People’s Choice Post #1: The Secret

As you know, throughout the semester, I am going to be choosing a “featured post” (or “posts”) for each blog assignment, to highlight examples of successful blogs (AKA, “Professor’s Picks”). But … what I might find compelling or well-done in a blog post might not be the same thing as your peers do. Enter “People’s Choice Posts,” which allow the students to read and honor awesome writing by their classmates (or themselves!). This also helps to bring student voices into the course more fully, as each student’s blogs become (required) reading for the course.

Here’s how it will work. Read through your classmates’ reading response blogs on “The Secret” and choose your favorite post. You can choose a post for any reason, but you always must clearly articulate your rationale for choosing it (e.g., why did you find it interesting, compelling, likeable, provocative, etc.?). This rationale can refer to content, style, creativity, etc. If, after reading everyone’s posts, you strongly feel that your post is your “favorite,” you can always vote for yourself, but you need to provide a rationale for doing so.

In order to register your vote for this week’s “People’s Choice,” “leave a reply” to this post, and in your comment, provide your chosen post, an excerpt from it + rationale for choosing it. Provide the title and author of the chosen post, along with a link to the post you are citing (please provide the link in the same comment: don’t make a separate comment with just the link). Citing is really important (in this case, citing your classmate!), and this is a way of giving credit to other sources and putting yourself in dialogue with them.

Comments/votes are mandatory, should be made no later than Thursday, 2/11 at 9am: the person with the most votes will earn the coveted “People’s Choice” honor for this round of posts! I’m looking forward to seeing what you choose, and why.

Getting to know Professor Belli :)

I’m an Associate Professor of English here at New York City College of Technology, CUNY (City University of New York) and for the past six years I also served as Co-Director of the OpenLab, the college’s open-source digital platform for teaching, learning, and collaborating (the same OpenLab that you’re reading this post on right now!). One of my favorite things to do here at the college is to teach courses on happiness and well-being so I’m really looking forward to working with you this semester in this course!

I earned my Ph.D. from The Graduate Center, CUNY, and my research interests are utopian studies, science fiction, happiness studies, positive psychology, writing studies, digital humanities, American studies, and education/pedagogy (feel free to ask me what any of these areas are!).

I’m also a founding member of the Writing Studies Tree, an online, open-access, interactive academic genealogy for the field of writing studies, and serve on the Steering Committee, the Teaching Committee, and as the web developer for the North American Society for Utopian Studies (utopias/dystopias overlap quite a bit with science fiction, another research area and course I teach quite a bit here at City Tech!).

I stumbled upon this cafe in St. Petersburg, Russia, and was delighted to see its name almost mine (close enough!). In Russian, it means "once upon a time" ...
I stumbled upon this cafe in 2014, in St. Petersburg, Russia, and was delighted to see its name almost mine (close enough!). In Russian, it means “once upon a time” …

Fun facts about your professor? I played ice hockey in college (right wing), and have played the violin since I was two years old (and currently play with the Brooklyn Symphony Orchestra … this past winter we went on tour in Mexico City, which was an amazing experience!). I adore watching old sitcoms from the 70s and 80s (some of my favorites are Maude, Rhoda, Soap, and, most especially, The Golden Girls–I even wrote a chapter on this show in a fantastic book about sitcoms and American culture!). I’m not stuck in the past though, and  enjoy contemporary shows too. Some of my favorites in current rotation are Westworld, Jane the Virgin, and Grace & Frankie.

I also really enjoy traveling: some summers ago (when that photo above is from) I spent five weeks wandering abroad, in Russia, Finland, Czech Republic, and Switzerland. Recently (pre-pandemic), I was able to spend time in Berlin, Puerto Rico, and Mexico City. What amazing experiences! I know that travel isn’t possible right now, but I hope to make it to Nepal and Bhutan when exploring the world is an option again.

I look forward to your reading your Introductions and getting to know you, through these posts and our online class sessions, as the semester progresses, and to discussing all-things-self-help together over the coming months! :)

Creating your Introduction Post

Introduction Posts (HW for Wednesday, 2/3)

In order to start exploring our OpenLab course site, getting comfortable with posting/adding media (blogging), practicing reflective writing, and getting to know one another, each student will create an initial post that introduces herself to the class.

*This Introductory Post is due no later than Wednesdays, 2/3, but I encourage you make this initial post as soon as possible to become comfortable with OpenLab and to give others a chance to learn a bit about you.

Content of Posts
Tell us a bit about yourself … what are your interests, hobbies, desires? Current job or internship? Career goals? What did you do over winter break? What do you hope to do over the upcoming summer break? Share some photos of you (you can either pull a photo from the web if you have one up there, upload one from your computer, or … you can even take one with your smartphone right now!) and maybe even your family, friends, neighborhood, etc. Practice adding a link and maybe even a video to your post too.

At the end of your post, include at least paragraph addressing address the following questions (not necessarily in this order):

  • What your strengths & weaknesses as a writer, reader, & thinker?
  • What do you enjoy most about writing, reading, & (critical) thinking?
  • What do you disklike most about writing, reading, & (critical) thinking?
  • What is your background with using OpenLab, Zoom, & technology more generally (it’s OK if you don’t have any!)?
  • What is your favorite genre of literature?
  • What is your favorite text?
  • What’s your experience with (and interest in) Self-Help Literature (don’t do any research for this … just state what you think it is, prior to entering the course)? Favorite books, short stories, movies, TV shows, games?
  • How do you see Self-Help connecting with your major and career interests (&/or personal interests, hobbies)?
  • What are your expectations for this course/semester (what you think you will learn and what you hope you will learn)? Any concerns or fears? Any questions?

Categorizing/Commenting on Posts
Don’t forget to categorize your post as “Introductions” (and uncheck “Uncategorized” if it is checked already by default). If you forget to do so before you “publish” you post, you can go back and edit/update it after the fact.

I made an Introductory post about myself (if I’m asking you to share some of your personality/background with the class, it’s only fair that I do the same!), so you can get to know me a bit better as well and also so you get a sense of what this type of post might look like/include.

Before our next class (on Thursday, 2/4) browse through everyone’s posts (if you choose the “Introductions” category for the right side of the homepage, or “Introductions” from the dropdown in the “Discussion & Community” in the top navigation, you will be taken to all of these posts, and drop comments to get some conversation going and start building our class community for the semester!

How to Add Links, Images, & Videos to Posts

Adding links to your posts is really simple, and it’s also a wonderful way to share resources with the class and to engage in dialogue with other authors/sources. To add a link into your post:

  1. Copy the URL of the webpage you want to link to
  2. Highlight the text in your post that you want to become hyperlinked
  3. Click the “Insert/edit link” button (the icon resembles a paper link or chainlink, above the post screen). You can also choose “Insert/edit link” from the “Insert” dropdown menu.
  4. Paste the URL into the “URL” textbook
  5. Click the “gear” icon to access more “Link options.” Type in the name of the link into the “Title” space. From here, you can also choose to link to an already existing piece of content (page or post) on our OpenLab course site (instead of an external URL).
  6. Click “Add Link”

And you’re done. It’s that simple! And you can always edit or remove the link later on, if you need to do so.

*Click here to view the OpenLab Help section on adding links

Here’s a quick tutorial about how to add images:

  1. To add an image to a post, click on the “Add Media” button with the camera/music notes on the top left of the editing box. You can also choose “Media” from the “Insert” dropdown menu.
  2. Remember that your image will show up within the post wherever your cursor is when you click “Add Media.” So if you want to insert the image in the middle of your post, make sure to put it there.
  3. If you are choosing a file from your device, you can then browse for it, the same you would if you were uploading an attachment to an e-mail, by clicking “Upload Files.” If you add to the Media Library first, you can also select your image from there).
  4. Once you find the image you want, click “Select.”
  5. You can then edit the image (e.g., to rotate it) … make sure to click “save” after editing it.
  6. You should re-title the image to make it easier to manage/find later on (ex: Jill Belli, Introduction Photo). If you wish, you can also add a “description” and “caption.”
  7. You should add “alt text” to make this image accessible to screen readers.
  8. Remember to follow copyright guidelines for images.
  9. At the bottom of the screen you can change the “alignment” and “size” of the image
  10. Don’t forget to click “Insert into Post” (NOT “Save Changes”) at the bottom.  If you don’t click “Insert into Post,” the image won’t show up in your post when you publish it (it will just be added to our site’s “Media Library” … more on that later in the semester).
  11. You can always click “Preview” before you click “Publish” to see what the post will like like after the images are added. Make sure, however, once you are satisfied with your post, to click “Publish” (you can also click “Save Draft” to continue to work on the post later, but no one else will be able to view the post–and I won’t be able to give you credit for it–until you hit “Publish”).

*Click here to view the OpenLab Help section on adding images (and other media)

Adding a video to your post from a site like YouTube is about as simple as it gets. Simply copy the URL of the video into your post, and click “Publish” (as with links and images, don’t forget to contextualize the video a bit, and tell us whose it is and why you’re including it in your post). It will automatically appear (and can be played) right from your post. Woohoo!

*Click here to view the OpenLab Help section on adding videos

Editing / Revising your Posts

*Remember, if you don’t like something (either the post or the image), even after it is published, you can go back and change it (just click “Edit” and revise revise revise).  That’s the nice thing about blogs … you can keep revising. Well, for this course, at least until the assignment deadline 🙂

Blogging: Writing, Categorizing, & Commenting (on) Posts

If you’re unsure how to get started posting (blogging) on our OpenLab course site, below is a quick overview:

  • Once you’re logged into OpenLab and on our course site, you can easily make a post.
  • Simply click the plus sign (+) on the dark menubar (the admin bar) at the top of the screen, and from the dropdown menu that appears, choose “Post.”
  • You can also go to your “Dashboard” from the same top menubar, and this will take you to the “back end” (the control panel) of the site.
  • From there, you can post (in the left side menu, click “Posts” and then “Add New”) and do a number of other things.
  • Don’t forget to “Categorize” your post before submitting it (see below for more details on that), and then to “Publish” your post (if you only click “save” or “preview” it won’t be public).  Happy blogging 🙂

*A quick note about categorizing blog posts:

  • Make sure to “categorize” your posts so that the site says navigable and organized.
  • A category acts sort of like a folder for posts (or like “labels” in Gmail). It groups all posts categorized the same way together, so they can be easily accessed/archived. Without categories, everyone’s posts will just get dumped  into one general place and our course site will become very disorganized/chaotic as we produce a lot of content throughout the semester.
  • To categorize, after you finish typing your post up, choose the appropriate “Category” from the right side of the screen (e.g., after you create your “Introduction” post, you should make sure to check off “Introductions). If you forget to choose a category, you will be prompted to choose one before you are able to publish your post.
  • I won’t be able to easily locate or grade your work if it is not in the right category, so make sure to categorize correctly in order to get credit for your posts.

*Also, you should chat one another up!  How do you do this? By commenting on your classmates’ posts. Some more details about this:

  • One of the great things about the blog is its interactive, networked nature … people post, others read and make comments, and then conversations happen and ideas get exchanged!
  • Read through everyone’s posts and drop comments if you feel inspired. Your comments can serve to affirm what someone has said, ask clarifying questions, provide an alternate viewpoint, add more details, etc. You can now even leave images in comments.
  • To comment, simply type in a short comment in the “leave a reply” box at the bottom of the post.
  • You can respond either to the original post or a specific commenter (commenting on someone else’s comments).

Getting Started on the OpenLab

To sign-up for an OpenLab account, create your profile, and become familiar with the system:

  • Sign in to your City Tech email account
  • Sign up for an OpenLab account ASAP (no later than Tuesday 2/2)
  • If you have trouble clicking the confirmation link in the email from the OpenLab, try cutting and pasting it into the address bar of your browser
  • Log in to the OpenLab
  • Join our course, Utopias & Dystopias (ENG 3402: Topics in Literature), by clicking on its Course Profile (here is more info. about joining courses)
  • Browse through the OpenLab (even if you’ve used it before, check it out again as there are always new sites, people, and feature), noticing how people use it and what kind of materials they include
  • Click on People & browse through a few pages of OpenLab’s 36,000+ (!!!) members, looking at the avatars and reading about the members in their profile sections
  • Now create your own profile, uploading an avatar and including a bio/profile (remember, this info. is available to the public).

Questions? If you need technical support, you should check out the (very detailed/helpful!) Help section of OpenLab, &, if you still have questions, attend an office hour or contact the wonderful OpenLab Community Team via email.