Welcome back to MiddCreate Spotlight! This week we are highlighting a MiddCreate site created by a faculty member at Middlebury College. Three short words describes how important we believe MiddCreate is: Rigorous connected learning. At Middlebury, we believe that education is about rigorous connections between learners and experts, between learners and other learners, between communities, between disciplines, and between ideas. We are all learners and to be true learners, and to keep learning, we need spaces to reflect, connect, and explore. MiddCreate is one such space.
Assistant Professor of Computer Science, Jason Grant, has created his own MiddCreate site. Professor Grant joined the Middlebury faculty last fall and since then has been utilizing Middlebury’s resources in any way he can. Since being at Midd, Grant has taught the Senior Seminar, Biometrics, and Introduction to Computing. Next fall, he will teach ‘Music and the Black Church’, a course designed by Professor Grant as a part of the First Year Seminar program. In this course students will immerse themselves in the music of the Black church, from melodies predating the transatlantic slave trade and Negro spirituals to contemporary gospel sounds and their use in social activism. Professor Grant is fairly excited about this class as it brings many of his interests outside of academia into an academic space.
His research areas include computer vision and biometrics and focuses on detection of dangerous and abnormal crowd behavior in large crowds, especially at sporting events and mega-concerts, using computer vision techniques. He also has conducted research in the area of face recognition, including the study of identical twins and hierarchical structure of facial features (gender, ethnicity, and race). Previously to joining Middlebury, he conducted his graduate studies in the Computer Vision Research Lab at the University of Notre Dame and earned his Bachelor’s degree from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC). Outside of the office you can find him at the gym, on a mountain or in the woods with his dog, or playing the piano.
Professor Grant was kind enough to answer some questions about his work with MiddCreate.
DLINQ: How would you describe your MiddCreate site?
Professor Grant: “My MiddCreate site is an academic and personal website that features my teaching, research, and related interests.”
DLINQ: What is the purpose of your MiddCreate site?
Professor Grant: “I wanted a place to house all of the my personal blogs and press releases, as well as a place to document different pedagogies and research projects. Also, this page stores some piano videos I have recorded and hopefully many other creative works. It’s basically a life journal at this point :)”
DLINQ: How did you discover MiddCreate?
Professor Grant: “I discovered MiddCreate after testing the features and limitations of a Middlebury Sites page. There was limited room for customization using that platform, so I ventured over to MiddCreate. However, I learned much more about MiddCreate after traveling with several students to San Francisco for the 2018 Middlebury SF Tech Trek. Nadani Dixon was a strong advocate for MiddCreate. Upon returning to Midd, I began to develop my site.”
DLINQ: What apps did you install on your domain, and how did you create your site?
Professor Grant: “I have two apps running on my website, though only one is visible to the end user at the moment. Most of my page is built on WordPress. I also have an installation of Collabtive, which is a project manager. I’ve started using it manage some research projects and grant proposals, but haven’t fully explored it as of yet. Currently, my WordPress theme is Primer, though I tend to cycle through them quite often! I’ll try to keep this one intact until this interview is posted 🙂 There are so many different themes in WordPress that it’s just fun to explore the different options. My header video, called a “hero” in WordPress, is a video of campus I took with a drone used in my research lab. I edited the theme to enlarge the video on the front page and changed a few of the colors in the layout. Otherwise, it is mostly stock. Additionally, I use the WordPress Jetpack which gives you statistics such as site stats, among other things. Lastly, I created my own domain name, which I purchased from Google Domains. In MiddCreate, this is known as an add-on domain, and allowed me to change my site name from jgrant.middcreate.net to jmgphd.com.”
DLINQ: What challenges/issues did you face creating your MiddCreate site and how did you overcome these setbacks? How helpful was the existing documentation on our site in solving your problems?
Professor Grant: “Using an add-on domain was likely the most difficult thing to get up and running. I have some experience in CSS and lots of programming experience; therefore, manipulating pages wasn’t very difficult.”
DLINQ: What are your plans for further development on your site?
Professor Grant: “I have experimented with a calendar and would like to fully implement that at some point. I think it would be helpful to students and my colleagues if they could see my availability in a clear and concise way. That would be much easier than walking over to my office to find out that I am not there. I’m sure I will continue to tweak the layout several more times before I settle on something I really like. Lastly, I want to generate more content to add to my page!”
DLINQ: What advice would you give to someone just starting out on MiddCreate?
Professor Grant: “I would recommend trying out as many features and applications as possible. I installed and uninstalled many applications, themes, and widgets before landing on something that I like. Find something that fits your personality and run with it!“
DLINQ: What are your general thoughts on MiddCreate?
Professor Grant: “MiddCreate is great! It sure beats writing HTML and CSS pages from scratch like I have done several times before. The amount of customization may be a little daunting initially, but if you are able to see past that to the end, the possibilities are endless.”
DLINQ: How do you believe having this platform has helped you?
Professor Grant: “MiddCreate is essentially one-stop shopping for web development. I appreciated the ease in which I could get things done.”
The Office of Digital Learning & Inquiry encourages our readers to check-out Professor Jason Grant’s MiddCreate site here.