Pedagogy Profile: Professor Masato Nakamura

Headshot of Professor Nakamura. This month we’re profiling Professor Masato Nakamura, an Assistant Professor and BTech Coordinator in the departments of Mechanical Engineering Technology and Industrial Design Technology. Professor Nakamura  joined the City Tech community in August 2011.

How were you introduced the platform and when/how did you begin actively using the platform to support your pedagogy?

When I started teaching courses in the programs of Mechanical Engineering Technology and Industrial Design Technology in Fall 2011, I was looking for a platform that had an interactive online communication capability, as well as a simple process for uploading information, such as posting announcements, exercises, and homework assignments. Especially, I was looking for a platform that was publicly available, but there wasn’t much between twitter and a website.

OpenLab is very “open“ for any students who want access to the course information using computers at home, smart phones during their commute from home to campus, and their internship site, as well as during lectures in a classroom. Since almost all students in MECH and IND programs are involved in computer lab projects, OpenLab was a good fit.

Why did you decide to start using the OpenLab?

The OpenLab is a web-based platform that offers students easy access to info from computers, smartphones or any other tablet without any access restrictions. Also as an educator, it allows me to seamlessly share contents that I wrote on a whiteboard into a course page on the OpenLab. Unlike other Learning Management Systems (LMS) such as Blackboard LMS, the Openlab is user friendly, even for new students who don’t have a login account yet, which is important for class management as a lecturer.  

Can you describe the ways you have integrated the OpenLab into your pedagogical practices?

Students love posting something to instagram, facebook, twitter, blogs, or other messaging systems to communicate with friends and family. In the beginning of the class, I usually post a small question such as “What’s new today?”, “How was the last homework?”, “Did you find any interesting engineering technology news/topics this week?” While taking attendance, I ask students to post their comments. This is a useful way of reminding them with a signal or action that we got together today, here in the classroom, to study mechanical engineering technology and the ways it connects to the industry and real world.

This complements lectures which usually include very narrow topics, and sometimes prompt students ask: “Why we study this topic?” and “How is it connected to the practical?” Through the OpenLab, I communicate this with students.

How has the OpenLab transformed or expanded your pedagogy, and the pedagogical values you’re able to realize in your courses and educational practice?

Teaching engineering technology, I see some students are struggling with an exercise, while others are not, especially when we use software and computers. Each student’s progress is so different. For example, some are almost done with a task, while some are still working on earlier steps.

Differences in learning speed cannot be handled using one or two whiteboard(s) or a handout. However, the OpenLab is a system through which I can easily update content (for example the procedure of an exercise) and add more explanation.

For pedagogical practices, this is a real-time interactive update in the classroom based on an observation of students’ real-time learning processes.

Aside from courses, how does the OpenLab support your pedagogical practices and ambitions? (Note: Think broadly about public education initiatives, course coordination, non-academic student support, clubs, and projects, etc.)

For research activities, students and I are conducting research on renewable energy and environmental simulation at MECH Department’s Energy and Environmental Simulation Laboratory. We are using the OpenLab for updating research progress and enhancing lab members’ communication.

Tomorrow: “Equity, Health, and Learning: Social Determinants of Academic Success” at the Graduate Center

Earlier this semester, the OpenLab team hosted an Open Pedagogy event focused on how open digital pedagogy can support student success in gateway courses. There was a great recap of the event. There was also a linked workshop that showcased some tools on the OpenLab and some practices OpenLab members have put in place to foster student success in their courses and at City Tech.

The Futures Initiative has sent an invitation to all interested to join them for “Equity, Health, and Learning: Social Determinants of Academic Success” (details below in the invitation). This event seems like a great way to continue this conversation beyond City Tech. Added bonus: if you attended our event or workshop, or if you’ve gotten to know the OpenLab team, you’ll notice below that OpenLab digital pedagogy fellow Jesse Rice-Evans is one of the speakers at this Futures Intiative event!

Here’s the invitation:

Dear All,

Please join us on Thursday, November 1, 2018 from 12pm to 1pm at The Graduate Center (Room 9204) for a collaborative discussion that will bring together students, faculty and administrators across CUNY to discuss challenges and opportunities that students face outside of the classroom that impact their success inside of the classroom including access to transportation, healthcare, housing, and food.

Speakers will include Peggy Groce, Former Director, Office of Travel Training, District 75, New York City Department of Education, Nicholas Freudenberg, Distinguished Professor at CUNY School of Public Health, Chris Palmedo, Associate Professor of Media Marketing, & Communications at CUNY School of Public Health, and Jesse Rice-Evans, Ph.D. Student, English, The Graduate Center, CUNY.

This panel, moderated by Futures Initiative Fellows Jessica Murray and Adashima Oyo, is part of The University Worth Fighting For, a series of workshops that tie student-centered, engaged pedagogical practices to institutional change, race, equality, gender, and social justice.

This event is free. Please RSVP here, seating is limited!

You can also join us:

  • Watching the livestream at bit.ly/FuturesED-live (unedited footage will be available after the workshop for a limited time under “Recent Videos”, and we’ll post an edited version soon)
  • Following the hashtag #fight4edu and tweeting your questions/comments
  • During and after the event, adding your questions and comments to this Google Doc

Please feel free to share this invitation with your network. More details are below.

Panelist Bios

Nicholas Freudenberg is Distinguished Professor of Public Health and Social/Critical Psychology at CUNY and Director of Healthy CUNY, a university-wide initiatives that promotes health for academic success. For more than 30 years, Freudenberg has worked with community organizations, social services agencies, government and others to develop, implement and evaluate policies and programs that promote more equitable access to education and health for children and young people. Healthy CUNY’s recent report Promoting Health for Academic Success is available here. It describes how depression and anxiety, sexual and reproductive health problems, lack of access to health care and food insecurity undermine the academic success of CUNY undergraduates and how CUNY can act to assist students to overcome these issues.

Peggy Groce initiated Travel Training in the NYC Department of Education in 1970 for students with intellectual disabilities who aged out of school at 17 years of age unless they could travel independently to school. Over time, travel training instructional services were offered to students with diverse disabilities in the NYC public schools. Peggy is a strong advocate for including the teaching of disability history and the disability rights movement in our education system, especially to youth with disabilities, parents, educators, and staff of service provider agencies.

Chris Palmedo is an associate professor in the Community Health and Social Sciences department at the CUNY Graduate School of Public Health and Health Policy. He teaches courses in health communications, social marketing, and health advocacy, and conducts an online certificate program in social marketing for health offered to students all over the world.  As a Healthy CUNY Initiative faculty fellow, his research is concerned with helping improve student access to mental health and health insurance. He recently co-authored a college textbook which covers personal health in a public health context.

Jesse Rice-Evans (she/her/hers) is a queer femme rhetorician and PhD candidate at the Graduate Center researching intersections of language, disability, and digital culture. She’s the author of five books, including HONOR//SHAME, an interactive digital chapbook out from Gap Riot Press (2018), and The Uninhabitable, forthcoming from Sibling Rivalry Press in 2019. She teaches queer texts and composition at the City College of New York.

Moderated by:
Jessica Murray, Ph.D. Candidate, Developmental Psychology, The Graduate Center, CUNY
Adashima Oyo, Ph.D. Student, Social Welfare, The Graduate Center, CUNY

Recap: Remixing and Sharing in Open Digital Pedagogy

Image Credit: starsandspirals

On Thursday, October 18th, CUNY faculty and staff got together for the second of two Open Pedagogy Events planned for Fall 2018, Remixing and Sharing in Open Digital Pedagogy. This event asked: What opportunities for sharing and remixing teaching materials do open digital environments like the OpenLab present? What responsibilities do you have when you share and remix the materials of others? What responsibilities do you have when you make your materials open and available to be remixed? What responsibilities do others have toward you when they remix and reuse your materials?

City Tech faculty from English, Mathematics, Computer Systems Technology (CST), and Biology, and the library  joined us in the Faculty Commons (N227). 

A special thanks to Andy McKinney, former OpenLab Community Team member, who joined us from CUNY Central, where he has been working on scaling up OER (Open Educational Resources) initiatives CUNY-wide. A huge thank you also to Cailean Cooney, OER librarian at CityTech, who has been working with faculty to create OERs on the OpenLab. Thank you both for attending the event, sharing your insights regarding open education and the steps being taken throughout CUNY to promote a culture of responsible sharing and remixing of course materials.

It is fairly common for instructors teaching a course for the first time to begin by looking into existing educational materials that can support them in devising a syllabus, assignments, and lesson plans. Such materials can be shared peer-to-peer among colleagues, as well as consulted—to the extent that they are “open” or publicly and freely available for reuse on the internet and the OpenLab. Many instructors acknowledge that sharing and borrowing educational materials has been part of what has made them successful educators. However, many also have honest reservations about making course materials open and sharing them freely given the significant time and effort they take to create. This recognition prompted and guided the evening’s discussion.

We began with a self-reflection and discussion of: “Creating and teaching a course can be time-consuming and challenging, and sometimes instructors are hesitant to make this work (either the process or product) public. How do you [faculty]  feel about sharing your course materials and pedagogy (syllabi, assignments, lesson plans) with others? What about using someone else’s materials? What benefits are there in doing so? What reservations might you have?”  During the discussion portion, we discussed a number of non-discipline-specific benefits and drawbacks of sharing:

  1. None of us can do it alone! At some point in our careers, all of us have been asked to teach courses we have not taught before. The ability to inherit existing syllabi or consult the OpenLab and other OERs for inspiration has been crucial. Open materials makes the sharing of instructional materials a public practice and validates it as a necessary point of departure for teaching.
  2. Remixing materials makes us better instructors. Whether we are teaching a course for the first or twentieth time, we all benefit from sharing ideas with colleagues and consulting open materials. Open materials get our creative juices flowing, serve as inspiration for new assignments and lesson plans, and introduce us to new readings and open textbooks that support accessible (and no cost!) student learning. When we share, borrow, and adapt, we participate in a process of collaborative pedagogy that puts a diversity of perspectives and tried and true practices into conversation. We are better instructors for recognizing each other’s wealth of experience and building on it. We can also model for students how to properly cite the work of others and debunk the myth that successful scholarship should be done alone.
  3. What is the value of sharing? Concerns and Reservations
  • When materials are open, how can we adequately value and remunerate the labor that an educator put into creating pedagogical tools? We can give proper attribution to the creators of the materials we borrow, but is such rhetorical acknowledgement sufficient? How can we ensure that the labor instructors put into pedagogy is visible and valued in concrete ways?
  • Do we need more time officially built into our instructor/ staff schedules for the sharing of pedagogical practice?
  • Along these lines, discussants expressed concern that creating an OER –or putting together an open textbook—is less well compensated than writing a textbook for a private industry publisher.
  • Quite frequently, instructors do not cite past course content creators when they borrow materials. This makes the labor of those who share invisible.
  • Many courses on the OpenLab remain closed—unavailable for consultation except by course members. This can create a tension for those who chose to keep their work open but find that their willingness to share isn’t always reciprocated.
  • Is it possible that students think less of an instructor who borrows and adapts the materials of others? Or do they recognize the value that is added when instructors build on existing tools and remix them for their own students and course?
  • How can we create a loop wherein, in addition to thanking and crediting those whose materials we borrow and adapt, we give them concrete feedback on how their materials worked in our (adapted) courses? In essence, how can we make reusing and remixing a collaborative and communicative process?

Sharing and Adapting on the OpenLab

As we shared our experiences of sharing and adapting course materials, we noted that the OpenLab, in more ways than one, lends itself to the kind of open, collaborative pedagogy many of us aspire to. Instructors can peek into the courses of others that are left open, consult their syllabi and assignments, and use these as a point of departure in creating and teaching their courses. OERs and the “shared cloning” functionality take sharing a step further, offering built-in mechanisms to keep full courses open, available for reuse and even exact copying. We offered an overview of these two new OpenLab features related to OERs and shared cloning:

  • OERs refer to educational content that is free (educational materials are provided at no cost to students) and openly-licensed, meaning that the creators of the educational content have made their work available for others to use. Learn more here. Faculty and staff have been building OER course sites on the OpenLab. The August release of the OpenLab added an OER badge, which appears on the avatar of course or project designated as an OER. Courses and project with an OER badge can also be searched for in course and project directories. You can learn more about the OER badge and searching for OERs on the OpenLab here.
  • The August release of the OpenLab also made changes to the course cloning functionality, called “shared cloning.” This feature can be enabled to allow other faculty to clone a course that is designated as available for shared cloning. Course creators who choose to enable the feature will be allowing other faculty and staff to clone the course, creating an exact copy of the existing course, including all content created or uploaded by the course admin, which can be reused, remixed, and transformed in the new version. Cloned versions of the course will include a list of credits on the course profile and in the site sidebar with attribution to any of the original courses. If the original course was itself a clone of another faculty member’s course, that course, as well as all previous iterations, would be included in the credits list as well. You can find instructions on shared cloning in our help section.
  • Please note that our linked 11/1 workshop on “Sharing & Remixing on the OpenLab” will cover how to use the shared cloning functionality, and how to search for, link back to, and properly cite OERs. RSVP here. Agenda here.

We also named a few additional resources for those interested in sharing and borrowing, both on and off the OpenLab:

  • In the Spotlight is a blog series on The Open Road that highlights a different innovative OpenLab site each week. Review the archive, and check back weekly for inspiration. The courses/ projects highlighted change every week!
  • The L4 site (Living Lab Learning Library) is “a resource exchange for innovative teaching practices, ideas big and small, and a place where educators within and beyond City Tech can interact with each other, share classroom activities, and search for inspiration.”
  • The OpenLab is home to a growing list of OERs. Find them easily by going to the search page and filtering for OERs.
  • The Teaching and Learning Center at The Graduate Center, CUNY has a site called Visible Pedagogy in which members of the CUNY community dialogue about teaching and learning.

As we wrapped up the evening, we recognized that some of the barriers to valuing open pedagogy are deeply institutionally entrenched throughout academia. To be sure, much work still remains to be done to reinforce the value (financially and otherwise) of open pedagogy. There is much work to be done to proliferate the culture of responsible sharing that undergirds open pedagogy. Proper citation practices are a good starting place, but continued development of best practices for sharing and adapting existing open course materials is also necessary, for  like all things, these will age and need to continually updated. As noted, the culture around sharing and remixing at CityTech is, opening up. The (growing) resources for making digital pedagogy open on the OpenLab are a testament to this.

Have you ever borrowed or shared your instructional materials?

Have there, in your experience, been benefits to keeping pedagogy “open”?

Do you share any of the concerns about sharing and remixing outlined above?

Do you have any additional resources for sharing and remixing you think should be highlighted?

Join the conversation below!

____________________________________________

All-in-all, it was a great evening! Thanks to all who attended the event for a rich and provocative discussion, and for the support from the Provost’s Office.

Join us for our upcoming linked workshop:

  • Workshop, Thursday 11/1 2:30 PM – 4:00 PM (AG-21): A hands-on look at remixing and sharing on the OpenLab RSVP

Learn more about workshops and office hours on The Open Road!

Check out our student blogging team, The Buzz!

Pedagogy Profile: Professor Michael Krondl

This month we’re profiling Professor Michael Krondl, an adjunct lecturer in the Hospitality Management Department who teaches Introduction to Food Service Management and Culinary Tourism. Professor Krondl joined the City Tech community in January 2011.

How were you introduced the platform and when/how did you begin actively using the platform to support your pedagogy?

Honestly, I can’t remember when I started using Open Lab, maybe four years ago?* I first started using it in my Culinary Tourism class since it seemed like a good place to collect short blog posts from students about locations we visited.  Later I started using it in my Intro to Hospitality Management class, mostly because I thought first year students would find it easier to use than Blackboard.

*According to Professor Krondl’s OpenLab profile, he joined in 2012.

Why did you decide to start using the OpenLab?

In the case of the Culinary Tourism course, it allowed me to get students to interact in a way that is similar to the way the general public interacts with review sites, that is by writing their own reviews using the OpenLab as a publishing platform.

In the intro class, the OpenLab just seemed like a more intuitive way to organize material.  Moreover, in this course students are expected to write a variety of assignments in differing formats; the platform provided a forum for yet another form of writing, that is writing a review.

Can you describe the ways you have integrated the OpenLab into your pedagogical practices?

I can’t add much to the above. As described, in the tourism class, the OpenLab provides a way of organizing class info for students, and also serving as a place to post and comment on each other’s assignments.  More or less the same story with the intro class.

For the intro class this semester, there is an additional component – mainly that the course site is now an Open Educational Resource (OER), so the website acts as a virtual textbook.  I have long been looking for a textbook that we could use in class and finally realized that it would be simpler to organize a set of curated readings on the OpenLab. Thus the site acts as both a forum for interaction and a textbook. And the students don’t have to pay for it!

The reality is that I find Open Lab to be one useful tool among many. It is by no means a panacea so I use it for what it’s good for: an attractive (if not always intuitive way of organizing information) and a reasonably good platform for discussion.

How has the OpenLab transformed or expanded your pedagogy, and the pedagogical values you’re able to realize in your courses and educational practice?

In both classes, my main ambition is to expand the students’ view of the hospitality industry and the world. In both cases they are required to go out in the world and report back via posts on our course site, hosted on the OpenLab.  This varies in effectiveness–students come from a variety of educational backgrounds, often have limited writing skills, and can lack motivation–but it’s a heck of a lot better than just handing in pieces of paper for me to look at.

Aside from courses, how does the OpenLab support your pedagogical practices and ambitions? (Note: Think broadly about public education initiatives, course coordination, non-academic student support, clubs, and projects, etc.)

I don’t use it other than for the courses.

Open Pedagogy Event (10/18): Remixing and Sharing in Open Digital Pedagogy

Abstract image showing colors "remixing"
Image Source: Mary Chadwick

Thursday October 18th, 2018, 4:30-6:00pm (Faculty Commons, N227)

*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!

Join the OpenLab Team, City Tech faculty and staff, and CUNY colleagues at our next Open Pedagogy event, where we’ll be discussing remixing and sharing in open digital pedagogy. The OpenLab and other open digital environments create new opportunities for developing readily adaptable teaching materials, easily sharing and remixing content, and promoting collaboration within and across disciplines. We’ll introduce improved ways to highlight and search for open content (such as OERs) on the OpenLab and a new “shared cloning” functionality that allows other faculty to more easily adapt OpenLab course content. Together, we’ll explore benefits and uses of these developments for open teaching and learning, as well as the ethics and best practices of sharing and remixing.

We’ll consider the following questions:

  • What opportunities for sharing and remixing teaching materials do open digital environments like the OpenLab present?
  • How does this contrast with more traditional teaching environments?
  • What are the ethics and best practices of sharing and remixing?
  • As someone participating in an open digital environment, what responsibilities do you have? What responsibilities do you envision for others?

Recommended Readings:

Recap: Open Digital Pedagogy in Gateway Courses

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Image Info: “Acrylics” by Tracy Solomon

Thursday September 27th marked the first of two Open Pedagogy Events planned for Fall 2018, Open Digital Pedagogy in Gateway Courses. This event asked: how can open digital platforms like the OpenLab support and help address the challenges present in gateway courses across the disciplines? Faculty who taught gateway courses (or intro courses, which can have similar challenges) in English, Mathematics, Computer Systems Technology (CST), Business, and Biology joined us in the Faculty Commons (N227) from City Tech and other CUNY campuses. 

A special thanks for Jonas Reitz, professor of mathematics and Director of the Opening Gateways project, and Robert Lestón, professor of English and Director of First Year Writing, who led the conversation with their experiences teaching and coordinating faculty in relation to gateway courses.


Before sharing more of the evening’s discussion, let’s clarify what a “gateway course” is:

Officially speaking, gateway courses are courses recognized across CUNY campuses as required, entry-level courses for specific majors. For participating majors, students must take 3 of the defined gateway courses in order to continue with the major and take higher level courses. These gateway courses are transferable across CUNY institutions, meaning students start and finish their degrees at different campuses without fear that credits will transfer. Learn more here.


At an academic level, gateway courses are entry-level courses that introduce students to their chosen fields and disciplines and to skills deemed necessary for success in college. In a similar view, success or failure in these courses has consequences not only for the student’s participation in the course, but for their overall college experience and outcome. This understanding prompted the evening’s discussion.

We began with a self-reflection and discussion of: “What challenges do you [faculty] face when supporting student success in gateway or introductory courses? How Have you [faculty] addressed these challenges?” During the discussion portion, we discussed a number of non-discipline-specific challenges that threaten student success including:

1. The newness of college: College comes with new routines in an unfamiliar setting, a lack of knowledge of the supports and resources available and how to access them, a lack of community connections, a heightened level of academic rigor – lots of newness at once.  

2. Institutional constraints

  • Space constraints at City Tech, for example, pose challenges to independent and group study among students, and faculty or faculty-student meetings and gatherings (whether academic and/or social in nature).
  • Class sizes for gateway and introductory courses are often overwhelming in terms of size and workload, and limiting in terms of how you can structure the course and discuss the material.
  • Gateway and introductory courses often have predetermined assessments that may contradict a faculty members pedagogical values and strategies for addressing student success.
  • Adjunct, part-time and often short-term faculty increasingly teach gateway and introductory courses. Low pay and minimal contract rights among adjunct and part-time faculty (and the stress of needing to take on other work to fill the gap) limits the support they can provide students, distances them from their department’s community and decisions, and may result in high turnover rates.

3. Home-life constraints: Some of our students lack access to a computer or quiet space at home. Some face time constraints due to household-supporting activities like part-time or full-time work or care work activities. In turn, these time constraints can raise questions about the value of pursuing a degree at all – in the minds of the student and/or their family.

Do you recognize these challenges in your own courses?

In laying these challenges out, we discussed which of these challenges we could and had tried to resolve, and which seemed largely out of our control. We don’t, for example, have much control over the constraints posed by a student’s home-life. However, there are steps we do or could take in supporting students and faculty in overcoming related or other challenges. Faculty attendees discussed crafting scaffolded assignments, group projects, low stakes writing assignments, using mobile-friendly digital platforms (like the OpenLab) so students could submit assignments via their phone as needed, and more.

Recognition of these challenges and more encouraged City Tech’s Math Department to partner with faculty and staff at BMCC and the OpenLab to initiate the Title V grant-funded project, “Opening Gateways to Completion: Open Digital Pedagogies for Student Success in STEM. Known as Opening Gateways for short, this collaboration integrates the OpenLab with another open source software called WebWorks with the aim of helping students and faculty address (some of) the challenges posed by gateway courses. You can learn more details about the project on their OpenLab site, but in short – this integration allows students to complete individualized homework problems online and get answers and feedback right away, and to ask questions and get support from their professor and fellow students in a community discussion forum. The grant included a Faculty Professional Development component (yearly cohorts of Fellows who attend a weekly seminar) and dedicated resources to building Open Educational Resources – which might replace expensive textbooks and offer faculty more control over the curriculum.

The remainder of the evening was spent discussing how and to what extent Opening Gateways had addressed some of the challenges discussed earlier, and how similar lessons could be applied in disciplines other than mathematics.

Through the conversation, the seemed to be consensus around a few ideals –

1. Professional Development: Sharing of resources and teaching strategies; also helps with curriculum coordination, and social support and community building.

1B. Supporting Inclusion of part-time faculty: Any professional development initiatives should explicitly include resources and additional compensation for part-time faculty (who not only teach the majority of these courses, but of all courses at CUNY – conservatively estimated, part-time faculty make up 56% of all faculty at CUNY). Additionally, course resources should be readily available in an easily accessible place – see the First Year Writing site for a good example of how the OpenLab can be helpful in this endeavor. These qualities are a part of the Opening Gateways fellows program, and a Fellow, who is an adjunct and who attended the even reflected that it was nice to be treated as someone whose ideas mattered; to have an invitation to the table; to feel invested in (to paraphrase).

2. The OpenLab can help: The OpenLab is not a silver bullet – but the platform does have features that can limit barriers to student success in your gateway courses. You can make the information publicly or privately available and mobile responsive by housing resources for your course or curriculum on the OpenLab. The blogging platform can help cultivate community in the classroom by hosting public class discussions; and students can get experience with public writing. For your courses/departments, you may consider creating Open Educational Resources.

Do these strategies make sense for you?

What seemed useful or not about the Opening Gateways project?

What other strategies would you suggest?

What challenges do these strategies pose for you and how might you address them?

Join the conversation below!


All-in-all, it was a great evening! Thanks to all who attended the event for a lively conversation, and for the support from the Faculty Commons and Charlie Edwards.


Join us for 3 upcoming related events:

  • Workshop, Thursday 10/4 2:30 PM – 4:00 PM  (G604). A hands-on look at supporting student success on the OpenLab RSVP
  • Event, Thursday 10/18 4:30 PM – 6:00 PM (N227): A discussion about remixing and sharing in Open Digital Pedagogy
  • Workshop, Thursday 11/1 2:30 PM – 4:00 PM (AG-21): A hands-on look at remixing and sharing on the OpenLab RSVP

Learn more about workshops and office hours on The Open Road!

Check out our student blogging team, The Buzz!

Open Pedagogy Event (9/27): Open Digital Pedagogy in Gateway Courses

st michael's hospital; pedestrian bridge between the new research and education building (north) and the old patient care building (south) Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute; International Centre for Healthcare Education & Research
Image Source: Paul Bica

Thursday September 27th, 2018, 4:30-6:00pm (Faculty Commons, N227)

*Refreshments will be served. (Thanks to the Faculty Commons 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!

Join the OpenLab Team, City Tech faculty and staff, and CUNY colleagues at our next Open Pedagogy event, where we’ll be discussing gateway courses and open digital pedagogy. Together we’ll explore how to help students be successful in introductory courses in the curriculum, looking to the successful model of City Tech and BMCC’s Title V grant-funded project, “Opening Gateways to Completion: Open Digital Pedagogies for Student Success in STEM.” While this grant focuses on math courses, we will extend the conversation to include gateway courses across the disciplines. In addition, we’ll consider the challenges posed by the reality that the majority of gateway courses at City Tech are taught by contingent faculty. What kinds of support or opportunities does the OpenLab present for teaching and learning in these contexts? Attendees will share, discuss, and learn strategies for helping faculty and students succeed in these courses, and leave with a better understanding of how open digital pedagogy can scaffold students’ learning experiences in these courses and throughout the rest of their academic careers.

This Open Pedagogy event was already scheduled when PSC-CUNY announced the contract rally taking place at the same time. In keeping with the spirit of that event, we will incorporate discussion of labor issues related to gateway courses, including the reality that the majority of these courses (and all courses) in CUNY are taught by adjunct faculty.

We’ll consider the following questions:

  • What are gateway courses, and what are some of the challenges students face in them?
  • The majority of gateway courses at City Tech (and CUNY) are taught by contingent labor. How does adjunctification affect teaching and learning in these courses? What kind of resources can be provided to adjuncts to support their instruction in these courses?
  • What strategies can we share across disciplines to support students in these classes?
  • How can open digital pedagogy help students succeed in these gateways? How can the OpenLab enrich students’ college experience both academically and through community building?

Suggested Readings:

Pedagogy Profile: Professor Jackie Blain

Headshot of Professor Jackie Blain.This month we’re profiling Professor Jackie Blain, an adjunct lecturer in the English Department who teaches Composition (ENG 1101 and 1121), Technical Writing (ENG 2575), and Developmental Writing in the First Year Summer Program. In addition, Professor Blain taught an interdisciplinary course with the Computer Science Technology (CST) Department, and is involved in the First Year Learning Community (FYLC) program. She joined the City Tech community as a Tutor-Assistant in the Learning Center in Fall 2014, became a Consultant with the English 1101-1102 Tutoring Grant in Spring 2015, and became an Adjunct in the English Department in Fall 2015. 

How were you introduced the platform and when/how did you begin actively using the platform to support your pedagogy?

I began using the OpenLab when I did my first FYLC class in Fall 2016 because it was recommended that we explore using it. The workshops run by the OpenLab made it easy to set up and use, and I saw that it could give me a range of student interactivity projects that I couldn’t really get with Blackboard. However, to be honest, I really fumbled around at first and tried to make the OpenLab simply replace Blackboard. But as I’ve learned more about the strengths of the platform, and looked at the courses that have been spotlighted by the OpenLab Community Team, the way I use it has changed to help support my pedagogical goals, and it’s been easy to do.

Why did you decide to start using the OpenLab?

As I mentioned, the FYLC program recommended that we look at it, but I’ve long been interested in multimodal literacies and the role/use of computers in the composition classroom. I have taught online and hybrid as well as in the classroom and used a variety of LMS software over the past 15 years, and I ran a WordPress blog of my own some years ago. So the OpenLab seemed both like a shiny new tech object (which is hard for me to ignore) and a place where I could try to pull various threads of my own pedagogy together using everything I had learned about teaching online and face-to-face.

Can you describe the ways you have integrated the OpenLab into your pedagogical practices?

My own pedagogical practice is very student-centered and interactive, and while I push
students to be more critically aware of their world, I also try to meet them where they are. The difficulty many of our students at City Tech have in getting time on a laptop or desktop computer shouldn’t be underestimated, and the OpenLab, because it is based on a responsive WordPress template that’s easy to use on a phone, has increased my student engagement, especially on low-stakes writing assignments. Yes, they often do them on the train, but they do them. Pedagogically, that is always my goal.

How I do this is I have students post their responses on to questions I ask about the reading on the OpenLab (often using their phones, and often do so while they’re on the train), but, again they do them. I then use those responses to build on their critical thinking skills by having them discuss in class what they wrote, first in pairs, then combined with another pair to broaden the discussion. I walk around, watching, listening, and asking questions to deepen their thinking before bringing the whole class together to ask the groups to share their biggest takeaways. The OpenLab gives these students a chance to write quickly without worrying about a grade, and over the term they become more confident in both their writing and in their ability to analyze something critically.

Overall, I have three general areas that I use OpenLab for. First, I simply house course materials including handouts and links. Two, teams post their final group projects (although this is still a work in progress for me and something I need to learn more about doing well). Finally, and most importantly, it serves as a powerful vehicle for those low-stakes writing assignments I mentioned. One additional nice thing has been that if a student has a question, I can usually say, “Look on the OpenLab,” they pull out their phones, and “Oh yeah. Thanks, Professor” as they walk away. They learn quickly.

Aside from courses, how does the OpenLab support your pedagogical practices and ambitions? (Note: Think broadly about public education initiatives, course coordination, non-academic student support, clubs, and projects, etc.)

This Fall, my students will be involved in the Our Stories Project, which I hope helps them through the difficult adjustment into college. As an adjunct of a certain age, my career ambitions are pretty modest, but I would like to pull together a research project for the Spring about the effect of First Year Learning Communities on First Year Composition using OpenLab to help gather information.

Pedagogy Profile: Professor Kate Poirier

Headshot of Professor Kate Poirier.This week we’re profiling Professor Kate Poirier who teaches in the Mathematics Department. Prof. Poirier joined the City Tech community as an Assistant Professor in the Fall of 2013.

How were you introduced the platform and when/how did you begin actively using the platform to support your pedagogy?

I taught an Honors Calculus class in Spring 2014 and, since it was a small group of enthusiastic students, I thought it would be a good time to experiment with something new. The experience was so positive—it worked for me and for the students—I’ve never looked back.

Why did you decide to start using the OpenLab?

I’ve maintained my own course websites before and I’ve used Blackboard for communication with students, but I found both of those to be somewhat clunky, annoying to set up, and still not exactly what I wanted.

Can you describe the ways you have integrated the OpenLab into your pedagogical practices?

I use the OpenLab to communicate with students throughout the semester, but often the communication is one-way (I’ll post something and they’ll read it; maybe they’ll comment on the post). So I like to experiment with giving students assignments to submit posts of their own on the OpenLab, as well to help them understand that it’s *our* site, not *my* site.

My favorite assignment comes at the beginning of the semester. I ask students to submit a post introducing themselves to the class and to comment on each other’s posts. I usually submit an introduction of my own as well. This has the advantage that students quickly become familiar with how easy it is to use the OpenLab and it gives us all a chance to get to know right away who’s in the class and why they’re taking it. I’ve found out some interesting things about my students this way!

Other assignments depend on what class I’m teaching. I’m teaching MAT 1275 right now. Before each test, students are posting sample exercises from the homework with their full solutions. Students can comment on these posts if they suspect there’s an error or if they have a question about what’s written. These posts all are categorized as “Test Review” so the category serves as a crowd-sourced review sheet for the whole class. Students are submitting similar posts categorized as “Test Solutions.” What I like about these assignments is that they force the students to work together as a team to produce a usable resource and they also force the students take ownership and responsibility for their own test preparation, rather than looking to the instructor to do this for them.

How has the OpenLab transformed or expanded your pedagogy, and the pedagogical values you’re able to realize in your courses and educational practice?

I used to feel like I had to cram so much into my lecture since it was the only time I had real contact with my students (except for those who came to office hours). The casual blog format of the OpenLab especially allows for more conversations that aren’t necessarily directly related to course content. At times, I’ve used the OpenLab to try to make connections between material from the course and other topics that might be useful for students even if it’s outside the required content. It’s also helpful for sharing events around the college or even just articles  or resources I’ve come across on the internet that might be of interest the students. I taught a Math Education course recently where the conversations we had as part of the course were so stimulating, they continued on the OpenLab well after the course had ended.

All of this helps to enhance the human aspects of teaching and learning that are more about making connections and not necessarily about specific content delivery. Such connections can be harder to achieve in a traditional setting—sometimes the only opportunity is during office hours with the handful of students who happen to be there at any given time—and I’m grateful that the OpenLab makes it so easy to make these connections public.

Something that is new and particularly useful is the integrated “Ask for Help” feature in WeBWorK. WeBWorK is an open-source online homework program that many instructors in the Math Department use as part of their course. In the past, there was a button students could use to email their instructors with help with particular WeBWorK questions. This was helpful, but instructors might end up answering the same question over and over again. In MAT 1275, now, this button has been replaced with one that takes students to a page on an OpenLab site that serves as a question-and-answer forum about that particular WeBWorK problem. This connects not just the students in a class and their instructor, but *all* students in the college taking the course and *all* instructors teaching it. Students can ask and answer their own questions but they can also see the discussions surrounding the exact problem in mind. This further serves to connect students and instructors to the broader college community, which is certainly in line with the spirit of the OpenLab.

Aside from courses, how does the OpenLab support your pedagogical practices and ambitions? (Note: Think broadly about public education initiatives, course coordination, non-academic student support, clubs, and projects, etc.)

The OpenLab makes it so easy for any group that is working collaboratively. I’ve used it extensively in all my roles at City Tech for dynamic, effective, and efficient communication among collaborators. I hate using email to work on something with a team, but I love using the OpenLab.

The OpenLab also makes it so easy to collect important resources and documents into a single repository. I work closely with the math tutors in the Atrium Learning Center and have created an OpenLab site with all the resources they might need in one place. The site was so easy to set up and has worked so well, that we’re planning to put together something like it for students seeking tutoring too. One of the things that can be hard for students—especially young students—is knowing where to look for the resources they need—indeed knowing which resources they might need. By putting these things in one predictable place and making them available to everyone, we make it easier for students to navigate college life so that they can focus more on succeeding in their programs and finding their place at CityTech.

Teaching and Learning with New Majority Students: Lessons Learned from the CUNY Humanities Alliance

We’re excited to share with you The Futures Initiative’s final event of the semester:

The Futures Initiative is pleased to invite you to the final event in our Thursday Dialogues series this year:

Teaching and Learning with New Majority Students: Lessons Learned from the CUNY Humanities Alliance
Thursday, May 3 | 12:15 to 2:00 PM | The Graduate Center, Room C201
RSVP at bit.ly/TeachingCUNYHums

Join The Futures Initiative and the CUNY Humanities Alliance for a discussion about community college student-centered teaching and learning in the humanities and social sciences! In this roundtable discussion, Graduate Teaching Fellows will discuss their experiences and what they have learned through their participation in the program, which combines faculty mentorship, professional development workshops and resources with the opportunity to design and teach a course during three semesters at LaGuardia Community College, CUNY.

Our roundtable of speakers are all Mellon Graduate Teaching Fellows with the CUNY Humanities Alliance, and will include:

  • Kahdeidra Monét Martin (Urban Education)
  • Jenn Polish (English)
  • Micheal Angelo Rumore (English)
  • Jacob Sachs-Mishalanie (Music)
  • Inés Vañó García (Hispanic and Luso-Brazilian Literatures and Languages)
  • Alison Walls (Theatre)

The discussion will be moderated by Kitana Ananda, Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow for the CUNY Humanities Alliance and the Futures Initiative.

The discussion will address questions such as:

  • What does it mean to teach the humanities at a community college? How do doctoral students translate their specialized research into their teaching of introductory and general education courses?
  • What kinds of connections have been forged between community college faculty, doctoral students, and undergraduates in the first two years of this program?
  • What are the lessons of this program so far for doctoral education and the future of the professoriate, at the Graduate Center and beyond?

Co-sponsored by the CUNY Humanities Alliance. A light lunch and refreshments will be provided.

About the program:
The CUNY Humanities Alliance is dedicated to training Ph.D. students in the most successful methods for teaching humanities courses in some of the country’s most diverse undergraduate classrooms, while creating new opportunities and pathways for the “new majority” of students in today’s community colleges. The program is a partnership between the Graduate Center and LaGuardia Community College, with the generous support of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

If you have any questions about the event, contact Kitana Ananda at kananda@gc.cuny.edu.

Thank you, and we hope to see you on May 3rd!