This past week, I was invited to speak as part of the STEM education seminar sponsored by the Theory and Practice in Teacher Preparation (TPTE) Department STEM team. I am part of the STEM Education team in the department and this semester a group of colleagues are organizing this seminar with presentations for faculty and graduate students every two weeks. I have really enjoyed all of the presentations this semester. Our STEM Education team is doing really amazing work and I love learning about it.
For my presentation, I was a bit nervous because I was not sure how my work would relate to STEM education. I know educational technology is consider part of STEM education. However, I think of my work as more than just educational technology. I actually see Learning, Design, and Technology as the umbrella term under which educational technology, instructional design, instructional technology, learning engineering, and others similar terms come together. Perhaps one of my main concerns is that under the term STEM, learning design is primarily associated with the “technology” term which I really see as just one aspects of the far more complex ecosystems of the learning, design, and technology field.
The presentation focused on how it is okay to have many areas of research interest. We are often encouraged to stay very narrowly focused on a topic. But, what if you are curious about other topics and want to explore them? So, basically, I used myself as an example of an eclectic research agenda. My research has evolved so much and in part it due to my curiosity to explore other topics. This has also been true in my life, curiosity to try new things or study programs outside my focus has helped me evolve and grow. Here is the link to the slides, in case you are curious.
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.
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.
Final thoughts and message from our official study abroad blogger: Marquis Holley. Love how Marquis captured complete and totally random moments, objects, scenes, and people from our study abroad experience in his photos. I think his writing and images show his background in communication and instructional design. It fills my heart with joy to know that this short experience will have a lasting effect in him as a participant in the program.
It’s hard to believe, but this week will mark two weeks since we’ve all returned from Switzerland. What a journey it was. Here are a few more images to provide a closure of sorts for our trip. We’re truly thankful for you following us, as well as your commentary. Please know that education was the reason we as students decided to study abroad, and we learned more than we could imagine on this trip. Special thanks to the University of Tampa for allowing this trip to take place. Furthermore, the Instructors that accompanied us during this trip are to be commended. Much appreciation to Mr. Frederic Palazy, CIS representative, as a true help and guide during our stay here. And to all of the teachers, students, administrators, and people we met on this trip, much love and gratitude to you for making it one to remember for a lifetime. Once…
I am sharing the full-text of my recent talk at the #TEDxUTampa event on February 3rd, 2018 at The University of Tampa campus:
Making Social Media Work for your Educational Advantage
Enilda Romero-Hall, Ph.D.
In the year 2005, I was an undergraduate student living in a small college town in Kansas. My classmates and friends had recently started using this website called Facebook. It was: “ a better version of MySpace,” which I had never used. Of course I started using Facebook, friending others, and posting picture of my social life. It took three years but eventually, I became overwhelmed with Facebook. So, I proceeded to delete my Facebook account.
A year later, I had moved to a different state and city, started a doctoral degree, and was volunteering as a graduate student at an international conference. I noticed in my interactions with other graduate students that I felt out of the loop. For example: many of my colleagues had participated in a MOOC (massive open online course) about statistical analysis taught by a well known scholar in our field that they found out about through a Facebook group posting. I had never heard of it. At the end of that conference, I really started to wonder if I needed to reconsider my decision and re-join facebook.
It took me about six more months but eventually, I started to use social media AGAIN and made a conscious decision to use it for both personal and professional reasons. Not only did I join Facebook, I also joined other social media platforms with online communities that allow me to exchange information with others, connect with people who have similar interest, and informally learn about the topics that interest me.
Now, let’s fastword to 2018:
Today social media is ingrained in the way our society communicates, for good or bad. There is evidence that the use of social media will continue to grow as applications expand and new ones enter the market in the near future. Users are eager to try applications that offer engaging and unique ways to communicate with others.
I bet many of you are Snapchat, Instagram, and Facebook users?
Well, if you are a Snapchat user, you are one of 166 million daily active users. According to the Pew Research Center, social media adoption in the United States has grown from 5% in 2005 to 69% percent in 2016. This adoption rates are a global trend.
The great majority of social media users access this platforms for informal, social interactions with friends, family, and acquaintances.
However, is not uncommon to see “concerning” headlines and research about social media in the news. For example:
Meghan Markle just quit social media. Here’s why you might want to as well!
Facebook admits that social media can be bad for you!
Social media is changing how we think, and not necessarily for better
Stop over-posting your vacation photos
Because we have all seen pictures of our friends and family in their amazing vacations! Everything just looks so picture perfect. The kind of vacation that you dream of. Just recently I also had a picture perfect vacation. My husband, my two-year old, and I embarked on an adventure to our sunny destination: Cartagena, Colombia. The pictures did not disappoint. But let’s be honest my husband and I were traveling with a two-year old. His behavior was not always picture perfect.
Yes, he had temper tantrums. Yes, he cried. Yes, he was loud when asked to be quiet. He is a two-year old after all!
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. So I am not here to tell you that it is all rainbows and unicorns, Nor it is doom and gloom. But what I want to share with you is that we have to find ways to positively use this mediums that are not going anywhere, anytime soon. There are a large number of research efforts that hope to better understand and analyze the use of social media for teaching and learning purposes. As an educator and researcher myself, I have experienced and investigated how social media can be used for informal learning purposes.
Since 2013 the graduate students in the program in which I teach have been actively using social media online communities to informally learn more about our field, instructional design. We have both public and private online social communities. In this social media communities students exchange articles, post jobs and internship opportunities, ask questions and seek recommendations, and simply stay connected. Through my research, I found out that this online social media communities have helped keep the conversation going outside of the classroom and as one graduate students mentioned: “Some posts have triggered the students curiosity and in turn has led to exploring different topics and developing skills.”
But this informal learning experiences are not unique to the graduates students in the instructional design and technology program at the University of Tampa. As a knowledge seeker, I wanted to know if graduate students in other institutions of higher education are also using social media online communities to post, share, network, and connect. Here is what I found:
Students in other institutions perceive social media online communities as a quick method to help support social and knowledge communication
This communities help “break the ice” because it provides a relax way to communicate with others since conversations happen in a far more spontaneous and candid way
For students in fully online programs social media groups provided a sense of community… a sense of belonging…
To me what was really striking was that not only did students in this social media online communities appreciate sharing with others who have similar interest but most importantly they participated and valued the interactions with others who shared a different perspective because it challenged their views and allowed them to reflect, rethink, and in some instances re-shape their of own knowledge.
Of course, not all students are quick to post and share their thoughts with the world or their online communities. What I found is that some students enjoy lurking around and quietly participating while reading and consuming information provided by others.
So you may be wondering, why is this important? Why is it important for me to invest my time to listen to this lady talk about informal learning in social media communities?
Because, 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.
And how can you do that?
Become a self-directed learner. Use social media to gather information about trends related to your field or area of interest:What are new and emergent topics in your field?Who are leaders in your field that you should follow?
Where can you find rigours research related to your field of study?
Use social media to connect with individuals outside your networkIt is good to connect with others who have the same ideas as youBut it is also good to breakout of your network because this interaction can lead to innovation
What it boils down to: using social media to engage in transformational learning opportunities in which you:Engage in critical reflectionEngage in discourse
Take action to transform your frame of reference
Don’t get me wrong! I am not saying “stop posting your favorite funny cat videos and memes” or “stop sharing selfies of yourself.” 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.
What I am saying is that there are other ways in which we can enrich social media environments. There are educational aspects that we should consider. We, as users, have the power to control: what we post, when we post, who we interact with, and how we interact with others. You cannot rely on social media developers to provide healthy ways to use this platforms. It is our responsibility to make it work for us!
Hello! Happy New Year (sorry it is that awkward time of the year in which I am not sure if I should or should not say “Happy New Year”)!
I recently started a small research group with graduate and undergraduate students at my institution. Early in the Fall semester, a few students reached out to me (looking for research experience, mentorship, and collaboration) and I thought it would be a good idea. All of this students want to further their education and go on to doctoral programs. We are currently working on three to four projects together. Last semester was sort of my first time giving this “research group” thing a trial. I learned so much from the experience!
Consistent meetings are good
Have a meeting agenda
Set realistic deadlines
Understand each other’s skills
Understand each other’s expectations
Yesterday was our first meeting after the Winter Break. We talked about the upcoming data collections, IRB applications, conference proposals, conference presentations, and manuscripts we are planning to work on this semester (we are busy!). I also took time during our meeting to talk about this mentoring experience and what we should all expect. I shared the “Graduate Mentee Contract” to guide the discussion. It was passed on to me by an academic mama who works at a different institution. So I am paying it forward and sharing it in my blog just in case anyone else is looking for something similar.
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