Divided Houses has been different than other classes I have taken during my undergraduate career because it felt more like a community than a classroom. The discussion was always thought provoking and collaborative, and I liked the focus on working together and helping each other out. Digital features like the group chat, class blog, and Facebook group really helped to make this class feel even more connected than some of my classes where everyone is physically in the same room.
The research for my and Maria’s project on Upstate New York secession presented some different challenges than most other pairs faced, because the movement is so new and still developing. Because of this, there were not many academic sources available to us, and we did not really use the archival research strategies that we talked about in class. However, this also made our project very exciting to work on, because we were putting together information from social media, interviews, Youtube, and news sources to tell a story that hadn’t been told in this way before. Interviewing Assemblyman Hawley and Senator Robach was a highlight of our research, because it got us information and perspective that we would not have gotten otherwise. After collecting sources, focusing and sharpening our analysis was a challenge, but our contrasting backgrounds and points of view worked to our advantage and helped us to produce a balanced project that still had a viewpoint.
Learning to use the digital tools needed to create our website took some getting used to and some experimentation, but it was a fun process for the most part. I liked getting to use and expand a skill set that most of my other classes do not utilize. While Maria and I were not 100% solid on the technology in the beginning, we started trying things out and experimenting with our website early on and seeing what stuck. Out initial skeleton, which I made early on, developed and evolved a lot over the course of the semester. Even though our website is different than we initially planned, it was really helpful to have that framework to go off of, so I am glad we got over our hesitation and just started trying things out. We actually ended up doing more with our website than we though we would. We did not originally plan to have the Voices from the Movement or Opposition Voices pages, but after adding them based on the very helpful suggestions of our classmates, we found that they really added to our website and to the story we were telling. Figuring out how to make our website interactive and visually appealing was a challenge, but we were able to incorporate a wealth of engaging images from social media, youtube videos from the movement, and the Timeline and StoryMap to make our project a true website rather than a digitized paper. Building the website was certainly different than writing an academic paper and presented its own set of challenges, but in a lot of ways it was more fun!
I am sure this class will stand out to me in the future as one of the more interesting and valuable classes I took in my undergraduate career. I enjoyed learning digital skills that I know will be useful to me in the future. I also enjoyed collaborating with everyone, whether it was during class, through our ridiculous group chat, or on the Facebook page. Working with Maria has been a joy as well, as always. Thank you, Dr. Mathews, Dr. Owen, and everyone else in Divided Houses for making this class fun, informative, and memorable!