Exploring E-Portfolios

For the past few weeks, as we have been preparing to create our own individual e-portfolios, I have been having a hard time picturing my own e-portfolio. However, going through the portfolios from past Gateway students definitely helped because in taking the time to appreciate the details and features used in their sites gave me ideas of how I would like to format my own e-portfolio.

One of the first ones that really stood out to me – and one that we looked at in class – was Allison Raeck’s portfolio. When I first saw it in class, I remember wanting to return to her page because I liked how her homepage included a hand-drawn manifesto. Returning to it now made me also appreciate her uniform color scheme throughout, and the general layout of her site. I liked the navigation bar at the top of the page with drop-down options and I liked how she also included writing pieces from outside of the Gateway class: it makes her site look more professional and usable for resumes. Finally, I appreciated how her writing pieces were directly linked to her site’s page (rather than clicking on an image of it and having the piece blow-up in a different window). I found that this made her page more user-friendly and seamless.

The next portfolio that I took note of was that of Catherine Livingston. The first thing that I noticed and liked about her site was that her main page was not full of information (i.e. writing pieces from the class). Rather, it had a slideshow of photographs that could have been taken while she was traveling – which is fitting since she described herself as a writer and traveler. Below the slideshow she had a short blurb to introduce the idea of an e-portfoli and, like Allison’s site, she had a navigation bar at the top of the page that contained her writing pieces and information about herself. Overall, her site is very simple and professional and easy to navigate: two aspects that I want to incorporate.

Something I noticed about many of the e-portfolios was the presence of a central “theme” that related to the individual writer him/herself, or to the content of the writing displayed on the site. I definitely would like to somehow incorporate a central theme to my own site because I felt as though it added a continuity and centrality to the sites I looked at. I will also be keeping in mind that I should keep my site simple and clutter-free.

Project III

For Project II, I had originally planned to interview people to get different perspectives (based on age) on how people feel about making decisions about their majors during college, and if they regretted their decisions (especially if the decisions were based on cultural/societal pressures and expectations). However, I instead wrote a series of personal anecdotes to detail my own experience in deciding what life path to take, because my own experience was the main motivator behind my project’s idea, and when I tried to incorporate outside information, it didn’t feel “right.”

So, for Project III, I am planning on taking the outside research and interviews I have from my original plans for project II, expanding upon them, and using them to create a sort of blog. I am planning on including an “About” page on which I want to talk about the outside research I conducted, including statistics about the number of students studying things that they do not enjoy, and the underlying reason for this phenomena. Then, I want to dedicate a separate page for each person I interviewed (and will interview in the future), which will display a picture of the interviewee as a child (perhaps dressed-up as what-they-want-to-be-when-he/she-grows-up outfit) and then one as the interviewee is now. I will also include snippets from the interviews I conducted with them. Some of the questions I plan on using are: what did you want to be when you were a kid and what are you now and why the discrepancy, what factors played a role in the decisions you made relating to your profession, did you ever feel pressure from society or culture or family to take a specific route and how did that make you feel, and if you could go back, would you do anything differently?

Since I want this project to interact with readers, I am planning on including a comment section in which readers can add pictures of themselves and/or discuss their own experiences with how/why they have followed the path that they have.

Overall, I am excited about this project and to address the pieces of Project II that I had initially wanted to focus on.

Evolution of Project II

After finally settling on a topic that I was excited about, I figured that I would be “over the hump” and onto more easy and more fun tasks.

I was wrong.

I am still excited about my idea, and I am making progress, but slowly. Over the weekend, I worked on background research to form a basis for my project. I found information about what our society values and am planning to use that to better define what “good” means in respect to the what students feel is the “right” path of study (i.e. degrees in business or going pre-med). I also found statistics illustrating that a lot of students are studying things they do not want to be studying. The trends that have encouraged this (beyond our cultural values) have been poor economic conditions and a soft job market.

All of this has helped me to formulate interview questions. Originally I wanted to do many interviews for kids, college students, and adults, but at this point I am thinking quality over quantity is more important – I do not want my article to turn into a collection of quotes. So I am going to need to make sure that I carefully select interviewees.

I am having a hard time pulling all of my ideas for my project together into a unified idea that “feels right.” I am hoping that once I have had more time to dedicate to the project (probably over break), I can pull everything together.

Researching for Project II

Most of my weekend has been spent not by researching, but by milking my idea for project II for something unique and interesting. I don’t quite understand why this project has been giving me as much difficulty as it has, but I have found it nearly impossible to reach satisfaction during my brainstorming process. I actually changed my original idea completely in hopes that maybe my it was not I who was the problem, but the idea itself – revamping my common app essay – was simply too dry or too old. However, when I finally experienced my “ah-ha moment” and felt the pieces of my second idea – revamping an old high school philosophy paper about societal pressures and their effects on development – fall into place, I realized that maybe it had been I who had been debilitating my thinking and creativity.

I had allowed myself to overthink everything, and in the process had failed to allow any promising niche in my idea to become the shining center-peice of my writing.

That being said, from now on I am going to strive to not let myself overthink this project and to be intimidated by the openness of its guidelines.

Now that I have in fact reached a point of satisfaction in my brainstorming, I can explain to you that I am going to be writing about how societal pressures changes what kids want to do with their lives (i.e. an astronaut or firefighter or singer) into a more “respectable” and “oft-saught” profession of a doctor or a lawyer or a businessman/woman. I want to interview kids, college students, and adults, asking different questions of each category to compare their dreams from when they were younger to when they are older. I want to ask adults if they regret not entertaining their childhood dreams at least slightly as they chose a direction in life. And I want to do all of this to illuminate that some people do regret being influenced by the societal idea, while others are perfectly content with their lives’ trajectory.

My goal is to encourage college age student who are experiencing the classic extisential crisis of “what do I do with my life and/or what am I passionate about” to consider whether they will be a person who will be satisfied to follow the obvious, easy choice of what society deems proper, or whether they will regret not integrating at least a small piece of what they initially wanted to do into what they choose to do.

Now that I have started to research slightly more, I have decided that I would like to write a statement article for the Michigan Daily, or for some other student publication. I therefore spent the weekend going through previous Michigan Daily statement articles so to examine word length and other structural components, voice characteristics, and research inclusion. This helped a lot because it has allowed me to funnel my ideas into a more cohesive and sensical group. I have a better idea of what I need to research and how I am going to need to talk about it.

I am finally feeling excited about my idea and am looking forward to implementing research and to writing my article.

Lessons from Joy Williams

I am incredibly indecisive. This became all the more clear to me while skimming through the featured interviews on the Paris Review. I was overwhelmed by the vast amount of information and knowledge from which I could gain insights on the art of writing. However, after much internal debate, I chose to read and write about Joy Williams.

One of the criterion I used during my search was to focus on finding a relatable and unique author rather than one with a well-known and highly respected name. Although I had never heard of Joy Williams before, the caption next to her picture, “I think the writer has to be responsible to signs and dreams…” fulfilled this criteria. I figured it would be interesting and insightful to read about Joy’s take on what it means to be a writer, and more specially, what the actual job of a writer is.

As I immersed myself within Joy’s interview, I quickly realized I was not wrong in hoping for an insightful and interesting read. Joy is a writer who wants to be different and who is not afraid to go against the wave of conformity. During the seventies, a time charged by the feminist movement, Joy agrees with the interviewer that women writers were expected to be impassioned though their writing, and that “[they] had to be…writing the sort of thing that other people could…find a book on.” Speaking with second-person, it is clear that Joy did not identify with these women or get caught up in following the newest writing trend and expectation.

Joy’s uniqueness is an aspect I would like to have present in my writing. I do not want to write using a certain technique or topic merely because it has been well received when used in the past. In my mind, the point of writing is to “explore new waters” and to deepen understanding of our world. If I write similarly to others, I am directly contradicting this by not adding new intuition to our pool of knowledge of our world.

Another recurrent theme I related to within Joy’s interview was her yearning for freedom and solitude. She talks about her pull towards the country and her dislike of the cities. While I actually enjoy the busy energy of cities, and do not thrive existing away from such energy, I do enjoy time to myself and my thoughts. As I mentioned before, Joy believes that one of the jobs of a writer is to notice symbolism in the world. I find that the only times I am able to notice such details are when I am somewhat withdrawn from my fellow humans. It makes it easy to notice things about society – symbols – that can be taken and transformed into writing. It is my hope that when I share such reflections with readers, I can deepen not only my own understanding of our world, but also that of readers.

 

Thoughts About Thoughts on Advice

I love to learn by watching others.

That being said, reading the experiences of others and the advice that they have to offer – regardless of whether the advice actually relates to me – has always been a pleasure of mine. It is for that reason that I had a difficult time selecting two pieces containing advice that stood out to me more so than any others.

However, the first of the two pieces I will mention caught my eye before I even read its contents because of its title, “Dear Future Minions” written by previous student Jeff Slade. The Minions movies hold a dear place in my heart. Therefore, when I saw the title I immediately clicked, hoping to find funny cracks on the minions or perhaps a minion animation. Needless to say, and perhaps predictably, “Dear Future Minions,” contained zero mentions of the minions.

However, it included something much better.

Jeff reminded me to choose my remediation project topic with care so to avoid boredom. This is especially important for me because once I choose a topic that I think is “good enough,” I do not usually change it. Call it loyalty, or maybe even stubbornness, but even when, upon further research, I come to realize that the topic is not quite as “juicy” as I had initially envisioned it to be, I trudge onward. This is a cycle I hope to break in this class especially given the huge amount of freedom I will have. I am resolving then to allow myself to change my current idea if I find it to be lacking in sufficient “juice.”

Another takeaway from Jeff’s piece was his writing style itself. I appreciated how each piece of advice he made had its own paragraph, and how each paragraph had the main idea in the first sentence. Both of these together made the post much easier to read than if it had been clumped together.

The second post I read that spoke to me on a slightly more philosophical level was “My swan for writing 220” by Rober Molnar.

Robert immediately grabbed my attention through his use of whitespace as well as his use of questions throughout. The first question in particular “Advice on what? I’m not sure” drew me in because the blatant truthfulness was funny and made Robert seem more relatable to myself. I will definitely stay mindful about use of questions and whitespace to make my pieces seem more appealing to readers.

In general, Robert’s main point about focusing on getting the most out of the class instead of doing well in the class spoke to me. It was a great reminder to enjoy my time in the gateway class as well as the process of learning more about myself through writing. I am now going to make an active effort to not allow stress over deadlines or grades ruin the experience for me.

I can now say that I am excited to embark on this new adventure and to truly live the Gateway experience.

A Glimpse of Me

Curiosity.

Fascination.

 

Two traits that are oft-times associated with a child-like wonder of the world.

Two traits that are admired in our society for their correlation with creativity, development, and above all, innovation.

Two traits that, together, have formed my current personality and sense of self.

 

I am first and foremost a lover of our world. While some disparage the cold and biting winter wind for its less than redeeming affiliation with discomfort, I marvel at the harsh power of our world. Because when the frigid wind hits me with just the right propulsion and trajectory, and cuts straight through my parka at just the right angles, our world changes the texture of my skin, gifting me with an infinite collection of goosebumps. It alters my biologically “set-in-stone” body temperature, and handicaps my fingers from completing any of the tasks they were genetically created to complete.

And at that same moment, I feel as though I am flying.

Flying with the momentary freedom of paralysis, preventing me from doing anything but stand, absolutely and completely dumbstruck by our world.

 

I question how we, as mere humans, landed in such a beautiful and incredible place. How the bright spring colors and the monochromatic browns and whites of the winter are cyclically formulated. How the birds capture the power of the air and the fish capture the power of the water. How our world contains an infinite set of creatures and systems, all of which appear in juxtaposition, but are in a harmony more perfect than humans will ever fully understand.

As you may have already ascertained, I have always been one of “those” kids who loves school. I feed off of the voices of my instructors as they transcend knowledge and new ideas into my mind. The acquirement of such information is undoubtedly my inspiration to rise every morning. To me, everyday holds the promise of a slight abatement to my hunger for answers, and an even greater intensification of my thirst for more.

And more.

And more.

IMG_3873
Meridian Line in Greenwich

I am a Mathematics major, a PitE minor, and a Sweetland Writing minor. These three areas of study, while in stark contrast, represent a path towards my greater understanding of our world. While the  ability to see our world’s harmony may seem obviously related to Mathematics and PitE, writing is often a confusing addition.

I approach writing as I would a mathematical problem: I allow my inspiration to take the form of a question, I think deeply and abstractly about the question, and I write to convert the abstract solutions existing in my mind to a concrete form of art.

 

For me then, writing is a key to furthering and deepening the connections I make between our world’s many systems.

For me, my curiosity and fascination are “how” I write. I simply reflect upon what I see, and allow questions and answers to flow.