Weak by design
Frankly speaking, I think our site’s greatest weakness is its design. My first reaction to seeing it was that of confusion. If I may be so bold as to say that it is not quite user-friendly. What our lovely creative garden lacks is that homely vibe a place of comfort is meant to give off. Most sites have similar layouts because those layouts are the most optimal and easy to navigate. Like for example, it would be far easier to find one’s way around if we could have, say, drop-down tabs on top of the site. This way it would be easier to see all the categories available on the site and users can freely choose from among them. Furthermore, it directs attention to the ‘body’ of the site which should not simply be a list of titles as it is now but rather these titles should be strewn around the site to fill up all the blank spots on it. A wider range of colors would also be well-received, in my opinion. And lastly, the key to making a site look more homely is pictures, of course. Nothing makes a site more interesting than engaging pictures related to various topics of our studies that grab people’s attention and makes them interested in perusing through the content. Like in the assignment about fact-checking focused on finding prompts on Mike Caulfield’s blog site. Other than the titles, the pictures there were very eye-catching and sparked my interest which, hence, prompted me to further explore various ones before our group settled on one.
When it comes to the forum, I think it is the most engaging part of our course. Many ideas are brought forth to it and various aspects and viewpoints are considered. The topics my colleagues bring forth are fairly thought-provoking and interesting to discuss/debate. The rules are very clear-cut and, moreover, they make sense. Nobody wants a reply to a topic that leads nowhere. Simple ‘yes, I agree’ answers are insufficient and end the discussion right there. When you properly consider the ideas and input the other colleagues have contributed on the matter, that is when true value and understanding can be extracted from each respective topic. In comparison to the main site, the forum is closer to what I would consider a user-friendly site. The only improvement I would suggest, and this might be too much to ask, is a better accessibility to, say, emojis, italics, colored font etc. When we want to “decorate” or simply emphasize our points when replying to our colleagues, for me personally, it becomes a chore to have to encode these features into the text. Instead of focusing on what I want to say, my focus gets shifted to how what I want to say will look in the forum.
When regarding our weekly assignments, they can be lengthy at times. Sometimes we, as a group, have to assign one person per task in order to meet that week’s requirements. This may only be the case for my group but we take our assignments very seriously and, thus, we usually get overly-immersed into a given task, resulting in all of our posts being exceptionally lengthy and possibly more complex than they need to be (which may be giving us a false sense of lengthiness). Truth be told, I cannot say that every topic was engaging but, of course, there were also those that were, in my opinion. Everybody has different interests and it is normal that our tastes to differ. Needless to say, despite my personal preferences, I would still give it my all to extensively research a given topic. On a different note though, I can say that all of the topics were educative. I learned many terms and phrases that I had never even heard of before. This is where the glossary comes in handy. On rare occasions, I may even become interested in a topic I previously had no interest in owing to the various sources recommended to us for each weekly activity.
As I’ve stated above, with each new topic of discussion I am becoming more and more aware of different digital skills and active topics of interest. For example, the existence of the IndieWeb i.e. a community of people who are capable of independently maintaining their social data, and all of that data belongs to them and not some company. As for the syllabus, looking at it independently, I would understand the objectives written in it (as in the words) but true understanding comes from us already gaining some of the skills that this course had set out to teach us. Since we already covered most of these skills already, I can connect each skill to each weekly topic where it was necessary to implement them. For example, the ‘Gather and evaluate relevant and credible sources’ skill, I can connect it, once again, to the Caulfield fact-checking exercise we did.
I can honestly say that the amount of material given is acceptable. I can follow it without getting lost in my thoughts and it is actually quite intriguing to read. If the text is exceptionally long, I tend to lose focus, and, therefore, interest in a given topic. However, that is not the case in the selection of each week’s topics. They keep us engaged and even prompt us to research the topic even further. Admittedly though, there is a lot of tech-lingo involved, so it is not all comprehensible from the start, but as I have stated before, that is why the glossary becomes a useful tool. In fact, it may even be more desirable to have all of these unfamiliar words because not only does it give us material to contribute to the master glossary but also by having to look up all of these words by necessity, it is easier to memorize each word’s or expression’s meaning.
To me personally, I don’t think video lectures are necessary. As I’ve stated in the previous paragraph, we are provided all the material we need to complete our assignments and we even go out of our way to research the topics further on our own. Sure, sometimes if a topic is unclear I would fall back on the video lecture to get a clearer understanding about what it is we are required to do, but most of the time I find them too lengthy and considering all the responsibilities from other subjects as well, I have little time to spare for them in the first place. But if I had to say how long I would like them to be, I would say no more than 15 minutes. The delivery and presentation, however, are coherent and detailed enough for me to extract what I need to know on a given topic. So, that is a plus.
This I’ve already mentioned but each person has topics they are interested in and those they aren’t. For me personally, the interesting ones, so far, would be the fact-checking one and, perhaps, the meme one, as well as the virtual community garden one. Perhaps it is because they are a part of our contemporary reality and we come in contact with them practically every day, but we just do not dwell on these topics or consider them as much because they have already become a viable part of our everyday lives a long time ago. They are the most relatable topics and were the easiest to immerse into. I wouldn’t say the following topics are my least favorite, but they are rather unpleasant to talk about. Like for example that scandal with Snapchat and its racist filter or at the very beginning with Neil Postman and how we are “informing ourselves to death”. It’s these kinds of uncomfortable aspects of society that nobody wants to admit exist and sometimes even discussing them is frowned upon, but I cannot deny that discussing them left a bitter taste in my mouth.
My Own Engagement with the Course
Taking into account everything I’ve said thus far, I would say that I have very much been enlightened to different aspects of the digital culture and the various basic skills that go with it. Even basic coding is something I had never considered I would ever touch upon. The topics we discuss in this course are truly fascinating and keep me engaged each time. I believe I have improved my knowledge, if even a little, about various topics having to do with the online world. It has almost been a decade since I have become “an avid user of the internet”, but even now I keep finding out various aspects to it and how it can be used to serve different purposes (eg. for personal expression, increasing knowledge/awareness about numerous topics, self-promotion…). Frankly, I have been using the syllabus in an opposite manner. As we progress with each weekly topic, I become more and more aware of which skill was “gained” through each activity. So I would consult the syllabus in that particular sense and not before completing a weekly assignment. And lastly, I keep all of the projects, notes and posts we published to the site and forum for personal keep, so they can serve as a review/reminder of what topics we have covered in this course so far, so I can always go back and refresh my knowledge.
This post may be used for research purposes.