Open Pedagogy 11/7 Recap: Access Pedagogy

Participants at the 11/7 Open Pedagogy event on Access Pedagogy, gathered around for a roundtable discussion.

Last Thursday, November 7, we met for our second Open Pedagogy event of the semester. Our theme for the evening was Access Pedagogy. Against the backdrop of austerity and persistent budget crises at CUNY, we considered how we could make ourselves accessible as teachers. We asked:  To what extent are our classrooms accessible, and what can we do to center access and equity in both in-person and online teaching?

We began the evening by exploring how our day-to-day experiences in the classroom and with students continually challenge our assumptions about teaching and learning. One participant shared that, as an instructor, they assumed that students would contact them or come to office hours if something weren’t clear. Other participants nodded and laughed in agreement as this same instructor then explained that this was 1) false; 2) untrue of even their own behavior as a student. Many of us admitted that, when we were in college, we were often too shy, intimidated, or busy to go to our professors’ office hours ourselves. The implication? It’s actually our job as instructors to make sure we are being clear and to check-in regularly with our students!

More generally, our students continually and productively challenge our assumptions. At CUNY, many of our students balance careers, caretaking, and college. In many ways, they are expected to be superhuman. As instructors, we learn again and again that our most engaged and creative students may be frequently absent or late for class. We learn again and again that access to basic technology—including a computer and safe and stable internet connection—is not a given. Nor can we take for granted that our students will have had the time and resources to complete all of their coursework. This entails a need for some malleability and ingenuity on our part.

Fortunately, we can work to reduce barriers to student learning; we can work to improve access. At the event, we discussed softening the language in our syllabi, such that policies around punctuality, attendance, and late work submission are made somewhat flexible and always compassionate. We can provide students with laptops and other forms of accessible technology, including by using open and free software and open platforms (like the OpenLab!). We can help our students seek out resources and list these on our OpenLab course/project sites. Moreover, we can do all this while still teaching students the importance of advocating for themselves, and of making their own needs clear to their instructors.

Of course, not all of the problems we face in higher learning today have straightforward solutions. Despite our enthusiasm for open learning platforms like the OpenLab and, especially for Open Educational Resources (OERs), a participant reminded us that we must be careful to not simply replicate the textbook format. Working digitally gives students an opportunity to express themselves not just in formal essays, but in memes, gifs, and blogs. We should not shy away from multimedia, nor from opportunities to make students co-creators of a course. Moreover, while we can all strive to make ourselves more accessible as instructors, we also have to confront the harsh realities of the trauma, racism, and poverty many of our students face, as well as the high workloads and precarity many of our adjunct instructors live with.

Let’s continue the conversation! Please comment on this post with thoughts/ questions.

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.

Open Pedagogy 9/19 Recap: Access Beyond the ADA

Open Pedagogy participants discussing access beyond the ADA.

On Thursday, September 19, faculty and staff from City Tech, CUNY, and other New York City universities (e.g. Pratt University)  got together for the first of two Open Pedagogy events the OpenLab is hosting this semester. Participants discussed “Access Beyond the ADA”

Note that the discussion was framed around access rather than accessibility. As we noted in our post announcing the event, the term accessibility conveys the degree to which a space, process, or concept is accessible. By contrast, access denotes the process by which accessibility is achieved. Our focus on Thursday evening was on broadening our understanding of “access” beyond compliance with the ADA. We considered the following questions:

  • How can open digital pedagogy impact, augment, and enhance access?
  • What are the limits of technology’s impact on access and accessibility?
  • What barriers to access have you encountered as faculty and staff? What about the barriers you’ve experienced students facing? 
  • What resources have helped you to improve access in your academic courses and projects?

Participants kicked off the evening by recounting how some of their own assumptions around access had been called into question. For example, a participant shared that once they included language in their syllabi inviting students to talk about their different learning styles, they experienced a drastic shift in their relationship with students. This faculty member noted that students had opened up to them in unexpected ways; most simply wanted to talk about how they learned and how they studied. Some were looking for advice, validation, and acknowledgement. Few were looking for technical “accommodation.” None, the faculty member emphasized, were looking for what some disparagingly call “preferential treatment.” Most students simply wanted to be heard—to have their differences recognized. This anecdote helped ground the evening in a principle that might be captured by a simple maxim: trust your students. Students are often quite aware of their needs and can tell you how to improve access to learning in your class. But they need to be given the space to do so.

Several participants echoed these experiences, including alluding to experiences of attempting to accommodate student needs and facing institutional guidelines that restrict faculty agency to grade, grant extensions, or even appropriately refer students to other offices on campus that may provide support. Even the simple awareness of which offices serve which purposes can be obfuscated to first-generation students and part-time, temporary, or contract faculty and staff, so it can be difficult to advise students on the best course of action without a thorough orientation, a luxury that seems to have diminished under austere working conditions in higher ed. 

Similarly, disabled teaching and non-teaching faculty in the room recounted having to stay in the disability “closet” for much of their careers. Rare are those occasions on which university instructors are invited to share the accommodations they might require. Some noted that the use of open digital pedagogy—and platforms like the OpenLab—had made their lives much easier. The ability to create interactive and accessible web content, and to teach meaningfully through this content has been invaluable, especially for instructors with chronic illness, autism, and other disabilities that impact their ability to stand, communicate verbally or nonverbally, and other traditional pedagogical expectations  in a classroom.

But significant barriers remain. The physical environment is a major obstacle to access: many participants remarked on the difficulty of getting around the CUNY campuses when disabled, remarking on simple architectural inaccessibility in the forms of steps and stairs and nonfunctional elevators, and other issues such as overcrowded hallways that can be difficult to navigate during class changes. Another barrier is that the websites students and faculty depend on—including the database search for the library—are not always easily read with a screen reader. Finally, while technology is arguable a prerequisite for improving access to learning, it can also be an auditory and visual distraction for students in the classroom. Participants noted that they sometimes struggle with what to ask their students to do with cell phones: should these be allowed on desks in class? For one math instructor, a smartphone can supplant the need for an expensive calculator as well as acting as a common means of accessing online material. But what about when they become a distraction and possibly undermine a student’s success in a course?

Finally, participants emphasized at multiple points that improvements to access must come from people—not technology. On its own, technology cannot transform a student’s learning or an instructor’s teaching or service to the university. But it can be employed with the intention of making learning affordable, accessible, and varied; it can be used to adapt teaching to different learning styles. The key word here is intention. To focus on access, participants noted, is to value the ongoing human energy that is required to meet people’s accessibility rights and, conversely, the energy people must put in to have their own rights met . The processes at play are not automatic. They have to be enacted. Our conversation last Thursday evening was one way to redouble our commitment to this enactment.

Let’s continue the conversation! Please comment on this post with thoughts/ questions. And don’t forget to join us for our next Open Pedagogy event, on November 7!

Open Pedagogy Event (9/19): Access Beyond the ADA

Access Beyond the ADA

Thursday, September 19, 2019, 4:30-6:00pm (N227 Faculty Commons)

*Refreshments will be served. (Thanks to 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!

In frameworks of disability justice, the term accessibility conveys the degree to which a space, process, or concept is accessible, while access instead denotes the process by which accessibility is achieved. Join the OpenLab Team, City Tech faculty and staff, and CUNY colleagues at our next Open Pedagogy event, where we’ll be discussing different ways of thinking through access on the OpenLab and in digital pedagogy more broadly.

While the ADA governs the widespread adoption of reasonable accommodations for faculty, staff, and students in higher education, we’re curious what other forms of access are important to consider in open digital pedagogy. We’ll work to expand our understanding of “access” beyond compliance and discuss some practical skills and tools that may help augment a more inclusive pedagogy that anticipates and values difference in teaching and learning. We’ll consider the following questions:

  • How can open digital pedagogy impact, augment, and enhance access?
  • What are the limits of technology’s impact on access and accessibility?
  • What barriers to access have you encountered as faculty and staff? What about the barriers you’ve experienced students facing? 
  • What resources have helped you to improve access in your academic courses and projects?

This event is the first of two in our Fall 2019 Open Pedagogy series on access in open digital pedagogy. We’re excited to continue our conversation around how “access”–practically and conceptually–can be integrated into teaching and learning on the OpenLab.

Save the date for our upcoming Open Pedagogy event, “Access Pedagogy,” where we will discuss some strategies for implementing access into teaching materials, assignments, and student engagement on November 7, 2019 from 4:30-6:00pm in N227 Faculty Commons

Recommended Readings:

*If you’re interested in the Hamraie article above, please reach out to openlab@citytech.cuny.edu for a PDF copy

Image credit: useless-3 by rené van haeften is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.

Access Open Hours

August 21, 2019 1:00-3:00 PM in G603

This year, we’re highlighting accessibility best practices on the web, specifically working on the OpenLab! This includes usability, providing content in multiple formats (text, audio, video, etc.), and providing descriptions for users using screen readers, among many other strategies. We’ll be running our Open Pedagogy series on this theme all year, so please join us for these more discussion-based events!

 

For these Open Hours (8/21/19), participants will have the chance to work on developing their own courses and projects, but we’ll also be talking through some simple accessibility protocols to incorporate into your OpenLab sites. 

 

Defining Access

Scholars in disability studies and pedagogy center a broad definition of access: instead of requiring that students disclose access needs to an on-campus disability services office, scholars recommend integrating accessibility in the syllabus and day-to-day classroom management. 

 

Accessible Syllabus provides a bounty of possible strategies to practice inclusive learning, including some alternatives to traditional deadlines, developing grading contracts with students, and offering students resources in the form of an inclusive learning statement. 

 

The OpenLab team is committed to sharing best practices in sharing and collaborating in digital spaces, and has developed a Summary of Accessibility on the OpenLab. It’s important to remember that when we share content on the OpenLab, we don’t want to create additional barriers for students.

 

Digital Access

The web offers formal options for including content, including posting audio or video versions of lectures and announcements, allowing users to modify colors and font sizes to accommodate low-vision needs, and other options for making use of multimedia formats. However, it’s important to also include transcripts and/or captions alongside multimedia formats in order to best serve users with different kinds of access needs. 

 

Even simple choices, like including hyperlinks in the course syllabus or on the homepage, can help demonstrate a commitment to interactive and independent engagement with site content by allowing students to visit linked sites at their own pace rather than listing blurbs for resources directly on the syllabus. The OpenLab’s Help section offers additional support for reading ease and accessibility when composing in digital spaces. 

 

Accessible Syllabus includes an in-depth list of strategies for making text on your site user-friendly, including recommendations for “thinking about learning disabilities that affect reading, such as dyslexia” as well as simple measures to improve readability, including using bold typeface to highlight important information.  

 

City Tech’s Library has also incorporated a focus on accessibility into the professional development faculty members participate in to develop open educational resources. The materials gathered for the Introduction to Accessibility Module that specific group are useful to anyone developing materials to share on the OpenLab. 

 

What is access? group activity

When thinking of the terms “access/ability” or “accommodations,” what comes to mind?

Jot down a few terms/examples.

Share with a partner, then share with the group!

What common ideas about accessibility do we share? Where do our ideas diverge?

 

Resources:

Accessible Syllabus

Summary of Accessibility on the OpenLab

Reading Ease and Accessibility

Introduction to Accessibility: A Module for OER Faculty

CBOX OpenLab at ACH2019

"Cross Pollination" Shibori image by Michelle Griffiths
Cross Pollination by Michelle Griffiths

This past October, The OpenLab at City Tech and Commons in a Box proudly announced the launch of Commons In A Box OpenLab, a partnership that adds a new option to what CBOX offers. OpenLab team members, as representatives of CBOX OpenLab, are part of a demo, “Fostering Open Scholarly Communities with Commons In A Box” at Association for Computers in the Humanities, ACH2019.

CBOX OpenLab Logo

CBOX OpenLab is a platform that brings together work that happens in different aspects of college life: coursework, portfolios, collaborative projects, initiatives, clubs, and administrative, committee, and pedagogical work. The platform’s more defined architecture–for example: courses, projects, clubs, and portfolios, but customizable to any taxonomy–structures college activities to make visible on its homepage, on member profiles, and through browsing, the robust work and life of the college community.

Bringing these different aspects of college life together on one platform benefits the work of the college community. The skills from using the platform for one aspect–coursework, for instance–become invaluable in  another, such as participating in a club. Rather than segmenting OERs or portfolios or isolating coursework from extracurriculars, each into  separate, closed, often proprietary platforms, these resources and activities comingle in one open digital space.

Students benefit from the experiential learning and real audience an open digital space makes possible. The flexibility of the platform also makes it easy to team teach, pair courses for learning communities, foster community across sections of a course, develop informal partnerships, etc.

Campus-wide efforts that foster scholarly communities can break down disciplinary and hierarchical silos, and extend their reach, visibility, and impact: see Undergraduate Research, the Office of the Provost, Roboquin, and here, Open Pedagogy on the OpenLab. OERs on the OpenLab are a great example of this: not only are they a robust resource and easily findable for both students and instructors, and for members and visitors alike, but OERs are also the subject of scholarly and pedagogical collaboration. On the OpenLab, there are resources for building and adopting OER materials, and OER fellows can communicate with each other as a cohort. Large-scale OERs can develop from activity across the site, such as L4, a crowdsourced library of activites and assignments; Science Fiction at City Tech, with its finding guides for the large science fiction archive; the robust Help documentation; and still in development, the OpenLab Guide to Open Learning, which will share knowledge and resources for members of CBOX OpenLab communities.

[some slides]

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?

Open Pedagogy Event (4/4): Curating a Faculty or Staff Portfolio

Brooklyn-NY DUMBO by alh1

Curating a Faculty or Staff Portfolio

Thursday, April 4, 2019, 4:30-6:00pm (Faculty Commons, Namm 227)

*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 using Portfolios for faculty and staff on the OpenLab. While Portfolios are often associated with student work, faculty and staff have embraced the opportunity to create dynamic, compelling collections of their work in teaching and learning, research, student success, and academic initiatives across the college, as well as a space to reflect on these experiences. We’ll work to expand the portfolio beyond a “teaching” portfolio so as to consider its role for faculty and staff in non-teaching roles. We’ll discuss how Portfolios offer opportunities for authoring a professional identity within the context of the City Tech community, and some strategies for curating work in the open, public-facing space of the OpenLab. We’ll consider the following questions:

  • What are the affordances of creating and maintaining a digital portfolio on the OpenLab (or another digital format) instead of a collection of printed-out materials?
  • What curation strategies are important for Portfolios on the OpenLab? Is this the place for reflection or perfection?
  • How might Portfolios help you as you move through your career in higher education? In what other educational contexts could you see a Portfolio as a useful tool?
  • Considering the recentering of the teaching Portfolio, what opportunities and challenges arise when the teaching isn’t just in the classroom (e.g., OpenLab project, administrative responsibilities, committee work, altac careers)?

This event is the second of two in our Spring 2019 Open Pedagogy series on curation in open digital pedagogy. We’re excited to continue our conversation around how “curation”–practically and conceptually–can be integrated into professional development on the OpenLab.

Save the date for our upcoming linked workshop, “Curating Faculty and Staff Portfolios, ” where we will share best practices for developing a reflexive and professional teaching portfolio (Thursday, April 11, 2:30-4:00 PM Room L441A).

Recommended Readings: