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.

Digital Story Critique #6, Week6 – image mashup

WIlly Wonka - vegan

Digital stories can be as simple as a image. This image is from the 2005 Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory with a vegan message added. Drawing upon the “remix practices” and “literacy dimensions” highlighted by Lankshear and Knobel in Chapter 4 and reviewing the appendix (p. 127-140), I’ll be critiquing this Photoshopped image remix .

The kind of remix that I feel this best fits in with image is the ‘Photoshopping remix’. In my opinion, the creator is using an image from a well-known movie to visually express how a vegan sees/feels about McDonald’s.    .

The 3 “literacy dimensions”  I will use to structure my critique (based on the chapter 4 appendix, p.134) are:

  1. Knowing how to import an image into an image editor
  2. Understanding how to create a recognizably meaningful juxtapostition of images
  3. Being able to match camera angle, colours and resolutions etc. when adding cropped photographic elements to a base image.

Knowing how to import an image into an image editor 10/10
In order to create this meme the creator obviously had to know how to capture the image and modify it.

Understanding how to create a recognizably meaningful juxtapostition of images 8/10
This image is from a movie with a strong candy (mostly non-vegan) theme and the message is clearly vegan. The particular image, person with an awkward expression combined with the message is overall effective. The viewer get the clear sense that vegans and McDonald’s don’t really mix.

Being able to match camera angle, colours and resolutions etc. when adding cropped photographic elements to a base image. 6/10
The resolution of this image is poor. Very grainy and a bit blurry. The bold black header and footer blocks contrast with the poor quality of the image but help to make the message stand out.

Overall score: 24/30

Though this meme image is not great quality visually, the message is clear and funny. I would expect the reason to create this is for simple humor and to visually show a vegan perspective.

Digital Story Critique #5, Week5 – Love Inside Your Tummy

Love Inside Your Tummy

(Click the above link to watch the interactive video)
Warning – This is not for the faint of heart.There are many disturbing images and video clips!

Drawing upon the “remix practices” and “literacy dimensions” highlighted by Lankshear and Knobel in Chapter 4 and reviewing the appendix (p. 127-140), I’ll be critiquing this video remix of information on what happens to the animals people eat and what really goes on behind the scenes.

The kind of remix that I feel this best fits in with is the ‘Political remix’. The creator has something to say about the industrial farming industries practices and has presented them in a animated video.

The 3 “literacy dimensions”  I will use to structure my critique (based on the chapter 4 appendix, p.136) are:

  1. Identifying how to convey a lot of meaning in a limited amount of space or time
  2. Knowing how to edit digital video or photo-shop or audit tracks
  3. Being Skilful with juxtapostition – of images, text and images, soundtrack and video clips, voicetrack and video clips, etc.

At the beginning of this course, when I started actively using twitter, I came across this video and thought that it was an interesting way to present the information. I re-tweeted it at the time, but I think it deserves a critique as well.

This video shows, in detail, what happens to the animals that are eventually consumed using a very different approach than just written word or video. The video creator, @nimshap, uses all kinds of media to put this video remix together. Video clips, audio tracks, animation, and minimal interaction with the viewer are combined to give the viewer an experience, I think, they will NEVER forget.  The first time I watched it, I didn’t make it very far into the video. The images were too disturbing for me and I had to step away. I have since tried to watch it in stages, which has helped but truth be told, I haven’t made it the full length of the video. I’m assuming the creator had an idea this would be difficult for people to sit through in it’s entirety, so he chose to include forced breaks between views. Each view consists of a food dish (burger, chicken leg, or bacon) and then an additional animal product food item (mystery, egg, pizza, sushi). There is an animated cartoon farmer that takes you through what happens to the animal as it transitions from a living creature to the food on your table. A creative song is heard as an accompaniment to the video/images shown. I encourage those that really want to know the truth about how that steak, chicken sandwich, sushi roll, piece of pizza, or bowl of ice cream got to their table, to give watching this video a chance. Images and video clips seen in this remix are some of the reasons why I am choosing a vegan, plant-based diet. I too use to enjoy a good steak or chicken wings, but now that I KNOW this, I will never be able to intentionally consume something that was animal flesh (meat) or came from an animal (dairy, gelatin, eggs, etc.) ever again.

Identifying how to convey a lot of meaning in a limited amount of space or time  –  9/10
There was much thought put into the creation of this remix. So much information crammed into a relatively short video, that allows the viewer to participate in the flow process. The viewer makes the choice as to what information they are going to receive. Using a combined image and audio format, the remix gives the viewer a lot of info in a few seconds. I can’t recall to be certain, but I think some of the video clips shown have audio tracks that could have even more of an impact to the viewer, but the video creators audio track is the only sound heard. It has a great impact, I don’t want you to think I don’t think it was effective, it was. I just know when I heard the audio for some of the clips found in other sources, pigs squealing and cows whining, my heart broke for the animals. It is very obvious they have feelings these processes and practices hurt them.

Knowing how to edit digital video or photo-shop or audit tracks – 10/10
This remix creator, must know a great deal about editing video and audio tracks. This video would not have been created otherwise.

Being Skilful with juxtapostition – of images, text and images, soundtrack and video clips, voicetrack and video clips, etc. – 10/10
This video combines images, video clips, audio tracks, and text all in one short video. So yes, I think this deserves a 10 out of 10 as clearly this person is very skilful with juxtapostition.

Overall I give this video remix a 29/30
There is great information presented in this video and I think the creator did a fantastic job putting this video together. The clips shown are disturbing but they are of what goes on behind the scenes and we the public should be made aware of them so we can make informed decisions on what we choose to eat and feed our children. These images may not have the same effect on you as they did me (going vegan), but being an informed consumer is always a good idea.

Digital Story (selected scholarship) Critique #4, Week4 – Daily Going vegan is better than other weight loss plans

(link) Going VEGAN is better for weight-loss

This is just a quick article on what researchers are seeing in regards to 12 different weight loss plans. I chose this to critique because my initial reason for choosing to eat a Vegan/plant based diet was to lose weight.

“The study involved 1,151 dieters who followed a specific eating regime for between nine and 74 weeks.” (Lizzie Parry for MailOnline) In my opinion this is a decent amount of people to follow and a broad enough amount of time for a study. Just seeing these numbers helps me to understand the size of who was being studied and gives me a picture as to how much validity I can put into these results. Granted I am certain these results are pretty  accurate as I have lost 30+ pounds since starting my vegan diet 2 months ago, but unless you are on this same journey as me you wouldn’t necessarily be able to have this knowledge to go on.

The article compares dieters following animal product diets, vegetarian diets and vegan diets. The vegan dieters lost around 5lbs more than those eating animal products and vegetarians lost about 3lbs more than those eating animal product diets according to this study.

My critique values are as follows:

Content Understanding: 6/10
The article is very technical. I don’t get the sense that the author fully understood the content, but was more just repeating information that was supplied to her. The information provided is all relevant and supportive, but not very engaging.

Research: 8/10
Clearly the author researched this topic, but I feel like she could have added more to make it flow better and be more interesting to the reader. Reads like a shopping list of diet plans.

Media Application: 6/10
There is a quick video of how to make Raw vegan chocolate. The video is also lacking as it doesn’t really give a recipe, just that if you mix cocoa powder, coconut milk, and maple syrup you get vegan chocolate. I was hoping for a recipe as I would love to make some chocolate I would be able to eat.

Overall: 20/30

This was informative and it is reassuring to know vegan diets produce the best results when wanting to lose weight, but I felt like there could have been more to draw the reader in.

Test of my new plant-based diet

I have been in Massachusetts for the last 5 days and I have been tested on many occasions. First, the work conference I was attending had amazing seafood dishes. Piles of crab cakes, bowls of lobster claws and peel and eat shrimp, and many other items I can’t recall because I didn’t want to think about what I was choosing to not consume. I loved shellfish, and when I first made arrangements to attend this conference, the thought of consuming local lobster was very high on my must do list. I refrained from eating any of this tasty looking food, but I have to admit it took some will power. I enjoyed the vegan meals the catering chef made specifically for me, I was the only vegan eating person at the conference and to be honest the Hyatt Boston Harbor was very accommodating and every one of my dishes was super tasty and very filling. Second, I extended my stay here in Massachusetts to visit a very dear college friend, Laura Williams. We have eaten some amazing meals together in the 20+ years that we have known each other. She was super excited to plan my visit out on the Cape, which included a fresh seafood meal. We went out to dinner this evening and I was tempted yet again. The food looked amazing. Smelled just like fresh seafood should smell like. As I was trying to figure out my food choices, I really considered ordering a seafood meal. Like really considered. The more I thought about it the more I just couldn’t imagine eating any. Opted on a side salad, french fries and seasonal vegetables. The baked potatoes were prepared with butter, so they couldn’t serve me a dry potato. My choices were still questionable on them being a true vegan option, fries were probably fried in the same oil as the fish and I’m pretty sure the seasonal veggies had some butter on them. So over all, it wasn’t a true win for my diet, but I didn’t consume any animal flesh. My friends even up-ed the temptation by offering me a little lobster bisque taste. Dipped a spoon in the bisque, handed it to me, and suggested I just taste it. I smelled the bisque, it was so close to my lips. It would have been so easy to quickly lick the spoon and taste this heaven. I didn’t taste it. I just could not put the spoon in my mouth. Thinking about it literally made my stomach turn. The original thought was ok, I knew I wouldn’t actually go through with eating any but the actual act of doing so was real. I got a visual image in my minds eye of the creature and JUST COULDN’T consume any. I am more than happy to eat my plant based diet, I know it will fill me up and a living creature isn’t consumed in that process.

Digital Story Critique #3, Week3 – Native Foods – Where do you get your protein?!

Native foods – Where do you get your protein?!

The Myth of High-Protein Diets

For this review I, I chose what I thought was just a couple paragraph article found on the Native foods blog. However, there was an included article at the end of the native foods story that tied into it. I am including both in this review, since the Native Foods article refers to the New York Times article.

I chose this because it ties into my previous review, regarding vegans and protein.

Content understanding: 10
The informational content of this article is great. Facts and numbers are presented to give meaning and factual evidence to the statements made. Several sites are linked for more information and it is all presented in a easily understood format. Having statistics to back up the information gives the reader a way to relate the information. Just saying “the American population consumes more meat in 2000 than they did in the 1950’s”, doesn’t mean as much to a reader as “Although people have been told for decades to eat less meat and fat, Americans actually consumed 67 percent more added fat, 39 percent more sugar, and 41 percent more meat in 2000 than they had in 1950 and 24.5 percent more calories than they had in 1970, according to the Agriculture Department.” (Dean Ornish, 3/23/15)

Sense of audience: 8
I think the target audience for this article is defined well. The article is more for the meat eating population. Most people that eat a plant-based diet have probably come across this information at different times on their own. Not all, vegans/plant-based diet eaters do research on their own, but if they are like me they are excited to learn as much as they can regarding this topic.

Flow, organization and pacing: 8
I think the flow of the article was effective. Information was provided and then the article moved on. Topics were organized well. The order in which they were presented flowed logically.

Overall: 26

Digital Story (selected scholarship) Critique #3, Week3 – Veganism in a Nutshell

Veganism in a Nutshell

This article defines veganism and explains how a person who chooses a vegan diet can get all the necessary recommended nutrients. This article is not so much a ‘story’ but more an informational list. As I continue on with my vegan journey, I still get asked almost on a daily basis “What do you eat for protein”? Most food contain some amount of protein, but the majority of people think that only “MEAT” contains protein. Even before I chose this plant based diet, I knew that meat was only one category that contained protein. I learned this as a very young age. I was raised by a single mother with 4 children. I can remember many weeks my mother couldn’t afford meat, but we always were feed an adequate meal. BEANS are fairly inexpensive and provide great nutrition. Thinking back, I ate a vegan, plant-based meals most of my childhood. I wasn’t always happy eating pinto beans and homemade cornbread, but it was what my mother could afford and I am grateful my mother cared to feed us as healthily as she could. Now as an adult, I love eating pinto beans and cornbread. Whenever I eat this for a meal, I am reminded of my mother.

Having balanced, full of variety meals will keep a vegan healthy without consuming animal products.

Story = 3
Since this was a more informative reading than a story, I am giving it a 3.

Sense of Audience = 10
This article was targeting non-vegan people. Explaining what it is and how a person following it can do it effectively and healthily. I give this a 10 here.

Research = 10
Again, since this was more informational, there was obviously research done. Lists and conversions were provided. I also give this a 10 in this area.
Total of 23 points for my critique