Friday, December 17, 2010

final reflective blog post

This semester has been a good one. I've broken a bit out of the regular format of a class - unorthodox tests, assignments, and discussion sessions have all added to this.

Historical Context

I've been glad that our historical content has been basic, straightforward, and rooted in discussion of the themes and topics and what they represent. The context of this class might be different, since the time period we cover is so much temporally closer to our own time than other Civ courses, but I felt that I was able to better internalize the concepts as a result of discussion. The focus of the class was on questions like, what do you think? How does this change your life? While I also enjoyed my other Civ class, that class helped us learn material through the motivation of very difficult tests which required intense study, while this class helped us learn material through the genuine interest and direct application to our own lives.

Computing Concepts

I've also learned a lot about computing concepts. I get teased sometimes for not knowing much about computers (but I also think it's secretly because the guys want to show they can help me) but this class really broke it down to an appropriate level for my background. I'd heard of a lot (not all, but a lot) of the ideas we covered, and I finally felt like they were explained, instead of taking for granted you were already familiar with them! This was great, a vast improvement over my one experience with a computer science class in high school where the teacher genuinely lacked the ability to break the concepts down for his students. That class was frustrating because I could tell the teacher really did want to teach, and really did want to help us, but he just wasn't sure how to articulate concepts at such a basic level. In this class, I felt this wasn't a problem at all and I was grateful for this confidence-boosting aspect.

Digital Literacy - consume, create, connect

I've used concepts in this class in other areas. I showed Prezi to my fellow physics majors (apparently some major fields are just more familiar with it - my friends in psychology think it's old hat but no one in my physics department had heard of it before). I'm actually planning to apply some of the research from my medical support group evaluation project to my Relief Society calling and perhaps make a blog with an interactive calendar so that people have easy access to know when events are. Making sure they check it is another thing, but this way at least if they lose the handouts they can check online to see when events happen. It's a work in progress and my presidency and I will discuss it further, but it's a real possibility.

Dr. Burton wanted to know if I would continue blogging in the future. That's something I've thought about. The concern is, what would I write about? I don't have anything I feel passionately enough about to want to spread my ideas to the rest of the world only accessible via the web. I also appear (judging by the discouraging lack of comments on this blog and on a personal blog I tried a few years ago) to not even be funny enough to lighten someone's day. If I don't have awesome ideas to share and I can't make someone laugh, what's the purpose of writing? There's more stuff on the web which isn't of use to anyone. It's embarrassing to me how boring my personal blogging is; when I tried it before, it revolved almost exclusively around school and how excited I was when I got assignments done. I mean, that's what I focus on in my life right now. But no one wants to hear about that.

Perhaps one day this will change. Perhaps one day this will be the best way to spread ideas, spread a concept, make people think, teach. Perhaps one day I will have the talent to write to make people laugh. Perhaps one day I'll struggle so much with keeping in touch with my family that they will even be glad to hear the boring things about my life. Perhaps this will happen in the future. But not today. Today, when I want to talk, I am going outside to talk to my friends. Life 3.0.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

do you know what's going to be awesome?

It's going to be awesome when I don't have enough space on my computer screen to see all the things I want to see at once, and I just click it and pull it off the screen and it appears in the air so I can see multiple screens at once.

Technically I have a second monitor that could be used as a screen, but frankly I haven't figured out how to set it up yet because it needs a flat surface and I can just put my laptop on my lap. I would be too worried about knocking it over because I so rarely sit at a desk while I'm on a computer. (Imagine, back in the day they thought computers would never be small enough to fit in homes.)

In any case, that would have been super useful for the purpose of today's blog post, which is to nominate a few blog posts which have exceptionally demonstrated the Learning Outcomes of this class. I really want to pull everyone's blogs out, compare them all at the same time without having to switch screens, and slowly narrow them down from there. But until this technology is available, I'm going to have to sift through blogs only seeing one at a time and having my tab space fill way up. It'll be OK though, guys. Somehow I'll make it through.

My votes:

Computing Content: I like this post by Trevor a while back. I remembered it because I have Windows 7 but was unaware of some of the features demonstrated in his video. I thought it was straightforward, stuff that was easy to remember, useful conveniences, and tools that were useful for many potential readers.

Self-Directed Learning: I first read Madeline's blog when I was assigned to evaluate her work, but I really liked this post. Although I understand math myself, I feel there is sort of an intuition about art which naturally evades me, and I find it very interesting to see someone examining math from the opposite point of view - not understanding the beauty that math brings, but taking her natural artist and trying to describe math with it. I found that very intriguing and something to ponder, since it is such a different point of view than my own and is very well-written and described.

Historical Context: I also liked this post by Sarah because it addressed modernism and how strange it is. I remember from the first Civ class I took that even artists from an earlier period were deliberately designing and painting things strangely, disproportionate on purpose, as a sort of revolt to the focus on Realism, but I feel that this sort of artwork has taken off to greater influence today. She discusses Modernism in this post, and also addresses the question (which I think is funny) of how "modernist" art isn't really contemporary, and there is also a post-modern movement. Isn't modern by definition the currently happening thing? Ah, art. I shall never understand why some people characterize you as they do.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

the reading today is totally related to my final project


But first, this is awesome.

Go there.

I'm not kidding. Now.

This is not actually related to anything, but it is hilarious and will take less than two minutes of your time and I was encouraged to put more media in my blog. Although this is not in my blog because no embedding code was provided for it, you will still appreciate it, guaranteed.

...Back to class material, the reading IS actually directly related to the historical contextualization part of our project, which I just happened to write and so is stuck a bit more in my head than most people, I would imagine.

Our historical contextualization has to do with how back in the day, print revolutionized how people could come together. Making text more accessible to the general public, although still expensive, allowed groups to spread their ideas and thus to group together to get their goals accomplished, in religion and politics, for example. (Martin Luther is obviously a prime example of this.)

Now that text has become even MORE accessible and relatively inexpensive for people to publish and spread their ideas, a similar thing is happening, except it now seems that groups are being formed for less vital things (banding together groups of people who share your ideas to accomplish a goal is more important in politics than in literature, for example), which opens up a whole new way of thinking about things.

We look at medical support groups and often there are support groups for diseases which aren't common, so people who are not close together geographically can still share their experiences. Support groups, while important psychologically and emotionally, are not vital to overcoming a disease, so they seem to be more a result of this online accessibility in many ways. Many more groups can be formed, and they can learn from each other. How great!

This relates to the reading because it talks about the organization of information, how people are banding together with shared interests, goals, and/or situations over the Internet, etc. It's interesting to see. And now we have a good reason to investigate and observe this phenomenon, and compare our observations to others'! What a good deal.

Update on project: Well, I've evaluated 5 sites. I need to compile the trends I see everyone noticing so that I'm prepared to share it with my group tomorrow, but my concern with that is that it's currently very late at night, so I will probably do this in the morning. I am OK with this since then it will be fresh in my mind at the time when I discuss it with my group! Whoo! I will see you all tomorrow! Come to class yay

Sunday, November 28, 2010

information overload!

Quotes from the reading:
"We have be-come irrevocably involved with, and responsible for, each other."
The Medium is The Massage,   24
"One of the effects of living with electric information is that we live habitually in a state of information overload. There's always more than you can cope with".
Marshall McLuhan, The Best of Ideas, CBC Radio, 1967
These statements really resonated with me.

First of all, now that we have the current communication technology, there's no way to avoid hearing about people's problems (unless you actively turn it off, or actively refuse to participate - else it just is in your face all the time). Globally, we also have the ability to provide for each other in a way possibly unprecedented in human history. So, now that we know about the problems and have the capability to fix them, we really ought to be doing that. Hmm.

I also totally agree with the second statement! That has been a problem sometimes for me in this class - so much information, so many blogs, so many ways I can get lost in the Internet doing outside reading for this course. This has been a concern for me recently for sure!

This relates pretty directly to my final project. Researching the effectiveness of medical support groups, we recognize the help these groups can provide for those who are suffering through an illness and their family members. And yet, sometimes there is so much information on the internet that it is often organized in a decidedly unhelpful manner, and can be too much to wade through for the busy lives of so many individuals. We hope to, in some small way, decrease this concern for these groups and fix it! Make it better! Help these organizations help people more effectively. What a good plan, eh?

Tuesday, November 16, 2010


I looked up materials science because technically I do materials science research and I have yet to figure out what all the hoopla is about. (Don't tell my research prof... but I'm switching projects soon anyway :)

Turns out materials do a bunch of cool stuff. A lot of the things we're able to do in our lives, and apparently many kitchen conveniences, are only possible due to development of new materials.

Something I learned about beyond our reading for today was in the APS (American Physical Society) newsletter I received today. It discussed the development of graphene - a Nobel Prize was awarded to two men for "ground-breaking experiments" on graphene in 2004.

In case you are unaware of the properties of graphene, it is a sheet of carbon atoms one atom thick. It is incredible that such a material is able to be made. The article discusses how graphene "is both the thinnest material ever created while stronger than the world's strongest steel". How's that for a claim? How incredible!

In case you would like a real-life example to compare the strength to, I will quote the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences' analogy: "In our one meter-square hammock tied between two trees you could place a weight of approximately 4 kg before it would break. It should thus be possible to make an almost invisible hammock out of graphene that could hold a cat without breaking."

That's absurd! This material, one atom thick, could be tied over three feet with no supports between and hold a cat. Now that's an achievement, to be sure.

There are lots of new materials out there which are highly useful and relevant even to everyday lives. I'm grateful for these developments and have gained a newfound appreciation for materials science research while studying for this day's lesson. Awesome!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

peer evaluation - Madeline Kaye

Madeline does such a good job of blending her historical content with other concepts that I find it difficult to break her blog apart the way I did mine.

Madeline uses historical concepts to describe computing concepts, and math to show art. She admits that the technical section is not her forte in the same way art and history are, but connects math to her strengths sufficiently to show that she is trying to learn and relate these harder or less-interesting concepts to subjects she finds a more natural interest and ability in. She writes succinctly and carefully and is neither too wordy nor too prosaic. It is evident that she is both reading the material assigned for class and also doing outside research for the subjects on her own. It was certainly a pleasure to read her blog.

The only thing I was looking for in a blog for this class which I did not find is multiple digital labs. I believe we are supposed to do two/grading period (if a grading period is marked as between midterms) and I only saw the one for the book club. Perhaps she already did extra labs during the first grading period, in which case this isn't a concern. However, as this is the only thing I noticed amiss on this blog and the writing is excellent, great job, Madeline!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

November reflection post

1. Historical content, eh?

Interestingly, although the comments from the professors have indicated that most people have been focusing on the computing concepts for this class, I feel as though more of my blogs have been aimed toward understanding the historical understanding. Typically I understand broad concepts in history, but remembering details doesn't work as well (unless it's particularly interesting trivia), so although I've studied these things before, I always learn something new and interesting. Overall, I feel as though I'm doing pretty well with the history.

2. Computing concepts

Many of the computing concepts seem very straightforward to me. Some of the recent stuff with basic number theory and cryptography I'm already familiar with, and so much of it is based on logic that it's fairly intuitive. I feel as though I pick up the things in class fairly well and fairly quickly, and so I often spend more of my time on the history - I feel as though once I understand a concept (at least at the level we're learning here) I got it, and so it's more worth my while to spend time on the history, when I may not remember it as readily and will likely have less incentive to learn it in the future (computing concepts are often more DIRECTLY applicable to my current life, although it's nice to be able to discuss history with my friends upon occasion).

3. Self-directed learning

I also feel as though I'm doing all right on self-directed learning. When I don't understand a concept with the given reading, or something I read intrigues me more than normal, I go out of my way to search for more information about it to understand the concept or event more thoroughly. The dangerous part of this is getting lost in interesting research for far more time than one had budgeted for!

Something that I've really liked about the class this section was the class on Mormonism and digital culture. I set up my own account with LDS Simple Acts and shared it with Ward Council - several people seemed really excited at the prospect of being able to upload your own Mormon Ads and Mormon Messages. I was grateful for the opportunity to spread this service possibility and utilize new technology to help spread the gospel. It's pretty awesome, that's for sure!