(Finally) Finishing That Post

I just published a blog post that was started back in June 2016. Originally I was writing a long, detailed guide about how to integrate websites into Canvas after I’d used this tool in a training course I facilitated back in May 2016.

But my writing during the summer stopped when I attended a conference and my grandmother passed away during my travels. It was hard to motivate myself to continue writing this post because Grandmommy had just started reading my blog and learned how to comment on my blog. In other words, all the posts I was working on at that time were not visited again.

Until now.

I’ve started combing through the content I was writing last summer to see if there’s anything that needs to be resurrected. The post I just finished has been hanging over my head for a long time and I’m happy to have it (finally) published. I hope my words can do some good and provide instructors with more tools and valuable use cases for technologies in the classroom.

Really that’s all I wanted to share. It took a while, but in finishing that post I’ve made it over that writing block.

The featured image is provided CC0 by Jake Thacker via Unsplash.

I Made My First Game

Lots of things are happening, but I wanted to take a moment and talk about a project from last month. I participated in my first game jam! Serenity Forge hosted this event over the weekend of August 5-7th and the theme was to build games about “Healing.” Due to the timing and the theme of this game jam, I was compelled to develop my first game!

The Tool – Twine

To build my game I used Twine—an open source tool for developing text-based games that are often labelled as “interactive fiction.” Twine is an interesting game development tool because it is far easier to learn than any other game engine. (In fact, this is the reason John and I decided to use Twine in the professional development for game design that we’re hosting this semester.) Since it is free and accessible, I invite you to give Twine a try. You can learn more about how to use it here.

The main menu of Twine.
The main menu of Twine.

The Story

Since the timing of this game jam coincided with the passing of my grandmother, I chose to create a game around the healing I was seeking at that time. The most difficult part of this project was reflecting on my pain to decipher what steps I was taking to heal—examining my emotions and exploring how writing memories of my grandmother was cathartic. The narrative of my game evolved from these experiences, and rather than rewriting the story here, let me show you the game:

 

Reflections

Did making a game about my pain help me heal? – At the time it was being developed I would have answered “no.” Having to listen to voicemails from my grandmother and watching videos of our adventures together was disheartening. In fact, I struggled to listen to her final voicemail to me, which I had not yet listened to at that point. But building “Healing Words” and coming to terms with her death required me to address my feelings.

Looking back on this experience after about a month I can adamantly say “Yes, making a game about my grandmother’s death did help me heal.” It wasn’t the process of making the game that helped—rather, that part was painful. Instead, it was the process of sharing my experience with others through the game that helped me heal. Using a game to communicate my emotions and then to engage others after their playthrough was the point where I felt the most healing. From people expressing their condolences or sharing their own memories as part of the game, soulful relations bloomed as a result. These connections then manifested in healing.

Would I recommend doing this? – Game design made me think about human experiences and communicating ideas in ways I never would have dreamed. Thinking through how text, media, and choice impact players was a metacognitive exercise for me. I had to translate both my emotions and the responses to those emotions into physical mediums. In so doing, I learned a lot about myself and how I want others to play my story. In other words, I would recommend developing a game to commemorate a loved one. Although it will be painful, the personal growth and connections to others that will be made are worth the investment.

Questions? – If you have any more questions, please let me know. Healing Words has been a big part of my life in the last month. Thank you to the 50+ people who’ve played my game and helped me heal.

The featured image is provided CC0 by Moritz Schmidt via Unsplash.

Thank You For Amplifying Love

Over the past several days, I have been surrounded by the thoughts and prayers of loved ones. Even though Grandmommy passed away last week, I am learning new things about her everyday since people are sharing their memories and photographs on ellenjayne.keeganslw.com. Consequently, I wanted to take a moment and highlight a few memories others have shared online—these are some of my favorites:

Memories

Pickin’ Peaches

Always new discoveries regarding this special lady

Smiles and Music from the beginning.

Videos

These are just a few of the dozens of memories and the hundreds of media artifacts that have been shared (please submit your own recollections). Students, friends, and family alike have come together to pay tribute to Ellen Jayne. With each homage, I am discovering how much of an impact she had on this world—Grandmommy touched so many lives as a free spirit. Above all, I will never forget the role she played in my life and I want to thank everyone for amplifying the love that Ellen Jayne shared with us all.

The featured image is provided CC0 by Hossein Ezzatkhah via Unsplash.

Summer Updates & Grandmother Passing

Goodness, so many things are going on at the moment. At work I have been focused on all the training programs I am developing and facilitating this summer and upcoming semester. Additionally, I want to share some awesome things I have been working on in Canvas. Between itching to write about Canvas and my experiences from recently attending InstructureCON 2016, I have started writing only to be overwhelmed with all I want to do at the moment.

But none of that matters right now.

Writing and projects are on hold because while I was at InstructureCON this past week, my Grandmother passed away—complications from a surgery. It has been hard to express what I am feeling as I go through pictures and revisit memories. I have been ignoring social media and avoiding checking email for a few days. Right now, I just need time.

Even with my sadness, I wanted to tell you about a project I’ve started that makes me really excited. A project in honor of my Grandmother.

ellenjayne.keeganslw.com

Yesterday, I build a website in memoriam to her. The website itself is rather simple, but the functionality is phenomenal. This website facilitates the crowdsourcing of stories and media pertaining to my grandmother. What has been really exciting, even in the first few hours, is that I am reading stories and seeing pictures I never would have discovered. For example, my father posted one memory I’ve never heard and I just shared one as well.

I really want this tribute to my Grandmother to grow. So, I set up the ability for family, friends, and her many students to write about their memories of her. Additionally, I have created a space on the website where I am currently receiving pictures and videos of my Grandmother. If you want to see the submissions, check out the written memories and media that’s already available.

Screen Shot 2016-07-24 at 12.42.30 PM
Website lets you read memories written about Grandmommy.
Screen Shot 2016-07-24 at 12.42.47 PM
Website lets you view photos and videos of Grandmommy.

Website Anatomy

The ellenjayne.keeganslw.com website is built with WordPress and automated using a few plugins, dropitto.me, and OneDrive.

First, I setup the AccessPress Anonymous Post plugin to allow others to submit their stories of my Grandmother without needing an account on the website. This allows me to automate all of the writing that takes place on the website and notifies me about new posts.

accesspress anonymous plugin form
AccessPress Anonymous Post plugin on website.

Next, I setup a dropitto.me account and connected it to my OneDrive cloud storage (since I have 1TB of space from working at a University). These two services allow others to submit photos & videos directly to a folder in my OneDrive. I embedded the submission of photos & videos into one webpage and the OneDrive gallery on another page. (I explored the Perfect OneDrive Gallery & File plugin to display a gallery directly in the website rather than linking out, but ran into problems that I didn’t want to spend time solving.)

Dropitto.me integrated into website to share media files.
Dropitto.me integrated into website to share media files.

Finally, since dropitto.me is limited to 100MB file size submissions, I also setup a page where people can submit URLs to photos and videos they wish to share. That way if individuals have large video files, they can submit a Dropbox, Google Drive, or OneDrive link. Alternatively, this allows people to submit links to FaceBook photos, etc. This is the only part of the website that is not currently automated. I have enabled email notifications upon receiving submissions through this form, but this feature requires my attention.

In Memoriam Projects

In addition to this website, I am also working on a Twine game and preparing for the memorial service. At the moment, it sounds like family members want me to live stream the service and setup a place where we can record videos of people reminiscing about my grandmother. Additionally, I hope to have ellenjayne.keeganslw.com available at the service to offer attendees the opportunity to read and writing memories about my Grandmother. The goal of each of these projects it to allow people to share their experiences and connect to one another like they connected to Grandmommy.

Closing

All of these projects, especially the website, are important to me as a tribute to my Grandmother and to facilitate positive connections between family, friends, and acquaintances as we honor this wonderful women. She had a profound impact on so many people in this world and she will be sorely missed by all.

Writing this has been especially hard because this will be my first post that is not read by my Grandmother (after she became a subscriber to my website, she started reading everything I wrote). Yet, I want to share ellenjayne.keeganslw.com because, although I am grieving, everyone’s memories are bring me joy.

The featured image is provided CC0 by Viktor Mogilat via Unsplash.