gisborne to our new home in Dunedin back in 1999. This drive took us three days and is a distance of over 1000 km. We had the car packed with bedding, personal possessions, one dog, one cat and two children who were now 9 and 11. We had the cat on a we never lost her when we stopped for breaks, I'll never know. I'll also never know how the cat and dog managed to survive the journey without eating each other.

Other fabulous memories are the long journeys we used to make...because Gisborne was miles from anywhere...and how we'd pass the time by listening to story books. Our favourite author was Paul Jennings. We had a cassette with our two favourite stories..."Smelly Feat" and "Next time around"....about powerfully smelly feet and hypnotised chicken. I miss those times we spent with the children.

What fond memories do you have of your car?

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Second batch

My new hobby of bird-watching has paid dividends this year. The blackbird couple who nested in our rose bush a couple of months ago ended up having three live chicks, whose progress we watched closely. I wondered if they would use the nest again, but they didn't...they moved into the tree that is next door to the rose bush and built another nest for a second batch of eggs.

I have been spending a lot of time in the garden over the past couple of weeks because the weather has been so good, and I have been amazed at how much work these blackbird parents put into feeding their young, and how much noise the chicks make.

I was thrilled to happen to walk past our front door just as the first chick fledged and rather precariously sat in a bush and had a look around. I'm just keeping an eye open to see how many chicks there are in total.

Mark has opened the compost bin slightly and mummy blackbird is finding it a hugely valuable source of food. I'm just wondering if they have enough energy for a third batch...and what happens to the chicks once they get chased away out of their parents' territory.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Mixed fortunes so far

Summer has hit Dunedin and we're just loving the beautiful weather. I know we'll pay for it later down the line with water shortages, but it makes such a difference to my personal feelings of well-being when it's warm enough to put on some pretty summer clothes, get into the garden and potter, or sit out and sunbathe with a book.

I have had mixed fortunes with my gardening so far. After 14 years of trying to grow basil with no success at all, I have finally found the secret...and that is not to over-water it. This year I have grown basil from seed and only watered it about once a week, letting it get really dry and that seems to done the you can see from the photo, the basil is really thriving.

Bok Choy
I am afraid I haven't had much success with my efforts at growing bok choy. They have gone straight to seed, which apparently is a major problem if you try to grow them at this time of year. According to my research I'll be better off sowing the seeds later in the autumn as the weather gets cooler. This is a real shame because I love bok choy mixed up with egg plant and mushrooms on the bbq.

It also appears I have made a major mistake with the way I have been trying to grow my carrots. I grew them from seed in my porch and then transplanted them into the big pots I am using. But apparently, transplanting carrots is a big no-no. So I've been told they are very unlikely to come to anything. This is a big disappointment to me because I have four big pots of dwarf carrots on the go. I've deliberated what to leave them or pull them out and start again. But for the time being, I've decided to leave them and see what happens.

Any other tips for me and my ongoing efforts to grow veggies in pots?

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

What kind of role model are you for your children?

I have been having a heated discussion with my grown daughter about my refusal to have a routine mammogram and as a result, she has accused me of being a poor role model to her and her brother. This has left me thinking about what message I want to give my kids about how to make informed decisions about their healthcare.

Routine mammograms
How this all started was when my daughter posted a comment on her Facebook account saying how cross she is with me because I will not have routine breast mammogram. She has seen one of my best friends die of breast cancer so she feels I am really stupid for not engaging with a screening process that she feels will reduce my chances of dying of breast cancer.

Cochrane review
But I have made the decision not to have routine mammograms at this stage because I am not convinced about the validity of routine testing, and I am very concerned about the risk of false positives and the effects of being over-treated. I am low risk of breast cancer and have taken on board what the latest Cochrane review has said about routine mammograms.

Role model
My daughter feels I am a poor role model because I have refused a screening program... I am giving her the message that it is OK to ignore tests that have the potential to improve one's health.

What I want to model is how to question healthcare practice and make informed choices about my care. But I do not know if I am doing a very good job of that.

How do you talk about the issues of healthcare and screening to your children? What sort of role model are you? Do you encourage your children to ask critical questions about healthcare practice?


Monday, December 6, 2010

How to make time for blogging

A little while ago I was asked by Carrie to comment on how I find time for social media. I sort of answered this question a couple of years ago in this post: Do you have time to learn? So I'd rather focus on a more specific question - how do I make time for blogging?

How often should you publish a blog post?
This is a really important question in light of the commitment it takes to build and maintain a successful blog that has an audience who reads your posts and participates by leaving comments. I have heard it said that it doesn't matter what you say in your blog as long as you blog frequently. Laureen Hudson, a social media commentator says you should blog at least three times per week. Sue Waters reckons that two quality posts a week will keep your readers happy.

Having a blogging schedule
The strategy I use for managing my time is to write a week's worth of blog posts in advance and then schedule them to go 'live' during the week (here is information on how to do this if you are using Blogger). This usually takes half a day at the weekend.

Better time management
This sounds like a big commitment but I find it is a lot more effective than writing blog posts as and when I get an idea. And I have found that my reader numbers have noticeably increased since I have started taking this more structured approach to blogging.

Darren Rouse "Problogger" has written a really useful article on this topic: Plan Your Next Week’s Posting Schedule.

What tips would you pass on that will help people manage their blogging more effectively?

Image: 'TIME FLIES.....................*'

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Otago Polytechnic: a living campus

A couple of years ago, Otago Polytechnic set up a project called The Living Campus. My understanding is that the idea behind the project is to make the campus an example of sustainable practice, integrating learning experiences for students and developing community vegetable production.

I am not sure if the project is meeting its original aims but I have been enjoying watching the vegetables and flowers grow - the campus is currently looking really exciting and colourful.

At the moment there is a person employed to grow vegetables which are then available for anyone to pick, including members of the public. A couple of days ago I picked a meal's worth of broad beans which was the first time I have eaten fresh broad beans in many, many years.

I am not too sure how sustainable the gardens are. As far as I can tell, Otago Polytechnic is putting in all the funding and effort. I haven't seen any community activity going on. What I would like to see is some sort of reciprocal arrangement...if you take away vegetables, you replace them with seeds or plants. I've got some spare tomatoes plants which I'll take into work next week.

What I'd be really interested in is setting up a gardening club at Otago Polytechnic that meets in a lunch time...maybe that will be one of my projects next year. I'm just wondering if there'd be any interest.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

My new job. Back to my midwifery roots

After having swearing blind I would never teach midwifery again two years ago, I have completely gone back on this and accepted a new job teaching in the midwifery program at Griffith University, Brisbane, starting in January 2011.

I will be working 0.5 fte as a "virtual" faculty staff member, doing mostly online teaching and development, with at least three visits to Brisbane for face-to-face meetings with students and staff. At the same time I will be keeping my current job as educational developer at Otago Polytechnic working 0.5 fte.

I thought long and hard about whether to take this job or not because in one way it feels like I am going backwards...into the stresses that I was so glad to escape. But I feel that moving into the Australian university sector is a good career move for me. And the team I will be working with is an extremely exciting, innovative team who is very interested in the work I am doing with ePortfolio, open education and the Virtual International Day of the Midwife. This move also takes away the decision about whether to get back into my PhD or is an expectation for the role I am moving into.

At the same time, I am really pleased to keep my association going with the Education Development Centre at Otago Polytechnic, which includes facilitating the online course 'Facilitating Online' for another year.

So I feel I have my cake and am eating it. What more can a girl ask for?!

Image: 'Griffith University - Queensland Conservatorium'