Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Summer Plans

It’s been a long semester and an even longer winter, but it is finally summer! It’s like nature’s reward for working hard throughout the academic year. Let’s go enjoy some sunshine!

For some this is just a short break before summer classes begin. I won’t be taking any summer classes for my program, but there are some community classes I’m considering taking that are related to art and computers. As I mentioned before, I will be working on building my own personal website. I’ll be putting the work from this year’s classes into an online portfolio. Whether I take a class or not, I’ll still be on campus occasionally. I plan on visiting the Moraine Park Technical College library during the summer to check out books about web design I’ve seen but not had the time to read.

Summer is a good time to keep learning on your own outside of the classroom if you’ve got the time. I recommend looking for internships and volunteer opportunities. You may not be paid in cash, but you’ll be paid in experience. It’s something that looks good on your résumé, too. I do graphic design work for my church. It’s fun and rewarding to use your talents to help out organizations you’re involved in. Plus, they make me feel so appreciated!

I probably won’t be going on any big trips or travel very far, but I’m going to try to plan some of those “staycations” that are so popular right now. There are plenty of things to do right here in Wisconsin. I’ll be visiting the zoo and, maybe, Old World Wisconsin. It also might be time for my first Brewer’s game.

On a parting note, I would like to say congratulations to those who have graduated this past Saturday! You did it!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

IVC: Interactive Video Conference

Being in the IT-Web Designer/Developer program, I have become very familiar with IVC - Interactive Video Conference - system. Many of our classes are taught this way.

IVC allows students from different campuses to have class together using video and microphones. I can be at the West Bend campus with classmates while the instructor and other classmates can be at the Fond du Lac campus. We can see and talk to each other through the cameras and microphones. We can also see what the instructor is doing on the computer on a separate projection screen.

The first time I saw a IVC microphone was a few years ago. I thought, what an odd looking mouse? It’s about the same size as one, sits on the table and has a long cord. There are several of them in each room that is IVC capable. If you’re in an IVC class, make sure you turn your microphone on when you want to talk otherwise the students at the other campuses can’t hear you. Similarly, turn it off when you’re done speaking; otherwise people can still hear you! Everybody does one or the other at least once.

I’ve also used IVC for meetings with people on other campuses. It’s really a great way to connect the campuses in real-time. Recently, we had a meeting about our student blogs and I got to meet Kirsten, the student blogger from the Beaver Dam campus (Note: Check out her blog by visiting the Links tab on my blog page). I was able to meet with people from Fond du Lac and Beaver Dam while staying in West Bend. I didn’t have to drive all the way to another campus. That’s a good thing with gas prices being so high.

Even though I understand what IVC is I sometimes forget, along with other abbreviations, what it stands for. Here’s a link to an MPTC page that shows some common abbreviations you may need to know when looking at class schedules:


Thursday, May 19, 2011

My JavaScript Final Project

These past few days I have been spending a lot of time working on my final project for my JavaScript class. Web and graphic designers are notorious for being unaware of time passing and the necessity for food and sleep. I had to make sure I took breaks when I was working on it in the library at Moraine Park’s West Bend campus on Wednesday.

It’s an interactive application. My theme for the project is an aid for new artists to help them learn art basics. I’ve created a list of words and their definitions, and I’m working on making a quiz. Using JavaScript, a programming language, I’m writing code that will swap images with other images that show the answer to each question when you hover over the original image.

I still need to add more JavaScript to make it interactive. There is a long list of criteria to follow that goes all the way back to things we learned at the beginning of the semester. Luckily, I can look back through previous assignments to refresh my memory. It’ll be a nice item to add to my online portfolio to show future employers or clients what I can do for them.

Monday, May 16, 2011

The Library is Free

The other week I was in the library and I noticed a cart near the window with a sign that read, “free” on it. As most people do when they see a free sign, I went over to investigate it.

It turned out to be a cart full of books stamped discard. The library gets new books in every semester to keep up with changes in fields, new discoveries and technologies and the job market. The books I was looking at were no longer needed in the library.

I picked up a few books I was interested in like “Careers for Culture Lovers & Other Artsy Types” and a book about graphic design. These books, I believe still carry value. It’s interesting to look through those discarded books, especially to see which ones catch your eye and make you open up to the first page. It might even be inspiring to those who are unsure what career or job they want to go into.

Speaking of books in the library, this summer I plan to look through some web design books the library got in this year to freshen up on all the material I’ve learned this semester and hopefully learn a new thing or two.

You may be thinking why would I bother reading books about web design when I can learn about it, along with any other topic, on the Web itself? That is true, but I have found the Web to be more quantity rather than quality when it comes to information. Books are generally more reliable, accurate and in-depth than search engine results. Plus, reading books from the library is free! And we all like free things.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Spring Semester’s End

Even though we are adults now, I always feel nostalgic this time of the year. The grass is turning green, the temperature is above 60 degrees and the birds are singing in the morning sunlight. After this week, there is only one week left until the end of the spring semester and you can feel it in the air. Just like the grade school student looking longingly out the window of a classroom, you know summer is coming.

When I think about my memories of school, I don’t think about tests I’ve taken or grades I’ve earned. I think about the little, unexpected things that have happened, special events I’ve participated in and the people I’ve had the good fortune to meet throughout the year.

What will I remember when I think back to this past academic year? I will remember the day I walked down the hall, turned the corner and saw traffic lights in the intersection of the hallway. They were changing from red to yellow to green. Working traffic lights in the hallway?! The electricity program students were doing a project that day, according to the sign.

I will remember standing at the roulette table with a stack of purple chips in my hand, listening to other students teach me strategies on playing the game.

I will remember the amazing classmates I have met in my program who I’ve spent countless hours with each week, sympathizing with our workloads, finally understanding a difficult concept with, and laughing at jokes that only the computer-savvy can understand.

Sure, I will remember the things I’ve learned as well. It’s the reason I’m here. But I think it’s important to step back from things and enjoy the whole experience. What will you remember from this year? Who have you met that has inspired you or changed your perspective about something? What have you done this year that you’ll remember forever?

Friday, May 6, 2011

Group Project Update: Web Site Design, Implementation and Maintenance

We are nearing the end of the semester, and there are only two weeks left of my Web Site Design, Implementation and Maintenance class. You may remember me talking about this class in a previous blog. We all work as small design teams who are creating Web sites for pretend clients.

Each team member has a title. I am the Quality Assurance Lead. This past week, I finally learned more about what that means. When creating a Web site for a client, the site must be tested for bugs and potential errors before it is launched (AKA a finished Web site that people on the Web can access).

There are so many factors that play a role in how a person visiting the site will see it. It is the Quality Assurance Lead’s job to facilitate tests in order to make sure that the client’s site can be viewed in the way it was intended to be viewed. Some variables include what kind of browser the viewer is using (ex: Internet Explorer, Firefox) and what version of the browser is being used, the type of platform (ex: PC, Mac), operating system (ex: XP, Windows 7), screen resolution and connection type. That’s a lot of variables. Not to mention there are numerous combinations you can make with those variables!

After running through several tests to make sure that things like images and links show up correctly, any errors found must be fixed. It’s more work than I imagined, but it’s a necessity.

This week we have more steps to complete. The site isn’t ready to launch yet, even though the errors are fixed. We need to create several plans before the launch, like the site announcement plan, maintenance and evaluation plan, and a plan involving search engine optimization (SEO) so it can be found on the World Wide Web.

I know it will be a good feeling when my group and I finish this project. To have all this documentation to look back on when we have real clients will definitely help as a reference. In this class we have learned that Web design is more than building nice-looking Web sites and handing them off to clients. A professional site involves lots of research and planning, testing and retesting, and documentation-- tons of documentation.