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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.

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.

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.

 

Midterm Project Proposal Sarah&Anke: Teaching Through Technology: a Website and Workshop Series

Introduction

We are two CUNY adjunct instructors who spent a lot of time researching, evaluating and designing WordPress sites for our own classrooms. We are not alone. More than half of all courses at CUNY are taught by adjunct instructors, and many of us want to use technology in our courses. CUNY encourages staff to integrate technology. In fact, its most wide-ranging cross-campus initiatives support teaching with technology: the Academic Commons and the Hybrid Initiative. And yet, we face two pressing problems. First  there is no one source that shows the pedagogical thinking underlying technological choices professors make in designing and developing effective course sites. Second, CUNY’s resources provide hidden nuggets of pedagogical wisdom and helpful tips, but you have to dig deep and few instructors have the time, resources or know-how to do so.

To address these issues, we will create Teaching Through Technology, a website and workshop series that invites CUNY instructors to come together to think through the why, what, and how of building a class site. We won’t just offer a how-to. Rather, we will start with pedagogical best practices to provide guidance, direct instructors to resources, and, doing so, strengthen communities of innovative instructors.

Teaching Through Technology has three components: a training module on the Academic Commons, workshops at CUNY campuses, and a Commons Group for participants.

1. Training Module: Hosted on the CUNY Academic Commons, this evolving site will act as a replicable workshop outline and stand-alone resource. We will collect and curate resources from across the web that explicate the pedagogical thinking behind course site design. To encourage cross-disciplinarity, we will highlight examples from the Humanities, Social, and Natural Sciences.

2. Workshops: We propose to give workshops at Baruch, John Jay, City, and Queens College because each of these colleges already has a Center for Teaching and Learning that can provide infrastructure, support, publicity, and follow-up.

3. Commons Group Site: A group site linked to the online training module will offer a platform for workshop participants to continue the conversation, share experiences, troubleshoot and expand on their practice to help further improve CUNY’s online pedagogy.

Personas

  • Edward: Young adjunct professor in Social Sciences at City College. Wants to start using a WordPress blog for his psychology 101 course but has a lot of questions and does not know where to start. He has done some research online but feels lost in the maze of information and online tutorials. Feels that much of what he finds is not relevant to his specific situation and would like to discuss questions of privacy and assessment but also just find out what themes are useful, and how he can provide access for his students and create an online community.
  • Stacey: Older full time professor in the English Department at Queens College. Does not necessarily want to use a course site for her literature classes and is not sure about the benefits of technology, but senses that times are a’changing and wants to know what’s going on. She wants to talk to younger colleagues and others who are already using sites to find out why they do so, what the pros and cons are, and what role it can possibly play in her teaching.
  • Luke: Director of Center for Teaching and Learning at a CUNY campus. Wants to increase outreach and resources to faculty at his campus to further improve the quantity but most importantly quality of course sites. Is invested in innovation and integration of technology and pedagogy and wants faculty to increase awareness and knowledge of the pedagogy behind the use of technology in teaching.

Use Case Scenario

CUNY instructors can attend the workshops at the specific colleges, access the site online and become members of its online community. The site on the Academic Commons will be public so that, even when you did not attend the workshop, you can still have access to its content and connect with colleagues. It will provide a starting point for instructors designing or already using course sites in their classrooms, offering both an introduction to the pedagogy and the practice. After visiting the workshop and/or the site they can continue their exploration by navigating the other resources we have collected and curated for them.

Full Fledged Version

Our vision for a final product is an evolving web resource for professors interested in creating course sites and an adaptable and replicable workshop available to Centers for Teaching and Learning in August and January at a number of CUNY campuses. While the site will initially host our learning module, workshop participants’ contributions will make it a lively and evolving forum for faculty from a variety of disciplines and campuses to share, discuss, and develop their pedagogical best practices in course site development.

Training Module and Group Site

We will host the training module and group site on the Academic Commons using WordPress. Before deciding exactly how to design the site (what theme, what plug-ins, etc), we need to do research into the pedagogy behind course site development (see below.) Our initial thought is to break the site into five main pages:

  • Pedagogy.  This lays out and offers citations to some of the the pedagogical frameworks grounding the thinking behind the integration and design of course sites. This page will also encourage users to add their own recommendations for resources focusing specifically on the pedagogy behind course structure and site design. (This is the group site element.)
  • Natural Sciences, Social Sciences, and Humanities. Each of these three pages offers a few models of course sites from professors who teach in this discipline. Each offers screenshots of the professor’s sites with his/her annotations about the choices this site reflects and why he/she made those choices.
  • Details, Details. This points professors to how-to resources on WordPress as well as logistical FAQ-type elements. For example, “Can I post readings as I would on blackboard?” “Can I use this course again next semester?” “How do I cite the images I use in the banner?”

Workshops

To offer the workshops, we will need buy-in, administrative help, and the use of facilities at four CUNY campuses. We already know Luke at Baruch and he seems excited about our project. Sarah teaches at John Jay and Anke teaches at City College, so we need to start building relationships with the directors of the Centers for Teaching and Learning now in order to start the process of scheduling the first workshops (at Baruch and John Jay) in January, 2016. We will plan to offer the City and Queens College workshops in August, 2016.

Minimally Viable Product

Training Module

We will host the training module on the Academic Commons using WordPress. Before deciding exactly how to design the site (what theme, what plug-ins, etc), we need to do research into the pedagogy behind course site development. The site will have three main components:

  • Pedagogy. See above.
  • Best Practices. This will offer links to a few different model sites as well as audio recordings with the professors who designed them describing their pedagogical thinking and design choices.
  • Details, Details. See above.

Timeline and Skills Acquisition

  1. Study the literature for pedagogy and best practices in course site design. (80 hours each)
  2. Identify and recruit professors who have made thoughtful (and diverse) choices in creating their sites, can articulate/annotate their process, and would be willing to invest time in sharing with us. (20 hours each)
  3. Design and build the Academic Commons site (20 hours each)
  4. Create workshops  (10 hours each)
  5. Admin Work (scheduling workshops, set-up, follow-ups) (30 hours each)

Midterm Assignment: Short Proposals

As we have discussed, your midterm assignment is to create at least two different project proposals that each have at least two scope variations: one full and a reduced version.

Each of the (at least) two proposals should follow this structure:

  1. An introductory descriptive paragraph, which should include a problem statement, and say *what* your tool/thing will do. This is your abstract, or elevator pitch. This should not have the full theoretical framing of the project. That will come in the final.
  2. A set of personas
  3. A use case scenario (where would someone find your tool/thing and how would they use it). Keep it short.
  4. How you will make the full fledged version. This is your “ideal world” version that fulfills all of your visions and fantasies (what tools you will use, how you will get them, how confident you are that all the moving parts will work together, etc)
  5. Your assessment of how much time this will take, and how much of the skills you currently know and what you would have to learn.
  6. How you will make the stripped down version. The stripped down version is the minimally viable product. It is the most *bare bones* version to prove that what you are trying to get at is viable. (what tools you will use, how you will get them, how confident you are that all the moving parts will work together, etc)
  7. Your assessment of how much time this will take, and how much of the skills you currently know and what you would have to learn.

You are welcome (but not required) to repeat the last two steps with scope variations in-between the full fledged and bare bones version.

We would expect two proposals with two scope variations would be effectively in 4 to 7 page range (though you will be turning in online). We’re less concerned with page count, and more concerned with your process (as with all assignments in this class).

You will hopefully notice that you have done a lot of this work already. We’ve structured it this way. Your job here is to combine and revise the work you have already done, fill the holes, and assess each project’s feasibility

You can find examples of midterm proposals from last year here. I would highlight this one, and this one.

The proposals will be submitted as blog posts prior to class on March 18th.

Class that week will be dedicated to workshopping the proposals. The format we will follow will be that each participant will choose one of their two proposals to present orally. You will have 5 minutes to present, and we will have 4 minutes for feedback. Think of this as a pitch. You will want to lay out the project abstract, present very short versions of your personas, give one use case scenario, and then talk about how you would build it, and how long you think it would take.

Question on Project Abstracts/Short Proposals due March 18

I’d like to have some more information about what we need to do for this assignment. I know that we need to prepare “at least two different project proposals that each have at least two scope variations: one full and a reduced version.” What should the proposals include and what should we be prepared to present/discuss in class? Thanks.