The Thoughtful Egg: A Learning Community of Culinary, Baking, and Art History Classes

Student photo of an egg for group project on photographer Alexander Rodchenko

Student photo of an egg for group project on photographer Alexander Rodchenko

Last fall, Professors Sandra Cheng (HUM, Living Lab Fellow), Kylie Garcelon (HGMT, Living Lab Associate Fellow), and Joanne Jacus (HGMT) participated in “The Art of Food,” a learning community between the Hospitality Management and Humanities Departments. Entry-level students enrolled in their first lab courses, either Professor Jacus’s Baking and Pastry I (HGMT 1204) or Professor Garcelon’s Culinary I (HGMT 1203), came together in Professor Cheng’s art history course dedicated to studying the history of photography (ARTH 1100). One objective of the learning community was to foster stronger bonds between Hospitality students in order to emphasize the importance of teamwork, an essential practice for success in culinary labs and in the daily operations of commercial kitchens.

Egg and photography themes in collaborative poem written during shared luncheon

Egg and photography themes in collaborative poem written during shared luncheon

M.F.K. Fisher’s “How not to boil an egg” provided the theme for the learning community as a shared reading between all three classes. Students engaged with the Fisher reading in individual sections as well as in a shared dining experience, in which faculty and students dined together. The shared meal included a shared poetry writing exercise that reinforced the structure of group work promoted in culinary labs and in the art history class.

Whether in culinary labs or the lecture class, students were asked to contemplate creative expression in a myriad of ways, which included considering the visual elements of culinary production, the study of poetry in culinary labs, or taking photographs of eggs for group projects on important photographers. All three classes shared a central website on the OpenLab for the learning community, which was filled with student reflections and examples of student photography. The learning community culminated in smart phone photo contest, from which the winning photos will be exhibited in City Tech’s Janet Lefler Dining Room.

What’s Cooking at CityTech? Associate Fellows Present a Living Lab Smorgasbord

Associate Fellow Professor Lenore  Hildebrand, Human Services Dept, presents her Living Lab activity

Associate Fellow Professor Lenore Hildebrand, Human Services Dept, presents her Living Lab activity

Faculty from a wide range of disciplines gathered for the “Real World Problem Solving” meeting to hear final presentations by Associate Fellows and their Living Lab facilitators. After a series of workshops, the latest cohort of Associate Fellows presented creative examples of pedagogical activities to their peers, Living Lab facilitators, and the greater CityTech community.

The gathering began with reflections from Third Year Fellows Aida Egues, Jill Bouratoglou, and Robert Leston, who spoke of their Living Lab involvement and its impact on their teaching and professional development. The Associate Fellows showcased their works-in-progress by adapting an unusual structure for academic presentations. Taking a cue from speed dating, each Associate Fellow took 2 minute-turns to present an activity to small groups that rotated around the workspace from one presenter to the next. Faculty ranging from Construction Management and Civil Engineering to Dental Hygiene and Human Services presented and listened to mini presentations from their colleagues across the college. Gathering in small, intimate groups, each participant had ample opportunity to listen, learn, and ask questions of their peers.

Choosing Your Best Practices

Choosing Your Best Practices

All attendees were given the opportunity to vote for what they thought were the best engagements with issues of Assessment, Place-Based Learning, High Impact Educational Practices, and General Education but in reality all presenters were winners for every professor revealed their passion for teaching and strong commitment to student learning. The gathering culminated in a graffiti activity in which all attendees had a chance to visually express their interests, frustrations, and aspirations. Participants left with an arsenal of new ideas and new strategies to use in their own classes and much to reflect on.

Robert Leston: Channeling the Undead on the OpenLab

Zombies in Pop Culture: Monopoly’s Survival Edition The Walking Dead

Zombies in Pop Culture: Monopoly’s Survival Edition The Walking Dead

In Professor Robert Leston’s upper-level course ENG 3402 Topics in Literature on Vampires and Zombies in Popular Fiction and Film, students explored the popularity of the undead in popular literature, film, and TV. Using a hybrid course format, in which students met once per week face-to-face and numerous times online, Professor Leston depended on his OpenLab class website for discussion and the submission of reading responses for fellow students to read and comment on. The OpenLab became an online meeting space to explore the fascination with vampires, werewolves, zombies, and monsters in American popular culture.

From reading classics such as Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Franz Kafka’s The Metamorphosis and contemporary academic critiques to watching excerpts of film and TV like Shaun of the Dead and Buffy the Vampire Slayer, students submitted reflections and critical responses to readings and viewings on the class website in order to create a virtual ‘reading journal.’ Open to all classmates and the larger CityTech community, the class website extended the learning experience beyond the walls of the classroom and invites outsiders to look in. Students used the OpenLab to access readings and media clips too as well as to stay on top of the work of fellow students in order to avoid overlap with other student projects as each took turns to lead group discussions as ‘expert readers.’ The OpenLab offered a vast range of interaction for professor and students in a hybrid class.

Take a peek at a student’s ‘reading journal’, another student’s response to a reading that contrasts Steve Jobs the vampire to Bill Gates the zombie, and a selection of class readings and media clips.

Jeremy Seto: Study Rats! An Innovative Learning Community To Promote Exploration

Garbage in your neighborhood, part of a student study on waste in Biology I

Garbage in Local Neighborhoods, part of student studies on waste in Biology I

Last fall, a unique learning community brought together first-year students in English, Math, and Biology courses. 24 English composition students in Professor Suzanne Miller’s ENG 1101 along with 24 Math students in Professor Lin Zhou’s MAT 1175 section came together in Professor Jeremy Seto’s BIO 1101 Biology I course.  Exploration was the theme of the learning community that encouraged students to better understand their environment in a qualitative and quantitative manner. Professor Seto helped students identify math problems, Professor Zhou helped her Math students find the solutions, and Professor Miller helped the Composition students articulate problems and solutions. In an early assignment, students read about the local rat problem in Manhattan’s Upper East Side and responded to the article on the OpenLab. Professor Seto even contributed a graphic decomposition study to illustrate the effect of poison on rodent control. Soon after, students were asked to document the waste in their own neighborhoods to compare to the Manhattan rat problem. The photo essays encouraged students to better relate the terms and concepts they learned in the classroom to their own environment (click here for an example of  student documentation). Simultaneously, students learned to better articulate their analysis of texts and acquired basic skills such as distinguishing between primary and secondary sources. Assignments were scaffolded to help students draw connections between the diverse courses and their own lives. For a group project, students in English Composition and Math worked together to identify and solve a math problem in Biology I. Over the course of the semester, student groups identified a challenge, formulated questions to solve the problem, and collectively answered the questions. Each group was tasked with creating a poster to illustrate the process of investigating problems and finding solutions.

Explore Professor Seto’s Learning Community here.

Susan Phillip: Teaching Students about Urban Tourism On The Waterfront

Students in Professor Susan Phillip’s Urban Tourism class at the Highline

Students in Professor Susan Phillip’s Urban Tourism class at the Highline

The knotty issue of gentrification is one of many issues that students address in Professor Susan Phillip’s upper level Urban Tourism course (HMGT 4987) in the Department of Hospitality Management. Field trips around New York City are incorporated into the course that investigates tourism as an engine of urban renewal and economic regeneration. Class lectures, discussion, and research projects let students examine the roles of government, business, and community along with issues of development, environmental concerns, and social equity.

Following lectures on historical Brooklyn, students observe first hand the contrast of two neighborhoods in guided tours of Bedford-Stuyvesant and Brooklyn Heights. Students broaden their place-based experience with research projects that identify tourism resources and media perception of Brooklyn neighborhoods, in which they evaluate the roles of public and private sectors in urban tourism and in the revitalization of less affluent neighborhoods. Professor Phillip’s emphasis on helping students connect to the history of social change of local neighborhoods aligns with many General Education objectives that highlight ethics in learning and civic engagement. During field trips, residents have been known to interact with her class, pointing out local spots, recounting local lore, and even inviting the group into their residence. One group assignment is the development of a walking tour. You can see an example of a student walking tour of Downtown Brooklyn here: HMGT 4987 Student Downtown Brooklyn Walking Tour

Helping Students Connect and Belong: Remembering Charles Hirsch

Professor Charles Hirsch (1947-2013)

Professor Charles Hirsch

Last November, the CityTech community was shocked to learn of the unexpected death of Professor Charles Hirsch, a dedicated professor in the English department and a vibrant member of the first faculty cohort of the Living Lab project. Charles Hirsch was a phenomenal teacher who thought carefully of student needs and how best to build community within the classroom and beyond. Professor Hirsch taught a wide range of courses from Developmental Reading to Advanced Technical Writing, and in each, he made students aware of how they connect and belong to larger communities. With a background in early education, he was exceptionally gifted as a teacher to students with developmental needs. This post captures some of the high-impact practices and place-based learning strategies of Professor Hirsch’s classroom with the hope that faculty will experiment with these techniques in their own classrooms.

To help build community within the classroom, Professor Hirsch used many different activities. In his remedial Reading class, the first day began with a playful icebreaker game of Bingo. Students received a Bingo card with boxes printed with quips such as “We do not have snow in my home country,” “I play the piano,” or “I live in the Bronx.” To play, students would go from one to another to obtain a student’s name and fill in the card until they could fill in a row to get Bingo, for which the prize was a dictionary. Though as Professor Hirsch noted, “the real prize is that students quickly get information about each other that can be conversation starters, the beginning of bonding in the classroom.”

Professor Hirsch used scavenger hunts to encourage students to become better acquainted with the college. Early in the semester, students were given a series of tasks to locate places and services around the college. Professor Hirsch’s idiosyncratic style was reflected in his questions, including “Name three types of books shelved on the second floor of the library”; “Find the Information Office. What kind of information do they offer?” Students returned with answers to questions and items from various locations. The completion of these tasks gave students a better sense of their college as well as a handy guide to the university’s amenities and services. The scavenger hunt was used to nurture connections between students as they went off in search of information and objects; and it fostered the connection between students and the college.

Field trips were used to highlight student connections to the larger community. Professor Hirsch set aside days to explore the lay of the land around campus. On one trip to the local public library branch, students were told, “we’re gonna read, that’s it.” Another day was set aside to explore Downtown Brooklyn after a lesson devoted to Walt Whitman. With images of Brooklyn flickering across the screen, students listened to the opening lines of Whitman’s Crossing Brooklyn Ferry:

Flood-Tide below me! I see you face-to-face. . .
Crowds of men and women attired in the usual costumes, how curious you are to me!
On the ferry-boats the hundreds and hundreds that cross. . .

As students recalled their own commute to school, Professor Hirsch surprised them with the unexpected request to pack their bags and join in a walk to the historical Brooklyn Ferry Landing. He once recalled how a transformation occurred as students who at first cheerful to leave the classroom slowly made personal connections to the Whitman lesson, they “quietly immersed themselves in their steps through history, the sense of place began to take over.” One of his students reflected, “I was proud to be in a place that a famous poet wrote about.”

Professor Hirsch frequently expounded how “any of these learning experiences are replicable.” He believed that high-impact practices and place-based learning should be fully integrated into the curriculum, not only to enhance our students’ learning experience, but “to generate exposure to what will become lifelong learning in their courses and careers.” His determination “to help students participate in their learning, and to belong” inspired the Living Lab fellows.

We all miss Charles, his infectious laugh, his pointed questions, his audible sighs, his brilliant depth of knowledge in so many things, and most of all, his friendship. Goodbye dear Charles.


Transformations: The Living Lab at City Tech and Beyond

Remnants of destruction remain a year after Hurricane Sandy hit Sheepshead Bay

Remnants of destruction remain a year after Hurricane Sandy hit Sheepshead Bay

As the thick, warm air of a city summer dissipates into the crisp days of early autumn, it is timely to reflect on City Tech’s Living Lab project, a federally-funded grant aimed at re-imagining the role of general education in an urban college of technology. This fall, we embark on the fourth year of the project that has helped transform City Tech and our Brooklyn Waterfront into a living laboratory for our students. Each year, a select group of fellows has gathered in a semester-long series of seminars to enhance general education at City Tech, whether one is teaching first-year students, building a collaborative research team, or developing service learning projects. With two more years of the long-term grant to build durable and effective practices, a reflection of Living Lab activities demonstrates how the project has transformed teaching and learning for faculty and students alike.

Living Lab seminars are intensive with thought-provoking reading and lively debate, and they offer unique opportunities for collaboration among faculty from disciplines as diverse as Architectural Technology, Human Services, Math, Nursing, and English. Together, Living Lab fellows evaluate and work on implementing creative, high-impact pedagogical practices in their classrooms; and encourage each other to move beyond classroom walls to engage the larger community. Take for example two science courses, Professor Ralph Alcendor’s microbiology class and Professor Diana Samaroo’s chemistry laboratory that turned the waterfront into an experimental lab. Working in groups, Professor Alcendor’s students drew water samples from under the Brooklyn Bridge in order to gain a better understanding of the bacterial diversity of our environment. Student teams in Professor Samaroo’s class used their samples to conduct numerous chemical experiments back in the lab. The chemistry students even borrowed samples from Professor Alcendor’s biology course to test for differences in water quality before and after last fall’s catastrophic storm. The exercises helped nurture collaboration between students, as well as created opportunities for students to conduct field-based research and data collection. For Professors Alcendor and Samaroo, their involvement in the Living Lab seminars helped create the opportunity to pool resources for students enrolled in courses in different disciplines.

Such scientific experiments serve as an example of place-based learning practices promoted by the Living Lab, and they also highlight the environmental vagaries of New York City’s shoreline, which came into glaring focus a year ago when Hurricane Sandy devastated the city’s waterfront. Severe flooding damaged communities of numerous faculty, staff, and students, and even turned the old Klitgord auditorium into a temporary shelter. With the third year’s emphasis on academic service learning, Living Lab fellows took the opportunity to visit with a community organization in Sheepshead Bay, one of many seaside communities ravaged by the Superstorm. On the surface the sleepy community appeared tranquil and back to normal, but fellows quickly discovered the very real consequences of a devastating hurricane. Living Lab fellows met with local residents to listen to their first-hand recollections of their experience before, during, and after the storm and came away with a deeper understanding of the recovery process. Professor Soyeon Cho of Human Services noted how she was “able to look at the community not as a professor who teaches Human Services classes, but a person who is trying to examine the needs to provide actual help.” Meeting with hurricane survivors was dramatic, evoking Walt Whitman’s lines in Leaves of Grass “what is that you express in your eyes? It seems to me more than all the print I have read in my life,” a poetic statement that highlights the disjuncture between direct experience and experience mediated through media. The visit to Sheephead Bay was a perfect opportunity for faculty to directly engage a variety of issues that arise when one develops academic service learning projects for students, including methods to identify needs, assess situations, and the importance of one-to-one communication. Third-year fellows have initiated numerous academic service learning projects to foster student involvement in diverse communities to achieve lifelong impact. Professor Aida Egues of Nursing has noted how the “Living Lab has been the most incredible opportunity and platform for educators wanting to offer students altruistic, creative, and meaningful experiences through high-impact practices suited for developing the leaders of the future. ” In Professor Jason Montgomery’s Building Technology course for the Department of Architectural Technology, students have the opportunity to study the effects of Hurricane Sandy. One assignment requires students to redesign a storm-damaged brownstone in Red Hook, Brooklyn. Professor Jill Bouratoglou, also of Architectural Technology, assigns design projects for commercial and residential use in her Architectural Design class. As part of the design process, her student teams are required to visit and research their target communities. Each group reflects on and submits components of their research and design steps on the class website on the OpenLab, City Tech’s new online platform.

Professor Soyeon Cho strives to combine course objectives with a model of academic service learning in “Introduction to Human Services” for the Department of Human Services. She proposes using a semester-long project in which students identify a community and an active agency within it for a series of research papers, and reflective writing. Student teams are required to interview an agency and to create a means to survey clients in order to assess the agency’s impact. The collaborative student work promotes the practice of formal assessments, writing research reports that demonstrate the application of learned theories, enhanced personal observations, and peer evaluations.

This year in the Nursing Department, two Living Lab fellows Professors Aida Egues and Elaine Leinung, have enlisted other faculty members in their department, including Professor Lisette Santiseban, to help launch a service learning component for all students enrolled in the “Community Health Nursing” course. Full-time and part-time faculty will work with students on projects that meet course objectives while addressing health disparities in vulnerable populations throughout New York City. Collaborating in teams, students will perform comprehensive community assessments, and document their experiences on the OpenLab, posting self-reflections of meeting clinical objectives as part of their ePortfolios. Students will engage community partners through educational sessions, health assessments and fairs, media and political support initiatives, outreach, and training.

Other Living Lab fellows have explored the potential for applying the service learning model to communities within City Tech. Professor Andrew Parker of the Mathematics Department proposes including a service learning project in an introductory course for Math Education majors. Future math teachers would be paired with students in remedial math classes and required to create lesson plans. The transformative process of learning how to teach students of varying needs will be documented in a reflective paper. The project gives student teachers direct experience with pedagogical methodologies as well as engagement with the broader City Tech community.

Living Lab fellows have taken advantage of the interactive abilities of the OpenLab since it went live two years ago. With the capability to reach wider audiences than conventional learning management systems, the OpenLab increases the possibilities of student interaction with fellow students, faculty, and the greater community. At last count, the OpenLab boasted over 7,000 users, who have filled the site with stunning student portfolios, class websites, and virtual spaces for a diverse range of university groups. The OpenLab is a vibrant online community that has given students more access to each other and to professors than ever before. Promoting open access, many OpenLab courses are public and therefore visible to anyone with access to the internet allowing those in the “real world” to see what’s happening at City Tech. The next group of cohorts will focus on the role of general education in capstone courses and the development of internship opportunities. A university-wide dissemination event took place on September 27th. Applications are due November 7, 2013. Come join us!

The above post is published in Nucleus, the Faculty Commons quarterly publication.

Anne Leonard: The Brooklyn Waterfront and Experiments in Place-based Learning

Professors Anne Leonard and Zoya Vinokur on the Brooklyn waterfront

Professors Anne Leonard and Zoya Vinokur on the Brooklyn waterfront

Helping faculty envision using the Brooklyn waterfront as a teaching space in their classes is not easy when faculty members hail from disciplines as diverse as Architectural Technology, Nursing, and Philosophy. Professor Anne Leonard of City Tech’s Library has harnessed a creative mix of educational tools for faculty in the Place-based Learning Toolkit on the OpenLab, which provides ideas to enhance student learning and to encourage student research, including role-playing and mapping projects. Firmly committed to a pedagogy centered around place, Professor Leonard has led cohorts of Living Lab Fellows on explorations of the Brooklyn waterfront, helping faculty identify potential projects for their courses.

A strong supporter of open access, Professor Leonard’s teaches a writing-intensive course, “Research and Information of the Digital Age,” that lets students study the cultural, economic, and political context of media, including important issues such as fair use. Students work individually and in groups, and submit assignments and reflective writing pieces on the class website on the OpenLab. Professor Leonard also collaborates closely with the Brooklyn Waterfront Research Center.

Explore the place-based learning toolkit here.

Paul King: The Field Trip as Architectural Scavenger Hunt

Professor Paul King teaching on the Brooklyn Waterfront

Professor Paul King teaching on the Brooklyn Waterfront

Professor Paul King heads a unique learning community comprised of two classes, ARCH 1200 Architectural Drawing II and ARCH 1290 Architectural CADD, both taught by him. Using the learning community framework to combine the two classes offers increased one-on-one contact hours between professor and students, and it allows for greater flexibility with lessons. Both courses share a common class website on the OpenLab that links to team pages for group projects. Professor King applies numerous innovative pedagogical strategies to his courses, including a motivating field trip early in the semester that allows students to apply practical, disciplinary knowledge as well as become better acquainted with their teammates.

A field trip to the nearby Brooklyn waterfront launches a two-part assignment for which students are assessed for individual work and a group presentation. Professor King uses a detailed worksheet to transform a field trip to Brooklyn Bridge Park into a site visit. Students are asked to present a preliminary subject for an individual case-study that they continue working on during the semester. Working in teams, students prepare slideshow presentations that present team members and documentation of architectural structures related to “movement,” “expansion joints,” “points of failure,” “retrofits,” and things that need improvement in design. The early field trip enhances class objectives by encouraging students to discover and apply architectural concepts in real settings. Moreover, the class outing creates an opportunity for students to interact beyond classroom walls to foster group dynamics.

Click here to see a final Powerpoint presentation of the Brooklyn Bridge Park site visit by a student team.

Sean Scanlan: Shared Reading across the Professions

Who's reading the New York Times?

Who’s reading the New York Times?

Recently, Professor Sean Scanlan’s ENG 1101 English Composition class participated in a learning community with two courses in the Hospitality department (Perspectives of Hospitality Management-HGMT 1101 taught by Professor Karen Goodlad and Food and Beverage Management-HGMT 1102 by Professor John Akana).  The learning community shared readings, shared their experience of the Brooklyn waterfront, and even shared a meal in CityTech’s Janet Leffler Dining Room. This ambitious endeavor helped create a unified experience for first-year students and linked the three classes on the OpenLab. A common goal for all was to raise student awareness of the connections between different courses, in essence, one of the critical aims of General Education. But how does one assess Gen Ed in the classroom? within the curriculum? across the college? Assessment begins by asking the right questions, and asking the right questions begins by opening the discourse on Gen Ed to students and faculty. Professor Scanlan starts the dialogue in his classroom and on the class website, on which he dedicates a section to Gen Ed, beginning with a question “Is English 1101 a General Education course?” As Professor Scanlan notes, ENG 1101’s emphasis on reading, writing, and critical thinking makes the course fall firmly within the broad parameters of Gen Ed.  Moreover, Professor Scanlan raises important questions on the impact of our digital age on General Education and to this end, he posts an amusing video “The Machine is Us/ing Us” for us to reflect on.