Virtual Childbirth? Sarah Stewart – A Visionary health practitioner in the 21st Century

Ada Lovelace Day – Sarah Stewart

Today is Ada Lovelace Day, and I pledged a number of months ago to write a post about an unsung heroine in technology that I admire.

My unsung heroine is @SarahStewart or as non-geeky people might call her, Sarah Stewart.

I had been planning a bit of time to write this, and yet again I find myself at the end of the day trying to corral my thoughts into something coherent.

Sarah Stewart is absolutely awesome. I have so much admiration for this woman who until the last few months, I didn’t even know existed!

Connecting through our Personal Learning Network (PLN)

imageI “met” Sarah via my Twitter PLN (of course) and found her right from the start to be friendly, curious, articulate, engaging in her communication style and open and willing to share and discuss on Twitter, flickr and so forth.

Connecting with Western Australian Peers

Knowing that Sarah was a Midwife and doing some amazing things with e-Learning, students and midwifery professional practice using technology, I invited her to participate from the other side of the country in a staff development day with our School of Nursing, Midwifery & Post-Graduate Medicine at ECU (named in honour of another kick arse awesome woman before her time).

She didn’t bat an eyelid and was excited to contribute.  As a part of our planning we did some time online with Skype and Mindmeister……and what a depth of experience and innovation did I find!


Our Academic staff were engaged and asked a multitude of questions. Sarah was a total trooper as we had to turn off the video feed from Skype and she really was flying blind that day.

From A to G……and not even close to Z as yet

To give you some idea, here is a quick and dirty run down of her “tech journey” in the last decade or so (hopefully its in chronological order from my notes)

  1. Career started as a nurse and then moved into midwifery
  2. image
  3. Moved to New Zealand with family from England mid – late 90′. When I say New Zealand, I mean remote, rural, low infrastructure of any kind, New Zealand.
  4. Communicated with “home” via email and developed midwifery professional practice “LISTSERV’s”  to keep in touch with contemporary practice (it was all very cutting edge then!)
  5. This community of practice created a sense of feeling much less isolated from the world and her profession in a remote area.
  6. In 1999, she moved to being an educator and a university. In Sarah’s words

“I always had a passion to teach and share the benefits of experience and knowledge with young women”.

  • This shift led the the completion of her Masters on midwives connecting and supporting each other through the Internet.
  • These concepts were integrated into her teaching practice and she introduced the concept of networking and reflective practice to her students. Given this was the “turn of the Century” (still feels odd saying that) it was quite revolutionary practice looking back.5
  • She put several courses online and particularly worked with e-Learning in post-graduate programs.
  • In 2007 Sarah met Leigh Blackall and discovered a world she had been seeking and trying to articulate for some considerable while.  The world of connectivism, community and collaboration.   A networked world.  Words / expressions used to describe her world include: sharing, collaboration for the greater good, non-possessiveness, e-volunteer.
  • The e-volunteer concept is one in the last few years that Sarah has exemplified.  She has supported Japanese midwives with professional practice from NZ (and they in Japan); developed and run free mid-wifery session online in the middle east (including Pakistan and Afghanistan) and had such a profound impact that she was asked to work on location in this part of the world in auditing of curriculum.

…and now?

Sarah now finds herself in Brisbane, Queensland Australia working on an e-Mentoring project as her latest challenge. Her blog is an endless, continual imageresource of self-reflection, reflection on her industry and the professional development.  Her fingers are still in a variety of virtual pies, one of which includes building a “virtual birthing unit” in Second Life (which kind of makes even my head pop!)

I must say, she also puts herself out there with her professional e-portfolio open for the world to see. She has cast some doubt on herself with this of late, but fundamentally I believe it is a revolutionary practice and in 10 years we will look back and see her as a pioneer and wonder what all the fuss was about.


What an amazing woman – to reach out from the other side of the planet and positively affect peoples lives so profoundly with something as simple as a computer and a keyboard.

I continually feel inspired by Sarah, even though I am in a different (albeit learning in the end) industry sector.

Inspired to continually challenge the boundaries of the accepted “norm” and striving to make a difference in the world around me and those whose paths I cross.

Thank you Sarah 🙂

Footnote: I feel I have left so much of Sarah out and her achievements as an unsung hero. Visit her blog and see just how bloody awesome she is yourself!

All images blatantly flogged from Sarah’s flickr site – silly girl put them out there! MUWHAHAHAHHA


Re-discovering my inner blogger

My brain has been a vacuum…

I have developed a fair sized guilt complex of late about how recalcitrant I have been in my blogging.

My last post was actually on the 28th of October last year, which makes it just over 5 months ago.  I confess to the fact that work went even insaner than normal after I returned from the mLearn conference last year and hardly had time to scratch myself, let alone keep up with my Google Reader, Twitter, networks and colleagues or let alone have time for reflective thought and blogging.

The last couple of months I have been getting a bit of Twittering happening and even introduced the odd other person to it. It is amazing how just being a part of a social network of like minded individuals can inspire and ignite one’s mind.  The other night, someone on Twitter referred to the fact they were writing down things for their blog that they may never post, and I commented on the fact I had posts rattling around my head I may never even write!  I think the getting of pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) is perhaps half the battle won, and so here I am at 1.10 pm Sunday afternoon when I should be marking assignments.

I am going to a conference next week in Sydney on blended learning.  I am really excited because it is heavily case study based and more about Organisational Development than having a pure educational for educations sake context.  I suspect that may give my ailing brain a jump start also.   Here’s hoping…