At the Finish Line

May 6, 2007

The Finish LineNow that the final seconds of HI697 are ticking away, I am supposed to do a self-assessment. This is a new one, since students usually write reviews on the instructor at the end of the semester. I’ve decided to put mine here in what will probably be the last blog entry for a while. I wrote in accordance with the format, so the following might seem a choppy. But hey, Ive been on the road for over a week, it’s after 10 and I’m tired.

I had to miss two classes due to business travel, but I compensated by contacting Paula ahead of time and making arrangements to have my project site ready to be reviewed. I would like to think that my class participation was good – I tried to speak up when I had a point, get to that point quickly and then get out of the way for the others. I wasn’t able to work face-to-face outside the class with other students, but I did communicate through blog comments and e-mail. We did some cross-talk before and after class as well, especially in the hall while waiting for the class door to open. My class preparation was not well balanced at first. My plan was to skim the readings for comprehension, and then go back and concentrate on parts that applied directly to the assignment I was working on at the time. I ended up focusing on the assignments; especially since I followed a couple of dead ends couldn’t get a domain established until Feb 22nd. Once I sorted that out, I was better able to balance my class preparation.
I wrote blog entries generally once a week. I think I wrote good, concise and readable entries and usually had a few comments. My work on the assigned reading is addressed above. My first assignments were effected by my troubles establishing a domain. Those of us who took Clio Wired last fall did not establish domains then, and we had to deal with that while learning CSS and Photoshop at the same time. I expended a lot of effort on my Image assignment, but by the time I decided that my original images weren’t the best ones to use as colorization and restoration subjects, it was too late to start over. In retrospect, I wish I could have done the whole assignment over again using different originals. I’ve stayed with the same theme for all my assignments since the CSS page, but I’ve added improvements and new material to each one.
Regarding improvements, I think I caught on to HTML coding quickly and feel very comfortable with writing and debugging. I would like to think that I had a good natural “eye” when it came to design, but the class material gave me more structure. I also think I gained some insights regarding methods and reasons for communicating history, which has been a recurring theme since I started this program.
The major technical problems I encountered are outlined above. These caused a lot of frustration during the first half of the semester, and there were times that I thought I would tank the whole class. Once I cleared these hurdles, I realized that I needed to worry less about grades and more about what I was supposed to learn. I don’t know if there was anything I could have done differently to avoid these false starts and frustrations – in fact, if I had sailed through the class I think it would have had less impact. I would give future 697 students the following advice: (a) don’t go into the class without already having a domain. Get one on the Mason cluster and download their FTP. (b) Don’t overdo the image assignment. Use separate images for each skill rather than trying to use all the skills on one image. Use portraits as opposed to landscapes – colorizing skin tones are hard, but not as hard as sky or foliage. (c) For the project, find an existing web site with a format and structure you like and model yours after it.
I don’t know exactly how I will directly apply what I’ve learned in this class in the near term, but I’ve already showed my wife and sister (both teachers) some of the sites we reviewed and we’ve had some great discussions as to how these could be used in their respective classes. The indirect applications are already apparent. I’ve been a digital data miner for a while now, and now I have some more things to consider when I’m looking for and at historical sites.

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