Sunday, June 26, 2011

How to write a paper in 6 weeks: Week 4

1. Writing habits
This week you are to think about your writing habits - focus on the good habits that work for you. Don't worry about what the theory says makes a good writer. If you write well standing on your head on top of your chimney, then continue to write that way. But if you know you do not write well with the television on, then turn it off or move to a room where there is no TV.
  • Take notice of where, when and how you write best. What noise or activities do you like in the background. Do you write better with the radio on? Do you like to write in a study or own the sofa with all the kids about? Do you better early in the morning or later at night? Do you "dump" or do you wait for the muse to strike? Once you recognise a pattern, focus on doing what is "best practice" or most effective for you.
2. How good is your sentence structure and grammar?
Pay attention to how you construct your writing.
  • Turn on the grammar checker when you are writing.
  • Make a note of when you get a green wavy line which indicates you have a problem with your sentence structure or grammar.
  • If you notice you have a particular problem, find out how to fix it eg have a look at one of the numerous grammar guides that you can find on the Internet such as The Guide to Grammar and Writing or the OIL Grammar and Style resource for students.
3. Editing
If you are a person who always goes over the word count, you need to think carefully about how you edit your work without losing the sense of what you are trying to say.
  • Look for little words that can be made into one word.
  • Pay attention to the format the journal uses to publish papers. If it uses two columns, or is an online journal, use short sentences which are easier for the reader to follow - helps the reader to keep her concentration.
  • For more tips on how to edit your writing, have a look at: How to Edit or Proofread an Essay or Paper
If you are working through this writing challenge with more than one person, take a paragraph from your work (no more than 250 words) and swap it around with each other and edit it. Use track changes so you can all see how each other has done the editing. If you are working on your own, try to find a critical friend who will edit your paragraph. And to get practice with editing yourself find a piece of writing on the Internet, maybe a blog post, and edit it.

4. Keep working on the body of your paper
By now you should be half way through writing the body of your paper as outlined in Week 3. Don't forget to embed your references into your paper as you go along - this is a lot less time-consuming than hunting around for appropriate references after you have written your paper.

Image: 'Woody with the editing skillz'

Saturday, June 25, 2011

How do you know you are a good parent?

I am the mother of two children who are young adults. They have just both left home which leaves my husband and me starting our new life as Darby and Joan, and has caused me to stop and reflect over the last 23 years as a mother and parent.

I'd admit there have been quite a few times over the years when my husband and I have angsted over how good a job we've done as parents. Neither our kids have ended up in prison so I have always taken comfort in that. But there have been times when I have wondered if I could have done better and asked myself questions like: have I instilled the right morals in the kids?; have I modeled a good work ethic?; what could I have done to help the kids get better marks at school?; why aren't the kids making billions of dollars from their own Facebook company by now?; how can the kids be good global citizens when their bedrooms are like pig stys!!?? And so on...

Then it dawned on me the other day...

My husband and I have done a bloody good job as parents. How do I know?

My children have both left home and moved to new cities and country with little or no support from us...on their own volition...and just got on with things. They have both found jobs and somewhere to stay within a couple of weeks. Neither of them have got much money and certainly no support where they are now living. But they've got drive, motivation, confidence and insight to take a risk and go out and make things work for them.

I have been blessed with two wonderful children who are now making their way in the world. Yes, they're doing it on their own and I am extremely proud of them, but I am going to give my husband and me a little credit for giving them the skills to take this step into adult life. This is how I know I have been a good parent.

How have you measured your performance as a parent? What do you think makes a good parent? How do you get your kids to keep their bedroom tidy!!??

Writing about that namby pamby stuff

The paper I am planning for the How to Write a Paper in 6 weeks is about blogging and reflective practice. This paper will be based on my personal experiences as opposed to a research project, and is a paper I have been thinking about writing for some time. I made a start in the form of an essay for my EdD - now I have to get on and finish it off as a paper for publication.

Here is the mapping I have done which meets the requirements of Week 2 of my writing project.

Reflective practice

  • what it is
  • why it is important for practicing midwives different models and processes - confusing at the best of times
  • journaling is consistently seen as a valuable tool for reflective practice
  • clarify the difference between reflective practice & journaling – what are the other ways/tools for reflective practice


  • journaling and reflective practice
  • what makes journaling so effective
  • how you do it – model for reflection – levels of learning (Bronwyn's thesis)
  • evidence of reflective journaling for midwives – why they have to do it
  • problems with journaling – learning styles, level of learning – people do not engage with deeper learning
  • one adaptation is the modern blog


  • what a blog similar to journalling but it is a separate thing with its own pros & journalling
  • how it can be used for reflective practice - how it differs from paper journaling evidence about its effectiveness – do people do deeper reflection in a blog?
  • problems with blogging – confidentiality, online reputation, digital literacy, Internet access

My experience

  • multi-media suits my different learning styles
  • I write in an anonymous way that protects the events/people I am reflecting on, as well as myself
  • open blogging allows me to engage with readers - community of learning
  • challenged to take me reflection to a deeper level – does my experience tie in with what the literature says
  • information shared, connections made, conversations all add to my learning – conversations go else where...can leap frog into FB, Twitter etc...or go from blog to blog...don;t know who is going to respond to that post...or what perspective is offered...any perspective will make you think
  • different perspective, not just from colleagues – I hear from health consumers and people from all walks of life
  • people support me when the going gets tough
  • people see what I have learned and how I have responded to that learning – accountability to the people I care for & teach
  • contribute to others' learning eg article about burn out
  • challenging to people who are uncomfortable with reflective practice, especially in open environment
  • views people have about admitting your mistakes in public, especially in obstetrics
  • what I blog about – some examples, with the comments people leave (probably this in interwoven through my narrative)


  • Give it a go
  • Keep things simple – digital literacy education
  • Think about your online profile – how you're going to present yourself
  • Get a mentor – some great midwifery bloggers and other healthcare professionals about to model your practice on and to link in with
  • Get your posts checked if you think you're likely to breach confidentiality
  • Blog in general terms rather than specifics
  • Be patient – takes time to build a community of learners

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

My letter to John Key, the prime minister of New Zealand

Dear Mr Key

I am writing because of my concern for the young people trying to get trade qualifications in New Zealand, and in particular Christchurch.

My son is 21 years old. He did a Level 4 pre-apprenticeship Certificate in Carpentry last year at Otago Polytechnic in Dunedin (2010). He has been unable to get a carpentry apprenticeship in Dunedin. Five weeks ago he moved to Christchurch. He has managed to get work as a hammer hand working for a staff agency. He is currently earning 20 cents above minimum wage. He is having to completely support himself because he has no-one to live with in Christchurch; run a car which he needs to get to work, and pay off his $6000 student loan. He has been told that he can have an apprenticeship with the company he is currently working with, but he has to pay for it.

We know that Christchurch is going to need quality builders in many years to come. The CEO of Otago Polytechnic, Phil Ker, told me that he is being asked by the Ministry of Education to fast track carpentry training. But I am left with real concerns about what happens to the young people once they have their education but no apprenticeship.

Therefore, my questions to you are:

* how is the government going to support young people to obtain apprenticeships so that they can effectively contribute to the re-building of Christchurch?
* how is the government going to support builders to provide apprenticeships?
* what is the government going to do to protect young people from staff agencies and building firms in Christchurch who are out to exploit them by paying them minimum wage and using them as "slave labour"?

My son and young people like him are the future of New Zealand. I feel very strongly that this is an issue that we must deal with urgently or we will be losing him and others like him to Australia where we know he'll get an apprenticeship and be paid a decent wage while he does it.

Look forward to your reply

Monday, June 20, 2011

How to write a paper for publication in 6 weeks: Week 3

1. Decide which journal you want to submit your article
  • Make sure it is peer-reviewed.
  • If you are a beginner researcher and want to submit an article that is quickly and easily accepted, you may wish to consider a professional magazine as opposed to journal.
  • Find out if the journal is indexed in common databases - if it is not, it is not likely to be easily found by readers which will have an impact on its citation rate and rankings.
  • Check the publication turn around time - if you want your article published quickly, do not submit to a journal that has a long turn around time.
  • Make sure you know what type of articles the journal accepts eg it may be a waste of time submitting your opinion piece to a journal that publishes only primary research.
  • Check out the journal you wish to publish in and read a few articles - it is important to format your article to suit the journal you wish to submit to. Make sure you know which reference style to use. Read the instructions the journal produces for authors very carefully.
  • Contact the editor to introduce yourself and tell him/her what you are thinking about writing. It is useful to get feedback from the editor about your idea before you start to write.
  • To help you decide which journal to submit to, work your way through a review form for each journal - the review form has been developed by Wendy Belcher and can be downloaded from her website:

2. Have a look at journal rankings and citation indexes to see which is an appropriate journal
  • The higher the citation index and/or ranking, the more "credible" the journal is considered and the more brownie points you will score in the eyes of academia if you get your article published in that journal - whether this is acceptable or not is an argument for another day
  • If you are an academic in Australasia, the best place to check out journal rankings is the ERA index - the rankings go from A+ which is the top ranking down to unranked:

3. Consider submitting an article to a journal that is open access
Open access means that anyone has free access to the journal and can read it online. Research has shown that articles that are published in journals that are openly available are cited as frequently if not more so than traditional paper journals.
  • Some open access journals charge fees to authors, so check this out first before you plan your article because the fees can be very expensive.
  • Make sure the journal meets all the other criteria of a credible journal.
  • A list of journals that are open access can be found here: The Directory of Open Access & Hybrid Journals

4. Think about your word count.
It is important to think about word count which will help you plan your article. Here is a calculation of word count by Dr Linda Wilson which may help you see your writing in perspective.
  • Check to see if your references and abstract are included in the word count.

Words, including references
Background/literature review
Words, less references

5. Over the next two weeks write the whole body of your paper

  • Have half of it ready by next week.

6. Keep a list of the references you use as you go along
  • Use only references that are quick and easy to access - do not use references that are difficult to to get hold of as that will cost you time.

Image: 'November dreaming'

Sunday, June 19, 2011

What can you do when someone "steals" your image from a social networking site?

My daughter has just discovered that a picture of her is currently being used to advertise a local bar in Dunedin, the Ra Bar - she is the one in graduation regalia drinking a glass of bubbly. There is no acknowledgment of the photographer, where the photo came from or who my daughter is.

Now, there are a few twists and turns to this story.

Firstly, we have plastered this photo all over the Internet. It can be found on several Facebook accounts and I also have it in Flickr. If this photo had been used by a bar anywhere other than our home town, we would not be any the wiser. Having said that, the news that her photo was being used reached my daughter all the way in Melbourne, so the Internet makes the world a small place.

Second, this photo was taken by a professional photographer - the agreement we had was that the photo was to be used to advertise St Clair Resort which is another restaurant and hotel in Dunedin. In return, we had a copy of the photo for our own uses. I do not know where the Ra Bar got the photo, but I know it did not come from the photographer. The photo was taken at Pier 24, so the Ra Bar is running a risk of using a photo that was taken in one restaurant to advertise another - at the very least people may recognise and question the inconsistencies.

My understanding is that unless you state a clear copyright stance (I always use Creative Commons Attribution), then the image or material you put on the Internet is by default 'all rights reserved' which means people have to ask your permission to use your material. However, you do need to check the Facebook terms and conditions because as soon as you put an image on FB, it is theirs to use for their advertising purposes.

The moral of the story is to always check that you have permission to use material and images that you find on the Internet and always attribute them correctly. I do not mind you using any of my stuff but I expect that you always attribute it back to me. The other thing to think about is...if you do not want to run the risk of someone "stealing" your stuff, do not put it on the Internet in the first place.

Have you ever had images and material you posted on the Internet end up in unlikely places that you knew nothing about?

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Academic spam from Dr Yao Lu

I have just received this spam which looks very authentic and for a split second took me in. However, when you start to look into this, it is a nasty trick aiming to do you out of money. If you are an academic that gets a similar email, ignore it - do not even reply to it as it confirms your email as an active address.

""Dear Dr. Sarah Stewart,

On behalf of the organizing committee, I'm pleased to invite you to The 2nd International Community Healthcare & Healthcare Management Summit, which will be held on August 5-7, 2011 in Shanghai, China.

We would like to welcome you to our Conference as our valuable speaker and present your recent work and ideas of Get a second life! that were published in Pract Midwife. Please visit our website at & for program details.




Yao Lu, MD, PhD

Executive Chair of The 2nd International Community Healthcare & Healthcare Management Summit
President of EPS Global Medical Development Inc.
Suite 305, 1625 De Maisonneuve Ouest Montreal, Quebec H3H 2N4 CANADA

TEL: 1-514-933-4119
FAX: 1-514-933-9519

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Thinking about my paper on blogging and reflective practice

For Week 1 of the "How to write a paper in six weeks" challenge I have to write 2 - 5 key points I want to leave my reader with and then put them into a conclusion paragraph of 150 words.

Here are my key points.
  1. Blogging is an essential part of my reflective practice in my roles as midwife, educator and researcher.
  2. My blog allows me to use media other than writing which suits my different learning styles.
  3. I use a simple model to frame my writing, but the readers of my blog comment, question and challenge me which takes me to a deeper level of critical reflection.
  4. I do need to consider issues of confidentiality as well as my online profile/reputation.
Here is my conclusion paragraph.

Reflective practice is a process of examining one's thoughts and actions, in order to make sense of events, practice and life. There are many models and approaches to reflective practice which can be very confusing. Nevertheless, journaling is accepted as a valuable tool for reflective practice because it assists reflection, creative writing, critical thinking and cognitive learning. A blog is an Internet-based program that can be used for journaling and reflective practice. Blogs tend to consist mostly of text but can also include images, audio and video material which supports learning styles other than reading/writing. As a midwife, educator and researcher I have maintained a blog for four years. I use a simple model of reflection to frame my blog posts. I am taken to a deeper level of critical reflection by the readers who leave comments which challenge and question me. Discussion with readers, sharing of information and critique of ideas further extends my thinking and learning in a way that can never happen in a private, paper journal.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Dithering about ePortfolio

In my role as midwifery lecturer at Griffith University, I have been given the job of sorting out ePortfolio for the undergraduate midwifery students. And I have to admit I've been going round and round in circles thinking about this.

Midwifery students
The undergraduate midwifery students are required to do a number of things throughout the three year course:
  • Maintain reflections about their clinical work
  • Record their placement hours
  • Record details about the work they do with their midwifery clients, including recording client information
  • Lodge skills sheets when they are signed off
  • Lodge clinical assessment sheets when they are completed
These elements are required throughout the course because they are evidence that the students have met statutory requirements to become registered midwives. At the moment, the students have several places in the institution's learning management system, BlackBoard, where they lodge these elements - the system is confusing and disjointed and quite honestly, I don't know how the students manage with it because it totally bewilders me.

Institutional requirements
I have been asked to sort this out and recommend an online platform or process that will manage this. We are calling the system we require "ePortfolio" but to be honest I think we are really looking for a repository rather than a tool for learning. Nevertheless, here are a few things that the platform or tool must be able to do from an institutional viewpoint:
  • Provide a secure place to store confidential information
  • Able to upload documents
  • Have the ability to be private and to make aspects public
  • Easy for lecturers to access
  • Easy for students to develop and maintain
  • Not too expensive - I am not sure if the institution would want to maintain the platform itself or outsource it
My wish list
Here is what I would like the platform to do as a midwifery educator, who is not only concerned with the here and now but also looking into the future when the students become registered midwives:
  • Use multi-media to support all learning styles
  • Accessible using mobile devices
  • Support networking and conversation ie the ePortfolio is not an isolated artifact but rather a member of an ePortfolio community or network
  • Support networking beyond the ePortfolio community into the wider online world so students can network with midwives beyond the institution
  • Student has complete control over the technology
  • The ePortfolio is portable, and the student can continue to use it as a registered midwife and no longer a student at Griffith University
  • The ePortfolio can plug into professional and occupational systems such as employing hospitals, Australian College of Midwives and Australian Nursing Midwifery Council.
Institutional ePortfolio platform or cloud-based blog?
For years I have been advocating the use of blogs and wiki for ePortfolio. I use a blog and wiki and really enjoy it - I would not move to anything else now. But...I am a "mature" midwife with many years of professional experience under my belt. I understand the pitfalls and nuances of online communication as well as professional and legal confidentiality.

But the concerns about how students manage confidential client information and how they behave online have moved the blog as an ePortfolio into the "too-hard" basket. And so I have been on the verge of recommending a ePorfolio system like Mahara or Pebble Pad.

Going full circle
In the last few days I have come full circle and started to look at blogs again. There are a few reasons for this. The first reason is a very pragmatic one - Griffith is taking too long to decide what platform it wants to move to. I need to get up and running with a system by next February and the new academic year. But more important, Martin Wellor has just reminded me of all the reasons I dislike ePortfolio software, in his blog post: Eportfolios - J'accuse.

At the same time, the people who have left comments on this post have raised some valid points. In particular I agree with Clare Davies who doubts her students will blog "voluntarily". I doubt my midwifery students will do any more than they have to because their course is extremely busy, and I cannot say I blame them. At the same time, they will have to become used to maintaining a portfolio and reflecting on practice when they are midwives because of statutory and professional requirements when they become registered.

So what next?
I've come to the conclusion that the next thing for me to do is have a play with Blogger and see if I can get it to work in a way that meets my wish list as well as the critical expectations of the institution. And I might also set up an account in Mahara, and then do a comparison.

The truth of the matter is this whole area needs a decent research project. I don't know how much longer I can go on banging the drum about midwifery ePortfolio without taking a really critical look at the issue, and not just relying on my own personal experiences. Maybe I have just found my topic for my EdD?!

I'd love to hear from anyone who uses cloud platforms like Blogger, Google Sites and/or wiki for ePortfolio to meet professional requirements - what are the pros and cons as far as you are concerned?

If you want to know more about ePortfolio, a very good overview is provided by JISC infoNet: ePortfolios. If you're interested in how you can use cloud tools for ePortfolio, have a look at the way Helen Barrett uses Google Sites and Blogger for her Professional Portfolio.

Image: 'Green ./. Blue'

How to write a paper for publication in 6 weeks: Week 2

Here are the activities for Week 2 of the writing project: How to write a paper for publication in 6 weeks

1. Have a think about the difference between a summary and a conclusion

A summary is a concise account of what you've written about. A conclusion puts the ball back in the reader's court...tells the reader what the point of the article is...leaves the reader thinking about the implications for him or her. The overall conclusion of an article starts with a summary and then the conclusion. We'll come back to this later.

2. Think about a metaphor that will sustain you in the process of writing
One metaphor is around building a wall. You have to know where to build it...use appropriate bricks...use cement that will bind the bricks together...have a solid foundation. Or, writing an article is a journey to a need to keep on the path...cannot get distracted off the path, and definitely do not want to wander off the path and end up in a dead end street. What metaphor helps you think about the writing process? Use this metaphor to keep you focused and stop you getting distracted. At the same time, stay open to ideas and critique.

3. Looking at your mapping work
In Week One you were asked to map your ideas and arguments. This mapping is about the "guts" of what you want to say in your article. It is not a plan for the whole article. At this stage you do not need to think about your literature review or introduction. If you haven't done so already, show your plan to your critical friend or share it with the Publication Boot Camp email group. Ask for feedback on the congruence of the mapping.
  • Does it make sense?
  • Is there a logical flow?
  • Is there too much information or too little?
  • What needs to be added or taken out?

4. Re-write your plan
When you get your feedback, re-write your plan to take into account the feedback. Keep in mind the plan is not everything you know, but rather the "guts" of what you want to say which leads up to your conclusion.

5. Re-write your conclusion
Re-write your conclusion. Start with the summary of what you want to say in the article and finish with a conclusion ie what the point of the article is...the implication(s) for the reader.

Give your amended plan and conclusion to your critical friend for feedback.

6. Which journal?
Have a think about where you want to publish your article. Narrow your choices down to no more than three journals. Get hold of the information for authors, making sure you have the relevant information for the type of article you are writing ie scientific report, personal reflection, commentary etc.

7. Week Two live meeting
Join the Week Two live meeting Thursday 16th June 21.00 hours New Zealand in the Elluminate room:

Image: 'Missing Rainbows'

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Virtual publication boot camp

I am doing my usual thing of biting off more than I can chew, but in a last minute dash to get a paper published before the end of the year for PBRF, I have started two writing projects based around the premise that you can write a paper in six weeks.

One of the projects
I am working through in a face-to-face group of colleagues led by Dr Linda Wilson. The second project is a replication of the face-to-face process except we are doing it online - you can follow the virtual publication boot camp in the wiki:

I am working through this virtual project with Bronnie Thompson (NZ) and Helen Hickson (Australia), with people like Alan Cann (UK) following from the sidelines.

I very much want to write a paper about ePortfolio because there is little written from the long-term, practitioner's point of view. However, I'll never get it written in six weeks because I do not have a literature review nor have I done any sort of preparation. So I think I'm going to focus on blogging and reflective practice. This will be a personal commentary based on an essay I have just written for my Educational Doctorate. Again, there is little literature written about blogging and reflective practice from a practitioner's point of view, and few longitudinal studies.

So the next six weeks are going to be extremely hectic but I am very excited about another opportunity to show what you can achieve with one's personal learning network.

Image: 'blip blip blip'

Friday, June 10, 2011

Are Kiwis are being conned by telephone companies?

The answer to this question is YES!

My kids bought me a smart phone on the Telecom network for my birthday two months ago. The phone cost $300. I got $10 free credit with it, and another $10 if I did something on the Internet which I never got around to because I forgot.

My daughter bought a smartphone in Australia a couple of days ago on a pre-paid plan. It cost just $100. With it she got over $300 of free calls, both national and international; hundreds of free texts; free Twitter and Facebook and 250 mb data.

What I'd like to know is... when are we going to get a fair deal with telecommunications in New Zealand?

Image: 'Ghost Cell Phone'

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Free online e-learning resources about social media, networking and knowledge sharing

I have just found some very interesting free online resources that have been developed by a consortium of organisations based in the USA. The resources are self-paced, e-learning modules that cover topics such as social media, sharing knowledge, networking, building online communities and networks, and digitalisation and digital libraries. The emphasis is on how to use these topics for development work.

I haven't had chance to look at all the modules yet, but I have noted that Nancy White has been involved in the development of at least one module - how to facilitate online communities - so I am looking forward to reviewing these materials in the near future.

Monday, June 6, 2011

13 tips for successful virtual commuting or telecommuting

The other day I was asked if I had any tips or strategies for people who are virtual or telecommuters. By virtual commuting or telecommuting, I mean people who carry out their work online, usually from home.

Take me, for instance. I am employed by Griffith University in Brisbane, Australia as a midwifery lecturer but I live in New Zealand. My work involves developing new courses, teaching, carrying out assessment and joining school activities. I go to Brisbane three times a year for face-to-face teaching and meetings but the rest of the time I carry out my responsibilities online.

Here are a few tips for managing virtual commuting that I have learned from my experience.

1. Think outside the square
Don't be afraid to propose virtual commuting to a potential boss. But when you do, make sure you propose a clear plan about what you can do and how you will do it. A potential boss is far more likely to fall in with your plans if you can "prove" beforehand that virtual commuting is feasible.

2. Be flexible
I think one of the great advantages of virtual commuting is that it gives you an ability to be flexible in time and space. Time zones can be a little challenging, so you need to work out how you will manage that before you start. Employers will expect you to fit in with their time zones rather than the other way around.

3. Put boundaries around your flexibility
Having said that it's good to be flexible, you also have to think how you manage that flexibility. On the whole I fit my diary around the people I work with. But there are times when I need to be focused on my work and not be interrupted, so I have to make it clear when I am available or not.

4. Shared calender
It's really useful to have a shared calender so people can see when you are free - I use Google Calender for this.

5. Send appointments
The other small trick I have discovered over the last few months is to always send people an appointment from my calender to remind them of live meetings that we have arranged. I have found that people are far more likely to forget virtual meetings than face-to-face ones. So a calender reminder works really well. The other thing I have done with Google Calender is to set up appointment reminders that get sent to my cell phone.

6. Use different email accounts
I use different email accounts, one for general business and one that is associated with my Griffith work. In one way it is annoying because I have to keep checking different accounts. But on the other had, if I want to keep a day clear of Griffith work, I do not open my Griffith email account.

7. Manage interruptions
One of the problems I find when working online is I get a lot of interruptions by people calling me on Skype, or I am easily distracted with checking Twitter or Facebook. So one of my tips is to manage your technology so you do not get distracted...turn off Twitter...shut down Facebook...only check your emails a couple of times a day...set Skype to "Do not disturb".

8. Be familiar with tools that support online work
This is especially important when you work in collaboration with others. But be mindful that different tools meet different people's needs... what suits Mary might not suit Tom.
9. Be confident with online communication tools
People will look to you for suggestions about what tools to use, and they will expect a degree of technical support from you. And it always goes down well with the boss if you can suggest free tools. At the same time, do not be afraid to play and experiment with different tools so you have a good choice in your bag of tricks.

10. Be mindful of the constraints that may face the people you work with
By this I mean that you need to think about things that will prevent people from engaging with you online such as institutional firewalls and policies around use of the Internet at work. It is really well worth developing a relationship with the institution/company's IT support crew in order to bring about any change that is required.

11. Be mindful of people's skill and knowledge levels
You also need to be aware of people's knowledge around online communication and work tools and their skill levels. You may need to do training and education around tools and processes for online collaboration eg moving people from emails to Google Docs. I have found the best way to engage people with new ways of working online is to model what I am introducing people to, and integrate the tools and processes into their every day working life.

12. Build sense of community
When you work online and away from a physical place of work, you miss out on all the informal team building that goes on, such as the social chat in the tea room. So it is important to think how you can get your colleagues to see you as a person as opposed to a faceless email, and how you can become part of the work community. My suggestions for this are to use live meetings as much as possible so you have chat about social issues as well as work. I also think it is very important to use webcam so people can see you and visa versa. Think about how you can encourage people to share more personal information so you get to know each other better, like sharing photos or carrying out online ice breakers. At the same time, be careful about online confidentiality.

13. Keep a record of your hours
I think it is really useful to keep a track of the hours you work online - this is for your own information as well as your employer. I often say that online work takes at least twice as long as you think it will. A transparent record of your hours will allow you to account for your time as well as help you and your employer plan for future tasks.

Do you have any comments or tips about how to manage virtual commuting?

Sunday, June 5, 2011

How to write a paper for publication in 6 weeks: Week 1

I have just signed up for a face-to-face publication boot camp which will run for the next six weeks - this is to support me to get a couple of papers published by the end of the year in readiness for the New Zealand PBRF process in 2012.

Week 1
I am doing this challenge with four of my work colleagues at Otago Polytechnic as a group process, and we had our first meeting this week. The first thing we did was clarify our expectations for the process:
  • it will have a short, sharp focus, with the emphasis being on output rather than process of writing;
  • this is a group process that everyone must commit to;
  • there will be approximately 2-4 hours homework per week, depending on what we have already written, and that will include editing each others' work;
  • we will provide robust advice, support and feedback to each other;
  • we will be respectful of each others' feedback, maintain confidentiality around the feedback and our reaction to feedback;
  • we need to have an idea of what we want to write.
The paper I want to write in 6 weeks
The second thing I was asked to do was to briefly tell the group what paper I want to write. It is no good thinking that you can write a paper from scratch in 6 weeks, so I have decided to write a paper based on the eMentoring project I led in Brisbane back in 2009 - I have the report written but have never got around to publishing it.

Starting with the conclusion
The third thing I was asked to do was to write down 2 - 5 key points that I want the reader to go away with. So here they are:
  • A formal eMentoring program can be useful for people in rural/remote aged care work settings - they like it and it works, but they need help to do it;
  • Other 'stuff' gets in the way of eMentoring that you have to attend to before you are able to get it to work - but you can manage 'stuff' if you know about it;
  • If you get eMentoring right, it can improve people's work experience and practices – this is a guess from my project which must be looked at in greater depth in future research.
Putting these key points into coherent sentences
Our homework this week is to put those key points into a coherent paragraph of 150 and send it to each other by the next workshop.

Mapping information and argument
The second piece of homework is to map the information and arguments that lead up to these key points - this will eventually become the discussion section of the article. This piece of work should take up 1 - 2 pages. It need not be full sentences but may be bullet points and themes. Or I can use a pictorial mind map approach. This map also has to be sent to the rest of the group, and we'll look at them at our next workshop.

Virtual boot camp
I mentioned this project in passing and have a number of people interested in doing a similar thing online. So if you're interested in following, have a look at the wiki which I am putting together.

We will be having weekly virtual meetings that will hopefully replicate what I am learning in my face-to-face workshops, and where we can support each other. Our first meeting is on Tuesday 7th June 21.00 hours New Zealand - we will meet in this Adobe Connect meeting room:

I am still not sure how this will work in a virtual environment, especially for those people who follow on their own. I would suggest that anyone doing this challenge needs to find a critical friend who will help edit and give feedback.

Please let me know how you get on if you decide to follow this project.

Image: 'road trip journal'

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Disgusted Highlanders fan

The big topic of conversation in Dunedin at the moment...or at least with us Highlanders and rugby fans, is the unheralded decision of the Highlanders management to change the colour of the strip from the traditional blue, gold and maroon to green.

You could be forgiven for asking me why on earth I care in the light of far more important things that are going on in the world.

Blue and gold represents this's part of our local identity. If you change the colour of the strip, we will not be able to identify with our team. That, coupled with the move from our local ground, Carisbrook, to a new stadium, is very unsettling. The other thing that has really annoyed me and many others is the fact that there was no consultation with fans or the local community.

I am a conspiracy theorist. To this day I believe Princess Di was kidnapped by aliens. I believe that this change is one in a series of moves that will eventually take the Highlanders out of Dunedin all together. In the end, money is what drives the Highlanders and Super 15 rugby so only time will tell if I am right.