December 2008 Archives

Full Circle

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"Okay everybody, good job, thanks for all your work this semester," were the final words I will remember as the last spoken from a professor in a college class. I am a senior now. Three and a half solid years in, one semester of student teaching to go. And Friday, I participated in my last class at Seton Hill, Writing for the Internet with Dr. Jerz. It's funny though, that nastalgic experience forced me to remember my first ever class at Seton Hill.

Sitting there, my fingers firmly gripping the mechanical pencil, I stared at fifteen strangers in the small square classroom, my first college class ever. I made small talk with a few of the unsure faces around me, not realizing that these would soon become my best friends and I would be sharing the next four years with them in and out of the classroom. Then Dr. Jerz walked into the class, my first professor. He began giving a monologue, and I honestly can't remember what it was, but I do remember what I was thinking. "Oh my God, I can't do this."

I was so overwhelmed that first semester. I had to write papers I'd never written in my life, do difficult research, critically analyze works of literature, write newspaper articles, and many other things. And I honestly don't think I would have made it, if it weren't for those strangers sitting in that scary classroom with me. We made it together. We lost a few along the way, some changed majors, some transferred schools, but we all shared that first college experience together (except for the Katies, they were seniors). And when someday, we are sitting at our child's high school graduation party, and he walks up to us and says, "Dad, what was it like to start college?," we will all be able to look back on that first class with Dr. Jerz, and a group of frightened freshmen and say, "you'll be just fine."

I'm glad I stuck it out. I've gone four years as an English major. I began with Dr. Jerz, and ended with Dr. Jerz, and couldn't be more proud of what I've accomplished. I feel fulfilled as I hope the other fifteen members of that Drama as Literature course do. It's been a journey, a long journey, with some rough spots. I've made relationships that no doubt will last my lifetime. I thank those professors, especially the ones I was close enough for form relationships with, for pushing me from my nest and stretching me beyond my comfort zone to transform me into the person I could potentially become. I thank my classmates, especially the ones that made it to the end with me. We've helped each other, we've complained together, we've pulled all nighters, and we made it. I'm really excited to begin the next phase of my life but I wanted to take a moment and reflect on these years I won't forget. It was a blast.

Bringing Things Together

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When I heard about this project, at the beginning of the semester, I had that same feeling inside that you get when you know there's something overwhelming ahead in your future. However, during the semester, we completed a progression of work that empowered us with important skills and when we reached the term project, it no longer seemed impossible. However, I can truly say that after work on The Write Direction, I have never felt so accomplished. In three months, I went from an individual that disliked computers and the internet, and couldn't do anything but instant message, check his email, and blog (because I had to), and was able to create an entire website, about an interesting subject that I think will help people, on my own. It is an amazing feeling and I honestly have gotten more satisfaction from this project than any final I have ever taken.

We began this journey on Nov. 12 with our term proposals, and I am now finally bringing things together. Initially I had a few ideas: a coaching website, a website that would combine aspects of coaching and academics, specifically writing, and a website for writing. I finally decided on the third and refined the idea to be a website with basic, easy-to-find information about writing for those who need to access it for a quick question. I went to Kim Pennesi and received permission to use many of SHU's Writing Center handouts and information, which, I believe, gives my site more credit. I've been working with writing now for four years and found it enjoyable to have somewhere to share my knowledge for those who may need it.

Creating the site was the most fun aspect of the project for me. I took my idea, and basically jumped right into it, pulling things I've learned and applied from Krug, Castro, and Dr. Jerz. It's really interesting to think back to what my site looked like in the first few stages of development. It was bland, unfocused, and dry. Now, after working on it bit by bit, I'm proud of what it has turned into and excited moreso that I was able to accomplish this project.

User-testing changes:

  1. Appearance: I've changed a lot with the appearance of my site. I knew I wanted a basic site with easy access to internal pages so I had the idea of a basic navigation bar to the left with links on the homepage to all the internal pages. I started out with a plain yellow background and maroon letters and a strange font. I gradually changed it to an interesting background that I found online and black letters in a more easy-to-read font. These were the easiest changes I made because they were simply about style and I got the most feedback on issues like these.
  2. Formatting: Also from feedback given by my classmates, I saw that the text on my site needed to be formatted into a more easily-readable way. Since it is a site about writing, it's difficult to explain the information without using a lot of words. However, some techniques that my peers discussed with me were
    • using bold keywords, making the margins larger, and using bulleted lists. I combined all these techniques and think it much improved the set up of the information on my site.
    • indenting was another key. I learned how to use and play with "div" tags in order to make information more presentable. Before, it was all in the same column, flushed left, which made it difficult to read. But different margins help readers easily decipher information.


Post beta-testing changes:

  1. Image detail: I wanted to include a quote and image from Bob Costas on my site. Initally, I had a large picture and quote on the homepage, but with the help and feedback from Dr. Jerz, I saw that the picture was actually too large and made the site look as if it was "by Bob Costas." So I worked on making it "less noticable" with some techniques such as relocating the picture in relationship of the quote and putting a box around it.
  2. Content issues: There were a few classmates who gave me some important feedback regarding the content of my site.
    • All said it was good content, but Alex helped me use a more direct voice in the writing of my site. I think I was overexplaining things to a degree and she pointed out that it gets confusing. She said to let the information speak for itself and simply introduce it.
    • Also, Dani had a great idea that I should include some examples of MLA and APA styles instead of simply linking to PDF handouts.
    • Jackie helped me cut out needless words such as "Includes..." at the beginning of my bulleted lists. This was redundant and simply took away from the information of the site.
  3. Other appearance issues: Aja pointed out a few problems I didn't catch, like there weren't spaces between the bold headings and sentences on my getting started page. All of these helped me refine my site into a more readable and interesting site and I am very appreciative of all of your suggestions. Also she noticed that when you scrolled over my links they turned to bold print. However, this didn't take place when the text was already bold. This was annoying to me so I made sure I changed that as well. 

I really appreciate this class pushing me from the nest in a sense, and making me step out from my comfort zone because I was able to reach satisfaction in an area I never thought I would. It's been an awesome journey and I feel that I've learned much about writing for the internet. 

As it comes to a close: Portfolio 4

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As this semester comes to a close I've taken a minute to step back, take a breath from EL 236, and look at exactly how much my relationship with online writing has grown. I'd like to say I was okay when I started, but to be completely honest, I didn't know html from if and couldn't have guessed as to what each included. I never thought I'd say this, but I think I actually like online writing. I'm going to be honest, I wanted to get through this class, because my computer skills were lacking, yet, through this course I feel confident in my knowledge about the internet, and comfortable with my abilities to form a basic webpage, create an interactive fiction game, and complete usability testing on my own website or others.

The last phase of this semester, from the last blogging portfolio till now, has mostly consisted of our relationship with and development of our term projects. I chose to create a writing website entitled The Write Direction. I'll admit it, at first I thought this was going to be the most difficult, uniteresting thing I'd have to do this semester, however, it was quite the contrary. I've had a great and enjoyable time developing my website. One of the reasons is that I was able to apply much of what I learned throughout the semester. For that reason I think it was the most rewarding final I was involved with. But also, because I have found a certain interest for designing web pages, especially ones that deal with what I'm interested in, such as writing. I've had a great time with this project and am including my final batch of blog entries since they are all related to the development of this website.

Entries:
Writing and the internet, who would have thought? was the beginning of a long journey. This was my first blog entry introducing my idea and a rough outline of what I wanted to accomplish. The feedback I received on this entry helped me develop my first draft of my site.

First Viewing was an entry that introduced my site in the very early stages. It was very rough and needed a lot of touch up, and it's evident how much it has developed since this time.

Getting There was the latest look at my site. This was the entry for the beta testing and it proved to me the most helpful entry for me because of the feedback I received from my classmates. In my head the site was close to complete, but my peers helped me see some things that weren't quite finished yet and needed elaborated on.

One of the things I like most about the class is the out-of-class interaction that also leads into peer learning. I feel that I learned much about my own work from my peers. It's different than coming from a teacher or a professor that's on a different level than you. Our natural instinct is to impress our peers, so during the construction of my site, I wanted my classmates to see the best product possible. Because of this I was also able to take their suggestions to heart and really apply them to my site. Along with numerous comments and suggestions during in class workshops, I really appreciated the comments from my peers on my blogs during my reflection of my progress toward the term project. Jed, Meghan, Chelsea, and David helped out at the beginning of my process and near the end I received helpful comments from Dani, Jackie, Aja, and Dena. I feel like I learned the most from this because these students were doing the same things as me. We were all learning together.

Interaction with other's projects: Here are a few examples of my comments for my peers...
Comments about Chelsea's site
Helpful comment on David's blog
Comment on Jackie's blog
Helpful tip for Aja

Hopefully I've helped my peers as much as they've helped me. I really enjoyed this final part of the course and believe that it is a result of working with people instead of working alone on a final exam or something of that nature. I feel like I've learned so much more this way, granted, this is a different type of information. I feel very accomplished and thank everyone for their help.


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This page is an archive of entries from December 2008 listed from newest to oldest.

November 2008 is the previous archive.

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