Final Thoughts and Reflections…

Wow, has this semester gone by fast! It feels as if we are just getting started, not wrapping everything up to come to a close! I have certainly had a lot of fun this semester working on this project.  I must say, it has certainly opened my eyes and I have been able to learn an immense amount.  I never really noticed highway markers before this project, and I am grateful for being able to be a part of such an awesome team of people to make this website a success! We have all worked really hard, and although each of us encountered a few bumps along the way, we were all able to pull together and make the deadlines.

When we originally made our contract in the beginning of the semester, Dr. McClurken even advised us that we may have been a bit “too ambitious” as far as the dates we decided on for completing our various milestones.  As the project progressed, I think we all realized this was true.  The deadline that each person in the group had a difficult time meeting 100% was the March 13 deadline of having all of our research completed.  This obviously was too ambitious of a feat for us to accomplish, namely because about ¼ of our markers were so random and obscure that they were difficult to find any bit of outside research on them.  After a joint collaboration, we were all able to find information on the remaining few markers that we needed.

As far as everything else went, Mike made the skeleton of our site including pulling some posts in and Sarah went through and categorized and tagged all of the posts, along with making a fabulous Google Map.  Ryan went through each individual post for all of us and checked for spelling and grammatical issues, along with creating a timeline, making a Twitter account for us, and getting in touch with the UMW’s newspaper The Bullet for extra publicity.  I took on the task of photographing every single marker that was erected, along with finding additional images for each post.  I was responsible for every single picture that is featured on the website, including the header image on each page.  Towards the end, I also helped out with the structuring and the background of the website.  I utilized a few necessary plugins, such as the Facebook Like button and I made the Tag Cloud for the site (I just could not figure out how to put it on its own page, so Mike helped with that).  I was also responsible for creating the finalized bibliography that would be posted up onto the site.  For this, each person organized their own sources, Mike checked them for proper Turabian and then they were sent to me where I did a final check before I posted them onto the website.  I also registered our website for Google Analytics, which is really interesting because it allows you to see an overview of who is visiting your site.  As far as my contributions to the project and my individual deadlines, I feel as if I met each one accordingly.

This was a great opportunity for us to work together as a team and create a useful resource for people that will hopefully be used for years to come! Although I thoroughly enjoyed working on this project, I am happy to say that it is finished (minus any pending corrections and edits that need to be made).  Everyone in the class has done a great job on their projects and I am really excited to see the finished products of everyone’s hard work this semester.  Great job guys!

Research and Creativity Symposium and the Home Stretch!!!!!

On Tuesday, April 17, my group and I presented our research and website for the UMW Research and Creativity Symposium.  Overall, I think every group did really well, including us.  Although we only had 5 people in the audience that were not a part of our class, I was really surprised at all of the questions they were asking and the enthusiasm some of them exhibited.  It’s a great feeling to be asked questions about your website and how someone could easily locate the site online.  It’s very gratifying because it makes you feel as if all of your hard work has truly paid off and it is noticeable to others as to how much time and effort was put into it.  It was definitely a great way to get our feet wet before the History Symposium on April 27!

On another note, we are finally in the home stretch! Everything is coming together so smoothly and I am really pleased at everything my group has been doing.  We have each taken on specific tasks and “pet” projects within the main one, such as Ryan and his twitter feeds :-) We are each in the final stages of editing and I am still in search of about 3 more additional pictures to add to specific markers.  We are hoping to have everything completely finished by Friday evening but if not, the entire site will be completed by Sunday.

History in the Digital Age

I found the readings for this week to be pretty interesting.  The few that I chose all made me think about certain things more in depth, such as the use of Wikipedia (even though we have discussed this in class previously) and just the impact that technology has on history and the world in general.  In Barbara Weinstein’s article “Doing History in the Digital Age,” she discusses the changes that have taken place over the years through technology and how these changes have impacted simple things, such as the way a person researches a paper or finds primary sources for something.  I love that although she can embrace these changes and refer to herself in self-fulfilling moments by naming herself the “Goddess of Google,” she stays true to her roots and still prefers to do things her way, the way she feels comfortable.  She makes an interesting point in the end of her article referring to writing her dissertation.  When her colleague defended the use of internet research and databases to prevent her from having to travel to Brazil, she stated “What would be the fun of that?”  While I personally love technology, I am a bit old school when it comes to researching for things. I prefer to use the library catalog to find a book I need, then I go to that section and browse books within its section to find other books on my topic.  I even own a Kindle and I love to read, but it saddens me that I feel technology has killed the existence of book stores.  I love walking into a bookstore and browsing the selections, in person.

The second article I read was “Wikipedia and Women’s History: A Classroom Experience” by Martha Saxton.  This article was interesting to me because it reminded me of our assignment earlier in the semester to analyze a few random Wikipedia pages by reviewing their discussion and edit tabs.  Before this class, I never noticed the discussion tabs or even the history tab located on each page.  I knew that the pages were posted and edited by virtually anyone, I just never thought about looking at these. In Saxton’s article, she proposed that her students create or edit existing Wikipedia pages to include information having to deal with Women’s History.  In this, the students modified pages such as Vietnam War, American Revolution, Indentured Servants, and the Social Security Act.  In many of these articles, there was never a focus on women or the important role that women played.  Why were women excluded from these articles? Technology has provided us with a tool that allows the ability for immediate historical writing and editing.

In Dr. McClurken’s article “Waiting for Web 2.0: Archives and Teaching Undergraduates in a Digital Age,” he stresses the importance of maintaining a digital footprint both inside and outside the classroom.  He acknowledged the difficulty in conducting research online and how important it is to look beyond into the deep web, and expanding your Google search results to extend after the first page.  He also makes suggestions as to how to make the archival and research process better, namely through better designed archival sites and search options within the sites.  It is imperative to have an easy to use interface for a site or else the site will be useless for those who need to use it.

Digital Portfolio

I am still working on tweaking my portfolio a little bit more, but I have the majority of it made up so far.  In the About Me section, I included information about my family and my husband because for me, family means everything. I don’t necessarily know if it is professional or not, but I would like to think that if an employer looks at my resume to hire me, they are getting a good insight as to the kind of person that I am and what my values are.  I will be updating this more this evening and tomorrow, as I am still not pleased with it in it’s entirety.  Here is a link to my site.

Wikipedia Discussions

For my senior thesis, I am researching the events that led to 9/11 and the motives behind al-Qaeda and Osama bin Laden.  For this assignment, I chose to look at the Wikipedia page for 9/11, which can be accessed here. What I found quite interesting with the discussions of this page was the language and “etiquette” used by the editors.  For the most part, each person was polite when discussing certain edits that needed to be made and various corrections.  One person actually apologized for addressing Condoleeza Rice as the wrong department chairperson.  I thought this was odd because in many cases on blogging areas people are likely to get confrontational with each other, probably because nothing is face to face and people feel like they can more willingly speak their mind.

General Update

Ok… I am a little late on posting a few things on here, as I had un unexpected death in my family last week and I was not able to focus on my schoolwork.  Over Spring Break, I was able to drive down to the Williamsburg and Yorktown areas once again to get all of the remaining pictures of the markers that my group needed.  However, I am still missing two (the Kingsmill and Magruder’s Defenses markers) and I have come to the conclusion they must not exist.  I repeatedly drove up and down the roads they are supposed to be located on and I could not find them.  Apparently, one is supposed to be within “shouting distance” of the Battle of Williamsburg marker but I could not find it, so… I suppose we will have to utilize CreativeCommons to obtain these photos.

As far as our groups research is concerned, we have made excellent progress.  A few of us are having a bit of trouble with a couple of markers, so we are collaborating to see if we can help each other find information. Fortunately, many of the markers overlap each other so this should make it a little bit easier in finding information. Mike has already began loading all of our research from our GoogleDoc onto the website and our website is looking great! Sarah has been working diligently on our GoogleMap and I have sent her copies of all of the photographs I have taken so she can incorporate them onto their respective pinpoint on the map.

Revising Group Contracts and Progress So Far….

So, apparently my group was a bit too ambitious as to the timeline of milestones we created for ourselves.  Sure, it sounded wonderful that we were going to be researching 4 historical markers every 2 days, but after delving into the research, we have realized this is just not possible.  Some of the markers we are researching are so obscure it is turning out to be a bit difficult in finding relevant information on them, or at least enough information on them. In our revision, we have edited our milestones to about 2 markers every few days, this way we should have plenty of time to research and write about each one.  We have also changed a few other aspects of our contract including the addition of a Google Map (I honestly don’t know how we could have forgotten this important tool on the original draft) and a slight switching of who will be doing what. Mike will be our website guru, which is fantastic because I am not as technologically savvy as he is.  Sarah will be creating the Google Map for the site, which is important for our project because the map will allow the visitor to see the exact locations of each marker.  Ryan will be responsible for making the timeline to coordinate with each corresponding marker.  I am still in charge of compiling everyone’s bibliographies together into one main document, as well as the self-appointed historical marker photographer.  Today proved to be quite an eventful day, as I spent my Monday off down in Williamsburg and Jamestown.  All total, we have about 53 markers to get pictures of and research. So far, I have gotten pictures of about 20-25 markers.  Within the next week or so, I should be making another trip down to get the rest of the pictures and I am planning on visiting the Jamestown settlement as well to hopefully get some more information.

Group Contracts

So far this week has been very productive. Our group was able to meet on Thursday morning and we divided up each section of the contract to work on. We have everything divided pretty evenly as far as which person will be responsible for which sections of the project. Since we are expanding the original FredMarkers website to add the areas of Willamsburg, Yorktown and Jamestown, we have a lot of research to get done. To accomplish this, we have divided all of the markers into equal numbers and each of us will be responsible for certain sections. I will be responsible for compiling everyone’s bibliography into one main document and Sarah will be creating a timeline to display all of the historical markers. Mike and Ryan will be building the website to add all of our information to it.  We have made a lot of progress so far just by dividing the workload and determining which sections of markers we will each have, so now we can begin doing the corresponding research.  In our proposed contract, we failed to mention the use of any kind of a map, and I think it will be important for our project to include some form of one, just to allow the visitors of the site to see where each historical marker is located, especially if they are not familiar with the area. This week we are planning on diving right into the research that needs to be done so we can get started on building the site.

Google Maps :-)

For this week, our assignment (other than working on our group projects) was to play around with the features of Google Maps or Google Earth and try to create a map with specific destinations on it. Overall, I was quite successful with my map. I decided to use Google Maps versus Google Earth because I am using an older MacBook and I am afraid it will be too slow for Google Earth to work properly and I will not be able to experience all of the awesomeness Google Earth has to offer :( Anyways, I chose Myrtle Beach, South Carolina as the main focal point for my map and I decided to map specific places that my husband and I went to on our honeymoon this past summer. I am still playing around with it, but so far I have about 6 or 7 places that I have mapped out.

I think Google Maps is a really awesome digital tool to use, especially for my group. My group and I have decided to expand the project of Fredericksburg markers to a site dedicated to other historical markers in Virginia, namely Williamsburg, Yorktown and Jamestown. All of these areas have such a deep significance with the beginnings of this country and we think it will also be important to be able to map out exactly where these locations are. This will make it easier for those who visit our site and may not be from the area to be able to obtain simple driving directions to these markers.

Digital Tools

So this week we have been discussing various forms of digital technology and how it can help us with our projects. Zotero is a program that I had never heard of before Tuesday, but I went home and downloaded it and I have found it to be very useful! I love the idea of being able to navigate to different websites for research and this program is able to capture the site and information I am looking for and store it as if it were in a library. I am not sure of any other uses other than research that it can be used for, but I’m sure the possibilities exist. As far as the Omeka platform for a website, I thought it seemed very user friendly and easy to navigate. I like that Omeka is broken down and more simplistic for the creator use without taking quality away from the site. My group and I were really interested in the Rarebook site and the way it was constructed and we are contemplating designing our site using the same tools used to create that one.

Valley of the Shadow: I like how this site is constructed. I feel as if it is easy to navigate and find certain pieces of information one may be looking for. Although in design it seems very simplistic, it is not overdone and overall I think it is user friendly.

French Revolution: On the main page, this site breaks down for the user to either “Browse”, “Search” or “Explore” certain topics. As you click on each one, a drop down box appears and allows the user to choose a certain topic of interest. I like the idea of the drop down box because I think it adds a hint of creativity to the site and it provides ease of use as well. When you click on “Search”, it not only lets the user type in a keyword, but it provides them with a list of already generated key words and topics that they can choose from by checking the box next to it. This is a nice feature because when researching a topic, you don’t always know what key words to search for and this site provides the main ones for you on that topic.

Archives @ UMW: The general layout of this site is nice. I like that the searching abilities are broken down into so many categories and and I also like that the website features a “Highlights” section where the user can go straight to the most viewed photos or the most accessed authors or books.

The Emancipation Project: This site was probably my least favorite of all. I found it somewhat boring in design and lacking creativity. The information is there, but I don’t find the site to be very pleasing to the eye.

Guilded Age Murder: This was my favorite site that was listed. I really enjoy the interactive map because it allows the user to imagine as if they are really there. There was definitely an immense amount of time and creativity that was put into this site and it is also easy to navigate through its pages of information. For our groups project, I would love to be able to incorporate an interactive map somehow, but it may prove to be too difficult considering the number of historical markers that exist. However, we may be able to use an interactive map that merely displays the regions we are researching.

Atomic Energy and Nuclear History (Omeka based site): Not only is the information provided on this site interesting, but the display and ability to navigate easily throughout it is wonderful. It takes a lot of time to research a topic, especially for a more extensive project, and bottom line, time is a precious thing. The main draw-in to this site for me was the home page: it lists on the side bar all of the different topics it discusses and allows the user to go directly to them. As I said before, time is a precious thing to many and its much nicer to be able to go to a site and determine within a minute or two if it will be a useful source or not.