Spring 2018 Course

A COPLAC Digital Distance Learning Course

Author: geron (page 1 of 2)

Week 14: Defense of Contract

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/To_Kill_a_Mockingbird#/media/File:To_Kill_a_Mockingbird.JPG
Wikimedia Commons

We are presenting our project on Wednesday and I am so ready. Karina and I found a really interesting case that we investigated and we have worked really hard to create this site this past semester. As in terms of our contract, I believe that we followed through on almost all of the goals we lined up in our contract back in March.

We have all the main pages that we wanted on our site with a few tweaks here and there. The main thing that we did not do was talk about the case from the late 1960s in Hanover County, Virginia. We decided that it would be easier and more conducive to talk about more recent cases because the reasons why it is banned/challenged have changed so much. From that idea we created the page, “Other Recent Challenges” with the StoryMap labeling the other challenges in recent years.

The Timeline and StoryMap is set up just like we wanted them to be. I think that the Timeline looks great on the first page and it ties the whole site together. We found some great images from Wikimedia Commons and tried to have at least one on each page. Our theme worked out really well and with a lot of tweaking, we created a clean looking, but colorful site. For a ton of little things, like how to adjust the font color on the top menu bar, I went to our Digital Knowledge Center for help. With their expertise, I was about to create the beautiful site we have now.

We used a ton of digital tools. I myself used both JS Timeline, iMovie, GarageBand, Canva, and Youtube to display our media. I also found images on Wikimedia Commons. I wish that we had been able to take images from the Accomack County site or some more materials that were primary resources, but I think it ended up working out well with the images that were created using Canva and the ones I found on Wikimedia Commons.

As for our timeline in which we wanted to get certain work done by, we met all of our time goals. Sometimes we even got them done sooner. We also added some information after we created the contract, like the interview with Dr. Gary Richards, so I had to fit that in. There were a couple pieces of materials that we were not able to get. We thought we were going to get a response from Charles Knitter when we sent him out interview questions, but never did. That was going to be a part of the protest page, but because we did not hear back from him we combined the two pages we initially created “Petition” and “Protest,” into one page. Because we did hear back from Sadye Saunders and she was a part of the protest anyways, we thought that it was fitting that the pages be meshed together. That was the very last thing that we revised on our site. The other thing that I tried for a couple weeks to get was the complaint form, but was unfortunately shut down by someone at the School Board office they could never give it to us because it displays personal information and told that they don’t even know where the document went.

Overall, we did really well meeting our goals that we laid out in this contract. The interview with Charles Knitter and the not being able to get the complaint form was out of our control. I am really proud of this site and excited to get the chance to present it on Wednesday for everyone.

Thank you for such an awesome course Dr. Dierking and Dr. Hajo! It was a wonderful experience.

Week 13: Reading Reflection

via GIPHY

We are at the end of this project/course and I am really excited about all the work we have done. The sites look amazing and this class has made me think critically about how censorship works currently and throughout history.

I returned to the text, The Reader Speaks Out: Adolescent Reflections about Controversial Young Adult Literature by Grace Enriquez and thought about how the ideas in this essay intertwined with the case that Karina and I investigated. In the article, Enriquez talks about how there is a lack of young adult voices in the arguments about these texts that are highly debated. She explains how there is a ton of educator and parental arguments, but no one really asks what the students or young adults think about the text. She went to students and asked them about what their definitions of controversy were. What makes a book controversial and what makes a book worth reading? She found that they think a book is worth reading if the plot seems interesting despite the use of profanity, violence, sexual content, and/or discriminatory remarks. She found that students “appreciated the importance of context.” It made a big difference if they had to read the book.

In our case, we were lucky to get in touch with a student who did speak up against the removal of the novels To Kill a Mockingbird and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn from Accomack County, VA schools. I think her perspective about the books and whether or not they should be removed really added so much context about what happened in late 2016. She created a petition and joined the protest that was created by Charles Knitter. Because of her voice and the voices of other students through the petition they were able to give their thoughts to the committee that the school board created to decide if the books should be officially removed or not. Even though this started out as an argument made by a parent, the students were the ones that the committee listened to. I think that is a huge step for students voices to be heard when censorship of reading materials pops up in different places.

Students voices need to be included in the discussion about removal of texts from classrooms and libraries. A lot of students like to talk about the controversy in the novel and by doing so in a safe academic environment I think that students can learn a lot about the reasons why something, such as derogatory language, in a controversial scene is used. I think communication and discussion can always help students push past just what are the themes in this text, but also how it can relate to students lives and the community of the school or library.

Enriquez, Grace. “The Reader Speaks Out:
Adolescent Reflections about Controversial Young Adult Literature.” The ALAN Review. Winter, 2006. pp 16-23. Print.

Week 12: Progress Report

I think this is the last blog post before the final one where we defend our contract. This week I have to say has been quiet, especially since we turned in the first draft of our project sites this past Monday. Next week we will be talking about ways to revise and I am eager to see what ideas our classmates have. After that we are just editing and then preparing for our presentation! I can’t believe the end of the semester is here already.

We are currently peer-reviewing, which I think is going to be useful. I peer-reviewed Max and Robert’s USAO site about the case they found in the 80s involving Catcher in the Rye. They have a ton of great information and I can tell they worked really hard collecting it and interviewing people. I made so many notes. (I am really sorry guys). I took this as an opportunity to make a lot of suggestions about how to share the content and I hope they were helpful. (Please do not feel obligated to do every single one of them.) Annotating another team’s site reminded me of how you would workshop and essay or any piece of writing. I live in a constant state of workshop with all the creative writing and english classes I am taking (seriously we are workshopping or being workshopped every single day in my poetry seminar this past semester) and this was really  different because I got to look at it not just at word and piece level, but how the website functioned. I had to critically think about how the site was set up and how appealing it is to the reader. Is it too cluttered or should there be more information here? Does this page belong here or there? What would make this easier to access? It was a refreshing way to workshop another student’s work. I wish I had the opportunity to do other workshops like it in other classes.

The only thing that is lingering that I wish we could have as part of our site is the interview with Charles Knitter. He was the one who I was able to get in contact with first and seemed really eager to revisit the issue and join our conversation, but he has never gotten back to us with answers to the questions we sent him. I sent him an email letting him know that we were finishing up the project this past Monday, but it is Saturday and I still haven’t heard back. Maybe we will hear back last minute, but I am not holding my breath. We are most likely going to have to beef up that page or see about combining it with the page about the petition.

I am looking forward to revising next week and making this website ready for the world to see and explore.

Week 11: Another Post Interview and Update

This past week was a busy one with finishing up collecting information for our project and the first draft of the site. Almost all the information up is at this point and we are working on copy editing the site.

I had the chance to talk with Dr. Gary Richards this past week to talk about the book, To Kill a Mockingbird. He was recommend to me by Pete Kelly and is the head of the English, Linguistics and Communication Department here at Mary Washington. He also teaches Southern Literature and Modern American Literature courses. He graciously sat down with me to record  an interview and answered a lot of my questions about the book and how language functions in the novel.

The whole interview was really fascinating and Dr. Richards pointed out a lot of things that I hadn’t considered before. He didn’t  know too much about the challenges to the book, but he did talk about the reasons why it is probably so frequently challenged. I asked about his experience and he had read it when he was in middle school and then again in high school. He studied Southern literature at Vanderbilt and said that at the graduate level there was some debate about whether or not the book should be even considered because it is looked at as young adult literature. He eventually included analysis of the book in his thesis and agrees that because the book has been so widely read that it is productive to talk about it. Now he teaches it in his many of his classes and talks about how it is structured and how some of the themes are so heavy handed.

We talked about the n-word and if it was necessary for this book, and if it should continue to be taught in middle and high schools or if it was too problematic. He spoke of how the language was probably used by Harper Lee to draw attention to the racism of the time and that she probably did think it was necessary. In his classes he has students try to decide if the word is allowable and some think that because it packs such a punch that it is important to talk about. It shows just how much derogatory language can hurt. Dr. Richards also talked about how he likes to teach problematic texts because he thinks it is important to talk about why they are problematic or why they make people uncomfortable. He does think that teachers need to carefully handle the novel, but if it gets students to read and talk about the book then it is worthwhile to teach.

I set up a page and wrote a write up about the interview with him, kind of summarizing what we talked about. The interview ended up being almost eighteen minutes long and the transcription five pages long. I made a video with the recording of the interview and included it on the page and below, so if anyone wants to listen to the whole thing they can. I am also going to include a PDF link to the transcription for anyone who is interested.

I think this interview added a lot of in depth information about the book and how it impacts society. There is a lot to unpack in it and I am really glad we were able to connect with Dr. Richards and create this interview.

 

Week 10: Post Interview

Good news times two!

We got a response from one of the people we reached out to interview, so we now have the full interview up on the petition page of our website!

I am also speaking with an English professor here at UMW, who also happens to be the head of our department, Dr. Richards about To Kill a Mockingbird this coming week. He was the one recommended to me by Pete Kelly, the head of our education department here. (Pete Kelly says “Hi!” to Dr. Dierking!)

Sadye Saunders, the student who started the petition to get the book back on her school’s shelves, got back to us with answers to the interview questions we had for her and they are awesome! I am super excited about it and she gave us a lot more insight, from a student’s perspective, which really showed a lot about what actually happened. I think the struggle we had before the interview with her was hearing about what happened through news sources and they confused some of the details. One of the details we were unsure about, was if the petition was taken away from Sadye or if she was just asked to take it off of school property. According to her answers, the principal did take it away for the day, but gave it back to her at the end of the day, telling her she needed to collect signatures off of school property. He was actually the one who informed her about the protest and suggested that she go there for more signatures.

Screenshot of Interview page with Sadye
Screenshot of Interview page with Sadye

She also talked to us about how the novel was taught in the classroom. The main way it was taught was reading at home and discussion during class period. One of her biggest points in the interview was that her teacher made it clear that the language used in the novel was historically accurate and “used to portray the ignorance of the past.” I thought this was really interesting because even though there seems to have been a serious discussion about the language and a student was still uncomfortable enough with it to have it brought to the attention of the School Board. I am going to bring this up with my interview with Dr. Richards this week and see what he has to say about it. As a professor of Modern American Literature, I am really interested to see what his perspective is and whether or not the language is necessary.

We also asked us about the protest, since she ended up participating in it and collecting over 300 total signatures there. I was most surprised by how she thought the atmosphere was more “aggressive” than she had hoped. Sadye claims that she was never really angry, rather disappointed, but at the protest there were a lot more angry people than she expected. I am really hoping that Charles Knitter, the man who led the protest will get back to us with answers to our questions soon, because I really want to know what his perspective of the event was.

I think this interview turned out really well. I wish we had been able to get one done with sooner than we did, because we are having the interviews all happen at once. We are going to have at least one more with a To Kill a Mockingbird expert this week, and the hope is to have a second come through with Charles Knitter. Overall, I think these are going to be great pieces to have in our project.

Week 9: Reading Reflection

The image above is from the UMW Digital Archives Centennial Image Collection and taken in 1980 of a dance class.

This week I am catching up on my reading reflection posts and going to go over the article “Why don’t archives digitize everything?” from the beginning of the semester. Last fall, I took an Archives and Society class where I learned about how and where archives are stored, how they are cataloged, and what types of things are archived and preserved. We spent most of the last half that semester talking about digital archives and how they function, which I really enjoyed. My class put together digital collections and exhibitions. We used the Timeline JS tool to create our exhibition, so most of what I learned when creating that was applied in the timeline made for our To Save a Mockingbird Project. When this article came up I was super interested in it and how archives could apply to our project we were creating in this course.

One of the first things the article talks about is how digitizing records is time and money consuming. Our digital archivist showed my class the equipment we have here at Mary Washington she uses to digitize records, and it is huge, expensive, and time consuming to use. I even got to make a couple digital images from a scrapbook that we were looking at. And digitizing is more than just taking pictures or scanning in copies of a paper or record. It is also creating the metadata (which was a lot harder than I thought it would be to create) and making sure it is accessible. Oftentimes there isn’t enough manpower and money to pay for the equipment need to digitize. We have a small, but awesome digital collection at UMW, but we only have one person that solely works with the digital records.

Another piece of this article that I remember going over in that class a lot, was how to manage a digital archive. It takes a ton of hard drive space because they are saved as high resolution images (or TIFF files) so people who are looking at the files can zoom in and look at the document in great detail. Also formats for digital materials is constantly changing so being able to anticipate those changes and keep up is something you, as an archivist, have to keep in mind. Take music for example; it has evolved from records to tapes to CDs and now mostly to streaming services. These types of changes are awesome and great, but it is hard to justify digitizing something when there might be a better format to do it down the road. Especially when it cost so much time and money.

This article was really nice to read for a second time later on in the semester, because it reviewed a lot of information I have learned about archives. I really enjoyed the class that I took last semester and was really excited to apply those skills to this course when it first began. I have always wanted to be a librarian, but with the combination of both classes, it makes me want to eventually work on the digital side of things.

This is the site my class created and you can go through the collections and exhibitions. Mine is all about Dance clubs at UMW. I chose this topic because of my direct involvement with the Performing Arts Company here. This is the timeline that I created by using the digital archives we already had and from pages from scrapbooks that I had digitized. The article about digital archives and learning what we could use them for in our site project has been super helpful and interesting.

Week 8: Progress Report 3

This has been a crazy week, getting back into the groove after spring break. I think that Karina and I managed to get a ton done despite it being a wonky week. It was at least a weird one for me.

We sent out interview questions to Charles Knitter and I am hoping he responds with his answers soon. We couldn’t figure out a way to schedule and record a phone interview with him so we asked for him to respond to our questions via email. Also, early this past week we heard from the student who created the petition at her school, trying to get To Kill a Mockingbird back on the shelves. She sounds willing to help, but we are still waiting on another response from her. We are making sure if she is not 18 yet that we get the parental permission from her too. I do think that she is according to her Facebook profile (where I contacted her through), but I just want to make sure.

I also called and bugged the school a ton this week. I was transferred around a lot on Wednesday and was finally put into contact with someone who could at least give me some answers. The woman I talked to, Clara Chandler, the director of Accomack County School’s Human Resources and she said they couldn’t and wouldn’t give us a copy of the learning resource complaint because it has confidential information regarding a student’s parent. We were disappointed at this answer, but not completely shocked. I think I tried my best, but am open to suggestions.

Harper Lee's signature. Reads Nelle Lee.
Harper Lee’s Signature. I found this on Wikimedia Commons and added it to the biography page I created this week.

This past week was creating and putting a lot of content on our project site. I just finished working on the Harper Lee Biography page and the background page to the novel. I am getting ready to work on the complaint page. I have to admit that I got somewhat behind this week because of pressing personal things that came up and other class work. I have decided to schedule out time this coming week to continue the work we have planned over the next couple weeks. This week has been a lesson in figuring out how to work on a big project like this in small chucks throughout the week.

This coming week, the main thing is getting the Timeline pulled together. We changed the homepage so it is only the timeline and people can work their way through it. The timeline might be the most time consuming thing of the site content, but I think it will probably be the most used part of our site. There are already a couple things on it, but I really want to add a lot of interactive elements to it. I found the movie trailer for the adaptation of To Kill a Mockingbird, which I think would be really interesting for users to watch if they would like. Or things like adding a Google map of the town Harper Lee grew up in, Monroeville, Alabama. So this week will be a lot of experimenting with Timeline, but hopefully by the end of it we’ll have a more robust timeline.

Week 7: Progress Report

I can’t believe we are already halfway done with the class! And I have a feeling the rest of the semester is going to go by faster than the first half did.

We have emailed questions to Charles Knitter this week and will hopefully get his response soon. As of last night, I have been in contact with the student who created the petition at the school. She is interested in providing us with a statement on what happened and gave me some further contact information beyond Facebook. We are going to be sending her more information today and requesting a formal interview that we can use in our site. I find it really awesome that we were able to reach people through Facebook and excited to see what information comes of these two interviews.

I called the school last week asking about the materials we would like to see about the parent’s learning resource complaint, but they insisted that I send a written request in. We emailed them, but have yet to get a response. I think I am going to call again today or tomorrow and see if I can talk to the Accomack County School Board member in charge of those types of complaints. We are hoping they will be willing to give us information about the complaint, but I am afraid we probably won’t. From all the information we have gathered so far I think that this was really bad press for the school system. I would love to go bug the school board in person, but unfortunately Accomack is almost four hours away, so it would have to be an entire day trip which my schedule doesn’t provide.

We pretty much have the skeleton for our site completed. This week is the week where we really start adding content to the pages. I am researching Harper Lee and creating the page where users can find out about the author and why she wrote the book. I am interested to see what I find. I know I have just skimmed the surface so far.

Besides emailing people and creating the skeleton for our site, we did not manage to do very much because we were on spring break. It was definitely one of our slower weeks. This week will be really busy with research and content creating.

So because we don’t have any new content yet, here is pictures from my Spring Break in New Orleans. I went and checked out the Carousel Bar and Lounge where a bunch of famous authors who’ve had challenges and complaints about their novels and plays hung out. I hope everyone else also has a great break in the next few weeks!

picture of Carousel bar and lounge
Carousel Bar and Lounge, where Ernest Hemingway, William Faulkner, and Tennessee Williams used to hang out.

 

picture of art in the French Quarter Streets.
Art in the French Quarter Streets.
picture of bagels
Breakfast at St. Roch Market

Week Six: Interview Protocols

Screenshot of Facebook Event for Accomack County Protest
Screenshot of Facebook Event Created by Charles Knitter

Karina and I have secured an interview with Charles Knitter, the man who led the protest outside of the courthouse when the challenge against To Kill a Mockingbird happened in late 2016. We found him through an article and then from a Facebook event he had created for the protest last December. We think his perspective will be really interesting because of his role in the protest. As part of their event he explained, “Local historian Dr. Kentoya Downing-Garcia will be our guest of honor and be giving a brief lesson on the importance of these literary works, the message against racism that they convey, and why the uncomfortable feelings they create are so important.” Not only did they peacefully protest, but they also set up a local historian to speak, and a group reading. I think his input will be very interesting and add a lot to our project.

Some of the open-ended questions we are going to ask him are:

 

  • Did you grow up in Accomack County and if not how long have you lived there?
  • How did you first hear about the To Kill A Mockingbird case?
  • What sparked you interest in the challenge or brought it to your attention? Do you have any children in the school system or work in the schools?
  • Why did you decide to hold a protest?
    • What was the goal of the protest?
    • How did you choose who was going to speak at the protest?
    • How do you think the protest went?
  • What can you tell me about the petition? From our understanding, a student, Sayde Saunders created one, but was asked by the principal to stop collecting signatures?
  • We noticed that you learned about the mess up in policy after the protest and that it was upsetting. Can you explain your understanding of the policy and what the mistake was?
  • What is your personal experience with To Kill a Mockingbird and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn?

We are either going to set up a phone interview or send him the questions via email. I am trying to figure out how to record a phone interview so we could have that record first, but if we are unable to figure it out then we might just email the questions. That is our biggest stopping block right now.

I have also called and emailed the School Board, so we are hoping to hear back from them in the next couple days. If not I will call again.

I found this video attached to the news article we first found out about the protest in. It sheds some light about what happened there and I think with the personal interview we will have a great page about the protest.

 

Week Five: Reading Reflection

For the past couple weeks, I have been stuck on the readings talking about the voices that are not heard in literature. There are biases in novels that I love and in so much literature these days. Young adults cannot identify even as they are searching for similar experiences because they are just not there.

The Dearth of Narrative Voices in Young Adult Literature: A Call for More Young Adult Literature Written by and for Indigenous People, lays out how there are not enough books written for indigenous people by indigenous people, which on one hand seems crazy to me but then when I look at the publishing industry I understand why. Publishers want a certain frame for these kinds of stories and won’t publish the authentic ones.  The other problem is that if they do tell these stories, it is not by an indigenous person hardly ever. “The danger, according to Bruchac, in not portraying students’ culture accurately is that they may feel that their world and, by extension, their own lives are of no real importance,” (Metzger and Kelleher, 38). The thought of this makes me incredibly sad. I think back to the books I read as a child and I find that I was really drawn to stories where I could see myself. The ones that are my absolute favorite are the ones where I found part of my story accurately, authentically, represented. It is still different for me though because I am white woman who identifies as American. I do not have any other culture that my family identifies with and participates in completely (My father’s side is Polish, but his family did not seem to be oppressed. In fact, the town I grew up in was mainly Polish when it was founded.) Due to this fact, I found lots more reading materials than any group that has been oppressed. Even if someone is struggling with their identity, I want there to be stories for them. And when people are struggling with identity and who they are as a young person, they turn to stories and books. I know I did at least.

I think I can see how this plays out in the novel Karina and I have chosen to explore, To Kill a Mockingbird. One of the main arguments that I have seen when looking at the loads of articles about challenges on To Kill a Mockingbird, is that when young adults read this book and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, they think it is okay to use the n-word. That was the main point of the complaint we found in our case in Accomack County. The parent said her biracial son was uncomfortable with the language and it was upsetting. He cannot see himself in the novel, actually feels like there is not place he can identify with in the pages of the book. A white woman wrote it and though it does push past racism, it still

Picture of Harper Lee from 2007
Haper Lee in 2007

has that bias. I do not think this novel would have been published if a person of color had written this story. It first, most likely would be a different perspective, and I don’t believe publishers would have been open to putting it out there in the world. It is so crazy how we think about a novel, that so many people have read, would not have been published just because some different had written it. Harper Lee’s novel has made an impact on many lives, mine included, but maybe we should reconsider what we publish to make room for a more diverse audience.

Metzger, Kenneth and Wendy Kelleher. The Dearth of Narrative Voices in Young Adult Literature: A Call for More Young Adult Literature Written by and for Indigenous People. ALAN Review. 2008. pp. 36-42.

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