Everyone needs a “thank you card wall“

This week has been a week of cleaning. How do we possible accumulate so much crap?

Today I cleared my office at The University of Tampa. The pile of crap that I had in my office is so irresponsible. The funny part is that now I pretty much do all of my work using only digital files and a MacBook Air. Why on earth did I have all of that stuff? I don’t know.

Let’s talk about the phone. I never learned my office phone number and I would lie if I tell you I know how to check my voicemail. If you left me a voicemail here what I have to say to you: why?

Probably the best part of clearing my office was my “thank you card wall.” That wall and the messages I received at some moment helped me get through a difficult moment. So thank you to everyone that at some moment in the last few year has giving me a thank you card because hey you probably made a deeper impact in my life in another way.

Thank You Cards

Me and my Uterus: It was Complicated

This post is not about COVID-19, life during the pandemic, or self-isolation. This post is not about online learning, emergency remote teaching, or Zoom. I could say this post is about wellness and care. But it is not about wellness and care as an academic or with your students. If you are looking to read about any of those topics, sorry to disappoint. This post is about me and my complicated relationship with my uterus. It is a about wellness and care as a woman; which eventually led me to the difficult decision of having hysterectomy at 39 years old (I did get to keep my ovaries, Yay!). 

Flower Uterus by Catharina Suleiman
Catharina Suleiman [www.catharinasuleiman.com]

Before I start, I want to acknowledge and recognize that despite my circurstances there are other womem who make this difficult decision much earlier in life or make this decision knowing that they will not get to experience a pregnancy or motherhood. To those women: I see you <much love>.

I first heard the word “fibroids” in the year 2009. I was laying in bed one night and I noticed a significant lump in my lower abdomen. I was very scared so the next day I visited the student health center at Old Dominion University (which I was attending as an international student in her first year as a doctoral student).

The nurse practicioner at the health center referred me to an off-campus clinic where an ultrasound would be performed. After the ultrasound, I was told that I had multiple fibroids. The nurse and the technician told me that these fibroids were non-canceours tumors that adhered to my uterus and that depending on how fast they grew they could be an issue or a non-issue for my health. At that time, I had a very limited health care coverage and I did not have any symptons related to the fibroids so I figured I did not need to go for further treatment.

Fast forward three-years later, the fibroids had grown so much that I looked as if I was three-months pregnant, lived with constant back pain, could barely hold my pee (sorry! TMI), and had absolutely terrible anemia. I remember the face of disbelieve when my doctor saw the lab results of my blood work, she looked at me and asked: don’t you feel tired? do you feel lighheaded and nauseous all the time? I remember telling her that I was a doctoral student and I thought that it was just all part of the doctoral journey and that it was normal for all graduate students to feel that tired. Well, it turns out it was not normal at all!

Despite a few hiccups (finding the best doctor to perform the surgery), the summer of 2012 I had a robotic myomectomy. I remember that after the surgery the doctor mentioned that he had removed 5 lemon-sized fibroids. He did mentioned to me that future fibroids were possible and that I would have to “monitor” my uterus. But honestly, at that moment, I was so happy and the months after the surgery I felt really good. I felt energetic. I was hoping that I could put a life with fibroids and my complicated relationship with my uterus behind me. 

Unfortunately, my complicated relationship with my uterus continued as I tried to get pregnant and experience a miscarriage, which let to a D&C. During my second pregnancy, it was not my uterus that was complicated; instead, for a change it was my “incompetent” cervix.  

I feel over the last few years, I have been monitoring new fibroids that have grown in my uterus and it let me the decision to have a hysterectomy. I am tired of feeling tired. I am tired of feeling discomfort and bloating. I am tired of feeling weak for absolutely no reason. Also, the number of fibroids every year since my last pregnancy has continue to double.

I am writing this post while I am still healing from the surgery. As I wrote in a tweet, having the surgery during the COVID-19 pandemic was not easy, it was a lonely and emotional journey as family members were not allowed in the hospital. The weeks before the surgery, I was very anxious. I did not know what to expect. But, I have to say “thank you” to all the nurses and doctors, at the hospital. They took good care of me and I appreciate that. The physical recovery so far has been pretty smooth. Emotionally, I know in my heart that I was not planning to have more children but it feels so drastic (I don’t even know if that is the best word) to know that the possibility of experiencing another pregnancy is completely gone. But, I do feel happy with my decision.

This post is becoming relatively lenghty, but I just want to end and say thank you to everyone for their words of love, support, kindness, and get well wishes via text, private message, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. I was struggling with whether I should share what I was going through publicly (I have not in the past with my misscarriage and complicated pregnancy), and it has made me feel better to feel supported by others. So much gratitude!

“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.

 

A sabbatical during COVID-19

Where do I start?

I guess I can start by writing that a few months into my sabbatical the world turned upside down due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Yet, I was able to use my time to complete the tasks that I had outlined for my sabbatical period. April and May did require a significant adjustment since we had to manuoiver a new work schedule without child care. Maneuvering this new schedule required being realistic about what I could accomplish and saying “no” to some invitations for new collaborations.

The first two months of my sabbatical were as planned. I worked on writing two chapters for the book “Research Methods in Learning Design and Technology.” Book chapter authors submitted their completed and revised book chapters to me by the end of January and I worked on doing final reviews of each book chapter. I initially had planned to submit the book to the publisher by mid-March, but I switched the format of the last chapter, and this required giving extra time to my co-authors to complete their writing. This meant that I had to delay the submission of the book documents to the publisher until mid-April. Thankfully, by the time the world turned upside down in mid-March, all my co-authors and book chapter authors had turned in all required documents to me.

One of the elements of my sabbatical that was partially affected by the COVID-19 pandemic was work-related travel. I was scheduled to attend the American Educational Research Association (AERA) Annual Convention in San Francisco in mid-April and the conference was canceled. I am glad it was canceled, I am also glad it was not held virtually. April was a month of re-adjustement, tension, and stress for many. I was also scheduled to travel to Florence, Italy to present at the DEPIT Annual Meeting at the University of Florence. This event was re-scheduled for an online format.

I had some personal travel plans changed because of travel restrictions. I was scheduled to spend all of March and a portion of April in Panama City, Panama, where I was going to work while spending time close to my family. So, I traveled to Panama at the end of February and was monitoring all the news related to COVID-19. Due to the way the virus was spreading, my family and I decided it was best for us to travel back to the United States, so we changed our flights to travel back on March 22 (which is the day Panama was scheduled to close their international airport). On the evening of March 20, I received an email from COPA airlines letting me know that our flights had been cancelled. I was shocked and extremely disappointed. However, we all stayed calm and determined that we would just ride the storm in Panama. That same evening, as a last attempt, we figured we would see if there were any flights on March 21 to Tampa with a different airline. Thankfully, we did manage to fly back to Tampa on March 21. My dad was in Panama with me and we were also able to find a flight for him to fly back to Toronto (within one hour difference of our flight), which gave peace of mind. I would not have left Panama without my dad.

The weeks after returning from Panama, were weeks of adjustments as mentioned at the beginning of this post. In addition to all the tasks for the book, I was also scheduled to write a manuscript (with a deadline) that I had not even started. It took discipline to stay focus. I admit that there were many emotions related to what was happening in the world with the pandemic, leaving Panama, and experiencing the “new normal.” I felt like I had to work hard on my “emotional intelligence” to get the paper written and deliver all the book materials to the publisher.

I am thankful for the sabbatical term. In addition to the tasks mentioned in this post, I also used the time to work in revisions to several manuscripts and continue mentoring my undergraduate student (we presented at a conference in February and are currently working on a few writing tasks). Of course, I spend time with my family (even more than planned due to the lack of childcare).

Since my sabbatical ended, I am back to serving as the Graduate Coordinator of the Instructional Design and Technology program and I taught a six-week summer intensive course on Learner Motivation in June. I definitely missed my students and the joy of our convos.

 

#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.

Webinar Recording:Universities in the Age of #COVID-19

This morning I participated in a webinar organized by the Società Italiana di Ricerca sull’Educazione Mediale dedicated to: how universities in different countries are coping with higher education in the age of COVID-19 and the future directions (immediate future and long-term suggestions). Special thanks to my colleagues in Italy for the invitation to serve as a panelist in the webinar and for the diversity of the speakers from Spain, China, Lebanon, New Zealand, and Brazil [Here is a link to the recording]

I would also like to share a few of the resources that were shared during the webinar by myself and other colleagues:

UNESCO Institute for Information Technologies in Education: Handbook on Facilitating Flexible Learning During Educational Disruption

The International Council for Open and Distance Education: Tips for Distance and Online Teaching #LearningTogether

UNESCO: National learning platforms and tools

DQ Institute: Digital Institute, Culture, and Innovation

European Commission Education and Training: Coronavirus: online learning resources

The Association for Educational Communications and Technology (AECT)’s Response to the COVID-19 Virus: https://www.aect.org/aects_response_to_the_covid-1.php

 

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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.

In honor of International Women’s Day: “Undisclosed stories of instructional design female scholars in academia”

It is International Women’s Day and I would like to re-share a journal article that I co-authored with other Instructional Design Female Scholars: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0277539518302231

In addition to sharing a link to the article, I am also sharing a short excerpt from the discussion section of the manuscript (which complies with the copyrights set by the publisher). If you would like to get a copy of the full article, I will gladly share it via email.

IMG_7424

Significance of this Research

Why are these issues that we present through our stories of significance to the ID field? Because we teach, practice, and research this field. We aim to present our field as a process-based, relational, inclusive, equitable, and transformative community.  Yet, instructional design practices, research, and teaching are heavily influenced by the male dominance that permeates higher education institutions. We attempt with this paper to raise awareness, seek understanding, and open the doors for discussion of women’s issues in higher education and the instructional design field.  In the past, “feminist approaches to design have problematized a range of taken-for-granted assumptions (Campbell, 2014, pg. 233).” These assumptions continue to marginalize and oppress through our practice. It is a trickle down effect: if some voices being part of the IDT community are ignored, oppressed, and marginalized , how can we expect the outcome of our design, research and teaching experiences to be inclusive, equitable, and transformative? In the global economy, we talk about reaching out to diverse groups of learners. If those diverse groups can be represented in the decision making mechanisms, then, it might be easier to develop empathic relationship with the diversity, we strive to address.

As an attempt to challenge the hegemony of patriarchy in academia, this paper explores gender-related challenges and issues female scholars experience in their lives. The male dominance in academia and socio-cultural roles assigned to females create conflicting roles. As female academics are assigned with a range of social, cultural, and professional responsibilities in a male-dominant context, it is essential that they are provided with support (Misra, Crist, & Burant, 2003). Changing this mental frame is not easy since it is legitimized and encouraged by power dynamics. As a socially-accepted and culturally-valued role, females are supposed to take care of domestic responsibilities first. The role of parenthood and marriage once combined with the gendered and biased institutionalized norms conflicts with the role of a scholar (Acker, 1992). As a potential strategy to solve this problem, it is essential to recognize gender as a social construct that is shaped by the patriarchy to designate social and cultural roles to women as a tool for suppression and marginalization (Acker, 1992); thereby, allowing us to perpetuate these inequalities that we have been trying to overcome (Valian, 1998).

To make matter worse, the lack of collaboration among the female academics aggravates the practical impacts of these anomalies. Women’s issues are an important part of the female academic identities that are embodied and situated in a social and cultural discourse dictated by the dominant socio-political forces through the gender, power, and context sensitive knowledge creation process (Nightingale, 2003). It is vital for female academics to have an open forum in which they can share their experiences and insights on women’s issues, and triangulate the silences and incompatibilities across the settings. It is important to raise skepticism concerning the neutrality of the knowledge creation through the practice of normal science, and uncover the silenced and empowered voices by the hegemonic forces situated in a social context (Vaivio & Sirén, 2010).

 

TPS? Tenure, Promotion, and Sabbatical

So, I think by now everybody and their grandma knows that I have earned tenure and promotion to Associate Professor at the University of Tampa. Just in case you missed my Facebook and Twitter post, the Dean’s newsletter, and the global email send to all members of the UT community, here is photographic evidence of the good news!

50211498_2061855597215566_7398668920749555712_o
Tenure and Promotion Letter

All joking aside, I feel proud of this accomplishment. I am immigrant afro-latinx women who started this journey with very little financial support or knowledge about the education system in North America.

Have you ever seen the movie “My Big Fat Greek Wedding”? One of my favorite parts is when the father of bride is sitting in the kitchen table with his daughter and they are discussing who is invited to the wedding. The father feels such pride that his daughter is getting married and he wants to invite every single one of his friends. The daughter wants to keep it intimate and then the father says: “I came to this country with 8 dollars in my pocket!” and then he goes to tell her how hard he worked and the pride feels on everything they have accomplished as a family.

I sometimes feels that as my son gets older, I will say something similar to him: “Diego, your grandparents and I came to North America with one suitcase each and very little money.” This is very true! When I was 19 years old, my parents and I left our home country (Panama) to settle as an immigrant family in Canada. It was not easy. We did not know the culture, we struggled with the language, the cost of living was high, and we knew no-one. It is a really long story with sad memories, struggles, moments of triumphs, and joy. It all let eventually to settling into our new country of residence.

I wrote before about taking a year off from school to work and save money for my education. This happened immediately after I moved to Canada. I worked many jobs, including: the maintenance person (cleaning offices in the Sears headquarter building in downtown Toronto), as a front desk person in several hotels downtown Toronto, and even did a short-term gig as an admin assistant for an administrator in the Toronto School District Board. I feel a little like that Drake song “Started from the bottom”:

“Started from the bottom, now we’re here
Started from the bottom, now my whole team fuc*** here” 

Sorry when you have affiliations to Toronto, you start quoting Drake! lol

It is true, we started from the bottom now we, as a family, are here. I made two phone calls as soon as I found about T&P. I called my mom in Toronto and I called my dad who is currently Panama. The joy in their voice was everything I needed to hear in that moment. Of course, I celebrated with my husband and son. They have all been part of this journey with me <smiles>.

Something else that I have not mentioned to many, just recently shared in a Twitter post, is that last fall in addition to my tenure & promotion (T&P) dossier, I also submitted an application for sabbatical. At my institution we are allowed to applied for sabbatical the same year you apply for T&P. The sabbatical application was approved both by the sabbatical committee and the Provost. I am very excited for the sabbatical and the projects that I will work on during that time. More on that later this year.

Happy Friday!