Curly Hair Talk

I know I should be working on those IRB modules but, can I pause for a minute and talk about curly hair?

It was my freshman year in high school when I started straightening my hair regularly. Panamanian societal standards had taught me that straight hair was better than curly hair (in a country in which the majority of the population has curly hair). That sounds crazy right? I can go on with a list of other features of my body and face that I was told were not adequate, but I will spare you the horror! Loving me just as I am took a lot of reflection, self-discovery, and just a huge “fuck you” to societal standards.

Back to this curly hair convo! Fast forward to July of 2020, the pandemic is ragging and we are in “stay at home” orders in Florida. I had stopped straightening my hair, I was barely just trying to survive. Taking a shower, honestly, felt like like going to luxury spa appointment. I remember having a crazy curly hair day and I was complaining out loud about this “major issue” in my life. Then all of a sudden my then 4 year old comes to me and says “I love my crazy curly hair.” He has beautiful curly hair! I don’t know why but his words encouraged me to fully embrace my curly hair. So in that moment I decided, enough is enough, I am going to do this. I didn’t want to indirectly pass on the ridiciulos societal standards that I had experienced to him. I wanted him to continue loving his curly hair.

The transition to curly hair after so many years using a straightening iron was not easy. My curls had loss their shape and it was a hot mess. I have gone through so many hair products, curly hair treatments, different kinds of shampoos, and YouTube videos teaching me different techniques to protect my curly hair (Yay, informal learning!). But throughout all of these trial and errors I learned that companies creating hair products do really take into consideration the needs of people with curly hair and that made me happy. I have also started cutting my own hair. I felt nervous at first but now I am not afraid at all.

Last year I had a photo session because I wanted to start using my curly hair in professional headshots instead of the previous headshots with straighten hair. It was liberating and I love how the photos turned. I also did some casual photos just cus!

The Relocation Summer

I wrote my last post back in May after participating in OTESSA conference: The #OTESSA22 Recap and Resources and honestly I had no idea the craziness of a summer that I had ahead of me! It has been 1.5 months since we moved to Knoxville. The boxes are unpacked and we have settled. I think that has been the number one questioned I have received for the last month from friends and colleagues.

There is so much that has happened this summer, I really do not know if I can sum it up into a blog post but here are the highlights:

  • I completely deleted my Facebook and Instagram accounts. Initially those were going to be temporary deactivations but every time I thought about reactivating my account, I hated the fact that I was going to fall into old habits or deal with the social media non-sense (one day I will write about this term “social media non-sense”). It has been challenging at times because there are connections that I really miss and some that I honestly cannot connect in any other ways (i.e., friends who live abroad). But, I am still undecided on whether I will rejoin again.
  • We no longer live in our Seminole Heights bungalow in Tampa. I can’t believe we sold our first house. The process of selling was difficult in so many ways. It was exhausting mentally. It took over our lives. I will miss our neighborhood. Seminole Heights will always have a special place in my heart (i.e., it is the house were I saw my son take his first steps and the neighborhood he learn to ride his bike) but I am happy that the house sold allowing us to move and fully focus on our new chapter in Knoxville.
  • I became a U.S. citizen. I remember arriving in the United States January 2004 and landing in Kansas City to attend school at Emporia State University. That was an absolutely crazy adventure. I took the Greyhound bus from KC to Emporia (a two hour ride) and when we arrived in Emporia I was dropped off at a gas station. I was like “What the hell? Where is the bus terminal?” I asked the gas station employee to please call a cab for me and he was like “Well there is only one cab in town so know that it will be a while” (Yes, this was life pre-UBER, imagine that!). I really should write more about my adventures as an international student. Anyways, glad I completed all the requirements and applied for citizenship. The best part is that I get to vote!
  • I did the bare minimum in terms of scholarship. Instead I focused on the relocation process and I am so happy I didn’t kill myself trying to do a million things. Early in May I was contacted about a project that “must be written over the summer because the institution was going to pay us $$ over the summer to write the paper”. My response was: “Well the institution can keep their $$ because I am not about to comprise my sanity over a paper I can write in the Fall”. Best decision ever!
  • I did teach a two-week course on “culturally competent design for online learning” as part of a grant funded project “Online Ready” by colleague Dr. Lucy Green and colleagues. It was so much fun designing the course and launching it. It was an online asynchronous course for K-12 school librarians. This was the first iteration of the course now we get to address the feedback and launch it again next year with a different cohort.
  • There was minimum travel this summer but in the road trip to Knoxville we did get to explore two other major Tennessee cities: Chattanooga and Nashville. Definitely visiting again!
Chattanooga

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.