Category Archives: ENGL 539

ENGL 539 Portfolio Cover Letter

Footsteps in sand

cc image posted at Flicker by Andrew R. Whalley

Throughout the course of this semester, my technological proficiency greatly improved in ways I often didn’t notice until I  almost effortlessly accomplished a formerly difficult task. I have to remind myself of where I started, however, to fully appreciate this statement. Nearly all that was accomplished in the various projects for this course was a first for me.  Openness  the habit of mind pertaining to a willingness to think differently, was sometimes an obstacle to my learning process. I attribute this to a stubborn tendency to “go it alone” rather than seek the input of peers and experts. Happily, however, I was  finally able to accomplish my main goal of learning how to create a basic, classroom hypertext website incorporating suggestions made by several classmates. The  journey of expanding my technological expertise has truly been an adventure of not only self-awareness, but the realization that, as Marshal McLuhan says, “the medium is the message.”

This analysis is especially thought provoking as I reflect on the importance of audience in composition and how my use of technology sends a different message to that audience than a message written on paper. Unlike a letter written in the traditional, pen and paper medium, technological communication, through an Image Project devoid of text, evokes emotion directly through one’s vision without the need of translating words. I found that this does not make communication easier, only different. Photoshop Express, the image editing software that I used allowed me to add visual “adjectives and verbs” to my photo essay . Often though, in the excitement of learning a new technique, meaning was lost or confounded. I sharpened my focus on a more specific audience to clarify details for myself and my “readers”.

Metacognition  the habit of mind focused on making mental connections, was a challenge for me. The need to connect the message implied by an image to my choice of editing options sometimes confounded me. I realized that I needed to examine this important habit or I might continue to have difficulty connecting with my audience. In their book, New Media Design, Austin and Doust emphasize the importance of graphic design choices and that

no matter how important the message is, people won’t give it a second thought unless it is presented in a way that captivates and engages them” (116).

I learned that subtlety (or at least simplicity) is often the best path for beginners in all aspects of graphic design composition. I eventually gathered sufficient confidence and  resources while creating my Image Project with Photoshop Express to create an information wiki for beginners.  I learned through the creative process that although new media allows us “to choose from the hundreds of possibilities of thought, feeling, action, and reaction and to put these together in a unique response, expression or message”(quote from poet Clarissa Pinkola Estes) it still must ultimately connect with the intended audience to produce meaning.

Even when the audience is clearly defined, using multiple mediums and design elements can still cause a project to become unfocused. My class Video Project is a case in point. This project, created on Windows Movie Maker, was the most challenging for me because it required the coordination of visual and audio elements. I spent hours just timing the Free Music Archive track to coordinate with the still images in my project. Rereading Jeanne Verdoux’s description of the creative process (Austin and Doust 43), pen, paper, and hundreds of storyboard images, reminds me of how impatient I can become when working on even a simple computer design project consisting of only twelve images. But  Persistence  is a habit of mind that I’ve acquired over my lifetime by believing in my ability to succeed at most anything I seriously attempt. The desire to succeed at learning these new technologies energized my creative process.

An additional challenge to a multimedia composition is the huge amount of free software and image sites available that leads one to forget that images, music, and archived written material, are authored by an individual or group entity that often has ownership rights. I learned during this project just how complex (albeit nebulous) citing  electronic media ethically can be compared to the familiar MLA style citations I use as an English major writing traditional academic papers.

As I completed my final project, a hypothetical class website, I reflected on comments I had received on my blog from fellow classmates during the semester and how inter-connected computer technology has allowed us to become. My website connected to my blog, to outside resources,  and to documents in shared files that created an unending web of information and community. Englebart describes his vision of “reaching the point where we can do all of our work on line”  and the computer becomes an extension of ourselves, what he calls “man-computer interaction” (234). When I’m communicating by using a computer though I’m not interacting “with” the computer but with people, so as a teacher  Responsibility  is a habit of mind that I take very seriously. Being accountable to one’s students is the highest responsibility of a teacher. In the case of a class website, it became not only my desire to communicate, but my responsibility to provide information clearly, concisely, and ethically. The C.R.A.P. design principles:

  • Contrast
  • Repetition
  • Alignment
  • Proximity

provided the guidelines to accomplish my task. The end result was a clear, user-friendly network of hyperlinks to course documents, outside resources, interactive pages, and shared calendars. Deleuze and Guattari, in their article “A Thousand Plateaus,” written twelve years later, use the metaphor of a rhizome to describe and expand on the complex structure of Engelbart’s vision. Unlike a tree, that has one trunk with many roots, a rhizome is a bulb-like structure that although  connected to the whole, is itself a complete unit (hierarchy) “a map that is always detachable, connectable, reversible, [and] modifiable” (409). This is the essence of a thoughtfully designed website, something only imagined when these articles were written in the 1970’s and 80’s. Flexibility  the habit of mind that allows one to adapt as needed is a valuable personal asset and the very essence of hypertext theory.  I don’t believe that I would have had the success I did this semester (and retained my sanity) without the ability to be flexible even to the extent of an occasional about-face.

Cited:

Austin, Tricia, and Richard Doust. New Media Design. London: Laurence King, 2004. Print.

Council of Writing Program Administrators (CWPA), National Council of Teachers of English(NCTE), & National Writing Project (NWP). (2011). Framework for success in postsecondary writing. Retrieved from http://wpacouncil.org/framework

Wardrip-Fruin, Noah and Nick Montfort, eds. The New Media Reader.Cambridge: MIT Press, 2003. Print.

Deleuze, Gilles, and Félix Guattaro. From “A Thousand Plateaus.” Wardrip-Fruin and Montfort 407-409.

Engelbart, Douglas and William English. “A Research Center for Augmenting Human Intellect.” Wardrip-Fruin and Montfort 233-246.

McLuhan, Marshal. “The Medium is the Message.” Wardrip-Fruin and Montfort 203-209.

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Cover Letter for Hypertext Project

Here’s the link to my first Hypertext Website Project

Topic and Purpose of Website

My first website is a prototype for a hypothetical first-year composition class called Practical Writing. I envision this class as a useful addition to a Community College two-year technical or associate degree program where good written communication skills rather than academic writing are stressed. My audience is the approximately fifty percent of Community College students, according to CollegeBoard.org who do not plan to transfer to a four-year college, but still need good, transferable writing skills.   I also plan to use many of the design ideas I learned during this process to create an actual class website for an independent study I’ll be doing this summer.

Design and Development Process (C.R.A.P.)

I love color, and lots of it. This, in combination with a naturally eclectic design sense, was bound to lead to many hours of site editing.  I realized that I had crossed the line of good design practices when, prior to reading the C.R.A.P. articles (even though I had removed my brightly colored home page image), I received the following comments from my fellow classmates; “Even though the color scheme is one you don’t see often (black/red & blue/yellow), it works surprisingly well.”  Another classmate wrote, “The red on you project is very bold.” I took these suggestions as kindly hedged constructive criticisms, and scrapped my original brightly colored Home page image for a more “subtle” bright red on white image. Now my Home Page had a huge amount of white space for contrast, but it wasn’t an audience grabber. So, after weeks of playing with the new image, I switched it back to my original choice; I’m happy I did too.  I chose to create contrast on my homepage by using color mainly as a frame around large areas of white space. I think my choice of bright contrast exudes energy, creativity, and warmth― just the feeling I want for my class. I like how the bright image draws attention to the count-down calendar gadget too. I realized that color could be overwhelming though if it distracted from my focal points, so I opted for changing most of my script to black, using font size and bold lettering to draw attention where needed.  In my sidebar, I used a dark shade of gray for the text so as not to compete with the black text of my page content, and I kept a touch of red too.  Another eye-catching move I made was to use the turquoise color of my background for all my hyperlinks. All title fonts on the site are Verdana (except for the main site font which is Asset), and all text font is Trebuchet.

The page I had the most trouble with was the Assignment page. There was a lot of information that I wanted to appear here. One classmate confirmed what I already suspected, that “on [my] “Assignments” page, some of the assignment titles are gray and are the links, while the ones that are not links are black. Visually, it is distracting.” Another classmate mentioned “that the font size on the Assignments page is a bit large to read and is inconsistent with the rest of the site.” I really cleaned up this page (and standardized the fonts overall on the site). I used a simple image of a blank notebook, a small font size for the text, red and bold for the main instructions, gray for all assignments, and underline for all links, which created the proper hierarchy of the information and assignments, as well as providing good repetition of design element with the other pages. I used a line to separate each assignment. Only the first two links are operable at this time.

The Instructor’s Page uses my photo to connect (proximity) the two personal aspects of this page together; How to Contact Me and About Me(Do you like how I went all the way to France with my turquoise shirt just to create repetition of color on my website?) This page also serves another practical purpose. Students will also use this page to make appointments with me for conferences on a shared calendar (not the one that’s there now). This is the only page where I used a totally different font (Normal in italics) to make a special point― to mind my privacy when calling my home phone.

The Class Newsletter page is a template for a monthly student-edited project utilizing peer-review as its means of success.  Students will write original newspaper-style articles, ads, haikus, and profiles of people in the news here on a rotating basis as part of their course grade.  I hope that this newsletter would work entirely as a peer reviewed project. I aligned the image slightly outside the page boundary to suggest its impermanence as part of the Class Newsletter page.

The Student Page contains a limited amount of pertinent resources to ensure success in the course. My rational is that students will be more likely to use resources if there are only a few of them.  Because of the limited amount of text on the page, I experimented with an asymmetrical balance layout that I learned in Basics of Design: layout & typography for beginners to create flow around the page.  Rather than use a stock image on this page, I used a Wordle of the information on the page. Wordles might be a fun resource for students to use as a way of drawing important points from class readings.  This, for instance, is a Wordle of the first portion of the article “Augmenting Human Intellect: A Conceptual Framework” by Douglas Engelbart from our class textbook.

Wordle: Untitled

Habits of Mind, one of the subpages to the Student Page, is just the draft from the WPA Council. Ideally, this page will be constructed to link out to explanations and resources for specific habits of mind that are pertinent to the student. The class syllabus is the second subpage of the Student Page. Rather than make this a primary page, I note at the top of the page that any changes to the syllabus will be in the Announcements section of the Home Page.

Learning Process

        I began the learning process for this project feeling very insecure and by taking notes on various tutorials.

In the end though, I dove in, made mistakes, resolved numerous hopelessly unorganized elements, and emerged with an acceptable, finished product. Oddly enough, the finished product looks nothing like I wrote about in my first blog about the project.  My “calming colors” evolved into a blaze of vibrancy. My audience changed too, from “undergraduate writing students learning about multimedia text construction” to community college non-transfer students learning practical written communication skills. What I learned is that I’m by nature a changeable (flexible), persistent, and independent person. These characteristics generally serve me well, but they often lead me to take a rougher road than necessary and that sometimes leads me to dead ends. In the future, I will benefit from taking a more systematic approach, fleshing out my outline better, and referring back to the many things I learned this time around. I would like to learn how to lay out grids more effectively to “both divide and unite the page” (Austin and Doust 65).

Scholarly Discussion

Various authors describe and expand on the C.R.A.P. guidelines. New Media Design expands on these guidelines by adding sound and movement to the design process while “[relying] on rules to create a sense of the whole” (Austin and Doust 71). I reflected that self-discipline, structure, or the inevitability of following the rules, is something that evolves as knowledge and experience is acquired and broadened. After some initial wild scurrying about my fragmented site, I started following new rules that create structure in hypertext and found, like Douglas Engelbart, in his article “Augmenting Human Intellect: A Conceptual Framework,” that “when I learned to work with the structures and manipulation processes . . . that I got rather impatient if I had to go back to dealing with . . . books and journals, or other ordinary means of communicating” (Wardrip-Fruin and Montfort 107). My messy process eventually coalesced from a learning experience for me to a product that could contribute to the learning of others (which was Englebart’s goal too). When Theodor H. Nelson broke down the writing process, he translated the needs of writers into a structure too. That structure allowed for movement and “various provisions for change” into “any form and arrangement desired” (137).

Bibliographic Information for Site Links and Learning Resources

Austin, Tricia, and Richard Doust. New Media Design. London: Laurence King, 2004. Print.

Council of Writing Program Administrators (CWPA), National Council of Teachers of English(NCTE), & National Writing Project (NWP). (2011). Framework for success in postsecondary writing. Retrieved from http://wpacouncil.org/framework

Darling, Dr. Charles. Darling’s Guide to Grammar and Writing. Capital Community College Foundation. Web. 11 April 2012. http://grammar.ccc.commnet.edu/grammar/

Graham, Lisa. Basics of Design: layout and typography for beginners. 2nd ed. London: Cengage, 2005. Print.

Old Dominion University’s Academic Skills Unit- http://uc.odu.edu/academicskills/

Old Dominion University’s Perry Library-http://www.lib.odu.edu/

Steves, Rick.Rick Steves: Europe through the Back Door. N.p., Web.11 April 2012.             http://www.ricksteves.com/

Tidewater Striders Running Club.  http://tidewaterstriders.com/

Wardrip-Fruin, Noah and Nick Montfort, eds. The New Media Reader. Cambridge: MIT Press, 2003. Print.

Engelbart, Douglas. “Augmenting Human Intellect: A Conceptual Framework.” Wardrip-Fruin and Montfort 95-108.

Nelson, Theodor H. “A File Structure for the Complex, the Changing, and the Indeterminate.” Wardrip- Fruin and Montfort 134-145.

Wordle “word clouds”.  http://www.wordle.net/

Return to Table of Contents   

       

Hypertext- Student Blog Reviews and Reflection

I reviewed these student blogs:

Amanda David

Susan Patterson

Jasmyne Ford

Reading and replying to my classmate’s hypertext project drafts reminded me that although the Twilight Zone episode says we are all alike in ways, we are also very different. I learned so much about creativity and collaboration (even if indirectly). I was glad that my classmates provided such honest and helpful critique on my project, and I tried to be equally helpful. I found that the process of reviewing made me sensitive to how I worded my criticism as to be objective, yet open to the idea that there are many forms of artistic expression. We are each unique.

To improve my own project, I need to make some adjustments to my font sizes in order to be more consistent and choose my focal points more carefully throughout my site. I also need to reassess my choices of color and page arrangement. I realize from my classmate’s sites the benefit of white space for contrast and clarity, but also that how much white space to use is a personal style choice. I think that some of my layout could benefit from clearer delineation.

Susan and Kristopher reviewed my project. I anticipated that I still had work to do and the comments that I received reflected that.

 

Response to Coover and Krueger, and My Exploration of “Hypertext Gardens.”

hypertext watercolor

CC image posted at Flicker by Derrick Tyson

Coover’s article (and certain other projects I’m currently engaged in) seriously forced me to contend with my idea of composition being frozen in space to be consumed at a leisurely pace by bibliophiles on a Saturday afternoon. It’s telling of human nature that that was also Plato’s objection against writing over orality, what Coover calls the first “great event” in the history of literacy.

Now, here we are at another junction, “the third great event,” hypertext literature,  and as  Coover wisely surmised, “something was happening out (or in)there and that I ought to know what it was” (707). Equally as curious, but admittedly not as driven, I thought now would be a good time to explore the Hypertext Gardens: Delightful Vistas by Mark Bernstein.

I found the Gardens at Eastgate: Serious Hypertext where I conservatively tip-toed into the first (Cutting Edge) link. I was immediately side-tracked to the “Building of the Garden” where I admit I stifled a yawn. As I traveled on, however, I was captured by the beauty, simplicity, and content of the text which caused me to reflect that I seem to be, at least in a small way, part of the intended audience Bernstein was writing to.

But, that was only because I proceeded down the path that I chose rather than the traditional linear page-flipping. Kreuger points out in his article “”Responsive Environments,” that the author is “composing a sequence of possibilities, many of which will not be realized for any given participant who fails to take the particular path along which they lie” (387). Good thing too, otherwise Bernstein would have lost me at page one.

I can really see this as a useful writing assignment for a digital writing class. In fact,  I found this grant-supported first-year composition project that explains in detail how it was created in Storyspace. Unfortunately, like most things tech related, the software is expensive.

Wardrip-Fruin, Noah and Nick Montfort, eds. The New Media Reader. Cambridge: MIT Press, 2003. Print.

Coover, Robert. “The End of Books.” Wardrip-Fruin and Montfort. 705-709.

Krueger, Myron W. “Responsive Environments.” Wardrip-Fruin and Montfort. 377-389.

Hypertext Project Blog post 4

Here’s a basic outline/map for my classroom website:
http://www.mindomo.com/view.htm?m=2d1c50df22de46098980d0c88e3be33c


Here’s the link to my first Hypertext Website Project

Hypertext Project Blogpost 3

Hypertext Project Blog 3

I watched a tutorial I found on FollowMolly.com. This website belongs to Molly Schroeder, a technology integration specialist, a certified teacher, and Google Apps for Edu certified trainer. This is her promotional site, but on the Tech for Teachers page there’s a free YouTube video in the bottom right corner of the page of a webinar that gives detailed instructions and walks you through creating a class web site.

I wanted to just jump in and get my feet wet so I paused the video at each step of the process and took notes. Later I used my notes to begin playing with a test site of my own. As you can see, it was a messy process. After reviewing the CRAP guidelines, I realized that I really needed to just scrap my test site and start over.

Response to Papert, Kay, and Goldberg.

Mindstorms: Metacognition for Kids

colorful kid impressionistic style

CC image posted at Flicker by ssoosay

Papert examines the socio-cultural implications of putting kids in charge of free knowledge/ creativity in a nation of traditional, but possibly obsolete educational thought. He defines three concerns that are held by the different sides of the technology argument. The skeptics, he says, underestimate the potential cultural effect of mass computer use.  The critics point to the annihilation of social culture, widening class distinctions, and government surveillance as probable outcomes.  Papert holds a more optimistic, “some might say utopian,” vision of human potential augmented by computer technology, especially in the hands of children.  He sees writing instruction culminating in a joyful union of concrete and formal/creative process. Imagine, grammar and multi-draft essays rising to standards that will even pass the standards (tests).

What is happening now is an empirical question. What can happen is a technical question. But what will happen is a political question, depending on social choices.

Papert influenced the utopian vision that Kay and Goldberg brought to fruition with Dynabook, a personal computer capable of being manipulated in an interactive process of user and machine, where discovery is applauded and errors are accepted as part of the process of learning. More of a skeptic than he likes to admit, however, he foresees many of the political, social, and ideological conundrums that are a reality for us today:  Who decides what is taught, how that knowledge is disseminated, and who is allowed to fall behind. These are the questions that are magnified in a society where economics frequently seems to drive educational values. Teachers, he surmises, are the problem ― and the solution.

Teachers need to recognize the broad cultural “renaissance” taking place and not cling to the “myth” that technological language, whether print or programming, is sacrosanct.    The learning curve stagnates in classrooms where technology is outdated, unavailable, or where teachers are reluctant to learn new methods (or professional development money is slashed). In our society, that means that corporations will drive which programs will thrive with transfusions of high-tech dollars, and which will anemically exist in QWERTYville. Being somewhat of an optimist myself, I admit that I feel a growing excitement among my peers for a shift in college composition classrooms toward a pedagogy that embraces multiple ways in which to teach all components of writing to a diverse student community. On the other hand, my critical alter-ego constantly sees Big Brother over my shoulder.

Wardrip-Fruin, Noah and Nick Montfort, eds. The New Media Reader. Cambridge: MIT Press, 2003. Print.

Kay, Alan and Adele Goldberg. “Personal Dynamic Media.” Wardrip-Fruin and Montfort 393-403.

Papert, Seymour. “From Mindstorms:Children, Computers, and Powerful Ideas.” Wardrip-Fruin and Montfort 413-431.

Hypertext Project Blog Post 2

        I will be using Google Sites to construct my Hypertext Project. I searched “easiest free software for constructing a web site,” and got recommendations for a gazillion soft ware applications. The trouble is that FREE on the internet isn’t always free, and usually involves a trial period that must be canceled or you will be charged. Google Sites seems so easy and convenient in comparison, accessible through my email account.

        Although I have blogs on both WordPress and Blogger, I have no experience creating a web site, so I thought it would be helpful to first define some terms:

  • A blog– is defined on I’d Rather be Writing as “individually authored mini-magazines or journals where one author (or sometimes a small authoring group) crank out article after article (or entry after entry) usually with a common theme.”
  • The same blog site defines a wiki as “a platform for groups to collaborate on an information project, such as documentation, technical specs, or other reference material (e.g., Wikipedia). One author isn’t just cranking out all the information.”
  • According to Answers.com, “the difference between a wiki and a web site is that “Web page is a document connected to the World Wide Web and viewable by anyone. But, a wiki is a server program that allows [designated] users to collaborate in forming the content of a Web site.

It’s interesting that authorship is what defines these terms, whereas audience is usually the primary concern of writers.

       I will be accessing the software for this project on my home, desktop computer.

Hypertext Project Blog 1 Learning C.R.A.P: Building a Class Website

Hypertext Project Blog 1      

Learning C.R.A.P: Building a Class Website

I will be creating a class website for my hypertext project. My goal is for it to be clean and functional, but also “approachable.” My audience is undergraduate writing students learning about multimedia text construction, so I want to model the C.R.A.P. principles from the very start. I’ll begin right now by incorporating what I learned from watching the C.R.A.P. links into my Hypertext Project blogs. Hopefully, my audience (in this case, you) will notice that my font choice for this blog is my first step to mimic the modeling process I hope to project on my site.

I know that there will be a broad range of technological expertise in my proposed audience; therefore, it’s important that my website feels approachable and inclusive. I would like to accomplish this while projecting my own personal style which I see as naturalistic as well as minimalist. These possibly diverse goals may be a challenge to blend.

For simplicity’s sake, I plan on using a two-column layout with high contrast in calming colors, maybe gold and blue. I would like to find a representative image that connects nature and technology; an image of someone using a laptop in a tree would be cool (and approachable). Has anyone noticed a change in Compfight? Every Creative Commons  search I did turned up zero images. I never had this problem until recently. I may try some different image search sites if I keep turning up empty-handed.

Student Blog Responses

I commented on Susan Patterson’s blog.

I commented on Tim Norton’s blog.