New semester, new assignments!

Each semester, I want to begin with an introduction not only to the course, but also to the OpenLab, so that students have a sense of where they will be working. I ask them to choose an avatar, and to think carefully about how they represent them. In the past, I’ve incorporated into an assignment a question about an image that represents them, asking them to describe it and show how it depicts them, but also to think about how it might be misunderstood by someone else, how that image can be read differently than they intend.

What made this more effective this semester was starting one step back from there, asking students to look through the People section of the OpenLab and find an avatar that they wanted to think about. Then they had to write a comment about that avatar, how they understood what it represented. Only after writing could they look to see who the person was, what they study, etc. In staging the assignment this way, they had the opportunity to themselves misread someone’s avatar, which they could then apply to their own writing about how someone might misread their chosen visual representation.

I’d love to hear from others how you orient students to the OpenLab, if you incorporate it into assignments, and how you introduce the notion of thinking critically about how we represent ourselves online.

Developing an Open Digital Pedagogy Assignment

Welcome, colleagues from Computers and Writing 2013! Use the format below to share your assignment ideas as comments to this post. We’re glad to have you join our efforts on the OpenLab.

Our three cards were

Open Pedagogy Technique:
General Education Student Learning Outcome:

Our group developed a/an [formal/informal/ group/ classroom] assignment that asks students to [what they’ll do] and then [what else they’ll do] and [finally what else they’ll do] using [specific tools, materials, skills] so they can learn [course goal] while also developing [specific and or general skills]

CFP: Journal of Interactive Technology and Pedagogy

Hi everyone, I saw this CFP and thought it might interest those who are engaging in open pedagogy. I think it’s an innovative journal and valuable resource for all of us who are interested in strengthening our pedagogical strategies. In the interest of full disclosure, I peer review for this journal.

Here’s the call:

JITP, The Journal of Interactive Technology and Pedagogy (, cordially invites submissions for all sections.

JITP welcomes work that explores critical and creative uses of interactive technology in teaching, learning, and research. We invite submissions of audio or visual presentations, interviews, dialogues, or conversations, creative works, manifestos, or jeremiads as well as traditional long-form articles. Submissions might explore content-neutral uses of technology, such as blogs, clickers, or multimedia projects, used in any discipline. Submissions might also focus on disciplinary uses of technology, such as software designed specifically to aid language learning or physics instruction. Discipline-specific submissions should be written for non-specialists.

Submissions that focus on pedagogy should balance theoretical frameworks with practical considerations of how new technologies play out in the classroom. Research-based submissions should include discussions of approach, method, and analysis. Successes and interesting failures are equally welcome (although see the Teaching Fails section below for an alternative outlet).

We intend that the journal itself – both in process and in product – serve as an opportunity to reveal, reflect on, and revise academic publication and classroom practice. All submissions will be considered for our Behind the Seams feature, in which we publish dynamic representations of the revision and editorial processes, including reflections from the participants.

All work appearing in the Issues section of JITP is reviewed independently by two scholars in the field, who provide formative feedback to the author during the review process. The submission deadline for the Fall 2013 issue is June 5, 2013 (Deadline Extended). Tool Tips, Teaching Fails, Assignments, and Book Reviews sections operate under a publish-then-peer-review model. Submissions for these sections are accepted on a rolling basis.

All work should be original and previously unpublished. Essays or presentations posted on a personal blog may be accepted, provided they are substantially revised; please contact us with any questions at

As a courtesy to our reviewers, we will not consider simultaneous submissions, but we will do our best to reply to you within 2-3 months of the submission deadline.

To view the journal, read the full guidelines, or submit, please go to

For technical details – file formats, documentation style, etc – please see our complete guidelines at

Interested in Publishing your Educational Research?


There’s a workshop today on developing research questions and methodologies for publishing educational research, and I thought how useful this could be for this group. When we work on the OpenLab, we’re building on great projects that have come before us and continue to inspire us, such as other open sites at other CUNY colleges, or the inspiring work that Jim Groom talked about at the OpenLab’s launch. But as much as we’re in good company with those esteemed colleagues, we’re also innovating and experimenting in new ways, ones that others would benefit from learning about. It would be great to think about how the ways in which we adapt our courses for the OpenLab, and adopt open pedagogies, would become the foundation for research projects and publications. If you’re free at 1:00 on Thursday, Febrary 21st, please consider attending. And consider sharing your ideas here to get others engaged in the endeavor!Event promotion for 'Developing Research Questions & Methodologies'

“Ten Things the Years Have Taught Us In Ten Years”

A few of us from City Tech were invited to attend last month’s forum on instructional technology sponsored by City College’s Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning. We heard from faculty and administrators at a number of campuses, but what stood out to me was George Otte‘s presentation. He shared some wisdom he’s earned through working as the University Director of Academic Technology and the other positions he holds at CUNY. My notes might not be quite as complete as his presentation–if anyone can update, complete, or correct this list, please do!

Ten Things the Years Have Taught Us In Ten Years

  1. Don’t wait until you’re ensured the necessary wherewithal. As Otte put it in other words, “If you build it, they will fund.”
  2. Put things in writing. As that is all I wrote down for this point, and it’s not clear what he was referring to specifically, I already wish I had followed that advice!
  3. Always focus on the why and not just the what. It’s important not to use the tools for the sake of the tools, but for the opportunities for learning, working, and sharing that the tools afford.
  4. A Corrollary: Be wary of trends for trends’ sake.
  5. A Caution: Don’t sit and wait for things to stabilize: they won’t.
  6. Principles before all other Ps (procedures, programs, even pilots). 
  7. People matter more than technology. 
  8. Ends matter more than means. For any project, there is a need to articulate goals and demonstrate usefulness.
  9. Expect change, because change is the expectation.
  10. Network, network, network. That is, make sure others know about what you’re doing, and also know what’s out there so you don’t reinvent the wheel.

As I listened and eagerly took notes during this presentation, the OpenLab was at the forefront of my thoughts. We certainly need to keep ideas such as #5 in mind–otherwise, we would just keep building and building without ever releasing to the City Tech community what we’ve developed–or #7–since the OpenLab is about building community and bringing the college together, using a virtual space where a physical one isn’t available. What I came to consider afterward was how these lessons apply to our classrooms, just on smaller scales. When we assign work that uses technology, is the technology the take-away? Will the core of that assignment work in ten years, even if the specific technology is replaced with something else? When we ask students to blog or tweet or shoot video, we’re encouraging them to develop skills that are current and transferrable, and we emphasize that each of these technologies is a medium for thinking and expressing course content. We need to ensure a balance between #4 and #5–that we don’t only look to trends, but that we don’t wait so long to determine what’s fleeting and what’s here to stay that we miss both. I’m curious to hear how others in this Open Pedagogy group consider any or all of these Ten Things, and hope we can engage fruitfully with each other via comments to this blog post, since those are the means we have (#8).

OpenLab Tour 1.0

As some of you may know, we presented at the CUNY IT Conference on Friday, November 30, 2012.  In the presentation we showcased a few examples of the excellent work City Tech students, faculty, and staff are doing on the OpenLab.  We thought we’d recap some of that here, taking you on a guided tour of the site, with stops at some of the examples from our presentation.  Please add anything else you think should be highlighted in the comments–we know there’s much more to showcase than what we’ve included here!



The OpenLab homepage offers a dynamic peek into all of the current activity on the site. The courses, projects, clubs, and portfolios that appear on the homepage are constantly refreshed, with the most recently active groups appearing at the top of the page.  We also have an “In the Spotlight” section where we can feature something great that we find on the OpenLab, and a slider where communicate with our community of users.  From here you can access our listings of courses, projects, clubs, and portfolios, as well as My OpenLab (for logged-in OpenLab users) and the Help section.


People: Our Community

We have over 4400 members, including over 4000 students, and are growing daily!  On the People page,  you can search for a specific OpenLab member, browse or search though all OpenLab members, or sort by member type–student, faculty, or staff.


Courses: Extending the Classroom

Courses on the OpenLab offer an open online extension of the classroom-learning environment, offering a space to share and discuss each other’s work.  They can provide a forum for students and faculty to maintain ongoing conversations and collaborate outside of a set course time.  Since they can be open to others outside of the classroom, they have the potential to broaden the conversation and share the great work happening in City Tech courses with a wider audience.

Lisa Brundage – English 2000 – Perspectives in Literature

Lisa Brundage’s Perspectives in Literature course site hosts her course syllabus, course assignments, a place for students to introduce themselves to their fellow classmates, a student-generated reading journal, and a set of interactive primary text readings.  The page that Lisa created for primary texts is layered with additional information, including alternative translations, videos about textual tone and language, photographs from the time period of the texts, and information about authors’ lives.  Lisa’s class carefully mixes the formal and informal aspects of classroom teaching into her OpenLab course site.  Students can find necessary course information here, but they can also contribute more informally to larger discussions about course texts, as well as engage with other students in the class, whether by reading others’ comments or commenting themselves.

Karen Goodlad – Hospitality Management 1101 – Perspectives in Hospitality Management

Karen Goodlad’s Perspectives in Hospitality Management course site is rich with student-generated visual and textual information.  Many of Karen’s course assignments ask students to go outside of the classroom and chronicle or create visual content modeled for the hospitality industry.  Two very exciting assignments here are the Concierge Marketing Assignment featured in the “Concierge Blog” section of this site, as well as the “Experiential Summary and Oral Presentation” assignment.  In the first assignment, students were asked to think of themselves as concierges from boutique hotels and to draft 1 1/2 to 2 minute promotional videos for tourists about the Brooklyn Waterfront.  In the second assignment, students were asked to provide something like the New York Times’ “36 Hours” tourist attractions’ segment aimed at tourists coming to New York City.  Both assignments feature student made video and photography projects and make extensive use of the open online platform provided by the OpenLab.

Jonas Reitz, Math 1575: Calculus II and Math 1275: College Algebra

Jonas Reitz creates very interesting and exciting courses using the OpenLab!  His courses provide continual inspiration for those looking to craft creative, engaging course assignments.  In Jonas’ Calculus II course, he makes effective use of the OpenLab’s facility for combining images and text by asking his students to capture a visual representation of infinity for a “conceptual catalogue” of infinity.  Students are asked to take a photograph of something in the world that represents the concept of infinity for them and then explain why they think that’s the case.  They are given the creative freedom to pick images that speak to them as well as fashion creative explanations of their own photographs.  The class collection is then put up on the OpenLab where Jonas and other students can comment.  Jonas often gives his students the option of receiving extra credit for thoughtful commenting on other students’ posts, and this seems to draw out in a low-stakes way, students who may be shy or less likely to comment in a classroom setting.  If you look through Jonas’ courses, you’ll notice an incredibly high volume of commenting by students—it looks like this approach is working!


Projects: For Research and Service

Projects on the OpenLab can encompass anything including research projects, course projects, official City Tech committees, events, and everything in-between.  In browsing through the projects page on the OpenLab, it’s clear that they cover a diversity of purposes.

Living Lab Second Year Fellows

The Living Lab Second Year Fellows project is a collaborative space for Second Year Fellows participating in the General Education Seminar component of the Title V grant-funded initiative, “A Living Laboratory: Revitalizing General Education for a 21st-Century College of Technology.”  Here, Second Year Fellows use the project profile to create, edit, and comment on collaborative documents and use the Second Year Fellows site to post important information and announcements, post and comment on course assignments, and maintain a working bibliography for the group.

Undergraduate Research Committee

Several committees are using the OpenLab for collaboration and to share their work with the college community. The Undergraduate Research Committee, for example, has a robust site that explains their work, publicizes opportunities to get involved, and provides resources for students and faculty. They are also taking advantage of the OpenLab’s ability to support both private and public conversations: the site is public, but the project profile is private, allowing discussion, file sharing, and document editing to take place among committee members while maintaining a public presence on the OpenLab that all can see.

Literature Roundtable

Users are also turning to the OpenLab to share information about college-wide events. The Literature Roundtable, run by English professor Rebecca Devers, is a yearly roundtable discussion of a short story, play, or novel, this semester featuring Ron Wimberly’s graphic novel Prince of Cats.  The site Rebecca created for the roundtable features information about the event, resources related to the book, and suggestions for assignments faculty might use if they are teaching this novel in their courses.

The Open Road

This project actually wasn’t included in our presentation and we don’t want to be too self-promoting here, but Scott Henkle, one of our community facilitators, does such a great job writing weekly round-ups of OpenLab activity, and also includes plenty of helpful tips and tutorials.  It’s a great way to stay abreast of what’s happening in the OpenLab community, and find out about new tools, or old tools or tricks you never knew existed.


Clubs: Building Communities

The clubs section on the OpenLab includes officially chartered student clubs, but clubs can also be created by more informal groups as a space to share information and interact around a common interest.

Peer-Led Team Learning

The PLTL club’s mission is “to promote and disseminate the Peer-Led Team Learning model by assisting students to succeed in their studies through peer-led workshops, informing faculty of the model, sharing success and opportunities for Peer Leaders, and creating a community of practice among peer leaders.” As Scott noted in his post on the OpenRoad featuring the group, their site does a great job identifying a need, responding to that need, and using the OpenLab to its fullest. While not fancy, the site is much more than just a display of written and visual information, and each of its pages is distinct and useful. It uses a number of tools (such Google forms), and thus offers a number of ways for users to engage with the site creators.  They’re in the process of creating a logo, so hopefully they’ll have an avatar up soon!

Gamma Epsilon Tau

Gamma Epsilon Tau is a national graphic arts honor society, and we’re excited to see them here on the OpenLab.  They have a great site, hosted outside of the OpenLab (which is, not surprising, very well-designed) and are taking advantage of our new feature allowing users to link an external site to an OpenLab course, project, club, or portfolio profile.

Chemistry club

The Chemistry club space on the OpenLab is open to all students and run by its faculty advisor, Diana Samaroo. The Chemistry club site provides a new space where students can post announcements about club talks, meetings, and internship possibilities.  We hope that the club continues to grow and help serve students potentially headed toward medical, dental, or pharmacy school, as well as chemistry-lovers throughout the City Tech community.


Portfolios: Sharing our Work

Jes Bernhardt’s ePortfolio

Jes Bernhardt’s ePortfolio’s is creative, well-structured and designed, and features plenty of great work.  We love her metaphor of teeth as tiny buildings and mouths as tiny cities, and how she ties in the site’s header image and subtitle (building cities of teeth) to this idea.  Jes has created an excellent site to showcase her work that is at the same time professional, personal, and visually beautiful.  It also takes advantage of some of the OpenLab’s tools, like embedded video, images, the text widget, and links.

Muhammad Hasan Ali’s PoemFolio

This is not just a Portfolio but a PoemFolio!  Muhammad is a Mechanical Engineering Technology student  who also happens to be a poet.  While he is taking a Poetry course in the English department this semester, this portfolio was not created for his course.  We think it’s great that he took it upon himself to set up this excellent portfolio showcasing some of his poetry.  It also highlights one of the important aspects of the OpenLab community–that anyone, not just faculty can and should feel that this is their space where they are free to create, share, and collaborate.  Moreover, the OpenLab makes it easy for all users to create a portfolio or project, which we hope will facilitate more of this kind of sharing.

Jenna Spevack and Libby Clarke

Faculty and staff portfolios are new to the OpenLab this semester, and one of our other new features allows users to link an external site to any course, project, club, or portfolio on the OpenLab.  Advertising Design and Graphic Arts professors Jenna Spevack and Libby Clarke have done just that.  Jenna has linked her self-hosted teaching portfolio site, and Libby’s portfolio is attached to her personal website, which includes examples of and links to her work, student work, other projects, writing, and more.



We have a new and improved help section that includes all the main steps involved in created an OpenLab account and profile, and setting up and participating in a course, project, club, or portfolio.  And, we’ve added the ability to look for help topics using tags, so users can see all content grouped together with tags like Profile, Creating, Joining, etc. We have a lot of content already posted, but it’s still a work in progress and we continue to add to and update what’s there.


This concludes our short tour of the OpenLab.  Since we have limited space (and this post is already quite long), there are many great courses, projects, clubs, and portfolios we didn’t include here, but please add a comment with anything you’ve seen or created that you’d like to share.  Thanks!

Open Pedagogy Kick-off event

The OpenLab Community Team invites you to come launch the Open Pedagogy on the OpenLab project. To kick off our project, our inaugural meeting will be a chance to meet each other face-to-face at an end-of-semester wine-and-cheese gathering. We can celebrate the semester about to close and brainstorm about next semester’s activities, including more exchanges on the Open Pedagogy site, as well as virtual and on-site discussions, workshops, and other programmed events.

When: Tuesday, 12/11, 4:00-6:00pm
Where: Faculty Commons, N227
Who: All Faculty and Staff interested in Open Pedagogy on the OpenLab
RSVP:, or reply here with a comment

If you haven’t already joined the Open Pedagogy on the OpenLab project, find out more about it on the project’s profile.

Looking forward to seeing you on Tuesday!

Ditching textbooks, and faculty collaboration

On Friday, I attended a talk that was part of the CUNY Open Access event at the Graduate Center. Kristina Baumli from Temple University presented a project she’s involved in that provides faculty with a small stipend to ditch their textbooks in favor of materials openly available on the web, or through the college’s electronic library holdings. Also check out what the Chronicle had to say about this textbook-ditching project.

A number of us in the English Department have tried this kind of approach, with varying degrees of success. One big difference seems to be access to technology. All of Baumli’s students had access to the readings both inside and outside of class because she requires them to all have some kind of computer: a laptop, netbook, or tablet. The cost of these devices can be less than the cost of one course’s books, and can be used in all courses for the entire college career and beyond. When I used all electronic texts for my ENG 1101 courses, students often wouldn’t bring the materials to class. They didn’t have portable devices, or they didn’t have wireless access if they brought laptops, and they often couldn’t get to the printers in the computer labs on campus to even print the short readings. Some brought up the materials on their phones, but this didn’t allow for them to mark them up in a way that is productive in an English Composition class.

Difficulties aside, I love the idea of asking students to invest in resources that they can get a maximum benefit from–a netbook, let’s say, and free course readings rather than two textbooks, for example–but even more, I love the idea of building up from a series of readings to a framed textbook with students. Why not make the students contribute to the questions one might ask at the end of each reading? They can identify unfamiliar words or expressions, frame issues for class discussion, even participate in drafting essay questions for further exploration. The students’ writing, then, can be included as samples for future students to see exemplary work.

Baumli spoke convincingly about the collaborative effort from faculty. If one professor can create a couple of modules in a semester, perhaps, then think of the volume that could be created when several instructors teaching the same course each develop modules. It wasn’t clear to me how faculty at Temple would share these modules, but in addition to the variety of options available, we have a solution for that here at City Tech–the OpenLab. We could certainly create projects that would house resources for different courses: links to texts, or even full-text options where copyright permits, suggestions for questions, vocabulary, activities, assignments, rubrics, connections to other texts. This model seems very doable in my field, English. The biggest limitation I can see would be for texts that are not available electronically. What would it look like in other disciplines? What would the obstacles be for other fields?


The purpose of this project is to create a forum on the OpenLab where we can ask questions, stimulate discussion, and share teaching materials, resources, and ideas related to teaching and learning on the OpenLab.

On the site we will be highlighting and archiving assignments from around the OpenLab that serve as good examples of open pedagogy on the OpenLab.  We’d also like to hear suggestions from you, so please feel free to use the discussion forum, docs, or leave a comment on this site.  And, as always, you can contact us at: with questions, requests, and suggestions.