With the semester underway

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We’re two weeks in to the Spring 2021 semester. Each semester so far has been so different, with Spring 2020 allowing for faculty and students to get to know each other and the courses before the switch to remote, and Fall 2020 imposing the obstacle of starting the semester without any in-person experience for the vast majority of courses.

What’s different about Spring 2021? We’re hopefully learning more and finding ways to foster teaching and learning using digital tools, kindness, and patience. But we’ve also used up much or most of our energy reserves.

With all of this in mind, we want to ask:

How are you doing?

What support do you need?

What’s something that’s working that you can share as inspiration?

No pressure to share, but if you want to, please feel free to share some thoughts in the comments here.

What’s working?


cheering panda saying yay!
“yay! panda” by Rakka, via Flickr

With the end of the semester is in sight, but before we all scatter to our virtual summer spaces, the OpenLab team wants to hear from you about what worked in this distance-learning semester. What’s something that you found useful, that you want to keep in the upcoming online Summer or Fall semester? What’s something that you have incorporated into your pedagogy that you’ll continue to do–or not do–into the foreseeable future? Leave a comment–short or longer–to share your brilliance with the OpenLab community.

Does this make you think about what’s not working? Save that thought and add it to the What’s not working? conversation instead.

If you have ideas that you want more help with, either from a pedagogical angle or a technical one, please check out our expanded Help materials, contact our team via email (OpenLab@citytech.cuny.edu) or contact form, or participate in our virtual office hours.

Yay for all!

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.

“Our Stories” of Becoming a College Student: A Digital Writing Project for First Year Students

I am super excited to share our recently published article in the The Journal of Interactive Technology and Pedagogy. It expresses a blogging assignment that served as a low-stakes activity that encourages students to make sense of the social, emotional and bureaucratic challenges in their transition to college, and simultaneously develops digital literacy.

Our Stories of Becoming a College Student: A Digital Writing Project for First Year Students

Philip Kreniske, The HIV Center for Clinical and Behavioral Studies at Columbia University
Karen Goodlad, New York City College of Technology, CUNY
Jennifer Sears, New York City College of Technology, CUNY
Sandra Cheng, New York City College of Technology, CUNY

Hypothes.is for OERs

hi everyone: I wrote this blog post on Hypothes.is originally for the OER Fellows but am reposting to Open Pedagogy group to reach a broader audience:

Hypothes.is an open annotation tool that allows users to collaboratively annotate, highlight, and tag web pages and .pdfs. We’re happy to share that the OpenLab now has the Hypothes.is plugin as well as the Hypothes.is aggregator plugin. Created for open peer review, Hypothes.is has many uses for teaching and learning and it is an important tool for OERs.

The chief use for Hypothes.is is for students to collectively annotate a shared assigned reading. Rather than blogging in response to an entire reading, students can respond to  a specific piece of the reading and, in turn, respond to their classmate’s comments. Students can also use it to give feedback to their instructor on the OER they are using. Peter Brantley on the Hypothes.is blog writes:

“The promise of annotation lies in its ability to create a richer and more interactive environment for learning. This support ranges from the point of creation of educational materials through aiding editing workflows for content authors, to active use in pedagogy. Annotation can enable classroom or workgroup-based student-student assistance, and it can also create a framework enabling the creation and review of assignments by teachers for their students. Perhaps most intriguingly, annotation is a “write-back” technology, enabling students to provide direct feedback on the utility or educational content and their use, providing a means to suggest improvement and clarification.”

The plugins
I initially tried Hypothes.is as a browser extension for Chrome. Users not on the also have the option of installing it as bookmarklet for their browser. All users need to create an account in order to save their work. But now that we have the OpenLab plugin, all you have to do is activate the plugin for your OER and you’re good to go.

The hypothes.is aggregator plugin can collect the work of the entire class from a specific OpenLab site such as your OER. An article in the Chronicle of Higher Education Professor Hacker blog by George Williams explains how the aggregator can be used for OERs:

“Many instructors already use hypothes.is by assigning a reading that students will annotate together. Hyopthes.is Aggregator makes it easy to assign a topic, rather than a reading, and ask students to find their own readings on the web, annotate them, and tag them with the course tag. Then Hypothes.is Aggregator can collect all the annotations with the class tag in one place, so students and instructors can see and follow-up on each other’s annotations.”

My experience
I tested out Hypothes.is on a variety of library resources and it should work in any OER-related context. It works perfectly on all kinds of websites except, not surprisingly, proprietary content in library databases. Library database content can be highlighted and annotated and tagged if it is in .html but .pdfs allow only annotations and tags.

The user interface is fairly intuitive although it should be noted that in order to highlight specific text, the text needs to be selected with a cursor and only then does the icon for highlighting get invoked.