Collaborative Meeting, Collaborative Strategies

On Friday February 22 we held our third annual combined meeting of the City Tech General Education Committee and our Living Lab Seminar Fellows. Once again it was an exciting and productive opportunity for collaboration. We focused on small group discussions of questions that face both initiatives right now, centering on the topic of dissemination. How do we promote, share, and collaborate with faculty in our own departments and across the college to disseminate the work of the Gen Ed Committee and the Living Lab project? How can we institutionalize our lessons learned, and continue to learn with and from each other as we strive to improve our students’ educational experiences?

As part of the ongoing conversation about these important issues we thought it would be useful to all to post the notes taken during the meeting here. Please feel free to peruse them, and to use them as a jumping off point for your own conversations with colleagues!

During the first part of the meeting, faculty groups discussed the attributes of 1st and 3rd year students at City Tech and relevant General Education Student Learning Outcomes (SLOs). This year the Living Lab Seminar Fellows are working on strategies for their 1st and 3rd year courses.
Discussion 1 notes from all groups

During the second half of the meeting, the same faculty groups answered and discussed questions about the work of the collegewide General Education and Assessment Committees and the Living Lab Project, with a focus on strategies to further disseminate and implement these initiatives.
Discussion 2 notes from all groups

Diana Samaroo: Testing Brooklyn Water Quality after Hurricane Sandy

Students Document Their Field-Based ResearchLast fall, chemistry students tested water quality along the waterfront in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. For the lab component of CHEM 1102 General Chemistry II, student teams collected water from various points in Brooklyn Bridge Park, where one can walk down to and touch (if you dare) the East River. Taking samples back to CityTech labs, student groups performed a series of tests to assess the levels of nitrate and nitrite, water hardness, pH, iron concentration, and the measure of conductivity. Professor Samaroo’s students were able to borrow samples taken pre-storm from students in Professor Ralph Alcendor’s BIO 3302 Microbiology I course, which allowed the chemistry lab students to compare their findings with data from water sampled before the hurricane.

Using New York waterways as an open laboratory, students engaged in an innovative collaborative project and conducted significant research at the undergraduate level. Professor Samaroo demonstrated how local settings could give students experience in field-based research. Moreover, real-world engagement enhanced student learning in the methodologies of data collection and lab analysis, and the production of scientific lab reports. The semester’s research project culminated in a presentation “Analysis of Inorganic Chemicals on Water Quality in Brooklyn:  A Title V Collaborative Project” at CityTech’s Annual Faculty and Student Research Poster Session.

Viviana Vladutescu: Making Sense of Remote Sensing

Viviana Vladutescu and CityTech group at Brookhaven National Lab

Viviana Vladutescu and CityTech group at Brookhaven National Lab

For students in Professor Viviana Vladutescu’s EET 3132 Remote Sensing class, a visit to a “real” lab vividly brought together theory and practice.  In the classroom and university labs, students learned the principles of remote sensing techniques, acquired new software knowledge, and gathered and interpreted data as well.  As part of their coursework, Professor Vladutescu’s students participated in a departmental field trip to the impressive Brookhaven National Laboratory on Long Island.  With the objective of expanding awareness of the field and encouraging further study in the applied sciences, engineering, and physics, students had the opportunity to observe firsthand the work of technicians, engineers, and scientists.  One student noted how unexpected it was to hear a Brookhaven physicist cite the “right hand rule method” that was taught in class, a technique that the student thought was used to “dumb down” content in class when in reality it was a practical trick of the trade.

Students in Professor Vladutescu’s course are enrolled in the Associate or Bachelor degree programs in the Department of Electrical and Telecommunications Engineering Technology (ETET).  For many, meeting active professionals helped validate their own academic choices in the ETET programs.   Several students were inspired when they learned that some of the Brookhaven lab technicians graduated with associate degrees too, thus giving them a better sense of the end goals of graduating with a degree from City Tech.  To encourage students to be proactive in their academic and professional careers, Professor Vladutescu’s class website on the OpenLab included links to internships and job opportunities as well as newsfeeds to stay up-to-date on current technology.

Click here for reflections on one of Professor Vladutescu’s field trips.

The President’s Taste Test: Wine Making in Karen Goodlad’s Class

Guests are served student wine blends in the Janet Lefler Dining Room at City Tech

Guests are served student wine blends in the Janet Lefler Dining Room at City Tech

In honor of Presidents’ Day, it is fitting to showcase a class lesson conducted by Professor Karen Goodlad and Prof. Lynda Dias as guest lecturer’s in Prof. Roger Dagorn’s class, HGMT 4997 Wines of the New World, which ended in a wine presentation to City Tech President Russell Hotzler in the University’s Janet Lefler Dining Room.  Students worked in groups to produce new blends and evaluated and voted on which wines to serve in City Tech’s dining room, a veritable lab for students in the Hospitality program.  Student teams created blends called “Spicy Brooklyn” or “Charlie’s Angels” by striking a tasty balance of reds such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, and Petit Syrah.  The teams blogged about their experience and various blend formulations on the class website.

This course examines the multi-faceted world of wine, from production to service to economic regulations of wine industries in North America, Australia, New Zealand, Chile, Argentina, and South Africa.  Class trips included a memorable one to the local City Winery in Lower Manhattan.  In turn, experts from the industry visited the classroom on City Tech campus.

Click here for more photos of Professor Goodlad’s blending lesson.

Justin Davis: The Art of Public Speaking

Garry Winogrand, JFK at the Democratic National Convention, 1960

Garry Winogrand, JFK at the Democratic National Convention, 1960

Professor Justin Davis’ class SPE 1330 Effective Speaking makes use of videos for students to better “see” the performance of public speaking. Students are videotaped in class and asked to review and evaluate their own speeches outside of class. Recordings of student speeches are made available on the class website on the OpenLab, which is loaded with videos of sample speeches that help illustrate differences between persuasive and informative speaking. Alongside student examples of public speaking, Professor Davis also includes links to Presidential speeches. Students are even asked to judge a speech contest virtually by viewing videos of the contestants online and evaluating the speeches for an assignment.

Mary Sue Donsky: Sketching for the Study of Estates, Wills, and Trusts

Pieter Claesz, Still Life with Skull and Writing Quill, 1628

Pieter Claesz, Still Life with Skull and Writing Quill, 1628

Professor Mary Sue Donsky schedules field trips to art museums for students in her LAW 2301 Estates, Wills, and Trusts course.  On one recent trip to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, she gave students a tour “Honoring Decedents in Art Across Time and Cultures” that used artifacts from the museum’s collection to highlight funerary-related traditions through history.  What’s a decedent?  For those unfamiliar with legal lingo, a decedent is a deceased person, a term used mainly in law.  During the field trip students were asked to sketch art that honors decedents such as grave markers or ancestor figures, or other examples of related artifacts, including sarcophagi, urns, and reliquaries.  Following the trip, students visited museum websites all over the world to “collect” objects for a class blog.  Professor Donsky effectively uses the skill of drawing to communicate the historical dimensions of the course.  Giving students the opportunity to sketch is a unique way to reinforce and broaden lessons learned in the class room, and suggests that perhaps we should consider drawing to be a Gen Ed skill.

Click here to see Professor Donsky’s class blog for photos from the field trip and examples of student sketches. 

Daniel Alter: Aesthetics and Dentistry

Student study of a tooth

Student study of a tooth

How do you directly address General Education objectives in a course on Tooth Morphology for a program in Restorative Dentistry? Professor Daniel Alter came up with creative means to overcome this conundrum by using the OpenLab to increase student participation and by assigning an interesting paper assignment.

Professor Alter’s class website is filled with handouts, videos, links to his powerpoint lectures, as well as instructions. In his paper assignment, students were asked to consider the perceptions of beauty in dental practice across diverse cultures. Students uploaded abstracts of their paper to the class site. Their introductions reflect the diverse level of cultural engagement with dental practice from Bali to Japan and South Africa. You can read examples of his students’ research here.


Libby Clarke: Team Work in Web Analytics

An Example of a Collaborative Project in Professor Libby Clarke’s Web Analytics Course ADV3561

Web Analytics: SEO and SEM

Team Project: SEO/SEM Makeover
You will be split up into teams. Each team member will search out and propose a prospective client for an SEO/SEM makeover. Once the team has chosen the final client choice, that client will be interviewed to ascertain his/her SEO/SEM needs. The team will then prepare and present a proposed plan of action to the class for critique. The final report will then be submitted to the client.


In order to help the students learn how they will have to function as a team member. The class made suggestions to their teams and voted on a final client. This person had to have a live website online, and needed to be willing to have the students go over it and make our suggestions. They also needed to be available to be interviewed in person, by phone, or by email the week of the 15th of October.

Link to Assignment Blog Entry


Matthew Gold: Is Drawing a Gen Ed Skill?

Michael Graves, sketch of Denver Central Library

Michael Graves, sketch of Denver Central Library

Some would argue that drawing is as important a skill as reading, writing, speaking, and thinking. In Professor Matthew Gold’s English Composition class Composing Abstractions, students discussed the status of drawing in an assignment. After reading Michael Graves’ “Architecture and the Lost Art of Drawing,” students were asked to summarize the key points and reflect on their reading.

Example of a Student Response

In assignments that took place in the classroom or at home , students were asked to think about architecture in a variety of ways, from “unphotographable moments” or through the lens of an adjective, i.e., “smooth” or “slimy.” Working in groups, students re-imagined and re-invented the Brooklyn skyline. See an example of “futuristic dreams” here.

Alex Aptekar: Student Projects in Building Technology

Building SketchProfessor Alexander Aptekar offers two advanced-level courses in Building Technology for the Department of Architectural Technology. Both courses share one class website that is filled with readings, instructions, and video tutorials.  Since assignments for both courses are posted, students can see what is expected of them in the following sequence of the course.  Assignments range from early ‘scavenger hunt’ type exercises to more complex projects late in the semester.  Moreover, the class website offers the opportunity for students to showcase their work.  For example, see a student’s project for an assignment that evaluated the student’s understanding a structure grid, levels, and framing plan.