Archive for the ‘aisle 2 bin 36’ Category

Digital Portfolio

Saturday, December 25th, 2010

Since Digital Storytelling ended two weeks ago, I’ve been building my online portfolio. It’s still a work in progress. I plan to incorporate my resume, along with a few other clips and project snippets, and want to tweak the theme a little using Firebug to help me understand how to manipulate CSS.

Portfolio Megan Eichenberg

I have two text widgets on each page-an about box and internship experience sidebar. I may change these once I figure out how I want to incorporate my resume, but for now this will work. I created a blog post that links to each section of my portfolio with a brief description.

Portfolio Megan Eichenberg

Each page links to my work around the web.

Portfolio Megan Eichenberg

The special projects section includes links to Aisle 2 Bin 36 and Apropos Literary Journal.

I’m still looking into other themes and might change to one with a featured post slider. I also want to incorporate some of the work I completed in Digital Storytelling and a few other classes somehow.

Site Link

Tuesday, December 14th, 2010

My digital storytelling project is now live. I’ll have a more in-depth blog about it and my process soon.

Course Reflection

Friday, December 10th, 2010

In the weeks since registration for the spring 2011 term, I’ve lost track of how many people I’ve heard say they are taking digital storytelling, are on a waiting list or wish they had signed up to take the class.

Hearing about it so much makes me wish DS106 were part of a two-course sequence, because after 15 weeks, I only want more. I’ve never been in a college class that encourages students to think so creatively about developing content and gives such freedom to create a digital identity. In my reflection paper for my literary journal class, I said the phrase “you’ll get out of it what you put into it” is an appropriate why to put that class in context, and I think the same applies to Digital Storytelling. Yes, the workload was heavy, but you warned us about that on day one.

As a student I tried to approach assignments with the mindset that because of the heavy workload, I was picking up skills that would not only help me create a better final project, but also be useful in my future career field. In hindsight, none of the assignments actually felt like “an assignment” to me and I think that’s because with each of them, we were allowed to explore what interested us rather than being told specifically how to approach the task. You always gave suggestions to get us thinking, but made it clear we could go beyond these.

With some classes I think it’s easy to approach an assignment with an attitude of “How quickly can I get this done?” or “Why are we even doing this?” and I never associated those outlooks with DS106 because of the way the course is largely focused on the students’ process of creating, sharing and discussing content that is significant to them.

The assignments, projects and tools I enjoyed most were the ones I knew little about prior to taking the class, but craved to have more experience with in their use. I think knowing how to use tools like Audacity and work with video will help me a lot in the field I hope to pursue in the future. It was always helpful when you went over the tools in class and had us experiment with the tools in groups first. I know the both might be sacrificed to an extent in the online course, but there are ways I think that can be substituted, especially through the use of video tutorials. I know someone suggested filming the sessions of the class that meets, but honestly, that would probably make me drop the online course. I wouldn’t want to watch a 75-minute video of a regular class each week if I signed up for an online course. I’d be more interested in shorter video tutorials or screencasts walking me through a specific tool. For example, I think a screencast (or even just a post of screenshots) guiding us through switching to new webhosts at the end of the semster would have been helpful. Obviously meeting with you was a huge help, which I appreciate, but as I tried it on my own prior to meeting I had trouble following the directions and knowing where to go, click and download within cPanel.

To echo what was said in class last week, I agree a schedule of assignments would have been helpful early in the semester in addition to the syllabus, even if it were just as simple as “Week 1-Daily Shoot, Week 2-Uninteresting Audio Story, Week 3-El Mashup…” so we would have maybe known what to expect timing-wise in relation to assignments in other courses.

I really appreciated the feedback you gave all of us in our blogs and individual meetings. Honestly, I’ve never had a professor who gave the level of feedback to every student that you gave to each DS106er, and I think this is one reason why the class is such a hit. Your enthusiasm about our blogs and the course content was contagious. It was always great to receive feedback and your highlighting of classmates posts and projects always sparked my interest to explore their content more or reflect on it differently that I might have on a first reading. I know you’ve said you want to highlight individual work more next semester, which I think is great.

One area where I could have improved was in commenting. In the beginning of the semester, I was doing well with keeping up with posts and responding to their work. However, as my assignment load increased in school and work, I didn’t budget enough time in my schedule for commenting. I was visiting the site frequently and reading the majority of posts (skimming others), but my mouse didn’t always meet the comment link in the last few weeks.

Overall, I consider my experience in the class was a positive one, because I enjoy assignments that challenge me to be creative. What’s nice about ds106 is that because of it’s digital nature, the class gives students exposure to several different types of tools that at first might seem unconnected, but can really all be incorporated into one piece (like our final digital storytelling projects). The Daily Shoot Project…El Mashup…Uninteresting Audio Story…the tools associated with these are different-photography, video, audio-but each can become one component of a larger project on the web. This is something I was trying to do with my own digital story.

The Final Project was my favorite project, because for me, it gave me the opportunity to do something I love and incorporated so many of the tools we were introduced to in smaller assignments. Given such freedom to pursue and present a topic of my choice also was motivating. I constantly asked myself, “How can this story be told digitally-what tools does the digital environment provide that I might not be able to use elsewhere?” and from blogging about it to the final project itself, I think my digital project shows I put a lot of time and thought into sharing the Swope’s story.

Insert, Delete, Reinsert, Keep: My Audio Slideshow Process

Sunday, December 5th, 2010

I began seriously thinking about creating an audio slideshow for my project several weeks ago. In late October, I sent a series of tweets to Jim Groom about it. I did some research on the web to try and find a free tool that would allow me to create a quality slideshow, and just wasn’t finding anything. Before he could respond, I thought to try iMovie.

Today, after several hours of work, I completed a 1:19 second audio slideshow in iMovie that will go live on my project site in the next few days.

My process over the past month went something like this:

1. Insert photos in iMovie (November).

2. Record audio during interviews with Andy using GarageBand (Early and Mid November).

3. Transcribe audio (Mid November).

4. Think about what I wanted to quote in writing and what I wanted to save for an audio slideshow (or two). Take notes on the location of the quote in the audio file for quick reference later. (Late November).

5. Begin locating that audio in GarageBand, which is what I used to record the interviews. Curse myself for shuffling my paper a few times in the interview, making for points where a great audio quote will have to be used in print instead because the background noise was impossible to edit out. Lesson learned! Export audio as an mp3 to desktop and open with Audacity because I have more experience with Audacity (last week).

6. In Audacity, begin cutting audio into shorter clips, export them as mp3s, to insert them into iMovie (this week).

7. Insert audio into iMovie with just images. Study for other finals, realize I’d be happier still working on the slideshow. Go to sleep (last night.)

8. Wake up, play slideshow, realize I’m not happy with it. Spend four hours working on it. Add text. Return to audio interview. Delete the quotes I have in iMovie. Listen to portions of the interview again and insert a new quote, along with reinserting the quotes I just deleted (hmm, a lot like my writing process). Add text slides. Realize iPhoto 11 has slideshow options with themes. Use it to create a portion for my iMovie slideshow, export it as a .m4v file, and import it to iMovie. Play the audio slideshow; it feels complete (today).

It was time-consuming, but it didn’t feel like a chore. I like creating; it was fun to work on, and if I have time after completing the articles (goal: tonight or tomorrow night at the latest), I plan to create a second one. Edit: I’m going to alter that idea a bit. I was playing around with plugins on the site and came up with something I think will be more interesting, more interactive and fun for me to experiment with using images and audio.

“Write” On Track

Monday, November 29th, 2010

Over Thanksgiving break, I continued with the writing process of my project. With so much material to work with, I went through my typed notes and began highlighting portions from our interviews I knew I wanted to pull direct quotes from or focus on in my article. Red text areas are places I want to summarize an anecdote. Some of the areas where I left text black are points where I’ve asked Andy’s husband, Jon, a related question and want to wait to begin incorporating the details into the article until I’ve heard back from him by e-mail later this week.

Yesterday, I wrote about 1,021 words of the article, words that didn’t come easy. I am thrilled by this project: I love to write,  I love to work with WordPress and other digital storytelling tools and I take very seriously the fact that there’s a family that  is allowing me and trusts me to share their story. I want this project to be successful, not just in terms of being executed well, but also in terms of reflecting the larger theme of how a deployment affects a family.

I used to have one of those daily calendars where you rip a sheet off each day. It featured quotes, some humorous, some sad and some just stupid. Recently, I discovered one of the ten or so sheets I saved from the 365 page calendar:

I don’t mean to contradict myself. I really do love to write. I wouldn’t want to be pursuing any other career. But sometimes, with that comes an immense pressure I place on myself to constantly improve at the craft. I don’t have this feeling with anything else. When I’m not writing, I miss it.

Writing doesn’t always create happiness, but the tricky emotion that is sparked is exhilarating to me. I don’t always produce the type of piece I envisioned. Sometimes I struggle to find the right words, the right lead, the right conclusion. In a weird way, I thrive on this conflict as I work on certain types of stories and attempt to succeed in doing the subject justice. Sometimes, after a story has been published, I feel like I’ve failed in that-and then try to do better with my next article. I know I still have a lot to learn, and I’m excited by that. I don’t fear I’ll fail in my presentation of this story. I’ve invested a lot of time in it, will continue doing that this week until it’s finished, and am confident I’ll present the digital story well. Getting to that place, being able to write that, to say that-has been a process I’ve enjoyed and look forward to doing more of throughout my career.

Immersing myself in this project over the past eight weeks has been a great learning experience for me and an opportunity to consider what directions I’m capable of taking in the realm of digital storytelling. Like the quote pictured above implies, the route I chose to go with this project in terms of my writing hasn’t always been “happy,” but I enjoy the struggle. At times these past few weeks, I’ve struggled to be content with the words I make appear on the screen. I write, I delete, I rewrite, I revise. But, as I near completion on my project, that process has resulted in exactly the type of irresistible, conflicted feeling that pushes me to keep doing what I love.

Navigating Google Maps

Thursday, November 25th, 2010

Let me begin by saying I have not looked up instructions or tips on how to create a Google Map, so like many tutorials on my blog, there may be map-making techniques that make more sense than what I detail below. I just jumped in, and with a little trial and error, this is my process and my in-progress results.

After logging into your Google account, go to Google Maps and click on My Maps in the left corner. You’ll be able to create a title and description for your project. For now, I titled mine Digital Storytelling and left the description blank. This will change when I think of a fitting title and description. I checked unlisted for now because it’s not complete. I’ll embed it on my project site over the weekend once it is finished.

Initially, I was zooming in on the map with my cursor and dropping placemarks on locations. Then I realized adding a blue placemark is as easy as typing the location in the map search bar above the map, clicking on the red placemark, and selecting “Save to my Maps.”

Once I added my locations, I wanted to experiment with the information displayed with each locality. I clicked on my maps, returned to my Digital Storytelling project map and saw something very familiar…

A rich text editor similar to WordPress’ Visual editor! It’s very easy to add and format text and embed images, which seem to be the two major Google Map characteristics.

When adding a picture, it asks for the URL to an image. Unless I missed a tool, Google Maps doesn’t let you upload an image from your desktop. I added images related to my project to my wp-admin Media Library and used the resulting file URL.

The result:

Locations on a Google Map may also be accompanied with text:

I’m using Google Maps because although it’s built off of information that’s relayed in my articles, I think it offers audiences another interesting, interactive way to explore the story digitally. I reference the locations the Swopes have lived and/or served in my articles, and I think to also see these places reflected on a map and be able to read brief anecdotes or see images from the larger story as part of that map offers a compelling perspective that compliments the longer pieces of my project.

More Theme Experimenting

Saturday, November 13th, 2010

Last week I blogged about my search for the right theme for Aisle 2 Bin 36. Since then, I’ve adjusted my preferences a little bit. Originally, I was thinking about selecting a “magazine” theme. Now, I’m considering more “portfolio” style themes.

This idea actually emerged from a discussion about my Engl 314 group’s website design for Apropos Literary Journal. In my group’s search for a theme for Apropos, I’ve also found a few themes described as “portfolio” themes I like that I’m going to try out for my ds106 project.

I like these because they don’t necessarily appear like blogs intended primarily for blog entries, entail little scrolling and offer the opportunity to showcase certain elements of a project in interesting ways.

Here’s one example, using “The Unstandard” theme. One of my big challenges with selecting a theme is considering the best way to present this project using a theme.

I am thinking about using a few simple words with this theme: Read. Listen. View. Navigate…I would use the large “Featured” box as “Read,” using it to link to a page that just includes text articles since the articles are the biggest aspect of this project. Then, I could use 2-4 of the smaller boxes to showcase other storytelling options: listen (audio), view (images), navigate (google map). The sidebar would have an “About” widget explaining the project, among other features.

FotoFolio is another option. As the title suggests, it’s more of theme to showcase photography, but I think it’s still workable. Content would be linked to from the thumbnails; each article (Part 1, Part 2 and so on) and/or audio story/etc. could perhaps be linked to from a single thumbnail.

I really won’t know what works best until I start uploading and posting my project’s content on the site, which will occur over Thanksgiving Break, so stay tuned!

Digital Storytelling Tools Breakdown

Sunday, November 7th, 2010

With Aisle 2 Bin 36 in the works, here’s a current breakdown of how I plan to share the Swope family’s story digitally:

Text

Because this is a web-based project, I want to tailor my article length for an online audience. That means briefer stories, so I’ll likely have multiple articles, each on its own page, rather than one long piece on a single page.

Before I begin writing, I want to meet with Andy a few more times, so while I haven’t started writing any articles yet, I’ve been thinking about them quite a bit based on our two get-togethers in October.

I’ve also been considering my writing process. Unless it’s a very foreign topic to me, I’m not the type of writer who outlines an article or paper. Typically, when I sit down with my computer, I find the detail or part of an anecdote in my notes that interests me the most and start from that point, adding the remaining facts above and below it until the story feels complete. I’ll probably stick with this technique for this project, as everything usually “falls into place” with this method for me.

Audio

I’ve referenced The New York Time’s “One in 8 Million” series before. It’s a collection that profiles several New York City characters, from the “rookie detective”  and “uncertain gang member” to the “adoptive mother” and “type A teenager.” As an example, here’s the “grandfather.” The series has shown me how powerful coupling images with an audio narrative can be. Many stories included in “One and 8 Million” are very simple, but told in this method are quite engaging.

I want to use an audio slideshow as part of my project. At first I thought of doing just one. Then I discovered this digital story. In this section, the stories of 9 people are shared, each with it’s own image(s), text description and audio (for a single example, click here). My intent is a little different…and I’m still fleshing this out and may go with it, alter this plan, or completely kill it…but I’m thinking about doing something similar with a set of images on the site. After viewing the above mentioned story, I asked myself “Why limit myself to just one audio slideshow?” Now, I’m thinking I can have one overarching audio story showcased on the site. With other photos, I can caption them with text but also have brief audio snippets of Andy. I like this idea because it gives the audience something a newspaper can’t, the opportunity to literally hear the voice of the subject being profiled.

Map and/or Timeline

I’m interested in using Google Maps (or a similar map tool) as a way to share the family’s story, highlighting the different places they’ve lived and served. I’m not very familiar with the tool and need to do a bit more research, but from some of the better examples I’ve seen, I’m thinking I could incorporate photos and text captions for each point on the map, personalizing it to the story. As an alternative (or additional storytelling method), I’m also toying with the idea of a timeline. I’m not sold on any of the free tools I’ve found on the web to create one, so I need to look into this more.

Other

These are the main digital storytelling methods on my mind right now. I’m continuing to research and ask myself the best ways to creatively share this story digitally, so I hope to think of more techniques as the project grows.


Theme Selection: To Be Continued

Saturday, November 6th, 2010

Now that I have a name for my project, I created a subdomain on my domain. For now, the site is password protected as I blog here about my progress developing Aisle 2 Bin 36: Deployment Stories from Iraq and Afghanistan.

Since I proposed my project, I’ve been browsing magazine and news style WordPress themes. I find these types offer more engaging ways to showcase different types of content than a simple blog theme intended only for blog entries might.

First, I uploaded Arthemia, a magazine theme and started to get a feel for the look by creating test posts and categories.

Much later, after experimenting with several other themes, I discovered F8-remixed. One some sites, it’s marketed as a photography theme, but it seems as if it could also work for my purposes.  I like how the theme has a featured posts section showcased at the top of the page.

The themes look pretty bare, as I don’t have any of my content completed for posting. After spending most of the morning uploading, activating, previewing and deleting themes from Aisle 2 Bin 36, I’ve decided to hold off on making my selection until I have a large chunk of my material ready for posting. That way, I’ll have a much better idea about how the two aspects of the digital story, the theme and the content, can complement one another. I’ll reveal exactly what that content entails in my next post, about the different ways I’ll be sharing Andy and her family’s story digitally.

For now, what I do know about my future theme, is that I prefer it to be magazine style, although I’m also open to other options that require little scrolling. Basically, I don’t want the homepage of my site to look like a blog. I envision a site similar to F8-remixed, with a large featured portion at the top. Beneath that I would prefer equally sized category sections, a bit like in Arthemia, where viewers could click the headline or accompanying image, and navigate to the related page. I’m drawn to themes with featured slideshows at the top of the page, but haven’t had much luck in finding free versions that look professional. While I have a good idea of what I want, I’m having trouble finding it-so for now, my search for the best theme to showcase my project continues!