Wednesday, August 31, 2011

This blog is moving

After much deliberation I have decided to move part of this blog - the Helen's reflections part - to another site and I am pleased to introduce Curious Reflexions:  I have registered Curious Reflexions as my business name and eventually will be offering consultancy and other services, but for now my focus is on finishing my PhD.  I have selected a wordpress blog because I am looking for a blog template that does a bit more than the blogger one, and the wordpress one looks like it will do the job.  If you are still interested in following me, please pop over to the wordpress site and check it out. It's still shiny and new, so let me know if there are any bits that are broken.



Sunday, August 14, 2011

Does having a PhD help you at a Trivia night?

I went to a Trivia night last night with some colleagues at the University. I used to love Trivia nights but I haven’t been to one for a long time. They are different these days, with powerpoint slide shows and projectors, and last night I realised that I am different too. There were six rounds of questions and we did well for the first two rounds – the general knowledge questions. We knew the chemical symbol for gold (it’s au in case you were wondering), the two highest grossing movies of all time (Titanic and Avatar) and we knew the names of all of the characters marooned on Gilligan’s Island. We did particularly well in the third round when we had to identify international architecture, and as a table we chatted about the conferences that we had attended all over the world.

But then things got harder and I realised that while I have focussed all of my attention on my PhD research topic the rest of the world has gone on without me. We were stumped in the sports section. We couldn’t remember who won the 2010 Women’s Singles Title at the Australian Open (has it really been eight months since Kim Clijsters took home the trophy), or the name of the person who won the Australian Ironman Championship six times (I will save you the trouble of Googling it – it’s Trevor Hendy). We stumbled in the section where we had to identify cartoon characters – who has time to watch TV when you are busy writing a PhD? There are cartoons on TV that I haven’t heard of and some of them have been on TV for several years. But the section where we failed in the most spectacular fashion was the flags section – we couldn’t remember if the stripes on the French flag were horizontal or vertical, and which country had the red stripe over white and which one has the white stripe over red. Actually, I still don’t think I can explain the answers to that one.

As I drove home and contemplated our performance at the trivia night it occurred to me that as much as I have loved reading in the past, I don’t have time for it anymore. Pre-Phd, I had one or two novels on the go at all times. I loved to read all kinds of books or to curl up on the couch with the newspaper on a rainy Saturday afternoon. But today, I can’t even remember a time when I did more than glance at the front page and the employment section of the newspaper. I think I am craving a trashy novel. It’s hard as a PhD student to contemplate using precious and valuable time to read something other than a journal article or text book, but I think that is exactly what I need to do. Maybe, I will even watch TV!

While I am absorbed in PhD research I am immersed in a place that is privileged and sheltered from the realities of what is happening in the rest of the world. And maybe, from time to time, we should come up for air and check out what is happening in the rest of the world. Read a trashy novel, see a tacky movie at the cinema or watch a re-run of a long-forgotten comedy on TV. Because while I have spent months reading, thinking and writing about qualitative research methodological approaches that have epistemological credibility, it is unlikely that there will be any questions about that at your nearest trivia night.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

I'm back...

Well it has been a long time since my last post, but it is time to get this blog going again.  Plenty has been happening, but I haven't felt inclined to write much about it  - especially in a way that I am prepared to share with other people.  Anyway, I have felt inspired by two blog posts recently and I am keen to explore them a bit more.

Firstly, I have opened a twitter account, and you can find me @HelenHickson pretty easy huh! I have had the twitter account for a while and enjoyed the chatter of people I know and people I don't. I saw it as a fun thing to do while I was procrastinating about something else. Then I found this regular weekly chat called #phdchat and each week PhD students and graduate from around the world chat about different topics. The timing is not good for me and I need to get up at around 5 am if I want to participate in real time, but I enjoy reading through the resources, hints and tools that are shared by other students at different stages of their research. It's an amazing resource for PhD students. 

But back to the two blog posts.  Of course, now I have made friends with people on twitter and they share the coolest of stuff.  Dr Inger Mewburn is  The Thesis Whisperer and she writes and collates stories about the experiences of doing a PhD. I have only noticed the twitter feeds before, but they are witty, clever and always so very relevant.  Yesterday she posted a story called, 'Is the University a bad boyfriend'.  What a catchy title! I loved the story and I loved the metaphor and it got me thinking - why did I enrol in a PhD and what are my expectations about University work. Am I on track to have my dreams shattered and is there anything that I can do about it?

Then, today I saw this story in The Age: Lonely PhD student? Just log in.  It is a great story about how the PhD journey does tend to be a lonely and sometimes boring experience, but social media does provide inspiration and food for thought, and the opportunity to connect with other people, anywhere in the world,  who understand just what it is like.  And that has got to be a good thing.

I promise to write more often!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The future of the e-portfolio?

Sarah Stewart has been writing about her experiences of using an e-portfolio for her Midwifery Standards Review and this has got me thinking about how Social Workers in Australia can use an e-portfolio to collate and organise their professional development activities to demonstrate the requirements for accrediation.    But are Social Workers in Australia ready to hear about e-portfolios?

I think Social Workers (and other health professionals) are happy to use the paper versions of a portfolio or record of training and development activities because they think they don’t have any other real choice. And I wonder if they are really happy with the paper version, or do they sometimes wonder if there must be a better way to do this?

We are all looking for something simple, easy to learn how to use, easy to maintain and easy to send off to our professional association when the time comes for review of our registration or accreditation. I see the enormous potential of the e-portfolio for professionals who need to keep a record of learning and development activities for their annual or bi-annual registration or accreditation review. In particular, I would like to see the Australian Association of Social Workers host e-portfolios - and I am preparing a paper to make this suggestion more formally.

E-portfolios are not something new that has been designed to make our life more difficult. The Australian ePortfolio Project released their stage 2  report in December 2009 and it makes interesting reading.  There is a lot money being invested in Australia to develop e-portfolios.  It’s not something that is going to fade away overnight. E-portfolios are a way to keep track of our activities and reflections – our learning and development and e-portfolios have enormous potential to do even more for us, things we haven’t thought of yet. So I say let’s get involved now, and influence the design so it works for us. And when the new students come along, we can dazzle them with our insight and fresh ideas.

I’m interested in what other people think. How do you keep track of your professional development and learning activities? Do you see a future in e-portfolios? Do you have an e-portfolio?

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

World Social Work Day 2010

World Social Work Day 2010: Making human rights real - the Social Work Agenda. This is the press release from the International Federation of Social Workers (IFSW).

'People are making changes in their lives to improve their quality of life every day across the world - and social workers are there helping them. World Social Work Day is a celebration of these achievements and an opportunity to highlight what work still has to be done for people’s rights to be respected.

Wherever we live in the world, people are being harmed, abused and neglected and their civil, political, economic, cultural and social rights are being violated. Every day, social workers are helping individuals and groups of people in such situations, helping them to live a better life and to find ways to respect competing rights in complex situations.

The implementation of all the international Human Rights Conventions, treaties and agreements used to focus on individual civil and political rights in order to guarantee fair trials, rights to vote, freedom from torture and abuse. More and more they now also consider collective/community rights and emphasise economic, social and cultural rights in order to defend the rights to education, housing, health, employment, adequate income and social security.

This new focus on making human rights a reality in daily life – ‘making human rights real’ - is an important issue in the consultations leading into the 2010 Joint World Conference. The social work profession works alongside those who are excluded, discriminated against, abused or poor – whose rights are not respected. The profession aims to achieve social change leading to a dignified life and social justice for all.

IFSW President, Dr David N Jones, comments that “Wherever there is extreme poverty, lack of basic needs like food, water and shelter, the trafficking and abuse of people across countries or serious family problems in affluent societies, you will find social workers alongside people, helping them to make changes in their lives. The 2010 social work world conference will show how social work will develop its contribution to building people-centred and sustainable social progress and social change. World social work day gives us an opportunity to celebrate this crucial work.” '

How  do to celebrate World Social Work Day?

Monday, March 15, 2010

Emerging Realities of Allied Health Practice

I am presenting at the Loddon Mallee Allied Health Conference in Echuca on Friday 19th March.  It's an exciting conference that has a focus on Allied Health practice.  I have been on the conference committee and I have really enjoyed finding out how a conference goes together.  There are so many details to organise and it is a challenge to weave the posters and presentations together to make an interesting conference that will attract the audience and keep them entertained throughout the day.

I have now  finished my conference preparation - the powerpoint is finished and has been sent off.  This is a good thing to send it off before the conference, as I can now stop tinkering with it to make it perfect!  I have finished my speaker notes and timed them to make sure that I will talk for just the right amount of time - not too long, not too rushed and I must  remember to breathe!  I have found that with my writing I use longer sentences than I can speak to, so there are several changes made with converting my writing to speaker notes.

I hope to see you there at the conference and I would really like to hear your feedback about my presentation.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

International Federation of Social Work Conference

Great news.  I have been accepted to present at the IFSW conference in Hong Kong in June 2010.  The conference is titled, '2010 Joint World Conference on Social Work and Social Development: the Agenda’ and is a  joint conference with  The International Association of Schools of Social Work (IASSW), the International Council on Social Welfare (ICSW), and the International Federation of Social Workers (IFSW). 

I will be travelling to Hong Kong with my Dad - he hasn't been there before and he thought it sounded like an interesting place to visit.  I will be glad to have his company, and I hope to have a  few days in Hong Kong to have a look around and enjoy the culture, the food and the shopping!

So, now I need to finalise my presentation which needs to be sent off soon. More later.