Social Studies Blog Post #1: Historical Thinking

How do we decide what is important to learn about the past?

There is a plethora of events that happened in the past, but only a few are deemed significant enough to learn. One of the characteristics of a significant event is that the event results in change and causes consequences for masses of people for a long period of time. For example, there have been countless numbers of disease outbreaks in the world, but only a few have been significant enough to be discussed, such as the Black Death. The Black Death caused significant changes to over two hundred million people, half of the world’s population at that time, killing at least seventy million of them and starting the Renaissance in Europe. Since the Black Death had such drastic effects for many people for a long time, it is considered significant.

Additionally, events that reveal issues, such as racism, discrimination, or lack of proper safety, are significant as they shed light on undesirable events, so that we are not condemned to repeat them again, such as the lack of safety in the Triangle Fires, which resulted in the death of over one hundred workers.

Historical significance also depends on whether the event fits within the narrative of the past. As the name suggests, history is a “story” of the past, and for a story to make sense, the story has to be within some kind of constructive order. The transitions between one event to another have to make sense so that the reader can use past context to make sense of what is happening in the current event and make logical predictions of what might come next. Like the chapters in a book, the sequence of events has to build up to one another and help construct the never-ending story.

With all that said, however, historical significance really depends on the historian, or the one who is recording history. Many historians of the past were not impartial and usually had some bias towards events which interfered with their personal thoughts and beliefs. This is why many Ancient Greek accounts of the Battle of Thermopylae tend to be glorified, with Ancient Greek historians claiming that five thousand Greeks held off over two million Persians, while modern estimates predict that the number was significantly lower at about one hundred fifty thousand. The historian, or the people recording the event, might change certain details of the event to make it match their views, or just choose to not write about it at all if they believe that it wasn’t significant, as they wouldn’t want future generations to know anything that makes the historians’ beliefs look foolish. Mostly, the definition of a significant event depends on the historian’s thoughts and feelings towards that event.

In-Depth Blog Post #3: Week 5

It’s been five weeks into In-Depth, and so far, I have learned a lot. Rafael and I have moved on to new C# scripts, and he guided me through the various assets that were already pre-installed in Unity. This was awfully convenient for me, as this meant that I didn’t have to write all the assets from scratch but could simply attach the pre-written assets right to my game objects. I have also finally decided on what type of game I will be focusing on, a first-person maze game. Anyway, here are some questions and answers on my progress so far.

  1. What went particularly well during your mentoring sessions?

One thing that went well during our mentoring session was the amount of progress we made. Like last time, Rafael and I had already planned what I was going to learn during the mentoring session, as we had a phone call a few days before the session to plan what materials each of us should bring and what he was going to mentor me. We got through most of the FPS scripts and we even got to discussing popular games and what components were in them. We also strengthened the fundamentals, as having a good base knowledge was important when I moved on to more complicated scripts and games. Despite the meeting only being our second session, we made a lot of progress.

  1. What relationship challenges did you face?

There weren’t really any relationship challenges that my mentor and I faced. We were communicating with each other very well, Rafael made sure that I was getting the concepts and not just nodding my head, and I made sure to ask plenty of questions and paraphrase what Rafael said in case I missed a point. We were also very open and thorough. We answered each others’ questions with depth; Rafael answered my questions about assets and game objects, explaining that everything in the game was a game object, and I answered my mentor’s questions about the type of game I wanted to create and what I had planned. Additionally, I had plenty of time to ask questions and catch up on the information that was being given, as a lot (capitalized) was being covered!

  1. What learning challenges emerged?

Although the Unity engine has been easy to use, learning the various C# scripts for my game objects has been proving to be quite difficult. Using the engine is easy, as I only need to know which functions do what, and it’s just a lot of just clicking around and experimenting. The scripts, on the other hand, have been really challenging. The difficulty of digesting all the different scripts needed to create just the most rudimentary of games has been challenging, as even with questions and paraphrases, I have difficulty knowing when to use specific codes, such as void, if(), or else().

  1. What three strategies could improve the quality of your mentoring interactions?

First, I can increase the efficiency of the mentoring interaction by having everything we need for the meeting set up beforehand and making the best use of our time. Last time, I wasted a few minutes of precious time due to an unexpected accident, and considering how fast my mentoring is going, a lot could have been covered in those few minutes. Additionally, I can also ask more questions and focus on getting the fundamentals set in stone before moving on to more complicated scripts and games. Finally, I can spend more time outside of my mentoring interactions to study and comprehend the material Rafael is teaching me. My mentor has shown me an awesome Wiki where there is a list of all the different C# scripts and the functions of each one. He has also shown me different tutorials I could work on between our biweekly meetings. Doing a few more hours of studying and learning the material outside of our meetings will make sure I fully understand what my mentor taught me the previous meeting and will allow me to accelerate my learning.

Unfortunately, I was unable to add any pictures of my progress this time, as my laptop was unable to screenshot my progress for some reason, but I will add pictures the next time I post.

In Depth Blog Post #2: Week 3

Last Friday, I had the chance to meet with my mentor Rafael, a game developer currently in the midst of creating a strategy game using Unity. Since we had already discussed over e-mail how the meetings were going to be formatted, we could get right into the project. We started off by discussing the user interface and helping me locate where all the various functions were. While Unity is not as complicated as some software, it was still a bit intimidating for me to find where to start with all these fancy buttons and complicated words covering the entire screen. I also had no idea how the camera worked, frolicking with my mouse for half an hour before giving up. Rafael told me that since I was just starting out, I didn’t need to know everything in Unity, and that even he doesn’t use every single function. He answered my questions about how the camera worked and the various possible game designs I could do. I had initially expected to cover only a little bit of the software, but surprisingly, during our narrow time frame, we managed to even get into creating rigid bodies, game objects, and creating a game object that could even roll and jump! My mentor told me that rigid body was basically the physics of the object, such as gravity, speed, and mass. Later, we further discussed rigid body when the object we had created was able to infinitely jump. He explained how we had to define the number of times the object could jump in our script, as for all Unity knew, it was just jumping every time we hit the key associated with that command.

We also discussed about the various resources that I could work on between our bi-weekly meetings. He gave me some resources, such as the Unity website and various Unity tutorials on YouTube. Besides my mentor, the Internet is probably going to be a really good resource. There are hundreds of Unity tutorials and Wikis describing what all the C# scripts can do. I plan to use these resources to accelerate my learning while I’m not meeting my mentor.

The meetings are working out great so far. Since we already had a phone conversation over my background on C# and game design, Rafael already knew what level I was at. We were able to find the perfect media to start from and start almost immediately. I find the mentorship meeting to be a nice alternative from the regular school environment. Since Rafael is only mentoring me, I find that learning is much quicker than in the regular classroom, where one teacher has to tend to thirty different students with different needs.

Besides discussing about using the software, we have also talked a little about ourselves. I went to the meeting not even knowing what my mentor looked like, and I left knowing not only his appearance, but his current projects and opinions on Unity. I learnt that my mentor was currently creating his own game, a grand strategy game with a twist to it. Rafael has been working on the project for years and is planning on releasing sometime next year. He has been working on game design for a couple of years now, and he initially started because he was always interested in playing games and thought about creating his own. He started off by taking a weekly course, and then decided to take game design in university.

So far game design has been very interesting, and I am excited to see what I learn next week.

Here are some pictures of Unity and the scripts I wrote.

unity-progress-3 unity-progress-2 unity-progress-1


MND Blog Post #1

In William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream we see that our emotions often influence our perceptions of the world around us when we examine the actions of the characters in the play. We discover that many of the lovers’ actions are radical and often irrational, as they take big risks to fulfill their love and quickly get desperate and anxious over losing their lover. When Hermia tells Helena that she plans on running away with Lysander, Helena, jealous of Hermia’s popularity compared to her unrequited love, “tell[s] [Demetrius] of fair Hermia’s flight” (1.1.246). Helena is currently blinded by her love for Demetrius; the jealously she feels towards Hermia is caused by her desperate love. This causes Helena to perceive Hermia as a threat, rather than a friend as she would if she wasn’t blinded by her emotions. She decides to tell Demetrius about Hermia’s plan to run away with Lysander, just to spend time with Demetrius. If she hadn’t been blinded by her intense love for Demetrius, she would’ve realized that telling Demetrius would be a terrible idea and would potentially destroy her good relationship with Hermia. This proves that other emotions heavily influence our perceptions of our world, as Helena wouldn’t have acted irrationally if she hadn’t in love. Additionally, when Egeus says, “As she is mine, I may dispose of her:/ Which shall be either to this gentleman/ Or to her death,” we see that Egeus is overwhelmed with emotions (1.1.42-44). Egeus is frustrated and irate because his daughter, Hermia, is disobedient and refuses to marry Demetrius, the man Egeus wants her to marry. His daughter’s defiance makes Demetrius desperate enough to bring up an ancient Athenian law to Theseus, duke of Athens. Frustration and anger blind Egeus, and he is even willing to kill his daughter, his own flesh and blood. Usually, a father would not be willing to kill his own kin, but Egeus’ emotions makes him perceive even his own daughter as a threat. Although our actions are ultimately our decision, these examples show that emotions can also have a great influence on our perceptions of the world around us.

In Depth Blog Post #1: The Journey Begins

This year, I will be learning about video game design. More specifically, I will learn how to use the game engine, Unity, to design hand crafted, delicious (okay, maybe not that), original video games.

Video games have always been a part of my life, making up about four percent of my average week to this date. The intricate details and creative graphics captivated the attention of little Jerome. The way each video game had it’s set of rules and was able to adapt to all the different variables during each individual player’s experience intrigued me, and I wondered what it felt like to be the creator, the rule maker, instead of the consumer. With In-Depth around the corner, and an urge to embark on a new journey and learn something interesting, I felt that video game design would be an interesting and challenging topic for my In-Depth project.

My goal for In-Depth is to be able to create at least one complete video game to showcase on In-Depth night, gain fluency in using Unity, get a deep understanding of game design, and create an original and innovative idea for my final product, my game.

Some of the difficulties I will probably face will be finding a timetable that works for both my mentor and myself. My mentor, being a busy person, is only available at certain times, and I am also mostly limited to the weekend. Finding a way to fit in a couple of hours for my mentor will be difficult as I will need to use better time management to find a few hours to squeeze in. I will also need to design my own game, something I have zero experience with. Despite constant reassurance from the optimistic Jerome, the pessimistic Jerome finds the project intimidating, as he does not have a step by step idea for his game and has absolutely no experience with working with game design software.

I have contacted my mentor Rafael, a university graduate who studied game design, and is currently developing other IT projects. I managed to find him through one of my parent’s contacts. We are currently finding a biweekly timetable that is convenient for him. In case he is unable to mentor me for the entire five months, I have sent e-mails to Microsoft, A.C.R.O.N.Y.M Digital, and Next Level Games, but so far, I have not had any replies.

Despite In-Depth being a dive into uncharted waters for me, I’m excited to learn something that’s more than just flipping through a textbook.

ZIP! Document of Learning #4

Question: “Take a moment to reflect on your inquiry plan (calendar). Do you need to make any revisions to your original plan? If so, why? If you haven’t made any changes to your plan, why do you feel you have been so successful in sticking to it?”

Up to now, I have made quite a few revisions to my original inquiry plan. At the beginning of my inquiry project, I was able to stick to the original plan and finish my research and sort out my notes, but once I got to creating my presentation and shooting my commercial, I realized that a few changes were necessary. I had originally planned to shoot the commercial before winter break started, but I realized that there wasn’t a convenient time for both my actor and myself before winter break. Therefore, I was forced to delay the shooting of the commercial until the beginning of winter break. I had also planned to finish my presentation before winter break, but I realized that it wasn’t a realistic goal, and that doing so would only make me rush my presentation. Currently, I am working on creating my PowerPoint presentation, and I am spending quite a bit of time finding the “right” pictures and diagrams for my presentation, as I want to keep text as minimal as possible and make the presentation more interesting.

I believe that the reason I had to make these revisions to my original calendar is because when I first started ZIP, I underestimated the amount of time it was going to take me to create my video and presentation. I had not anticipated the difficulty of finding a balance between storytelling and advertising the product in my commercial. If I increased my storytelling, I could make the commercial more interesting, but I wouldn’t be able to incorporate all three modes of persuasion into the commercial. If I tried to increase the length of both, the commercial would get too long and quickly lose the interest of the audience. Striking a balance between these two elements took up a lot of time, and forced me to spend more time creating my commercial. I decided to set a new goal for my presentation, to finish my presentation before the end of winter break. Even though I had to make quite a few revisions to my original calendar, I believe that I am still on the right track.

ZIP! Document of Learning #3

Question: Describe the ups and downs you have encountered to date in your inquiry. Specifically, when you were frustrated or why? If you haven’t made any changes to your plan, why do you feel you have been so successful in sticking to it?

It has been three weeks into ZIP, and I have had my share of ups and downs. To start off, I will start with the negatives. My question about finding out what makes a persuasive and effective advertisement was a bit broad. Rather than covering just a general knowledge of the subject, I wanted to pry deep into the abyss of knowledge of my subject, so I decided to pick a specific part of advertising, commercials. I also found that the definition of a “good” commercial was mostly subjective. Commercials don’t always appeal to everyone, and the underlying theme of the commercial must resonate with the audience for the audience to establish a deeper connection with the commercial. The most memorable commercials are usually those that trigger certain memories within us and make us feel sentimental. A good example of this is the “Coca Cola: Hey Brother Commercial”. The theme of brotherhood appeals to many people and makes people relieve memories of their own brotherhood. This creates a personal connection to the commercial, and the audience is more likely to buy their product. This, however, does not mean that it resonates with everyone. Members of the opposite gender never experienced this brotherhood, and are unable to personally connect to the commercial. While this commercial could have been effective and persuasive for a male, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the same will happen for a female, making the definition of an effective and persuasive advertisement subjective, or depending on personal views.

A subjective question made starting the research very difficult and frustrating for me because I didn’t know where to start, but once I got pen on paper (or font on Word document in my case), I was on a pretty good work flow. A subjective question was also the most intriguing parts of my ZIP project, however. By having a subjective question, I had to take a consumer’s point of view and watch a couple commercials myself before being able to formulate a hypothesis. Rather than writing down boring pieces of information that anyone could have found on the first page of Wikipedia, I was able to take a different perspective and get some interesting information about my topic.

I have changed my question from “What makes an effective and persuasive advertisement?” to “What makes an effective and persuasive commercial?” It was a very slight change and the reason I think I didn’t radically change my question was because my original question was a good inquiry question. It wasn’t too big or too small, so I didn’t have to change the entire question and just had to be a bit more specific.

Although this inquiry question has been a dive into uncharted waters, I have to say that the ups of this question have far outweighed the downs.

ZIP! Document of Learning #2

I have been learning many things through ZIP, but perhaps the one that I can constantly improve on and apply in the future is probably-my note taking. While I was researching my topic, I stumbled upon many articles and videos about my topic. To incorporate this new-found information into my project, I whipped out my Word document and took many point-form notes on what I heard. Although writing down many notes is beneficial to my project, I found that I was writing too much. Instead of writing down brief, concise notes about my topic, I was writing sentences about a single fact. An overload of words resulted in my Word Document turning into nothing more than paragraphs with a fancy bullet point at the beginning of each sentence.

To counter this, I read the entire paragraph first before writing down a note. I was writing a lot of notes because I was entering a new bullet after every sentence, which resulted in a plethora of unnecessary notes. I also tried to make the notes as simple as possible by writing phrases and words instead of entire sentences. The result paid off and one thousand five hundred fifty-two words were condensed to five hundred forty-five words. Not only were the notes now aesthetically pleasing, they were also easier to read and integrate into my presentation. Before, I was literally rewriting paragraphs back into my Word document, but by using my new tactic, I was taking actual notes for the first time. My research probably would have taken much more time if I had not noticed the excessive word count in my notes, and I probably wouldn’t have finished my research by today, putting me behind in my schedule. This skill will definitely reappear in the future, as when I conduct projects in the imminent future, I will need to take notes while I research my topics. Being able to save valuable time and put more work into my presentation is invaluable, and therefore I believe that this skill that I learned through ZIP can constantly be applied in the future.

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian: Most Significant Conflict

In Sherman Alexie’s The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian,  the most significant conflict of Junior, the protagonist, is Junior’s constant struggle against poverty, as it is prevalent throughout the entire story and causes the people around him to make assumptions. Alexie clearly shows this conflict when Junior makes a statement about petrified wood. The teacher, Mr. Dodge, immediately refuses to accept Junior’s correction and sarcastically retorts, “Where did you learn this fact?[…] Yes we all know there’s so much science on the reservation”(85). Mr. Dodge and the rest of his white classmates consider Junior’s statement to be inferior, basing it on the assumption that poor people don’t have a good chance at education and don’t know what they are talking about. They believe his opinions to be invalid and unfounded based on this belief, which makes it difficult for Junior to display his talents and find success. Even when Gordy, the class “genius”, gives the same answer as Junior, Mr. Dodge only thanks Gordy, refusing to acknowledge that a poor, Indian child like Junior is correct. Additionally, his poverty interferes with his wants. Junior wants to be able to show off to Penelope and buy them a luxurious feast of pancakes, toast, and juice, but is unable to pay for it all because of his lack of money. He orders a plethora of food, “even though [he] knew [he] wouldn’t be able to pay for any of it”(125). His inability to pay for a single meal hurts Junior’s pride and exposes his fear of Penelope rejecting him because he is poor. Additionally, his poverty perpetuates his fear of Penelope and Roger “[finding] out [he] was a poor […] Indian. He fears that if they find out, his status will drop and his relationship with Penelope will end, resulting in Roger and Penelope becoming a couple, and Junior being left outside of the relationship. The continuous appearance of the difficulties caused by Junior’s poverty, and the influence it has over the views of the people around him makes this the most significant conflict.