Open Pedagogy Event (Th 2/22): Accessibility in Open Digital Pedagogy

Art installation of small piles of different colored sand on a table.
Image Source: Bruno Cordioli

Thursday, February 22, 2018, 5:30-7:30pm (Faculty Commons, N227)

*Refreshments will be served. (Thanks to the Faculty Commons for its generous support of this event!)

*Part-time City Tech faculty are eligible to receive a stipend for participation.

*Please RSVP by commenting on this post. Please share this invitation with your colleagues at City Tech and beyond!

Join the OpenLab Team, City Tech faculty and staff, and CUNY colleagues at our next Open Pedagogy event, where we’ll be discussing accessibility in open digital pedagogy. This is a follow-up event to Accessibility, Disability, and Open Digital Pedagogy held in Fall 2015 and we’re excited to extend the conversation about how designing the college experience with accessibility in mind benefits our communities. We’ll learn from one another about how standards and accommodations vary across the disciplines. Our discussion will focus on universal design and how it can be incorporated into our pedagogy, mentorship, and administrative work on campus and beyond.

We’ll consider the following questions:

  • What is universal design, and how does foregrounding it help to address accessibility without tokenizing or stigmatizing disability?
  • How does reframing accessibility as an ethical and pedagogical imperative open up new possibilities for universal design?
  • What are the disciplinary challenges and pedagogical benefits of universal design?
  • What opportunities does digital pedagogy offer for universal design and accessibility efforts?

Suggested Readings:

OpenLab Help Documentation on Accessibility:

Join us for an accessibility-athon!

This event will have a follow-up workshop, where we’ll teach and implement practical strategies for making your OpenLab sites and content accessible. Stay tuned for more details!

A word map highlighting the different aspects of universal design.
Image Source: Giulia Forsythe

Recap: Teaching and Learning with Annotation

A annotated google map of downtown Brooklyn
Screenshot of Map-Annotation Activity by Professor Rosen’s class.

On Thursday October 26, 2017, a group of faculty and staff from City Tech and across CUNY sat down for a discussion of Teaching and Learning with Annotation. This conversation intentionally built upon an earlier Open Pedagogy event entitled “Annotating Texts in Open Digital Pedagogy” held in February 2017. Whereas the initial event was an introduction to annotation in open digital pedagogy, this follow-up event narrowed in on how to increase engagement with the resources we build and share on the OpenLab.

The evening began with an interactive activity that asked participants to co-annotate an image of a painting displayed on a screen at the front of the room. Specifically, participants were asked to write their annotations on post-it notes and stick them to the digital version of the text at the front of the room. In reflecting on the experience, the conversation gravitated to thinking about close reading as a teaching and learning strategy that allowed students to reflect on intricacies of the image they may otherwise have missed. Extrapolating from this activity, participants shared examples of how they had or might apply a similar strategy to other media in their courses, including films, poems, and photography. In general, this strategy helps students move from the general to the specific – and with texts specifically, it is useful in having students find quotes that can back up their claims and assumptions about what the text is aiming to convey.

In summing up this initial conversation, Senior Digital Pedagogy Fellow Andy McKinney framed annotation as evidence of the learning process – highlighting how our initial questions and points of inquiry can take us deeper into texts of multiple mediums. However, what happens to these layers of the learning process over time – do they just sit in closed books on the shelves of our personal libraries or jotted down on printed pdfs that are ultimately discarded or recycled? Relatedly, how can annotation in open digital environments like the OpenLab give a longer or more meaningful life to our annotations? Can annotations take on a collective nature? Annotating in open digital environments may resolve some of these issues.

From there, Andy took the group through some existing tools for and examples of annotating in digital environments. In particular, we looked at a co-annotated mapping activity Professor and OpenLab Co-Director Jody Rosen asked her students to participate in and how other professors have used the stand-alone applications like Genius, SoundCloud and Social Paper or WordPress based applications like CommentPress to have students comment on written and audio texts. Moreover, we discussed how some of these tools, particularly the text-based applications, can be useful for processes of peer review as well. However, these standalone applications can be tricky. What about the ethics of the closed, proprietary sites, which may be at odds with the values underpinning your pedagogy or scholarship? Or the reality that projects like Genius may be abandoned or morphed towards other ends over time, which may mean your content and annotations may become lost or inaccessible? How do issues of fair use factor into the use of these platforms?

The third portion of the evening was dedicated to introducing participants to a newly available application on the OpenLab, is a open-source, web-based annotation tool that allows for annotation of pdfs, posts and pages. It allows for annotation in public- or private-based web settings, and allows users to embed links and videos in the annotation, creating a multi-media, co-annotating experience. can be used through adding a Chrome extension, or as a plugin on WordPress-based sites, including sites on the OpenLab! The plug-in feature of this tool is a particular draw for us because it doesn’t ask students to do anything technical on their end; instead faculty need only activate the plug-in on the site and voila, the site is open for annotation!

Curious to learn more about using in your course? Join us for a hands-on workshop titled Annotating Text on the OpenLab, on Thursday 11/2 from 2:30-4:00pm in Room G604 (RSVP). We hope to see you there!

As always, thank you to everyone who was able to join us for this event, and for your contributions to the conversation! And thank you to the Faculty Commons for your generous support of this event. This is our final Open Pedagogy event of the Fall, but we will be back in the spring with more discussions of open digital pedagogy! Stay tuned!

Open Pedagogy Event (Th 10/26): Teaching and Learning with Annotation

An abstract image of stacked blocks.
Image Source: MANYBITS

Thursday, October 26, 2017, 5:30-7:30pm (Faculty Commons, N227)

*Refreshments will be served. (Thanks to the Faculty Commons for its generous support of this event!) 

*Part-time City Tech faculty are eligible to receive a stipend for participation.

*Please RSVP by commenting on this post. Please share this invitation with your colleagues!

Join the OpenLab Team, City Tech faculty and staff, and CUNY colleagues at our next Open Pedagogy event, where we’ll be discussing teaching and learning with annotation. This event is a follow-up to our Spring 2017 Open Pedagogy event on annotating texts in open digital pedagogy, and we’re excited to continue the conversation about how annotating digital texts can impact student learning and the teaching process. Our discussion will focus on how to increase engagement with the resources we build and share on the OpenLab. We’ll cover rationales and strategies for annotation, how its process and impact changes when moving from analog to digital annotation tools, and how it can foster collaboration.

This is a follow-up event to Annotating Texts in Open Digital Pedagogy, held in February 2017. Read the Recap here.

This event has a follow-up workshop, Annotating Text on the OpenLab, where we’ll teach you, among other things, how to use the plugin. This workshop will be held on Thursday 11/2 from 2:30-4:00pm in Rm G604 (RSVP).

We’ll Consider the following questions:

  • How can the use of digital annotation tools change the teaching and learning process?
  • How can we use annotation to increase engagement with the resources we build and share on the OpenLab?
  • What are some of the challenges of annotating different media, and what are creative solutions for these cases?
  • How does working individually, publicly, and socially change the way we view annotation and its functions?

Suggested Readings:

Recap: A Conversation about New Possibilities for Teaching, Learning, and Collaborating at BMCC

An image of two intersecting circles with a nucleus in the middle.
Image Source: NASA/JPL-Caltech/ESA, the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)

On the morning of Friday October 13th, and in anticipation of experimenting with an open digital learning platform in Spring 2018, BMCC faculty from the Media Arts & Technology Department (all but one) hosted members of the OpenLab Community Team for a rich discussion of open digital pedagogy on the OpenLab.

We opened the session with a freewrite and discussion of the values that underpin our pedagogy, the strategies we deploy to implement those values, and the challenges we face in doing so. During the share back portion, the discussion was wide-ranging. Faculty discussed values, strategies, and challenges related to a holistic type of learning that valued not only learning course material, but having a sense of creativity and vitality for learning, and viewing learning in relation to the maturation of students more generally. Faculty also discussed their desires around learning as a classroom community, and building a culture of respect, reciprocity and shared growth among the students. There was also a realization of the challenges presented by the realities of student’s lives (i.e. other demands on time such as work, friends, family; access to software; long commute times) which sometimes impedes our ability to achieve these goals. You can view the full list here, and if you’re like me, you will find yourself nodding your head as you read through the list, seeing many of them embedded in your own pedagogy, whether you previously recognized them there or not.

Ultimately, this conversation was a primer for thinking about how the OpenLab resolved some of these issues at City Tech, and how a similar open digital platform might do the same at BMCC. From striving for 1000 members in its pilot year, to facilitating a community of 23,000 users in its 6th year, the OpenLab has become another place for teaching, learning and community building at the tight, commuter school. As we discussed, in part this can be attributed to the ‘open’ aspect of the OpenLab, which expands the possibilities for both students and faculty along the lines outlined in the table below. Another important factor is the networked aspect of this open community – that through the OpenLab’s homepage, one can peruse (and in some cases, join!) the various courses, clubs and projects taking place at City Tech – and learn more about the members and groups who comprise the community.

Opening Student Experiences at City Tech Open Faculty: Teaching, Research, &  Service
o Supports student learning in Gen Ed core competencies and high impact practices

o Bridges experiential and classroom learning

o Builds student proficiency with digital media, transferrable skills

o Offers professionalization opportunities

o Provides space to network, collaborate, and socialize around shared interests

o Fosters and showcases innovative and engaging pedagogies

o Enables sharing of best practices

o Supports interdisciplinary approaches

o Promotes community and collaboration

Together, this strengthens the college community by providing a space for students, faculty, and staff to interact, supports and enhances major college-wide initiatives and other grant-funded projects, and makes the work of the college more visible & accessible.

This introduction to the OpenLab was followed by a more practical conversation about how we have strived to achieve this – for example, through the different digital tools we use (WordPress and BuddyPress), how we have designed our homepage to showcase recent activity, and what kinds sites one can build on the OpenLab (courses, clubs, ePortfolios and projects). In addition, we shared examples of how various community members are growing the possibilities of the OpenLab, through assignment and classroom activity creation, ePortfolio construction and the integration with external sites, and finding novel ways of sharing across classrooms, departments and sub-fields. In many cases, as came up in our conversation again and again, this growth in use is really the result of the built-in flexibility of the platform, the creativity of our members, their sense of ownership over their content, and their ability to share, borrow and remix from one another quickly and easily in an open, centralized environment.

For examples of the type of innovation taking place on the OpenLab, we encourage you to check out our ‘In the Spotlight’ blog series, where we highlight one site per week, and The Buzz, which showcases the work of our student bloggers. Lastly, if you’re looking share and view assignments or tips related to open digital pedagogy, check out the L4 Library and Open Pedagogy on the OpenLab!

We look forward to continuing to support our peers at BMCC as they adopt and adapt a similar open digital learning platform over the next year, and we look forward to the possible for synergies going forward!

Recap: Copyright and Attribution in Open Digital Pedagogy

On the eve of Thursday September 28th, faculty, staff and graduate students from across CUNY gathered in City Tech’s Faculty Commons (N227) to discuss Copyright and Attribution on the OpenLab and other open digital platforms. Joining a growing group of scholars, our sense is that open digital environments are challenging long-standing notions of copyright and attribution, but in what ways, to what ends, and how are scholars and students thinking about and navigating these shifts in meaning and practice? This first Open Pedagogy event of the semester was organized around digging into these questions.

We began the evening by continuing a past Twitter conversation started by Hybrid Pedagogy. Using the hashtag #digped, “Plagarism Undone” highlights the complexities – new and old – of copyright and attribution, with attention to how technological developments have stretched and remixed long-standing interpretations of copyright, and what this means for scholars with regards to their own research AND pedagogy. In continuing this conversation, we carried out an analog, embodied twitter-like conversation where event participants wrote down tweet-like phrases on post-it notes and stuck them to the wall. We used the questions below as prompts for this activity. After an initial ‘posting’, participants reviewed others’ posts, taking some back to their seats to respond to with a second post-it note.

When creating and sharing content for research and pedagogy, how do you think about ownership and citation?

How was working on the OpenLab (or other open digital platforms) changed your ideas about authorship and remixing?

We plan to share these ‘tweets’ publicly via the OpenLab Twitter account (more info forthcoming!), however, for the evening, these ‘tweets’ worked to get the conversation going. Among these initial openings and throughout the evening, participants raised questions about: balancing openness and sharing with authorship and attribution and what the tipping point is between wanting to share and wanting to get recognition and compensation for your work; about whether and in what ways pedagogical materials are also scholarship and what responsible sharing and remixing looks like; and how we might begin to cultivate a culture of sharing and attribution with colleagues and students on the OpenLab and beyond.

Event attendees begin our conversation about Copyright and Attribution by reviewing and contributing to our analog 'Twitter feed'.
Event attendees begin our conversation about Copyright and Attribution by reviewing and contributing to our analog ‘Twitter feed’. (Image Source: Kristen Hackett)

In addition to these open-ended questions, the event, with the help of librarian, professor and guest speaker Nora Almeida, also addressed some practical challenges. Below we’ve included these questions with some of the responses and resources that were mentioned during the event.

What are my options with respect to copyright?

In addition to traditional copyright – which reserves all rights of use for the creator – you can look into Creative Commons licensing, which provide multiple options for sharing and licensing your work. The OpenLab uses a version of Creative Commons, as does all content on the OpenLab unless otherwise specified.

How can I respect the copyright preferences of others?

First you should check the licensing on the work. If you don’t seen any copyright information, it is usually safe to assume they are using a traditional copyright license, which automatically applies to original work by default. The use of others’ photos and images was a particular point of interest. The OpenLab has some tips here.

What are some strategies others have used to discuss copyright and attribution with their students?

Talking about copyright and attribution with students often takes the form of a cautionary conversation about plagiarism, however, there may be more productive ways of having this conversation. For example, in open digital environments like the OpenLab, students too are putting their intellectual property out there. How would they feel if someone used their work as their own? What if that person made money off it or benefitted in some other way? You might also consider having students reflect on some recent interesting copyright cases such as the nature photographer who is claiming selfies taken by monkeys as his own or the artist who is profiting off of others Instagram photos.

We hope this recap sparks your thinking around copyright and attribution and we encourage you to chime in here with questions and comments and keep this conversation going.

In addition, we encourage you to attend our related workshop on Thursday October 5th from 2:30-4:00pm in room G604. RSVP here!

In preparation for the workshop, or to learn more about this topic, visit our event posting for a list of short, relevant readings.

Lastly, our next Open Pedagogy event will be on Thursday October 26th from 5:30-7:00pm in the Faculty Commons (N227). This event, titled Teaching and Learning with Annotation, is a ‘Part 2’, building on an event on Annotating Texts in Open Digital Pedagogy held in February 2016. Refreshments and snacks will be provided, and part-time faculty will receive a stipend for attending. This event will also have a related workshop – more information here.

Event attendees stretch their legs and minds at a recent Open Pedagogy event engaging in an analog Twitter activity around Copyright and Attribution in Open Digital Pedagogy.
Event attendees stretch their legs and minds at a recent Open Pedagogy event engaging in an analog Twitter activity around Copyright and Attribution in Open Digital Pedagogy. (Image Source: Kristen Hackett)

Open Pedagogy Event (Th 9/28): Copyright & Attribution in Open Digital Pedagogy

Join us on Thursday September 28, 2017, 5:30-7:00pm (Faculty Commons, N227) for a discussion of Copyright and Attribution in Open Digital Pedagogy!

*Refreshments will be served. (Thanks to the Provost’s Office for its generous support of this event!)

*Part-time faculty are eligible to receive a stipend for participation.

*Please RSVP by commenting on this post. Please share this invitation with your colleagues!

An inverted logo of the traditional copyright symbol with the test "Sharing it defends creation" below it in Spanish.
Translation: “Sharing it defends creation.” Image Source: Lourdes Muñoz Santamaria

Join the OpenLab Team, City Tech faculty and staff, and CUNY colleagues at our next Open Pedagogy event, where we’ll be discussing copyright and attribution in open digital pedagogy. Working with and amongst our students and colleagues via digital pedagogy raises exciting possibilities for sharing, remixing and evolving the pedagogical work of the university. In addition, it raises important questions about intellectual property, scholarship, pedagogy, and the nature of digital communication. During this event, we’ll have a discussion about how to best cultivate an ethic of sharing and reuse while creating a community around attribution.

Our conversation will be guided by the following questions:

  • What is a Creative Commons license and how does it differ from traditional copyright?
  • What are the ethics of sharing and using the materials we produce as a community of scholars and educators?
  • What does Creative Commons and open licensing mean for our pedagogical practices?
  • How do we communicate to our students that their work is also intellectual property, to which the ethics of copyright, attribution and sharing apply?

Want to learn more about copyright and attribution in ODP? Here are a few short pieces for reference:

A Greek-inspired battle scene between 'corporate capitalism' and the 'public domain' and 'free culture' with the text, The Battle of Copyright underneath.
Image Source: Christopher Dombres

Open publishing/pedagogy Event at Hunter Monday April 24th, 4pm

ACERT, Hunter’s Center for Teaching and Learning, is pleased to host three CUNY colleagues whose work embodies the spirit of openness in scholarship and teaching. “Open” is a multivalent and emerging concept in scholarship and teaching. Openness, in this sense might point to: authors’ protection of readers’ right to share work via a Creative Commons license; Web 2.0 affordances that invite readers to comment or annotate critical texts; teachers’ creation of free course materials to replace expensive textbooks and thus make education more accessible for economically burdened students.

Our three speakers engage this broad topic in distinct but overlapping ways:

  • Shelly Eversley (English & Women’s Studies, Baruch College) is co-founder of Equality Archive, a free/open, peer-reviewed encyclopedic resource on the history of sex and gender equality in the United States. For a fuller introduction to this inspiring “digital theater for history and social justice,” see Shelly’s video.
  • Matthew K. Gold (English &  Digital Humanities, CUNY GC) will talk about Manifold Scholarship, a Mellon-funded collaboration the University of Minnesota Press in partnership with the GC Digital Scholarship Lab at the CUNY GC and Cast Iron Coding. Manifold is an intuitive, collaborative, open-source platform for scholarly works that seeks to transform scholarly publications into living digital works. For more on Manifold, check out the beta version of the platform and see this introduction by Matt and his co-principal investigator, Doug Armato.
  • Michael Smith (Communications Technology, York College) is a web artist and open education advocate who will talk about his collaborations with cultural institutions, like the Tate Museum and the New York Public Library. In these collaborations, Michael has produced GIF animations from art objects and archival images that, in his words, are “unique recreations and reinterpretations” that “make pre-existing art more accessible to the public.” For more of Michael’s antic and thought-provoking work, see his blog.

Open to the CUNY community. Wine and cheese reception to follow.

When: Monday, April 24th, 4-6 p.m.

Where: Chanin Insdorf Screening Room (Hunter West, B126)

Please RSVP here.


Recap: Multimedia Pedagogy Across the Disciplines

A cartoon of 3 bird sitting on power lines with one holding a camera, one holding a video camera, and one with headphones on.
Image Source: James Nash

On Thursday March 23 we convened with faculty and staff from City Tech and across CUNY to discuss “Multimedia Pedagogy Across the Disciplines”. This conversation focused on a broad conception of multimedia that spanned the digital and material, the textual and textured – and the remixing across these perceived boundaries. Though a challenging approach, we were committed to using a definition of multimedia that reflected the diversity of mediums that our college of technology engages – from images, sound and video to materials used for physical construction, 3-D printing and makerspaces.

With this in mind, we began the evening’s conversation with two questions:

  1. What does “multimedia” mean in your discipline?
  2. What does it mean to “compose” or “make” in your discipline.

In the process of discussing a variety of mediums and approaches to composition, which ranged from stories, images, tables and maps, to dental x-rays and cavity fillings, we also discussed data and its relationship to multimedia representation. In the social sciences, multimedia representations of data might be used to construct an argument or compel a reader to engage with one’s argument, whereas in dental hygiene these representations of data might be used to explain to a patient the state of their dental health. In government, one attendant discussed the importance of multimedia representations of data in deciphering truth and fact from lies, especially in this political climate.

Next, Andy Mckinney of the OpenLab team, shared some interesting examples of how different courses were engaging multimedia pedagogy in their courses. These examples, listed below, show the range of how multimedia pedagogy can manifest – from curating, archiving and preserving digital or content, to promoting and sharing a digitized representation of a material project.

  • Center for Performative Design and Engineering Technology: This Center uses the OL to introduce the City Tech community to their not-yet-built building. OL and multimedia technologies enable the Center to show themselves to the world before they are in the physical world, and moreover, to share a number of resources – modules and tutorials – with the community.
  • Fuse Lab: Though the project ended in 2015, their OL site operates as a multimedia archive that preserves the work of the NSF grant funded project indefinitely, and allows it to continue to share its range of resources with a larger community.
  • Roboquin: This project site also operates as an archive, housing both the plans for design and construction and travels of their roboquin, properly named RoboQueen. For example, below is a video of RoboQueen at the World Maker Faire.
  • Serious Change through Play: This site highlights the work of their Community Diversity Workshops wherein they ask students to use legos to rethink their relationship to the City Tech community and its expansive diversity while building strategies for communicating across these interconnected communities. Learn more about their play-centered approach in their Nucleus article.
  • Being in Brooklyn: This 3-year-old course site is a great example of a student-generated multimedia project (incorporating maps, video, audio, images and text) that both engaged students in re-presenting the material environment through digital technologies and (thus) has a lasting public presence.
  • Laser Harp Journal: A part of a student’s ePortfolio, this blog entry documents the student’s physical construction and testing of a harp that elicits sound through the use of layers. Not only is her documentation on the OL multimedia, but the actual harp required wood, metal, electronics and a computer hook-up, and LASERS.

Phil Kreniske, also of the OpenLab, also highlighted the work of members of our student blogging team on The Buzz. All of these students use at least a combination of images and text in their weekly posts. Phil used this as a segway into discussing the importance of understanding the multimedia forms of communication students use with one another in both formal and informal spaces today, and the significance of trying to find ways of incorporating this understanding into our classes and assignments. He himself has aimed to accomplish this through a “Scavenger Hunt” activity wherein he asks his psychology students to take and reflect on photos that represent an important concept discussed in class.

We finished the evening off with an example of where we hope multimedia pedagogy can go at City Tech in the future – and where it IS going in the next few months on another CUNY Campus. Baruch’s VOCAT platform, shared by Craig Stone of the Center for Teaching and Learning at the college, is a tool that allows students and faculty to SHARE AND ANNOTATE images and video. Initially conceptualized as a way to help students build presentation skills by reviewing and marking-up videos of themselves presenting, the platform today is expanding to allow for a wide-variety of multimedia assignments, uploads and annotations.

Thank you to all who were able to join us for this conversation! For those who couldn’t, we hope this post brings you into the discussion – at least partially. Moreover, we’d like to direct your attention to a set of articles for further reading, found at the bottom of the initial event post. Lastly, we encourage everyone to continue this conversation here on this blog and during future events.

This was our final Open Pedagogy event of the semester, but we encourage you to continue the conversation about this event or Open Pedagogy more broadly by joining and engaging with us through our OpenLab site, Open Pedagogy on the OpenLab.

Open Pedagogy Event (Th 3/23): Multimedia Pedagogy Across the Disciplines

Join us on Thursday March 23, 2017, 5:30-7:00pm (Faculty Commons, N227) for a discussion of Multimedia Pedagogy Across the Disciplines

*Refreshments will be served. (Thanks to the Faculty Commons for its generous support of this event!)

*Part-time City Tech faculty are eligible to receive a stipend for participation.

*Please RSVP by commenting on this post. Please share this invitation with your colleagues!

An abstract image of a sunflower over a blue background.
Image Source: CC0 Public Domain

Join the OpenLab Team, City Tech faculty and staff, and CUNY colleagues at our next Open Pedagogy event where we’ll be discussing the use of multimedia in open digital pedagogy. Although a large part of teaching and learning online is based in text, open digital pedagogy enables a multitude of multimedia possibilities. Capitalizing on the fact that we are a college of technology, we will utilize an expanded notion of multimedia, broadening the concept to include not just images, sound, and video but also materials used for physical construction, 3-D printing, and makerspaces, in order to showcase and brainstorm new and exciting uses of open digital pedagogy techniques beyond blogging and other types of writing assignments.  

Our conversation will be guided by the following questions:

  • How can multimedia enhance student learning? How can they impact the teaching process?
  • What challenges have you/faculty encountered while working with multimedia?
  • How can you (and your students) use the OpenLab (and/or other open digital tools) to incorporate multimedia into your course?

Want to learn more about multimedia texts in open digital pedagogy? Here are a few short pieces for reference:

Recap: Annotating Texts in Open Digital Pedagogy

An open book with highlights and annotations.
Image Source: Jose Camões Silva

On the evening of Thursday February 23 we gathered with faculty and staff from around City Tech and across CUNY to discuss “Annotating Texts in Open Digital Pedagogy”. Due to the expanding repertoire of digital technologies and the rising costs of textbooks, there is pressure to use digital texts in classrooms. However, an important question for many educators is whether students can and do engage with digital texts in the same way they can and do with analog texts. This Open Pedagogy event aimed to discuss the challenges and opportunities of annotation with digital texts.

Our evening began with the collective reading of “Marginalia”, a poem by Billy Collins (1941) about the plethora of experiences and interactions that take place in and around the margins of texts. This text was used as the basis of a think, pair, share exercise that asked participants first to independently annotate the analog text, and then to collectively reflect on the facility of and approach to annotating texts with the group. Some of the main points discussed were about the intention of annotation – for whom, by whom, in relation to whom, how our relationships, interpretations and annotations of a texts can change over time, and how skillful annotation can offer a reader a sense of ownership and agency relative to the text and in relation to reading and learning more broadly. Towards the end of this conversation, a faculty member from John Jay asked the group if “anyone [had] heard of Hypothesis”. As OpenLab’s own Phil Kreniske noted – this was a, “good segway” into our conversation about digital texts, which would focus on the digital annotation tool for much of the remainder to the evening.

Monica Berger, Instruction and Reference Librarian of the Ursula C. Schwerin Library and a member of the committee that supports City Tech OER Fellows started us off with an overview of Hypothesis. As Monica began to show us, Hypothesis is a digital tool that allows for individual or collective annotation of a digital text – whether a website or PDF. Monica highlighted the web version of Hypothesis, but also clarified that Hypothesis is available as a Plugin through some WordPress platforms – including City Tech’s OpenLab.

Anke Geerstman, a PhD Candidate in the Comparative Literature Program at the CUNY Graduate Center, fellow at the Teaching and Learning Center (also at GC) and Instructor at Baruch College (CUNY) followed Monica’s introduction with a nuanced conversation about social reading as a pedagogical practice and examples of using Hypothesis with her hybrid course via a course site hosted on Blog@Baruch. Anke demonstrated how she had used Hypothesis to have students collectively annotate and highlight text and to provide students with close edits and feedback on posted writing assignments. Students also used Hypothesis on their own to sign up for class presentations on Greek Theatre. Ultimately, Hypothesis and other digital annotation tools introduce an(other) opportunity to socialize and collectivize the annotation – and more broadly, learning – process.

While we looked at the course site live together, the conversation shifted to thinking about annotation as a skill, and one that hinges on another skill, close reading. There was consensus that while using digital annotation tools has interesting opportunities for online social annotation, there is a learning curve and a need for scaffolding. Our conversation highlights a few things to consider in this process:

  1. Independent and collective reflection on close reading and annotation of an analog piece can facilitate a grounded, focused conversation on the practice of annotation.
  2. When you begin to work with the digital annotation tool, support students in exercising different approaches to annotation and close reading with guiding questions and tips.
  3. Annotation is a hierarchy of summarizing, analyzing and synthesizing; these can also be scaffolded into assignments and exercises throughout the semester.

Another important point, and counterpoint to the social aspect of digital annotation was the consideration of annotation as a personal and reflective activity. Being intentional about what you want students to get out of the activities matters, and should dictate whether you do the assignment digitally or not. That said, Anke pointed out that Hypothesis does have privacy settings, and other digital annotation tools offer varying degrees of privacy as well.

Overall the conversation was very generative, and we ran out of time to even begin the final portion of the event, wherein OpenLab’s own Andy McKinney was going to give the group an overview of a sampling of digital annotation tools. We hope to be able to cover these in future workshops, particularly given the interest in digital annotation and social reading expressed last night.

Thank you to all who were able to join us for this conversation! For those who couldn’t, we hope this post brings you into the discussion – at least partially. Moreover, we’d like to direct your attention to a set of articles for further reading, found at the bottom of the initial event post. Lastly, we encourage everyone to continue this conversation here on this blog and during future events.

Our NEXT OPEN PEDAGOGY EVENT is in one month, on THURSDAY MARCH 23RD in the Faculty Commons (N227) from 5:30pm – 7:00pm. That evening we will discuss “MULTIMEDIA IN OPEN DIGITAL PEDAGOGY”. We hope you can join us!

Light refreshments will be served and part-time City Tech faculty receive a stipend for attending. RSVP coming soon. 

In the meantime, we encourage you to join Open Pedagogy on the OpenLab by visiting our course profile and check out the materials and discussions taking place on the site!