Reflections upon ‘the digital me’ for #ONL

This is an activity I am undertaking for Open Networked Learning. A blog to reflect upon who I am as an individual in the digital age and my journey so far. I could probably begin this journey in my youth but it is hard to remember when  my first encounter with digital technology started, perhaps it was a Casio electronic wristwatch in my teens or the casio calculator we had at school for mathematics. Professionally, I was a children’s nurse for over twenty years, working in a number of high dependency areas, for example, paediatric intensive care, neonatal intensive care in London and then when I moved to Manchester, UK I became a Sister in a renal unit. During this time I also started to develop my academic life and enrolled on a Diploma in Nursing course at a local college. I had 2 small children at this time, one was coming up to 2 years of age when I started the course and by the time I had entered the second year of the programme I had my second daughter, sometimes taking her to class with me as she slept in the car seat. As you can imagine, most of my learning outside of the classroom had to take place in the evening and so we bought an Amstrad PCW. image

I can still see it now perched on the desk at the end of the lounge complete with floppy disks that sometimes had to be formatted. There was no such thing as the internet in our house (see Stoll, C 1995, Why the web won’t be Nirvana’), I knew it had been around for a long time  of course but was never really sure it would come to households, but when dial up internet connections came along I embraced this medium, as frustrating as it was sometimes, because it opened up a whole new world for me. Taking the Diploma also opened up a whole new word for me intellectually and I wanted to carry on studying,  at times this was hard with small children and working in a very intensive renal/urological ward as a senior member of staff, but I loved how it opened up new vistas of learning. The sociology of health and illness, of education, psychological approaches to working with children and young people, research methods, criticisms. ethics and philosophy. I could go on. In fact, I did go on to successfully complete the Diploma, then a BSc quickly followed by a post-graduate Diploma in Education and then an MSC (Education) where I explored the role of the facilitator in a problem-based learning curriculum. By 1996 I  had gained my first full time lecturer position at the University.  I had my own desk, computer and email, sometimes a blessing sometimes a curse but none of this ever fazed me. I had crossed the digital divide, I was one of the lucky ones of course as not everyone has such great opportunities or acess to the tools for learning in this way, or as Pierre Bourdieu would say I had gained some cultural capital and I would always consider that I have been fully supported in the workplace to develop and grow. Now here I am in the 21st Century and this year I (and a small team of 2 others) were awarded the Vice Chancellor’s Distinguished Teachers award for our work using social media (SoMe) in higher education, I use twitter in the modules I lead, embedding hashtags into the virtual learning environment of Blackboard so that the classroom becomes a ‘classroom without walls’. This year a colleague https://twitter.com/wlasinclair and I have been invited to be part of a twinning project with Plymouth University undergraduate students, in December we will use social media to connect the students across the 280+ miles that divides them to discuss learning and development on their nursing programmes. The aims are to highlight the potential of the internet in both professional development and patient care/health promotion and to strengthen the growing links between the students. Our hashtag will be #NWSWtwins

Nursing and Social Media at The University of Salford…The story so far

When you put it like this we have achieved quite a bit in such a short space and time – and that’s on top of the day job😄👌✨✨✨

Nursing at The University of Salford

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Working and learning – equal measures?

I love my job. I don’t always like it but I do love what I do. I always have done.  The most interesting part is that I didn’t choose to go into nursing. I sort of found it by accident really, but it was a fantastic journey of privilege and pride spanning twenty years,  working in Liverpool, London and now Manchester.   Caring for children and their families in complex situations was both humbling and rewarding in equal measures.  Now I work in higher education teaching undergraduate student nurses on degree programmes in the main. But sometimes I worry about the pressures we put nursing students under today. Having to manage the theoretical components of an undergraduate course of study with the ‘messy’ complexities of clinical practice is hard. And recent evidence from the Higher Education Authority (HEA) suggests that the average age of student entrants for degree programmes is 25 years with 17% coming from black and minority ethnic backgrounds, so many come with multiple life experiences, they are not fresh from leaving school and they often come with caring responsibilities. I  completed my nurse training in 1982 and gained both an RGN and an RSCN qualification, I was young, eager to learn but I wasn’t always juggling with assessment of both theory and practice, and more often than not I only had myself to worry about. Don’t get me wrong, I am not calling for a return to the days of ‘learning at Nelly’s knee’ as I firmly believe in the development of practitioners of the future who can offer an evidence based rationale for the care that is being delivered.  A degree in nursing should be earned to create these practitioners who can challenge, change and move the profession forward in all the right ways. But I do think that sometimes we lose sight of the person at the centre of the process and the larger organisational systems can take over and this is where I worry that those very students who embody those facets of caring, compassion courage, confidence and competence that the profession desperately needs but who may drop one of those ‘balls’ of assessment more than once,  can just fall through the net and nobody hauls them back in.

“A work of art …or just dipping my toes in the water

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A work of art is the unique result of a unique temperament”
Oscar Wilde

I’m not quite sure why I started with this quote for my first blog but I love Oscar Wilde’s aphorisms. Do I think I am producing a work of art I ask myself? Do I have the unique temperament to produce work here and then make it visible to others?  This is a conundrum that I will have to grapple with as I force myself to create something that I am proud of, has some resonance with what I want to talk about and at the final hurdle can be made public. I follow the @thesiswhisperer and I love her writing. It is accessible, informative and encouraging and I suppose it has made me consider that I too have a voice that may be accessble to others. Partly the reason for creating this blog space is that I am also attempting to undertake a PhD by publication. When I say attempting I have been thwarted in my attempts to pursue a research PhD over the past few years, not that I am making excuses, I am a grown up, and I consider myself fairly assertive so who is indeed thwarting my attempts. However, many friends and work colleagues suggest that maybe I work harder at work in order to sabotage my study at Phd and so perhaps the answer to that question lies within and at some point I am going to have find the answer? I commenced Phd studies in September 2007 excited and scared and anxious and all those other words that spring to mind. The following January  2008 I took on the role of Student Experience Lead for the School of Nursing. I was in need of a change and I also wanted a challenge, what………. a PhD is not challenging enough you cry.  But the gauntlet was well and truly thrown down and my research proposal began to take shape, I met regularly with my supervisor. We liked each other I like to think.  I respected and admired her philosophy on life, education, work, women in Higher Education, I could go on.  Then catastrophe, she got a new job at another University and consequently she chose to move, and she needed this new phase in her life to begin quickly, it wasn’t anything to do with me I hasten to add I’m absolutely sure.  But I also became resigned to moving on,  some time later I was nominated a new supervisor. We discussed and explored themes of interest especially in relation to children and young people, and I changed topic and I thought we were starting again.  Little did I realise that the PhD clock was still ticking from when I had begun and 5 years would quickly pass. Doing a Phd is hard, and doing a PhD as a part time student is particularly hard. Juggling 2 roles at work was also incredibly difficult, and in 2010 my beloved Mother died.  I took another year out, the clock continued to tick. In 2011 I resumed my study and passed my interin assessment, another goal achieved. I prepared my research proposal but I had not made life easy for myself and having chosen a ‘hard to reach group of  young people’ there were, quite rightly, a number of questions that the panel required greater clarification about. This leads me to the present situation, throughout this time my current supervisor has been incredibly supportive but is constrained by the University systems and processes.  Therefore, to release some of the stress and pressure I was under, we decided to call a halt to the study and I have transferred to the PhD by publication route. I feel happier but strangely more focused and maybe this is just what I needed in terms of  some thinking time. The journey continues it is painful but I like to think that one day I might just produce what I would call my own ‘work of art’