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!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *