About pmacleod2014

iMedia grad student, 2014-2015

The Middle of a Journey

I saw a billboard on I-40 West in the spring of 2012 that featured Elon’s Interactive Media program. At the time, I was a visual artist teaching, selling work in shows and making custom work (when the stars aligned). I was also working a temp job that was going nowhere. Interactive Media sounded intriguing, so I found the website and started exploring.

My next move was an email to Katie Williamson. Intrigued, I came to an open house. Then I made a campus visit. At this point, I was ready to sign on the dotted line. Katie encouraged me to go ahead and put in an application, so I did. Within weeks, I got the wonderful acceptance letter! This was October 2013.

Fast forward to July 2014, and I am in boot camp. What a wake up call that was. My interest in iMedia stemmed from my writing and visual background and the fact that my tech skills were woefully out of date. I had heard about boot camp, but had no preparation for the level of intensity that followed. As a former PC user, I struggled to navigate the Mac, among other things. My 20/20 hindsight now shows me that I should have been catching up on programs like Illustrator and Photoshop, specifically. At the very least, I would have been familiar with the Adobe suite and the layout commonalities of those programs. The production section was especially troubling—I was trusted with a very expensive camera. My hands shook almost every time I picked it up. And my video was simply awful. The subject was “About Me”, but I just wanted to hide. I made it through, though!

The semester started, and I still felt very nervous about every single class and new situation.  As an “older” student, I didn’t feel very connected to my fellow classmates. (So apprehension stayed with me, and getting the class assignments done was like working a 12-hour shift.

However, by the time fall break came, I was still there and making connections with everyone.

Just before fall break we got our Fly In assignments, and I’m headed to Costa Rica. I’ll be the writer for my team. Every week we meet to go over preparations. I’m doing a crash course in Latin American Spanish on Rosetta Stone. As the writer, I am tasked with being the cultural expert and to learn functional Spanish. I’m trying my best not to sound like Peggy Hill, but an accent is hard to erase.

It’s almost exam time now. I just finished a video for our production class, and not only did I not shake when handling the camera, but I even set up and used a shot gun mic. Who knew that would happen?

My favorite shot!

My favorite shot!

There are many projects to complete over then next couple of weeks. Everyone feels the crunch, but we are all in an iMedia boat together. It’s crazy, but I just might make it.

paula macLeod


The Science of Learning: What Works

12319-v1-490x By Paula MacLeod, iMedia 2014-2015 The iMedia program involves an incredible amount of work—reading, writing, developing projects. I know we all have expressed being stressed because we just don’t know how we can get it all done. But when it comes to learning, we may be able to apply some simple strategies to make learning new things easier. A recent Science Friday episode seemed tailor-made for our iMedia class. The topic was To Master Test Material, Give Your Brian a Break. The guest panelists were Barbara Oakley, author of “A Mind for Numbers: How to Excel at Math and Science (Even If You Flunked Algebra)”, Benedict Carey, author of “How We Learn: The Surprising Truth About When Where and Why it Happens”, and AnnMarie Thomas, author of “Making Makers: Kids, Tools and the Future of Innovation. Contrary to my own inclination to power through everything, the science of learning proves that giving your self a break helps your brain process information. Other great tips for learning that were discussed are:

  • A nap is not just an hour or two of lost study time; sleep actually enhances learning.
  • Daydreaming and distraction are good ways to generate creative solutions to difficult problems.
  • Breaking up study times across days and weeks beats cramming, even when the total study time is the same.
  • Mixing up your environment, by trying a new cafe or new music on your earphones, works better than serving time in a library carrel.

And while one obviously needs to focus in order to learn something, that’s only part of what works for learning. We also learn through a “diffuse mode,” where a variety of operations are activated in the brain. The brain switches back and forth between these modes regularly. What’s important about the diffuse mode is that when you are focusing, you are actually blocking the diffuse mode. “And the diffuse mode,” says Barbara Oakley, “it turns out, is what you often need to be able to solve a very difficult, new problem.” She uses pin ball as a metaphor for how the brain learns. As for the stress and work load, time management is a must, but another point discussed was the value of exercise. Exercise isn’t only good for your heart and muscles, but improves learning on three levels: It optimizes your mindset, by improving alertness, attention, and motivation. It prepares and encourages nerve cells to bind to one another, which is the cellular basis for learning new information. And it spurs the development of new nerve cells from stem cells in the hippocampus, an area of the brain related to memory and learning. While knowing these things won’t lighten our load, we can take a walk, let our minds wander and know that we are still learning.