Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Immersive Learning = Unexplored Territory

Ball State makes all of its campus tour guides memorize the definition of immersive learning. How do I know this? Because I am a tour guide myself. Of course, being three months into a bona fide immersive learning experience, I felt no need to memorize the printed text. On tours I just talk about my experience. But I always think to myself, the other tour guides must be very befuddled when trying to elaborate.

I sometimes find it difficult to explain exactly what it is. Not the project, mind you. Give me two minutes and I'll explain our (broad) project goal. Give me three minutes and I'll read you Ball State's immersive learning definition. But ask me about the heart and effects of immersive learning and you'll be sitting a while. But don't worry! I'll just hit some high points here.

My parents never had to light a fire under me to get me to work. I get the feeling the other 16 group members (all of whom I met at the start of the term) would tell you the same thing. But immersive learning has brought me onto an entirely new and, thus far, unexplored level of motivation. There are no tests and very few mandatory class meeting times. Yet, I find myself waking up at 9 in the morning on days when nothing is on the schedule, working for hours on tasks I assigned myself. No one tells me to do probably about 90% of the work I do. I just do it. And I know I'm not the only one. There is something about an atmosphere where 17 talented and motivated people have been thrown together knowing that the university has invested money and so many other resources in our work. Everyone wants to create something extraordinary. Everyone wants to leave their mark. And everyone cares. That's my favorite part: everyone cares.

In summary, immersive learning is this: As we move along in the semester, the bar just keeps raising higher. And the coolest thing? No authority figure, no parent, no outsider is doing that. We the students are raising the bar ourselves.

Tracking the Trailer

I hope everyone who's following this blog has had time to check out the theatrical trailer that we recently edited together. You can see it here:

The more I watch it, the more I really like it. Considering the amount of sleep lost to get it ready, I would really appreciate any feedback from our collective viewing audience. Be it good or bad, I would really like to know what you think.

Working on this was exhausting and exciting. Evan, Jon, Audrey, and Blake put in a lot of time and thought towards the storyboarding and editing.

I worked primarily on editing the music to fit the trailer. The music was a nearly complete idea that me and my esteemed colleague, Adam (the Wilsonian Man), had been working on for a couple of weeks. As I was frantically trying to decide how to score the trailer, I grabbed this musical idea and threw it onto the first thirty seconds of the movie. It didn't fit perfectly, but it was pretty close. Most importantly, it had the right feel. So I consulted with Blake, and we agreed that this was the music for the trailer. We then hashed out specific edit points where the music had to line up with the video, and decided to meet each other half way. I began to cut up and re-orchestrating the music to accommodate the different scenes while Blake finished editing the video using the rough cut of the music as a template. Once we were happy with our work, we combined it and did some final edits to nudge things into perfect sync. Then I did a mix down of the music and we adjusted the dialog to sit on top of that, and presto chango, it was 4 in the morning and it was done. It was pretty fun. Once we got really rolling, we didn't want to stop until it was totally finished. I'm really excited about the final editing of the whole film. Seeing all the pieces of the puzzle lock together is going to be extremely satisfying. And it'll be intense!

Saturday, October 20, 2007

I totally dominated Final Cut Pro!

Yep, you read right. The philosophy/psychology major has mastered professional editing software. Well, maybe I didn't master it, but it feels like I did! This past week I spent most of my time working with Teri and Samantha D on the behind-the-scenes documentary. During the all-nighter we started to pull together all of the footage of the class that has been taken thus far. We soon realized that while we had lots of footage of classmates doing things, we didn't have anyone talking about our project. We decided at that point to do a couple interviews with Aaron L. and Rachel. We also created a list of all the subjects that we needed people to speak on so that we can 1) use the footage we already have and 2) create a documentary that is representative of our creative process. At this point we want to interview our classmates on the subjects of interviewing, the reunion, the Tennessee trip, frustrations with the project, learning new skills, our own attempts at playing volleyball, and our enhanced appreciation and excitement for Burris volleyball. I'm sure we will add more subjects as the semester progresses.

On Wednesday, Samantha D. and I discovered that Kecia expected a clip of the behind-the-scenes documentary by next Tuesday. We looked at the mess before us and decided there was no way to we could create a trailer that hit on all the subjects that we wanted to cover. We had been working intensely on a small section devoted to the all-nighter narrative meeting and came up with the idea to just focus on that section for the Tuesday screening. It was very important to us to create a trailer with structure as we need to get used to envisioning the project, itself, as a story. We added an introduction and a nice wrap up, as well as a few surprises of which I am quite proud. By the time we were finished we had created a trailer with a little story line and even some music.

The completion of a 3 minute and 42 second trailer might not seem like a huge accomplishment, but for me it was. I had spent most of the semester completely avoiding anything associated with technology. I was convinced that I would break or mess up any of the great work that was being done by my more technologically savvy classmates. Tackling this fear was a huge achievement for me. I also experienced the reward that comes from creating something tangible. Most of my college experience has been spent reading and writing papers. A whole semester may result in one paper that I actually like, but this was totally different. I don't know exactly how to explain it, but I finally felt like I had something to show for all of the work I (and the others) had done. It is simply different from turning in a paper at the end of the year, or giving a presentation. I was so excited about what I had completed that I told everyone I saw and even called my mom. That's something I have never experienced with a good paper and it's awesome. I can't wait to continue working on this part of the project!

**And thanks to everyone who popped in and imparted some of their wisdom on us: Adam, Dan, Aaron L., Blake, Laura Huffman, and anyone else I have forgotten**

Friday, October 19, 2007

All-Nighters and Boxed Webs

This week the group and I decided that we needed to sit down and hammer out more of a narrative for the film. Since we are college kids, we decided to do this in the form of an all- nighter at the mansion. (Because really, who wouldn't want to sleep at the mansion??) Most of us congregated between 7 and 8 with food, and started talking about the plan for the rest of the evening.

Once we had more of an organized game plan, we watched a couple of the interviews together while we finished our late dinners, then began coming up with sub-groups and categories. These were branches of our big themes such as gender, community, and sports. We all decided we needed to be more specific and came up with many sub-topics to focus on. After this we ventured up into the creepy 3rd floor and started designing our "box web". We started with Burris history and branched off from there. We also made lists of follow up interviews we want, interviews we have yet to get, and other footage we need to make a good movie.

While some of the narrative team was in the attic, other members of the group were working on the behind-the-scenes documentary while our musicians were composing a song for the film. Both made very good progress. Kristen, Teri and Samantha had clips to show us throughout the night, and interviewed Aaron L. and myself so they could incorporate sound bytes into their film. I have yet to force myself to work on editing with the Final Cut Pro, so I have a lot of respect for those that have sat down and learned it. And as for the musicians, we could hear the drumming all the way in the attic. It amazes me how they can complete a song in one night.

After descending from the attic, the Aarons went on a pizza run to keep the rest of us fed and motivated. The narrative team watched and read through interviews, finding the parts that we found insightful as well as fitting into the narrative topics we had just layed out. This was more difficult then I thought it would be. Nearly every interview has so many good sound bytes within it. This makes it difficult to choose just a few from each person.Around midnight some people started trickling out because of work or meetings in the morning. Others stayed and kept working until about 2 a.m.

After that our productivity went a little down, but those of us that were left listened to Adam and Dan's newest song. Then we had a little drum circle/jam session which helped keep up our spirits. We slept (ghost free) for about four hours, claiming both couches and floor space.

The first of what I can only imagine will be many all-nighters was incredibly successful. We showed Kecia our web the next morning, and she seemed pleased with our work. She also listened to the new song which she enjoyed. I learned that many of us work a lot better at night and it's when many of us are free since our jobs fill our daytime hours. The narrative keeps coming further and further and I can't wait to see the final product.


Tuesday, October 16, 2007

My New View of Volleyball

If you had asked me what I thought I would gain from this project, I would not have said an interest for volleyball. I’m not much of a sporty person, at least that’s the evidence of my past, but I have fallen into the net so to speak.

Many interviews I’ve seen and read, whether from teachers at Burris or parents of players, seemed to express the same surprising change. Volleyball wasn’t on their radar until they saw the Burris women play. Perhaps any sport, if it has the skill and drive set into its foundation, will gather a community around it. Or is it a supportive connected community that fosters a successful sport?

Either way, watching Burris volleyball was an experience I was not expecting. In particular I am thinking of the Central versus Burris game. Wowee. Instead of yawning like I did at high school football games, I was anxiously wringing my hands.

It was really interesting to see a contrast from the intensity of the biggest game of the season to seeing Steve’s 5th grade gym practice. He worked on the basics with the kids. These kids were so organized and attentive, it seemed as though Steve’s focus infected everyone in the room. My gym classes were rather scattered and not very productive. I never learned a drill or skill, just that I couldn’t do a chin up.

Although being a spectator is a blast, I am very glad that everyone is doing such a good job of logging all our footage because stopping play by play to type what happened can be taxing. But transcribing and reading all our hours of footage so far is like the practice for our documentary. If we keep the focus and dedication during these “drills,” our biggest event will be a wonder to watch.

Monday, October 15, 2007

1982 Reunion

On Sunday, October 7th, the first Burris state championship team gathered at the Virginia Ball Center. Throughout their day at the VBC, they reminisced about old times, recalled fun memories, and caught up on the lives of their former teammates. Little did they know how much we, as students, enjoyed watching their interactions and listening to the recollections of that memorable season back in 1982.

The team had loads of memorabilia which was fun, not only for them to look through, but also for us to see as students. Through countless interviews, we have heard a lot of stories and remembrances from that year but being able to see the pictures and watch the actual footage from the game really made the stories come alive.

One of my favorite events from that evening was sitting in on the women as they watched the state championship game from that year. It amazed me how much some things have changed 20 some years later, but also, how some things have not changed at all. While the intensity of play, the uniforms, the rules, and several aspects of the game are now different, I still saw the same Steve on the sideline with his ever calm demeanor and the same passion on the faces of the team that I continue to see on girls today.

The following day, the women were recognized at the Burris vs. Muncie Central game. I think it was great, not only for the women, but for all those in attendance to remember that year and reflect on the remarkable tradition that everyone now knows as Burris Volleyball. And what a better game to solidify exactly what tradition and volleyball means to Burris!

All in all, it was a celebrated weekend for all involved. Good luck to the Burris squad as they begin sectionals and the upcoming state run!

Thursday, October 11, 2007

PTSO Presentation

The Oct. 9th PTSO meeting was the first chance the Virgina Ball Center has had to represent ourselves as students and really talk about our side of the project. Four of the seminar's members, including myself, gave a four minute presentation. Each of us talked about an area that we were passionate about, and were able to accurately represent what we are hoping to accomplish both for the Burris community and for ourselves through this immersive learning experience.

Honestly, I don't think I could tell you what I said in front of that crowd. I'm always shocked by how nervous I am presenting to my classmates, and how my mind just switches over to business mode when I'm in front of a foreign crowd. I fell right into my groove and felt really comfortable.

The audience - small, but mighty in their question asking - was interested in what we were doing for their community, but also very interested in each of us as students. We talked our majors and how each of us chose to be a part of this seminar because we believe that it truly will change us as people.

The teaser shown at the end of our presentation definitely perked their interest. I was excited to see Dr. McGee's clip at the end, with him sitting in the front row at the meeting (he was my first interview for the project).

I'm incredibly proud of my co-presenters and hope to have more opportunities to share our excitement about our project.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Storybook Ending

Monday night's match between Burris and Central was perfect. With the Owls down 2-1 after the first three games, we were talking amongst ourselves saying, "They just can't lose tonight, especially before sectionals." So much for being impartial as filmmakers.

My first experience with the Owls was at Cathedral. Being an extremely competitive person, I was a little upset about the loss, but never expected to become this involved and attached to the success of the team. While Aaron and I were shooting behind-the-scenes footage we didn't have to try hard to capture the emotions of our peers as they were engrossed by the games. I particularly remember Audrey walking out of the gym after Burris' second loss of the night, returning with more pep to cheer the girls on, and even getting frustrated when the Central team cleared the bench and blocked her view. Few of us came into this project with a great understanding of volleyball, but as the project moves along with us becoming more involved, we want them to come out on top more than anything.

Witnessing the dedication of these girls, Steve, and other community members to the team is also amazing in itself. I grew up in Northwest Indiana, which is a softball breeding ground. I began with t-ball and continue to play intramural tournaments, so I understand what it is like to be a part of something you love dearly and want to see succeed. However, I have never seen a volleyball following like this. The intensity of the crowd in Ball Gym on Monday was awesome, and reminded me of high school basketball games. I can't stop thinking about how privileged these players are to have such a great coach and program within this community.

Talking with the 1982 players who returned for the reunion also reinforced the whole community aspect. The women were so excited to see Steve again and reminisce about their playing days. I am extremely grateful to have spoken with some of them about their experiences with athletics at Burris and later in their lives.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Wendy Jones, who was only a freshman on the State Championship team, but had a lot to contribute. Jones went on to play volleyball at Tennessee and was able to witness how support for teams fluctuated throughout the country. She is also a mother of two children with a husband who coaches them in his spare time. Jones and I spoke about athletes in the news recently, Marion Jones in particular, and how they influence players today. She spoke a lot about the impact athletics have on our youth, and how important it is to present sports to them in a positive way. I was impressed with her knowledge on Title IX and feel she offered a lot of information pertinent to our project.

We are all very pleased with how well the reunion went, and we appreciate the time they spent with us. Hopefully, they enjoyed themselves as much as we did.

I also want to say thank you to Steve Shondell and Wes Lyon for their cooperation. They have been wonderful dealing with us, which probably isn't the easiest along with their already busy schedules, and we are thankful.

Good luck tomorrow night Owls, and stay strong during sectionals!

Friday, October 5, 2007

With a purpose...

I recently went to California to visit Berkeley Law School. I had received an invitation to attend the Trailblazers in Justice Gala hosted by the law school’s Center for Social Justice. I took the opportunity to attend this event because I plan to attend law school, and Berkeley is one of the schools at the top of my list.

More about the honorees and the gala can be found here:

Being among so many people who are so passionate about their work and commitment to social justice was quite inspiring. One of the speakers commented about the reputation lawyers sometimes are faced with as soulless and untrustworthy, remarking that, for these people, that portrayal couldn’t be further from the truth. The work being done and issues being tackled by them are nothing but admirable, and they deserve to be proud of themselves.

I really do admire these people and aspire to work among them. I want to have a positive impact on important issues—mostly education. This seminar provides the opportunity for our team to address Title IX and the issues of community, sports, and growing student-athletes. It is very empowering to be able to work so closely with such talented peers on such a big topic. We’ve fully invested ourselves into the seminar, and I can’t wait to see all that we accomplish.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Starting Early

Sam E. went to interview Don Shondell a few weeks back, and I decided to tag along, I'm so happy I did because now I have that connection. Sam and I went to the 8th grade Burris game vs. Delta this evening. We got there a little early and had a chance to watch the 7th grade team, I was impressed seeing the potential that these girls had. I was astonished when it came time to watch the 8th grade team. The level that the 8th grade team was playing at was very competitive. Just watching the girls pepper and seeing the ball control they had fascinated me. During warm up when the girls where doing a passing drill, they were passing with such precision, they took the top spin off the pass!

I started playing volleyball in maybe 5th or 6th grade, at this little private school in Ft.Wayne. My 8th grade year, I wasn't nearly the athlete that these females are. I remember just playing the game without really thinking about it, no strategy. At one point, Delta and Burris had this extremely long rally. Morey was playing middle back, and on the first touch instead of passing the ball to setter, she freeballed it into the deep corner. At that moment I thought, "WOW" what a smart play! That is the one play that really sticks out in my mind, but there were other examples of how these middle school girls were playing the game smart, not just at a high skill level. I look back on when I started and how I played, and wish that I had the training these girls have. I didn't even know what it was to snap my wrist until High School.

These girls are so incredibly lucky to have these opportunities. Nowadays, sports are so incredibly competitive, the only way to compete is to become a specialist at a certain sport as early as possible. I wish I would have known that when I was younger, I wish that I would have started to play the game more strategically earlier. The Burris team is very fortunate, and they may not realize it just yet, but they will.

Getting to know Burris

I'm endlessly impressed by the community that Burris has created. All of my interviews, conversations and interactions with Burris High School have strengthened my first impression: a small community that is proud of its students and that strives to give them the best opportunities possible.

I met with Gerri Black today, a girl living away from home at sixteen, attending high school classes and taking part in a year-round volleyball program. And yet she is completely balanced- finding time to do work with a rigorous athletic program and training to put herself in the best possible position for her senior year of volleyball, and finding time to meet with some strange college girl eager to know everything about her school career. I was honestly blown away by the maturity these girls have and the discipline they are able to instill in themselves.

The player-coach relationship is only one example of the incredible amount of respect one sees when spending time in this small community. Parents respect the determination of their players and the community respects the programs, everyone doing all they can to support each other. Student-athletes devote themselves to their sport and maintain a high level of respect for themselves, as well. The more time I spend with Burris community members, the more I become intrigued and find myself looking for more interviews, asking more questions.