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Integrating Second Life into midwifery education (Sarah Stewart, DEANZ 2010)

Breastfeeding symbolImage via Wikipedia
A real interesting presentation, Sarah Stewart gave a great overview of how Second Life can be used in a way to enhance learning that was not possible without a virtual world. The midwifery project/normal birth scenario was part of a larger project using Second Life in NZ education project.

Sarah started by checking who had been into Second Life before, and then very briefly described some of the basics of Second Life, creating an avatar and getting around. She used a lot of screen shots to help create a sense of the environment and the participants who collaborated in the design of the project itself.

The underlying design behind the birth unit in Second Life were shown. Sarah advised that they wanted students to be able to contextualise what they were learning, while also being able to apply their existing knowledge. Research shows that the birthing environment affects the outcomes of the birth - a sterile, cold, clinical environment can result in anxiety, and ultimately in interventions such as c-sections, with knock-on impact on the ability to breast-feed, for instance.

Pictures of nurturing things and colours have been chosen to create a sense of warmth and safety. Machines and instruments are kept in cupboards. Information and references wre kept in Wiki Educator as well as a back up if students were having problems with Internet connections etc. Also, there was investment into the notion of ensuring that everything was open and freely accessible to educators around the wold. A closed Facebook group was used to house some of the activities, such as reflective activities. They made the conscious decision not to use Moodle, partly for issues of ownership/openness, and partly because students were already familiar with Facebeook and did not require upskilling.

Sarah's presentation was full of great images and ideas which gave a great introduction to a scenrio and set of skills that would have been extremely difficult to have experienced in a real-world situation. The focus on sharing with peers, reflection, and the ability to trial things as many times as was required by each learner illustrated some of the benefits of learning in a virtual world. The idea of a safe, 'sandpit' environment for taking risks (without endangering anyone) in a social, fun environment is key. It won't replace the actual clinical environment, but it works effectively hand-in-hand with a virtual world.

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