Complex Digital Story: Technology in Classrooms

It’s that time of year again, my beloved readers and/or college professors reading this to grade me because I was assigned to do this!  Yes, that time of year that comes several times a year, often in the same month: post time!!

Today’s post involves a video I was assigned to make to discuss the usage of technology in classrooms.  Is the video alright, or is it crap?  You decide!!  I promise my feelings will not be hurt, so please be honest!!  Look, I’ll even prove that I’m okay with it by adding a smiley emoticon at the end of this! 🙂

I even added a script for you guys.  Because I love you.


Data Story: Cyberbullying and How Adolescents Cope With It

Hello there, my beloved viewers!  It’s been awhile, hasn’t it?  I’m sure you’re all doing well and are as beautiful as you always have been.  Now, while I’m sure you’d love to have me compliment you all day, that’s not what you’re here for, is it?  No, of course not–you’re here to see what it is that I have to post about today, be it because you’re a regular who for some reason enjoys what I have to say, or you’re my professor and you’re judging me on this!  And today’s topic is quite the doozy: How adolescents handle stress online!
Now, the digital age is in full swing and adolescent kids are spending lots of time online.  Social media, online games, phone apps, and all manner of things captivate them and have them exploring the digital world sometimes more than the real one.  Unfortunately, the online realm is also the perfect stage for bullying and drama due in no small part to the anonymity of the setting.  Of course, this occurs at all ages and to all people.  But for adolescents, it can be a whole different story: these things occurring at a time where hormones and emotions run wild and outbursts and drama are the name of the game cause a particularly large amount of stress among young men and women.  Unfortunately, this sometimes can end in tragedy.  Without proper ways to deal with the stress, even those who live through it all can experience lasting psychological effects.
This fantastic study by The Reflective Educator is a good idea of the average age adolescents will experience cyberbullying; I recommend giving it a view. But more importantly, how is it that adolescents in the digital era cope with all this stress?
Now, I’ve created a handy image for you folks detailing the types of cyberbullying young people face, as well as solutions offered to them, as listed by a 2015 Sage Journal study.  Feel free to peruse!!

The study in question is what identified all of the above, and gives a bit more detail than what we have here.  It’s a great follow-up for this post!
That’s about all the time and word limit I have today, my lovely readers.  You all have a lovely day, and remember: there’s no wrong way to eat an Oreo!

Learning To Write: Why Storytelling Is Important

Did somebody say download link?!

Did somebody else say Youtube link?!

Ira Glass gives us many great reasons as to why stories are important. Allan Lea also does so in this video I shoddily-slapped together to help reinforce why you need to tell a good story!

The Digital John, Episode 1: A Meadow, A Brook, And a Whole Lotta Zombies

Download Link for you!

Transcript too, for those who can’t understand my rambling!

October 28th had Oakland University seeing a Zombie Walk hosted by the RHA to educate students about the history of the Meadow Brook Hall.  I walked with walkers to give you all the scoop!!

A Story You Can Really Hear: The Notebook or the Laptop? A Brief Commentary On Note-taking.

Download link for the Audio!

Oh hey, look, a bright and shiny blue hyperlink!!  Doesn’t it just scream “Click me” very loudly in Barry Manilow’s voice?  Of course it does!!  It also screams “Grade this post with an A+” but I’ve been told that one might not be as prominent as the voice of Barry Manilow commanding you to click it immediately.

Now this is an audio story, and you lucky readers will get to hear my horrid voice, recorded through Audacity.  Aren’t you absolutely excited?

The story in question ties in with this article on pen and paper versus the laptop for taking notes, and how taking notes with a laptop may surprisingly be a worse idea than doing it conventionally!

For this I interviewed Robert Thomas, a fellow OU student and JRN major and a pretty swell guy all-around.  Unfortunately, my recording equipment I had with me decided to go the way of bipartisanship and not work when I needed it the most, so Mister Thomas’s voice is sadly not present.  Fortunately I was able to get a transcript of our interview, which I will put up for download should there be enough of a demand.

And for those of you music-savvy listeners, the song in question is called “Exponential Entrophy.”  Happy listening!

My Reasoning: A Serious Moment

Yeah, I feel the need to do this. By the way, this is not my Lab 4 post–if you’re reading this and expecting it to be, you’re looking at the wrong post.  My Lab 4 story is The Oakland Graduate Who We Lost, so you should probably read that before this.

So, my recent post about Trace Pillars. You’ve probably got some questions about it if you know what the assignment was.  For those who don’t, here’s the criteria:

“Research, report and write and story about an OU graduate who is moving (or has moved) out of state OR a student that has a job lined up after graduation. Tell the story through photos.

You’ll need to identify student who is graduating, or who graduated in the last five years. You may not use a Communication or Journalism major as your source. You may use crowdsourcing to find potential sources.

Write a 300-400 word story and publish it as a blog post. Make sure you use SEO-friendly headlines, as well as tags and categories.

You will use at least three photos as part of your story – one portrait, one action shot and one establishing shot. Tweet at least one of the photos along with a brief summary of your story, using the class hashtag #jrn411ou.”

So let’s boil this down:

-Has to be or have been an OU student

-Graduated within the past five years, or was graduating this year

-Was not a COM or JRN major

-Due Tuesday, five days after it was assigned.

So, let me preface this: these restrictions and the time we were given to do all of this was pretty crazy.  On top of two of those days being on a weekend when nobody would be at the campus, the conditions for the students we needed to find seriously limited my pool.  I could not choose any classmates from JRN 411 or my other classes as they were all one of the majors I could not choose.

I asked around the Oakland Student Center after my classes.  Most of the people I asked looked at me like I was crazy the moment I started listing off what they needed to be in order for me to interview them, and asked not to be interviewed–some less politely than others.

The few who DID agree to it, however, were also COM majors.  No dice there.

As crowdsourcing was allowed, I gave that a shot.  I posted to the Oakland University subreddit.

Go ahead and click it.  Look at the grand total of none participants (yes I know that’s not a proper phrase.)  I had nobody to interview.

Trace was one of my absolute best friends.  He fit every condition for the assignment, and were he alive I know he would’ve gladly let me interview him for this.  And even though through no fault of my own due to the assignment itself I had nobody to interview, I couldn’t just NOT write a paper.  So rather than go with my initial idea–a scathing, sardonic post about the impossibility of writing such a paper–I chose instead to write with what I had.

All of the quotes in the post are indeed from Trace, spoken to me directly by him.  Nowhere in my assignment does it say the student must be alive, nor that we had to obtain brand new quotes for them from the story.  In fact, we were encouraged to write a feature story with a more general focus while incorporating the interview or the story of the student.

So my feature is a memorial.  A memorial to a student who worked hard and succeeded at getting out of the college Hell with a job and his life ahead of him.  A memorial to a good friend who has and still does inspire me to do my best.  A friend and mentor who guided me to Oakland in the first place.  I can think of nobody more fitting of such a story.

As you can see, I have not violated any of the assignment conditions–I have followed them to the letter.  Trace graduated within the past five years, had a job the moment he left the university, and was a computer science major.  I have all of the photos, the quotes, and hyper-links.  I write this not to say ‘I deserve a perfect score’ but instead to say ‘It’s unconventional, but I did what was asked of me.’  This is not me writing excuses.  This is a preliminary argument for what I did and how what I wrote was acceptable.  That is all.

The Oakland Graduate Who We Lost

After the winter semester of 2013, Trace Pillars had graduated from Oakland University.  With skills in programming and software design, and a degree in computer sciences, it’s of little wonder that he got a job right after graduating–he became a software developer at E7 Solutions, LLC, in Auburn Hills. Working hard, he had a stable position at the company for two years and with decent pay managed to buy himself an apartment near his workplace in February of 2016.  He mentioned to his friends that one possible future he was considering was to move to the western states where the programming industry was hot right now, and it seemed that particular future was looking bright.

Trace Pillars, 23, in his parents’ home in 2014. Trace graduated
from Oakland University with a degree in computer sciences in 2013.

On the morning of March 31, 2016, Trace Pillars was found dead in his apartment.

I’m going to be honest with you, since a journalist–or a student studying to be one–should always be upfront with his readers.  Trace Pillars was my friend.  Not just any friend either; one of my absolute best friends.  And you can say whatever you want about bias coloring your storytelling lens or doing a story on somebody you knew personally, but in this case this is the one time I have to say “forget that.”  He was an individual who stood as a paragon of what somebody should strive to be, and his is a story worth telling–even if I have to tell it myself, and only in pieces due to an enforced word limit.

And against everything I’ve been taught as a journalist, I will be calling him by his first name throughout this, except for in photo captions.

John Keyes, left, and Trace Pillars, right, before the Eisenhower
High School 2010 Prom.  The photo was taken in the backyard of
the Pillars residence.

A Portrait of a Man

Trace, before anything, was an incredibly intelligent person.  He built computers in his spare time for fun, and slept through classes and would walk out with straight As even so. “Let me know if you guys ever have an idea for a program or web browser add-on.  I’ll see if I can make it,” Trace once told a group of his friends, shortly after having them test out a local chatroom he had created. Trace also enjoyed making videos for Youtube on occasion.

Pillars, hard at work on his laptop. Programming and computer
gaming were two of Trace’s passions in life.

Perhaps Trace’s most defining trait, however, was his infectious sense of humor.  The unfunny became funny with Trace; he could find a video that was utterly horrible and make it funny just by his reactions to it.  He would make a punchline out of the most inane things. His ability to make even the most stalwart individuals laugh no doubt contributed greatly to him securing a permanent position outside of school once he graduated.

Trace graduated from Eisenhower High School in 2010, and enrolled in Oakland University the following fall semester.  He worked hard and took as many classes as he could whenever possible, which paid off by allowing him to graduate a mere three years later.  Immediately after graduating, Trace’s skills and high grades got him a job at E7 Solutions, LLC.

“They offer flexible hours and great pay.  I can work from home even, if I want, so long as I have my work ready on time.” Trace once told me when I asked him what he liked about his job.  E7 was doing great for him, and he had graduated from Oakland and jumped right onto the train into a fulfilling adult life.

Oakland University’s campus after a rainy day. Pillars graduated from the
University in 2010.

Dark Clouds On the Horizon

Trace, however, had his own demons that he was fighting behind the mask of joy and laughter he put on for others.  Sometime after his graduation, or perhaps even before, he had fallen into depression from the pressures of life.

He kept it from his friends, but Trace began to seek counseling for his depression, with his parents’ help.  He was prescribed anti-depressants, and was beginning to overcome it all. Things were looking up, and anybody could see that he was a young man ready to seize his life and move forward again.

Unfortunately, it was not meant to be.  The early morning of March 31st, a conflict between Trace’s medication and another drug caused him to pass away in his sleep. It was ruled an accident and not a suicide–a verdict people who knew Trace knew to be correct. And yet despite all that, one fact still remained: a life had been cut short in its prime.

That Which Is Inherited

The reason all of this is worth sharing is because Trace’s story can easily be any of us.  Depression can hit even the most successful of us students.  Whether you’re an Oakland graduate moving away, a graduate with a job lined up right after school, a student still working hard at their degree…it could affect any of us.

Though he is gone, Trace’s memory remains strong among those who knew him.  This, of course, includes myself.  He was a shining example of what one person should strive to be; a success story of a man who made it out of the college gauntlet with a good job waiting for him and the world as his oyster.  And it is his example that I follow.  It’s so others will know his story that I write this.  And I wish I could tell you everything, and all of the details, but this assignment DOES have a word limit.  If people are interested, I could definitely write an extended thing about Trace and his life, and all the stories of those he inspired with his hard work.

But at the end of the day, I have one thing I want people to take away from this story: don’t ever fight depression alone.  Don’t worry about what your friends or loved ones will think.  They’re there for you, and having them there to help is always a better alternative than fighting depression alone.

The inner wall near the stairs in
the Pillars residence. The message
scrawled within shows that though Pillars
is gone, he is not forgotten.