Timeline Project

Written by Jessica Drechsler, Kennedi Wittenrich, Micayah Ambriz, and Nicole Fyvie

As we started the timeline project, we determined that the purpose was to not only find events that happened during the time Thoreau was at Walden, but to look at events that happened before and after Walden. Some of the events that occurred early in Thoreau’s life, contributed to how he ended up at Walden. For example, in 1821, Thoreau’s uncle and father started up in the pencil-making business. This is an important event, as it helped Thoreau to afford to be able to go to Harvard. Then, without Thoreau meeting Emerson, he wouldn’t have been offered a piece of land on the shore of Walden Pond, which he used during his time at the pond. Also, without Thoreau being able to build a house on the pond, he wouldn’t have written his journals that ended up contributing to his book Walden. The events that were occurring around the world during this affected Thoreau’s life after he left Walden. For example, the Civil War was occurring after the time that Thoreau left Walden. Through this, Thoreau became involved in the abolition and spoke at different events regarding this topic. The purpose of this project was to include different times in  Thoreau’s life and events around the world, that contributed to Thoreau’s life overall.

Due to previous experiences with group projects, we decided to equally divide up the work in order to ensure that all members were contributing equally. This is very important when working as a group to ensure that one person isn’t simply doing nothing while everyone else does all the work. When creating the timeline we decided to create three parallel timelines that would detail different events that were important to the creation of Walden. The three timelines were titled “life”, “world”, and “walden” and they detailed different important events pertaining to those categories. Jessica was responsible for the life events of Thoreau that led up to his creation of Walden, Logan went through and added different important historical events during the time period, Nicole focused on Thoreau’s time during Walden, Kennedi focused on life after Walden, and lastly Micayah pulled information from Walden and the Selection of Journals about his time at Walden. By dividing up the work in such a precise manner it allowed us to work more productively and accurately. Instead of constantly asking “what is it I’m supposed to be doing?” we all knew what work was assigned of us and completed it.

As we were working on this project we ran into a few challenges. Some challenges were harder than others but in the end, we were able to figure everything out. One of the challenges we ran into was that the Knight lab timeline website crashed a few times. We didn’t need it to work on the project but it was nice to have so we could see when the website crashed we had to figure out how to work on the project without using the website to see how our work was coming out. We did not find a solution to this problem but the website was restored the next day so we were able to use it in class. A second challenge we ran into was that we wanted to have a picture of the different versions of Walden and we couldn’t find any pictures on it. So what we did was went to the fluid text website and took screenshots of each version we talked about. But you can’t upload an image into the timeline excel sheet, you need an image address. What we did was we uploaded the screenshots into a blog post and posted it on our classes blog website. This gave each image a URL and we were then able to use it in our project. Another challenge we faced was that we wanted to organize this timeline into different sections and we didn’t want to have more than one timeline. What we found was that we could do this by putting a name in the group column all the way on the right of the excel sheet. The three names we used were Life, Book, and World to categorize what each point was represented too. The last challenge we faced was that at one point we couldn’t get the excel URL to work in the timeline website. We had to figure out why it wasn’t working and how to fix it. So we went through the whole excel sheet to see if everything was filled out correctly and there were no blank spaces. What we found was that the Dates column name was accidentally deleted and it won’t work unless that box was filled in. To make it work we just put in the title dates and the URL worked again on the timeline website.

While completing this Timeline Project on Walden, we learned many new things about Thoreau. We learned that he was inspired by Emerson to change his name from David Henry Thoreau to Henry David Thoreau. He went to Harvard, which at the time only cost $179 for both room and board and tuition. Even at such a low cost compared to today, he could barely afford to go. Luckily, his family owned a Pencil Business and they were able to scrape together enough money for him to attend Harvard. He went to jail for not paying the poll tax because it supported slavery and he didn’t agree with that. We learned that he built the house at Walden and later gave lectures based on the different chapters in Walden. Finally, in 1862, 10 years after the first publication of Walden was released and towards the end of his life, we learned that Thoreau changed the title from Walden or Life in the Woods to just Walden.

The main tool that we used in completing this project is TimelineJS. The website has you open a google sheet template in which you input the information and images for the timeline. The layout had you include dates, headline, text, the URL  of the image, image credit, and an image caption. Since Timeline JS used a google sheet to store the data, everyone in the group was able to work on it at the same time and it was more accessible than most websites. The website was also free to use and the order in which we found and included information didn’t matter since the website inputs the actual timeline based on the date of the event. Due to the nature of our topic, it was able to accommodate the use of more than one grouping on the timeline itself. In this way, we could group together the information into three separate lines on our timeline; life, book, and world. There were some limitations for this website, however, and one of these was that the website would occasionally crash. Also, if anything was inputted incorrectly or incompletely, the timeline wouldn’t accept it and an error file will appear. Also, only an URL can be used for images in the google sheets. Therefore, any images such as screenshots from websites had to be uploaded onto a separate website in order to put it into the timeline.



The Reliance on Screens and How it Has Changed our Lives

This past class we talked about How we read: Close, Hyper, Machine we and how it is preventing us from reading to comprehend better due to the media holes. Media holes take away from our original intent of reading an article. After talking about this reading, it got me thinking about our attention spans, how we all have shorter attention spans, and how this could be due to the increase of technology.

While looking into this idea of a lack of attention span, I was talking to Jess, and she told me about a video she found about social media and how we have changed. After watching this , I have learned that social media can be used in the wrong ways and can become a toxic part of our days. On average people spend 2-3 hours a day on social media, and 3.4 million people use social media every single day. Increase social media use increases the time we use alone and this, in turn, increases anxiety and depression. This is because we are constantly filling every second that we have alone with the time on our phones. This keeps you away from higher quality purposes. With being on our phones so much it is replacing our time we could be using to improve ourselves, and that’s time we can never get back.

The reason I am talking about this video is because our brains are constantly working, but it has become a reflex to open social media every time we open our phone and has become an innate go to when we are alone. I feel that this is also true when it comes to comprehension. Our attention spans have become much shorter because we can constantly scroll with a flick of the thumb or finger and we get something new on our screen. This has increased our idea of skimming while on a screen. You can constantly get distracted when doing homework on screens because of the number of things that are on your screen at once. It has become harder to closely read a text from beginning to end without our minds thinking about what we are thinking and then going to other sources to look into our thinking or to even “feel” and have the urge to go on social media. Our phones can also be a distraction while you are doing a task because your phone is like a cigarette. You become addicted to it and you always need a break at some point to “check” your phone. This is how we get to always going on social media and one task that should take 30 minutes turns into a few hours. Since the increase in technology, there has become a reliance on screens and social media, which can be toxic for people. You lose time on your phone when you could be having that time for yourself. If you delete social media off your phone for 30 days, you can do all the things you wanted to do but never had time for due to us using social media every free second, we have.

Is Privacy Real?

All throughout the class, we have been using applications and websites to make blog posts, timelines, and more. One big part of using the internet that everyone should be aware of is our privacy. This seems to be a big issue that has arisen since the start of the internet. In Dr. Schacht’s class, when working with the timeline application or Omeka we were shown the option of making our work private. But one option that is not private is our blog posts. Even if we want things to be private, would it really be private? Privacy has been a debate for a while now.

One example that we have seen is Facebook and its privacy terms and conditions. Facebook is known as a place where people can share their information to whom they want and post about their interests. We can change our settings to say who can view our posts and other information that controls what we want private. But even if you do this, it is not really private. This is due to the fact that the creators of Facebook still have the rights to save any and all data about you. In face back in 2018 Facebook had a privacy scandal. This was shown in the New York Times  when they reported that “Facebook gave technology companies like Microsoft, Netflix and Spotify special access to user’s data without anyone else knowing.” Through technology, they have also related a bug to sell the photos and posts of Facebook users to any third-party apps. So, no matter your Facebook settings your information is not private.

Nothing is ever private, and we need to keep that in mind before we ever type or post any sort of content. Once you post something that is on the internet forever and it can never get taken down. Our privacy is our privacy but once we text, tweet, post, etc. about it then it’s not private anymore. IF we want anything to ever be private about us then we can never share it online or text it to anyone. We will have to keep it to ourselves if we want something to stay private.

The use of Omeka and Timeline

Recently in class, we have been playing around with the Omeka application. I’ve learned that you don’t want to think of Omeka as an open blog post to vent your ideas, but rather, look at Omeka as an online museum which contains artifacts. With playing around with Omeka I started to make an online museum about my life and showing how I got here today. As I was doing this in class, I started to think about how I could use these ideas and connect it to my final project in the class which uses the Knight Lab timeline tool. Both of these tools can be used in the same way, but they are very different applications.

When I think of Omeka now I think about it as a timeline about someone’s life history. But you don’t see the timeline, rather, you see the exhibits which can be like a timeline. You can click through the different pages and see the history of that person’s life. This is exactly what I am doing with my final project on the timeline website. My group is doing the history of how the book Walden by Henry David Thoreau came to be. We are doing what is shown in Omeka but in our project, you can actually see a picture of a timeline with a point on it explaining what he did at this date/ time period. I feel that these two tools are connected. If I use my Omeka website as an example, I started putting together an online museum of my life and the history of how I got to SUNY Geneseo. I could grab all of these pages that I started to make and put it all on the timeline website. I could start with the day I was born and add captions explaining each event I would decide to put in there. On the timeline tool, you can also add as many pictures as you want. One difference between the two is that you can pinpoint when the exact event was on the timeline, and in Omeka you would put the date either in the caption or as the title of that exhibit. But it is the same story that can be told on different tools.

As I have mentioned before; I am studying to be a teacher. After learning about these applications, I found that this would be a great project that I could assign in my classroom or use in class to do the history of an author in literacy, or of how electricity was invented in science. I feel that these tools can be used in all subjects and not just in history class. This is also a great way to get the students excited about researching a time period, event, or person and then have them explain it to their other classmates. These could be fun projects that aren’t the same activities over and over again. Another way that I thought I could use this is to use it as a project rather than have them take a test; it is still testing what they learned but they don’t have to get as stressed about taking an exam. I also think it’s good to mix up giving students tests and projects because then they can focus on learning rather than just memorizing, I know I enjoyed this mixing up of testing growing up.

My Growth

In Dr. Schacht’s English 340 class we have been working a lot with different types of programs and devices. We were asked the question “What are the most interesting things I know now that I didn’t know at the beginning of the semester?” I feel that I have learned a lot this semester about computers then I have in years. Dr. Schacht’s class has pushed me to learn about all the different types of computer programs and websites. The most interesting thing I believed I learned so far in this semester is how to use the program VirtualBox.

Continue reading “My Growth”

Teaching Technology

As a future teacher, I think that Dr. Schacht’s English 340 class is very eye-opening for me. This class has helped me learn about my computer and all the different things I can do with it. Due to technology rising in this day in age I think it’s important that teachers know about the technology they are teaching and how to work it in many ways. By taking this class I feel that I have gained a better sense of computer devices. I have also learned some tools that I think can be useful in a classroom. I feel that the timeline website would be a great attribute for me to assign as a class project for a history class. I can ask my class to do a timeline of the presidents of the United States, or maybe put the wars that we have fought in chronological order. I think that they could also use simple text to take notes on the topics that the students will research. These programs can teach the students about how everything you do on your computer has a command, but we just don’t think of that when we’re on our computers. I can also use other programs like Atom or virtual box in my class for writing notes or making worksheets. Technology is an important part of a child’s day and it’s not going to go away. That’s why I believe that teachers should learn about how the new technology works. This way the teachers can teach their students. But also, teachers and students can use both these skills in and out of the classroom.

Another aspect I think is beneficial about taking this class is that everything is being broken down for me, so I understand why we have to type in https:// on a website, or how we can make things italicized on a simple text program like Atom. If I know more about this, I believe that it would be a great lesson to teach children. They should know the simplistic commands that makes your computer do the things you want it to do. You don’t have to start his at kindergarten, but I think if you do little pieces over time starting at the younger ages. For example, around 3 or 4th grade when children start to use computers every day in class then it can improve their knowledge of their computers overall.

My Computing Life

“Lit and Lit Study in the Digital Age” was my top english class that I wanted to take this semester. Coming into this class I knew it would be different, one that would cover topics I have never covered in any other english class. That is the biggest reason I was so intrigued to take this class. Although I am not very good with computers or technology, I wanted to improve my skills. I feel that I am average in being versatile in technology, but every now and then I need to ask other people for help with tasks. Continue reading “My Computing Life”