Thursday, January 31, 2008

31 Days to Building a Better Blog: Day 6

Thankfully, today's challenge of the 31 Day Blog Challenge is easy to complete: to email an old timer blog reader.

I'll go one step further and publicly thank Carolyn, Leigh and Sue who have consistently commented on this blog from the first: I really appreciate all your support, you guys. Thank you very much.

Midwives are not so much behind the times after all

Well, I take back all I said about midwives being behind the times - well, some of what I said.

I did a Google search this morning on an eminent midwife, writer and researcher, Professor Maralyn Foureur. Blow me down, of the first ten results, two of them were social networking web sites; Flickr and Facebook.

There's no excuse for the rest of us now!

Being 'time poor': managing social networking tools and information on the Internet

I have been talking about encouraging students to use social networking tools to find information on the network, and not just rely on journals and books they find in the library. I advise students to take at least a couple of hours a month to browse around the library, just catching up with the latest journals. I find it really frustrating that students seem to only concentrate on finding information for their assignments, as opposed for general interest and development.

But as Rae pointed out in her answer to my post about the academic credibility of blogs, midwifery students (both undergraduate and postgraduate) have considerable time constraints which can be a considerable barrier to 'surfing'. Not only do they have an academic load but they also have clinical placements, which usually means being 'on-call'. Many students are mature students with significant family obligations. So, time management is crucial. And expecting students to surf blogs, wikis, YouTube and so on on top of the traditional journals and books may be... a blog too far!

But that is where tools such a Google Reader, Google Alerts and Google Blog Alerts are so handy. I use these tools in iGoogle to monitor topics and blogs that are of interest to me. For example, I have my iGoogle home page alert me when topics are posted on blogs about "midwifery", "midwife" and "e-mentoring". I use Google Reader to keep an eye on any midwifery websites and blogs that interest me. And on the whole, I haven't found this to be too time consuming and keeps my knowledge-seeking focused. It certainly is easier than carrying out general searches every few days to see what is new.

The other thing I find to be very useful as a time saving measure is to sign up for email alerts from my favorite journals. So that every time there is a new edition of a journal, I get an email alert that tells me what is in the journal. I can then decide what articles to follow up in the library.

These time and information management tools need to be included into orientation packages for students alongside introductions to databases and search engines.

PS: Image is from my first attempt to use Jing which is a screen-capture program.

One-to-one midwifery care: managing change

In a previous post I talked about the one-to-one midwifery care schemes that are slowly being developed in Australia. This is very exciting for women and midwives in Australia.

I was very pleased to hear from a midwife in Sydney, who is involved with in developing some such scheme. One of the issues that she raised was that older midwives and obstetricians were resistant to the idea of one-to-one midwifery care. This made me reflect on how important it is to manage the process when it comes to implementing a change such as this.

There is a lot of literature about this, and I am really sorry I do not have time to present it here as I would like to. So my writing is very much based on my personal thoughts, experiences and observations. However, midwives such as Nicky Leap, Jane Sandall and Lesley Page have all written about developing caseload midwifery for some years. Maralyn Foureur, an Australian midwife, carried out a RCT looking at total midwifery care in Australia some years ago with results that supported the effectiveness of one-to-one midwifery care - just cannot find the reference for that research anywhere, so you may have to contact Maralyn directly to find out more.

My main thoughts are that it is very important to include everyone in the development of such a model of care, but the one also has to accept that there will always be resistance. Even now, after 15 years of caseload midwifery in New Zealand, there are attacks from various quarters. A lot of it is about loss of power, control and money.

I think it is vital not to alienate the midwives who will continue to provide core facility services. For whatever reason there will always be midwives who cannot work in a caseload situation. These midwives should be valued because they provide the support to midwives who support women. At the same time, core midwives must recognize that the way they provide that support makes a tremendous difference to outcomes, both for the caseload midwife and women.

For me, the key to one-to-one midwifery care is the relationship with the woman. The woman and her family is the reason for providing that model of care, not the midwife. If you do not work in 'partnership' with women, then it does not matter what model of care you use.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

31 Days to Building a Better Blog: Day 5

The challenge for Day 5 of the 31 Day Blog Challenge is to run an audit of the 'about page'. This page tells readers what your blog is about and should help to hook readers into your blog.

This blogging platform does not have an 'about page' so I am reliant on my profile, heading and sidebar to tell readers about the blog. This reduces the space I have to telling people about myself so it is especially important that I am concise and keep to the main points. With this in mind, I have changed my heading to include short, concise key words that describe my blog as suggested by Sue Waters. I keep changing the order of the words around depending on what mood I am in, but I think they encapsulates what the blog is about.

Slightly off topic: I have been extremely pleased with people's responses to the change of the blog's format. I certainly love it. It feels a lot less cluttered but still reflects how I feel about the blog.

Image: 'Phuket Sunset' Pete Liedtke

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Web 2.0 in Education: is it worth it?

I have been overcome by enthusiasm for Web 2.0 and social networking in education since my own experience over the last six months has led to amazing learning and networking opportunities. I have come back to work at Otago Polytechnic determined to introduce social networking as a wonderful means of learning to the midwifery students.

Leigh Blackall told me today that it was his experience that only 10% people engaged with social networking. So is all my time and energy better spent in other projects? How effective is social networking in education? Is it just another fad soon to be replaced by another one?

How can I encourage students to engage with social networking; to see past the library and physical classroom as the only place to learn?

What do you think?

Image: 'Think Pink'

Academic Credibility of Social Networking

One thought has led to another.

In my last post I was bemoaning the fact that the students I work with do not appear to go far beyond paper journals in the library to gain information, especially for academic assignments. Why don't students go to blogs, YouTube, wikis and so on for their information, I agonize?!

Isn't it because of the value we put on academic or authoritative knowledge? A research article from a peer-reviewed journal is considered credible. Yet a blog posting that may contribute hugely to a student's learning may be considered inappropriate for an academic essay.

I know this debate has been held many times elsewhere, but my own experience of blogging has certainly made me think twice about authoritative knowledge, and in particular where blogs, slidecasts, videos and so on sit in the grand academic scheme of things.

What do you think about the academic merits of blogs and so on? Are they an appropriate source of academic knowledge or should they be limited to modes of communication only?

Image: 'Professor' Tim O'Brien

Evidence-Based Practice: Back to Basics

I have had a lovely summer exploring ideas about social networking and Web 2.0 as a means for learning, but now I am back at work the reality of the new academic year has hit. This has left me with the question: how do I utilize all I have learned about Web 2.0 in my every day teaching practice?

My 'teaching practice' this year is very little classroom teaching as such but more facilitation, support and supervision especially for senior students who are out on clinical placements all over the country. So my main roles are disseminating information, supporting reflection and questioning.

One of my first tasks this year was to review feedback from last years' senior students. One of their greatest challenges was getting access to library material back on campus. Relying on photocopying and post was a great barrier to their learning and preparation of academic assignments. But this begs the question: why do students only rely on paper resources in the library? Why don't students use the electronic databases with full text resources? Have they never heard of Google Scholar? Do they have the online access and knowledge that we think they have? Why don't they network with other midwives via blogs, websites and email to obtain and synthesise information? Do they not use alerts, social bookmarking and RSS feeds?

I know that access to the Internet can be very difficult when students are out on placement, especially in rural areas. But I am also wondering if we make too many assumptions about students' knowledge of online resources and how to use them. This thought has been echoed by Michele Martin who has been asking the same questions in her recent post "Venturing Outside of My Web 2.0 Bubble".

So, coming back to how I am going to incorporate Web 2.0 into my teaching practice, I think I will start simple. As much as I would love to launch straight into blogs, Twitter, e-portfolios and communities of practice, I am going to go back to basics to make sure that students understand how and where to access information, and then utilize that into their academic work and every day midwifery clinical practice. This 'basic' skill is a vital one that underpins the whole concept of evidence-based midwifery practice and is a skill that is as important as the hands-on skill of catching a baby.

If you are a student, what computer skills and knowledge do you think it is important to have, and what would you like to know more about?

Image: 'inviting...' chelseagirl

One-to-one midwifery care in Australia

Meredith at the Baby Bump Project has drawn my attention to a research study that is currently being carried out in Australia, which is aiming to show that one-to-one midwifery care improves pregnancy and birth outcomes. In other words, if you have the same midwife caring for you throughout your pregnancy and birthing experience, you are more likely to successfully breastfeed, have a normal birth and less postnatal depression.

Research over the last 10-15 years has consistently shown that one-to-one midwifery care has increased positive birth outcomes. One only has to look back at the work of the Albany Midwifery Group and Lesley Page in London in the mid 1990s. However, you could be forgiven for pointing that that whilst we have been providing continuity of midwifery care to women for nearly 20 years in New Zealand, that has not stopped our national cesarean section rate increasing.

So my feelings are (from my own personal experience as well as research findings*) that the key to successful one-to-one midwifery schemes are:

midwives work in very small practices and not big teams;
they have a moderate size caseload;
they are well supported by midwives and doctors in hospital;
they have a well-thought out arrangement for taking time off.

If midwives are working in sustainable practices, are supported by both midwifery and obstetric colleagues in promoting normal birth and are themselves committed to working with women in 'partnership', then we will see a reduction of intervention rates.

How do you feel about midwives: would you prefer one or two midwives only to look after you throughout your pregnancy and birth, or do you think it matters as long as the midwife you meet is nice and knowledgeable?

If you are a midwife, how do you prefer to work: team, one-to-one or hospital shifts? What do you feel are the issues facing midwives carrying a caseload?

*Ball L, Curtis P & Kirkham M, Why do Midwives Leave? Royal College of Midwives Publications, London, 2002.

*Sandall J (1997) Midwives’ burnout and continuity of care. British Journal of Midwifery 15 (2): 106-111

Image: 'Midwives...' Ross

Monday, January 28, 2008

Paying for your caesarean section

An article in yesterday's Sunday Star Times discussed the evidence from several studies that both women and babies suffer increased risk of death as a result of cesarean section. In particular, babies are much more likely to suffer with problems with their breathing, especially following elective (planned/booked) cesarean.

The risk of elective cesarean section coupled with the cost ($3000-4000, compared to $1000-1500 for a vaginal birth) has led to a discussion about who pays for elective cesarean sections, especially if it is for a non-medical reason.

The thing is: what do you call a 'non-medical' reason? If elective cesareans go the same way as induction of labor, it will be very easy for women, midwives and doctors to come up with a justifiable reason. Whilst induction of labor is only supposed to be carried out for medical reasons, social inductions are carried out all the time - to suit medical staff as much as women.

I certainly strongly support any move to lower cesarean section rates. I have a sympathy for the view that women who are members of the 'too posh to push' brigade should pay for their operations. However, I believe that it is vital that 'poor' women are not discriminated against because of their financial status. I also have concerns that the reasons for women's particular beliefs about cesarean are not fully explored and dealt with. As midwives and health professionals, we should be asking ourselves what it is we do to influence women into believing cesareans are the preferred mode of birth?

What I believe is vital is to ensure that women are well supported to achieve vaginal birth in the most holistic way available, so that scare tactics around vaginal birth are recognized as such. This requires midwives to be totally committed to normal birth. The question is: how committed are midwives (and women) to normal birth, or do elective procedures like induction of labour and cesarean suit us too much as a means of controlling our working and personal lives?

What do you think? Do you think women should have to pay if they request cesarean sections for no specific medical reason?

If you are a midwife, how often do you see women requesting elective cesarean sections?

Image: 'daffodil' Pawel Loj

Holiday Hangover!

Having just had a fantastic weeks holiday, I am struggling to get going again exercise program (such as it is!) ...and.... this blog. So I thought I'd ease back into it by posting up a couple of holiday photos.

We had a great week away camping in a caravan just a few miles away from Wanaka at Glendu Bay - 'Lord of the Rings' country. The weather was fabulous apart from one 24 hour period when it absolutely poured down with rain - the animals were just starting to queue up, two by two, to join us in the caravan when the sun came out again.

We drank lots of wonderful Central wine and ate succulent cherries. My husband dragged me up a bloody great mountain, which nearly finished me off completely. He kept saying, "You'll be so proud of yourself when you get there!" - yeah, right! But I have to confess the views from the top were amazing, as you can see.

Now, I am back at work flaunting a sun tan, which is very unusual considering I have been in Dunedin all summer. And to try to motivate myself further, I have changed the template of this blog, mainly in response to comments that the previous layout made things look very cluttered.

So any thoughts about how it looks now, please let me know.

Friday, January 18, 2008

I'm off!

Well, I'm off to Queenstown and Wanaka, camping for the week - back 27th January. How I am going to manage without the Internet for a whole week, goodness only knows!

Any gossip you think I need to know, please feel free to leave here in the comments section!

Image: 'Yelling' Noam Galai

A week in the life of a newbie twitter

I have recently joined Twitter and these are my experiences and thoughts about it so far.

Sunday: Discovered the benefit of having a mentor to introduce me to people on Twitter. My mentor was Sue Waters, who introduced me to the community of educators she talks to. I would find Twitter very frustrating if I did not have that instant access to a group.

Monday: Felt too uncomfortable to say anything because I didn't have anything to say, didn't know anyone, and did not want to make a mistake and say something out of turn.

Tuesday: Responded to a 'tweet' by Nancy White about Yuuguu, which is a screen-share software. Nancy is someone I really admire so I was thrilled that she was able to take five minutes to orientate me to Yuuguu. .. and I got to see her desktop! It is absolutely mind-blowing to me that I was able to control the desktop of person living in Seattle whilst I was in New Zealand. The potential for me as a teacher is that I will be able to guide a distance student in the use of an Internet tool in a far more hands-on way compared to giving written or telephone instructions at a distance. Following Nancy's 'looking over our shoulders' model of teaching and learning.
Met Andy Roberts who is taking the 31 Day Better Blog Challenge with me.

Wednesday: Found on someone's Mugshot profile.
Twitter: I do not know how much can be attributed to my use of Twitter, but I am sure
it can only help.

My overall impression of Twitter: the jury is still out on this one. But I think it has potential, and I certainly would like to talk to my third year midwifery students who are out on placements around the country about it.

What is your experience of Twitter? Do you have any helpful hints about how to maximize its effectiveness?

Image: 'Open up and say AHHHH33333 (Day 58- 365 days)' Michelle Brea

Sarah's Makeover

I just knew it! I just knew one thing would lead to another...and I am supposed to be packing, baking, shopping, cleaning, taking the car to be fixed and generally getting ready for a week's camping trip.

But oh no, I have to go and join the 31 Day Better Blog Challenge. So that leads to asking for feedback and blow me...I get it! Carolyn has to go and say that she didn't like the side bar of my blog...she says it is too cluttered. But instead of saying...whateva...what does Carolyn know about to the hand... I have to go and look at other templates (I must say that at this stage I have no intention of moving to another blogging platform - that may come at another stage). Now I'm all in a tizz.

So what to do? Do I change templates? If so, change to which one?

Or do I de-clutter my sidebar? What should I remove? I am extremely loath to remove anything.

Any feedback or suggestions are gratefully received but not until I hit the road and cannot be contacted!

Image: 'The Remarkables' slack13

31 Days to Building a Better Blog: Day 4

The challenge for 'Day 4 of the 31 Days to building a better blog' involves going back to old posts and do some interlinking so that one post leads to another. This encourages readers to travel more extensively around your blog.

This challenge is obviously going to take a few days. I intentionally interlink my posts now by both putting links in the post itself and adding labels/tabs at the end of the post. However, I have only been doing that for the last couple of months. It will take a little time to go back to my early posts and do some linking. However, I think it will be well worth it because there were some interesting discussions that went on about topics such as lurking in online communities, virtual identity, and how a teacher presents his/herself to students.

What I have not worked out how to do is to get to first post of this blog and work my way forward in time to my current post, so if anyone can tell me how to do that I'd be really grateful.

Image: 'rusted chain link' zen Sutherland

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Thinking about my tagline

Sue Waters has suggested that my tagline below the title of this blog, Sarah's Musings, is too long. Any suggestions about how I can make it more concise?

Image: Image: 'relay' Makoto

Not another forum! 31 Days to Building a Better Blog: Day 3

Today's challenge is to join a forum with the aim of extending your network. All I can say about this is: thank goodness I have already done this already this week. I think joining Twitter will count. I also joined the Ning 'Building a better blog' forum a couple of days ago.

To be honest, I am all 'forum-ed' out. I would not join another forum today if you stood over me with a shotgun! I cannot cope with all the different places I am talking to people. It's too much....I'm going slightly mad!

Queen: I'm going slightly mad

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Incontinence versus DEATH?

I love Meredith who writes the Baby Bump Project blog. In her post 'Caesareans: preventing the 'trauma' of natural birth' she talks about a surgeon in Sydney who presents cesarean section as a completely 'risk free' option to the 'terrible' outcomes of vaginal birth which includes incontinence. Meredith says in a nutshell:

Right. And what were the risks of caesarean again? Oh that's right. I think DEATH is on the top of the list. I think I'll take a little incontinence (which can be remedied with exercise!) over a casket.

Postscript: The reality is that cesarean section is unlikely to make much difference to incontinence later in life - it is not so much the birth process that causes incontinence, but pregnancy.

Twitter for mobile midwives

I have been thinking about the potential of Twitter for midwives. For those who do not know what Twitter is, please read my previous post 'Getting my head around Twitter'.

Midwives are very mobile people and I think it could be an excellent tool if midwives used it through their mobile phones or other mobile equipment. Picture this:

I am out on my rounds visiting a pregnant woman at her home and come across a problem...I put out a query to my Twitter community of midwifery colleagues and friends...a reply comes back that I can action while I am still at the woman's home.
Of course I could have phoned or text a colleague, but by using Twitter I have access to a wider community of midwifery experts.

Otherwise, I cannot see midwives finding it very useful. Because of the nature of midwives' work, I think they would be much more likely to use asynchronous tools that allow them time to reflect, at a time that is convenient and away from their work. However, the truth is I do not really know because there is not a lot (if any at all) of research looking at how midwives use Web 2.0 tools or how/if they structure their learning using social networking.

I would love to hear your ideas about this, especially if you are a midwifery student or midwife. Do you use Twitter? Is this something you see would be useful and how? How could we use it in midwifery education?

Image: 'Niece & My Nokia 6230i (by Nikon D70)' Spitzgogo_CHE

Getting my head around Twitter

One of my goals for this year was to find out more about Twitter, because I had heard it mentioned a number of times especially by people like Sue Waters and it seemed like the 'in' thing to join. But despite reading a number of blog posts, I still didn't really understand what it was - is it an asynchronous or synchronous tool? Is it a 'chat' program that is designed for cell phones? Oh well, whateva, I thought - I've got enough to do without worrying about Twitter.

However, two posts confirmed that I really must look into this more closely. The first post was by Michele Martin who wrote 'Six reasons people aren't commenting on your blog'. To cut a long story short, this post was extremely successful for both Michele and I because it led to a lot of comments and discussion that spilled into my blog, which in turn increased my readership. The point of this story was that this all came about because of Twitter - someone read Michele's post, passed on the word and... the rest is history.

The second post was written by Clare Thompson - 'Tools and Sites I use List'. In her post Clare articulated exactly the same feelings that I had - she said "not sure I get it, worried that it will suck me into the abyss". So I got in touch with Clare, and after some discussion and support from Sue, we both joined. I loved the idea of having a mate to hold hands with - it made me feel a lot more confident. I also felt that if I did not join Twitter, I was not hip or groovy, and there was a danger I would be left out in the cold!

So I have discovered that Twitter is actually a synchronous instant messaging program that allows you to post very short posts (140 characters) to an online community of people who you 'follow' and who 'follow' you. Getting started was greatly helped by two blogs posts: Caroline Middlebrook has written a Twitter guide called 'The big juicy Twitter guide' in which she talks about the technological and social aspects of using Twitter. The other post I found really useful was 'Early morning Twitter education' by Kate Olson in which she talked about how to manage your 'tweets' or messages.

There appears to be a difference of opinion about Twitter. On the one hand, there are those such as Chris Lott who see Twitter as playing a valuable part in a community of practice, whilst others including George Siemens who cannot find any reason to join.

My initial impression is that the effectiveness of it very much depends on the community you belong to. If I want to idly 'chat' to an individual, I am more likely to use Skype or gmail. With Twitter, I have an instantaneous connection with a community of people who are able to pass on information there and then. I am still left with the question: why is that any better than asynchronous connection and I guess the answer is 'it isn't' - just different. I like the comment that Chris Lott made that Twitter is another "piece of the puzzle" - it becomes another part of my personal learning environment. The major question for me now is how much attention I will be able to pay Twitter when I return to work at the end of my summer holiday.

So I would be really interested to hear how people are using Twitter and what their experiences are. In particular, I would be extremely interested in hearing from midwives or midwifery students who use Twitter, or would be interested in knowing more about it.

Image: 'Let9s Talk About Sex' René González

31 Days to Building a Better Blog: Day 2

The activity for Day 2 of the 31 Day Blog Challenge is to run an audit of first time readers on my blog. This involves asking a friend or family member to surf my blog and give feedback about its look, navigation, content and design.

Well, the only person available to help me with this was my 17 year old son, Andrew. I knew it was likely to be a big mistake but after I submitted to blackmail - I had to take him to lunch - he sat down and gave me a full three minutes of his concentration.

Coming at no great surprise, the things he was especially attracted to was the quiz, and the 'funny', non-professional posts such as 'It's official - I'm too fat'. He was very attracted to images, which is why he liked my 'fat' post - because of the photo of the squirrel. He surfed off and had a look at my Flickr photos as well as Flickr photos belonging to the the images I have attached to my posts, in other words he wanted to see more squirrel photos! He got also distracted into Second Life because I was running it at the same time and there were some extremely funny noises coming from it. He read my profile and laughed at my photo - I am not sure why, I think its a nice photo!

As for the content and design, suffice to say, he generally thought it was very boring until he got to the photo of the squirrel! But he did understand it was about midwifery and thought the blog had very 'business-like' feel which he felt was appropriate for the content matter. He didn't think the look of the blog would attract a young person, but then again midwives and educators will be a little older than his age range. Navigation was not a problem. And he didn't have any suggestions about how I may change the blog.

So I think the moral of the story from Andrew's point of view is to keep using lots of images as well as a thread of humor running through the blog.

If you are a first time reader of this blog, what do you think about the content and design of this blog - what is your first impression?

As for Andrew - I think he is a visual learner, which may explain a lot of things!

Postscript: It has also been really useful to have an experienced blogger run an eye over my blog. Sue Waters gave me a number of excellent suggestions - follow the comment section of this post to see what she had to say.

Image: Andrew diving at Aramoana, Dunedin, New Zealand.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

31 Days to Building a Better Blog: Day 1

For some time now, I have been thinking about doing the '31 days to building a better blog' challenge which was first proposed by Darren Rouse. I have dipped in and out of it, courtesy of Sue Waters, but didn't want to do the challenge my own - without someone to hold my hand! Anyway, I have found Kate Olson via twitter who is doing to same thing, so I am sure it will be much more fun going on this journey with a 'mate'.

Day One's activity is to email a new reader of the blog. The reasoning behind this action is to connect with the blog's readers with the aim that this will encourage them to visit again. I have been aware of this as a strategy and because my readership is so small, I have religiously been in touch with all the people who leave me comments. However, I have a friend who has just started to comment on this blog and whilst I have verbally thanked her for visiting the blog, today I also emailed her. I have certainly noticed as a blog reader that I feel a lot more positively about a blogger who responds to my comments, be they on the blog itself or by email.

The other thing I have done is join the 'Building a better blog' Ning Community. This is community of people who did the 31 day challenge last year, so I am hoping they have lots of hot tips for us.

I would be really thrilled if anyone wants to join me on this challenge. Would also love to hear from anyone else who has done the challenge - what was the most effective activity you carried out?

Image: 'iron' Atanas Entchev

Stats confirm my feelings about this blog

Back in December I wrote that I had decided that this was going to be a blog with an education and professional development theme rather than clinical midwifery, and I was happy with that. Over the New Year I have worked really hard to connect with other educators by joining Ning and Twitter; leaving comments on other blogs and joining in with community projects. This seems to have paid off because the number of visits to this blog has risen to 100 per day (this blog has a small audience at the moment because I am writing about a very small and specialized field).

But over the last couple of days, I have written some midwifery-specific posts but am really disappointed to see that my daily visits have dropped again to about 50.

To me, this seems to confirm that I am better off writing about education issues rather than midwifery issues. What do you think? Why do you read this blog and what interests you?

Image: 'happy 2008' brungrrl

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Wanted - Myles midwifery textbook

I am collecting a very well known midwifery textbook called "Textbook for midwives" by Margaret Myles, later fondly known as 'Myles Midwifery'. I am looking for editions 1 (1953), 2 (1955) and 3 (1958). So if anyone has an old copy they would like to sell, please let me know.

Eventually, I aim to collect all the editions and then carry out an analysis of how this core textbook has changed over the years, not just the textbook itself but also the information it contains.

Taking the plunge: writing for publication

I had a conversation recently with a midwife who was feeling very passionate about a professional issue but did not know what to do about it. She decided that she wanted to write about her thoughts but didn't quite know how to approach it.

There are any number of articles and resources out there to help people to write for publication for the first time. As I have already said MIDIRS has a very good webinar that is available to watch, which gives excellent information for people who have not submitted material for publication before.

My main tips for people who are just starting to think about getting something published are:
  • Start small - write a letter to the editor or write a book review. This will boost your confidence and give you a place to start from.
  • If you do not feel up to writing a full research article, begin with an opinion piece or literature review.
  • Think about the style of your writing and the article you are writing. If it is not a particularly academic, you might be better off submitting it to a non peer-reviewed journal such as The New Zealand College of Midwives' Newsletter, Midwifery Today, The Practicing Midwife or MIDIRS Digest.
  • Collaborate with someone who has more writing experience, or already has useful connections with a editor/publisher.
  • Talk to the editor of the journal/magazine where you want to submit your article - hopefully, he/she will be able to give you some advice and guidance.
  • Find a critical friend who will not only edit your work but will critique your ideas and support you as you process your work.
  • Whatever you do, do not forget to acknowledge your sources - make sure you know what referencing style the journal uses like APA, Vancouver, Harvard etc.
Do not be afraid - give it a go. The worse that can happen is that your piece gets rejected. If that is the case, do not take it personally - just give it another go with another journal.

Do you have any other tips or experiences that would be helpful?


Stewart, S. 2004. Tips on writing for publication.
New Zealand College of Midwives Journal, 30: 26-27

Saturday, January 12, 2008

MIDIRS online resources for student midwives

In a previous post I talked about the MIDIRS web site that has a number of online resources. One of the resources is a space for student midwives called 'Student Zone'.

There is a list of midwives and students' blogs, but I would like some way that you can submit details of your own blog. There's a discussion board that looks at topics ranging from what is required to be a midwife and life as a student, to professional issues for registered midwives. The web site also hosts a wiki and chat room, although I haven't managed to work out how to get into the chatroom yet.

The website looks like it is still in a growing phase but has great potential as a specific meeting place for students and midwives. But I wonder if people will use it to the same degree they will use Facebook, MySpace and instant messaging systems such as MSN? Is it worth spending a lot of time and money developing specific platforms (and this question applies to educational institutions as well)? Would not organizations like MIDIRS be better off exploring how they can capture an audience/users through platforms that midwives are already using?

It's official - I'm too fat!

My husband and I had a 'family' trip to the doctors the other day and one of the conversations was about my snoring, which has now got to the degree that I have been kicked out of the marital bed!

My doctor put me on the scales - in front of my husband...ahhh! And the terrible news was that I was too fat, which makes my snoring worse.

So now I am faced with a quandary..... do I want to save my marriage enough to go on a diet and join a have to think about that for a moment!

This personal post is in response to a post by Sue Waters on her blog Mobile Technology in TAFE entitled "Connecting with your readers" in which she talks about blogging about one's life in order to connect with readers.

Image: 'Fat Boy' James Phelps

Friday, January 11, 2008

Joining Twitter

OK, I have plucked up courage and got a twitter account: now what!?!

User name: SarahStewart

Image: 'Happiness is a really good scratch'
John Haslam

Online midwifery seminars with MIDIRS

MIDIRS is a midwifery information and resource service. The organization is probably best known for its distinctive pink quarterly digests, research database and informed choice leaflets. What I have failed to realize is that MIDIRS has expanded its website to include other online resources to include blogs, wiki, discussion board and online seminars.

The online seminars or webinars are the exactly same principle as the online meetings I ran last year - the only difference is the conferencing software. The next couple of webinars are about planning a research project and thinking about informed choice. Previous webinars are available as recordings:
  • Knowledge for Practice: Enhancing your learning as a student midwife and beyond
  • Division of tongue tie – a wicked, barbaric, criminal thing to do?
  • Normal neonatal behaviour and the psychology of parenting
  • Cup feeding revisited
  • Writing for publication - through the eyes of an editor
  • Supporting staff in providing HDU care within maternity services
  • A simple guide to critiquing research articles
  • Facing issues in practice that are controversial
  • Skin deep - skin care and care of the unbilicus
  • Finding your way through the information maze!
I have listened to the presentation on writing for publication and Carolyn found the webinar about tongue tie to be extremely interesting.

For many of us midwives MIDIRS is a very old friend, and it is certainly worth checking the website regularly because to my knowledge this website/midwifery organization is about the most far-thinking with regards to social networking and e-learning.

Have you looked at the MIDIRS website recently? What did you think about the webinars? Were there any other resources you found useful and would recommend?

Having a baby: outcome versus the journey?

Leigh raised an interesting question the other day after I posted a comment about ultrasound pregnancy scans being available as MP3 files. I was making the point that it is just another way of hooking women into necessary interventions and said that routine scans do not make any difference to birth outcomes for low risk women. Leigh's response was this:

surely its not all about outcomes.. even for a teacher.. I look at this as just an extension of the family photo, and a little way of getting excited about the new member to be..

The outcomes we are wanting are a healthy mother, baby and family. By 'healthy' I mean mental, emotional and spiritual health as well as physical health. Ultimately the two things are interconnected; the journey and the outcome. As a midwife, I feel that pregnancy and birth isn't just about the outcome but the journey as well. This is why I have supported women in the past to do things that may not have necessarily had full medical agreement; because the journey has been just as important to the women as having a live, healthy baby at the end of the day.

But ultimately, outcomes are what midwives are 'judged' on by women and families, other health professionals, the midwifery profession and society in general. It only takes one 'poor' outcome to shatter a midwife's career and life.

What do you think? If you are a midwife, what do you see as the focus of your practice? If you are a non-midwife - maybe you are a mother or father to be - what are the things that mean a lot to you when thinking about having a baby?

Image: 'curve' Per Ola Wiberg

Is online social networking as effective as we say it is?

I have been thinking about the effectiveness of virtual social networking ever since Leigh Blackall made a comment on his blog about the International Computer Mediated Social Networking Conference that is being held in Dunedin this year.

There are two main tertiary institutions in Dunedin: the University of Otago where the organizers of the conference are based, and Otago Polytechnic where Leigh and I work. Leigh was a bit miffed that we had not heard anything about the conference and that there had not been any sort of consultation or collaboration. In fact, there has not even been any advertising of the conference at Otago Polytechnic; I found out about it on the international AOIR discussion list

Considering Dunedin is such as small city, it seems to be a shame that there is not more collaboration between the two institutions. But then again, how would the Department of Information Science at Otago University know what we're up to, or for that matter, even know who we are?

I do not want to get into a discussion about inter-institutional politics, but I do wonder about the effectiveness of the networks we use. What networks are conference organizers using and how are they different from the ones we use? Is all the rhetoric about online social networking actually a load of old codswallop if a few people in a small city cannot find each other?

I am thinking that the best way to approach this is the old fashioned networking method ie give them a ring and try to arrange a 'get-together' to discuss mutual interests. If all else fails, I guess we'll meet at the conference.

Image: 'network' Diego Sevilla Ruiz

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Further thoughts on the Computer Mediated Social Networking Conference: Dunedin 2008

Leigh Blackall and I am thinking about submitting a paper for the Dunedin International Computer Mediated Social Networking Conference in June. Leigh and I have been thrashing some ideas around and we think we'll base our paper on the course Leigh ran last year in conjunction with Bronwyn Hegarty.

I have to be honest and admit that I was a little confused as to exactly what the conference wanted from submissions. It is probably because I am being a little thick, but to me there are a mish mash of ideas so I think the best thing to do will be to submit a paper and see how it goes. Suffice to say, there were a few words and concepts from the conference web site that have stood out: collaboration/cooperation, rules, collective knowledge, sharing, construction of knowledge, integration of web 2.0 tools.

The italics are Leigh's words with some extra thoughts from me.

I’m a little put off by the tone of the conference though, and a bit at a loss as to how we might go about packaging what we know about that experience up into a presentation of some sort of “research” for this conference.

I don't think we should worry too much about that. Whilst this course wasn't a research project as such, there is data that has been generated in the form of blogs, wiki entries and student feedback. However, I do think we should get some sort of permission from the students before we use their data, even the blogs.

I do know that there are quite a few things about our experiences that the conference attendees would find interesting, starting with the things Sarah points out such as personalised learning through blogs and wikis, and open access to the course and how that resulted in a better learning environment and fee paying enrollments.

I certainly agree that the open access approach to education using social networking is a concept that should be explored and fits with the conference question of 'rules'. Our experiences have been that it is a positive thing, resulting not just in development of networks that otherwise would not have happened, but also enrollments.

I would like to extend the proposal to talk about open content, the difficulty of negotiating the participatory expectations of such a course with the traditional educational models of ’stand and deliver’

I think we'll have to be careful we don't get too carried away with the teacher/facilitator discussion but again it fits in nicely with the whole concept of 'rules'.
  1. The set up and maintenance of the Facilitating Online Learning Communities course
  2. Experiences of the participants and examples of how their new learning is being used in their work
  3. Outstanding issues and considerations arising from the course
  4. Further work we will do in developing education generally at Otago Polytechnic using socially networked media and communications.
  5. Frank and honest discussion on the probable and existing issues with this vision and Otago Polytechnic
Another thing to add to the 'results' discussion is how the virtual network supported or enhanced face-to-face networks, especially for those of us who work at OP.

I think it would be good to beam the likes of Sue Waters and some of the 10 minute lecturers in on the day as well, to get their impressions and reasons for participating on the air… as I think they played a very significant part in the course that we have not really captured yet.

I totally agree about the value of the 'outsiders' but wonder if the 'beaming' would be too ambitious. However, as far as the paper goes, we can certainly include their feedback.

Now some practical considerations.

1. How to continue from here - I agree a wiki is probably the best way to go.
2. Who else do we want/need to collaborate on this with?
3. Permissions from students? Can we use their evaluation forms? Do we need permission to use material from their blogs?
4. Thoughts from the 10 minute speakers and others.

The submission process looks off-putting to say the least so we need to decide whether this is to be a 6 page or 12 page paper.

Image: 'Frosted web' Bill Tyne

Blogapalooza: What I learned from 2007

One of the things I decided to do this year was to reach out more to other blogs and communities because I believe it is an effective way of building my networks and increasing my learning opportunities. So I joined the Blogapalooza writing project at Middle Zone Musings and here is the result: what I learned from 2007.

Image: Gym Jonathon

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

MP3 baby ultrasound scans

Well, here's the latest in mobile technology. Portland Hospital in London (the expensive, private hospital where all the rich and famous go to have their babies!) are now offering mothers the opportunity to download their baby's scan video onto a MP3 player.

Another trendy way of hooking women into routine medical interventions that has been shown to have no effect on outcomes for low-risk women!

Image: 'Fulljames Nano (39/365)' Stephen Fulljames

Are you an interfering midwife?

The sad news of the death of a dear midwifery colleague of mine, Tricia Anderson, has made me reflect on her life as a midwife and in turn reflect on my own life, especially as she was the same age as me. Tricia was an inspiration to me and many other midwives. She was a great advocate of normal childbirth and breastfeeding. She was extremely articulate and could cut to the bullshit, but in a way that did not offend but rather was challenging in a supportive way. She had a fabulous sense of humor, and was passionately committed to the women-centered midwifery care.

Tricia and I worked together in Salisbury, UK, in the early 1990s. I remember how excited we were when the 'Changing Childbirth' report came out in 1993, the first of its kind from the government that supported women-centered care. This was followed by meetings with the midwives who had set up caseload midwifery in London. Tricia and I were amongst the midwives who campaigned for caseload midwifery at Salisbury but unfortunately, the manager of the maternity unit at the time was not very open to the idea. Tricia went on to work in Bournemouth as a lecturer and independent midwife. I came to New Zealand to carry out caseload midwifery in Gisborne*.

What I especially valued about Tricia was her writing skills. She wrote many articles and book chapters but the one I really remember and made me think hard about my practice, was an article I still recommend to all students and midwives about what is midwifery intervention and how it affects the outcome of labour and birth.

Now I know we all are aware of medical interventions such as induction of labour, epidural, artificial rupture of membranes and so on. But do we think about the actions we consider as 'good' midwifery actions as interventions, and consider the effect they may have on labour? For example, positively reinforcing spontaneous pushing; placing a warm compress on the perineum; even physically 'being there' with a labouring woman; asking the woman to change position; encouraging woman to have 'skin to skin contact' with baby. In Tricia's article, she examines what we do as midwives and leaves us with the challenge to think about what we do: are we being interfering midwives to the detriment to the outcome of a woman's labour?

Anderson, T. 2002. Peeling back the layers: a new look at midwifery interventions. MIDIRS Midwifery Digest, 12 (2): 207-210.

*Stewart, S. 2001. What’s it like to work in . . . New Zealand. The Practising Midwife, 4 (10): 34-37.

Image: 'midnight sun' Josef F. Stuefer

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

The joys of wireless! Or, one of a few rare sunny days in Dunedin!

It's very rare to see me outside sunbathing in Dunedin because we get about two days a year that are sunbathing weather - today was one of those days. Nothing in the world like it: a nice cold Malibu and lemonade, wireless Internet and Leigh's blog to read. The only problem with this scenario was that the sun light was too bright to read the screen so I was 'forced' to abandon my lap top and resort to reading my Mills and Boon historical romance!

Monday, January 7, 2008

Am I a Web 2.0 teacher?

I have just recently read a post on 'The Thinking Stick' by Jeff Utecht in which he poses a series of questions that you can use to assess yourself in order to ascertain if you are a Web 2.0 teacher or not. Keeping in mind that I am involved with teaching undergraduate and postgraduate midwives online, I thought it would be fortuitous if I assessed myself using Jeff's questions.

Jeff has used three levels at which to 'grade oneself:
  • Basic User: Can use the program in its simplest form
  • Average User: Can use the program and can give examples of ways to use the program in the classroom for teaching and learning.
  • Advanced User: Can give an example of using the program in the classroom as part of learning process. Has or is willing to teach others how to use it.
Microsoft Office Suite
I am an advanced user of Word and feel extremely confident about PowerPoint especially since I have been learning about Web 2.0 presentations. Have been passing onto students that presentations are not about the PowerPoint technology as such, but the way it is used to get a message across. I have also started publishing slide casts. I would probably rate myself an average user of Excell because I only use it to record results, and I do not use Publisher at all, although I would still feel fairly confident to use it if I had to.

Am an advanced user of email: Outlook, Groupwise and Gmail for work and pleasure. I have been extremely resistant to using Groupwise to manage my appointments, so maybe should look at that more closely this year.
Verifying information on the Internet
Am very confident about how I judge the quality of information found on the Internet and have taught this for some years to students. I highlight the important of checking who the author is; credentials; site where the information is being hosted; what the 'agenda' of the author is; contact details and references. I am extremely knowledge about the credible sites that are used in midwifery so have no qualms about using them in my teaching. The only thing that Jeff mentions that I have not heard of is 'WHOIS', so will investigate that.

Philosophy regarding the filtering of Internet sites
This isn't something I have thought about in any real depth because I teach adults, not children. However, I think I would take the view that it is better to teach children good practice habits rather than censure what they have access to. Having said that, I have closely 'monitored' my own children's use of the Internet rather than actively filtered it.

Do you read any blogs? If so, which ones?
Yes, I read blogs mostly about e-learning and professional development, but also a few about midwifery. Some of the blogs I read are on the front of my blog but I also read the likes of Stephen Downes, Nancy White and George Siemens. I also have my own blog which is now an essential part of my own personal development.

Do you have an RSS reader? If so, what do you subscribe to?
Yes, I use Google Reader and would not be without it. I track my comments with co.mments. I have attempted to teach students about their use but need to look how I do it in a way that is meaningful for them.

Do you belong to any online communities?
Yes, I belong to three education Google groups including 'Teach and Learn Online'. I also belong to the Midwifery Research List, AOIR and ASCILITE discussion groups. I would like to explore Second Life education communities more this year.

Tell me a story of something you learned from your network?
Don't want to be boring with this answer because it has been a theme throughout this blog, but everything I know about Web 2.0 comes from my networks especially people like Sue Waters, Michelle Martin and Leigh Blackall.

Tell me how you think the future you are preparing [midwives] for will be different?
The main thing I can think of is that as we move into flexible delivery of midwifery education at Otago Polytechnic, especially at undergraduate level, to students that live at a distance from campus, we will need to prepare them to be autonomous learners in a way that maybe they are not now. They will have to look at how to build networks to support their learning in a way that does not happen now. And I believe it will be virtual networks that will support their learning.

What is your favorite gadget and why?
Favorite gadget has to be my laptop and wireless broadband. My favorite online tool....ahhhhh! Can't make up my mind ... probably my blog.

How often do others come to you for guidance in using technology?
Often. I am also purposely trying to lead colleagues in this area in order that we all become Web 2.0 teachers. I do not believe our flexible program will work if we are not all up to speed with e-learning philosophy, pedagogy and tools.

Describe the last new technology that you used and how you used it — and how you learned it?
Slidecast - here's how.

Describe the last thing you learned related to your work, that you didn’t learn in a classroom or from a book, and describe how you learned it.
How to develop a blog and how to learn from it. Learned about this in an online course about developing online communities, reading blogs and having 'conversations' with people via mine or other people's blogs.

Well, I think I haven't come up too bad according to this criteria and I certainly see myself as a Web 2.0 teacher. This year it is my goal to incorporate this learning into my teaching practice, and in an informal way on this blog.

Image: 'Mapa Visual de la Web 2.0' Álvaro Ibáñez

Computer Mediated Social Networking: Dunedin Conference 2008

The University of Otago in Dunedin is hosting an international conference: Computer Mediated Social Networking. The conference dates are 11-13 June 2008, and the closing date for submission of abstracts is 27 February 2008 although somewhere else on the web site the date is the 15th February. Seeing as this conference is in my home town, I have no excuse for not going or submitting a paper abstract.

The theme of the conference is "
to explore issues in the context of social networking such as formation of online communities and how collaboration and cooperation can be achieved. Additional topics of interest include:
  • Facilitating effective structure in a Social Network environment

  • Agent-based simulation for studying the dynamic behaviour in on-line societies

  • Issues and solutions in modelling virtual collaborative environments

  • Integration of various communication tools such as Wikis, Blogs, Discussion Boards etc.

But I am not quite sure how to approach this. My PhD e-mentoring research does not lend itself to this because the work is one-to-one rather than about developing a community.

I could write about my endeavors to develop an online midwifery community but do not have enough data to support a paper about this. I could look at the midwifery-research community I belong to, but that would mean a fair bit of work which I do not want to commit myself to because it will interfere with my PhD research.

The other option is to look at the community of learners I was a member of with regards to the course I did, facilitated by Leigh Blackall and Bronwyn Hegerty. What particularly interests me is the personal effect on learning of having access to a community of practice via resources such as blogs, wikis etc.

The other thing is 'allowing ' open access to education programs. Leigh and Bronwyn encouraged people to join the course and have access to teaching materials without enrolling. This encouraged people to get a taste for the program which has resulted in further enrollments. So this effect of open access could be explored with relation to communities and education.

What do you think, Leigh?

Image: Dunedin Railway Station

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Association of Internet Researchers - 2008 Conference

The Association of Internet Researchers is an excellent international association to belong if you are interested in carrying out research using the Internet as a research tool or if you are researching the Internet. I have been a member of its discussion list for a number of years - you do not have to be a member of AOIR to be on the list - and have picked up a lot of very useful information that I have used for my own research. The work AOIR has carried out on the ethical issues of Internet research has been invaluable.

I have attended two AOIR conferences and have found them to be great places for networking and learning information. I have also attended a PhD symposium, which again has led to excellent feedback on my PhD research as well as making invaluable contacts, one of which led to the publication of a book chapter: Delivering the goods: Midwives' use of the Internet. So I highly recommend the 2008 conference if you fancy a trip to Denmark.

The 2008 AOIR Conference is: 15-18th October in Copenhagen.

Deadline for submission of abstracts is: 8th February.

Detailed information about the conference can be found here.

Image: 'Inside One Wilshire' Xeni Jardin

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Big Brother? Recording online discussions

I was really interested to read a post by Tony Karrer entitled "eLearning Technology: Ten Predictions for eLearning 2008". One of Tony's predictions was that "niche online discussions" were the way to go. Tony says:

I'm starting to think that the way to go is to have frequent, more targeted online, virtual discussions on particular topics. The format of the virtual conference that George and I put together wasn't quite right - still a lecture - threaded discussions weren't quite active enough and the questions weren't focused. We need a targeted discussion. For example, I just had someone ask about using Facebook in a corporate context as part of on-boarding. I'll likely schedule a call with this person to discuss what they are trying to do. Why not have several people involved in the discussion? Why not record it? Is the barrier the lack of free access to the tools? The overhead of pulling it together? My guess is that it doesn't take much more to get it to happen with a small group than getting it to happen with two or three people. And the barriers are getting lower all the time. I'm thinking this is going to start happening - A LOT.

I am really interested in this concept and would like to see how it works for disseminating ideas, building networks and encouraging collaboration between midwives. But the question would be whether midwives would access the recordings and where it would be best to store them that would catch midwives' attention. Would midwives be truly interested in this concept, after all there appears to be a conflict of opinion about the effectiveness of podcast - wouldn't the same issues apply here?

In this day and age where everything you do must have either a monetary or academic value, how easy is it to get people to volunteer time to participate in doing some thing this? How different is it from recording an Elluminate session?

I think for midwives and health professionals, it will be a matter of experimenting to see what suits them best and what captures their imagination - what they see as having value that is not going to 'cost' them much.

What do you think about Tony's idea and how do you think it could be used for learning and professional development?

Image: 'Studio 9896'