May 14, 2008

The last day...


Today was my last day volunteering at Minnesota Internship Center and I have to admit... I am rather sad to leave. The students were just finishing up their animal projects, so it was cool to see their posters (which they have been working on for several weeks now) finally coming together. I helped them put on the finishing touches, gluing and cutting, and listened while they rehearsed their written lines. They start their final presentations on their research tomorrow and I am disappointed that I won't be there to see them in their moment in front of the class.

I am going to try to volunteer again at MNIC, but it is sad because I do not know if I will ever get to see these kids again. Chances are that I won't ever be in the same classroom as any one of them. There is still so much that I don't know about them and am so anxious to discover, so much beyond what their names are and what homework they need help on. I have been fortunate to have a few outside conversations with a few students, but there was not much time to do so. And in those short, fleeting moments, I have uncovered so much about their personalities, characters, and the diverse backgrounds that they come from. My service learning at Minnesota Internship Center has truly been an awesome that I can't wait to continue next semester!

(Image from

May 7, 2008

Quote o' the Day

"Take a small but varied company to any convenient viewing place overlooking some portion of city and countryside and have each, in turn, describe the 'landscape' to detail what it is composed of and say something about the 'meaning' of what can be seen. It will soon be apparent that even though we gather together and look in the same direction at the same instant, we will not - we cannot - see the same landscape. We may certainly agree that we will see many of the same elements - houses, roads, trees, hills - in terms of such denotations as number, form, dimension, and color, but such facts take on meaning only through association; they must be fitted together according to some coherent body of ideas. Thus we confront the central problem: any landscape is composed not only of what lies before our eyes but what lies within our heads."
-D.W. Meinig, "The Beholding Eye."

Problematic Posters


Volunteering today at MNIC was good as always. As soon as I came into the classroom, the students were anxiously asking me questions about their animal projects. After they have gotten all the information about their animal group (what they have been working on lately), they next have to visually present what they learned on a poster. That was the task before most of them today.

It is hard at times because it seems that all the students want to ask you questions at once. I will be trying to help one student but there will be another student standing right next to me calling, "Teacher! Teacher!" What most of the students want to know is where to find a specific answer or what they "should write" for a specific question. For example, today, I was helping one student work on a question about describing the life cycle of his animal group (arachnids). He kept pointing out sentences in a book about spiders, but I kept trying to explain that he could not write just about spiders, but had to include other creatures from the group. I told him to read some of the pages and then summarize what he read. He looked at me confusedly, and then asked what sentence he should write. I told him that there was not an exact answer written out in the book, but that he had to create his own. He did not seem happy about my response and kept searching for the answer, asking me if certain sentences were correct.

I was talking to the teacher after class and I told her about students looking for one specific right answer in the text and she also voiced this observation. She said that in another of her classes, they were given a similar group project. Some students worked well, she said, but others decided that they didn't know what to do so they just sat there and did no work. When the grades came out, and those students received low scores, she said that they complained to her. They told her that they would rather just do book assignments instead so they could look and find the answers. They just wanted to see the question and look directly for one sentence from the text to answer it.

She said she wasn't sure if it was laziness on the part of the students that drove them to avoid the higher level thinking required by the group projects or if it was just a lack of understanding of the English language that pushed them to pursue the black-and-white questions and answers. I guess I am not really sure either. To some extent, I think it is both. I think the students are often frustrated with the confusion and just want to easily do the assignments correctly. I am not convinced that the students learn much this way, however. When I think back to my childhood, I know I probably did this. I am sure I asked a million questions because I wanted to make sure that I did the problems right and did well on the assignment. This is the same scenario, except these students are not young 7 year-olds - many of them are older than me.

I sympathize with them because I know how difficult it is to learn another language. I took Spanish for a few years in high school, and am starting up again next fall. I am sure that I will be inquiring quite often on conjugations and pronunciations. But I feel like by at least attempting to develop "higher thinking skills" in Spanish, I could learn so much more than I ever could seeking out answers plainly stated in a text.

(Image from

May 6, 2008

Reading #15

"The Search for Form in Art and Architecture" by Eliel Saarinen
pages 11-48

Continue reading "Reading #15" »

Reading #19

Earlier in the semester, I mistakenly blogged on the the wrong readings, so I am going to report on them now!

Discussion questions/keywords/summary from/of:

"Technopoly: The Surrender of Culture to Technology" by Neil Postman
pages 3-39

Continue reading "Reading #19" »

May 4, 2008

Technology + Architecture


Technology and architecture. Architecture and technology. In today's world, both are interwoven. Some of our newest architectural feats rely heavily on cutting edge technology while some of our newest technologies are designed specifically for architects. They coexist and complement each other. But is technology all "good?" And if indeed technology can be "bad," what does that say for architecture?

In the Postman reading (which I have yet to put up discussion questions, etc. for I have noticed...), the idea of a Technophobe and Technophile are discussed (-phobe = afraid and skeptical of technology, -phile = one who is obsessed with technology). I have to say that I, personally, am somewhere in the middle; I believe technology is beneficial, but I have my doubts. I really can't say that technology is all good or all bad. Nor can I say that one certain technology is good or bad. I wish I was passionate about either the benefits or downfalls of it, but I honestly am very unsure. For example, it is one thing to say, "Stem cell technologies are evil and wrong!" But what if I had a child dying in the hospital that could be saved from such research? Would I still be so inclined to call it "the work of the devil?" The issues surrounding technology are what makes it a difficult situation.

I am not saying whether or not I support stem cell research, but am merely pointing out that the usefulness and value of a technology really depends on the morals and perspective of each individual person. I could say that the toothbrush is a good technology and that the atomic bomb is a bad technology. However, to a five-year-old, the toothbrush might seem completely awful while the idea of an atomic bomb blowing stuff up could be “awwwwesomme!? Until the day we are all android clones trained to think in the same manner, I do not think we will ever have one definite answer as to whether or not technology is good.

I do, however, believe that the advancement of technology is key for the future of architecture and our society. Since the dawn of time, technology has been a catalyst for progress. Few could argue that we would not be where we are today if it were not for the invention of the wheel and stone tools. In our reading, Postman, in short, also argued that technology simply does what it has been designed to do. I disagree with this. Though "writing" was designed for communication, I don't think it was ever meant to spread hate literature or racial degredation. Technology is what it is, but people are constantly finding new ways to use it. They are constantly reinventing it and finding their own uses for it. Technology is not inherently evil because of it's design. Technology can be good or bad, all depending on how it is used. Similarly, the practice of architecture can be good or bad, all depending on how it is performed. In response to that, I can only say that all technology and architecture should truly be used responsibly and all consequences should be thoroughly considered.

(Images combined on photoshop from and

May 1, 2008

Today was the day. Presentation Response/Blog Prompt 8 and 9 was our presentation. And I have to say, I am rather sad about it. Our video, which set the scene for the presentation, would not play. That really threw us off because we made such an effort to make sure everything worked properly. We uploaded the video to youtube. Then, I posted everything on my blog. Then, I burned it to a disk. And just in case that didn't work, I saved it to a flash drive. And, after all that didn't work. I was a nervous wreck and I know that it showed. It's frustrating when you know what you want to say and you can't get it out because your nerves jumble everything up and will not allow it (a.k.a. I was a babbling mess). I don't remember much of what I said, but I remember saying something about everyone "wasting time playing games"...(??? I did not mean to say anything like that...) So I am pretty disappointed in myself. Mostly because I know we put so much work into it, and worked so hard to emphasize the importance of reducing child mortality, but it didn't feel like it translated as I stuttered through the information.

I was really impressed by the other groups, however.

Broc and Kelly - I thought they did an excellent job presenting. If they were nervous, it was not obvious at all. Their information was extremely thorough and their layout was awesome. I wish I had their Indesign skills! One thing I found especially interesting from research was the role of text messages in the farmer’s markets, allowing prices to be sent to sellers days away from town. It’s amazing to think about how much this technology has impacted their lives, while in our lives it is something that we may take for granted. I think that the laptop was also a very nice addition to the presentation. Having something physically present as an example of the technologies being implemented in Somalia and across Africa gave a face, in a sense, to the initiative and to your proposals. I was wondering, though…what happened to the Marshall Plan? I know you talked about wanting to discuss it in the planning stages of the project, and I was curious to see how it played in. ☺

Angie, Anthony, and Laura – Wow. You guys did an awesome job. You could definitely tell that there was three people’s worth of hard-core research in it. I think that because you chose to focus on the Minneapolis and Cedar-Riverside in particular, people found your lecture presentation to be relatable and even more understood. In addition, I think all the work you did on sustainability will only help you to become better architects in the future. Congrats!

Michelle and Byron – Once again, wow. Another awesome presentation. It was nice to have a few presentations on Somalia so we could get a perspective on the country through the lens of two different Millennium Development Goals. I thought that everything was very cohesively and that the graphic layout you used was very successful. I really liked how you had some images "greyed" in the presentation, but a few were clearly visible. It was interesting how you changed the highlighted picture as your presentation evoloved. Very good research!

Alyssa and Heidi - I thought that it was great that you guys came up with an actual titled plan to promote gender equality and empower women. At first, I wasn't sure if this was an actual project taking place right now in the Central African Republic, or if it was a new propoal. At any rate, that took a lot of thinking and research on your part. Way to go!

I really enjoyed having the chance to finally see all presentations today. Congrats once again to everyone on a job well-done!

This is it. Today is the day.

This is it. Our research project. And today is the day. The day we are presenting it in front of our entire lecture. In T-minus 2 hours. This is a back-up in case things go wrong.

I'm so nervous I can hardly type this. Talking in front of people is not my forte, and being this nervous makes my speech go down the crapper. Please, Lord, help us.

Millennium Development Goal 4 - Reduce Child Mortality

Research Document PDF - Download file

Research Class Presentation - Download file

Research Project Video -

April 30, 2008

Arachnids, amphibians, and mammals, oh my!


These past few weeks have been quite interesting. The students had a big test on classification and kingdoms, etc., and are now starting to work on a new assignment: animal projects! The projects take the form of an informative poster that each student has to create. To begin, they are required to select a certain animal group (mammals, for example). Then, they are to answer specific questions about them (such as whether they are vertebrate or invertebrate) and then state five characteristics of their group that makes them different from other groups. To find these characteristics, the students have to look in library books in the classroom. This is what I helped them with today. For the most part, it was easy to find the information, but it was difficult to explain that they needed to find characteristics of the ENTIRE group, not just one animal in it. One student was studying arachnids, but he kept pointing out facts just about spiders, not really considering the other members of the group, like scorpions and grasshoppers.

It's hard because I can see that the students are very, very intelligent, but they just have a hard time understanding English. When I come in before class, I always have conversations with the students, and they always ask me questions about college, the upcoming elections, etc. I know they are very bright and inquisitive kids on every level. However, I can see how difficult it is for many of them to digest English readings and comprehend them enough to answer questions about what they read. The teacher in the class does an amazing job explaining things so that they understand, but I wish I knew how I personally could make things easier for them...

(Images combined in photoshop from

April 29, 2008

Quote o' the Day

"You can't stop the waves.
But, you can learn to surf."

April 20, 2008

Quote o' the Day

Last week, I was perched on my chair at my computer, feverishly typing a paper for my "Intro to Design Thinking" class. For our topic, we had to write about a memorable place and how it related to specific design theories, etc., etc. We also had to describe why the place was meaningful to us, so I was looking through pages of quotes on memories. I came across this one that didn't really relate to my paper, but it resonated in my mind, rather sadly...

"Footfalls echo in the memory
Down the passage which we did not take
Towards the door we never opened"
-T.S. Eliot.

April 18, 2008

Yay! Volunteering!


If I had to choose one thing that I liked most about volunteering at MNIC, I would have to say it is the people and the students. Every time I walk into the classroom, all the students say hello and are very friendly. These past couple weeks have been no exception. I greatly enjoy getting the chance to learn more about the students as individuals and to understand their personalities.

My experience with MNIC has really made me stop and consider my future. About the time when I was in second grade, I decided that I really wanted to be an elementary school teacher (before that, I wanted to be a custodian...long story....). Of course, things have changed, but I have to admit that a little piece of me is re-considering that option. I don't know if I would be good enough or would have enough patience to be a teacher, but I love having the opportunity to help people. At the same time, however, I don't know if I could ever be good enough to be a good architect or designer. I am having a tough time picturing my self doing anything career-wise. I like a lot of things, but I don't know which path to seek. I really wish I was one of those people who passionately knew what they wanted to do. At any rate, I know I will continue with MNIC through finals week and as long as possible. I sincerely hope that I will be able to volunteer here next semester, even I do not have a service learning class.

(Photo from

April 6, 2008

The things I have come to learn...

I apologize that my volunteer updates have been rather sporadic. Our spring break and MNIC's spring break did not coincide, so I missed two weeks. In addition, I volunteer for just an hour every week as opposed to 2 hours every other week like most people do, so I've been trying to combine my journaling into longer narratives. This way, I feel I can better sum up the work I have done and I can look back at what I have experienced in perspective every few weeks or so.

Lately in class, the students have been working on learning about cells and body systems (nervous system digestive system, ect.) and are now moving on to learning about the classification of organisms and taxonomy. I have to admit, it is a good refresher for me as well. It has been quite some time since I learned and used this kind of scientific information. I was slightly worried at first that I wouldn't remember the content and wouldn't be able to help the students. It is funny, though, how you can suddenly remember things you thought you had long forgotten when need arises.

Throughout my lifetime, I have said on many occasions, "Man, I would hate to have English as my second language." This is because I have always thought that it would be extremely difficult to learn. I mean, I am in college and I STILL could not tell you the proper usage of "who" and "whom" or the correct spelling of recieve (receive...? This one gets me all the time...I know its "i before e, except after c" but I also know that this is not always true...). Anyways, I always speculated that English would be exceptionally hard to become fluent in. I hadn't really realized how true that was until I started volunteering at MNIC.

Kids ask me frequently about the meaning of certain words, and quite often I end up confusing myself. The English language is tough...really tough. On one occasion, a student asked me to explain to him what the nervous system was. So, I broke into an enthusiastic description, telling him about the brain sending messages through your nerves to various parts of your body, telling your arm to move or your legs to walk, etc. However, when I finished, he had a completely blank look on his face. I asked him if he understood.

"What does it mean, nervous? To be nervous?" he asked.

I realized that he had mixed the two contexts of "nervous," so I tried to explain that they were different concepts. One was an emotion and one ("nervous system") meant a physical anatomical structure in you body. All in all, they are somewhat related, but they are still different.

"How is nervous spelled?" he questioned again.


He stared at me. "How is other nervous spelled?"

"'s...spelled the same...but it is a different thing," I stuttered.

I could tell he understood, but was confused why one word, spelled the same, could mean two different things. In all honesty, I was a bit, too.

A similar case evolved when I explained to another student the difference between "produce" (to make or create something) and "produce" (vegetables, fruit, etc.). She understood, but was also confused as to how one word could mean two different things. Just imagine for a moment that you are an immigrant, in a foreign country, and you hear the sentence in a strange tongue, "I produce produce on my farm." How confusing would this be?? I know that other languages have different meanings for the same word, but I feel like this fact in the English language, combined with all our grammatical rules, makes it extremely tough to learn.

I have such deep respect for the students that I work with because of this, among other things. Of all the students I have talked to, most of them have cited wanting to learn better English as one of their top reasons for attending school. And they have such a passion to do so. When they see a word they do not recognize, they always ask me its meaning. Then, they'll make little notes in their readings so they can remember it later. I cannot imagine how difficult it would be to try to learn a completely new language, all the while trying to learn subjects like math and science being taught in it.

There is one additional event, clear in my mind, that I know I will never forget. At the beginning of class today, a student who I work with quite often came in, looking rather sad. He smiled at me and sat down, saying "hello" and the usual greetings. He paused for a moment and then asked, "How is school?"

The students know that I attend college at the U, so I told him that I had pretty busy day and that I had a bunch of tough homework to do later.

He smiled, laughed a little, and said, "It is tough, your school?"

I told him honestly that at times it was very tough, but mostly it was a lot of hard work. He nodded his head, looked away, and then looked back at me.

"Yes is much more difficult for us. For us understand english. To learn."

He didn't say it bitterly, more sadly, with an obvious hint of frustration. I was kind of taken aback that he had said it, but I really appreciated that he did. In college, we have our complex assignments. We have our research papers, our group projects, and our scholarly readings. But can we say that our work is more difficult than that of these students, living away from their home countries, going to classes and learning english while trying to learn other subjects and graduate from high school? I am really not sure that I can.

April 2, 2008

Blog Prompt #7

Design three title page options for your research paper.

Continue reading "Blog Prompt #7" »

KINETIC T y p o g r a p h y

This week in our discussion section, Della talked a little bit about the impact and subject of typography. I found this rather coincidental.

Last week, I was doing homework, watching and analyzing the title sequence of "The Age of Innocence" on youtube (It should be noted that I am a person who is very easily distracted). So, after spending a half an hour or so dissecting the design elements and principles of the movie clip, my mouse wandered to the related videos on the sidebar and I began clicking away. I know, I know..I should have been working, but I'm sure we've all done it. If you're on youtube, one minute you'll be watching Harry Potter Puppet Pals, and the next you'll be watching a slow-mo video of some kid eating chocolate cake, set to the "Friends" theme song. It happens.

But this time, I actually found something that was pretty fascinating. I stumbled across a whole series of videos on "Kinetic Typography." Basically, it's just as it sounds - words in motion - but more awesome. Awesome to the power of 56 (<--random number). Most of the clips I found were set to songs or movie scripts. They played the audio from the chosen media and then displayed the dialogue in various colors, texts, and sizes. Then, they animated it.

What I found most intriguing was how the kinetic typography really illustrated the mood of the movie/song. It was interesting how changing the font style and weight could mirror someone laughing or whispering. Even though there was no visual picture, I could formulate an idea of what was occurring in the scene just by the way the moving typography and audio worked together. The people who created and posted these on youtube truly put a lot of thought into each aspect of typography and how it could work to convey the image without showing a direct picture.

Here are some of my (appropriate) favorites. There are a lot more on youtube - I encourage you to check them out!!

Abbott and Costello's "Who's on First?" routine.

"V for Vendetta" scene with V's introduction

Go Canada! A short clip to honor Ozayr on the basics of typography in motion by Vancouver Film School students