On Monday, I hit the road again back to McMinville for another data collection trip to another 5th grade class. Despite how attractive Yamhill County is, I am glad that I won’t be spending another 2 hours in the car for 20 minutes of fieldwork. I’m very appreciative of the teacher and her students though, and of the lab manager at both schools in McMinville for helping me overcome some of the IE-based problems with the testing apparatus (read; Blackboard)
Upon arriving at Columbus Elementary, I was momentarily mortified when the woman in the head office said the teacher wasn’t in today. I assumed she meant that the teacher was at one of the other 2 schools where she teaches. Luckily, she simply meant that the teacher had a sub who was informed of what we were doing.
The class piled in to the lab after I’d logged all the machines in, we did the intro, and they took off. There was a noticeable difference between the early and late finishers, time wise. The last two sessions didn’t have such a long span between the first and last student. I’ll be interested to see both the biographical and the times in the results.
Again, after thanking all the students, I rewarded them with giant pretzels (many of the students had never seen such a thing) and peppermint candies. Then I excused myself to drive back to work. In the car I enjoyed a few pretzels myself, but then realized I didn’t have any water to help wash them down. This is when I started getting calls from work. I frantically tried to swallow the crumbs and not sound like a buffoon.
Note to self – check out one of the alternate questions on question set 7. The map didn’t come up for everyone.
Wednesday I drove south to McMinville’s Newby Elementary School to have a class of 5th graders run through my maps. Overall, the experience went well, though there were a few hiccups when some students tried to save a few questions, and many of the screens were 15″ rather than the desired 17″, but 23 students were able to complete the test with only a few bumps. It was a lot of time in the car for about 30 minutes of testing, but such fieldwork (I suspect.)
This morning I visited Tualatin Valley Academy where a class of 7th graders took my thesis maps for a spin. After the revisions I made following the pilot, I was curious to see how long the tests took, and if any other problems arose. I got to the school rather early, logged in to all the workstations, and set up an example on the projector. The students filed in after a period change and automatically separated themselves by gender (it was rather comical to see girls in one corner, boys in the other). The introduction was quick, organized, and done in about 3 minutes. Then, the students started, quickly and quietly moved through each of the questions, finishing in less than 13 minutes.
When I thanked them and said that I was astonished how quick it went, several said they’d be happy to hang out in the lab longer so they didn’t have to go back to class (classic teen). I pointed out that they’d probably be more eager to go back to their classroom since they couldn’t (pulling a box from underneath my coat) eat these donuts in the computer lab.
I have to admit, I was a little shocked at how quickly it went (and how positive and complete the results are). Whether the difference has to do with changes I made to the quiz, to the introduction, or if it was simply the age and understanding of the students will have to shake out over the next couple tests. The next is tomorrow in Newberg.
I’m well sick of my thesis by now, but seeing as it’s year 3 of the slog, I’ve got to wrap things up. Well, it’s year 5 of all of it, but the first 3 were awesome, so they don’t really count. I took the summer off from my thesis because I wasn’t able to accomplish anything useful while school was out and one of my committee members was on sabbatical. Summer is over, so I’m back to looking for a replacement committee member (sabbatical was extended) and trying to present my topic, get human subject approval from the graduate office, and get in to the field to try some layer maps on 5th graders.
One of the problems with Elections is that their news coverage completely obscures all the other stuff happening in the world. Take for example our active military campaign in Pakistan. Yes, Pakistan – the country who just elected a new president and whose government seems to have tenuous support. We’re currently bombing suspected Taleban and terrorist targets in the sovereign nation. Pakistan, our partner in the war on terror.
I just got word from one of my instructors and the head of the Student Atlas of Oregon project that our work is now online. As always, it is satisfying to see your work, even if someone did make some changes to it. The final product is pretty nifty, and I suspect it will be much more useful to middle school students than any other current collections of maps of Oregon.
I posted a work in progress view of the cross section map, but here’s the final product. I’d originally made it as a two-page spread, but the format of the atlas changed, and someone else merged the content for the final version.
When Hilly, Michelle, Ella and I got home from dinner, there was a car parked akwardly in front of our house. Hilly, who inherited my mom’s insuppressible urge to help people checked to see if they were lost. They were, in fact, lost. Four Korean 20-somethings were headed from Federal Way to Manzanita. They were operating with a google map print out that was too focused (and indirect) to get them there. They had already missed the route to the coast, so we redirected them with a hand drawn map.
While I was helping the proficient english speaker, the others were letting Ella play with the steering wheel, and were so smitten they gave her a bag of sweet rice treats that were the Asian equivalent of kettle corn. I ended up giving them a crappy tear out map from the Thompson guide which I annotated for their trip, and we sent them on their way. They quickly returned to the front door for a picture with us for the memory. It was cute.
Ella and I found this leaf (among the bajillions blowing around) and I enjoyed the red scalloping on the yellow so much I brought it home and took a picture or two. It’s resting on a copy of Testing the Usability of Interactive Maps in CommonGIS which I’m reading as part of my literature review. It is a useful article, but as you can see, I got distracted.
This past winter and spring, I worked with the Center for Spatial Analysis and Research and Oregon Geographic Alliance on creating an Atlas of Oregon for students. You may think “hey, there’s already a gorgeous Atlas of Oregon, why create another?” Well, the answer should be clear. Because it would be fun. Actually, the reality is that the maps in the student atlas are much more simple, and largely much less aesthetically pleasing to the eyes of adults like ourselves. The maps are designed to fit existing middle school curriculum and communicate clearly the ideas that teachers in working with the Oregon Geographic Alliance have picked as most important. It was a lot of fun though.
One of the challenges that many of us faced was selecting color schemes that were bright enough to be engaging without being obnoxious. I had a difficult time coming up with a simple palette on my own. I’m much better at identifying good colors when I see them than coming up with my own matches, so I often turn to color-picker type web tools for help. But even with these tools I just wasn’t finding the magic. I had no way of knowing if my sensibilities were trumping colors best suited for kids. But then I got an idea.
One of the most important lessons I’ve learned from work is that there is probably someone somewhere who has faced the same situation at some point. The internet has been incredibly helpful in this regard, but for this project, something else came to mind. Who is really good at creating engaging, colorful products that catch the attention of children? Cereal companies. Think for a second about all the colors of not only the cereals themselves, but the packaging as well.
So, while grocery shopping with Michelle and Ella, I took some semi-clandestine pictures of the cereal isle and the candy isle. The candy packaging turned out to be too gauche, and often the palettes were too limited. Cereal boxes were a jackpot. Out of several options I ended up picking Froot Loops and Reeces for their engaging colors.
From these boxes I picked out a swatch of colors to use in these atlas maps. I used them fairly consistently throughout the project, and they worked very well for a few maps, and not at all for others. Some reference maps without much data on it (Cities, for example) didn’t have enough variety to require a whole palette, and none of the vibrant colors worked well as a background. The swatches are far from perfect, but they look good enough on a number of maps that they seem like they may be engaging enough for students without insulting adult sensibilities. We’ll see if that ends up being true or not.