Thursday, March 31, 2011

Second childhood

I feel sorry for children these days.

I think in many ways they miss out on a lot of excitement and opportunities for character building that was such a integral part of my childhood. For example...have you looked at the modern play grounds that are built for children these days? They are covered in high slides....swings that are locked so they cannot fly any higher than a foot off the ground. All the precautions... so no one gets hurt.

But I think the risk of getting hurt is all part of the fun....I spent many an hour in the play park in Keynsham, Bristol, being scared to death by my grandfather as I clung on for grim life while he pushed the roundabout at 60 miles an hour. You knew if you fell off the 9 foot slide onto the solid concrete that you'd break your neck but hey....that's what gave you a thrill.

So I was very pleased to find a good old fashioned play park at Anderson Park in Invercargill when I was there a couple of weeks ago. It has a proper round-about, see-saw and swings...all creaking wood and rusty iron. I had a wonderful time playing, and thank goodness there was no-one around to see me. I have decided that I cannot cope with the "thrill" in the same way as when I was 5 years old but it was liberating to swing up into the sky... adults should play at a play ground far more often than we do!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Protests by student midwives in Brazil

There is only one undergraduate midwifery course run in Brazil at São Paulo University. However, the university has just announced it is closing the program. If any thing, Brazil needs more midwives or fewer because its caesarean section rate is something like 70% - the World Health Organisation recommends it should be 15%.

So a campaign has got going to keep the midwifery education program open. In the last couple of days there has been rallies and protest marches with some of the women...student midwives no less... going topless:

Hopefully that will not be a trend that catches on in New Zealand or Australia...going topless, that is...not protesting!

If you'd like to read the blog post in English, use Google Translate. The translation may not be brilliant but it will give you an idea of the message they're trying to put across. You can also sign an online petition: REQUEST FOR SUPPORT TO THE CONTINUANCE OF MIDWIFERY’S GRADUATION COURSE AT SÃO PAULO UNIVERSITY


Sunday, March 27, 2011

Sharpening up my stalking skills

Sadly for Christchurch, the earthquake has meant it has lost the Rugby Union World Cup games that it was to host in September. There is too much damage to the Christchurch's stadium and infrastructure for the city to be able to keep the games.

Christchurch's loss is Dunedin's gain. And we look set to host another game, although the quarter-finals will go to Auckland. I am hoping that we will see the England-Argentina game here. And even more exciting...that we will host the English team as its permanent base.

So soon I'll be polishing up my binoculars.....ironing my deerstalker....making friends with local hotel concierges....and doing lots of "fancy bumping into you guys" *smirks*

Image: 'Rugby World Cup 2007 : Flag'

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Saying goodbye to my old bath

When we moved into our house back in 2001 I wasn't very impressed with it. It was an old 1920s villa and was a rental property. It had been run down, and we were pressurised into taking it because there was a shortage of rentals that were suitable for a family like ours. We eventually bought the house off the landlord a few years later, and have been renovating it ever since.

One of the things I feel in love with over the years was the bath. I am 99% sure it is the original bath. It is solid steel; much deeper than a modern bath, and so long I can stretch right out in it. I have had many happy hours in it relaxing, reading, eating chocolate and drinking wine.

But it has to go. It needs renovation and with the money it would cost us to renovate it, we pretty much can replace the whole bathroom suite.

So today it's going - as long as we can actually shift it, which will take at least three very strong men - and I'm about to enjoy my last, long soak. It's being replaced with a horrible, plastic modern bath which doesn't look half as romantic.

And as for the old bath, assuming we can get it out of the house in one piece, I will either sell it or use it in the garden for growing veggies.

Friday, March 25, 2011

What planet do plumbers live on?

I ask this question because I swear they do not live on planet earth.

My recent experience of plumbers during our bathroom renovations has led me to conclude they live on another planet because they never respond to communication...they are unable to communicate in earth talk even when you do manage to get through to them...and finding their way to your home is impossible for them, even with an inter-galactic time machine.

Here we are, four weeks later, still waiting for a plumber to give us a quote and actually turn up to do the work.

So when you find out where in the universe Planet Plumber is situated and work out how to communicate with the planet's inhabitants, please beam me up....Scotty!

Image: 'jump spaceman, jump!'

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Bully Boy

The latest Internet sensation is the story of Casey Heynes. Casey is a 15 year old Australian who has a long history of being bullied at school, but cracked and responded by beating up one of his attackers. The video of his retaliation has been viewed all over the world, and apparently numerous Facebook pages have sprung up supporting him.

But somehow this story has left me feeling a little unsettled and I cannot put my finger on why that should be. Am I being unrealistic by saying "two wrongs don't make a right"? I know I have no right to comment on this story but somehow it feels distasteful that people are so gleeful about the violence that is portrayed in the Heynes video.

I guess if the story raises people's awareness of the problems of bullying, then that has got to be a good thing. But I am convinced that violence begets violence and glorifying it, whatever form it takes, on Facebook and YouTube is a worry.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Program for the Virtual International Day of the Midwife up and running

We had another Virtual International Day of the Midwife committee meeting yesterday, and the program is starting to come together.

1. Program so far
  • Seven speakers have been officially confirmed
  • Eleven people have indicated their interest but have yet to send in their abstracts
We will be shoulder tapping, but would love to hear from anyone who'd like to be involved. The session doesn't have to be a formal presentation, it can be a chat or discussion about your practise or anything that interests you about midwifery or childbirth.

I have started to put the VIDM 2011 wiki together, and I think it is looking smarter than last year. Do feel free to have a look and pass on any feedback.

2. Beginning and end
We agreed that we need a "big name" to start the day and Mary Sidebotham will organise that. Bridget Lynch, the president of the ICM, has agreed to provide a welcoming statement. I will also contact the New Zealand College of Midwives to see if they want some involvement, as they did last year. And I have also organised a Maori welcome to the day.

To end the day, Mary will facilitate a discussion aimed at student midwives about how they can facilitate normal birth in their roles as students. I think it is really fitting that we end the day talking to student midwives as they are the future of the midwifery profession.

3. Facilitators
I think we need four master facilitators who will keep an eye on things for six hour slots. They do not need to be tied to their computers, but they do need to be confident with working Elluminate, and be available to support session facilitators and speakers. We'll also need facilitators of each session. If you're interested in being a facilitator, please let me know. I especially need people who will be up and about when New Zealand and Australia is in bed on May 5th.

4. Information for speakers and facilitators
I have started to put information pages together for speakers and facilitators on the wiki. If there is any information there that you feel is misleading, in adequate or missing, please let me know.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Is today my last day on earth?

There has been a great deal of discussion and controversy about a chap called Ken Ring in New Zealand. Ken is a Kiwi who predicts weather, and recently has upped his game and started to predict earthquakes. According to him, Christchurch and the whole South Island is due to get a very big earthquake on the 20th March...which is today. It's all to do with the pattern of the moon, which is currently in its "full" phase and as close to the earth as it can get.

So what am I going to be doing on what, potentially, could be my last day on earth?

I'm going to be doing housework, catching up with emails, studying, and watching "Top Gear" - none of which sounds like the sort of stuff I should be doing on my last day on earth!! Oh....and yes...I'm going to be ignoring predictions about the end of the world!

If you knew you were facing the last day before the end of the world, what would you do?

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Emergency midwifery response to international disasters

Ever since the Haiti earthquake and now the Christchurch and Japan disasters, I have been wondering what I can do, as a midwife, to help.... both in practical and virtual terms. And now, there is this question left on the Virtual International Day of the Midwife Facebook Page from Takako Takeuchi

"I am safe personally, but there are many victims in north eastern region of Honshu and it must include babies, mothers and pregnant women. So if you know, please give them useful ideas how to survive and manage the crisis on Facebook, Twitter, and so on"

Questions about midwifery response to disaster
So I am left with a few questions I wonder if people could help answer - I have had a brief look at the ICM and WHO websites but I have found it quite difficult to find information that helps answer my questions.
  • Is there a strategy for a midwifery response to international disasters, and where can I find it?
  • Is there a central point that coordinates midwifery responses to international disasters?
  • Is anyone looking at the role of social media in the midwifery response to international disasters?
  • Does anyone know of any organisations or individuals who are using social media to filter midwifery information to victims of international disasters?
Starting an international discussion
I am thinking about facilitating a discussion or forum about midwifery and international disasters for the Virtual International Day of the Midwife on the 5th May - I am especially interested in developing strategy etc around virtual responses to disasters. For example, after the Haiti earthquake, there was a campaign to provide virtual resources to a school of nursing/midwifery who had been demolished - volunteers were unable to take textbooks to Haiti because of weight allowances on aeroplanes.

Already there are organisations that do this sort of work in a more general context such as Crises Commons - I am pondering if midwifery could do with a similar approach.

If you have expertise or interest in this area or know someone who does, please let me know if you'd like to join the live discussion about this on the Virtual International Day of the Midwife on the 5th May, and/or be on the discussion panel.

Image: 'Earthquake in Haiti'

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Virtual International Day of the Midwife May 5th 2011: Deadline for EOI extended until April 1st 2011

We are getting lots of interest for the Virtual International Day of the Midwife on May 5th, but there are still places for presenters. So if you're interested in joining us and leading a live session, please let us know as soon as possible.

The session can be anything you fancy - a formal presentation about your research or workplace innovation. You may wish to tell us about your practice, or lead a discussion about an issue that interests you. Or you can facilitate a networking discussion or story-telling session...

We'd love to hear from midwives, educators or researchers. And we especially welcome student midwives, health consumers and anyone interested in birth.

Don't worry if you haven't had much to do with online communication technology...we will make sure you have a facilitator to help you set up and support you during the session.

All you need to do at this stage is send us a brief paragraph (up to 150 words) about what you'd like to do, tell us what your role is and where you are from, and give us an idea of what time slot you'd like (12pm 5th May New Zealand - 12pm 6th May New Zealand.

We look forward to hearing from you - please email me at sarahstewart07 (at) or leave a comment on our Facebook page:

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

OSCEs and distance students

I am currently considering the issues involved with working with distance midwifery students, especially in terms of assessment. I have the job of devising an Objective Structured Clinical Assessment (OSCA) exam (some people call them OSCEs). What I want to test is students' knowledge and how they integrate it into clinical practice; safety ie students understand the concepts of safe clinical practice, and communication skills.

Distance students
In the past I have managed these exams on campus. But at Griffith University we have quite a few distance midwifery students, so I am thinking about how we can manage the OSCAs so they are reliable and equitable, yet meet the needs of the distance students and possibly not require them to come onto campus.

I did think of video but that will be too time consuming for me to watch 40 odd videos. It isn't interactive so lecturers will be unable to give students just-in-time feedback that supports them to pass the OSCA.

Remote locations
The other option would be to run individual OSCAs in the students' home location, asking midwives in the local hospitals to do the assessment. It goes without saying that the midwives would receive training and support to carry out the assessment. However, I am concerned about reliability, equity and moderation...the more assessors involved with this form of exam, the greater the chance of inaccuracies. I am also concerned that midwives would find it very difficult to "fail" students.

I'd love to hear from any other health educators who face similar challenges - what would you advise me according to your personal experience? I'd also be interested in hearing from midwifery students - what do you think about OSCAs?

Or, should I be thinking of using other forms of assessment?

Image: 'untitled'

Monday, March 7, 2011

No adverts on Wikispaces for higher education

One of my favourite wiki platforms is Wikispaces which I use for my ePortfolio and facilitating collaborative projects such as the Virtual International Day of the Midwife. However, the problem with many wiki platforms is they run adverts, which is not desirable when you are using them for education purposes. But the only way to get rid of the adverts has been to pay for ad-free functions.

For some time, Wikispaces has provided ad-free wiki to K12 educators but not for higher education. But I have just heard via Steve Hargadon that Wikispaces is now providing ad-free wiki to higher education - this will save you 50$US per year. It will also allow you to set up private wiki.

I am really pleased that Wikispaces has done this because I think is so much easier to use, especially compared to the wiki inside BlackBoard which I am currently using with students and staff.

Image: 'Magic! between the trees'

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Social media and the Christchurch earthquake

I was introduced to social media in 2007 by Leigh Blackall and Sue Waters and have watched SM trends very closely since, especially in education and health. I have been fascinated to see how social media has moved from being 'just for the kids' to mainstream and an essential part of life. Nowhere has this been illustrated more in New Zealand than the Christchurch earthquake.

Twitter and news gathering
Twitter has grown the most in terms of importance. It was Twitter that relayed the news of the earthquake first. I was watching Twitter at the time of the earthquake and saw people's descriptions of what was going on before TV coverage started. And it was Twitter that the news channels turned to when Wellington had its small shake earlier this week.

Keeping in touch
The other thing that has struck me is the way people have used SM to contact me to find out if I'm OK. Of course, being in Dunedin, I was no where near Christchurch. But it was lovely to get Twitter and Facebook messages from people checking to see if I was alright.....from people I have never met, but now have an online relationship with.

And now the dust is settling (excuse the pun), we're starting to see the less serious use of SM, although some of these uses have been controversial, for example, the Twitter trend #eqnzpickuplines. My favourite pick up line is "Are you sure you're from Christchurch? Because you don't have any faults". We've also seen the huge following on Facebook of "Jeremy the Sign Language Guy" who has been a wonderful ambassador of sign language during the daily press conferences.

Personal stories
But as people start to get access to power and the Internet we're seeing the personal stories emerge, which gives a poignancy to our understanding of what's going on beyond television, such as the experience of Bronnie Thompson, who is a lecturer and occupational therapist in Christchurch.

How has SM played a part for you during the Christchurch earthquake?

Friday, March 4, 2011

Bathroom renovations

We live in an old wooden villa which is about 90 years old. We moved here nine years ago and rented the house, then bought it off the landlord who wanted to get rid of it as it needed quite a lot of renovation.

Very slowly we have been renovating room by room. To be honest, we haven't done anything much over the last couple of years. But it has got to a point where we need to attack the bathroom because it is deteriorating badly.

So poor old hubby is spending his month's holiday doing it up. We had hoped we'd be able to do the cheapest, minimalist job possible. But suffice to say, that's not going to happen. So it's stripping everything down, replacing wood that has been eaten away by bora, and putting in new plumbing, bathroom suite and electrics.

I will be extremely sorry to see the bath go because it is the original cast iron bath...beautifully deep and relaxing. But the cost of renovating it is far more than buying a new one. Hopefully we'll be able to preserve it so we can sell it...apparently it is quite valuable. But the likelihood is we'll have to smash it up into bits so we can get it out of the house.

What am I looking forward to? It's got to be a heated towel rail. I know they cost lots of money to run but there's nothing like getting out of the shower in the winter and putting on a lovely, warm towel.

But in the meantime, I have to live with dust absolutely everywhere and goodness knows how many days without a shower....but that is nothing compared to what the poor people in Christchurch are suffering at the moment :(

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Looking at Dunedin with new eyes

One of the things the earthquake in Christchurch has done has got me looking at Dunedin with fresh eyes. And I am left with two main thoughts.

Love my city
The first thing that I am doing is really taking notice of what is around me, and not taking the city so much for granted. I have been looking at the lovely buildings we have, appreciating the wonderful churches and acknowledging the history that is evident in our architecture. I do not know what our chances are of having a devastating earthquake like Christchurch, but I have a sense of what Cantabrians must feel like, seeing their iconic churches and historical buildings brought to the ground.

I have made myself two promises that I aim to carry out in the next few weeks as a way of celebrating Dunedin. Firstly, I am going to go on one of the walking tours around Dunedin that is provided from the Early Settlers Museum, which will give me a much better understanding of our local history. And secondly, I am going to have a really good look around the beautiful churches we have here, like St Paul's Cathedral and the First Church of Otago.

Cause for concern
My other big thought is how Dunedin would do in a big much of our architecture and buildings would survive? And I have to say, I have serious concerns. We have some wonderful old buildings that are being badly neglected to the point that they are already falling down...goodness only knows what would happen in an earthquake!

I am not an architect and know nothing about building conservation, but I would say Dunedin has to look very carefully at the experience of Christchurch and ask some really hard questions of itself. What are we going to do to conserve our architecture, especially in the Princes Street area, from a historical perspective as well as public safety point of view?

What do you Dunedinites think?

Image: 'First Church of Otago'

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Trying to work out a research question for my OER project

I am still trying to get my head around the research project I am currently involved with. What we want to do at Otago Polytechnic is make our Graduate Certificate of Tertiary Learning and Teaching freely accessible on the Internet in an open environment such as Wikieducator.

Funding model
We've been delivering a couple of the program courses already in Wikieducator, such as Facilitating Online. Now we want to develop a funding model that continues to support free open access to the course materials but also allows people to enrol as formal students, and ensures sustainability of the program.

We have already developed a funding model for Facilitating Online that starts next week, as a pilot. But alongside that, I want to find out more about experiences of students in open access courses to inform our future work.

How to turn informal students into paying enrolments
Over the last three or four years, this has been our experience with the course Facilitating Online:
  • large numbers of people enrol as informal students, but few complete
  • very few informal students pay to become formally enrolled students
  • the facilitator spends too much time working with informal students as facilitator/mentor - the amount of time spent is not cost effective or sustainable.
What I want to know is:
  1. how to increase retention and completion;
  2. how to support informal students to become formally enrolled students;
  3. how to effectively support formal/informal student learning in a cost-effective and sustainable way.
What we know already
  • The popular open access courses that have been around for the last couple of years start off with large number of participants but these rates soon drop (Fini, 2009; Mackness et al, 2010). Question: Why is that? Is it a motivation issue or pedagogical (Siemens, 2010)?
  • Students learn by making connections with each other (Siemens, 2004) but they still want support from facilitators/teachers in the online, learning environment, especially those who are used to using technology or working in an "open" environment (Siemens, 2010; Mota, 2010). Question: How do we support students to develop the appropriate/relevant digital literacy skills; to facilitate learning without increasing teacher workload (McAuley et al, 2010)?
  • Facilitator/teachers use volunteers/fellow students to help support, mentor and/or teach other students (Downes, 2007; Couros, 2010 a. and b.). Question: Does this reduce the teacher's workload? How reliable and ethical is it to rely on other students or volunteers to teach students, especially considering the majority of students drop out from the "sharing" experience ( Mackness et al, 2010)?
  • There are a number of models of open access courses whereby students can participate as informal students with the facility to enrol as formal students, under-going assessment and gaining accreditation (Blackall, 2010; Taylor, 2011). Question: How is this working in actuality? How many students in these open courses actually enrol as formal students? What are the barriers, especially in terms of process (Cormier & Siemens, 2010)?
  • There are a number of funding models that are mooted to ensure sustainability of open access courses, including the "conversion" model (Downes, 2007; Wiley, 2007). Question: How many informal students do we need to participate and then enrol as formal students to make open courses sustainable, especially in light of the high drop-out rate?
I still haven't quite formalised my research question but the plan is to engage with past students of 'Facilitating Online' in order to answer some of the questions above.

I'd love to hear from anyone who has any ideas about this topic or is doing similar research. In particular, I'd really like to hear from educators who are offering open courses - what is your retention rate and how many informal students enrol for assessment and accreditation?