Pedagogy Profile: Ryoya Terao

What Department/Program are your affiliated with?Bust photo of professor Ryoya Terao, a man in glasses and a green jacket

ENT (Entertainment Technology)

What is your role in that Department/Program?

Faculty, associate professor, instructor, oversees most of the video courses.

When did you begin working at City Tech?

Fall 2010

Describe your experience joining the OpenLab and when/how you began actively using the platform to support your pedagogy.

I’m not teaching these courses this semester, but actively started using OpenLab a few years ago in ENT 1190 (Video Technology, formerly known as Introduction to Film and Video Production) and ENT 3290 (Digital Video Camera). Currently, the department uses OpenLab for all sections of ENT 4499 (Culmination Project).

Why did you decide to start using the OpenLab? 

For ENT 1190 and 3290, online discussions with some pictures and copying links, OpenLab is more useful than BB, and some students said, they don’t log on to BB often, and they don’t even like the appearance of it.

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

For online discussions for group projects, it is useful. On OpenLab, it is easy for me to track down who make meaningful contributions actively. I also gave assignments for students to weekly upload some photos (this was in ENT 3290 a year ago).

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

As it is more visual and it allows us to upload visual materials than BB, it is useful when I teach video courses.

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

For college wide committees, OpenLab is used [robustly], and it is one good way to be informed and communicate with City Tech colleagues.

Recap: Curating Faculty/Staff Portfolios

On Thursday, April 4, faculty and staff from City Tech got together for the second of two Open Pedagogy events the OpenLab hosted this semester where participants discussed “curating a faculty/staff Portfolio.”

Quite aptly, a participant kicked the evening off by reminding us that, whether we are aware of it or not, we tend to leave a trail of digital footprints. Sometimes, like when students pull up our Rate my Professor reviews, these footprints suggest something about our pedagogy. How can we use academic portfolios, we wondered, to curate a more intentional digital presence?

This was one of  the main questions animating the discussion. Folks shared different strategies for building academic portfolios, including chronicling past syllabi, using previous OpenLab course sites as repositories—evidence, even—of previous pedagogical work, archiving invitations to serve on panels and other planned events, and selecting finished researched to showcase. One participant noted the multiple advantages of maintaining an academic portfolio on the OpenLab. For graphic designers, architects, photographers, and videographers, OpenLab academic portfolios lend themselves to showcasing visuals in high resolution—something that is not always a possibility in their print counterparts. Moreover, for those who teach (and learn!) on the OpenLab, the ability to link out to one’s other projects and/or courses is a uniquely helpful practice.

A number of staff—including librarians and members of the OpenLab team—and faculty in non-teaching roles led a discussion about how to present work done outside of the classroom. In these roles, staff often find themselves giving workshops, or training faculty and students in specific and skilled tasks. What would it mean, we wondered, to consider this work as pedagogy?

Finally, we closed our discussion with the question: are portfolios exclusively spaces for perfection—vehicles to portray our best work and successes? Or can they also be spaces for reflection—organic examinations of our “failures” and teachable moments? Many of us had (understandably) defaulted to using portfolios solely as required by our institutions: regular benchmarks of accomplishments made available for institutional review. We asked: how can academic portfolios grow more capacious? How often do we publicly reflect on our pedagogical experiences? Why not use the OpenLab’s affordances to think through teaching and learning—inside and outside the classroom—and invite others into the conversation?

Pedagogy Profile: Jennifer Sears

For this Pedagogy Profile, we heard from Jennifer Sears, an Assistant Professor in the English Department and a Faculty Leader for the First Year Learning Communities program.

Photo of white woman sipping coffee while wearing a black beret and sweater

When did you begin working at City Tech?

I became a full-time faculty member in fall 2014. Prior to that appointment, I was a substitute Lecturer and adjunct professor in the English Department and taught in the First Year Summer Programs.

Describe your experience joining the OpenLab and when/how you began actively using the platform to support your pedagogy. Why did you decide to start using the OpenLab?

I first used the OpenLab in March 2014 when I created Words Have Lives, a tutoring site for developmental writing students. Lauri Aguirre, Director of First Year Programs, asked me to design the site as a “commons” with the intention that future Developmental Writing tutors and students might use and develop the materials even further. I remember I had fun figuring out that site! I’d done some blogging already, so some of the functions and the navigation tools were familiar. I liked the title I chose–Words Have Lives–and wanted it to have a “Brooklyn” theme. Some of the photographs are from my Williamsburg neighborhood and a walk over the Williamsburg Bridge on a memorably sunny day. Photo of graffiti on concrete that reads "Brooklyn 4 Life"For that first project, the students were primarily recipients of emails with links to resources and also reminders for upcoming tests.

My next project was for the First Year Summer Program (FYSP) a few months later, in the summer semesters of 2014. I co-wrote a Common Reading Project with a fellow English professor, Robert Ostrom, focusing on Malcolm Gladwell’s book Outliers. I wanted to add an OpenLab site to make the project more visibly appealing for instructors to take into their classrooms. With posts on the OpenLab, they could quickly find online resources about Malcolm Gladwell including video interviews and articles.

The reason it worked for the FYSP Common Reading project was because we had multiple faculty, primarily adjunct instructors working at different times and working in different locations. Building a sense of teaching within a community is difficult when instructors don’t have face to face contact with each other, and the OpenLab facilitates this with more visual impact than sharing files on Google Drive or Blackboard. Though there are other ways to share materials among faculty, what was immediately clear was the visual advantage of using the Open Lab.

The challenge of using the OpenLab in 2014 was an obvious one: most faculty weren’t OpenLab yet, and so we had to make everything available in multiple formats and try to help people learn how to log in. But this has changed dramatically in the past five years.

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

The first course I integrated with OpenLab was an upper level Professional Writing course. I had students create blog posts to write about their professional interests and to think about the professional audience they were targeting. They created several interesting projects. Two projects that come to mind are “Pimp My Dog,” a student’s project about dog grooming. Another I remember was created by a student from California who wrote a site on surfing and the identification of different types of waves. I still saw the site as a blogging platform, and this is what I used it to teach.

In the First Year Learning Communities (FYLC), we use the OpenLab. For students, we have a “My Stories” project for first semester students describing their experiences at the college. The peer leaders, upper level students, in this program also interact with first semester students on the OpenLab. This is one of the powerful possibilities, I think, that the platform facilitates, students meeting students they wouldn’t otherwise meet.

As an instructor in First Year Learning Communities, the linked courses we teach are more easy to link on the sites. One of the FYLC cohorts that integrated the OpenLab most effectively was created with psychology professor Barbara Chutroo. We developed a class that considered the rising rates of depression and stress during the first semester of college and ways to deal with potential stressors. We used the OpenLab in a couple of ways. One was that they all uploaded their student profile and talked about how they came to City Tech. One of the students, Karan Soekhoe, a photographer, uploaded a photo and talked about how beautiful the area was. Photo of One World Trade and the Brooklyn Bridge across the East RiverOther students uploaded personal images. It was through these courses that I started considering the OpenLab as a place for students to actively contribute.

I’ve been active in OER development in a variety of ways. I did the training for OERs and created the “Brain on the Page” OER course for the combination 92W/ENG 1101 course. I then worked as a co-organizer for four English department ENG 1101 courses that were under the OER initiative. Having been part of those efforts, I now use primarily no-cost textbooks and host most of the materials on the OpenLab. What I like about these resources in addition to the fact that they are accessible to students, is that they allow me to easily refresh my own teaching and pedagogical materials every semester.

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

OpenLab has expanded my pedagogy in a couple of ways. I’ve incorporated a wider range of materials with an emphasis on current materials. I find I’m exploring more ways to get students working online and interacting with other students. I’ve had to rethink what online writing is as a genre and consider how to approach it. This is an increasingly important part of our students’ professional lives.

In 2014, students floundered and often needed help to get started. In 2019, many students need little assistance to get started. More first semester students are posting and uploading materials with relative ease. This shows change in our students and in the continuing development of the OpenLab. I’m still learning about widgets and techniques to make this easier for students and at the same time, they are getting more and more fluent before they get here.

Pedagogy Profile: Librarian Nora Almeida

This month we’re profiling Professor Nora Almeida, an Instruction and Outreach Librarian. Professor Almeida assumed her current position in 2015, after joining the City Tech community in 2013 as an adjunct librarian.Headshot of Nora Almeida, Instruction Librarian

What Department/Program are you affiliated with?

City Tech Library

Describe your experience joining the OpenLab and when/how you began actively using the platform to support your pedagogy.

I started using OpenLab in 2013 when I joined City Tech as an adjunct and was teaching LIB1201 “Research and Documentation for the Information Age.” I used the platform to host course materials, the course schedule, and assignments but also wanted to build some kind of online community for students. Blogging is a big component of the course and I like that students can read and respond to each other’s posts. I think that making my course ‘open’ and involving my students in decisions about who can (and should) see their work also presented a great opportunity to talk about online identity, intellectual property, and digital privacy—concepts that relate directly to LIB1201 course content.

Why did you decide to start using the OpenLab?

I’m pretty comfortable with WordPress and like the flexibility of designing my own curriculum AND the platform that I present it on. Many of the out-of-box Learning Management Systems I’ve used at other institutions are constraining and clunky to use. They are built like silos and it’s hard to have any input into the online identity of your course, which I think is important in terms of reflecting what the class is about. I know that OpenLab is intimidating to some new students but it’s more practical to have some fluency in a WordPress-based platform when you graduate from college than it is to have used a proprietary platform that no one outside of higher education has event heard of. So I present it to my students as a way to learn a little bit about a technology that they might actually encounter again in a job.

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

Aside from blogging, I have had students in my credit-courses create project sites on OpenLab for collaborative high-stakes assignments. I do research assignments with students but have stopped requiring formal research papers because students aren’t forced to think about structure or rhetorical mode—they just write a standard 5 paragraph essay and try to shove a few quotes in there. So, in response, I have integrated projects into my curriculum that involve producing podcasts, creating maps, or developing photo-essays based on research. The students then design part of an OpenLab project site that includes all of the project components—an annotated bibliography that summarizes the sources they found, written reflections, and their podcast or essay or map. I leave the site organization and visual design up to them but that’s a formal part of how the projects are evaluated. I emphasize that designing their project site should be intentional and thoughtful.  We do a lot of field trips for the placed-based interdisciplinary courses that I teach and I have started to try to frame primary source “documentation” as something that students actively participate in creating on OpenLab.

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 credit courses and library instruction, I think about context and collaboration as a central elements of my pedagogy. I usually co-teach a special topics interdisciplinary course called Learning Places and I also spend a lot of time in other people’s classrooms, which has made me really cognizant of the (sometimes fraught) expectations and emotions we all carry with us into classrooms. I think that intentional, critical pedagogy is always context aware and that if I’m doing my job, I’m acknowledging that we’re all in these shifting and precarious positions in relation to each other, in relation to institutional structures, and in relation to what we’re learning. So I try to approach pedagogy (in physical and digital spaces) in a way that engages people and makes them feel like they are actively involved in shaping outcomes. I try to highlight that what we (all) bring to the table matters.

Prof. Almeida's students get involved with DACA activism

In terms of what this has to do with OpenLab, as a librarian and critical pedagogy proponent, I’m coming from a place where cultivating openness (in the form of accessible and interactive environments—digital and otherwise) is really important to me. I’m interested in a digital spaces that my students and I have some power to shape. 

Prof. Almeida's student projects

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

I think it’s awesome that the OpenLab team foregrounds pedagogy—that the conversation is about open pedagogy and how that translates to tech rather than trying to make how we teach fit into a proprietary commercial platforms. I also think that as a whole, higher education, hasn’t fully thought through what it means to outsource education to private companies who are making money off student data or automating test scores or selling us copyrighted lecture slides. All this to say, I think it’s great that we’re building the tools that we—City Tech students and faculty—specifically need.

Beyond my role as an instructor, I see OpenLab as a great tool for connecting across disciplines and engaging communities beyond City Tech. The OpenLab team helped the library develop some custom widgets and I think it’s really important that there is less of a divide between the resources the library has to support instruction and the place(s) where instruction happens. I’ve also been involved in the library Open Education Resources (OER) initiative and think the OpenLab has been important to ensure that we have a good infrastructure that is scalable and adaptable. Dealing with the textbook affordability crisis facing our students is important to address right now but we also need an open scalable platform that ensures the initiative is sustainable. The OER committee is also using OpenLab to help faculty learn about instructional design and accessibility and copyright—which they can carry forward into other projects. Projects like the OER initiative and Living Lab illustrate that we can build infrastructure on OpenLab to support each other, to help streamline curricula, and to build on (rather than replicate) each other’s work.