Sometimes in order to reconnect, you have to disconnect

A few weeks ago, all of a sudden, I just decided that I needed to take a social media break. I wanted to think about my use of social media and what I was truly getting from it. Also, what was I giving up in return. I wanted time to think about the relationships I had formed with others in the different social networks I use.

The time away from all the social network platforms, in all honesty, was great (thank you all for your text messages of care and concern). I was able to channel my energy on other activities and thoughts. Also, anyone that needed to get a hold of me was still able to reach out using email, text, or a phone call.

The time apart from the different social networks also truly allowed me to determine what I want to do moving forward. The reality is that some social networks no longer serve a purpose for me and I am completely fine letting them go. But for some reason my relationship with Twitter is just such a love/hate relationship that I find myself struggling with how to move forward. I think that for now I am going to focus more on blogging. Please consider this the “I am taking a social media break” formal announcement.

Writing during “Stay at Home” Orders

How much fun was it to write manuscripts during “Stay at Home” orders without childcare? Well if you have not experience this during the last year and half of the COVID-19 pandemic then consider yourself lucky! It is not fun at all. I wrote the following in a reflection I was putting together on what April 2020 was like:


Upon our return to the U.S. we were faced with the news that, due to the pandemic, our childcare center had closed indefinitely. My partner and I had to adjust to working from home while providing childcare for our 4-year-old son. I had to quickly realize that some of the projects that I was hoping to start before the end of my sabbatical were going to be delayed or canceled. The projects that I was planning to complete were going to require a massive amount of focus and dedication. In order to accomplish all our work requirements, my partner and I had to divide our days into three “shifts.” The morning shift (8 am to 1 pm) in which I worked and he would care for our son. The afternoon shift (1 pm – 6 pm) in which my partner worked and I would provide care for our son. The evening shift (6 pm until midnight) in which were are exhausted but aimed to spend time together as a family.”


In April 2020 during a three week period during my “morning shift” I wrote a manuscript for a special issue that was published in the Educational Technology Research and Development (ETR&D) journal. The realization that I was going to have less than the estimated amount of time to write this paper stressed me so much. But I had to channel that stress into getting the work done. During the process of writing the proposal I had gathered and read most of the literature and had put together an outline. Having this things done was a lifesaver! During the three weeks of writing I had to buckle down and eloquently put the literature and my ideas into a document.

I should give a little bit of context: I initially thought I was going to have a month of full-time work hours during a term in which I was on sabbatical. But because of the lack of childcare (due to COVID-19) I actually had three weeks with 4-hours per day (during week days) to write the paper. I do not know how fast others are at writing papers but gosh I am such a tortoise. To make it more interesting, this was a solo-authored publication.

Kind of funny, I can write without problem in a busy cafe with all sorts of background noise. I pretty much wrote all of my dissertation in a Panera a few blocks from my apartment when I lived in Norfolk, VA. But it was so hard to write this paper from home while having my family members’ voices in the background. I remember putting on my headphones and close the door and still every now and then I would still hear their voices and conversations in the background.

I think that been really passionate about the topic I was writing about made a huge difference on how I approached this writing project, despite the hardship endured in the process. I am grateful for Reviewer # 1 and the editors of the special issue for such wonderful and detailed feedback. I truly helped me improve the paper during the R&R submit process. The manuscript was published “online first” this January 2021 and is titled: Current initiatives, barriers, and opportunities for networked learning in Latin America .

This was the first of many experiences like this. Our son stayed home for 6 months while we worked from home without childcare. And, even after he went back to the childcare center, there were other instances in which he has stayed home and we had to maneuver the same dynamics of still completing our work. Having the deadline of special issue submission did add more pressure in this specific instance (shared in this post)! It made it hard for me commit to any special issue submissions for almost a year (hence why I missed out on so many opportunities to submit for COVID-19 related special issues in 2020, sadly)!

Happy Monday everyone!

“Impact Learning” Podcast Episode

A few weeks ago, I was invited to join Dr. Maria Xenidou as a guest in the podcast that she hosts called “Impact Learning.” I truly enjoyed our conversation. We covered so many different topics. We talked about my educational and professional background. Life as a faculty member and eventually transitions to discussing topics related to instructional design and technology (online learning, research methods, motivation, and others). If you have an hour to spare above is the podcast player and below are the notes from the episode.

EPISODE NOTES

Production team:
Host : Maria Xenidou
Producer: Julie-Roxane Krikorian
Introduction Voice: David Bourne

Contact us:
impactlearningpodcast(at)gmail.com

Music credits:
Like Lee performed by The Mini Vandals
Transition sounds: Swamp Walks performed by Jingle Punks

Where to find more about Enilda Romera-Hall:
LinkedIn
Her page on the University of Tampa website
The masters she teaches in Instructional Design and Technology
Personal Website
The different courses she teaches
Her publications

Mentioned in this episode:
Universidad Tecnológica de Panamá
Centennial College
Emporia State University
Programs in Instructional Design & Technology at Old Dominion University
University of Tampa
Dr. Jozenia Colorado-Resa 
Dr. Ginger Watson
Dr. Thomas Reeves

Listen to this episode and explore:
Enilda’s interest in various topics at a bilingual school in Panama City (3:03)
Moving to Canada and studying computer programming (7:56)
Getting a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration (9:54)
Why she chose to study Instructional Design for her Masters (10:32)
Enilda’s decision to pursue a PhD in Education and the impact of her mentors during this time (12:46)
How she combines teaching, mentoring and researching in her current role as Associate Professor and Graduate Program Coordinator at Tampa University (16:50)
Enilda’s thoughts on the biggest advancements in Instructional Design since she started working in the field (20:34)
Improving Instructional Design: learning how to apply the research findings to the practical field (23:18)
Enilda’s book: a collaborative project designed to bring theory to practice (25:49)
The trends that Enilda sees in the future of instructional design and technology (30:09)
Enilda’s work in online social communities (32:01)
How to use social media to advance higher education and career development (33:16)
How COVID has affected the digital learning experience (38:08)
What demotivates students in an online course (41:32)
How to make synchronous meetings attractive to students through active learning experiences and games (45:12)
How Enilda builds the courses she teaches (47:49)
Sharing her work openly to help others learn from it (50:22)
What keeps Enilda up at night or what she thinks of first thing in the morning (54:14)
What Enilda wants to leave her mark on during her lifetime (54:58)
How her 4-year-old son has influenced her creativity during the pandemic (57:24)

The hashtag #BlackInTheIvory

A few weeks ago, I checked my Twitter stream and found the hashtag #BlackInTheIvory trending. If you have not read the tweets shared by Black academics using #BlackInTheIvory, I strongly recommend that you take the time to read them. The tweets shared were raw, vulnerable, and the reality for many Black academics. Several tweets were a call to action to white colleagues and administrators to consider racial injustices and inequalities that are perpetuated in academic culture.

 

#COVID19 briefs via Instagram

I arrived in Panama at the end of February, a week before the first COVID-19 case in the country was announced by government officials. Of course, COVID-19 had been an issue in many other countries so there was plenty of news coverage in the Panamanian news outlets and different media outlets on the Internet. However, after the first case of COVID-19 was announced in Panama the Ministry of Health became the main source of information and updates regarding the government’s response.

The social media accounts, and in particular, the Instagram account (@minsapma) for the Ministry of Health provided all the necessary information related to new cases, new policies, and public health campaign. The updates would include press conferences, twice a day, that were shared via Instagram live.

Probably one of my favorite elements of the use of Instagram to keep a country inform were the public health educational campaign. I am an instructional design faculty and teach multimedia design so I was impressed with the infographics and visual representation of the content shared (example of Instagram post below). Of course, I was also impressed with the rapid response that was taken to try to contain the spread of the virus. New measures were taken quickly. In a three-week period Panama went from business as usual to a country under a major lockdown (that is still in place today). 

I want to acknowledge that I appreciate the efforts made by the Panamanian Ministry of Health to use these medium to keep the citizens inform and educated. I know that other traditional outlets are been used to disseminate the message to Panamanian citizens such as the radio and television; however, this is great because I know that there are folks who spend more time on social media than watching TV or listening to the radio.

Instructional Design Practitioners, Students, and Faculty: Social Media Groups

I am putting together a list of social media groups, specifically Facebook and LinkedIn groups, to share with the students in the UT IDT program. I thought it would be a nice resource that would allow them to be expose to diverse groups of instructional designers in different settings, levels of experience, and locations. I remember when I first started my IDT master program it seemed like there was hardly anyone else who knew what was instructional design. In any case, I know it can feel like just you and your classmates are learning about instructional design. In reality, we have large communities of instructional design practitioners, students, and faculty. This is a work in progress list, I will add more groups as I come across them.

Podcast Episode (@VisionOfEd): #SocialMedia in #HigherEducation

This past week, I was invited as a guest speaker in the Visions of Education podcast series. I am sharing it here for anyone who is in the education field and wants to subscribe to the podcast. Also, I want to share the link to the podcast episode. I discussed SocialMedia in HigherEducation:

You can click on this link to access a full list of resources (articles, books, and videos) mentioned in podcast episode: https://visionsofed.com/2019/03/10/episode-108-social-media-in-higher-education-with-enilda-romero-hall/

This is a one of five podcast episodes that focus on #SocialMediaEd discussions leading up to the SITE conference next week in Las Vegas, NV.

Making #SocialMedia Work to Your Educational Advantage | Enilda Romero-Hall | #TEDxUTampa [video]

Almost exactly two-months ago I gave this talk at the TEDxUTampa event hosted and organized by undergraduate University of Tampa students. The video is now uploaded to the TEDx Talks YouTube channel. I am excited to share this in my blog and I welcome constructive feedback (keyword: “constructive”). Also, please feel free to share it with others if you believe in my message:

“Instead of solely focusing on the ‘bad’ or ‘thinking of social media as a waste of time’  it is imperative that we find innovative ways to use and repurpose this online social environments in a manner that is safe, ethical, and beneficial to us.”

If you have 13 minutes to spare, here is the video:

 

Thoughts on Facebook.

Last week we all learned about Facebook breach of data. It sucked. But to be honest, it was not surprising to me at all as a user. I never really had expectations that Facebook would keep our data safe, protected, that they would use it ethically, or that they were really thinking about providing us healthy ways to use the platform. I wish they did. But they are greedy. 

Many friends, family, and colleagues have discussed their discontent and are considering doing without a Facebook account. I am not here to encourage you to continue using Facebook. I think it is a personal decision. I have quit Facebook in the past (I do not mean deactivated my account. I mean, that I took the time to delete every single post and photo, unfriend every single person, wipe my account clean, and made the request to Facebook to completely delete my account) and it was hard. Three years of “social connections from my undergraduate years” gone! However, at the same time it was exactly what I needed to do then.

I returned to Facebook two and half years after my hiatus with a completely different mindset. That time apart (from Facebook) really made me realize the benefits and disadvantages it has. I should also say that the context of my situation made it very unique: during the time I quit Facebook I ended a five year romantic relationship, moved from my little college town in Kansas to a city where I knew no one, and started a doctoral program (I talk a bit about this in my TEDxUTampa talk). Last, I should add, this all happened before “smartphones” and apps like WhatsApp, FaceTime, and others where a thing.

Again, I am really not here to convince anyone to keep their Facebook account or to delete it. I am here to say that for me it would be difficult to quit again. I was born and raised in Panama. I did all of my elementary, middle, and secondary school there. Unlike most people who attend different school during the K-12 years, I spend most of my years (since grade 4th) in the same institution with the same classmates (yes, there are people that I know since I was in 4th grade). I am connected with most of them through Facebook, which in Panama is almost the equivalent of text messaging (the only App that is more popular in Panama is probably WhatsApp). No one really writes emails there anymore. Seriously, I cannot even remember the last time anyone from Panama wrote me an email (now that I think about it).

I have lived in three different countries: Panama, Canada, and the United States (six different cities total). Ain’t nobody got time to be emailing to keep up with people (I already have enough with all the emails I get and have to send for work). 

Another reason it would be difficult to quit, is my constant connection to professional organizations and support groups. Connections to the groups that are created as part of my professional organizations, truly helps me stay connect to colleagues throughout the year. It helps me know what they are up to professionally. Also, sometimes there are beneficial conversations that occur (in professional circles and support groups). I may not be a participant in the conversation (just a lurker) but the resources that are shared help me in one way or another. Sometimes I participate, if I know something about a topic or have resources to share. This is something I learned during my time away from Facebook: use the platform to your advantage.  

I know some people are thinking: it is an echo chamber, people just use it to post their perfect pictures, others are just nosy about your business, all those political post are annoying, etc. Maybe it is because I am at different point in my life, but I enjoy seeing updates from my FB friends (no I do not get offended because I did not get a personalized text message from them letting me know about something special that happened to them). Also, I am very intentional about who I connect with. If I cannot be “me” with you, then I will not accept your request OR I will simply delete you as a friend. If I feel that what you post is toxic, then “delete.” BTW, I am also like this offline. This is who I am, you can take it or leave.  

During my time away from Facebook, I learned that it is really hard to keep up with people. Relationships require time and it is easy to neglect them. Again, this was all before smartphones and the development of all those other social platforms. I know what you are thinking: a centralized friendship “hub” is evil. Yes, it sucks that in order to keep up we have use this evil thing call Facebook but I personally do not have time to do it differently. 

That is all I have for now. BTW, I am human. I may have a different opinion tomorrow. I also want to leave you with three personal quotes:

“So to some extend it is true. Social media can be harmful (and affect our mental well being), difficult to manage and overwhelming, too public, distracting, and influence and miss inform us.” 

“Instead of solely focusing on the “bad” or “thinking of social media as a waste of time”  it is imperative that we find innovative ways to use and repurpose this online social environments in a manner that is safe, ethical, and beneficial to us.”

“I am also not saying that we need to overlook the challenges that social media present for our social, mental, and physical well-being. We absolutely need to find ways to deal with this challenges.”