New Faculty Mentoring Program: 2015 Cohort [Research, Teaching, Collaboration, & Support] #AERA15 #AERADivC

During the AERA 2015 conference in April, I attended the Division C New Faculty Mentoring Program. I had attended a mentoring program in the past at AECT 2012. The AECT 2012 mentoring program was a two-day seminar with three mentors who volunteered their time to provide advance graduate students and new faculty with words of wisdom and practical advice for the tenure track journey. It was also great for networking. Unfortunately, due to Hurricane Sandy I was not able to catch my initial flight from Norfolk, VA (where I was living at that time) to Louisville, KY (where AECT was having the conference). My flight was delayed an entire day, this meant I was not able to attend in person the first day of the mentoring program. Instead, I joined the discussing via Google Hangout but it was not the same. I was relaying on hotel conference room wi-fi which was “okay.” Also, it was hard to be part of the conversation because it was not something the organizers were expecting. I did manage to join the conversation the second day of the mentoring program at AECT 2012 [Sorry, that was my “blast from the past” portion of this post].

Back to AERA 2015: This year during the mentoring program at AERA15, the organizers [Gwen & Rayne] emailed us in advance the program with the different sessions and speakers. I was thrilled about the sessions and excited to meet my cohort. We were a very diverse group based on our universities and our cultural/regional backgrounds. The first day of the mentoring program we all provided a brief introduction of ourselves and what we hoped to get out the program. Then, worked on an exercise about our identities, which by the way was very difficult to write. I mean — How often do you think about your identity (in your community, your institution, your department, and your field)? We also had various sessions related to grants and external funding opportunities. We talked to faculty members that have in the past successfully acquired grant funding. They definitely shared some insight into grant writing, selecting a collaborator, what happens after you get a grant, and myths about grants/external funding. The best advice we got (from my perspective) was to have a good budget, have a great idea, select a collaborator that you want to interact with on a very regular basis, and polish your project management skills. We also had a session with two program officials. One from the National Science Foundation and one from the Spencer Foundation. This was just amazing because they shared some of the programs that their institutions offer to new faculty (at least within the first five years of appointment). One of the best recommendations given to us by the NSF program officer was to volunteer as a reviewer.

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One of the most interactive sessions was definitely the session related to teaching. We had a speaker from the Center for Teaching and Learning at Penn State University who talked about strategies we should consider, the amount of time we spend preparing our courses, evaluations, resources our universities provide, and other related topics. One of the highlights of this session was that we were sitting in different tables (about 4 new faculty members in each table) and we were sharing our information with two teaching mentors per table. This mentors were individuals in field that are well known for their teaching. This is pretty unique. We often hear about research mentors but we rarely hear about teaching mentors. It was nice to have the small group discussion with our colleagues and the teaching mentors.

We also had a discussion session with faculty members who have been publishing for over 30 years and gratefully shared some much needed wisdom on putting together your research agenda (post on this coming soon), writing habits, submitting to peer review journals (and re-submitting, revising, getting rejected), and just been scholars in our field. I loved the informal environment of this discussion. It was more than anything a Q & A session.

Of course, we spend the two day program with Gwen and Rayne who not only organized all the sessions, the speakers, our delicious dinner, and happy hour but also provided their own wisdom and experience. Thank you ladies for your work and dedication. BTW — Gwen will be the main organizer of the NFMP next year so make sure to check in November and December for an email from Division C. If you are a new faculty member, this program will be very refreshing, eye opening, and definitely worth your time/energy. As a cohort, we have managed to stay connect (I know it has been less than a month since we met). We took steps to ensure we can reach out to each other if we have questions or need feedback or are struggling with an issue — you get the point. To help us stay in touch we started our social media group and we are currently working on starting a writing group.

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Last, thank you to the AERA Division C for their commitment to their members!

Blog Post: Istanbul Seminar

It is has taken long enough for me to put together this blog post but here it goes:

Attending the CIEE IFDS in Istanbul was a welcomed opportunity to put myself in area completely outside my conform zone. The seminar did not focus on education or instructional design. It actually focused on urban spaces and the effect that “beautification” projects have on the lives of those that are relocated. We also had the opportunity to learn about culture and society in Istanbul (and Turkey in general). I loved that I was able to get outside my bubble; my area of research.

Here are some thought on what I learned during the seminar. For several years now, the government has tried to relocate individuals from the gecekondus (informal settlement) around the city to government built housing. The reason behind this relocations is primarily to use the land were the gecekondus are located for urban renovation projects (new high rise buildings, condominiums, Olympics parks, etc.) Unfortunately, this gecekondus are not only a living space for the individuals that live in it, it is their entire support system. In their gecekondus, they get to interact with other people with a similar background and they have networks and relationships that they have formed over time. Taking them out of their gecekondus and sending them to government built housing most likely makes them feel like a fish out of water.  There are also other socioeconomic consequences that come with the displacement of the families from the gecekondus. One of the main socioeconomic consequences is that government built housing is not affordable for a low income family that has lived in an informal settlement and was not paying for rent (and other utilities). The result is that families abandon the government built housing and start living in the streets. Sometimes, they also try to rebuild in other informal settlements. Another consequence of the displacement is that children quit school to start working at a very early age to help pay for the cost of the government built housing. Of course, this leads to very high illiteracy rate as well as others issues related to the type of work they choose to do to make money to help support their family members.

Another side of the issues of urban renovations projects in Istanbul has to do with the conservation of traditional architecture and buildings in the city. Of course, the city of Istanbul has a a very historical architecture due to its history. With the urban renovation projects, activists are concerned that new and modern construction will take over the historical aspect of the city — which is an important aspect of the Turkish (Istanbuler) cultural identity. During the seminar, the group had the opportunity to do several walking tours (Yes! In the winter weather) and to drive around the city. It is clear that Istanbul is experiencing a construction boom. High rise buildings, malls, condominiums, and gated communities (I was not expecting to hear this) are been built all over the place. In any case, it seems that new and modern is taking over the more historical architecture (I read this week about something similar happening in Toronto, Canada).

During the seminar we had the opportunity to meet with the Vice Major of Begoglu (one of the most central districts of Istanbul — a city of 20 million). From his perspective, the government is taking citizens into consideration as they move forward with the urban renovations projects. However, the following day we met with a community center worker in a migration center in the middle of one of the main gecekondus in Istanbul and her perspective of the situation was different. She shared her experience with the situation and expressed her frustrations. From listening to other Turkish Istanbulers the issue will continue unless a more reasonable solution is put in place for the families that live in this informal settlements.This urban transformation projects are affecting groups of individuals that are now part of this growing city and are affecting the overall cultural identity of Istanbul.

I wanted to make sure that I wrote this post because I felt that it is an important topic to address not only in Istanbul but in so many other cities that I see this happening. As I mentioned in this post, I recently read about this happening in Toronto but I also know that it is happening in my very own Panama. The city of Panama (not to be confused with Panama City, Florida) is also experiencing a construction boom and individuals in informal settlement (who have lived in this place for several generations) are been displaced to make room for condominiums and office buildings. Is this the right solution? No. I am not opposed to urban transformation and renovation but I also do not support that the government and private entities simply destroy a place that someone has called home for many years just because they want to “beautify” a space.

I am not sure if I will get an opportunity to sit and write about my experience in Istanbul again so I want to mention that it was nice to visit the very historical parts of the city [the Blue Mosque, the Haguia Sofia, the Grand Bazar, the Spice Market, and the Galata Tower]. I should also mention that this was my first visit to a predominantly Muslim country and it was very interesting to experience it from the Turkish perceptive. Of course, this experience was even more special because I was able to share with other colleagues that were also forming their opinions and perspectives about the city, culture, and politics. I am tremendously grateful to Ege and Pinar, our Turkish seminar coordinators for their insight and hard work organizing the lectures and tours.

I don’t want to make this post longer so I am just going to finish by saying that my adventures in Turkey are not over — in a way they this seminar was just the beginning. See you soon Istanbul!

#AECT14: Learning, Design, and Technology

This year the AECT conference was held in the wonderful state of Florida, just 3 hours northeast of the Tampa Bay area, in Jacksonville. It was a conference that I was looking forward to attend because several of the students in the UT ID&T program [Follow the program in Facebook and Twitter] were attending and presenting!

The first day of the conference for me was the Wednesday afternoon, two grad students from the UT ID&T program were presenting and I wanted to be there for their session. They wrote the initial version of their proposal as part of a midterm paper assignment in a course I taught in the Fall 2013 semester (my first semester as a faculty member). The topic of their papers were mainly related to motivation elements in the learning process. Their session was well attended and I felt extremely proud of their first conference presentation. Several attendees of the sessions had comments and questions about the topic of the presentation as well as feedback on their research topics. It was also nice to see the support from other UT ID&T classmates and faculty that attended the session. This was definitely a highlight of the conference for me.

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Another important part of the conference was to meet with my colleagues and friends from the AECT Research and Theory Division to discuss important topics related to future conference proposals, the professional development webinars, and future elections. I was not able to attend the RTD board meeting but I was there for the membership meeting, which included all the board members. It was nice to catch up with all of them, I know some of my fellow board members for many years now. One of the decisions that was made during the meeting is that the division will continue to elect a PD webinar facilitator for future webinars. I am glad that the RTD Professional Development Webinars started by Dr. Min Kyu Kim and myself as a suggestions Dr. Michael Grant will continue to be a part of the RTD division mission. While at the conference the PD webinars were recognized by the AECT leadership as well as the RTD board members.

I will continue to participate in the RTD board for one more year as Secretary. One of my primary roles will be the RTD newsletter and I am excited to make it happen. I want them to be fun, creative, and interactive. I am considering running another RTD position in the future but I am still thinking about it.

During the conference I presented in two sessions. One of the sessions related to a new research effort on the use of social media initiatives and strategies for professional development. In my particular case, I discussed the social media initiatives started for the ID&T program at the University of Tampa. The presentation discussed the current strategies implemented for the professional development of the instructional design graduate students. I also discussed the second phase of this research effort which includes data collection using qualitative and quantitative data. The other presentation that I had during the AECT conference was an informal panel presentation in which a group of international faculty (including myself) discussed with international graduate students the lessons learned during the first year in a tenured track faculty position and the tenure process in different universities. I am halfway through my second tenure-track year so it was nice to share my experience of the first year with the audience. In a way it helped me reflect on my experience. It was also nice to hear the experiences of other colleagues.

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One of my favorite social gatherings during the AECT conference was the UT ID&T dinner. We were a small group of seven but it was such a nice and relaxing time. We talked about the AECT experience, the people we had met, the topics of discussion in different sessions, and we talked about our own program. As I mentioned in my tweet about the dinner: “Good food and good conversations!”

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I look forward to AECT next year (as I always do)! I hope the UT ID&T program continues to have a graduate student presence and that the students in the program continue to present at the conference. I also hope that next year I have more time to chat with so many colleagues and friends. It was very nice to see them and it really reminded me of how lucky I am to be part of such an amazing professional family. See you all at #AECT15 in Indianapolis!