Archive for the ‘Project’ Category

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!

How to…

Friday, November 5th, 2010

Since I’ve gotten questions about how Practicum and the Education Department work, I think I’ll use this post to answer those questions.

First, you have to apply to be in the first Education class, which is just an intro class that’s meant to teach you the concepts and theories of teaching. All the elementary and secondary students are lumped together in one class so it’s also the point in which some people decide that they want to switch one way or the other.

If you decide you want to stay in the program, you take more education classes the next semester. After you finish these next classes, you have to apply for Formal Admission. The hardest part about that is actually filling out the application, which really isn’t that hard. Once you get formally accepted, then you’re in for life. :)

During this time of taking classes, you have to do Practicum. Some classes don’t have practicum, most of the ones that do require 20 hours of practicum, while 1 has 30 hours. This requirement is from the State, and you can’t pass the class if you don’t get all (or pretty darn close to) of the hours required for that class.

A little math:

If you take 2+ education classes with practicum requirements, you have to do the practicum for both classes.

20 hrs + 20 hrs = 40 hours.

Which has been my life for the past 2 semesters. But I successfully avoided taking the 30 hour class with another class that requires practicum.

If you have 2 practicum requirements, you only get placed in one classroom. Which leads me to the question of how we get placed.

The wonderful computer geniuses here at UMW created a program where all the education students can put in their schedule, number of practicum hours needed, past placements, and a nice note to Dr. McCall if they so feel the desire.

Dr. McCall then looks at all the schedules and requirements and places everyone in a practicum and with a driver if they need one. This is the 2 or 3 weeks in the semester when it is not acceptable to go to Dr. McCall and distract her from making placements. (I think this is how people get bad placements ;) ) Just kidding though, Dr. McCall is great for doing all this and we would never learn how to teach without her placing us in practicum.

Usually, she tries to make sure everyone has experience with every grade. Some classes require you to be in certain grades, like this semester I have to be in prek-2 (or3) and next semester I will have to be in one of the upper grades because of a sequence of classes I’m taking. She also puts you in the subject area of the class you are taking. If you are taking the science class, it’s best if you’re in a practicum class while they are teaching science.

In practicum, you are required to do a certain number, or type of lessons. For the science class you have to teach a science lesson.

In the Spring semester of your senior year, you apply for the graduate program and a specialization – science, math, special education, literacy, technology, social studies. If you get accepted, you get to come back another year. During this year, you do a lot of things that I don’t really want to think about right now. Sorry.

Project Update: Name Introduction

Wednesday, November 3rd, 2010

Several semesters ago, I highlighted several quotes in “Telling True Stories: A Nonfiction Writers’ Guide.” The book was required reading for a Principles of Magazine Writing course, and I eagerly deconstructed its pages with sloppy pencil marks, fluorescent orange highlight swipes and dog eared corners.

I return to these quotes now because when I proposed my project, I retrieved the book from its spot on a shelf to prepare myself for the next several weeks of researching, interviewing and reporting.

Among many, journalist Gay Talese offered this insight about nonfiction writing:

“The role of the nonfiction writer should be with private people whose lives represent a larger significance”

The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq are big, complicated stories. After a summer stint as an intern with a nonprofit that provides support to US military personnel, I read a trio of books authored by embedded journalists: Sebastian Junger’s “War”, David Finkel’s “The Good Soldiers” and Dexter Filkin’s “The Forever War.” For the most part, each of the books approach the wars by profiling the day-to-day experiences of active-duty service members while deployed in Afghanistan or Iraq.

One aspect I wasn’t seeing as much was reporting relaying how two large-scale wars overseas have been felt locally, which is where Talese’s point influences my approach to this project. If the wars and media coverage dominated from the lens of what occurs overseas is the big picture, then I’m also intrigued by the smaller picture, the, “people whose lives represent a larger significance.”

When I approached Andy Swope about allowing me to profile her experiences as someone with a deployed family member, she was tremendously welcoming, informing me she had plenty of stories about military life to share. David Halberstam, another journalist who penned an essay for Telling True Stories: A Nonfiction Writers’ Guide, urges storytellers not to “hype up” and instead, “…let the events speak for themselves,” and I think as an oral storyteller, this is something that Andy does very naturally. During our get-togethers, she’s been a very open, honest and engaging storyteller, something I’ll be working on translating into my project.

Andy’s husband, Jon, is a Marine lieutenant colonel currently deployed to Afghanistan. During the couple’s marriage, Jon has deployed four times, three of which have been combat operations.

Recently, I asked Andy to tell me about how she learned about each of the deployments, and her response detailing the most recent deployment news inspired the name of my project: Aisle 2 Bin 36: Deployment Stories from Iraq and Afghanistan.

The audio clip below features Andy sharing how she learned Jon would be deploying to Afghanistan in the spring of 2010.

Andy on Aisle 2 Bin 36

I think Aisle 2 Bin 36 uniquely reflects how seemingly ordinary moments of day-to-day life can be impacted by larger themes and “represent a larger significance,” in this case the conflict of a nation at war.

Protected: Aisle 2 Bin 36

Monday, November 1st, 2010

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Route to a Digital Story

Friday, October 22nd, 2010

I ended up at Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello this afternoon:

Will all of this scenery around for inspiration, no wonder he became known as one of the nation’s “founding fathers:”

How does this relate to DS106?

I remembered details about the estate from a visit a few years ago, so during the 40 minute tour of the neoclassical style house, I was often distracted by thoughts of my digital story.

This (welcome) preoccupation has occurred frequently in the past week. I’ve been thinking about the project often, simply because I want to: I think I’m so passionate about this assignment and digital storytelling in general because of my original delight with journalism and writing. Up until this point, my communications experience has largely been rooted in writing. I haven’t had a class with an assignment of this exact nature or such an extensive overview of digital storytelling tools. It’s the type of opportunity and instruction I’ve been craving, and with this chance to propose, develop and frame a digital story, I want to both continue doing what I know how to do well, writing, and push myself outside of my comfort zone by immersing myself in opportunities to tell the story using digital methods that are still quite new to me.

I keep asking myself, “How will I tell this story?” and as I prepare to shape it, “What digital tools are only a few clicks away?”

On the drive home from Monticello, I wrote down all of the thoughts I could remember occurring to me during the tour of the historical site, from specific post t0pic ideas to tools I want to incorporate into my project. I’ll be writing blog posts about most of these ideas in the next few weeks. I need to think over them a little more, so I’m keeping my full Digital Story To do list under wraps for now.

“Plan an article timeline: Article post deadlines” is point one on my list. I envision a series of articles (number currently undetermined), complemented by audio, images, and other tools (for example, among other resources, I am brainstorming what I can do using Google Maps in relation to my topic). I want to give myself plenty of time to focus on quality writing and editing. My goal is to begin posting the full series of articles on my site by mid November. In the meantime, here at Media Megan, I’ll be posting “teasers:” quotes from articles, images, audio clips…and be blogging about my writing process and how I’m using different digital storytelling tools (tutorials and posts on why I used a specific tool to share part of a story instead of, or with, another method).

My next point on the to do list is “Decide on Theme,” (WordPress theme) and I’ll be blogging a bit about that early next week, along with my thoughts about the tricky task of selecting a subdomain and website name. More importantly, I am writing an introductory blog post about my source and will publish this post prior to the other two topics.

you have to read the title first!

Thursday, October 21st, 2010

Preschool love. It’s crazy. In practicum on Tuesday, I walked in and this boy, we’ll call him lady’s man, had his arm around one girl and another girl was leaning on him. I heard there names many times that day in a questioning, disappointed teacher tone. At recess, one of the girls, we’ll call her boy-crazy, chased the lady’s man all around the playground yelling his name and giggling the whole time. It took all I had in me to not burst out laughing. We’ll see how long this “relationship” lasts tomorrow when I go back.

Just because I know how much Jim Groom loves clip art :)

When I got there on Tuesday, it was quiet. By quiet I don’t really mean quiet, but I mean the closest you can get to quiet with a group of 4 year olds when they are not directly being read to or taught something. They were all sitting around the carpet reading their books they had just gotten from the library. Books in their eyes are treasured things, at least I think that until they throw them at each other. Most of them don’t have access to books at home so teaching them even the simplest things such as how to hold the book and where the title is are as important, if not more important than teaching them to actually read. This being said, when one boy, in a very matter of fact tone, told the girl sitting beside him that she has to read the title first I was shocked. He was reading a version of Humpty Dumpty, I’m not sure which one, and he actually read the title. At first I felt naive that I was surprised by this fact until the teachers in the classroom were also very surprised and took no delay in writing it in the notes of achievements that the students make. :)

Not the exact version, but it works for some sort of visual

This leads me to the complete bipolar-ness of an elementary classroom. This behavior quickly turned into hitting each other, running down the hallway, jumping down the stairs, and putting straws in bananas. For a short, but wonderful, 15 minutes while I was reading them a book about the life of a pumpkin from the perspective of a pumpkin they were quiet. Then it all ended again. Until they went out and got on the bus it was pretty chaotic. Really, right before they got on the bus, the main trouble maker of the class came running down the hall to where the rest of the class was in line, failed to stop in time, and knocked 3 other kids over in the middle of the hallway.

Early Mechanics of a Digital Story

Monday, October 18th, 2010

After Jim Groom briefly mentioned our multi-week digital storytelling assignment during the first night of class, I spent my 20 minute drive home brainstorming a very rough plan for my project. We’d each just shared 30 second stories about how we spent our summer, and although I can’t remember the exact quote, a comment Groom made in response to my brief story inspired my large idea. I told the class I spent my summer as an intern with a nonprofit that provides support and entertainment services to U.S. military personnel. Groom made a remark regarding the stories people choose to share and withhold concerning their experiences with war, and his observation got me thinking about the angles from which I saw the media covering the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Upon arriving at my house, I grabbed the first sheets of paper I could find and sat at my table to transfer my thoughts from my head to a notepad-who would I talk with? What was my goal? How would we (the reporter and the source) tell these stories? These points became much more coherent when I wrote my project proposal. I also sketched a quick outline, at right, of how I envisioned the appearance of the story on the web: a magazine theme, with subject headings at the top of the page and a featured posts slideshow linking to different content: a text story, an audio slideshow, perhaps a video.

In the weeks leading up to our proposal due date, I began amassing all off my resources in one corner of my desk, at left. My background research about the wars-news articles, maps, images-went into a binder. I posted my original project notes, penned on the obnoxious celebratory stationary, on a bulletin board with other related memos. The lime post it note, “Subdomain” includes five points I’ve been considering for the website: Name, Theme, Stories, Audio and Images. While I’m still brainstorming names and browsing through magazine style themes (I’ll be blogging separately about these topics), I have been thinking about the story’s presentation.

Text, audio and images are three methods of storytelling I am certain I want to use, tools I think will have a significant impact in different ways on the audience of readers, listeners and viewers. My source, (I know that term is rather impersonal; I’ll be doing an introductory post about her soon) is not only willing to share anecdotes about her experiences with a family member deployed to Afghanistan, she’s also a very engaging, open, storyteller.

I’m a fan of “slice of life” feature articles, stories that depict exactly that: “slices,” or moments, of a person’s life, often in relation to a larger trend or idea. I’ll also be writing reconstruction pieces, documenting her family’s previous experiences with military life and deployments through writing. These are moments I didn’t observe, but can learn about by asking questions and looking at pictures, among other methods.

After being introduced to Audacity this semester, I’d like to incorporate audio into this project, most likely as one or two audio slideshows. The New York Times has some of my favorite examples of audio slideshows in their “One in 8 Million-New York Characters in Sound and Images” collection. As I mentioned before, I’m discovering how a story has the potential to become much more powerful and interesting when the element of the subject’s voice is part of the presentation. It creates a relationship between the subject and the audience that reading words on a page might not necessarily do to the same extent.

As I mentioned above, I’ll be blogging about the initial stages of my subdomain (name and theme) and introducing my source in a post later this week and into early next week.

I like your hair today, do you like mine? or I’m gonna make you look hot

Thursday, October 14th, 2010

First week of Practicum at Headstart =  overwhelming, hilarious, and messy

In all the classrooms at Headstart there are 2 teachers, 1 main teacher and 1 assistant teacher…one is intimidating enough for me. It turns out that having 2 teachers is extremely beneficial for my purposes in Practicum. When I need to talk to the main teacher about having to do a lesson or interview her (which I will have to do in a couple weeks) there is another teacher who can be in charge of the classroom while we are talking. Also, 18 four-year-olds are just a tad overwhelming. When those 18 four-year-olds come from families with incomes below the poverty line, it’s even more overwhelming. (As an aside, in order to enroll in the Headstart program a family must have an income below the poverty line. I’ll have more information on that once I actually do some real research for my Sociology paper.)

The room is also very colorful. I don’t mean the colors of the rainbow, but colors of race, ethnicity, background, and personality. Many new teachers say that they are “colorblind” and don’t treat their students differently based on race, ethnicity, or culture. As Dr. Wright as told my Classroom Management class multiple times, “It’s impossible to be colorblind.” Also, being colorblind would be doing these students a disservice. If teachers never accounted for the differences in students, these students would not be in an environment conducive to learning. If students are not comfortable in their classroom environment, they will not be motivated to learn. In the classroom that I am in and all around the Headstart building, there are labels on important things in English and in Spanish to accommodate the large number of Spanish speaking students in the school. Headstart is also all about feeding families. Not necessarily with food, but with the resources to keep healthy. They set up appointments with doctors and dentists, counsel the families in the way to receive welfare and tell them job opportunities and give them opportunities to be substitutes in the school. They also provide counseling services for the parents and the students. The goal is to get parents involved early on in their child’s education with the hope that they will then continue to be involved throughout the rest of their education.

The first day I was there I ate lunch with them in the classroom. (They always eat lunch in the classroom to give the kids an opportunity to have a “family meal.”) I ate some of the questionable chili and peaches and salad. After I was finished, the boy I was sitting next to elbowed my tray and peach juice spilled all over my pants and my hand. Good thing I wore my pants that I bought when I got a job at KFC this summer. Then the next day that I was there I was in charge of the table where the kids were painting fire trucks. Red paint. Luckily it didn’t get on me, but it got all over the table and the floor.

At the beginning of Friday, after the students got off the buses, one boy had a conversation with me about how he didn’t think that I was in his class. After I told him that I was, he said that he didn’t believe me. Then at the end of the day he came up to me and said, “I really didn’t think you was in my class, but you are.”

While they were sitting on the rug on Friday, I overheard the funniest thing I’ve heard in the whole 2 days I’ve been there. One boy leaned over behind the boy he was sitting next to and got the attention of one of the girls in the class who was playing with her hair. He the proceeded to say, “I like your hair today.” She was very polite and said thank you, then he went on to say, “Do you like mine?”

Needless to say, I can’t wait to go back tomorrow.

Extra note: This is not about practicum, but it is about another 4-year-old. Monday, I was babysitting a 19 month old and a 4 year old. While the 19  month old was taking a nap the 4 year old wanted to play with my hair. I couldn’t tell what she was doing so I said, “Are you gonna make me look funny?” Her response? “No, I’m makin’ you look hot!” My response? “What?!” She then says, “But I don’t know what that means, so don’t tell me.”

Odds and Ends

Wednesday, October 13th, 2010

Digital Storytelling Project

I’ll begin blogging about this shortly. My first post related to my topic is a work in progress right now, and my main source and I are getting together on Friday, which I’m looking forward to. As I outlined in my proposal, I’ll blog about my writing process, the creation of a unique space for the story on a subdomain and eventually post feature/”slice of life” stories/other media.

Apropos Literary Journal

Apropos Literary Journal, run by a group of seniors in the Department of English, Linguistics and Communication, is accepting submissions through November 1. I blogged about our online literary journal before, and we’ve received some amazing submissions. Check us out and see if you’re interested in sharing your writings, photography, artwork, performance art and more…


I am exporting my online portfolio from UMW Blogs and importing it to a subdomain on Media Megan. I’m mentioning this because I’ll probably blog about this process in the future. I decided to create a space for it on Media Megan because while I love UMW Blogs, I feel like the natural “next step” for me now that I have my own domain is to begin picking and choosing the content I’ve created over the past four years on several different UMW Blogs and showcasing it in one place, my domain. This includes work from my classes and jobs related to my career goals.

I know I’ll link to my domain (likely just the portfolio subdomain) on my resume, and I think having a domain says a lot to employers—we’re developing a skill set in Digital Storytelling that many employers seek. As I search for a spring internship in the communications field, the majority of postings seek a candidate with web content management and blogging experience. UMWBlogs, Writing Through Media and Digital Storytelling have given me that knowledge, the confidence to create on the WordPress platform and the desire to continue learning more about creating a digital identity.

I have an acquaintance at a Virginia university-she’s in a communications program on a public relations track. Her portfolio is on a Wix site. I’ve never used Wix before, but its tagline is “Drag and Drop. No Programming. Search Engine Friendly.” Now, I turned to Google and you can purchase a Wix plan that lets you connect your Wix site to your domain. The person I know has not done this; she has a very basic site with a Wix URL.

Does her site look pretty? Yes! Does she know what cPanel is? No! WordPress? Nope! Plugins and Widgets? No again.

While I’m a little envious at the ease she seemed to create her portfolio with and it’s attractiveness, I know with time and the selection of WordPress themes it’s possible to have a site that is as eye-catching as her Wix creation, one that makes people want to stay and click around.

What’s more, I also know she might be hurting herself in the long-run by turning to Wix, while UMW students will benefit from their time exploring WordPress through UMW Blogs. She’s not learning much by throwing up a Wix site within an hour or two, while my successes and screw-ups on my WordPress blogs have taught me much about the platform. Just look at this list of companies and federal agencies that use WordPress. Odds are, for most of us, we’ll end up in a job where we’re presented with WordPress, and we’ll know how to use it and use it well because of our collegiate relationship with UMW Blogs, while our competition may end up regretting their reliance on Wix…

Handball, and why sports here are gross

Monday, October 11th, 2010

For my first post from my project, I wanted to write an introduction as to why I chose to blog about sports nobody watches. In America, we have 4 ‘major’ sports. The way people act about sports in this country is how people listen to music in this country. There’s America’s Top 40, that everyone listens to whether they want to or not (as hard as you might try to never hear a Miley Cyrus song, it won’t work) and then anything else you have to actually make a concerted effort to find and watch. And if the sports landscape is like the music landscape in this country, then the NFL is Justin Bieber. If you watch sports, and you’re American, you can’t NOT know whats going on with the NFL. As I write this, I’m watching the Redskins-Packers game. I have watched ten minutes of actual football. The game started 35 minutes ago. I’ve seen the same commercial for the Ford Fusion so many times that if I thought buying one would shut them up, I would. While I love football (I’ve had my Steelers ‘Steel Curtain’ poster in my room my whole life) and love playing it, they have almost made it impossible to watch on TV, never mind BEING there and waiting through TV timeouts. Compared with a sport like soccer where I know I’m going to watch 45 minutes, take a 15 minute break, and then watch for 45 more minutes straight, watching 700 TV timeouts in a football game or watching a 4 hour baseball game just doesn’t seem worth it. To sum up my metaphor, I’m trying to find beautiful music in places where nobody seems to be looking.


When I talk about the sports and how they’re played, it’d be easy to just copy paste Wikipedia information, change the words, and claim it was mine. So basically what I want to do with this is tell you what I think is cool about each sport and link you to somewhere explaining everything.

My only experience with this sport is watching it during the Olympics, where I couldn’t figure out what was going on and why America didn’t even have an Olympic team. What if we just sent out the USA Basketball B squad to dominate Team Handball? They would train for like a week and then win, guaranteed. Also, another thing about Team Handball that’s awesome is the women’s leagues. The International Handball Federation has held a women’s championship since 1957. There’s even a South Korean Film about women’s handball. And for some added inspiration ladies, Russia pretty much dominates, and America just doesn’t sit by and let shit like that happen. Start training.

The best way to describe this sport is a mix of basketball and hockey. Professional matches consist of two thirty minute halves and a ten minute halftime. There are seven players on each team; six field players and one goalie. The game is played with a round ball that weighs 450 grams. You try and move the ball up the court and throw it past the goalie into the net. Players can only have the ball for three seconds after they receive the ball, and additionally can only take three steps after receiving the ball UNLESS they take a ‘dribble’ (similar to a basketball dribble) in which case they get an additional three steps (but they can still only have the ball for 3 seconds).

(This video gives you a good idea of how the game is played, especially by showing how fast they get up and down the court.)

The hardest part of the game to understand is the defense. The defensive rules are similar to basketball: if you hack someone, its a foul. If you make contact from behind or from the side, it’s a foul. Also, if you jump in front of where an attacker is going and hold your ground and he hits you, its no foul (similar to a charge). Unlike basketball though, you get an unlimited number of fouls. Committing a foul is considered a GOOD thing in many situations because it disrupts the offense and causes them to reset. This is a problem for the offense because the game is so fast and based on rhythm and counter-attacks. Stopping the play gives your defense a chance to reset and gain position on the attackers.

Scoring is by far the coolest part of the sport. It makes for awesome highlights and keeps everything interesting. Most  games have around 40 goals or more. It’s like a hockey game where the goalie is completely ineffective. No players are allowed inside the goalkeeper’s crease (a six meter area around the goal) except the keeper. However, players can jump from outside of the crease into the crease to shoot as long as they let the ball go before they hit the ground. Any other time someone enters the crease to gain an advantage, it’s a foul.

Basically, I want to play this sport whenever I can. Watching the highlights, I am immediately  interested in joining a handball league. The combination of the passing, movement, and the way the ball is scored is very intriguing to me. It’s easy to see why in the realm of sports that involve hands and balls that THIS one is called handball.

Since this was my first post, thanks for reading if you read it. Drop me some comments on how to do better/give me ideas on what else to do with this space, I know it was long but without the intro it would have been like 700 words instead of 900. Now to kind of steal my favorite blog‘s idea and give me an excuse to post cool YouTube videos, here’s a soccer goal that’s a must see from pretty recently. Enjoy.