mamamusings: January 8, 2004

elizabeth lane lawley's thoughts on technology, academia, family, and tangential topics

Thursday, 8 January 2004

why i do what i do

It’s cold outside today. Again. Which makes getting up and driving (and walking) through blowing and drifting snow for an 8am web design class not much fun—even for the teacher. <sigh>

And today I was observed, again, for my promotion review. Yes, I got tenure last year. But my department delays the promotion review to the year after tenure (don’t even get me started on what I think about this), so I get to go through two years of documenting and proving myself, including classroom observations.

It was, however, a very good day for being observed. This week is the first week of information architecture unit in the web design class, and these are lectures I really enjoy giving. Tuesday I talked about controlled vocabularies, taxonomies, thesauri, and ontologies, and today we reviewed and operationalized that a bit.

Then I talked about how to do bottom-up organization of a mass of unordered data, and sent them off in small groups to work on a sticky-note-based card sort exercise. There’s a group project for the class, and their design documents are due in less than two weeks, so they’ll be able to fold the results of today’s exercise into their document.

I enjoy doing this exercise, because they really get engaged and involved. It’s fun watching them brainstorm, sort, discuss, debate, and go from an unruly mess of notes on the wall to a rudimentary site architecture. Each group is working on the same topic, so I also get to “shoulder surf” their work, and see the different approaches each group is taking to the material.

I actually remembered to bring my digital camera, and took a couple of pictures of them working in the lab. The first was taken from across the atrium of the building, looking in through the glass wall. The second was taken from inside the classroom/lab, looking out towards the atrium.

Students Doing Sticky Note Exercise - View From Outside Lab

Students Doing Stick Note Exercise - View From Inside Lab

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Liz sipping melange at Cafe Central in Vienna