Ramblings. Musings. Required coursework.

Month: April 2017 (Page 1 of 2)

Augmented Reality: The Method and The Story

Using Augmented Reality to Enhance Food Tourism

I love food. Growing up in a family of bakers and cooks, my personal memories are inextricably tied to laughter in the kitchen, moments shared around meals, the delightful (and disastrous) creations we concocted together, and to the sense of community these moments inspired. I am not alone in this. In “Food with a Story to Tell,” Amy Fleming (2013) states there is “no doubt that flavor is inextricably linked with memory and emotion. They’re all processed by the same part of the brain.” Over meals we share stories with our families and friends as the experience takes on a life of its own. Food, then, according to Caroline Hobkinson, becomes a “manifestation of our longings [and]…how we remember holidays and big life events. It is almost the vocabulary of our life” (Fleming, 2013). A vocabulary to which new foods, travel, and experience can only add.

As someone who also loves to travel, I notice that food and flavor are becoming increasingly tied to place. While I generally eschew most forms of social media, my Instagram feed tends to focus on three subjects (my dogs, travel, and the food I make or eat) and the intersections among those (namely, the food I eat while traveling). While I could try to claim I have never visited a country just to try the local cuisine, it would be a lie as I intentionally scheduled a layover in Taipei last year to eat dumplings at Din Tai Fung. Again, it appears I am not alone. As reported by Samantha Shankman (2015) in “The Big Business of Food Tourism and Why It Matters,” “food tourism is any tourism experience in which one learns about, appreciates, and/or consumes food and drink that reflects the local, regional or national cuisine, heritage and culture.” So, in addition to being inextricably tied to memory and emotion, food further acts as a driver for travel, enriching our personal experiences and stories.

As noted by Richard Bangs (2011), “travel is, more than anything, about storytelling…about transformation, not transportation.” Bangs touches on a fundamental truth of travel – regardless of the experience, and sometimes because of it, we will forever be changed. Our memories are imbued with the sights, smells, sounds, feels, and tastes of worlds apart from our own, and, if we choose to seek them out, encounters with locals whose unique stories and lives (hopefully) add value to the experience. Further, we return home to share our stories, perhaps around a campfire or over a beer, creating an environment no marketing mechanism can match. As noted by Jodi Ettenberg of Legal Nomads, the travel industry “cannot outsource the stories only we can tell” (2015). Through our stories, we “inspire people to see place differently” and draw them in, allowing them to relate to something previously unrelatable (Ettenberg, 2015).

While travelers of the past recorded their stories of adventures in journals and letters home to loved ones or through painstakingly preserved photographs, those who live and travel today are able to share their memories far and wide thanks to the affordances of technology, the internet, and social media outlets. In the modern world, every traveler “has the ability to digitally share their culinary experiences with friends and strangers around the world, fueling a veritable social media arms race to determine who has the most unique food and beverage experiences” (Shankman, 2015). Further, travelers take advantage of these same technologies to seek the advice and experience of locals before departure to ensure they “experience cities like a local” (Gonzalo, n.d.) Although I might argue that my intent is less arms race and more positive travel experience and sharing my life with distant family and friends, I stand guilty as charged on both counts.

Given the prevalence of tourism and storytelling across social media outlets, it is little wonder, then, that industry experts have begun to consider how Augmented Reality (AR), or the “incorporation of something virtual into something pre-existing,” might further both marketability within the industry and the individual traveler experience (Davis et al, 2007). Widely used travel apps, including Yelp’s Monocle, Google Translator, and Metro AR Pro (to name a few), allow users to interact with their environment using smart phone cameras to augment reality by highlighting nearby restaurants and sharing user reviews, translating content on signs with the press of a button, and providing superimposed directions to the nearest metro station (Chase, 2014). Although these apps represent simple solutions to frequent travel questions such as “Where should I eat?” and “How will I get there?”, according to the Digital Tourism Think Tank’s Augmented Reality Report, AR “is still widely under-utilized in the field of Tourism” (Buhalis & Yovcheva, 2013). Regardless, industry experts (including Buhalis) firmly believe that the future of travel lies in AR as travelers will be able to engage in planning and customizing travel experiences in wholly new ways (Coldwell, 2014; Think! Staff, 2017).

Although attempts “to accurately predict the future of travel [are attempts] to predict the future itself,” Travel + Leisure asked experts to do just this in “The Future of Travel” (Lindsay, n.d.). While many ideas were considered, including internet-connected contact lenses that allowed for seamless flight booking, “itineraries tailored to your physiological and genetic profile,” and real-time translation of languages, it was Michio Kaku’s following quote from Physics of the Future that grabbed my attention:

“You’ll never get lost, you’ll always know what you’re looking at, and you’ll always understand what everyone’s saying” (Lindsay, n.d.).


The Project

While storytelling is certainly nothing new to advertise Texas tourism (see Texas Monthly or The Day Tripper), the addition of augmented reality via Aurasma allows the end user to experience an enhanced story. The design begins with standard travel blog fare – each restaurant is tied to an image of one of their more well-known dishes and a personal memory shared by a “native” Texan. Reality is augmented through videos which share details about the experience, menu recommendations, and tips for a successful visit; further augmentation occurs via links to the restaurants’ Facebook pages, Yelp reviews, and directions using Google Maps. Were the content to be scaled and published for a travel blog audience, an introduction to the storyteller and project would be provided, while each of the locations would have an individual entry page. It has been condensed, however, for the purposes of this project to focus on a tour down southbound Interstate 35.

Note: To fully experience the following augmented story, you will need to download the Aurasma app and follow hmn086. Once you have downloaded the app, using it to view the images will allow you to see the augmented reality.


A Wandering Foodie’s Travels in Texas

Growing up Texan meant a childhood spent exploring open roads and untamed landscapes with little comprehension of the size of the world around us. It was weekends spent bumping down the road in a rust-tinged ‘75 Chevy Blazer, top off, wind in our hair, listening to Motown as the highway’s yellow lines flew by, driving past fields of freshly mowed hay, the sweet smell tickling our noses, seeking to camp in parts unknown, and falling asleep under a starry sky as the cicadas hummed us to sleep. A childhood spent sitting on the front porch, staring down pounding rain as bright flashes of lightning tore across the sky, standing our ground as booming claps of thunder shook our resolve to stay outside. Growing up Texan is almost impossible to explain to someone who did not. As an adult, who has moved away, few things will take me back to those moments as quickly as Pat Green’s Songs About Texas or the foods of my childhood home.


Much as Green understands and describes the je ne sais quoi that is the experience of Texas, my grandmother and mother understood the importance of food in bringing a family together. Working side by side, three generations strong, we prepared meals and served them on a dining room table, formally set, around which we shared our stories, engaged in topics of the day, and encouraged each other in moments of struggle and triumph. They fundamentally understood that, without the interaction of loved ones around the dinner table, food is, as Alton Brown so eloquently points out during his Incredible Edible tour, “just shit in the making.”Given my childhood, it should surprise no one that food and the experiences I had around it tie strongly to my sense of place and memory. Nor should it surprise anyone that I bought a soft-top Jeep Wrangler as soon as I could afford to and spent my free weekends exploring the highways closest to my home. I drove thousands of miles, road tripping with friends, exploring both new and familiar destinations, and trying a million and one different ways to prevent “Jeep hair” from happening (yes, it’s a thing and, no, nothing works).

One of our favorite paths to explore was Interstate 35, although, to this day, I’m not entirely sure why. As a major artery of international travel, I-35 feeds Texas commerce. As arteries sometimes go, however, it is subject to frequent blockage and the surgical need to reroute, reconnect, and rebuild. For as many hours as we spent driving I-35, we spent just as many crawling along at a snail’s pace, sweltering under the Texas sun. Although never in the moment, but in retrospect, perhaps, the traffic was part of the charm; we discovered many of our favorite restaurants on congested days when random side roads and exits seemed far more appealing than roasting on 100+ degree asphalt. We found others by word of mouth, billboard, or complete accident. Regardless of how we discovered our favorite places, they are each imbued with stories of wonderful times shared with friends as we explored the expansive world that was our home.

Although I’m sharing a few of my favorite places along I-35 (ordered north to south, of course) and the stories that make them special to me, I would encourage you to visit Texas, rent a convertible (or big diesel if you want to feel properly Texan), seek them out, and build your own amazing stories around each with your family or friends. (If you do this, though, don’t forget to pack the stretchy pants…you will have a delicious trip, but you’re going to gain some weight!)


Roanoke: Babe’s Chicken Dinner House

Fried chicken, chicken fried steak, coconut cream pie, and side dishes including: creamed corn, green beans, mashed potates and gravy, and buttermilk biscuits

Fried Chicken, Chicken Fried Steak, and Coconut Cream Pie with unlimited family-style sides; image from Arlington Convention & Visitors Bureau

It’s probably time to confess I didn’t grow up in a native-Texan home. The child of Yankees, I was born in the Midwest before my Dad moved the family to Texas when I was just shy of 18 months old. While Texas is the only home I remember, to a Texan, it just doesn’t count. I’ll never forget the first time I met my college boyfriend’s parents; we were smitten and it was time to meet the family. I was nervous, but confident – parents loved me. So, you can imagine my shock when he said, “Dad, this is Heather,” and I replied, “Nice to meet you, Mr. X.” The man looked me up and down in dismay, didn’t make a peep at me, instead directing his indignant, “You’re dating a YANKEE?!?” to his son… I’m sure it will surprise no one that I needed some pronto consoling after that little meeting and boyfriend’s solution was Babe’s.

While it didn’t make it fully better, that delicious fried chicken, funky décor, Hokey Pokey dancing, and all the homestyle sides I could eat sure did help ease the sting. To this day, when I go home it’s among the first places I visit. (And, for those who are curious, Mr. X and I actually got along great in the long run…but he never let me live down the “Yankee-thing” as he liked to call it.)


West: The Czech Stop and Bakery

Box of strawberry and blueberry cream cheese kolaches

Box of strawberry and blueberry cream cheese kolaches; image from Instagram

Ask any Texan where to get kolaches and “the Czech Stop” will be the answer. Doesn’t matter what part of Texas they’re from, how long it’s been since they passed Exit 353, or how far you are from West, they know…it’s always the Czech Stop. I made this comment to a visiting friend one time who was so sure I was wrong, he brazenly bet a dozen kolaches without pause. Imagine his surprise when, mere seconds later, a complete stranger approached us saying, “I heard you say ‘best kolaches’ – you have to be talking about the Czech Stop in West…dude, they are the BEST. Period.” Needless to say, I won a dozen kolaches and he learned Texans don’t exaggerate when it comes to delicious, buttery Eastern European pastries!


Waco: Health Camp

A Super Burger with a side of onion rings in front of condiments

Health Camp’s signature Super Burger and a side of onion rings; image from Waco Today

Although I’ve been to Health Camp more times than I can count, whether on road trips back from floating the river or the time my Mom first went with me and thought she could order a salad (HA!), the story I’ll never forget was the day my dogs almost didn’t make it.

My grandmother, who had been in the hospital for weeks, was finally, in her words, “being sprung.” I couldn’t wait to see her and spent the morning baking a wonderfully fragrant apple crisp as a surprise. Once it cooled, I packed the biggest truck I had, putting the dogs in the back seat, our gear in the bed, and that beautiful, foil-covered crisp up front beside me. Not surprisingly, there was an accident on I-35. Well-versed in Texas traffic, I rolled the windows down to the cool fall day, turned up the music, and prepared to wait. And wait I did. Traffic crawled. Two hours later, and maybe 20 miles down the road, left leg aching from the perpetual weight of the clutch, I caught a whiff of something. A smell you only want to smell in the back corner of your yard or when you have baggies on hand. I spun around to see my Border Collie hiding in the corner, avoiding my look, “guilty” written all over her hunched shoulders and sagging head. “Son-of-a-bitch!!!” I exclaimed as I whipped onto the shoulder to get to the next exit.

I pulled over, tied the dogs to the bumper, and cleaned up the stinky (but luckily contained) mess. I walked them quickly for safe measure and put the Hound in first and turned to the Collie. I heard his collar tags jingle, not thinking much of it, until I turned around and realized he wasn’t in the back. Then I heard it…that “I’m chomping as fast as I can because I know you’ll stop me as soon as you can” noise. And I know. I opened my front door to find the Hound, buried up to his chubby little legs in my beautiful apple crisp, greedily eating whatever he could before I could wrench it away. I. Lost. It. I threw what was left of the crisp into the bed of the truck and took a walk…because, no matter how much I love my mutts, at that moment they were both on THAT list.

When I’d calmed down enough to drive, traffic was moving again. I was still mad, no denying it. And then I saw the sign for Health Camp; the least healthy, take your mind off how mad you are mecca of deliciously, greasy burgers. I’m sure you won’t fault me when I say I took the exit, left the dogs (windows down with water, of course) in the truck, grabbed the greasiest burger I could find, and relocated my inner calm while slurping a lovely chocolate malt.


Hutto: The Texan Cafe & Pie Shop

Hot, bubbling Brandy Apple Pie a la Mode in a cast iron skillet

Hot, bubbling Brandy Apple Pie a la mode from Hutto’s Texan Cafe; image from Texan Cafe’s Twitter

If you’ve never been to Austin, it’s a thoroughly weird and liberal mecca in the center of red Texas. Hell, the town’s slogan is “Keep Austin Weird” – and I don’t say that in jest…it’s on everything! Given this, I’m sure you can imagine my conservative family’s concern when I announced I’d been accepted to the University of Texas for grad school; further, I’m sure you can imagine their equal concern when I announced I was moving home a semester before graduation to help with my grandmother, work 3 hours (roundtrip) from home, and commute to Austin one day a week for my last class. For those of you who like math, that’s 5,149.5 miles of I-35 in a semester. One semester. Yes, I’m crazy.

Anywho, after one long and particularly grueling, accident-halted drive, I arrived in Austin with outrageous Jeep hair, a butt that felt flatter than Kansas, and grumpy written all over me. My project partner took one look at me and announced I needed a “pie friendtervention.” Having never been to a pie friendtervention before, I had no clue what awaited me. Turns out – they’re amazing! She called a few of our Austin friends, we all met at the Texan Café (my first time), and we ordered five different types of pie. FIVE! (And it took significant time to pick those five – they had 19 pies that day and you need a good balance of chocolate, fruit, cream, etc.!).  We each grabbed a fork and, when it was our turn, shared a complaint about grad school, everyone took a bite, and we all passed to the left. It was the best, and I mean BEST, way to air and relieve the stress we were all buckling under.


Driftwood: The Salt Lick BBQ

Thurman's Plate, including: beef brisket, pork ribs, and sausage with German potato salad, coleslaw, and baked beans; sauce and condiments in the background

Thurman’s Plate with German potato salad, coleslaw, and baked beans; image from Yelp

When you’re a country girl living in the city, sometimes you just need to get away. During grad school, Driftwood was my escape. About an hour outside of Austin, nothing was better than grabbing a few friends, throwing the top off the Jeep, winding through the bluebonnet-covered roads of the Hill Country, listening to Texas Country, and forgetting you had a care in the world. No matter how many times I made the drive, it was always the smell that told me I was close. Beneath the sweetly-scented air of warm sunshine, freshly cut hay, and wildflowers, my nose would tease out the smell of wood smoke. Faint at first, and then growing stronger, my stomach always started to rumble before I saw the low wooden buildings. We’d pull into the white rocked drive, tires kicking up dust, and pile out, always eager for a table under the big oaks lining the property…unless it was June, July, or August…then you begged for a coveted table in the cool interior. Little wonder, given my love of the BBQ here, that I’d frequently drive guests in Dallas the 3.5 hours to Driftwood for dinner. They never believed me when I said we were road-tripping for dinner…but they always understood (even if they were still incredulously shaking their heads at the lengths to which I would go for good BBQ). What can I say? Texans love their BBQ!


Gruene: The Gristmill River Restaurant

Chicken fried steak and mashed potatoes covered in white peppered gravy

Chicken fried steak and mashed potatoes covered in white peppered gravy; image from Yelp

It’s a universal fact that in college, you’re going to cause trouble. Most parents just cross their fingers and hope the trouble doesn’t land their kids in jail. While my friends were (mostly) well-behaved and (somewhat) studious, every April, all bets were off as a group of 50+ of us packed our trucks with tents, dogs, gear, and swimsuits (oh, who am I kidding, there were kegs too) to drive to Gruene, TX and float the Comal or Guadalupe Rivers for a weekend of fun, drunken shenanigans with 400 of our closest, new friends on the river. We always finished Friday classes before heading out, which meant a trafficky drive down I-35 and late-night tent pitching at our favorite camping spot. The requisite “pre-gaming” occurred to the sound of the rushing river, crackling fire, singing cicadas, and the inevitably grossed-out city girl who “couldn’t possibly…go…in the bushes!”

Saturday mornings usually got off to a slow start as we packed our float bags and snacks and grabbed a quick breakfast before floating the river. The float, if done right, takes about 8 hours, so it’s a long, hot, relaxing day. Rather than individual tubes, we opted for large rafts that would hold about 6 with kegs floating in tubes tied behind. Floating the river is an experience in and of itself: random ropes hang by the water begging for a swing; slithery companions fall into boats drifting too close to the bank; more than one will fall prey to “battle” wounds courtesy of rapids, tree branches, or simple, drunken stupidity; you’ll always make new friends; at least one (always military) group will sing “You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling” to an unsuspecting, but pretty, girl; and, as kegs get low, beer piracy inevitably causes arguments between boats. You can’t beat it.

The first year I went on the trip, the day went by smoothly…until the end. Not a big drinker, I was stone-cold sober as we neared the last rapids. I prepared as best you can, however, didn’t anticipate a last-minute bump, followed by a jolt, that threw me over the edge. I was, it appeared, going to join the already broken foot as a 2002 “battle” wound of the river. By the time they pulled me out, I’d lost my glasses, been forced to do a hasty fix of the bikini, and the mottled red marks on my side were accented by rapidly fanning streaks of blue. Feeling sorry for me, my friends decided to forgo the traditional hotdogs and asked the locals for a dinner recommendation (did I mention I was generally the main dinner cook?). They recommended the Gristmill and the rest, as they say, is history. From that year on, it became our go-to for post-float food…and we could usually be found in Gruene Hall, the oldest dance hall in Texas, post-river finery in place, dancing across scarred wooden floors to the sounds of Pat Green and Texas Country, after.


San Antonio: Mi Tierra Café y Panadería

A Chilaquiles Famoso and a Monterrey Special on blue plates

A Chilaquiles Famoso plate and a Monterrey Special; image from San Antonio today

Mi Tierra is a bit like the Czech Stop; ask most Texans for a recommendation in San Antonio and it’s going to be their answer. Perhaps it’s the strong, frosty margaritas, the counters full of bakery items, or the plentiful menu of delicious Mexican food that earns this recommendation, but I think it’s more the experience. Once you’ve been, you’ll never forget Mi Tierra. Set in the small, somewhat dilapidated, yet quaint, Mexican Market, Mi Tierra is bold, colorful, and inviting. Wide-open windows and doors, fill the tiny cobbled paths of the markets with sounds and smells that draw you in.

Unless you go at an off-time, there’s usually a line. The waiting area, heated during the winter and cooled during the summer, is outside and friends are easily made; Texans, after all, don’t believe in strangers. When your name is called and you walk past the hostess, cheerful color assaults your eyes as you wind through the maze of dining rooms, some dazzlingly silver, others colorful like Christmas, to your table. Depending on the size of your party, your table may be set for two or 20, yet you will always maintain the sense of intimacy felt in a cozy home. Many great stories are shared at these tables, words drifting and mingling with the lively tunes of the roving Mariachi band.


A Final Note…

These restaurants and stories represent only a fraction of the adventure that one can find driving the seemingly never-ending roads that cross the 268,820 square miles of my home. For those of you who visit, once is never enough. Texas is a state that takes a visit to love, but a lifetime to explore. Need further convincing? Don’t leave before you listen to the Josh Abbott Band and Pat Green’s My Texas.



Bangs, R. (2011, February 28). Travel as storytelling. The Huffington Post. [Web log]. Retreived from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/richard-bangs/post_1774_b_829261.html

Buhalis, D. & Yovcheva, Z. (2013). Augmented reality in tourism: 10 unique applications explained. Digital Tourism Think Tank. [Report]. Retrieved from http://thinkdigital.travel/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/10-AR-Best-Practices-in-Tourism.pdf

Chase, J. (2014, March 31). These augmented reality apps take travel to a whole new level. Conde Nast Traveler. [Web log]. Retrieved from http://www.cntraveler.com/stories/2014-03-31/best-augmented-reality-travel-apps

Coldwell, W. (2014, October 25). Travel industry switches on to virtual reality. The Guardian. [Web log]. Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/travel/2014/oct/25/travel-industry-virtual-augmented-reality

Davis, M., Oum, K., & Deimler, N. (2007). Augmented reality. Digital Storytelling. [Web log]. Retrieved from http://www.pages.drexel.edu/~mcd332/Augmented.htm

Ettenberg, J. (2015, October 28). Why travel blogging needs more storytelling. Legal Nomads. [Web log]. Retrieved from http://www.legalnomads.com/more-storytelling/

Fleming, A. (2013, September 11). Food with a story to tell. The Guardian. [Web log]. Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2013/sep/11/food-with-story-to-tell

Gonzalo, F. (n.d.). 5 success factors for effective storytelling in travel. [Web log]. Retrieved from http://fredericgonzalo.com/en/2015/03/30/5-success-factors-for-effective-storytelling-in-travel/

Lindsay, G. (n.d.). The future of travel: Augmented reality. Travel + Leisure. [Web log]. Retrieved from http://www.travelandleisure.com/slideshows/the-future-of-travel/5

Shankman, S. (2015, February 23). The big business of food tourism and why it matters. Skift. [Web log]. Retrieved from https://skift.com/2015/02/23/the-big-business-of-food-tourism-and-why-it-matters/

Think! Staff. (2017, January 10). How will augmented reality support the tourism experience? Destination Think! [Web log]. Retrieved from https://destinationthink.com/augmented-reality-tourism-experience/


























Week Twelve Reflection

I succumbed to the joys of adult learning with my posts this week…and by that, I mean that life was crazy and, by necessity, took precedence this week. Given that fact, I wasn’t able to build the actual interaction with my peers that I’ve come to enjoy over the course of the semester. That said, I was able to learn from and comment on several peer blogs.

I related to both Mariah’s use of Google Forms and Gerald’s use of formative assessment. I’ve found the Google suite to be a great tool that I am able to embed in Blackboard to mimic face-to-face peer interaction in my online course. I also told Gerald that I have discovered a preference for frequent formative assessment – I like that it’s low key and allows your students to continually demonstrate what they are learning (or allows you to modify as necessary).

Chelsea mentioned her use of pre- and post-tests and I asked her how she implements them; I’m curious as I am debating using one for my research. Finally, I told Jule that I’m jealous of her ability to use Exit Tickets (I love them and they’re not really practical in an online course) and asked her a few questions about Kahoot. We use it in my school for a fun way to review content, but I’m curious if it’s able to be used to track student performance like some of other clicker software allows.

For my personal reflection, I’m finding it somewhat frustrating knowing my data and evidence will be more limited than that of my peers. I talked about this in my weekly blog, so I’m not sure there’s a need to readdress the issue in detail, however, I do think it’s a bit more challenging to document interactions when the course is already established and you don’t see your students daily.

Week Twelve: Collecting Evidence to Document Learning

I know I mentioned this before, but I think collecting some of the suggested evidence is more challenging in a graduate-level, online, asynchronous course. While I am able to document interactions via Blackboard and demonstrate student learning through their comments and presentations, consistency in format and process is imperative in an online course, which makes major modifications to delivery difficult mid-semester. This is particularly true of a course tied to the process set forth in a syllabus provided at the beginning of a semester that stands as a contract between you and the students and generally is not modified. While I would have no problem collecting some of the suggested evidence, such as journaling my daily interactions with students, collecting pretest and posttest data, actively modifying content or process in the moment based on student engagement, in a face-to-face course where I saw my students each day, it becomes infinitely more challenging to make an assignment fit a process and procedure that was established several months ago and has, for all intents and purposes, been working really well.

That said, while I do believe I will have less evidence than my peers in face-to-face classrooms with daily contact, I am able to collect evidence to document student learning and my ability to participate in the learning process. Due to the course being taught online, several of my modules demonstrate my participation in the learning process. I am also able to use course announcements and emails to document my interaction with students, whether answering questions or asking students to reframe how they are considering some of the content. To demonstrate students’ learning process, I asked them to complete a Pre-Survey to assess their prior knowledge moving into the unit. While the course does not rely on testing in any way, I will be able to compare these responses to the information contained in their final presentation. Their final presentation will be the majority of the evidence that allows me to assess their mastery of the content. Finally, although these do not occur in this module, students complete a final presentation which includes a reflection of their learning in the course and mid-semester and end-of-course evaluations. The data collected in all of these reflections informs the changes I make to the course each semester.

Week Eleven Reflection

It’s odd to be one of the few (perhaps the only?) in the class teaching an online, asynchronous course. Given the methods for content delivery in a standard unit, I had very little real data from this semester to reflect upon – much of the data that informs my decisions is actually from previous semesters. Also, while I have had an opportunity to do some structured support, it’s difficult to say where the module will go two-three days in.

Rachelle, as a former student, did reinforce the need for the changes I am making in her comments on my blog. I engaged with her comments around the importance of being flexible and never feeling as if we are “done” – while we may achieve expert status in our field, there will always be more to learn and do. Along those lines, I commented on Kendra’s blog about the importance of flexibility in any teacher’s repertoire. As a pillar of both good teaching strategy and differentiation, it is imperative that we tackle the things we have set forth to do each day with flexibility…this ensures our students have the best experience and prevents us from going home grumpy when we may not complete our “To Do List” every day.

Gerald and I interacted on both our blogs about both the challenges and rewards of differentiation. I was excited to hear that his differentiated unit is going well, particularly given his initial trepidation. On my blog we discussed how important communication is in an online course to build both student “connectedness” and to ensure that we are differentiating to meet their individual needs. His blog also encouraged me to think about the importance of aligning assessments to both our standards and our content.

Finally, as someone who loves Excel, I asked Josie what processes she intends to use to ensure that her students are able to start where they need to begin…in other words, taking into account the prior experience and knowledge (or lack thereof) across the diverse range of students she teaches.

Week Eleven: Challenges and Successes Implementing the UbD Unit?

With an online, asynchronous course, it’s a bit difficult to determine how things are going in the first week…particularly given the design format I use. I teach seven, two-week modules in a semester and each module allows for 10 days of content acquisition and demonstration of learning, while the last four days focus on peer interaction and feedback around student demonstration of learning. That said, I do build in formative assessments using Voicethread and Google Forms and I communicate with the students frequently using both the Muddiest Point discussion board and emailed announcements.

I Prepare for Student Work, Customize for Student Engagement, and Plan for Classroom Content, Structures, and Systems that Work Appropriately for Students

Each module in my course contains five basic sections: Introduction, Objectives, Required Materials, Assignments, and Supplemental Resources. The Sound Cloud audio Introduction provides students with both a framework for the module and ensures they understand why it is relevant to both the course and their learning (the “so what” factor). The module-level objectives make clear the desired learning outcomes and are mapped to the course-level Student Learning Outcomes. The Required Materials indicate where a material is required or if there is choice, while the Assignments section provides a list of items that must be completed with their due dates. Finally, the Supplemental Resources section contains all of the materials I deem fall into the “would be nice, but not necessary, to know” category.

For content acquisition in this module, I provided a brief video closed-captioned introducing the Relationship of Learning Objective, Assessments, and Instructional Strategies, a short text-based description of rubrics, and a video on Formative and Summative Assessment. Students are asked to read a few sections in their textbooks and skim two supplemental resources. They are also required to do a resource exploration, selecting two resources relating to their particular interests in assessment; they share these sources, and a brief description, in the Resource Share discussion board. To complete a formative assessment of their understanding, students complete a Check for Understanding on an embedded Google Form. Students draft and submit answers and then are able to see peer responses; at this time, they are asked to reflect on the culmination of their learning and post any questions they still have to the Muddiest Point. Finally, the Assignments section instructs students to create a 3-5 minute audio or video presentation, using the technology tool of their choice, that they will post to Voicethread for peer and instructor comment and review. They will also complete the Stage 2: Desired Results section of their Course Development Plan and have the option to submit it for feedback prior to the final submission in the next module. Students who submit their plan for feedback must provide feedback to their peers who post.

Evidence I Participated in and Contributed to Individual Paths for Learning

At this time, I’ve provided a variety of ways to access resources and choice in content acquisition materials, where possible. I created means for both formative and summative assessment within the module. On Monday, I announced the opening of the module and that the discussion board format would occur in the form of a presentation. I reminded them that they could seek assistance or post questions by using the Muddiest Point. Midway through the week, I let them know that I provided extensive feedback on their initial submission of the Course Development Plan and that I created a discussion board post in the Muddiest Point to address questions they raised and common issues I saw in their submissions.

I Use Data from Observation and/or Surveys to Inform the Unit

Much of my design of this module was informed by student surveys from last semester. I converted the Introductions from text-based sections to audio content. Choice was added in materials and, based on the struggles I saw with defining formative and summative assessment, I created a video that explicitly defined each. I also opted to allow choice in technology for the presentation to differentiate, but also allow students to push their boundaries and comfort levels with technology.

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