Learning Essay

These past two quarters I have had to push myself out of my comfort zone. Besides the fact that I had come to a new place and have had to adjust to my new surroundings, this class took me by surprise. This Writing in New Media class was not what I had expected; I thought we were going to focus more on our writing styles and how it pertains to modern media. I thought we were going to be babied and instructed all of the way. I thought that we would have graded homework assignments everyday for class and have tests that I could just study for a couple days in advance to secure my A. Boy, was I wrong.
  
 At the beginning of the fall quarter, I thought that this class was not going to be much work. The first week and a half was just class discussion, which I am pretty good at. Marc seemed like the kind of professor that just went with the flow (which he does all of the time, in a good way!). I thought that it would be just discussion the entire quarter and then a final test at the end. I felt like this class was just going to be an easy A. But after we started to work on our website and learn more about KompoZer, I realized I had a lot of work ahead of me. I felt behind in the class curve because a large majority of the class seemed to have a good handle on the inner-workings of the computer. I would consider myself someone who does not know her way around a computer. I can email, go on Facebook, and download music off of Itunes, but that is pretty much it. After starting the first hypertext the first quarter in the fall, I realized that this was not your average freshman core class. This really scared me. I was expecting a typical college class format. I am good at studying for tests. I excel in the classes that have two midterms and a final determine your grade for the entire 10 weeks of the quarter. But for this class, we were on our own most of the time. At first that was a huge problem with me because I thought I would not be able to create the technology without the professor instructing us the entire step of the way. And the fact that this class had no graded homework assignments or participation grades, I thought that it was going to be a long two quarters. But because I was forced to do the work on my own I excelled and learned more than I would ever learn by just being told how to do it and given guidelines on how to get an A. I still have a lot to learn about computers and technology (the main reason I am not good at working with computers is because I have never been interested in learning it. Because of this class, I was forced to be interested and it did not matter if I was not a computer engineering major or a political science major, I had to care about computers and the structure of websites these past two quarters.

Yes, we did have Gloria come in and teach us how to use KompoZer. But the night before the first draft was due, I felt so screwed. I literally had no idea how to put words onto a website and publish them onto the internet. But I forced myself to learn the program the night before the draft was due. It was probably the best thing that I could have happened to me. I never would have really learned how to work KompoZer if I was not forced to. I now know how to work the program and manage the different networks on the internet that we were required to learn about.
   
In the fall quarter of 2011, I learned how to create a functional website. My first two projects of the quarter were not my best work. I felt that I did not put as much effort into it (especially my second project) and it definitely showed. I had no idea what I was doing, design-wise. I was not sure what direction I wanted to go with my website. With all of these different ideas and concepts running through my brain at one time; it made it difficult to create a clean, neat, and influential website. My first project was adequate, considering it was my first project, but I knew I could do better. My color scheme was one of the major problems. The colors were too bright and childlike, which is what I was going for at first, but after I submitted the project, I felt that it took away from the content of the site. And because I kept changing my direction throughout my process, the information was solid, but seemed very high school. It was not at university-level intellect. After my first project, I realized that it was essential that I knew the ins and outs of KompoZer and to have a direction for my subject as soon I started the hypertext.
So for my final project, I looked at the websites of Aldo Altienza and Clare Batty for inspiration. It took me a long time to decide a layout for this hypertext. I had many different drafts and formats before I decided that I was going to go with a clean and neat layout that reflected a whole different hypertext from the first two. I decided to lose the huge toolbar at the top of the page and settle for a top and bottom toolbar that would only have pages necessary for that particular section. I also researched the topic in more depth, unlike the second project where I just looked at the basic facts on the sites and did not dive in deeper to other subjects and issues that regarded this matter.
    
The main issue was I did not truly understand what made a great website. I made the website easy for computer illiterates like myself and that does not make a good website. By the end of the 2011 year, I feel like a good grasp on how to make an excellent. I am proud of my final project of the first quarter because I finally understood how to structure a website effectively. Throughout the first quarter, after each project I took all of my peers and teacher’s comments into account and tried to fix whatever criticisms they made on my projects. The biggest criticism on my first two projects was my layout so for my final project, I tried to make the layout more sophisticated and clean.
   
The difference between the two quarters was enormous. During the first quarter I knew what was going to be happening each week. After the first project I knew that there would be two more and then that would be the end of it. But after each assignment during the second quarter, I still had no idea what to expect. I probably should have looked at the syllabus, but I really did not think it through that much. The winter quarter also took me out of my comfort zone starting with the comic strips. In general, I am not a clever person. I do not think of witty comments or sharp comebacks when a douche insults me. I am the type of person who envies the humorous and craft individuals who know how to make people laugh. So I actually worked pretty hard on to make decently funny comics. My proudest comic was probably where I tied the topic and issues of Little Brother with the issue and controversy of how they treat the prisoners at Guantanamo Bay Prison. I did like the book, Little Brother, even though it had some issues and there was such obvious propaganda. It was easy to read so I did not mind reading it as homework. I thought it was a cool book to base our entire quarter on.
   
And the hypertext I created this quarter really pertained to some of the issues that my generation faces. I feel like many kids can relate to my hypertext and I feel like the kids who at first did not agree with my proposal will after reading and looking through my hypertext. Also, I enjoyed reading Little Brother, but there were some issues that I had with the novel. First off, I believe that the author did not give the antagonist, Charles, enough credit. He was portrayed as an uptight prude who loved to get people in trouble. He was the avatar of all of the kids in this world who follow the rules and listen to authority. I really had a problem with this. I could be considered a “prude” at school because I do not use the phrase, “F*ck the Police,” or “I hate the government.” Yeah, I do not agree with everything the government is doing or does (especially with all of the reproductive rights the Republicans are trying to take away). But I do not think that the government is out to hurt us. They do not intentionally try to hurt America with their laws and policies. They do what they do because they are trying to make America a better country and a powerful country. So I really wanted to make a hypertext that showed Cory Doctorow that the youth trusts the government and it is not a bad thing. I feel that I did an effective job on designing this particular hypertext because, not only had I finally conquered how to create an effective and neat design, I wrote insightful details and contributions about the topic.
   
And then came the movie making process. That was very frusturating. Our group was very lucky that Ryan Tsao was in our group because he knew his way around computers. We all worked hard to make sure that it was a good and effective website, but he put our ideas into action. We had to find ways to work together as a group and try to figure out how to fit this project into our busy lives and into the horrors of dead week. We had to go in more hours than any other group and I believe that it really showed. It showed that we put the most effort into this assignment. We put together a good project and I honestly believe that it was the best-made project in our class. It had the best story (thanks to Mr. Anthony DeCosta) and our scenes were clean and sharp. None of the dialogue was out of place and the music really created a certain ambiance to the movie. I am really proud of our movie. Yeah we made sacrifices and if we had more time and resources the project could have been even better, but with everything we were given, I believe that we pulled it off.
    
Overall, I feel like I have learned so much more from this class than any other class this quarter. The fact that I, Maggie Roe, am now able to make a decent and fully functioning website, create funny and politically-aware comic strips, and create a movie using Second Life proves that I have progressed as a computer-user. I started out as someone who did not fully understand how to work her printer to a person who can pull off making a well-thought out and informative website with clean layouts and designs.
    I think it is fair to say that I learned a lot from this class. Besides learning how to work KompoZer effectively, I have learned how to research at a college level and I have now developed high-level computer skills. I learned how to write a literature review and make an original contribution to a topic I had never really researched in depth before. Even this learning essay has made me reflect and learn about this class. I now feel comfortable to go onto other computer classes and excel at whatever technological projects they assign to me.
   
I feel like I learned that I cannot just study for a test and expect to get an A. This was a class that made me be creative even if I think I am not. It does not matter if I am used to other people thinking of the witty and funny comments. I had to be the one to think of the insightful and thought-provoking topics. That is much harder than passing a test. It challenged me to be better. It made me look more into what it means to educate a student. Learning facts and being tested on it does not mean that a professor is a good instructor. By making us think and put our words and the teachings into a thought-provoking project, I had to learn more and retain the information. I am really happy I took this course. I am not just saying that because my professor is reading this. I actually mean it. I learned a lot and it shows in the progression of my work and my new understanding of the internet and what it means to be an insightful and intelligent writer in the virtual world. Nothing is hidden and not important when it comes to the internet. It will be seen by someone and somewhere down the line it come back to bite the writer in the ass, for better or for worse.

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