Final Course Reflection – INTE5340 and Plant-based diet Journey

Made it through the end of this course journey. It has been a long summer to say the least. The majority of the time I felt lost, frustrated, overwhelmed and unsure of myself, but it was a great experience overall. I can’t say that I absolutely got everything out of this course that I should have, but I can say that  I learned a great deal. I have participated in an online community of such creative and interesting people. DS106 is a great way to belong to a learning community and challenge ones-self and to have fun while being creative. Assignments are posted for anyone to complete and it is entirely up to you as to what assignments you choose to do. Open-source learning, sharing, supporting, and creating, what a great idea. I have tried different software products that I was interested in using, but never thought I would have a reason to do so. I started this blog, sharing my thoughts with the world not only on this course but also on how I feel about going vegan. More on that particular journey in a bit. This ever growing digital age has so much more to offer than I had ever thought. This digital-story class showed me that.  I didn’t learn because I was lectured at, I learned because I did. I experienced digital story-telling and started telling MY STORY.

As I have thought about this vegan journey and how I am presenting it to the world, both online and in person, I think I am going to refer toward my chosen diet as plant-based. I still have my passion for eating a vegan diet (plant-based diet), but there are some aspects of a true ‘vegan’ lifestyle that I’m not completely on board with. I am still very passionate about the treatment of animals, but I am also still very open-minded in that I KNOW, yes KNOW, that animals will continue to be eaten. I will continue to eat at establishments that also serve animal products, as I can almost always find something on the menu I can modify to eat, because that is the world we live in. Though my sister (also a newly plant-based diet eater) and I found out that some restaurants have animal products in practically every item on their menus. French fries that contain dairy?  Batter dipped fries do. I have found a few places that serve completely vegan meals and I enjoy going to them, but there are very few in this world of convenience. I will admit that I like being able to grab something to eat that I don’t have to cook, nor clean up after. I have been eating more at home since choosing to eat plant-based, healthier and I can know exactly what I put into my dishes, but sometimes you just want to enjoy the food and leave the mess to someone else.  I’m also still at the point where, I will eat say fries, that have been cooked in the same oil as chicken. As I continue on with this particular journey, that may and probably will change but for now I’m okay with it. I have not eaten any animal flesh since the beginning of May, which for a once hard-core meat-eater, this is almost astonishing. Unfortunately I have, usually after having already eaten something, I am made aware that I consumed dairy but once I know dairy is in something I won’t make the mistake of eating it again. This is not a choice to make lightly, it does require research, asking questions, reading labels, understanding ingredients and patience. I may fail, I have failed, but I won’t let a few occasions throw me off course. The small amount of Parmesan or whatever I have accidentally eaten, comes nowhere close to the amount I used to purposefully eat so this makes me happy. Not to mention, three months in and I have lost over 35lbs. Not really changing my exercise routines, just by changing the things I was choosing to eat. I’m kind of excited to have my annual blood work drawn, I know by the way I am feeling that my previous numbers are going to be put to shame.

I will address the following three topics for this final reflection as well:

  • Reflections of me as a learner in this course:
    This course was not structured like most of my previous graduate courses. This course introduced me to the world of digital story-telling and why it is important to us as a people. This course allowed me to learn and fail, as I explored the digital telling world with fresh eyes and an open mind. I embraced the ds106 community and enjoyed, well for the most part, the challenges the assignments provided. We each have a story to tell and this course helped me realize that. My minimal social learning practices included occasional visits to and posts on Facebook, online dating site user, some social media site account owner, though never used and a few other sites that are work related. I had such a small online footprint that, I’m not even sure it really was one. What I’m trying to say is that by participating in this course and choosing to learn from my experiences, I have started to build my online presence and share my story. As I continue on with my graduate program journey, I think I will always come back to this course and think about how I can learn by doing. As having finished half of the required courses, I know that there is a lot of ‘doing’ within this program, but I will remember to have fun as I am doing, so that I will learn. This was something that I came across on one of my fellow classmates assignment posts, fun doesn’t happen during learning, its that we learn buy having fun. I absolutely love this and think it is true. When we are doing something that interests us, enjoying it because we want to be doing it, we learn the most and what we learn will stick with us.  “Have fun and you will learn”
  • My co-design of this course:
    The course was different in that though guidance and some structure were provided, the bulk of my experience in this course was determined by me. I chose my focal them, I chose the assignments I completed in ds106, I chose the articles/digital stories to critique. Learning occurred on my own, but also as I actively participate in this course. We provided each other with areas of interest and shared our reasons for why we were sharing them. As our course went on, we had a collection of information and ideas to respond to and to experience. Some interested me more than others and that was perfectly acceptable. I may have even found an interest in something that had I not taken this course, I probably never would have known it interested me. I feel like having a personal link to things helped rally classmates support. We were people not just another student taking the course. We connected through our focal themes and comments. If I were to design this course, I probably wouldn’t change anything. Having assignments be interest and choice driven gives the student the connection to that assignment. They have a say in the why and the how it was completed, which added the element of fun. There were still assignments that had to be completed, so still very much a course but a course that was driven in 20 different ways.
  • My understanding of pedagogy:  I understand Remi’s course design to be one in which the students develop the course content, to some extent, and then learn from one another. His method of teaching is somewhat of a sink or swim kind of idea, though with his guidance and encouraged support from fellow classmates, the end result is that the class all swim by the end. Some, like me may be using floaties, but I’m still above water. Remi provided the requirement of a great textbook that truly fits with this course. This for me was a very good decision on his part. Though it was a lot to read and learn in the 8 weeks we had for this summer course, the L&K textbook helped guide us students with our critique selections and understanding of the overall concept of digital storytelling. As a person that works in higher education I understand the conventional need for structure and determined curriculum in courses, but after having completed this course with an unconventional pedagogy I think there needs to be more courses like this. If fun drives learning then students need to be able to explore to find those things that are fun for them. Structure a course with the parameters that need to be met, but if we want students to truly learn and to be excited about learning give them some control on how they do it. At one time in my life, I considered an instructor to be the person at the head of a classroom. Very simple. However as I have moved forward in my career, I have changed my definition on what I deem as an instructor. Can an instructor be at the head/front of a class? ABSOLUTELY! Does the instructor have to be there? Nope. My evolved definition of an instructor is someone or something that promotes learning. So this course hasn’t changed my understanding of “instructor”, it helped to solidify that my definition is more correct than I previously thought. The only bit of feedback that I can think to give would be to maybe define the assignments a bit more. I think as a collective group, we were unsure as to what types of stories we were to critique and what made something a selected scholarship.
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