First Stop: Education

The first rotation of the divisions here at RRCHNM landed Andrea and I in Education working with Kelly Schrum, Jennifer Rosenfeld, and Chris Preperato. Over the course of eight weeks, I worked with each of these individuals on specific projects. While in education my time was spent assisting with the rebuilding of the American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) database, Understanding Sacrifice website for ABMC, and organizing of the Folger Shakespeare Library metadata.

American Battle Monuments Commission
Most of my time in Education was dedicated to working with Chris and Jennifer in preparing the reworking of the ABMC website as this had the fastest approaching deadline. My work consisted of checking the new database for errors and comparing it to the old one, testing the new site, comparing the new site from the old one, transferring image files into the new site, and checking compatibility across browsers and systems.

As part of the project, RRCHNM took the database ABMC was working with and completely reworked it to fix any bugs and tidy all the data. This was the largest part of the project taken on by James McCartney and Chris. I was able to help with this process by first going through the database on Drupal and documenting what information was inconsistent with the live ABMC website (which currently held the old data). This was a good introduction into the kind of data we could expect to be working with the rest of our time in education. Additionally, this first task taught me a lot about what James and Chris were doing to rework the data. A lot of the differences I found between the old and new data were good things. In other words, the changes were intentional and reflected that the errors they were fixing were successful.

An enormous part of my time working with the ABMC site can be labeled as testing. With so many changes being made to improve ABMC’s website, there were new aspects to be checked each day. Once the data was complete to Chris and James’ standards, all the testing involved checking the new website. A lot of this work was checking that links were working, information was not provided on the back end while missing in public view, everything was displaying correctly, soldiers were listed in the correct database online (War Dead vs. Korean Honor Roll only), and ensuring there were no general styling mishaps. This work was very repetitive, but extremely necessary. I would sometimes go a long time without finding anything wrong, but once I did, I often found that it was universal (similar profiles shared the same issue). Sticking through and thoroughly checking allowed many issues to be found and addressed before ABMC was shown the site.

Something may be tedious, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t important.
I went in with this attitude. I knew that I would not be asked to do something just to keep me busy. The more issues I found and reported, the more fulfilling the work was.

Understanding Sacrifice
The second largest portion of my time was spent working with Jennifer and Chris on the Understanding Sacrifice website. This website was created to showcase what teachers across the nation had learned about fallen heroes of WWI. The education project is sponsored by ABMC in partnership with National History Day and RRCHNM. I helped Chris transcribe and caption the videos he shot and edited of the teachers giving a eulogy for their chosen fallen hero. Helping Jennifer involved various aspects of the website. I assisted in inputting information for the fallen hero profiles, entering and editing information for the teacher-created lesson plans, and looking over lesson plans for any mistakes.

Working with Chris to create transcriptions was the most familiar tasks I had for this project. As an undergrad at Illinois College, I worked with Steven Hochstadt creating transcriptions of oral histories. However, my experience creating transcriptions for Education introduced me to a new method I will continue to use. After a suggestion from Jennifer, I downloaded the VLC player and learned how to slow down the playback of the audio. Decreasing the speed made doing transcriptions so much easier, I wish I would have thought of it before!

The rest of my time working on the Understanding Sacrifice project had me working with Jennifer to upload content for fallen hero profiles and teacher lesson plans (called activities on the site). I enjoyed doing this because I came in with some html experience, but had not used it in quite some time. Figuring out how to correctly use the code to accomplish the styling aspects asked of me was fun for me. I would have gladly done more of this, but there was only so many profiles and activities.

Shakespeare and Friends
Towards the end of my time in Education, I worked with Kelly to organize and generally make sense of the metadata provided by Folger. The Center has been tasked with revamping the Folger website and have specific requirements for how they would like the data to appear. They provided Kelly with a spreadsheet containing all of their metadata so far as well with instructions on how everything should be shown. In order for James to make sense of everything down the road, Kelly tasked me with organization and clarity.

This task was very difficult for me at first, quite possibly the most challenging one during my time in Education. I think the main reason for this is due to how overwhelming the spreadsheet was to look at. There was a lot going on all at once and terms I had never heard of before. This issue had already been addressed prior to my involvement, though, and there was a tab in the spreadsheet which explained all the terms; this helped me a lot. I created my own tab to work in within the spreadsheet and after three revisions, the information was organized in an easy to understand way with instructions Folger approved.

This project involved a lot of back and forth work while communicating questions and concerns with Folger. Kelly allowed me to sit in on a call with two representatives from Folger with helped my understanding of the project immensely. After that call, the spreadsheet that was once so daunting seemed like a breeze to read and organize. What I enjoyed the most out of this project was being able to be a part of more of the beginning stages and seeing how the “behind the scenes” communications work.

Base What?
My time in Education also taught me how to use Basecamp. Before August, I had not even heard of it. I quickly learned how to log my hours for the fellowship (thanks to Alyssa Fahringer), but I was not aware for a couple weeks into the semester that it was also a project management system as well. Having been on three different projects with Education, I now have a handle on how to use Basecamp to communicate with other members of the project in an efficient way.

Next stop on my tour through the RRCHNM divisions is Research!

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