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!

Hello World!

As usual I have once again neglected my blog.

I really have not felt inspired to write in my blog. Since my last post on June 8th, I was busy teaching my summer course (which ended at end of June) and June was also an intense month with writing projects. It seems like everything was due in June.

Then I decided that July would be a month of recovery. Recovery meant spending as much time as possible outdoors. Working from home means I sometimes neglect to spend time outside during the work week. By July, I really needed to make time for the great outdoors, getting vitamin D, and fresh air. I needed it both physically and mentally.

August was a month of change. So much change. I really need to dedicate an entire blog post to describe it all. So, let’s put a pin on it for now.

So in order to hold myself accountable, I am going to write that over the next few months I will share more on my blog about some of the hobbies in the great outdoors that I have enjoyed lately, some of the changes in my life (and the life of those around me), and updates on some projects.

This post sounds so vague but it gives my some direction to make an effort to reconnect with my blog.


One of the few relaxing things that I did manage to do in June was to spend a weekend alone while my partner and son went camping. It had been 16 months since I had been apart from them overnight and felt super weird. I did used some of that weekend to do some writing (which I hardly ever do on the weekends) but more importantly I made sure to spend plenty of time relaxing. One of the relaxing experience that I had that weekend was pottery painting. It was seriously so calming, relaxing, and such fun experience. I spend nearly 4 hours painting. I should do it more often. Use the slider below to see some before and after pictures of my “work of art”. I am not Picasso but I think did pretty good!

Pottery Painting

Reflections on “Open at the Margins: Critical Perspective on Open Education”

I do a short writing assignment every semester in my “Intro Seminar to Instructional Design and Technology course.” The main purpose of the assignment is to expose students to diverse topics in the instructional design field, to share an open access book with them (so that they can have as a future reference), and to assess their writing abilities (in order to provide support or share resources when needed).

Last semester, the students read “Foundations of Learning and Instructional Design Technology” and they shared wonderful reflections from the various topics covered in the book. This semester the open access book I shared with my students was “Open at the Margins: Critical Perspectives in Open Education.”

The assignment is the following:

  • Please select ONE chapter of the book “Open at the Margins: Critical Perspectives on Open Education
  • Write a reflection on the chapter you read
  • The paper should be:
    • MS Word document
    • 12 point font: Calibri or Times New Roman
    • Two-pages maximum
    • Include the title of the chapter you read in the first paragraph
    • If you use additional references, please include a reference list at the end (otherwise, you do not need to include references)
    • Use the submission link provided in the next Module [Nov. 2] to submit your reflection

Some of the chapters that the students reflected on this term included:

There are so many great reflections this semester. One of the main takeaways was “openness as more than just textbooks and access but as a way of to improve our practice, sharing, and collaborating.” The chapter “Open Education in Palestine: A tool for Liberation” was selected by three different students and “Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in Open Research and Education” was selected by two students. Clearly, the topics/titles peaked the students’ interest.

Next week, I will ask the students if it is okay to share some of their reflections. Happy Friday!

“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)

One step closer: Research Methods in Learning Design and Technology

I was supposed to write about this weeks ago, but it did not happened. However, here I am to blog about the book “Research Methods in Learning Design and Technology.” First, I want to say thanks to all the book chapter authors. The work that these authors have put into their chapters is admirable.

What has happened since I last blogged about the book? Well, I shared that I had written the “acknowledgement” and was getting ready to submit materials to the publisher. That is exactly what occurred, I submitted all materials in mid-April. It was a huge sense of relief to have all the work completed and submitted, while dealing with all the stress and anxiety of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Back then, I also shared via social media (Twitter and LinkedIn) a link to an online repository, that I created, of the book chapter abstracts: http://www.researchmerge.com. In April, I also shared (with permission from the publisher and the book chapter authors) a pre-print of Chapter 5: Considerations for Using Social Media Data in Learning Design and Technology Research (by Spencer Greenhalgh, Matthew J. Koehler, Joshua M. Rosenberg and K. Bret Staudt Willet). If you had not seen these links before, I encourage you to explore the repository of the abstracts and feel free to download a copy of Chapter 5.

This week, I have spend the majority of the week reviewing queries in all of the chapters and the front matter of the book. This has given me an opportunity to read again all the book chapters. One of the hightlights was having a running head titled: “Futurama.” That really made me smile. By the way, I had to send a few “IMPORTANT: Chapter Information” emails to book chapter authors. Huge thanks for the prompt response of my colleagues, who I know have so much going on right now.

So, as the title states: One step closer!

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.

 

Reflection: Undergraduate Researchers

I start by sharing that last week I found out that my application for an undergraduate research grant for 2020-2021 was rejected. I was a bit disappointed, I am not going to lie. I do not really care for the “recognition,” but I care about mentoring students. Specially when those students are female minority students (which has been most of the students who I have worked with over the last three years).

Over the last three years, I have worked with three different students. It really has been great. I have found weekly meeting on a specific date and time (in-person or online) is the best approach. During the meeting we usually discuss tasks the undergraduate researcher has completed and we discuss upcoming tasks. I do not like to make assumptions that the students understand every step of the research process so I like to have plenty of time for questions. I have found that students who are at the undergraduate stage and are interested in doing research are usually very good with time management, are super curious about the research process, and usually develop a better understanding of what it means to do research as a faculty member. 

Although I have worked with three different students (a different researcher every year), all of them were very quick to learn the tasks they were required to complete. We normally start with completion of the IRB CITI training and obtaining their certificates. Then, I usually give them time to read the research proposal that has been drafted for the project. We create a Google drive were all our mutual files for the project will be hosted. We set, as previously mentioned, a specific date and time to meet. I also like to provide samples of prior work completed, so that the undergraduate researcher can have an idea of what a report, section of a manuscript, conference proposal, or other documents looks like. I try to not overwhelm the undergraduate research with the many tasks that we will complete over the year, instead we focus on weekly tasks (a literature review, an annotated bibliography, review of a survey, creating tables, writing an introduction, putting together a poster, practicing a presentation, etc.).

Over the last year, I had the pleasure of working with Caldera Ripine (Elementary Education major). Just before the pandemic, in February, we attended the 2019 Eastern Educational Research (EERA) Conference in Orlando, FL. It was a wonderful experience. In a room with over 30 poster sessions, Caldera was the only undergraduate student presenting and she did amazing! 

I should also add that all of the prior undergraduate researchers who I have worked with in the past, Megan, Renata, and Caldeira, have been instrumental during the writing process. Here are some publications featuring undergraduate researchers:

Romero-Hall, E.J., Petersen, E., Sindicic, R., & Li, L. (forthcoming). Most Versus Least Used Social Media: Undergraduate Students’ Preferences, Participation, Lurking, and Motivational Factors. International Journal of Social Media and Interactive Learning Environments.

Romero-Hall, E.J., Adams, L., & Osgood, M. (2019). Examining the Effectiveness, Efficiency, and Usability of a Web-based Experiential Role-playing Aging Simulation using Formative Assessment. Journal of Formative Design in Learning, 3(2), 123–132.

I do not know what will happen during the 2020-2021 academic year. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is difficult to know what the academic year will look like. However, I am open to the possibility of working with an undergraduate researcher, if the opportunity presents itself. 

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The Acknowledgement

With the intent to hold on to every bit of positivity during this bizarre days in which we are all dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic, I share with you: the acknowledgement.

I am in the final stages of getting all materials to the publisher for the “Research Methods in Learning Design and Technology” book. These materials include the front matter documents. I figured what better way to start blogging about this edited volume than to share the acknowledgement and to recognize those who in one way or another had an impact on this work.

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!