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:

Recap: Curating Student Work in ePortfolios

 

summer_grass by lia510

On Thursday, February 21st, faculty and graduate students from across CUNY got together over wine and cheese to discussing curating student work in ePortfolios. The evening marked the first of our two Open Pedagogy events this semester and drew faculty participation from departments like Communication and Design, Art History, English, and Biology. Each participant shared their concerns and hopes for student ePortfolios.

ePortfolios on the OpenLab are designed to allow students to create professional websites to showcase and reflect on their academic/ professional experiences. That said, providing students with built-in opportunities and guidance to curate their online work has not always been an obvious task. First, we might ask whose task it is: should it be the role of academic advisers, faculty instructors, or departments to work with students on their ePortfolios? To the extent that advisers, faculty, and departments are already doing this work, how can their efforts be better coordinated in service of guiding students in (dare we say?) the art of curating their work, reflecting on their City Tech career and academic growth, and transitioning, even, to building a professional portfolio they can share with employers? These were some of the questions animating the discussion.

We began by tackling the first of these questions: how and where to help students select their best work to showcase on their ePortfolios? Is the classroom the best space to do this? If that is case, then who should be providing students with feedback? Instructors only? Peers? Participants at the event shared some strategies. Some instructors set up detailed guidelines early in the semester, emphasizing to the class as a whole that seeming minutiae like Avatar images and usernames on the OpenLab can project an online image. They encourage students to think through how they would like to present themselves creatively, but thoughtfully. Others suggest to students that when coursework takes the form of public, multimedia writing-i.e. through blog posts and other reflective assignments-then the audience is not just the instructor grading the work: the audience is a larger online public.

Moreover, by reflecting in blog posts on their academic careers, students are writing for their future selves, giving themselves a record of their trajectories: milestones to commemorate and, yes, even early work to cringe at. Instructors hope in this way to equip students with a variety of perspectives, so that they can be the final curators of their own work. A challenge noted by participants was that advising sessions–which could theoretically be ideal spaces to guide students through curating an ePortfolio-are more often than not bureaucratic, demanding attention to administrative requirements such as course registration, rather than a broader vision for a student’s academic career. We wondered whether having more streamlined use of ePortfolios within departments might make ePortfolios easier to incorporate into advising sessions. Would this, we asked, lead to more robust portfolio use?

In the hard sciences, such as Biology, which are less writing-intensive, instructors wondered how they might effectively incorporate ePortfolios. Participants suggested having students blog to reflect on the ethical implications of experiments, as well as their own growth and challenges in learning scientific material. In photography courses, an instructor noted a more technical challenge: storage space-and limits- on the OpenLab! This is a broader concern for students whose coursework takes the form of larger files like images and videos. We noted that CUNY is hoping to soon offer unlimited Dropbox storage to students and faculty, which should be a good workaround.

A final question was when students should begin curating their ePortfolios? Are ePortfolios, which offer all of the affordances of open digital tools, best taken advantage of early in college careers? Or are they better saved for later, to avoid overwhelming students who are transitioning to higher education? Both perspectives were endorsed. Some noted that having students begin early gives them time to curate and look back at their work, if only to reflect on how far they’ve come and to select later, perhaps more polished, work to keep on their sites. It also improves buy-in from students to begin early, allowing them to gain familiarity with the digital tools of the OpenLab. Others argued for a more structured approach, streamlining ePortfolio use across classrooms, at least within departments, and easing students into the process. A long-term vision along these lines is to develop streamlined, but scaffolded ePortfolio assignments that help students iteratively build up their online presence.

Do your students use ePortfolios? Do you have ideas for how to help students with curation? Keep the conversation going by replying to this post and sharing your thoughts.

On a final note, folks interested in ePortfolios might want to take a look at the Association for Authentic, Experiential, and Evidence-Based Learning’s conference on ePortfolios, which will be held at Bronx Community College in New York City, July 15-18.

Here are a few additional resources and readings on ePortfolios that are worth a read:

This article highlights interdisciplinarity of using ePortfolios, which the authors contend is a critical skill for students to develop alongside critical thinking and transferring knowledge across fields. The appendices include assignments from General Education portfolio assignments in the author’s colleges.

  • Yancey, Kathleen Blake. “ePortfolio.” Digital Pedagogy in the Humanities: Concepts, Models, and Experiments. MLA Commons, 2016.

This resource explicates some basics and highlights creative assignments including ePortfolios.

The sample prompts included in this article are thought-provoking and gathered from CUNY-based research.

By thinking through the public online contexts of different types of ePortfolios, this article presents ways to use ePortfolios to develop digital literacies and tips for maintaining a professional online presence, including considerations of the specific needs of a digital format, architecture and design of a site.

Open Pedagogy Event (2/21): Curating Student Work in ePortfolios

“Red Bull Curates” by Laine Pub Company

Curating Student Work in ePortfolios

Thursday, February 21, 2019, 4:30-6:00pm (Faculty Commons, N227)

*Refreshments will be served. (Thanks to the Provost’s Office for its generous support of this event!)

*Part-time faculty are eligible to receive a stipend for participation.

*Please RSVP by commenting on this post. Please share this invitation with your colleagues!

Join the OpenLab Team, City Tech faculty and staff, and CUNY colleagues at our next Open Pedagogy event, where we’ll be discussing teaching and learning with ePortfolios on the OpenLab. While ePortfolios are the work of students, faculty and staff have a key role in helping students to build an online presence and curate an ePortfolio that is reflexive, engaging, and professional. ePortfolios on the OpenLab are designed to allow students to create professional websites that showcase their academic and professional experiences, as well as a space to reflect on these experiences. We’ll discuss how ePortfolios can be integrated into class-based assignments, and the challenges of having students curate their work in the open, public-facing space of the OpenLab. We’ll consider the following questions:

  • How can the opportunities available in digital spaces change the way we think about curation in teaching and learning (and how we teach and learn through curation)?
  • How can ePortfolios scaffolded into students’ coursework at City Tech help students curate and reflect on their academic, extracurricular, and personal growth?
  • How can ePortfolios be revised as a student approaches graduation to present a professional portfolio for their career or graduate studies aspirations?
  • How does working individually, publicly, and socially change the way we implement and consider curatorial strategies?

This event kicks off our Spring 2019 Open Pedagogy series on curation in open digital pedagogy, and we’re excited to start a conversation around how “curation”–practically and conceptually–can be integrated into teaching and learning on the OpenLab.

Save the date for our upcoming linked workshop, “Curating Student Work in ePortfolios, ” where we will share best practices for / do hands-on work for incorporating ePortfolios into coursework to facilitate student curation of their academic work (Friday, March 1, 12:00-1:30 PM Room G606).

Recommended Readings:

 

Troubling Race in the Classroom, 2/13

Our colleagues at the Graduate Center’s Teaching and Learning Center send along the following invitation:

Troubling Race in the Classroom
Wednesday, February 13, 2019
3-5pm, Room C204
365 Fifth Avenue
New York, NY 10036

Many college instructors struggle to engage students in complex thinking about race and racism. Such work is increasingly necessary, but the range of perspectives in many classrooms can make discussing such topics challenging for both students and instructors alike. Strong feelings and opinions, as well as divergent and disparate experience and knowledge, demand a thoughtful and creative pedagogical approach.

These challenges can make dialogues about race and racial justice uncomfortable, emotional, and difficult. But a classroom that features a range of knowledge and experiences also has the potential to fuel transformative learning. Students and faculty have opportunities to expand their vision of the world through reading and dialog alongside those with very different experiences.

Join the Teaching and Learning Center for a workshop where we will discuss some of the theories that have informed our approaches to teaching about race and racism in our respective disciplines. Together, we will consider both the challenges to and potential for engaging race in classroom spaces, ranging from how to address the unexpected, alarming comment to how to facilitate entire courses. We will conclude by documenting and sharing our collective knowledge about teaching and learning about race in the classroom.

Register to attend this workshop at http://cuny.is/tlc-spring-19.

(note that there are options for non-GC students at the bottom of the list of programs in the registration form!)

Workshop: Hip-Hop Pedagogy, 2/14

Our colleagues at the Futures Initiative (at the CUNY Graduate Center) send along this invitation for a workshop on hip-hop and pedagogy moderated by Futures Initiative Fellow Kashema Hutchinson. It’s at the CUNY Graduate Center on February 14 at 12pm in room 9207.

This workshop will be conducted as a cypher, a hip hop cultural event, such as freestyling or battling that takes place in a circle, to discuss the relationship between the elements of hip-hop culture and pedagogy in traditional and non-traditional educative spaces. Narratives and infographics will be used to examine the different types of hip-hop pedagogy. Topics such as identity, school to confinement pathways and mass incarceration will also be addressed. Participants will include students from the Undergraduate Leaders Fellowship.

Continue reading “Workshop: Hip-Hop Pedagogy, 2/14”