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Reflection

by cwright ~ April 22nd, 2010

In defense of the James Monroe Papers Project, I think that we have met and exceeded our goals and expectations. The twelve specific tasks outlined in the contract have been fulfilled and successfully completed. As a group, we were able to construct a website that should prove useful to anyone interested in James Monroe, and more specifically his time as minister to France. To argue this point, a few of the contractual mandates can be highlighted.

For instance, our contract states that the goal of this project was to construct a website centered around the James Monroe letters written to the Secretary of State during his tenure as minister to France between the years of 1794-1796. As we considered this primary focus, we incorporated transcriptions and summaries for every digitized individual letter. This feature adds both depth and clarity to the primary documents allowing the user to locate the desired information with greater ease. Additionally, we stated that the website would be geared towards undergraduate students searching for primary sources about James Monroe. I think that this expectation has been met as we have made such material easily available. Beforehand, the primary source letters were difficult to access and even more so to navigate through. Furthermore, the simple but effective design of the website allows the user to swiftly browse among the many exhibits and spending less time searching through them. Therefore, enriching the user with a wealth of information in a way that is easy to access and not overbearing.
In addition, the website is presented in such a way that anyone interested in James Monroe and early American diplomacy will find the website extremely resourceful. The website incorporates a diverse range of utilities that allows the user to experience a degree of interactivity when navigating the extensive amount of material. For example, the website includes a map and timeline that correlates to most events and locations found within each specific letter. Furthermore, those events are “tagged” with the specific letter that allows the user to navigate directly towards the desired information without having to search through every individual page of the letter.
Overall, I think the website reflects a high standard of quality that is expected of undergraduate students. The site has retained its primary goal of presenting the James Monroe letters in a digitized format along with the tools that future historians will find useful.

Reflecting upon this project, I have gained not only technical skills but also teamwork skills. Working with three other individuals has taught me to use patience and carefully consider the opinions and ideas of others. I think that by remaining open and respectful to my group has facilitated the project’s growth and has taught me to appreciate the value of a cooperation. I am sure that poor communication with the group would have resulted in a negatively impacted the project. In fact, I do not think the group has experienced any type of poor communication, but rather I think we have communicated extremely well, which is an intangible quality that reflects upon this project.

Week 13

by cwright ~ April 15th, 2010

Wow! What a week and I am glad it is over! The presentation on Monday went as well as I thought it would but it could definitely use some improvement. Especially on my part, in which I have to admit that I got a little nervous. This is uncharacteristic of me because I usually do not have any problems when it comes to public speaking. However, I am glad that we decided to participate in the function which has helped us identify these type of shortcomings. I will make sure that I am better prepared to handle the pressure of next week’s presentation at the symposium.
On a brighter note, we should have our site completed tonight. In fact, we are meeting this evening to finish uploading the last remaining items, and to conduct a thorough inspection of the site to ensure that everything is working properly. We also want to make sure that we have done everything possible that we could do before going into the final weekend just in case there is some sort of unexpected curve balls thrown our way.
overall, the site has turned out the way we first envisioned it, and I am rather pleased with the work and effort put forth by the group. It has been a pleasurable experience and I would highly recommend this course to any history major. I have learned an enormous amount of information in regards to creating digital history, but still do not feel that I am at all competent enough in my skills. I have a long way to go in mastering the tools and other digital formats that was introduced to me over the course of the semester. However, I have learned a great deal more about Google and the services it offers, and about Microsoft Word program. I expect that I will not only utilize these tools more effectively, but also more efficiently. As this wraps up, I hope the other three groups have had similar if not more pleasurable experiences with their group and their project.

It has been a delight and hope everyone enjoys their summer like I plan on having. Take care, and God bless!

Week 12

by cwright ~ April 7th, 2010

Upon reading Dr. McClurken’s essay, it reminded how I begin my research. The first thing that I do is go online and conduct a search. Hoping to find something that I can use or something that will point me in the right direction. But I rarely go beyond the top two or three pages of a search, something that Dr. McClurken warns about. Neither do I consult any archives, mostly because I am not familiar with any. But this class has taught me where to look and more importantly how to look for the sources I may need.

The two article I choose to read were David Voelker’s “Blogging for Your Students” and Christopher Miller’s “Love the Wikipedia” simply because they are relevant to my college experience. All but one of my history classes thus far required me to use a blog. Beforehand, I had never used a blog or even read one. However, since I have gained some experience with blogs I realize the value they contain. For example, I have read other student’s blogs as a way to conjure ideas and gain a sense of what others are thinking about a particular subject. But whenever I get ready to post a blog I begin to criticize myself  in fear that I my blog will read a bit ridiculous to some. Just as Voelker illustrates, whenever the blog is posted, it is open for all to see. Essentially, there is no going back and you are left with you ideas exposed for all to criticize. I also agree agree with Voelker that utilizing blogs are great way to communicate with others. I have read the blogs of other students in the class and found that they have experienced some similar problems with their projects and how they were able to fix them. I was able to apply their experience to my own situation without ever having to directly communicate with them.

I found Miller’s article equally applicable to my student experience. For example, Miller explains how some educators “damn” Wikipedia where he “embraces” the technology. I have shunned Wikipedia for years believing that the site was bogus and unreliable. However, I have since come around and “embraced” Wikipedia and have found it to be a valuable asset and resource. However, I would never cite Wikipedia as a resource in my bibliography, but I do use it to assist in gathering information and locating sources. This coincides with Miller’s illustration over the argument surrounding Wikipedia. It is almost impossible to determine how legitimate the information is on any of Wikipedia’s entries. I like to believe that the truth is somewhere in the middle and the “wisdom of the crowds” will keep the information in check and maintain a sense of integrity. Nevertheless, the information must be taken with a grain of salt.

Week 11

by cwright ~ April 1st, 2010

What can I say? There is not a whole lot to talk about this week. I am still working on formatting and conforming the transcriptions to meet a certain format. This should be completed by this weekend at the latest. Getting the transcriptions ready to be loaded onto the website has proven to be tedious and time consuming. Nonetheless, the transcriptions are getting done and will soon be ready to for the website. Once these transcriptions are finished, it will be the next stage of content loaded onto the site. As far as the website goes, Lexy and Seth have begun adding the letter images to the site. According to Lexy and Seth, loading those images took nearly twelve hours to complete. Those two deserve alot of credit and should be recogninized for their work. However, even though most of the images have been loaded onto the site, there are still some kinks that have to be worked out before it goes public. Those minor issues should be resolved soon and the website ready to receive the transcriptions.

Week 10

by cwright ~ March 25th, 2010

Good news! My group has met its deadline concerning the transcriptions. The transcriptions are now complete and posted on Google docs. However, we do have a minor problem that can be easily corrected. The problem consists of uniformity among the transcriptions. There were four different people working on the transcriptions with four different interpretations of the Monroe letters. In order to correct these minor discrepancies, I have been tasked with performing the corrections and making sure that transcriptions are conformed to a certain standard. This will be a long and tedious process that is sure to take up plenty of time to complete. Nevertheless an important task that will ensure a level of consistency which will illustrate our attention to detail our project deserves. In addition, this also gives me the chance to double check and proofread the material before it is posted to the website. Ensuring that the content is of sound quality and as authentic as possible. Once this task is completed, we will be done with the content material for website. Thus, leaving the group free to concentrate on the website and getting it ready to be presented to the public.

Week 9

by cwright ~ March 17th, 2010

This week has brought about a couple of interesting debates amongst my group. The debates are centered around our map and have yet to be resolved. Firstly, the group working on our map had a meeting back on Sunday evening in which Seth attended. The meeting brought up the fact that they would be unable to produce a late 18th century map encompassing Europe, North Africa, and the United States. Instead, the map group could create a seperate map of each continent. Therefore, our debate is whether we want to have three separate maps on our site, or see if we can somehow take the three maps and stitch them together. If we our unable to stitch the three maps together then we are left with the choice of having three maps as opposed to one map of Europe. The debate is whether we want to just focus on Europe and leave out the rest, or utilize the three maps and leave nothing out. The real concern is over having three seperate maps and how that would effect our website. As of now, the group is split with two for each. However, we will not make a decision until we hear from the geographers and whether or not they could combine the three maps themselves.
Secondly, an idea was brought up about adding graphics to the map. For example, an idea voiced about adding something to the effect of crossed rifles or a bomb to illustrate  a certain location was the scene of a battle mentioned in one of Monroe’s letter. The group agreed that the idea would be something cool to have on the map, but an interesting and important issue was brought up in response. A concern was brought up that by illustrating only battle sites on the map, it would signify that the emphasis of our project would be centered around military affairs. On the contrary, our project is centered around Monroe’s diplomatic experiences while Minister to France. As a result, another idea was brought up, this time wondering if we could add more graphics to the map. An example includes something to the effect of a castle symbolizing the appointment of a minister or consulate to a certain city. However, these graphics are subject to the map class and their capabilities. Nevertheless, this is also something that we have to communicate to them real soon.
That is were the James Monroe Papers group stands as of right now in regards to the map. If anyone has any suggestions please feel free to let us know.

Week 8

by cwright ~ March 11th, 2010

What can I say? I wish that I was still on spring break but that is only wishful thinking. During spring break however, I worked on my allotted transcriptions and summaries. In all, it was around five or so which does not seem to be a lot. Instead, it turned out to be more than I expected. For example, one of the letters that I transcribed was quite long, about seven full pages worth. This task was long and tedious and sometimes difficult. Every so often I would come across a word or two that I could not tell exactly what it was. I think the whole group has experienced this problem and is on the agenda to discuss about how we are going to navigate the problem. In all, I think the group is on track if not a little ahead which will provide some flexibility going forward. Flexibility is an all to underestimated quality and to often overlooked, but my group now has this option in case something should go wrong. Besides these minor issues, that is pretty much it.

Week 7

by cwright ~ February 25th, 2010

Well, spring break is almost upon us and I cannot wait. However, there will not be much of a break for me as I have to finish preparing a series of letters and extracting some information needed for the geography class once we return. the information includes all of the places James Monroe references in his letters. This information will be included on the map we will be building and illustrate all of the places Monroe writes about. Therefore, my spring break will be spent preparing for the upcoming meeting with geography class. In addition, I will also spend a considerable amount of time catching up on some sleep. Other than that, I do not plan on doing much else. So I hope the rest of the class has a more memorable time on their spring break than I will.

Week 6

by cwright ~ February 17th, 2010

First of all, I am late to post this week’s blog. I made the mistake of assuming that this week’s blog posting was due on Thursday like the others. I have only myself to blame for this mistake and take full responsibility for the mistake. That being said, I went to Wikipedia and looked up the stock market crash of 1929. I have pretty much made up my mind that my 485 project will be about the crash of 1929. I have to admit that I was rather impressed with what I found on Wikipedia. I am not a big fan or user of Wikipedia and have hardly used it, but now I think this tool will be a valuable resource for me when I begin my 485 project. The contents found under the crash of 1929 are through and informative. Most surprisingly, are the footnotes and bibliography found within the entry. I did not know that Wikipedia provided footnotes and bibliographies for its entries. In addition, Wikipedia also provides the ISBN numbers for books that are cited in its entries. The only thing I can say is that I wish I would have utilized Wikipedia along time ago and glad that I was forced to investigate this resource. Was anyone else surprised as I was with Wikipedia’s usefulness?

Week 5

by cwright ~ February 11th, 2010

What a week! I wish that I could have enjoyed the snow and the days off from class. Unfortunately, I have come down with the flu and have not been able to do much more than drink NyQuil straight from the bottle and then go to sleep. During this illness I have not been much use to my group and thankful for their willingness to pick up the slack. Once I am over this, I plan on working harder for my group to make up for this loss of productivity. In addition, the group has also completed the contract. I have to especially thank McKenzie and Lexy who were the primary writers and worked super hard on the contract. Although those two were the ones responsible for writing the contract, Seth and I participated as well. I think the contract turned out surprisingly well, but we still need to do some work on it after Professor McClurken’s comments. Since I will not be in class any time this week, the group and myself plan on utilizing Google’s Wave to communicate and finish the contract. So far I have been unable to get onto Google Wave but I have now downloaded Apple’s Safari and hopefully that will allow me to finally use this tool. Does anyone else have this problem? If so, what did you do to correct the issue?