On Burnout, On Rest: Pandemic Pedagogy

As a sick and disabled disability justice scholar, I have spent all year asking everyone to slow down. Luckily, many folks I work with understand the importance of what I am asking, even as we still have deadlines and timelines to hit. Others feel the pressure even more intensely: my Black and brown and Asian colleagues, more precarious workers at CUNY, colleagues on a tight tenure clock, scholars unable to find full-time work or any work at all. It feels like there is no time, not enough time.

It’s been a whole year since I last saw any of my colleagues in-person. People have had babies, gotten ill and become disabled, articulated their gender in new ways, graduated and defended dissertations, and moved away. All of this has happened without fanfare or celebration or gathering.

What hasn’t happened: collective mourning, solidarity with sick and disabled people, or ethical leadership in higher education.

2020 was tough on everyone. Even those of us privileged enough to be able to work from home without disrupting our finances too much, we have witnessed a lot of loss. Every day, friends of friends post about the passing of beloved parents, grandparents, disabled pals, frontline and essential workers. My own chronic illnesses have worsened dramatically during a year without medical care, and I have to spend a huge portion of my time resting and recovering, storing up energy for a few synchronous events a week. In between, I am lying down. I have learned the hard way that to ignore the rest my bodymind demands is to betray myself and my work; rest—challenging the voices that berate me for taking a break—is an essential piece of my access-focused pedagogies and methodologies. 

My closest friends and family are almost all fully vaccinated against Covid-19. Most of us are white, financially stable, employed, and hold at least Bachelor’s degrees. The story is not the same for CUNY students. Early figures don’t give a lot of information, but knowing that 85% of CUNY undergraduates are students of color paints a grim picture for their vaccination access. Many CUNY students work service jobs in retail, food service, and healthcare, and some are eligible through their jobs. And many Black and brown CUNY students have rightful hesitations about receiving brand-new medical procedures without a fuller picture of how the Covid vaccines may affect them long-term.

All of this is to say: this year has hardened a lot of us who work to educate and support student success. If before, faculty stringently enforced attendance policies, now we want proof of a positive Covid test to excuse an absence. Pictures of funeral programs, or a death certificate. More medical documentation for new disabilities emerging from post-Covid infection or medical neglect. The lack of care and compassion here is alarming. We absolutely must do better: learn to trust students and each other.

For me, working on my dissertation has been an elusive project. After four years of steady work on my dissertation, I have ground to a halt. My emotional capacity, necessary for my work in autoethnography, is near zero. I fill my time with applications for awards that I will never receive in an academic climate that fetishizes machine-like production that I can never even hope to emulate. I had *7* interviews in 2 weeks for 5th-year fellowships for my graduate program. I submit documentation to account for my slow timeline, while pre-Covid, I burned through doctoral coursework and exams with lightning speed. I am so tired, and I want nothing but a break.

As our patience wears thin, I invite all of us—but especially faculty—to slow down. Our breakneck pace to keep up with an invisible, always-moving goalpost will not protect us from pain, loss, and trauma. It definitely is not protecting our students, who have experienced incalculable devastation: economic crashes resulting in homelessness, food insecurity, mourning for a world they were promised that no longer exists.

From the former captain of Team Doing-Too-Much, I am asking you to please slow down. Rates of psychiatric illness (anxiety, depression, agoraphobia, panic) for higher education students and workers are spiking from previously record-setting highs, and we’re losing community members to suicide. Many folks who contracted Covid are now disabled by post-viral illness, and parents (mostly mothers) are profoundly burdened by lack of safe childcare. In disability justice communities, flexible deadlines, communicating openly about access needs, and extending gracious trust are central practices to building community and solidarity. I invite all of us to learn from the radical disabled people who center care and compassion in every relationship. Try to rest: sit and chat with a loved one without checking emails in the background; try out a video game you’re curious about and just be terrible at it for a while; share a meal over video call with your best friend.  Your bodymind, your spirit, will thank you.

CUNY CUE Conference & OER Showcase

On October 29-30, teachers and researchers from around CUNY came together online for the annual Coordinated Undergraduate Education Conference, this year coupled with the annual Open Educational Resources Showcase. Keynotes from Dr. Robin DeRosa and Dr. Rajiv Jhangiani highlighted issues of equity, access, and open pedagogy for staff and faculty working with OERs at CUNY, and participants shared many resources and ideas between campuses and projects.

The OpenLab team presented on two panels to highlight our ongoing work around access and accessibility in open digital pedagogy. The first panel focused on reflecting on our Open Pedagogy discussion series on the many aspects of access and accessibility in open digital pedagogy from 2019-2020, and Digital Pedagogy Fellow Olivia Wood wrote a great recap of this panel.

The slides for this panel are linked below!

Title slide of Access, OER, and Open Pedagogy on the OpenLab presentation
Click image to view slideshow


The second panel, facilitated by Cailean Cooney, OER Coordinator at City Tech, and Elvis Bakaitis, Adjunct Reference Librarian, highlighted discussion between former OER faculty fellows Prof. Colleen Birchett (English) and Prof. Christopher Swift (Humanities), who shared their work developed during and since their OER Fellowship, and OpenLab Digital Pedagogy Fellow Jesse Rice-Evans (me!) who talked about access and OERs beyond zero-textbook-cost courses.

Prof. Birchett shared her OER site from her summer 2019 course “Home Away from Home: Stories from the Diaspora,” an ENGL 2001: Introduction to Literature (Fiction) course, and discussed how she incorporated OER materials and open pedagogy into her course

Prof. Swift discussed his OER site, THE 2280, “History of Theatre,” which uses mapping software and place-based pedagogies to explore the role of New York City theaters with students through the NYC Theater Research Project. He brought up some of the difficulties of place-based learning during distance learning.

I felt it was important to contextualize the choices that faculty and staff make in creating and using OERs to address some issues of inequity in higher education. To address this, I shared selections from my piece “Open Access Pedagogy: A Manifesto,” which is published in full on the Anti-Ableist Composition Collective site.

I pose a politicization of open access that centers the lived experiences of people doing the teaching and learning. The scholars I am centering here (see bibliography) are speaking to a widespread practice of centering access pedagogy—pedagogy that is culturally responsive, flexible, and reimagines “rigor” as intellectual curiosity, critical rhetorical skill-building, and an embrace of non-normative English.

All participants highlighted how OERs and open pedagogy have influenced their teaching, learning, and research. View the slides below!

Title slide from presentation on Open Pedagogy and OERs in the Classroom at City Tech
Click image to view slideshow

May 8 Event: Disability Justice and COVID-19

Hi OpenLab pals! Sending all of you tenacity and compassion in these trying times.  

I’m sharing this upcoming event here on Open Pedagogy for a few reasons:  

This event is run by and features Black disability justice leaders, including Dorian Taylor, Elandria Williams, Lateef Mcleod, and Leroy Moore Jr., in a time when many disability organizations center white organizers over BIPOC activists. Listening to Black and brown disability activists is crucially important for us as members of the CUNY community, as COVID-19 is disproportionately harming Black and brown New Yorkers, many of whom also work and study at CUNY.  

The organizers of this digital event have also included ample details about accessibility, including information about interpretation services, breaks, and descriptive alt text for their chosen images. This level of detail is crucial when planning accessible events, and must be a central aspect of coordinating remote and online events!  

From the organizers:  

We’re hosting this webinar to offer the perspective of people grounded in #DisabilityJustice work as we all respond to COVID-19.  

ASL interpretation and live captions will be provided. We will also have breaks.  

Register at: https://bit.ly/djgrounding

Participation and Attendance in Distance Learning: Tips From OpenLab Fellows

We know many people who are shifting their courses to an online-only format may not have taught online before, and have questions about how things like attendance and participation work for online classes. There are lots of ways to conceive of digital attendance and participation, depending on how you conduct your course, but to get you started, two of the OpenLab’s Digital Pedagogy Fellows, Olivia and Jesse, are here to share their own teaching practices as examples. 

Jesse’s Advice: Flexibility, Access, and Compassion

Hi OpenLab pals! Writing here with some tips for integrating attendance/participation into your distance learning courses for this semester. 

First, it’s important to say that you will not get the chance to play with all available technological tools for online teaching and learning in just one semester, and that’s OK. This is a whole field of higher education pedagogy, and there are tons of options for how you want to integrate tools. For now, choose things that you are comfortable with, and make sure that you’re communicating with your students about their needs and limitations as well!

This piece about the restrictions of implementing distance learning pedagogy in the middle of the semester, “Please do a bad job of putting your courses online” by Rebecca Barrett-Fox, brings up many important points. Open digital pedagogy is super interesting, but you cannot fix the widespread concerns that are emerging in a stressful public health event like the one we’re inside of now. Barrett-Fox emphasizes the challenges that emerge when asking all of us to work from home, especially when so many of us and our students are caretakers, working hourly-wage jobs, struggling with chronic illness—and possibly acute illness, and lacking some of the ideal technological tools and devices that can optimize distance learning. 

A bit about me: I’m a PhD candidate in English rhetoric and composition at the CUNY Graduate Center studying disability, language, and digital culture and pedagogy. In the fall of 2017, I co-taught the first-ever fully hybrid first-year writing course at the City College of New York, and have continued to teach hybrid writing courses at Baruch College and CCNY. My recommendations are from my own experience as a part-time writing instructor as well as from my research on access pedagogy and educational technology. 

Strategies for Online Participation and Attendance

Provide lots of ways for students to participate! Discussion boards are a common practice in online and hybrid classes. Typically, I assign one or two short readings per week and ask several questions for a weekly writing assignment that students submit to a discussion board per week. For example, I’ll title one discussion board “Week #1: Ms. Marvel and Visual Rhetoric” and students will post their (short, ungraded) response to the readings into this board. I also ask them to respond to at least two of their peers’ discussion board posts by the end of the week (usually Sunday night, or the night before class is scheduled). I also like to emphasize that these responses do not have to be traditional text-based responses. Some of the highlights from my hybrid classes have included short videos, memes, poems, and multimedia responses that integrate text with visual and audio media. 

Practicing flexibility with deadlines is crucial for distance learning, as many factors can impact students’ access to a shared device, or unstructured time to complete the readings and think critically about them, especially in a uniquely difficult political and public health event. 

Another strategy for emphasizing peer-to-peer support is to assign students into small groups and ask the groups to post a collaborative response on a discussion board or to your course website as a post. On the OpenLab, your students can author posts on your course site, and assigning groups can build in accountability and support for students even without an in-person class meeting. These groups can work on peer review strategies together for larger assignments publicly by using the Docs feature in your OpenLab course profile, or even in a post on the course site, where other students can respond in comment form to an initial single-authored post. I have found group work super important in the hybrid courses I have taught, as students are able to develop friendly working relationships with each other, which helps establish the community ethos in a distance learning course. 

If you want to integrate quizzes and exams into your distance learning course, allow room for tech snafus. Issues with tech are inevitable, and instead of doubling down on strict policies that don’t allow for mistakes and tech failures, embrace some flexibility. If students report a tech issue, believe them and allow them to retake the quiz or exam at a time you can both agree on. Ask about their schedule and don’t interrogate how they’re spending time. 

Along this line, I strongly recommend against synchronous formats for online courses, especially taking attendance during any synchronous meetings. Especially as students are working from home (which may in fact be any number of locations; see Dr. Maura Smale’s work with Dr. Mariana Regalado on where CUNY students do schoolwork and CUNY students’ lived experiences), many factors may disrupt their ability to join and engage with a live lecture or class session. Instead of sending verbal announcements in the form of videos, send them in text format via email or to the course site so that students are able to revisit them. Include specific details about timing and deadlines in writing.

All of the above low-stakes and ungraded assignments count as participation and/or attendance. If you’re used to giving points for speaking in class, you might be surprised at students who are much more “vocal” in online contexts. Distance learning does provide some new opportunities for students to engage with the material and with each other!

Reflections

One of the critical practices for integrating new technological tools into your spring 2020 courses is creating opportunities for students to articulate their experiences, including reflecting on work they’ve done that felt successful and expressing concerns about using tech they might be unfamiliar with. I’ve adopted the practice of communicating my own reflections to my students, and although I’m not teaching this semester, my message to them might look like this:

Hello all!

You have heard by now that we’re transitioning to distance learning for the semester. I know this is unexpected and potentially disruptive, and I’m feeling a little intimidated by all of the directions this class might take as a fully-online project. Even though I have experience with hybrid teaching and using the OpenLab as a staff member, I’ve never taught a fully online course before. I’m expecting a learning curve for all of us, and I want to encourage all of you to reach out to me with your concerns and questions. 

More information will be heading your way soon; just writing to say I feel your anxieties and fears about this sudden shift in our learning, and I have many of my own as well. I’ll be sure to keep a line of communication open throughout this process, and I’ll do my best to be transparent with you about why we’re doing what we’re doing. 

Some things to note: I am immunocompromised and have several chronic illnesses that make the public health concerns very real for me. I want to encourage all of you to take a break if you’re stressed, tired, or think you may have been exposed to COVID-19. Stress is a huge factor in immune system function, so step back for a couple of days if you need rest. Please stay in contact with me if you’re choosing to take some time for yourself. Otherwise I will worry. 

Best to you all, and more soon.

It’s crucial to remember that students are people too, students are New Yorkers, students are affected by the news and business shutdowns, by people hoarding resources. Widespread fear and anxiety are impacting you as well as your students. Give everyone a break, and don’t hold this difficult situation against your students. They are trying their best as well as you are. Holding space for discussing this openly has invariably cultivated a sense of trust and openness with my students since I began the practice of being open about my own life, health issues, and why I am choosing to do things in class the way I am. 

Moving Forward

This is a huge transition for everyone, and my final recommendation is to give your students and yourself a break. Create the resources and online spaces that you need to facilitate this transition as simply as possible, and resist the urge to do more and more. This is not the time to learn all there is to know about open digital pedagogy hybrid and online teaching, and educational technology. If you’re excited by any of these, that’s great! Join the OpenLab team for next year’s events, start reading work in this field, and work towards next steps after this semester is over.  

Olivia’s Advice: From Course Site to Distance Learning Hub

Hello, everyone! I’m Olivia, and I teach English composition at John Jay. Each semester, I make a Course Site for my class on the CUNY Academic Commons, just like faculty can make on the OpenLab. While some things will have to change as we transition from face-to-face class to online class, my attendance and participation policies are actually remaining almost exactly the same.

My Face-to-Face Policies

This semester, I combined Attendance and Participation into one grading category, made up of points. If students earn 80 points over the course of the semester, they get 100% participation. 

The easiest way to earn points is by attending class (2 points for on time, 1 point for arriving late or leaving early), but students always have the option to make up missed attendance points by completing the writing prompts and other activities in the lesson plan for the day, which I post on the course site. Across the entire semester, that adds up to 46 participation points that can be earned through “attendance,” either physical or digital. The rest of the points can be earned through low-stakes writing assigned throughout the semester and a variety of other options that students can choose from. Most importantly, students are able to submit a statement explaining how they have engaged in course materials outside of the ways I’ve listed and why that should be counted for participation credit. This gives students an extra opportunity to practice persuasive writing in a real-world rhetorical situation, and it enables students to participate in a wide variety of ways not limited to the activities I could think of myself. 

Preparing to Transition

As we entered the week of March 9, I began anticipating that we would soon switch to an online format, and I assumed that some students would choose to stay home for their own wellbeing in the meantime. Originally, my plan was to continue teaching in-person for those who felt comfortable attending while livestreaming the class via Zoom. We did a test run, and it went well! 

However, after the CUNY-wide shift to distance learning was announced, I realized hosting class in real time was not going to be a viable option for either me or my students, for both practical and pedagogical reasons, many of which Jesse explains above. I emailed my students letting them know I would be in touch soon with a plan, and took a couple of days to think about it while I focused on other aspects of my life. 

It’s important to remember that, for all of us, we’re not just unexpectedly planning an online course on top of our usual responsibilities. We’re doing it while also experiencing a period of intense global distress that is affecting our lives, and the lives of our students and loved ones, in complex ways. So, instead of trying to figure out how I would adapt my course immediately, I took advantage of the five days of instructional recess to ponder.

What did I send my students, before I knew the plan?

  1. I revised my syllabus to account for the canceled days of class, removing several readings and assignments.
  2. I created an easy-to-read checklist of all of the assignments we’ve had so far, so students could evaluate their own progress and decide what, if any, work they would like to make up. I also wrote a post on the course site with links to the instructions for each one, in case students had trouble finding them.
  3. I wrote a post with tips for how to navigate the course site efficiently, since students will now be using the course site more often and for more tasks than they have up until now.
  4. I uploaded an overview of the final research paper and the scaffolded “writing process assignments” that build up to it, with the due dates for each one clearly listed.
  5. I posted instructions for their first process assignment, the Proposal, with a note that I did not expect them to begin working on it– it was only to provide a preview for those who would find that reassuring. 
  6. I wrote a list of the things I’m doing to support my own mental health during this period of social distancing, and invited the students to share what they’re doing.

Moving Forward

Because students were always able to earn “attendance” credit digitally by completing all writing prompts/activities outlined in the lesson plan, the overall policy doesn’t need to change now that CUNY is moving to online-only classes for the remainder of the semester. However, just as I asked the students to write private responses to prompts that I would not collect when we were meeting face-to-face, I also will ask students to do some writing that I will never see. If I believe in the value of private writing as a mode of thinking and self-reflection in the classroom, that value doesn’t change as we move online. I will need to trust that they will do it if they are able, and they will need to trust that I’ve crafted the prompts with our learning goals in mind. 

As for our “graded” (on completion, for participation credit) assignments, I plan on posting discussion questions on our course site and asking students to do independent research and then share out their findings with each other. For example, their first assignment after we return from instructional recess will be to read several online news articles, do their own research on one of the topics based on what sparks their curiosity, and share sources that they found valuable in their investigation. Then, they will respond to each other, and we will have a compendium of preliminary sources for their potential research projects, all on our course site! 

During what was previously our class meeting time, I’m making myself available for office hours via Google Hangouts or phone call, as well as adding a Saturday morning block to give students additional flexibility with their schedules. I’m planning on doing one on one writing conferences in the same way once they start working on their final research projects.

 

Image credit: WOCinTech Chat stock photo, March 24, 2016

Pedagogy Profile: Claire Cahen

What is your role on the OpenLab team?

I am a member of the OpenLab Community Team; my official role is as a Digital Pedagogy Fellow.

Describe your experience using the OpenLab to support your pedagogy.

For the past year, I have been writing our weekly “In the Spotlight” blog posts, which highlight innovative OpenLab sites and discuss some of the cutting-edge work happening on the platform. This has been such a rewarding blog to write because I get to explore the really creative and original projects that faculty, staff, and students are undertaking on the OpenLab. I often find inspiration from their work. This goes for things big and small. For instance, I spotlighted an OpenLab course that cleverly engaged students in writing the course policies. I promptly adopted the same practice in the courses I teach. I also continually find inspiration from the amazing digital assignments that faculty are proposing in their OpenLab courses.

Can you describe the ways you have integrated the OpenLab into your pedagogical practices here at City Tech or elsewhere?

Even though I teach at Hunter and use the CUNY Academic Commons, I always refer my students to the many resources that exist on the OpenLab. I especially encourage them to look through the Spotlight for student ePortfolios and think about how students on the OpenLab are presenting themselves online, how they make use of learning blogs, etc.

How have the OpenLab and other open digital pedagogy tools transformed or expanded your pedagogy, and the pedagogical values you’re able to realize in your courses and educational practice?

The OpenLab has really converted me to open pedagogy in general. There is so much value in keeping course sites and assignments open, thus providing students with a space to engage with each other informally online and helping build community. Having students blog for their assignments has been a wonderful way to train students in more-formal, but still accessible public writing. And, the OpenLab has made sharing teaching strategies and educational materials so much easier: I feel like I’m part of a community of educators who care deeply about things like the public university and inclusive pedagogy.

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.)

There are so many incredible pedagogical resources that live on the OpenLab on sites like L4, The Open Road, Open Pedagogy, and the many library OERs. I’ve benefited so much from the work everyone else has done to bring these materials together. I look forward to contributing to these kinds of projects throughout my career and sharing resources that can support my colleagues and students in teaching and learning.

Open Pedagogy Event (2/27): Access in Service

Access in Service

Thursday, February 27, 2020, 4:30-6:00pm (Faculty Commons, N227)

*Refreshments will be served.

*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!

 

Access in higher education means more than implementing accommodations and access-centered pedagogy. Outside of the classroom, students face barriers to access in areas like advising, tutoring, and writing centers. These include a lack of culturally-responsive writing support,  legal and advising support tailored to students’ needs, and transparency around registration and financial aid. Faculty and staff who serve on committees, mentor students, and participate in various types of teaching and learning centers must think through how to  serve both multiply-marginalized students and our institutions with access and justice in mind. In this event we will consider the following questions:

  • How can university faculty practice inclusivity in mentoring and advising disabled and non-disabled students with shifting and complex needs? 
  • How do shifting  cultural attitudes and norms impact how we think  about access in higher education? What kind of shifting norms come up around using technology to facilitate access?
  • What barriers to access do you encounter when you advise students and mentor students, formally or informally? What strategies have you used to reduce these barriers, and how do you learn from others about access-centered service opportunities? 
  • How can we, as individuals and institutions, reframe access to consider the full range of what a person (student, staff/faculty member) encounters at the college?

Recommended Readings:

 

Image Credit: meme by Sharona Franklin on her @hot.crip Instagram account 

Pedagogy Profile: Jesse Rice-Evans

Curious about the OpenLab team behind our 24/7 e-mail support, office hours, and workshops? Right now we’re featuring OpenLab Digital Pedagogy Fellows who do these on-the-ground projects as part of our ongoing Retrospective series. Many thanks to past team members who’ve helped the OpenLab thrive, and to current members who keep everything running smoothly!

What is your role on the OpenLab team?

An art deco-style portrait of a white femme with purple hair and dark lipstick wearing a t-shirt with the text "Femmes Against Fascism" and holding a purple cane
Portrait by Michaela Oteri

Since 2018, I’ve been with the team as a Digital Pedagogy Fellow. I do Pedagogy Profiles, organize and facilitate workshops, and work with the Community Team to devise new programming, features for the site, and other ways to reach out to and support the City Tech community! You can usually tell it’s me writing because I use a lot of exclamation points!

Describe your experience using the OpenLab to support your pedagogy.

Since I don’t teach courses here at City Tech, I don’t get to use the OpenLab for my classroom teaching (fingers crossed that will change in the future!), but I’m responsible for a lot of the workshop and event content we offer during the academic year. This means that I’m constantly flipping through new sites for Pedagogy Profile candidates and examples for workshops, and through back-end work like testing plugins, I get to experiment with brand-new functionality and features.

This means that even though some of our workshop topics may sound familiar to long-time users of the OpenLab, we do try our best to provide updated examples of tools we like, assignment ideas, and best practices for using the OpenLab to teach, learn, and connect.

Can you describe the ways you have integrated the OpenLab into your pedagogical practices here at City Tech or elsewhere?

I’m in my third year working on my Ph.D. in English Composition and Rhetoric at the CUNY Graduate Center, and my pedagogy shows up in my academic and poetic writing. I have actually been able to bring a lot of my silly teaching metaphors and informal pedagogy into workshops that I co-facilitate with other OpenLab Fellows! I make a lot of bad jokes about computers, try to include some interactivity into lecture-heavy workshop agendas, and ask attendees to collaborate and share knowledge, much as I do in my writing classrooms.

Student collage of magazine and printed images that focus on the theme of self and other, including an image of Sansa Stark, a makeup ad, and empowering text from glossy publications

Spending time on the OpenLab as a non-teaching community member means I get to build on other folks’ work in my own teaching on the CUNY Academic Commons: using categories to organize student writing on my course sites, setting up my class schedule with Mammoth .docx, or even getting overexcited and activating a bunch of features that I don’t know how to use well can provide a useful space for my students and me to share our difficulties all underscore my pedagogical values: appreciating failure, embracing human error with humor, and staying flexible.

How have the OpenLab and other open digital pedagogy tools transformed or expanded your pedagogy, and the pedagogical values you’re able to realize in your courses and educational practice? 

I’ve actually written about this a bit over at the Graduate Center Teaching and Learning Center blog Visible Pedagogy and on my personal site where I showcase some of my digital projects.

Meme by @hot.crip of block text on an abstract background, reading "how to accommodate people with disabilities: NO ask them whats wrong with them (oops try again) YASSS ask them how you can make an experience safer for them"
Meme by @hot.crip

As we use more and more digital tools in my classrooms, we are inevitably going to face network errors, broken links, and ugly formatting. Through coping with my chronic illnesses, I’ve learned to feel confident sharing my own needs, including technological ones. Remaining a motivated and curious learner is a huge part of why I love working with students especially, as they have so much to teach.

A student response to the film "Her" in the form of a meme and an accompanying textual explanation

One of my favorite OpenLab things is our Open Pedagogy series where staff and faculty come together over snacks to chat informally about a specific topic in teaching and learning, and I’ve found that the ethos of these spaces is comfortable and generative for me as a learner, and I feel confident sharing even things I’ve found difficult in balancing my positionalities as PhD student, fellow, adjunct, and scholar. Inevitably, other folks can relate to some of what I share, while others provide an alternate framing for the topic that helps me reimagine a way to engage with a challenging experience.

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.)

Well, I’ve gotten really good at responding to workshop participants’ in-the-moment needs, which builds on my previous career as a waitress. The informal setting of our twice-per-semester Open Pedagogy events is both enriching and comfortable for my style of learning, and I was able to center one of my primary research interests (accessibility) as our OP theme for this year!

I’m also hoping to use Portfolios to showcase some of my CUNY-specific digital and writing projects, though my own exam deadlines inevitably bump this project down!

Pedagogy Profile: Olivia Wood

Curious about the OpenLab team behind our 24/7 e-mail support, office hours, and workshops? Right now we’re featuring OpenLab Digital Pedagogy Fellows who do these on-the-ground projects as part of our ongoing Retrospective series. Many thanks to past team members who’ve helped the OpenLab thrive, and to current members who keep everything running smoothly!

What is your role on the OpenLab team?Headshot of a white person with glasses and short brown hair wearing a red and green blazer

I’m a digital pedagogy fellow/community team member!

Describe your experience using the OpenLab to support your pedagogy.

Before working for the OpenLab, I had only taught using Blackboard. I love the flexibility of getting to design my own course site and getting to look at what other instructors are doing to get ideas for my own classes. Because I teach rhetoric, I can also use the website itself as a teaching moment to explain my own design choices as a web composer.

Can you describe the ways you have integrated the OpenLab into your pedagogical practices here at City Tech or elsewhere?

I teach at John Jay, so I use the CUNY Academic Commons instead of the OpenLab, but the concept/structure and most of the features are the same. Working with OpenLab users through my position on the community team has helped me learn a lot about how to use the Commons myself. I’m having my students write comments on blog posts on our course site instead of participating in a discussion forum, and they will be doing two mini-projects this semester where they write their own posts for each other to read and comment on. They’re also going to be making digital portfolios for our class. I’m still providing a word doc version of the syllabus, but I’ve also made it web-friendly on our site with a very clickable table of contents, which hopefully makes navigation easier.

How have the OpenLab and other open digital pedagogy tools transformed or expanded your pedagogy, and the pedagogical values you’re able to realize in your courses and educational practice? 

As a teacher, I’m nervous about student work (and my own teaching materials) being out in the open, partially because I worry the students will be anxious about it. I believe in the philosophy of openness and the pedagogical value of giving students a real platform and audience besides writing the weird genre of the “college essay” just to send it to me, but the OpenLab showed me how beautiful and useful it can be in practice. So many teachers are already doing exactly the things I was nervous about implementing, and it’s great! In a sentence, the OpenLab has given me inspiration and confidence to take pedagogical risks.

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 can look at my colleagues’ work and share mine with them, learn about WordPress features that I can use for myself or teach to my students, and engage in pedagogical discussions with a much broader range of people. I can see it also being useful to look at the kinds of things students are doing outside of my class so I can make more informed connections with the other parts of their lives.

Open Pedagogy Event (11/7): Access Pedagogy

Access Pedagogy

Thursday, November 7, 2019, 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!

Despite CUNY’s historical role as an opportunity-granting institution, austerity—that is, rising tuition and numbers of contingent faculty, failing infrastructure, etc.—impacts teaching and learning conditions across the university. As we’re facing budget crises, overburdened adjuncts, and students balancing careers, caretaking, and college, how can we make ourselves accessible as teachers? What does an accessible syllabus look like? To what extent are our classrooms accessible, and what can we do to center access and equity in both in-person and online teaching? Join the OpenLab Team, City Tech faculty and staff, and CUNY colleagues at our next Open Pedagogy event, where we will discuss how we can increase access in our pedagogical practices in and out of the classroom, on and offline.

  • What changes have you made to your teaching documents and practices to center access and equity, specifically thinking about office hours, handling lateness, absences, requests for extensions or make-up exams, with access in mind?
  • Many Black, brown, first-generation, and other marginalized students bring experiences of educational trauma to college classrooms. What can we as instructors and advocates do to combat the normalizing, hegemonic goals of gatekeeping institutional spaces like the classroom? What resources do you make students aware of for when they need support?
  • What role can open digital pedagogy play in increasing access to education? What pitfalls must we avoid to ensure access?
  • How have you as staff and faculty members worked to care for both your students and yourself in spite of austerity? Are there supports on campus that you have found useful? How about support elsewhere? 
Recommended Readings: 

 

Image Credit: Old Barn – Sweet Briar College by Rick Stillings is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.

Pedagogy Profile: Jason Ellis

What is your role on the OpenLab team?Headshot of a white man with voluminous hair and a beard smiling while wearing a black jacket and green striped tie

I am an OpenLab Co-Director and part of the OpenLab Community Team. This is my first year as a part of the OpenLab leadership, but I have been using OpenLab for the past five years and continue to use it in my current ENG2575, Technical Writing class.

Screenshot of Prof. Ellis's homepage for Technical Writing, featuring a lefthand sidebar image of a femme in a helmet with analog computing text spelled backwards across the visor. The main page contains the title of the course and another retro sci-fi image of space ships and a white head with short brownish hair.
Prof. Ellis’s Technical Writing course homepage

Describe your experience using the OpenLab to support your pedagogy.

Before joining the City Tech faculty, I used WordPress and various social media platforms with my students at Georgia Tech. When I heard about the OpenLab at City Tech during my transition, I jumped at the chance to try out this homegrown platform that combined WordPress with social media elements via Buddypress. 

OpenLab enables me to help students learn more about openness, collaboration, public-facing audiences, multimodal composition, and by doing rather than simply showing. I have taught classes from ENG1101, English Composition I to ENG2420, Science Fiction to ENG3760, Digital Storytelling with the OpenLab.

And, I like sharing a quote with my students from the science fiction writer William Gibson: “the street finds its own use for things.” This is true for OpenLab. I make use of it to meet the goals set for my classes and those that I want to offer my students. Likewise, I encourage my students to learn how to use OpenLab as they would any other digital tool and imagine how they can use it for their purposes and leverage it to meet the goals that they set for themselves.

Photo of a black-and-white plastic cat with their head cocked atop a beige box with the words "professional computer" displayed in white text on a black background
courtesy of Prof. Ellis

Can you describe the ways you have integrated the OpenLab into your pedagogical practices here at City Tech or elsewhere?

I want to make information easily accessible to my students in the places where they are (on smartphones and computers), I want my students to realize that the writing that they do has more audiences than their instructors and includes many possible audiences online, I want my students to read and engage the writing of their peers, and I want to offer students open educational resources (OER) or zero textbook cost (ZTC). OpenLab supports all these pedagogical initiatives.

For students’ needs as they transition to the workplace or graduate school, I encourage students to think about how the writing that they do on OpenLab creates a record of their intellectual development and how the projects that they post serve as proof that they have needed communication skills. Students can curate their work into a Portfolio that they can link to from their LinkedIn.com profile, personal domain, or resume.

I share my reasoning with students behind the things that I do and the things that I ask them to do with or on the OpenLab. It’s important that they understand why OpenLab is an invaluable, homegrown resource that improves their access and interaction in the classroom while preparing them for job seeking and the workplace.

How have the OpenLab and other open digital pedagogy tools transformed or expanded your pedagogy, and the pedagogical values you’re able to realize in your courses and educational practice? 

OpenLab makes it very easy for me to work with students in the classroom and asynchronously between class meetings. I keep my past classes on the OpenLab, because students have reported back to me that they refer to them to remember something relevant to their other classes or work. And, I tell students that they are free to browse my other classes on OpenLab, because they might learn something from them or consider taking one of my other classes based on what they discover. 

Aside from courses, how does the OpenLab support your pedagogical practices and ambitions? 

In addition to teaching with the OpenLab, I use it for collaboration and outreach. I started the project site Science Fiction at City Tech about four years ago to promote the City Tech Science Fiction Collection, advertise our annual science fiction symposium, and share teaching materials. Also, and perhaps more importantly, the project site has grown to promote student involvement in the City Tech Science Fiction Collection, such as through helping build the finding aid and class visits, and it is a central resource for sharing video of past symposium presentations. 

Photo of Samuel L. Delany, an older Black man with a long gray beard, holding a copy of one of his books in the City Tech Library science fiction collection. He wears all black and carries a black cane, a pleased look on his face
Snapshot of Samuel R. Delany visiting City Tech’s Science Fiction Collection

I created the Retrocomputing at City Tech project site to catalog the vintage computer resources that I keep in my office and regularly use in my classes. My intent was to highlight these artifacts that are available—some I own, and some CUNY owns—for use in classes. While I’m still working to make this project site as successful as the Science Fiction at City Tech site, the fact that I could get it up and running quickly with OpenLab, I consider a win.