When Dr. C mentioned a META Team, I had no idea what he was talking about. I was wondering what “meta” even meant and how it applied to me or this class or education in general, I was clueless. But, I enjoy a challenge and this class proved to be one of those challenges. Therefore, I took a leap of faith and joined with two other graduate students who I have come to respect very much. In the beginning, we were trying to find our footing. There was no previous data or projects go upon. There wasn’t even much of a mission statement or goal other than to be “participating observers”. The goal that we came up with was to be organizers. We would make sense out of material that has so many different avenues of explanation and opinions. It was a task that seemed daunting at the time, but looking back we embraced. We discussed at several of our biweekly meetings what we wanted to do and how we wanted to approach the project. We even met with our librarian, Rebecca Miller. She gave us some fascinating background about what angles the class had been taught at before, be it only undergraduates, only graduates, etc. She explained that there were class themes that each class would constantly go back to and how it was interesting that each group of people who took the class saw the material differently. This reassured us of our goal to make sense out of material that could be taken so many ways. However, we were still unsure as to what to make of it.
At some point, Jake mentioned a pretty cool website that made these things called “wordles”. When he showed them to me I was instantly drawn to them. I’m a very visual learner and I was anxious to try them out. So, I used them in my seminar presentation of Alan Kay. Dr. C seemed to really enjoy them. At the time I thought they were just a cool visual aspect that would get the class talking since I had no previous notions of what a seminar presentation should be like. But, now I think that they can have much deeper meaning than just words in pretty colors, which I hope you all will witness with the launch of our META Team website.
After getting such a positive reaction from Dr. C in class, we met again. We weren’t sure how we would use them, but we thought that maybe it would be cool if we could do a web of hyperlinks within a wordle, allowing people to move from a wordle to our blogs and tweets. We were envisioning something so much smaller than what we will be presenting tomorrow; at least in my head it was not as intricate. But, it was an idea. So, we pressed on and continued to bounce ideas off each other throughout February, making progress in class by participating in group discussions, blogging, and tweeting as much as we could. Finally, we met and came up with something of substance, a physical project that we could present to the class.
I managed to connect my personal endeavors to the project. I had been vigorously working on my own personal/professional website, an attempt at branding myself for future employers as well as an eager family audience. It’s a place called Wix and it turned out to be the foundation of our project. I showed them my website and they seemed to like what I had done. They trusted my opinion and we decided that it would probably be easy enough to add wordless to a website. Also, we thought it only fitting to use the internet to explain how we learned about the internet while using the internet in a class with internet in the title. So much recursion. Therefore, our main structure was to combine the aspect of the wordles and the website. But, how to do that and do it well? Well, I’m not quite sure who came up with the idea- this entire project was so equally managed and collaborative- but we decided to divide the material up in to authors and themes. Our thought process centered around our main objective, which as I’ve stated before, is to be organizers and sense-makers. In a class with so many components over the internet and so many possibilities for human interaction, there was a lot of material to work through and organize. As participators, we wanted to use our experience to make more sense of a class that had a lot of information and grey area. So, authors and themes seemed to not only utilize the structure Dr. C prescribed by dividing the class in to very physical chapters but also utilized the natural connections made by our class throughout the semester.
So, we began the process of constructing a website out of nothing in the beginning of April. Our ongoing work had previously been divided between the three of us at one of our first meetings. Because we could not figure out a way to archive the blogs in one feed I simply copy and pasted them periodically throughout the semester. I would divide the blogs up by author and then make a wordle for them. These were all saved in word documents and were extremely useful when it came to creating the actual website. They also gave us visual confirmation of what we thought the class was thinking at the times that those authors were discussed. Jake created an archive for our tweets so that we could reference those later on in the semester as well. We continued to monitor that and it turns out we have all of them saved from when he began the process which I believe was in early February. Matt was to begin thinking about the themes. He was in charge of monitoring class discussions with his speaker and slowly breaking down the class in to subcategories that he would then later make in to wordles as well. So, throughout the semester when we met they were brief meetings. In mid- March we still did not have a full grasp of what we wanted to do in regards to details of the website.
As I said before, we began the process of picking out a layout and creating the website in early April. Because I had previous experience manipulating wix and using their templates, I took on the role of transforming the pre-made template in to a META Team website. But, before I go in to that let me give you some background. In order to have a website from wix you have to have an account. They’re free but you need one. I thought we could use mine since I already have one and you can make multiple sites from one account. But, the email on the account would be included in the url of the website. So, we actually had to make a separate gmail for our class. Vtclis12@gmail.com Although this was not planned in the beginning, it actually made for a really cool addition to our website because as you will see tomorrow, you can actually send us an e-mail directly from the website. We hope to give Dr. C access to this account so that he can get feedback from users of the site as well. Anyways, so we made the email account and picked out a template. That was hard because we basically had to design the website in our head as we were picking out a template because we had to make sure that each wordle had the ability to link specific words to various links instead of the whole wordle being one link. After searching, we found an auto car template that worked very well. I began to transform the auto car template to META Team.
This took several hours and all the while, Jake and Matt were continuing their ongoing efforts. Back when we decided that we would make a site with wordles on it that would be divided in to authors and themes, we decided Jake would be in charge of linking the author wordles to various content including but not limited to blogs, tweets, and delicious links. Matt would be in charge of making up the theme wordless as I previously stated, as well as linking those wordles to content that includes but is not limited to blogs, tweets, and delicious links as well. We wanted to incorporate the audio from Matt’s speakers but our efforts to obtain a transcription program did not work so well. Rebecca tried to get us one but it didn’t transcribe as well as we needed it to because there was so many hours of audio. It just wasn’t efficient. So, unfortunately that got edited out of our website.
Once I had the layout transformed, we put the wordles on the site and linked them all to each other and all of the rest of the content. We purposely kept the direction of the website vague because we want users to feel unrestricted in where they can go and what they can see. We hope that everyone will move throughout the site by that unknown motivation we keep talking about that seems to breed curiosity.
In the end, I’m so happy that I got on the META Team. I was nervous being the only undergraduate student, but they really surprised me. My thoughts seemed to be just as important to theirs and they really acknowledged that although I am younger, I had some cool ideas too. It was nice to be respected and put on the same playing field as two extremely intelligent individuals such as Jake and Matt. I really appreciated this respect and cannot say how much this boosted my confidence in this class. It really was a privilege to work with them on a project that none of us really had any idea what we were doing to begin with. It’s really cool to make something out of nothing when you’re working with people who also care about the end result and when we all appreciate each other’s ideas. I wish them both the best of luck in the future and would be honored to have the opportunity to work with them again.
I hope you all enjoy our end project and can’t wait to hear everyone’s thoughts!