Jenny Reeder

Prelude to a final project…
April 30, 2007, 9:01 am
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So I have something. It’s a start, but it’s up, here. I have links up, and I’ve started adding in the biographies and material culture icons on the links. There are three or four up on each page (roll over the poster), and you can keep checking back for more. I know you’ll be dying with excitement and joy.

It’s actually been quite exciting for me to figure out how to add roll-over images and text. I owe a world of thanks to Ken for showing me how it’s done on his own site and for helping me figure out my math for my relative and absolute placement. I’m still working through some issues–I think by the final I’d like to actually click on the roll-over hotspot and have a whole new page come up. I just don’t get enough room for the text I want in a complete biography when I roll over. But one thing at a time.

I feel like I’ve learned so much about design in this class–millions of miles further than I was when I first started in January. And yet as I pull together this final project, I worry that I haven’t adequately used my HISTORY. I yearn to spend more time on the content rather than the design. I want to fine-tune my footnotes and my explanations. I want to add links to other sites. I am itching to really fix the history–and yet all my energy has to be spent on the format, the design, the links, the CSS. I feel Misha’s frustration as I, too, become bogged down in the tools rather than the content. I know we have to learn the tools, but can’t there be a better balance? Now that I have a semi-functional website, is the content good? Is it appropriate? Is it accurate? What is most important?


More and more games
April 20, 2007, 1:16 pm
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After reading another round of James Gee, I must admit, I’m STILL not convinced that video games are the ideal learning scenario. After our class discussion, I realized that we do need to understand the draw of video games–rewards, the interactivity, the multi-layered approach–and figure out how to apply that to other educational opportunities. I recognize that video games appeal to some people and that we can tap into that appeal. So I read Gee with the hope of figuring out application. Unfortunately, Gee follows the same trajectory in this article as he did in his book. The underlying idea is that classrooms force learning or dumb things down, while video games empower learners by customizing identity, manipulating tools and knowledge, and providing authenticity and a sense of accomplishment. School is still seen as the big bad, boring, punishing authority which ruins education.

Gee does provide some insight into the learning style of some websites: the trigger of deep investment and time, the cycles of expertise, the empowerment of readjustment and situational use. He does not, however, link these skills with education. He simply presents them as binary differences. Unless there is a connection, I see little value.

On the other hand, Niall Ferguson’s article, “How to Win a War,” deals more profoundly with the connection of games and the study of history. His argument was slightly more persuasive to me–that history can be revitalized with technology. However, I believe that players must have a strong base knowledge in order to really succeed. They need to know the implications of the different countries, their politics and history, in order to take control and make decisions. This requires learning outside and previous to the game experience. Go school!

The latest attempt…
April 17, 2007, 11:30 am
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Here is my latest attempt at my design assignment. I’ll probably update often throughout the afternoon and evening up until class, but I’d love your comments before then. Thanks!

It’s all in the design…
April 16, 2007, 8:30 am
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I have to admit it: I’m actually having fun with this design assignment. I can say that now before I’ve gotten into the headache of actually figuring out my errors and positioning and stuff. I’m just enjoyed sketching out my ideas, playing with backgrounds, colors, and fonts, and talking to people for feedback. I am grateful for the assistance of Laura with my background sunbeam (we’ll see how well it turns out when I actually figure out how to get it in!), and after countless hours of pouring over fonts, I think I found the right one… we’ll see how it all turns out. I will upload soon.

I’ve enjoyed exploring other students’ attempts with comments here: Jennifer’s Sputnik page, John’s Pearl Harbor page, and Bill’s combat page. I know I need to get my page up for comments, but for heaven’s sake, one thing at a time!

I choose my own interactivity…
April 9, 2007, 2:24 pm
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I’m a huge believer in interactivity. I buy into Web 2.0 and its blessings on the twenty-first century. I love the idea of opensourcing and networking. But I also like to pick and choose my own interactivity. I was intrigued with Laura’s reaction to the readings and site visits. I posted my comment to her blog here. I liked what Karin had to say about transferring skills used in Myst design to virtual museums.

That said, I’ll admit it: I’m not a fan of video games. Don’t get me wrong: I love playing cards–I can play a mean game of Nertz and I’ll be honest: I love Canasta. I also enjoy an occasional game of online Sudoku. But I am not a believer in video games. I went into my reading of James Paul Gee’s What Video Games Have to Teach Us with this attitude, and I’m sure it colored my opinion of the book. I found myself right there with the grandfather who questioned the six-year-old playing video games–I, too, responded with “Quit wasting your time!” And I honestly never recovered. I did learn that there are several different ways to learn, and that video games can provide a different learning environment, but I just don’t buy into the transfer of cognitive skills to the classroom or into life. I want to see a study that actually transfers these skills into some other genre beyond video games.  (In all fairness, I did mention my opinion to a orthopedic resident friend of mine yesterday, and he convinced me that video games can improve motor skills for laproscopic surgery.) And maybe it’s partly because I’m just not very good at video games–my eight-year-old nephew can beat me at Mario Kart any day. But I really don’t care. I want to spend my time on something where I can see an end result beyond listing my name as a top scorer. I want to show something for my time–even if it’s an intelligent conversation. See my reactions to Maureen’s post here.

That said, I think it comes down to the fact that there are several different kinds of learners, and just as many different means of interaction on the web. I think interaction can also link academic interests, or art, or music, or quilts for that matter. There is a different niche for everyone–and video games is just one example. As for me and my time, I choose others.

Information Architecture: The Art of Science or Science of Art
April 2, 2007, 11:37 am
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I think I’ve finally figured part of the slightly overwhelming Information Architecture o nebulous aesthetic design out. I think it’s a mix of art and science, or as Luke Wroblewski says, “how visual information communicates with your audience.”

I love how Laura described her reaction to Steve Krug’s book as quick, active, and impatient. I, too, appreciated his frank, honest approach to how people really use websites, and how we can come to a quick understanding. I love his point that often we expect web users to be all the same, and to be like us. We need to account for more variety in our designs. And we need to take the time to account for our audience.

Now the Art-Science connection. Jon raises an important question about aesthetics in his blog. I think it’s a blend of sound principles–as outlined by Robin Williams and John Tollett in their design principles. They define such concepts as Alignment, Proximity, Repetition, and Contrast. Contrast provides a whole world of importance. I think Bill raised an interesting question about the use of color in his new blog design. While I applaud his efforts to keep things simple, I wonder if using black and white only below his headline detracts from the beauties and abilities of the web. Robin Williams and John Tollett encourage contrast in several different ways, and I think subtle color is extremely helpful. My comments are here. I also think it’s an understanding of the time period from which we are working–really demonstrating our knowledge of the colors and images and typeface. I love the concept of blending them all together.

March 24, 2007, 4:46 pm
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So I’ll be honest. I am a bit frustrated with the Screen Reader Simulation. Not only was it a pain to download the Shockwave plug-in (I ended up having to do it manually–and it always worries me to have to check my age, like something nasty is going to pop in if I’m over 18), but then my keyboard commands didn’t work. I tried it five or six times. I can understand the frustration blind people have in using programs that aren’t entirely compliant, or that don’t make sense. It’s a whole different experience.

That said, I have come to believe that we can do some very simple things to facilitate accessibility.  Mark Pilgrim’s Dive Into Accessibility provided a helpful explanation of several individual disabilities–which made real people from the terms defined by Paul Bohman. Pilgrim lists several things that I think are completely do-able–like adding meaningful metadata, such as additional navigational aids, titles to links, and listing the doctype and language. I do have an issue with his suggestion to NOT force links to open in new windows. I appreciate having a new tab or window so I can easily refer back to my previous page without losing it somewhere in a back button search. I know this documentation was written in 2002, and I wonder if things have changed at all with more current browsers. Perhaps I am now accustomed to Firefox and the various tab features. I’m curious to know how this little rule works these days.

I was also intrigued with the suggestions Pilgrim makes that also benefit Google searches, such as adding meaningful titles to each page and presenting the main content first. I admit it–the Google appeal is great.