Saturday, April 4, 2009

Rockford Files...(This Is Only A Test Folks)

Trust me, I'm not hurting for things about which to post - as a matter of fact , I have several drafts just sitting (as has been the case since I started this school thing). But I have this journalism assignment to turn in on Tuesday involving computer-assisted reporting and I'm just trying to see if I've taught myself something. So please, just bear with me. Just so you know what I'm doing, here are the instructions we were given:

Your assignment is to take an MS Access database and make an online map and spreadsheet of deadbeat parents and share them online. One of the main goals of the assignment is for you to do something that many journalists do every day: Discover a new Web tool and teach yourself how to use it. We won't be going over the details of how to use the tool in class, and I won’t demonstrate it. That's up to you to figure out from the Web site and the documentation given online. Please do this assignment independently, with no help from your classmates. If you have trouble using ZeeMaps, use the online help resources provided by ZeeMaps--forums, blogs, documentation, etc.--as you would in the real world. (emphasis mine) Instructions: 1. You’ll be using the MS Access file Assignment3.mdb, which is posted in the sample data folder on blackboard. This is a simple database of child support orders in Illinois. Records indicate the parent involved, the money owed, number of children involved and other information. Extract the deadbeat parent records specified with your name in the students_assignment3.xls spreadsheet posted in the sample data folder on blackboard. 2. Export the appropriate records to 1. an Excel file and 2. a comma-delimited text file. 3. Go to, create an account, and use the appropriate file to create a map of your deadbeat parents. Share the map online. 4. Use the google docs application to share your spreadsheet online. 5. When the assignment is done, e-mail me the URL of your zeemaps map, and the URL of your shared spreadsheet on google docs.

Now if this works, and is what I was supposed to do, let me just say this: IF NOT FOR THIS ASSIGNMENT, THE MAP PROBABLY WOULD NOT BE HERE AND THE NAMES SURELY WOULDN'T. I take that back. I will probably use this tool in future posts because I can see the possibilities this kind of visualization can create. But as for the names - it depends. Look, I know information like this is a matter of public record, but who knows? They may have paid up by now! (What? It could happen.) In any event, a name field was required so - I had to roll with it. My apologies to the Rockford 16 (I know, I know - they'll probably never see it, but anyway). As much as this assignment worked me, on so many levels, it appears I did teach myself a thing or two. Of that, I am extremely proud. The old brain might be slow, but it's still sure.


ea said...

Indeed you are learning skills.

Query: Are you learning subjects like logic and critical thinking?

What do your professors think about poor grammar in writing today? I bet half the people in your class do not know the appropriate uses of the apostrophe.

Deb said...

ea...Hey!!! I've been worried about you with all the violence going on in Ciudad Juarez!! I'd not heard from you for while and I thought you might have gotten caught up in some of it. Glad to see you're still alive and well!

Yes I am ea, but I'm teaching myself in this particular class. Unfortunate, to say the least. It makes the learning rather stressful (unnecessarily so IMHO) when, in need of guidance, you ask questions but people won't answer directly. And knowing that's what I'm paying for, has given me serious cause to rethink this particular decision.

"Query: Are you learning subjects like logic and critical thinking?"

Uh, let me see - no! Maybe that comes next year. :-)

A couple have touched on the importance of good grammar, proper spelling, etc. Most of what I've seen regarding your question, I found in journalism tutorial we were required to complete on our own.

ea said...

Gracias por sus pensamientos.

Estuve en las afueras de la ciudad. No se' si sabe Ud. mucho del femicidio, pero cuando estaba conduciendo en la carretera, aparecio' como la polici'a estuvo buscando otro cuerpo (perros y personal montando caballos en el desierto) cerca de una colonia.

Deb said...

De nada Chica! No se mucho sobre femicidio, pero he leído un poco. ¿Tan triste que las vidas de mujeres no son importantes para mucha gente por todo el mundo verdad?

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