Sunday, October 31, 2010

Facilitating Online 2010: Free, online conference

It gives me very great pleasure to announce this year's free online mini conference which is part of the online course, Facilitating Online. The conference starts tomorrow - the full program and details can be found here. The topics range from cultural competence online to specific tools you can use for online communication and facilitation. The events range from live webinars to asynchronous activities.

If you are unsure of any of the details, please contact the event organiser or leave a comment here which I will answer.

Image: '#136 Mic check'

Friday, October 29, 2010

MIDIRS goes mobile

Here's good news for midwives with smart phones such as the iPhone, Blackberry and Android.

MIDIRS has developed a website that is designed specially for these phones - MIDIRS Mobile.

I do not have a smart phone myself so I have not been able to test what it looks like. But I did have a look at it from my computer lap top and found some interesting resources about topics such as shoulder dystocia, the female pelvis and documentation.

Now I know what to ask Father Christmas to give me on December 25th...a new smart phone!!

Image: 'Communication'

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Happy World OT Day 2010

Today I have been given the status of honorary occupational therapist as I help out with the facilitation of the World Occupational Therapy Day Virtual Exchange. This is a 24 hour virtual conference (inspired by the Virtual International Day of the Midwife) which starts 14.00 hours today, New Zealand time.

I am giving a presentation at 16.00 hours New Zealand today about personal learning networks - what they are and why you need them.

It is well worth looking at the program because even if you are not an occupational therapist, there may be a session that will be of interest. The conference is free. All you need is access to the web conference program, Elluminate - here is information about how to use Elluminate.

Good luck to Merrolee Penman and her team and a big 'thank you' for organising this wonderful event.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Checking out the free version of DimDim

DimDim is a web conferencing tool which has a free version that anyone can use. I was very impressed with it last year when I used it in the course 'Facilitating Online'. Up until now I have recommended it to people who work for non-profit organisations or businesses who cannot afford to pay for propitiatory tools.

Unfortunately, I have had to change my mind. may be that I have got things totally wrong and I am being very unfair to which case, I am very happy to be corrected. However, last week I was told by one of the DimDim support team (who I have to say have been extremely responsive and helpful) that the free version only allows the person who set up the meeting to have audio capability. This means if you set up the meeting, you are the only one who can talk. This is in contrast to last year when up to three people could speak at a time.

When I ran a test of DimDim with the students of FO2010, we found it very disconcerting that I was the only one who could talk. So we ended up moving over to Skype for our group conversation. You could use Skype for audio and keep DimDim for showing documents, but that gets quite complicated when you are working with people who are new to online technology. I think it would be easier to do your document work on Google Documents using Skype for audio.

Have you had experience of the free DimDim platform recently...if so, how have you got on?

Image: 'Misty Park'

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Growing beetroot in pots

I bought some beetroot seeds (Red Globe) last year but never got around to planting them because I didn't have room in my garden and thought they'd be too big to plant in pots.

But I have been reading a book called "Organic crops in pots" by Deborah Schneebeli-Morrell which maintains it is quite possible to grow beetroot in pots. Deborah maintains it is possible to grow beetroot in containers 30cm (12in) high by 35cm (14in) diameter. What she does not say is how many beetroot you can expect to grow in a pot this size.

I have decided to give it a go but it will be a guess as to how many beetroot I can grow. I'll report back how I do.

Do you have any idea of any blogs or websites that give specific information about how much room vegetables need to grow, especially in containers?

Image: 'Gastrocast #41'

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Health professionals and social media

Here is a fabulous recording of a discussion between health professionals and their use of social media. The topics covered include what tools to use and how to use them. The context is the American healthcare system and the speakers are all doctors, but the issues are the same where ever and whatever we practice.

The recording is quite long, but is worth watching, especially if you are a nurse, midwife or health professional wanting to know if and how to use social media like Facebook, Twitter, blogs etc

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The ups and downs of being a twitcher

I am thrilled to report a happy ending to a story that a few days ago was looking extremely tragic.

About three weeks ago, I was very excited to find that a family of blackbirds was nesting in one of the rose bushes in our small garden. My husband reckoned there were about four babies in the nest. I spent the next ten days watching the mum and dad going back and forth feeding the babies. I started to feel that the dad and I had a relationship - he would sit in the kowhai tree next to the drive and watch me as I came home from work...I even started talking to him and telling him about my day...and asking him how the chicks were!

Last Thursday I came home from work and had a quick peek at the nest and found it empty....with no sign of any chicks....and no sign of mum and dad. At first I thought the chicks had fledged but a friend at work told me they take two months to fly away from the nest, and these chicks had only been around for about ten days. So I was worse fears had become reality....the chicks had been eaten by something!

Ups and downs
The whole weekend was a roller coaster of high hopes and disappointment. On the one hand, there was no sign of any struggle that the chicks may have had with a dead bodies or feathers scattered around the place. Also, I found out (thanks to Mr Wikipedia) that blackbird chicks can fledge between 10 - 19 days which would fit the time frame of our chicks. But on the negative side, I saw dad flitting around the place and calling, but no sign of the fledglings, or of him feeding them.

Happy news
By the end of the weekend I had come to terms with the unhappy outcome, and decided that my new career as a twitcher was just too traumatic to pursue. But yesterday I went to get in the car...and sitting in the kowhai was a big, fat, fluffy blackbird chick being fed by his dad. I do not know what has happened to the other chicks, but at least one of them has survived and is thriving.

Now I am back to watching the nest to see if the parents have another clutch of eggs. I am just hoping I can survive the emotional stress of it all!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

New mayor and the Dunedin Digital Strategy

Dunedin has a new mayor, Dave Cull. This is of particular interest to me because Dave is the councillor who led the development of the Dunedin Digital Strategy.

It remains to be seen what aspects, if any, of the Strategy will be implemented. I am hoping that Dave will continue to push the various innovations. Needless to say, I will be watching developments closely.

If nothing else, the process of making a submission has made me very interested in how local council processes work and plan to become more involved in what's going on around me. I'm not too sure how to do this but if nothing else, I hope I'll get a chance to be involved with the implementation of the Digital Strategy.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Free online seminars that celebrate Open Access Week

This coming week is "Open Access Week". This is a global activity to try and raise awareness about making scholarly outputs such as journal papers, and research more available in an open way to the general public.

To celebrate Open Access Week, the Open Education Resources Foundation has organised a series of free, open online seminars from 18th - 22nd October.

I will be talking about my experiences of running an open access course, 'Facilitating Online', with my colleague Bronwyn Hegarty on Thursday 21st October at 11.00 hours New Zealand in a talk called "OER: Beyond the rhetoric".

Here is full information about the program, the link to the Elluminate meeting room, and instructions on how to access meeting room.

Image: Banner for Open Access Week 2010

Friday, October 15, 2010

Saying 'goodbye' to Sir Norman Wisdom

I was very sad to hear that Norman Wisdom died last week. Norman Wisdom was an English comic actor who was especially popular in the 1950s/1960s. I used to watch him a lot on TV as a young girl. We always used to say my dad looked like Norman Wisdom...he even had a cap like the one Norman wore as his character 'Norman Pitkin'.

I have never been into slapstick comedy so I was never a great fan of Norman's comedy work. But looking back, I can see what an amazing actor he was. I became a fan of Norman as a 'straight' actor when I saw him in a TV show about a cancer patient "Going Gently".

His death means another link to my childhood is broken.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Time to move on from Second Life?

I have had a love-hate relationship with Second Life for the last three years. But for all my moaning and groaning, I have known that the Virtual Birth Unit is available for me to use at any time with midwives and midwifery educators, and at last I have a midwifery educator in the USA interested in doing a research project with me.

But just as my new SL research project looks like it is going to come to fruition, Linden Lab (the owner of SL) has made changes to its pricing structure for educators which means I may not have access to the Virtual Birth Unit after next August.

This may be the final straw for many educators and researchers, including myself. Things have not been helped by the fact I cannot use the new SL viewer properly. So this may be a good time to think about exploring other virtual worlds such as OpenSim.

But to be honest, I am not sure if I have the energy to pour into getting to know another virtual world. I have spent three years trying to get my head around SL...I just do not know if it is worth my while starting all over again with OpenSim. This is especially in the light of the lack of interest in virtual worlds in midwifery education. I am just wondering if I am better off spending my time focussing on other platforms that midwives will connect with in a greater way...

If you are a user of Second Life, are the price changes likely to affect your work? Have you thought of moving to another virtual world? If so, which one? If you use OpenSim, what do you think about it?

Monday, October 11, 2010

Does education and gardening mix?

I have been having a look at the Internet to see what blogs are about that deal with growing vegetables in pots. As far as I can see, there are heaps of blogs about gardening but few address the nitty gritty issues and questions that I have, such as how many beetroot should you sow in a pot of a certain dimension. And certainly very few that are based in New Zealand/Australia.

So...long story short...I have decided to document my experiences of growing veggies in pots, making sure I record very explicit information for people who doing the same thing as me...trying to raise veggies in an urban garden with minimal space.

Up to now, I have been really lazy and posted my gardening posts on this education blog because I cannot be bothered with having a separate blog. But I am wondering if this is a good idea. So I would like to ask your opinion about my options.

1. Keep using this blog for my personal and gardening posts, just as I have been doing up to now.

2. Start another page attached to this to the tabs above...About...Consultancy...Contact...Consultancy...Garden

3. Start a completely new blog.

What do you think is the best idea?

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Online forums for heart patients and health professionals

I have been asked this question.

I am thinking that I should set up a Facebook forum for health professionals and heart patients. I welcome your suggestions in joining forums dedicated to heart health professionals and patients.

I have been thinking about my answer and although I do not know of any examples of forums that currently exist, I have come up with a couple of questions I think it is important to consider before setting up a forum like this.

1. What focus will your forum have? Is it social support forum, or more a "ask the doctor" website? If you are unclear what your forum is about, you may find it difficult to attract participants.

2. Are you the right person to set up this forum? By this question, what I mean to say forums often come about because of a perceived has an organic conception and growth. If you decide to manufacture a forum or community where there is no need other than your own, then it will not be successful.

3. Is there a need for your forum? Is there one already up and running that you could hook into? There is no point trying to set up a forum if there is already a very successful one achieving the goals you are interested in.

4. If your forum is a "ask the doctor", how will you moderate the information given? How will you ensure the information given by the health professionals is correct? How will you attract health professionals to take part? The last thing you want to do is be a vehicle for mis-information.

5. Who will drive the forum...lead it...moderate it? Successful forums are usually organic but they do need people to 'lead' them. Have a look at my recent post in which I talk about how to set up online communities.

6. Is it appropriate to have a mix of health professionals and patients? Will one group over-power or disadvantage the other? I guess this comes back to the aim of your forum...what you are wanting to achieve. I think it would be appropriate to do some market talk to people to find out what they want and what they'd be prepared to give to the forum.

7. How will you manage issues of confidentiality? It is vital that patients are not compromised in any way. And health professionals have various professional and statutory regulations they will need to follow, so it is important that your forum recognises this.

8. Is Facebook an appropriate platform for a forum in this area? Would a closed email group be a better option? What are the advantages of using Facebook? As I have said only very recently in my post about what tools to use for setting up online communities, Facebook is a great networking tool because so many people are using it. However, confidentiality can be difficult to maintain in Facebook but again, it depends on what you are wanting to achieve in this forum.

Do you know of any online communities or forums that already exist for heart patients and health professionals? Or, do you have any advice or comments about how to set up forums for patients, health consumers and health professionals?

Image: 'Happy Valentine's Day'

Saturday, October 9, 2010

A threat to the Virtual Birth Unit?

The owners of Second Life have just announced that they are no longer allowing educators and non-profit organisations to buy land in SL at a discount. This has caused considerable discussion and consternation because of the implication for funding ie the cost of projects in SL is going to increase considerably and may become too expensive for educators and non-profits to continue.

This may have direct implications for the Virtual Birth Unit. At the moment it is being hosted by one of the educational institutions in New Zealand until August 2011. After that, I suspect it will be closed down because of a lack of adequate funding.

I have a midwifery education research project in the wings that I have just started work now I am wondering if it is worth continuing with it. It will certainly need to be wrapped up by August next year.

In the meantime, I invite anyone who is going to continue keeping land in SL to copy the birth unit for their own use, because I do not know if it will be available in the future.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

More experimenting with growing veggies in pots

Having decided tomatoes, lettuce and zucchini grow well in pots, I am going to try to grow a few more veggies in pots this year. I have just planted broad beans, and I'm going to try spring onions, marrows, basil, cucumbers and onions. I'm also going to give strawberries another go even though I didn't have much success last year.

In the garden, I'm going to grow cauliflower and broccoli again - they did really well last year planted in amongst my flowers. I've got nice compost that we've made that I'll be able to use this year. And also have some sweet pea and snap dragon seeds I can plant from last year's crop.

This year I'm going to grow veggies from seeds so it will be interesting to see how this goes. I spent the weekend clearing the garden of weeds and planting the seeds in propagating pots.

But the highlight of the weekend was discovering we have a blackbird pair nesting in a rosebush. The nest is at eye level so we have a discreet view of what's going on. I'll be able to sit in my porch with my hubby's binoculars and watch the comings and goings without upsetting the birds. We just have to keep an eye on the cat and make sure she doesn't try to get to them.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

The "Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde" sides of Twitter

A couple of things last week has got me thinking about how Twitter can be used for good or evil.

Dr Jekyll
On Friday evening I sent out a random message or 'tweet' on Twitter to say I was going to the pub. The next thing I know, I am joined by a Twitter friend and her family, and we had a lovely couple of hours chatting and getting to know each other. This impromptu get-together made my week and started the weekend off on a really great note.

Mr Hyde
In the meantime, last week I have had a colossal fall-out with a young person over a couple of messages that were put on Twitter about me and my family. This person sends a lot of messages via an ordinary cell phone. So I am wondering if this person forgets the messages are going to the wider Internet.

It is my observation that some people have little understanding of the implications of things they are putting on Twitter, Facebook and their blogs, making very inappropriate comments about people they know, their work and their family.

If I have said it once.....
I have said it a hundred times that you must be careful what you say on social networking websites, or in any online forum.
  • If you use your own name, you have to be doubly vigilant.
  • Even when you delete comments, they can still be traced by people who know what they are doing.
  • Do NOT say anything online about a person that you are not prepared to say to them face-to-face.
  • Remember that whilst you may mean one thing, your comment could be understood as something different.
  • You may be feeling fed up and tempted to have a rant to your friends on Twitter and Facebook. Take a breath and wait 24 hours so you can see things more objectively and be less likely to post something that will get you into trouble.
  • If you only want your friends to see your messages on Twitter, make your account a protected one, so that the only people who see your messages are those who follow you.
Do you have any other tips about using Twitter in a safe but fun manner?

Image: 'Jekyll and Hyde in color'

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Tools you can use to set up professional websites and online communities

This is the second post in response to questions that I have recently received about how to set up professional websites and networking sites for midwives. Here are a few suggestions for platforms that you may wish to explore which will allows you to disseminate information and resources, collaborate and network with professional colleagues.

My first choice is usually Facebook because most people are familiar with its look and functionality. The down side of Facebook is that it is often blocked in hospitals and education institutes. And there is a lot of concern about the professional use of Facebook. But you have to remember that it is usually not the tool that is the problem but rather the way people use it. So, maybe a closed group with strict rules about security may do the job you want.

Here's a great example of a profession Facebook page that belongs to the UK Nursing and Midwifery Council.

Ning and Grouply
If you do not like the idea of Facebook for whatever reason, choose or develop a site that has a similar feel to Facebook. A lot of people used to swear by Ning, which is a platform that is like Facebook but can be customised to suit your own needs. It used to be free but now you have to pay for it.

Here's an example of how Ning has been used to develop an online community of people interested in health informatics.

If you'd prefer a free platform, you may wish to have a look at Grouply. I haven't spent much time looking at Grouply, but I have heard good feedback about its look and functionality.

When I 'googled' midwives and Grouply, this is one group I found for people who are aspiring to become midwives.

Blogger and Wordpress
If what you want to do is disseminate news and information, I don't think you can do better than use a blog. The beauty of a blog is that it is interactive as opposed to a static website which is a one way mode of communication. With a blog, readers can leave comments and questions. But you will need to make sure that someone takes responsibility for monitoring the blog, answering comments and keeping the blog updated.

Here is a couple of examples of midwifery blogs: The Australian College of Midwives WA Branch uses Blogger, and here is a personal midwifery blog belonging to Midwife Thinking who is using Wordpress.

Wetpaint and Wikispaces
If you want a collaborative website that people can add material and edit content, then I would recommend a wiki of some sort. The two wiki platforms that come to mind that are relatively easy to use for newbies is Wetpaint and Wikispaces. Whilst these platforms are free, I do think it is worth paying for the version that comes free of adverts, especially if you are using it for professional purposes.

Here is an example of a Wetpaint wiki set up for midwives interested in sustainability. And here is the Wikispaces wiki I use for planning and facilitating the Virtual International Day of the Midwife.

Google Sites, PBworks and Weebly
I have some friends who are occupational therapists and they are currently using PBworks and Weebly to develop a online community for OTs, and organise events and disseminate information. I must to admit I have not used either of these websites, but I really like the look of the work the OTs have done. For more information, please contact Merrolee Penman who is one of the OTs who set up these websites.

I have not had much experience of using Google Sites but I can tell you it is a free tool for developing a website and wiki. Here is the website developed by the Kelowna Community Midwives to tell their clients about their services.

What platform have you used to set up professional websites for online communities and networks? What would you recommend and why?

Image: 'Reflections'

Saturday, October 2, 2010

My urban garden 2009: success and failures

It's spring here in New Zealand and those of us with gardens are out and about planning for the coming year. But before I can think about this year, I really have to reflect back on what worked and what did not work last season.

I had great fun growing cauliflower and broccoli amongst the rose bushes and in the 4 foot square garden that I have at the side of my house. They were by far my most successful veggie. The broccoli was fantastic because they kept growing even after I picked a few shoots. The only snag was...when I froze the broccoli, all the little green shoots broke off which just left me with big stems. So I don't think I'll try freezing them again.

The only tomatoes that did well last year (because we had terrible weather in December and January) were Sweet 100 which grew like weeds, but only once I brought them inside our little porch-way.

I also grew a nice zucchini crop in a pot, which did really well in a warm corner around the back of the house.

I experimented with growing potatoes in bags which didn't do as well as I would have liked. I got about a meal and a half from 4 seed potatoes in a 40 litre bag which just was not cost effective. Whilst they tasted absolutely delicious and were great fun to grow and harvest, this is not something I am going to try again.

I grew some very nice tasting apple cucumbers, but they came very late in the season. I also grew some mini marrows which rotted before they could be eaten, and when we tried eating them, they tasted horribly sour. The few cabbages I grew got eaten by caterpillars. I didn't do very well with strawberries, with just one or two worth eating. And as for rhubarb...I can't grow it for love nor money.

What I really need is a little garden I could borrow from someone so that I can really get stuck in, instead of mucking about with pots. I'll have to ask around locally to see if anyone has a small garden they would let me use for growing veggies.

Friday, October 1, 2010

How to develop a professional interactive website or social networking site?

I have been asked by a couple of people in the last few weeks about how to develop a professional interactive website or social networking site for midwives and healthcare organisations.

Considerations and questions
Here are a couple of general thoughts and questions to keep in mind.
  1. Keep it as simple as possible.
  2. Is the website or networking site likely to be blocked by your organisation or employer's IT firewall?
  3. Do not use fancy graphics and media that use up people's bandwidth, especially those who live in rural areas.
  4. It takes time and patience to build an online community and/or network.
  5. How much are you prepared to spend on this online community? Do you plan on using a free platform, or pay someone to develop a custom made website? Where will you host the website...will you need your own server? Will you need funds to buy a domain?
  6. You will need people to take responsibility for facilitating, moderating and developing the community, especially at the beginning. This has time and funding implications.
Developing and growing your online community or networking site
Once you have decided what to do for your community website or networking site, read the work of Nancy White for information about how to set up and build your community, or have a look at the resources I have put together for the 'Facilitating Online' course. Another interesting blog post is one written by Coach Carole in which she details the steps she has taken recently in developing an online community that has ePortfolios as its point of interest.

Do you have any tips for people thinking of setting up professional websites or networking sites?

In my next post I will talk about some of the tools you can use to develop and host your professional online community.