Category Archives: Assignments

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Genevieve’s Project Proposal Update

Reviewing available datasets for public schools shows different ways I could approach working with data regarding student achievement.  For instance, not only does the data provide a full range of performance grades, for students who are doing just great to those who are failing miserably, it also provides proficiency scores in math and English.  I initially thought I would put emphasis on charter schools to find those offering progressive methodologies, but the truth is progressive schools could also be located within the standard public school system so that I could miss important information looking solely within charter schools.

If I am to work with this data successfully, I have to define an exact question as dealing with all of the variables offered in various reports could make this project quite unwieldy.  That means whether I want to know if technology is being used in inner city schools, or if I want to look at how to create engaged active learners, the data can lead viewers to consider these topics.  My job is to approach the data pragmatically.

I am revising my project to determine how different types of funding can effect student learning using datasets from schools in two districts, that receive various types of funding including from donations to schools that are established as non-profit organizations, to those who are designated Title I or non-Title I schools.  Approaching the project this way could reveal how parents who are actively engaged with their schools have a say in their children’s school experience as opposed to those where parents are not involved.

I am hopeful this work will prompt discussions around why some schools are failing students, what must happen to cause positive changes at failing schools and lead to conversations around school privatization, parental involvement, pedagogy and methodology.

Ayanna’a Midterm Project

Hi All! Sorry I missed out on the class today…I’m toiling away at the lab, and I also forgot to publish my draft. I welcome any and all suggestions on how to flesh this out!

Overview:

I teach large lecture format classes, of 110-160 students per section. We have auditorium style seating, and my class has been condensed from a two-session per week, 1.5 hour lecture, to a single 3 hour session. In order to make these lecture courses more interactive, we have introduced clickers—which the students did not like, because it was yet another piece of equipment that they must purchase in addition to their textbook. We had another alternative, Learning Catalytics, which was an option from our textbook publisher, using student’s cell phones, tablets or laptops to respond to questions. The limitations of this system: we may only use the program if we have a book contract with this publisher, and this platform does not allow the instructor to choose questions to present to the class, questions are random from a large pool. Another road block was CUNY-made: we realized when we attempted to have the entire class log in to wireless at the same time, that the lecture hall could not support more than 30 people at one time (ridiculous for a class that seats 160). Apparently this issue has been fixed, but we haven’t tested this out yet.

We are incorporating more peer led learning in the sciences, and I want to find a way to incorporate this in a class with my restrictive seating layout and limited class time. I would like to create a platform which will allow instructors to post either open ended or multiple choice questions to the class, and for students to have the ability to respond or engage in an interactive chat with other students and the instructor.

My Personas:

1. Professor PowerPoint: These instructors teach large format lecture courses, but desire a way to make students more engaged in the course, and want to encourage critical thinking . The instructor would like a web app which would not be linked with any particular textbook/publisher, can be customized with content from any text, or original content, and will allow the instructor to create quiz sessions catered to the needs of the class.

2. Sleepy students: Students will be able to answer quiz questions, chat and brainstorm with the Professor and peers, all from their own seat, and on their own device. No purchase codes from publishers or additional accessories will be required to use this app.

Use Case Scenario:

Classroom use, this will be created for large lecture hall courses, but may also be useful for small courses or labs.

The tool will allow for students to use their personal devices to answer quiz questions provided by the instructor during a lecture class.

Full-Fledged Version:

In my full version of this app, it would work on both Mac and Windows, students would be able to access the fully functional app on a phone or tablet as well.

The instructor would have the ability to begin a quiz session with the full class, or direct the students to break out into group discussion sections.

The app would record students’ attendance and participation. The instructor will also have the ability to capture the content of the chat.

The app should be able to work with exam creation software (like Wimba Diploma) to create quizzes.

How much time? 

If I can build upon an existing app (example: Converse—thank you Prof. for the find!) it may be a much easier build. I would need to learn how to make the changes to configure the app to my specs. I approximate that with a dedication of at least one full work day per week, I may finish within a year to one and a half year’s time. If I am able to obtain a grant to hire a consultant, which the Converse inventor does, this process should be completed much faster.

Stripped-Down Version:

We could move forward with the functionality of question/answer and chat. The group function could be added at a later time.

How much time? 

I estimate that the timeline will still be at least 8 months for a stripped down version of this web app.

Sissi’s Projects (Midterm)

PROPOSAL #1:   Broadway Musicals as Cartography of Changes in US Sociocultural Values

Description

Musical theatre as a legitimate scholarly field only came to the fore in the 1990s, in a large part due to musical theatre’s status as popular entertainments and the prejudice against popular forms in the academic culture. However, the modern hierarchy of taste that dismisses the musicals has not prevented the form from being the most beloved legitimate form of all theatre.  From the 1920s to the 60s, Broadway musicals in its so-called “Golden Age” contributed largely to the formation of US culture.  Contemporary Broadway musicals are still consumed every year by millions of people who travel to New York from all around the world, and performed and appreciated by endless fans all over the world.  Broadway musical theatre continues to be the most distinctive form of US theatre.

This project is my attempt to create a digital pedagogical tool to help people understand the gap between the popular and scholarly perceptions of musical theatre—why certain musicals are applauded by general audience but despised by scholars, and why certain critically acclaimed musicals are never popular—through quantifying “taste” in the context of Broadway’s production of desire, consumption of pleasure, and creation of national identity.

Personas

Xanadu is a published scholar in Broadway musical theatre.  He is trained in musicology and is an expert in late 19th century and early 20th century European music, especially operetta and opera comique.  In his musical theatre class, however, he always disagrees with his students.  What his students love (eg. Phantom of the Opera), he hates; the pieces he admires (eg. A Little Night Music), his students roll their eyes at.  He is frustrated by this seemingly unbridgeable gap of perception and taste.  Plus, he has a cousin, Yawper, who he finds annoying and would never go out to musicals with.

Yawper is a working-class man in New York, and an enthusiastic goer to Broadway musicals.  To him, Broadway musical theatre is his sanctuary; a world that’s more real than his mundane trivial daily life—the emotions are more authentic, the people are more genuine, and he is able to be his true self in that world.  In that world, he doesn’t want to think that much or analyze that much.  H he can focus on how he FEELS.  His cousin Xanadu thinks he is coarse and unrefined.  He, however, thinks Xanadu is pretentious, snobbish, and boring.  He would much rather hang out with his niece Zuhanna.

Zuhanna is a student of musical theatre.  She has read the 20-some canonical scholarly books that are most important in the field (mostly musicological works), and realizes that there is still a lot to be done.  She finds that popular works are under researched academically, and there is a lack of online archives, or scholarship that address overall trends of the development of Broadway musicals.  She wishes there are better online resources to study Broadway musicals.

Use Case Scenario

This tool will tentatively be in the form of a website/ online archive, accessible via computers, tablets, and mobile devices.

By clicking the name of a musical, the user sees the basic information of the musical (creators, cast, length of performance, whether it is exported abroad and for how long, etc), its placement in the “popular” and “critical” spectra, its overall theatrical structure, a chart of the sum of its song forms and key musical elements, the key issues this musical explores in comparison to those explored in the same decade, and where it falls in the entire historical span.

By clicking into a decade, the user sees a chart of the contextualization of the musicals in that decade in terms of theatrical structure, key issues, and musical forms.  The user could choose to compare any two decades (by clicking, say, 50s and 70s), to explore the changes that have taken place.

By clicking into a cultural key word (eg “the Vietnam War,” or “strong female character”), the user sees a list of musicals with their key issues and representative song forms listed.

By clicking into a specific song form/ harmonic pattern, the user have access to a list of songs that share the same/ similar structural pattern.

By clicking into a cultural affect, the user is given a list of songs that share that certain cultural affect.

Full Version and Timeline

The Broadway musicals of each decade (from 1920s to the present) are grouped into three ranking lists: 1) the longest running, or the most popular; 2) the most critically acclaimed; 3) the most frequently exported.  Theatrical structure, musical form, and textual topics are the three foci  of data analysis.  Based on that, below I list a series of tentative indicators within the musicals that reflect the changes in the mode of consumption, the style of production, audience taste, and ultimately, the changes in sociocultural values:

Textual Indicators:

  • Large sociocultural themes the musical addresses;
  • Trendy topics the musical addresses;
  • References to popular culture;
  • The affect generated through the textual aspect of the musical (described using key words);

Musical Indicators:

  • Musical genres and styles, and song forms;
  • Musical references;
  • The original use of musical idioms, chord progression, voice leading, etc.;
  • The affect generated through the musical aspect of the piece;

Socio-economical Indicators:

  • The cost of production of the musical domestically;
  • The cost of production of the musical outside of the US;
  • The revenue of the musical throughout its domestic run;
  • The revenue of the musical throughout its international run;
  • Ticket price of the musical;

Theatrical/Performative Indicators:

  • The theatrical structure of the piece;
  • Casting choices and other performance elements (choreography, vocality, setting design, costume design, etc.)

Topic modeling and data visualization will be the two most prominent skills required of this project.  I have intermediate knowledge of mallet and gephi, and am currently learning python, R, and D3.  I expect the project will take approximately a year and a half to complete.  The  data collection and the musical data processing will take the most time—approximately 9 months to a year.

Brief Version and Timeline

The musical form analysis is what I regard to be the most unique aspect of this project.  It is therefore what I have decided to work on first.  Much work has been done in terms of MIR (musical information retrieval), and I’m currently doing research on what existent models would  be most beneficial to take onto this project.  The Million Song Project and Hooktheory might serve as good precursor examples.  I am currently collaborating with a few students from the Computer Science Department on. The music part of this project should take us approximately two semesters (Spring and Fall 2015).

 

Proposal #2:  Calligraphy Design / Linguistic Pedagogical Gaming Tool

Description

As one of the oldest forms of art in human history, calligraphy is on the verge of slowly dying out, especially as the digital age has “freed” human beings from taking up a pen and resorting to handwriting.  This tool/app is designed to digitally preserve the performative nature of practicing calligraphy, and more over, to serve as a pedagogical tool for learning new (especially non-alphabetic) languages and writing systems.

Personas

Amil, 6-year-old brother who is learning hand-writing.

Bailee, 19-year-old sister who is learning about symbols and characters in her design class.

Cad, 45-year-old parent who is interested in learning a new language.

Doe, 70-year-old grandparent who is looking for physical and intellectual exercise.

Use Case Scenario:

This tool is available on mobile devices, tablets, computers with touch screens, and large home use devices (eg. similar to Wii video games and devices).

Beginner Level: To Learn the structure of a character / how to write a character;

Intermediate Level: To play with fonts, script styles;

Advanced Level: To design your own fonts and script styles; to use pen-and-board controllers creatively.

Full Version and Timeline:

For the Beginner’s level, To Learn the structure of a character / how to write a character, when the user enters one stroke, the app will ask the user to choose from a list of strokes (the order of strokes are very important in, for instance, Eastern Asian countries.)  This requires the programming of the stroke order in each single character in multiple languages.  It is reasonable for me to start with the Chinese language, as not only did I grow up with this language, I was also trained in Chinese calligraphy since an early age.

For the Intermediate Level, To play with fonts, script styles, each character will appear hollow (with stroke order indicated), and the user will fill each one in by either handwriting on the screen, or using specially designed pen-and-board-shaped controllers that come in different shapes, styles and sizes. After the user finish writing, for instance, an Indian proverb (7 characters) or a Tang poem (20-28 characters), the app will generate the calligraphy piece the user has created in an interactive platform which allows one to make further changes, save, and share online.  Inspirations can be drawn from the iPad Calligraphy App’s tracing system.

For the Advanced Level, the user may invent one’s own distinctive script styles, name them, save them, and share them online.  This has similar function to online drawing apps such as Sketchpad and AWW (A Web Whiteboard).   The user may also use pen-and-board controllers creatively, the way devices are used in Wii. The largest pen controller should be as large as 4 feet long, and one can practice wall calligraphy or ground calligraphy (dishu), the results of which will be projected and saved on file for further use.

The skills required to make this tool are mostly ones I do not yet possess in my digital tool pool.   It will therefore take me at least two years to accomplish this project.

Brief Version and Timeline

The Beginner’s Level could be the brief version of the project.  This requires character pool and an efficient tracing-operating system.  If I have the right collaborators, this version could take 9 months to a year to complete.

Cailean’s proposed projects

Proposal #1     Ethnographic Study on the Adoption of Open Educational Resources at City Tech

This study seeks to assess the impact of Open Educational Resources (OERs) in the classroom. The study would produce much needed qualitative data so that instructional practitioners and college administrations can make informed decisions about how/if OERs represent a viable alternative to the insidious problem of expensive textbooks. The 2012 NSSE (National Survey of Student Engagement) reported that many students did not purchase textbook due to financial concerns; also expressing that they believed this had negative impact on their academic success. OERs are still relatively new and as such, there is little evidence of their effectiveness. This study will survey students and faculty who are participating in the library led City Tech OER pilot which includes three faculty members who will each develop an OER based on existing resources they curate, in turn replacing the required textbook in their respective courses. This study will seek to enrich the conversation about providing open learning materials beyond textbooks.

Personas:

Prof. Green teaches a course in architectural design. She is concerned that the course’s required textbook is not adequate for her students. Portions are somewhat more advanced than the student skill level, while other sections have no alignment with the course curriculum. She’s heard about alternatives to traditional textbooks: Open Educational Resources (OERs). She’s intrigued, but wants to know more about how they work and how they’ve been implemented before she considers if this is the right alternative for her.

Prof. Sage oversees the circulation department in the college library. She is frustrated by the tons of work her department has each semester to prepare for a new batch of reserve textbooks that need to be available to those (85%) students who can’t afford or choose not to buy the text. It’s like reinventing the wheel every semester. Prying the information from the college bookstore as to when and which new textbooks can be purchased is difficult enough. The library spends an incredible amount of time processing these textbooks into the library’s collection. All for what? The books will either be destroyed or deemed outdated almost as quick as the library makes them available. The new Open Educational Resources (OER) pilot running out of the library has promise as a helpful alternative to this problem. But it’s still so new. How can we learn more about the processing of developing these OERs, and more importantly getting information about the real test: how they perform in the classroom setting.

College student Sam Grey regrets shelling out so much dough for her architectural design textbook. First, it’s boring. Second, it’s heavy, and a pain to lug as she commutes through 3 boroughs a day. What a waste since the professor only assigns half the book anyway? She’s learned from a friend in the program that another course is being taught without a required textbook. Instead, her friend accesses course readings and other materials through the OpenLab site. This might be cool but Sam has never used the OpenLab site before. She wonders if it’s easier or harder than Blackboard. How would she find or print out her assignments? Is the professor just being lazy?

Use case:

Prof. Green is admittedly interested in the prospect of using or curating an OER as an alternative to the traditional textbook she requires. But she wonders how the OER will affect her classroom pedagogy. Are these resources supporting student learning? What are the outcomes compared to student performance in those classes that use traditional textbooks? What are some of the “do’s and don’ts” takeaways from students and faculty who have used an OER? Prof. Green will examine the ethnographic study conducted during the City Tech OER pilot to learn more.

Prof. Sage plans to use the findings from the ethnographic study to recalculate how the library may best make use of its expertise and resources in order to improve the OER program, or turn in another direction. She is also interested that students have revealed their need for more printing as a result of taking an OER course, where content is primarily housed on the OpenLab instead of in a print format. She will use this data to advocate for more printing facilities in the library.

Ideal version:

The ideal version will include a formal study including IRB approval and partnerships with the 3 faculty OER fellows. A timeline of the research project will be developed and follow in step with the OER pilot. Surveys questions and interviews will be designed and conducted. The final product will be available as a written paper, including a project website.

Timeline:

Course proposal and research project timeline, along with an IRB submission will be conducted in spring and early summer 2015. Plans will be shared with faculty participants before IRB submission, but once the proposal and project timeline is planned. This phase will include research and development of surveys and interview questions.

Data collection, gathering, and storing will take place through the course of the fall 2015 term.

Evaluation and written assessment and presentation in a web format will be take place during the latter half of the fall 2015 and continue in Spring 2016. The finished product will be in place during the Spring 2016 term.

Current/required skills:

The researcher has knowledge of the OER program and knowledge of how the study can help and impact how OER gets implemented at City Tech and CUNY. The researcher has also participated in the IRB approval process before. Continued research in survey design and ethnographic research methods is essential as this is a new undertaking for the researcher.

Stripped down version:

The most important tangible version of this product would include a working design of interview and survey questions.

Proposal #2 OER Intensive Workshop Day

Faculty are interested in OERs as an alternative to traditional textbooks. Textbooks present major problems both in terms of their content and cost. Faculty’s disciplinary expertise can be harnessed to curate collections of learning materials including open and library materials to replace or lesser the reliance on expensive textbooks. Yet there are a number of skills and considerations around using and curating OERs. Faculty have to consider which resources to include, where to find them, how to navigate licencing and fair use, classroom assessment, use of content management systems, and more. This OER intensive workshop would provide interested faculty with hands on experience and resources to start the process of adopting, remixing, and curating OERs for the classroom.

Personas:

Prof. Black is very much interested in implementing OER into her course. She understands that there are several conventions in the institution including utilizing the university’s WordPress based learning management system to house and make materials accessible to students. She is not entirely sure how to link library resources directly into such a site. Furthermore, she is slightly weary of all the copyright hoopla. She’s perused a few blogs, and attended a few talks, but she wants to get some hands on experience before she jumps in.

Prof. Mauve leads a lot of college initiatives based out of the it’s center for teaching and learning. She is really excited about the potential of OERs. She thinks that opening up students to more diverse, and interactive course materials beyond static textbooks will be fantastic for classroom pedagogy. She wants an opportunity to share some of her expertise and work for those faculty who may be working on OERs in the future.

Use case:

The OER intensive workshop provided a venue to work on practical skills that can be used to develop and adopt OERs in the classroom. Librarians shared tips on creating durable links for library materials, searching for open access content, and considering different types of Creative Commons licenses for our curated OERs. The opportunity to work with librarians, OpenLab staff, and teaching and learning experts proved very valuable.

Ideal version:

This would include program planning between the OpenLab staff, the library, and the center for faculty teaching and learning. Ideally, the day long workshop would be held during a summer teaching institute at the college.

Timeline:

Phase one would include putting together a workshop program housed on the OpenLab. A call for participants would be sent out to college faculty. 4 different modules would be planned that included instruction and working time. The call would ideally go out in March. Planning would start in January and continue through the Spring term but programs would be finalized in April. The workshop would be held in June.

Current/required skills:

This would require approaching leadership to create this program and knowledge/expertise of skills and pedagogical practice around OER. The workshop coordinator has these foundations but would need to build a committee of other experts to make the workshop program work.

Stripped down version:

The stripped down version would include a central online resource that provides literature and instructions on open resources and library resources. It would also pull information from the OpenLab, and resources for best pedagogical practices as well as examples of excellent open educational resources.

Joseph Paul Hill’s Midterm Proposals for Theatre Classroom Projects

Proposal 1: New York Theatre Student Rush Ticket Web-Based App

Introduction:

During any given semester, students enrolled in an undergraduate theatre course, whether Introduction to Theatre, Advanced Scenic Design, or World Theatre 1642 to the Present, will be required to attend a theatre performance and submit a review. The content and style of the review will change depending on the instructor and the course content, but one major component of the assignment remains the same: finding a production to attend. Many undergraduate students, especially the many non-theatre majors enrolled in Introduction to Theatre courses who have never seen a professional theatre production, are clueless to the number of options available to them. Since the 1996 Broadway production of Rent, almost all New York City theatres have implemented Rush ticket policies in order to make discounted tickets available to students and young adults with no additional processing fees, but no one has aggregated the Rush ticket information for Broadway and Off-Broadway (and even the few significant Off-Off) houses?

The proposed project will serve to make such information easily accessible to students who want to attend quality productions without paying full price. Additionally, the project will attempt to make use of students’ theatre reviews beyond a classroom assignment submitted only to an instructor for credit by making them publically accessible.

Personas:

Instructor Isabella: Isabella is an adjunct professor in the Department of Theatre and Speech at the City College of New York. This semester she is teaching Introduction to Theatre Arts and Black Drama USA Part 2. For both courses, she requires her students to attend a professional theatre production in New York City and write a performance review. Isabella has a good sense of which new productions might appeal to her non-major students, but she is unsure of which productions might be relevant for students in her African-American theatre history course. Conscious of her students’ financial constraints, which are very similar to her own as a graduate student in the Theatre Program at the Graduate Center, she wants to suggest affordable theatre options for her students.

Student Samuel: Samuel is a Theatre Major at Hunter College. For his scene design class, he needs to attend a theatre production and write a review critiquing the play’s design and analyzing how the design served both the playwright’s and the director’s concerns. Samuel has already seen most of the new plays on Broadway this season and isn’t inspired to write about any of their scenic designs. Two years ago he saw a production at St. Ann’s Warehouse in Brooklyn that he really enjoyed, and St. Ann’s is hosting a new play next month that Samuel thinks will be an interesting production for his paper. He knows that St. Ann’s Warehouse offers student tickets, but he doesn’t know how to go about getting them since he can’t seem to locate the information on their website.

Student Simon: Simon is a psychology student at Brooklyn College who enrolled in Introduction to Theatre Arts to satisfy a general education requirement. His midterm writing assignment for the course is to attend a theatre performance and write a newspaper review that discusses the highs and lows of the production. Simon has never seen a play before, unless you count seeing his younger sister in a junior high drama show, which Simon does not. Simon’s teacher has offered a small amount of extra credit on the assignment if the students attend an Off-Broadway show, but Simon doesn’t know the difference between On- and Off-Broadway. He thinks he would like to see a musical, but he doesn’t know to go about seeing a list of all current productions.

Aspiring-Actress Alice: Alice sees as much New York theatre as she can between working at her survival job and going to non-union auditions. She received her BFA in Acting from Marymount Manhattan College three years ago and became very familiar with finding inexpensive ways to see Broadway productions. Since Alice is no longer a student, she’s ineligible for many Rush tickets, but since she is under the age of 35, she can still get Rush tickets at some theatres. Alice doesn’t have to work tomorrow morning and has time to go sit in line for a Rush ticket, but she doesn’t know which productions have performances tomorrow night that offer Youth Rush tickets instead of Student Rush tickets.

Use Case Scenario:

There are many websites—although none that utilize responsive web design—that have information about discounted tickets for various Broadway theatres, and there are various membership companies that charge handling fees for discounted tickets, but every venue and every show has different policies about discounted ticket information, and it’s often difficult to find the information online. Theatre students in the know have their go-to websites or applications, such as BroadwayForBrokePeople.com, TodayTix, or StudentRush.org, but initially finding these websites or apps is typically the result of a grueling Google search or a friend recommendation.

The new web-based app will have a responsive web design so that the content can be easily accessed from a laptop as a student plans out which show to Rush the following morning or from a cell phone as a student desperately tries to find an alternative show to Rush when all the Rush tickets for a particular show sell out. Unlike many ticket organizations, there will be no fees associated with the website because it is not offering ticket discounts that are not openly available to the public; rather, it is making already inexpensive theatre tickets easier to obtain. Because it provides information not easily accessible elsewhere, instructors, students, and avid theatregoers who find the application useful are likely to recommend it to their friends and colleagues. (Certainly all of the adjunct theatre professors associated with the Graduate Center’s Theatre Program would find it useful in their CUNY appointments.)

Full Fledged Version:

In the full version of the web-based app, interactivity is key. Theatre students and young theatregoers are both active communities, and the continued success of the application would require the input of individuals. Although students and non-students alike will be able to use the site anonymously, they will be encouraged to log in and contribute to the site under their username by updating production information, suggesting new shows and venues that are not currently part of the system, and, of course, submitting student reviews of shows they have seen.

The full version brings together information about obtaining Rush tickets for all Broadway and Off-Broadway theatres, as well as notable Off-Off-Broadway and university productions. Detailed information about obtaining a Rush ticket at each theatre will be integrated into a format that is easily searchable by event type, Rush ticket requirements, theatre location, and day of the week. Brief production information gleaned from theatre and/or production websites will appear alongside student-submitted reviews of productions. Information about the shows is secondary to ticket information, but many may find it useful. Ideally there would also be a thread of alerts each morning where Rush participants can share current information about Rush tickets, especially regarding availability, for that particular day. With enough traffic to the site, ideally theatre companies and venues will also seek to keep their own information up to date as good marketing and publicity.

WordPress has enough functionality that it would provide a good platform for a successful responsive web design that would also allow for user input, such as the posting of student reviews and day-of Rush information. WordPress plugins will also be useful for sorting information by custom fields to make sure that Rush information is accessible according to the desires of the users.

Any version of this project would require the compilation of pre-existing Rush information from various production and theatre websites. Boilerplate pages can be made in response to typical Rush scenarios including various weekly show schedules, box office hours, and ticket prices. Content updates from the project creators would undoubtedly need to continue until there is enough user activity to allow for community cooperation, so it would also be useful to chart out company seasons well in advance and to establish e-mail correspondence with the marketing teams of theatres who have limited runs.

The site should be developed concurrently with the accumulation of information, as new performance information can always be added once the site is functional. I imagine that designing a site for the ticket information alone (in addition to the information culling) will take a couple months given that multiple plugins will need to be tested extensively for their usefulness in sorting through the information. Adding user ability to post reviews and day-of Rush information should only take a couple weeks, but adding user ability to contribute to the information content of the site would likely require another couple months, as questions about user vandalism will have to be addressed and guarded against.

Minimally Viable Version:

The minimally viable product would have Rush ticket information available without user activity and contribution. Rather than provide Rush information for a near limitless number of New York theatres, the bare bones site would need to limit the scope primarily to Broadway and Off-Broadway theatres. Detailed information about obtaining a Rush ticket at each theatre would still be integrated into a format that is easily searchable by event type, Rush ticket requirements, theatre location, and day of the week, but production information will be limited to linking to a show’s official website.

WordPress and its plugins would undoubtedly be the best route for a minimally viable product, especially considering the need for responsive web design. Again, designing a site for the ticket information alone (in addition to the information culling) will take a couple months given that multiple plugins will need to be tested extensively for their usefulness in sorting through the information. The entire project should only take about three months to get up and running if there is no addition of user activity.

 

Proposal 2: Complex Theatrical Relations Web Visualization

Introduction:

Over the last two decades, Theatre Studies has been problematizing notions of a Western, male-dominated canon by increasingly stressing the intertextuality and interdisciplinarity of theatre as an art form. For undergraduate students, a key difficulty in studying theatre history is the necessary use of theatre history textbooks that separate theatrical developments, genres, and innovations both temporally and geographically, thereby encouraging canonization and periodization. The ability to represent the complexity of theatrical traditions and inspirations varies between theatre courses based on the object of study, whether determined by time (e.g. World Theatre to 1642) or location (e.g. Asian Theatre). However, in instructing students in the work of theatre historians, it becomes necessary for us to train students to find intertextual connections between seemingly disparate playwrights, producers, designers, theorists, theatres, plays, and artistic movements.

The proposed project will allow for a semester-long assignment where students create a visual web of relations and connections between the various people, places, events, and ideas presented during the course in order to visually depict the complexity of the theatrical art form and to disrupt (or demonstrate the need to continue problematizing) the dominance in theatre history by dead white men. The assignment would function comparably to an academic re-imagining of six degrees of separation

Personas:

Professor Penny: Penny is a tenured professor of theatre at Brooklyn College who is repeatedly scheduled to teach theatre history courses for both the department’s BA and MA programs. The department has decided to use Brockett and Hildy’s History of the Theatre—despite its serious shortcomings and obvious flaws—for all theatre history courses. Penny wants an assignment that will help make her students aware that theatre history textbooks parse out information based on external modes of categorization retroactively applied by theatre historians. Penny’s preferred style of instruction is lecture and discussion. She is not comfortable using technology in the classroom beyond showing video clips, but she wants some way for her students to visualize theatre trends apart from chronological ordering.

Adjunct Adam: Adam is an adjunct professor in the Drama Program at the College of Staten Island and has been assigned to teach a course on contemporary global theatre. Through his course, Adam wishes to convey what, where, why, and how theatre travels both trans- and internationally in the contemporary period and how that travel has changed since the pre-modern period. He wants to assign his students a project where they must select one global nation or geographic region and chart the movement of theatrical forms and texts both into and out of the area of focus. If all of the students’ assignments could be combined somehow into one larger project then perhaps the entire class could see visually how inter- of disconnected global theatre has become in the twenty-first century.

Graduate Student Greta: Greta is studying for her first examination in the Theatre Program at the Graduate Center. Because there is no provided reading list for the exam, Greta has been working through the prominent theatre history textbooks: Brockett and Hildy’s History of the Theatre; Wilson and Goldfarb’s Living Theatre; and Zarrilli, McConachie, Williams, and Sorgenfrei’s Theatre Histories. Before reading anything further, Greta wants to map her current knowledge in order to find the gaps in her general theatre history knowledge. Because her success in the oral component of the first exam will be dependent upon her ability to quickly associate theatre trends across time and space, she wants to create a visualization of her knowledge that visually represents a web of theatre terminology.

Use Case Scenario:

This project will design a web-based tool that will enable a course assignment in which students can input a series of related terms that will then be represented visually by linking terms with lines. Students will be able to collaborate on a single visual representation, with all of their connections or associations being added to the same visual web of terms. The assignment to create the visual representation becomes the impetus for further discussion or reflection, such as questioning any links that do not exist or examining the centrality of a particular term in the course. A professor may compare multiple webs from various classes in order to examine areas of student interest that may or may not have been covered extensively in a given course in order to update and expand curriculum away from a Western theatre canon. Ultimately the creation of a term web is a challenge for the students, daring them to find connections between seemingly disparate items in the field, such as musical writers Rodgers and Hammerstein, Kathakali Indian dance-drama, and Torelli’s chariot and pole system.

There is no particular relation of the project to theatre or theatre history courses per se other than the impetus for the project’s creation. Versatility in the website’s functionality will enable the assignment to be used for assignments in other disciplines or for individual purposes. If the tool is interdisciplinary, it may be linked to by websites such as TAPoR or Project Bamboo’s DiRT alongside other research tools for textual study, like Voyant Links and Wordle.

Full Fledged Version:

The full fledged version of this project will require the development of both a website and a web tool. The website will allow users to collaborate on a particular assignment, including the development of discussion threads for what sorts of information and connections are desirable in the visualization. The website will then allow for interaction with the web tool that will work to generate the text visualization. Thus, unlike most text analysis tools already available online at websites such as TAPoR, this visual representation should be able to adapt and change according to users’ desires. In setting up the assignment, an instructor or individual user would have options for how the connections are displayed visually. Does it make sense to plot points on a world map and see how different artistic cultures interact, or does it make sense to assemble an asymmetrical web of names, titles, and terms that progress in time historically with the earliest words being closest to the center of the system and branching outwards with the progression of time? The visual representation will dictate the possibilities of the project. Inputting a connection should require the two terms being connected as well as a reason for the link. There will be many predetermined links, such as “play written by,” “artist associated with,” “artist influenced by,” and “produced in theatre,” as well as the option for creating new links. Each of these links may then be briefly elaborated upon, such as adding a year, location, or other piece of data. Once the representation has been generated, users can continue to add information, i.e. additional connections, in order to continue changing the visualization.

A key feature of the visualization will be searchability. Rather than the end product being the text visualization itself, the information from the visualization may be extracted. For instance, if a student wanted to see all of the connections to a figure such as “Bertolt Brecht,” searching for the term would return all of the associated results, such as “Mei Lanfang,” “Berliner Ensemble,” and “Threepenny Opera,” as well a short detail about the link, meaning whichever link and additional information a user entered. Another desirable feature will be public access to finished, searchable visualizations. Thus, a student interested in learning more about German theatre since statehood might find a visualization from a course on German theatre in the twentieth century interesting for further reading and key ideas.

As mentioned briefly above, the web tool has no necessary limitation on its interdisciplinary potential, other than perhaps default links between items. If different visualizations are tagged appropriately, all theatre history or theatre-related connections could be aggregated into a single visualization that will continue to change as individual visualization assignments are added to the website. Such a visual might be of interest to those concerned with the state, content, and focus of the academic field.

WordPress might serve as a foundation for an interactive website where discussions about assignments or other related text visualizations could live. Two months should be enough time to have a website running that enables users to log in and discuss information and connections for their particular assignment or project. The tool itself, though, would require quite an extensive amount of work. Hopefully there is some not-yet-discovered open source code that has similar visualization capabilities. The tool would need to be created with a programming language, perhaps one such as Python, of which I have begun to learn. Research into and development of a user-friendly, adaptable tool would likely take six months. A multi-user visualization could then be created to test functionality before spending another month making the tool and website interdisciplinary.

Minimally Viable Version:

A minimally viable product would not have the flexibility of the full fledged version in determining different styles of representation. Likely, representation would be limited to line connections between terms. The visualization also would not have full searchability but would instead serve solely as a visual representation that links related terms. Instead of using the tool in association with a website that can be used to develop and host projects, the tool could be created as a stand-alone entity. Similar to web tools like Voyant Links and Wordle, which were previously mentioned, a stand-alone tool could allow for a certain amount of text to be written elsewhere in word processing program following particular language structures and then copied and pasted into a field that would translate the language into a text visualization.

As with the full project, the most time-consuming part of the project would be creating the tool. Python is perhaps not the best programming language for the tool, but it is the only one with which I have any familiarity. Still anticipating a six month period for the research and development of a mostly user-friendly tool, a bare bones project would not have the same interdisciplinary adaptability.

Futures Past Archive

Project Outline

The purpose of this project is to create a series of timelines that contrast the presentation of technology in fiction with real-world developments in science. The project, which will take the form of a web app or CMS, will be organized into broad areas of technological development such as lighter-than-air travel, nuclear power, and sound recording. On visiting the FPA, users will be presented with a series of images or glyphs, each of which will represent one of these areas. After selecting a category, users will be able to simultaneously view two timelines, one showing fiction or nonfiction works which imagined future developments in that area and another showing historical advances in that technology.

Purpose

The Futures Past Archive is designed primarily with teaching in mind, but may also be useful for researchers who wish to view broad trends in the relationship between speculative writing and real-world advances. As a teaching resource, the FPA will provide an accessible overview of the literature in a given speculative area, such as germ theory or telegraphy. These can serve as starting points for student research or inspire deeper examinations of the wider relationship between imagination and invention. Alternatively, the timelines presented in the FPA could suggest new ways of examining current discourses of technology, creativity, and invention.

Crowdsourcing

Ideally, the FPA will have a crowdsourced component where researchers will add to the various categories, possibly taking responsibility for a category and receiving attribution for its stewardship. However, a great deal of information will need to be present on the site before crowdsourcing becomes a possibility. For my categories, I will look to resources such as Wikipedia for lists, images, and other information on imaginative works and historical technological developments, which will constitute a kind of second-hand crowdsourcing. At this stage, the value of the project will lie primarily in the arrangement of the timelines and the “distant reading” component of the visualizations.

Minimal Viable Product

I intend to create the FPA using Flask, a web framework for Python. I will also use Javascript to create the timelines that will appear on each page. Initially, I will choose a small number of technologies (5-10) to present, and can expand the selection once those have been implemented. My MVP will have these components:

  1. A home page with stylized images of technological categories.
  2. Two timelines for each category.
  3. Information pages on the theoretical basis for the project.

To achieve this, I will need to scrape data from Wikipedia and other sources and store it in a structured way, and for this I will use Python and mySQL, respectively.

Larger Scale Project

Ultimately, I would like to see the Futures Past Archive benefit from the crowdsourcing efforts of scholars and enthusiasts of both science fiction and science writing. It may be too much to hope that contributors will congregate organically, but one way to begin small-scale crowd sourcing might be to reach out to domain experts in certain technologies, such as experts in the Victorian railway or the Napoleonic semaphore, and have them curate a category. These scholars would receive attribution on the site, and with some grant funding, the FPA might even be able to offer small honoraria for these efforts.

Eventually, I would like the FPA to be a comprehensive resource for the comparison of science fiction, speculative nonfiction, and real-world scientific developments. Such a comprehensive tool might give some insight into the relationship between scientific writing and scientific practice, or at the very least show the messy back-and-forth of cultural supposition and practical technological advancement. I would also like the FPA to be visually appealing, making it more attractive to students and the interested public rather than a small set of specialized historians and literary scholars.

Sarah’s Midterm Project Proposal (2 of 2)

Title: Development of History Engine

Introduction
History Engine (HE) is a digital history project of the University of Richmond’s Digital Scholarship Lab that has three stated goals: to be a teaching resource, educational experience, and academic tool. In ITP Core 1 I did a comprehensive assessment of the pedagogical and technical successes and shortcomings of HE; in Core 2 I will implement two of my recommendations. First, I will re-frame online publishing and tagging from a formatting responsibility to an archive-building activity. Currently, the site focuses on the importance of publishing the collection, but presents the act of publication as boring lists of rules: “uploading,” “style guide,” and “citation guide.” The site will shift its focus to how a student’s work can help a future researcher. Second, I will revamp the “Teacher’s Guide” to be more accessible and engaging. Currently, it offers a professor a step-by-step roadmap for thinking about using HE in a course, yet it is formatted as a dry, unappealing word document. I will re-vamp this guide as short videos and exercises in order to engage a professor in “cognitive apprenticeship” with the one of the experienced teachers who crafted the materials.

Set of Personas
Shelly: A student at Miami University of Ohio who’s been assigned to write an “episode” for History Engine in her class on American Slavery.
Fred: A researcher who stumbles across an HE episode in a google search.
Elan: A professor interested in assigning HE to his/her class who’s been forwarded the link by a fellow professor.

Use Case Scenario

Professors from colleges as far afield as Juniata College, the University of Maryland, Baltimore, Rollins College and Furman University have opted to use HE in their classrooms. They may find it through the University of Richmond’s digital scholarship lab; learn about it in a publication by Ed Ayers, President of the University of Richmond and designer of the famous Valley of the Shadow digital history project; or they may learn about it through word-of-mouth from colleagues. Some professors use HE as a semester-long assignment; others spend just three weeks, one “episode.” Most students access the site once they’ve been assigned to write an “episode.”

Full Fledged Version
The first step in this process is learning how the back-end of HE is set-up to understand what is possible. Rob Nelson only (finally) approved my work on HE last week, so I have yet to learn on what platforms the site operates/can interface.

Reframing Online Publishing: A new section in the “For Students” section of HE called “Build a Database” will explain both the reasoning behind and the process of database building as a meaningful part of the historian’s craft. To do this, I will include a (humerous!) video introduction to databases that will highlight the differences between a database and a traditional archive; the potential uses of HE’s archive to scholars; and illustrate the potential pitfalls of incomplete/improper metadata. I can get assistance from friends who work in production as well as free movie software such as imovie to create this clip. I will also create a series of exercises for students to practice proper metadata tagging and to show the potential pitfalls of improper tagging. I would like to model this off of some of the exercises offered by Khan Academy. I have a friend who works there and can ask her for advice/contacts in how I might borrow code or think about writing my own.

Revamping Teachers Guide: Resources for teachers should be dynamic and continue to grow just as the database of “episodes” evolves. My initial thought is to create a forum for teachers to discuss syllabi, assignments, etc. When I proposed this, Rob Nelson replied that they had tried that and “It was pretty much unused.” He continued, “We don’t have enough instructors using the History Engine (probably much less than ten) to sustain a conversation [during any given semester.]” So, to best direct my efforts at improving HE’s teachers guide, I will focus my efforts on creating and administering a survey to teachers to collect assignments and best practices on how to use HE, and find out what types of questions they would like answered.

Timeline and Skills Acquisition

  • Connect with Rob Nelson to organize a time to earn the back-end of HE, identify teachers who frequently use HE, and his assessment of what teachers need/how to design the teacher survey. Continually keep Nelson informed of my progress/check in with questions. (20 hours)
  • Investigate the range of potential options for building the “Create a Database” section. (10 hours)
  • Research best practices in introducing/spinning/explaining digital uploading/archival creation/metadata as an “experience” (30 hours)
  • Contact Khan Academy/others to assess the potential to “borrow” code to write exercises (5 hours)
  • Write, record, produce and edit movie about database creation (50 hrs)
  • Administer surveys with teachers; build and manage a collection of resources they’ve developed for HE (20 hrs)
  • Interpret survey results and make recommendations for updates to teachers guide
  • Implement/publish simple solutions to teacher’s guide (20 hrs)

Minimal Viable Product
I will complete do one of the two proposed elements; most likely the reframing of online publishing. I can certainly do the research and build-out the language to include database creation as an element of the Historian’s job, even if there are no exercises and videos to accompany it.

Gwen’s Proposals

Proposal 1: Visualizing the Invisible: Artists’ social networks and connections

Introduction

This project attempts to examine and work through two problems, one topical, the other disciplinary. Question 1: As a primarily visual, and multimedia discipline, how can digital tools transform, rather than simply transcribe or digitize, art historical inquiry? Question 2: How can we better account for personal and social influences, confluences, and intellectual history in art history? How can we make manifest these important and existing social and geo-political relations? This project intends to create a visualization framework (and maybe reusable tool) that can assist in visualizing artists’ social networks in order to better chart relationships, studio visits, correspondence, and more–things that can be crucial to social or intellectual art history but can be unwieldy or made into some other obtuse chart in the wrong hands. 

For my research and edification, I will be working with artists and activists of the 1950s and 1960s in New York City, with an emphasis on Minimalism and the Civil Rights Movement.

2. Personas

Nerdy Nosepants is a student studying art history and is working on Minimalism, Pop Art, American art, New York City, or a person/artist living or working in New York in the mid-twentieth century.

Rebecca Rabbit-hole-inquirer is someone who is interested in following the interconnections between different types of knowledges and links, such as those on Wikipedia, but wants a different venue to peruse the degrees of separation between politics, urban studies, or art.

Anna Arthistorian is an art historian looking for ways to integrate technology into her art historical work or pedagogy.

3. Use case scenario

Someone could find this tool on the web and would be able to access it publicly (when it is finished).

4. Full Fledged Version

Working on the model of Linked Jazz I will create a visualization of art and artists based on archival research of Minimalist art gallery exhibitions. Connections would be made between artists who were shown together, between galleries and artists, etc.  An expanded, and more comprehensive version could be assembled using correspondence histories, and could be especially interesting when applied to other art projects, including the New York Correspondence School.

In order to complete this I would need to access the Linked Jazz API, as well as familiarize myself with Gephi and D3.Js (which I have no idea about). This would take considerable time and effort. I would also need to conduct archival research, which is in my wheelhouse but is also time intensive (at least 2 full days archival research).

5. How much time? 80 hours (the bulk of which would be spent on learning the technology).

6. Stripped down version

For a stripped down or streamlined version I am loath to abandon the technology, since it seems SO useful. So instead I would scale down content, and do a sample of a single artist as a model on which to base a larger version. This would require less archival resources, research, and probably less knowledge of the technology.

7. How much time? 30 hours? (again, most of this would be spent on learning the technology).

(optional): Really really stripped down version: list/database of connections that could be implemented when time and technology allows.

Proposal 2: Map of artist activity

1. Introduction

Similar to the above project, since art history already has a significant visual component, I would like to engage with technological tools in a way that helps us understand something about art history that we can’t do otherwise. For this project, I would like to map out an artist’s (or several artists’) relationships to New York City.  Alternatively, it would be interesting to stake out a single place, like Max’s Kansas City, and chart the physical relationship to regulars to the bar and each other. Again, spatial and social relationships are ones that remain invisible in art history, both for rhetorical and disciplinary reasons (consider that few talk about artists/intellectuals that murder their wives/partners).

2. Personas

Nosey Nerdpants is a student studying art history and is working on  American art, New York City, or a person/artist living or working in New York in the mid-twentieth century.

Amy Arthistorian is an art historian looking for ways to integrate technology into her art historical work or pedagogy. This tool could be modified into a course project, or include crowdsourced information (provided it has been vetted or comes from an authorized source).

3. Use case scenario

Someone could find this tool on the web and would be able to access it publicly (when it is finished).

4. Full Fledged Version

A full version of this project could either be a stand-alone visualization on a website. Not sure what the right mapping tool would be; it is tempting to consider GIS, but it might just be too powerful for what I need. Aesthetics is also important, so it might be nice to use something that everyone is familiar with, i.e. for New York to use the Subway Map, or a floor plan (in the case of Max’s or the Warhol Factory or something). The use of a floor plan or schematic/map would also be opportune for historical studio buildings. For crowdsourcing, an ideal tool might be a collaborative sticky-note app with a map background, like NoteApp.

5. Time it takes? approx. 80 hours, with a large part of this researching artists and cultural producers who frequent a particular space, gallery, club, etc.

6. Stripped Version

A pared down version of this would include a single site, and might even just be an image or floor plan with links/shadowboxed information that pops up when one hovers over each individual (using wordpress?)

7. Time it takes? 40 hours, mostly research.

NB–I am really not committed to this project anymore

Rachel’s Proposals: Mobile Healthy and Budget-Friendly Recipes and Technology Classes for Entrepreneurs

Proposal #1: Web-based and Mobile Healthy Recipes and Cooking Tips for Low-Income and SNAP Communities in NYC

Introduction

While working with low-income communities, I’ve discovered that residents, who may or may not be receiving Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits, often struggle with learning how to eat (and cook) healthy. Various factors may complicate their attempts to incorporate healthy foods into their and their families’ daily lives: time, transportation, food costs, accessibility to healthy foods, “ethnic” or cultural palates and knowledge of how to cook healthy foods.

One of the biggest issues residents shared with me is “How can I cook healthy on a budget or fixed income?” While they know where they can shop for healthier foods, such as fruits, vegetables, soy-based foods and low-fat dairy products, residents are often unsure of two things: how to use these ingredients to create healthier meals and how to substitute ingredients to make their favorite/familiar dishes healthier.

In order to address these problems I will build a WordPress site and a complementary mobile (SMS) service that will provide healthier recipes and healthy eating/cooking tips targeted for low-income/SNAP populations living in NYC. Users will be able to sign up for a SMS service that will text recipes and tips weekly. They will also be able to use the website as a recipe portal—and as a space to continue their food education. In addition, the website will house a series of short YouTube videos showcasing cooking skills/tips.

Personas

Two-job TJ feels like she is always working—and seldom has time to prepare a home-cooked meal. She has been working two jobs for the past decade in order to send money to her parents and brothers in Mexico. She is often too tired on her days off to cook—as sleep and other tasks take precedence over healthy meal planning. TJ eats out at a fast food restaurant or bodega in-between her morning shift at a fast food restaurant and her evening shift as the local supermarket. While TJ knows she can make healthier eating choices, she believes that eating healthy is expensive—and time-consuming.

Snappy Sally lives with her partner, their two school-aged children and her mother-in-law. Sally’s partner recently lost her job and the family has been struggling to manage their finances while relying on Sally’s part-time salary. Sally went to the local food pantry and with the help of a case manager her family is now receiving SNAP benefits. But Sally knows that with her family’s limited income, plus their SNAP benefits, she needs to change how she shops for (and cooks) food. SNAP only allocates approximately $4/day for food—so she must figure out how to feed her family on this budget.

Standard American Diet Sam knows he needs to eat healthier. At his most recent physical Sam’s doctor diagnosed him with hypertension. And Sam knows that his parents’ poor eating habits contributed to their Type 2 diabetes diagnoses—and if he doesn’t change his exercise and food habits he will also be at risk for developing the disease. Sam’s doctor suggested that he increase his exercise routine and modify his diet to include more plant-based proteins and fruits and vegetables. But Sam is unsure how to do this—as cooking has never been his forte.

Retired Ro lives on a fixed-income. She loves to cook and often cooks for her grandkids as she watches them a few times a week after school. Ro knows she needs to expose her grandkids to healthier recipes—and that she could stand to add some more fruits and vegetables to her diet herself. She loves visiting the farmer’s market but often doesn’t know what to do with much of the produce she sees.

Mobile Mike had been receiving assistance from the local food pantry for the past few years. Fortunately, Mike has recently found a job and graduated from the food pantry. At the pantry Mike participated in a series of cooking and nutrition classes. He wants to continue this learning outside the classroom and is looking for an online resource that will help him do this.

Use Case Scenario

Sally, Sam, TJ, Mike, Ro and others will be able to find/use this tool at four “places”:

  1. Where they register for SNAP benefits — Snappy Sally is registering at the local food pantry and her case manager gives her an informational flyer and tells her about the tool. She uses it to find recipes she can afford to cook for her family.
  1. At a food pantry or other food/health-focused community organizations — Sam’s doctor recommends he take a class at a local organization to learn how to incorporate more healthy foods into his diet—and he learns about the tool at this organization. He uses it to find healthy recipes he can cook at home.
  1. Virtually via a Google search for something like “healthy recipes when you’re on a budget” or “healthy recipes for SNAP recipients” — Mike is searching online for healthy recipes on a budget and finds the tool. Mike uses it to complement the nutrition classes he took at the food pantry. A budding chef, Mike primarily uses the cooking tips to help him build his kitchen skills.
  1. In the community: at local doctor’s offices, churches, community organizations etc. — TJ sees an informational flyer about the tool at her church. She uses the text message service to get recipe updates and for its healthy eating tips.

They will use this tool as:

  • A recipe toolbox (a virtual cookbook)
  • A companion to cooking, nutrition (or other) classes they are taking at a local organization like a food pantry
  • An educational tool/space to learn how to cook healthy foods on a budget
  • A space that demystifies cooking on a budget
  • Part of a behavior change — that being some type of change in their eating habits  (This is public health speak and I’m not too familiar with how to express this)

The Full-Fledged Version {My pie-in-the-sky version}

A website that houses healthy, budget-conscious recipes designed for low-income/SNAP populations and a complementary SMS service that texts short tips/recipes/links to longer recipes.

The website will include:

  1.  Space to sign up for a SMS and email service where users can get recipes, cooking and healthier eating tips texted or emailed to their mobile phones or other digital devices
  2. A fully-functional SMS healthy recipe service
  3. A recipe database with an option for the user to create his/her own list of favorite recipes
  4. A tool where users can assemble a grocery list of needed items (this will automatically populate when the user selects a recipe)
  5. A Google search bar (to search recipes)
  6. A set of YouTube instructional videos – This will include a welcome video, but I also imagine adding a series of short cooking and healthy eating video tips
  7. Food/shopping/ingredient resources in NYC  and online –I don not want to focus solely on SNAP resources because I don’t want to isolate non-SNAP users for using the tool. For example, I can include a map of farmer’s markets, Health Buck info (this is a program to encourage SNAP users to shop at farmer’s markets), information about seasonal vegetables, a list of online sites that sell discount or bulk ingredients such as spices, etc.
  8. A message board or feedback form where users can comment on recipes and make site suggestions

The success of this tool is based on my ability to partner with at least one established food-based non-profit in NYC and, depending on the non-profits cooking and nutrition expertise, a cooking program (such as the Culinary Arts program at Kingsborough or the Natural Gourmet Institute) or a private chef who is willing to donate his/her time and expertise.

And since this is pie-in-the-sky, I wonder if I would need to offer the site and text messages in language(s) other than English.

Timeline & Skills Needed

Pre-work: [2 – 3 months, though some of this, especially the marketing/branding, will be completed at the same time at the tool development]

  • Conduct at least one focus group to assess community needs — I would ask questions such as: the types of recipes users want to see, the types of available kitchen equipment, the availability of certain products, users’ familiarity with (and access to) technology (smart phones, internet access at home, etc.)
  • Develop relationship with non-profit and cooking school/chef
  • Begin to develop a bank of recipes and healthy eating/cooking tips
  • Develop some type of branding for website – name/logo!
  • Initial development of marketing materials

Tool-development: [5 – 6 months]

  • Pilot tool with SMS service: Use Twilio or SimplyCast. Will need to purchase a phone number and pay for texting services (both sites do have a free trial)
  • Test SMS tool/make adjustments
  • Build website: Use WordPress and pay to self-host. Can use a site such as Bluehost to do this ($3.95/month); Can use plug-ins for food blogs such as: Recipe Card or EasyRecipe
  • Make YouTube videos: Use smartphone (to make them) and iMovie (to edit them)
  • Add email function: can use SimplyCast

Post-work: 1 – 2 months

  • Focus groups to understand what’s working, what is not working and what is missing

The Stripped-Down Version

The stripped-down version is the creation of a SMS service that sends short recipes (5 ingredients or less) and healthy eating/cooking tips to recipients via text messages. It will use hyperlinks (via a URL shortening service like ) to send longer recipes to recipients (for ease of use and aesthetic purposes). These links will direct to an initial WordPress site (or maybe a Google Doc?) that will be developed into a full-scale website at a later date. I imagine adding a survey to the site or a comment plug-in in order to get feedback on how users like the SMS tool.

This initial WordPress site will house one YouTube video that talks about the tool I’m creating and how to use the SMS tool (the first welcome text will direct the user here) and a beginning recipe database. I will use iMovie to create this video.

Timeline & Skills Needed

This is do-able in a semester. I will need to learn how to use Twilio and expand my WordPress skills (which I’m pretty sure I can do using online tutorials). I will also need to learn how to use iMovie to create the welcome video. Ideally I would need at least one person to help me record the movie. For this portion of the project I can create content for short recipes and healthy eating/cooking tips. I will also need to create relationships with NYC food-based/hunger/food insecurity/social service organizations through which I can market the tool (I already have a few, but will need more).

——-

Proposal #2: Web and Mobile Technology and Marketing Classes for Small Business Owners and Emerging Entrepreneurs

Introduction

While working with entrepreneurs who want to build or expand their small businesses, I realized that they often lack technological and marketing skills. Entrepreneurs develop great products, but are struggling with how to use social media and to promote their business and how to establish an online (web) presence for their business. There are a growing number of organizations whose focus is to foster the development of small businesses through micro-lending, business and marketing classes and other types of support.

My plan is to develop a set of classes for small-business owners. I will also develop an instructional portal that will house a set of instructional videos and ‘how-to’ instructions on topics covered in these classes.

Personas                                                                                                                   

Newbie Nelly and her friend Janice are creating a line of organic shea butter-based body care products. This summer they will begin selling their products at local craft shows and farmers’ markets. However, Nelly and Janice do not have a clear idea how to market their business. They see how other small businesses market themselves using Twitter and Facebook—but the pair knows they are not marketing experts, nor are they comfortable using social media. Nelly and Janice understand that in order to create a successful business they will need to acquire these skills—as they don’t have the budget to hire a marketing consultant.

Seasoned Saul has owned a successful cheesecake business for the past five years. Word-of-mouth advertising has generated most of Saul’s business—as his church congregation and past customers have been fervent supporters of his tasty treats. However, recently Sal has realized he is not attracting new business. He wants to continue to grow his business—as he dreams of opening a storefront in his neighborhood. Several of his friends have suggested Saul start an online fundraising site to raise money to expand this business.

Popping Penny is a retired teacher with a passion for food—and started an ice pop business soon after she retired. Penny has a growing business and has been successfully selling her pops at pop-up markets and festivals. Penny has always wanted to sell her pops in retail locations and she recently found a co-packer who will make and package her pops for retail distribution. As Penny begins to approach potential customers she wants to make sure she has a sound online brand presence. Her friend designed a website for her when she started her business, but Penny hasn’t updated the site since.

First-Loan Lenny has just received a micro-loan for his budding laundry service. The organization Lenny is working with offers a set of classes that teach entrepreneurs business acumen. But Lenny wants to further develop his marketing skills—and he is searching for a tool that will meet his needs. Lenny is an adept social media user and is especially interested in leaning how he can use these social tools to market his business.

Use Case Scenario

Nelly, Saul, Penny, Lenny and others would find this tool:

  • At a organization that works with entrepreneurs/does micro-lending — Lenny finds it at the organization that is financing his micro-loan
  • At a local business development organization, Chamber of Commerce, organization that works with women, minorities or immigrants — Penny finds it when she attends a meeting for Latino/a entrepreneurs
  • At a craft’s fair, farmer’s market or pop-up market — Nelly finds it when she and Janice attend one of their first markets
  • At an incubator or shared kitchen space — Saul finds it at a local food incubator where he rents space to bake his cheesecakes
  • At a community college or community school
  • Word-of-mouth advertising (talking to other entrepreneurs)

They will use this tool:

  • To market their businesses
  • To connect with potential and current customers
  • To establish or increase brand awareness

Full-fledged Version

My plan is to build a set of web and mobile technology classes targeted to help small business owners build, market and grow their businesses. I envision partnering with an established micro-lending organization and co-hosting these classes with them. This partnership should be able to provide me with space to host my classes and audience to whom I can market them.

Classes will need to be affordable/free as small business owners often do not have excess capital to pay for expensive trainings. I’ll also have to think about the language these classes are being taught it — and if I’m isolating a population by only offering them in English.

The topics these classes will highlight include:

  • Website development: finding a web-hosting site, choosing and registering a domain name, building the site, blogging
  • Social media skills: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, etc.
  • Email marketing
  • Online fundraising platforms: Kickstarter, GoFundMe
  • How to sell my product online: Etsy
  • How to take great digital pictures
  • How to create YouTube videos
  • How to start a food blog
  • Maybe LinkedIn?

I will also build an online repository that will hold instruction manuals for these skills and short educational YouTube videos that also provide instructions.

Timeline & Skills

I envision my timeline for this project to look something like:

Step #1: Class Development (many of these tasks will be happening simultaneously)

  • Develop training modules for each class
  • Secure space and organizational partnerships for classes
  • Recruit other subject experts as trainers
  • Market events
  • Obtain feedback/evaluate classes
  • Develop additional classes or re-develop existing classes after receiving feedback

While I am familiar with many of these tools, I haven’t formally taught others how to use them. I envision class development as the most time consuming part of the project. I also will need to become more familiar with Facebook as I don’t use it and develop my WordPress skills. I believe I can get a set of five classes up and running in a period of five to six months.

Step #2: Online Portal/Repository Development

I envision this as the second step of my project, after I’ve established a viable technology and marketing class series. I want to develop this portal for two reasons: to reach small business owners who are not located in NYC or cannot take these classes AND as a reference tool for small business owners who have already taken these classes.

I can make this portal using WordPress or maybe with Omeka. I will want to self-host a site on one of the two platforms and will need to consider the cost of doing so. No matter which site I choose, I will need to acquire additional skills. I will use iMovie and YouTube to create instructional videos to post on the site. As I stated in my first proposal, I will need to learn how to use iMovie.

Stripped-down Version

This will be a pilot class. I will run one class (I’m thinking two or three times) and ask for feedback from participants. This class will be a general class that covers how technology can help small business owners market and grow their businesses.

Timeline & Skills

I can do this in approximately 3 — 4 months. The greatest skill I will need is to learn how to best develop a class that teaches people how to use technology–I’ve never done this before. I will also need to find a place to host the classes and market them.