This Month on the OpenLab: 1.7.20

Rainy day in the city, people crossing the street with umbrellas.

“April Showers”. Image Source: Robert S

We released version 1.7.20 of the OpenLab on April 18, which included a few new features and a small bug fix. We added a new theme and new plugin. The theme is called OpenLab Twenty Sixteen. It’s a child theme of Twenty Sixteen, and is quite similar, with a just few tweaks. We got rid of the black border around the site, and decreased some of the margins around the content so there’s less white space. We also increased the size of the site title, and changed some of the heading styles. We changed bulleted and numbered lists so they’re indented. Activating the theme also automatically activates the new plugin, Breadcrumb NavXT, which adds breadcrumb links to pages, making it easier to navigate sites that might have many different pages, such as Open Educational Resource (OER) sites. The plugin may be deactivated if you don’t want to use breadcrumbs, or activated on sites that aren’t using the new theme.

In addition, the mobile version of the site was improved, so that when viewing Course, Project, Club, or Portfolio Profiles, the link to the associated Site is at the top rather than bottom of the page.

We fixed a bug that affected only sites with both the Ultimate Category Excluder and Category Sticky Post plugins activated at the same time. If the Category Excluder plugin was activated and being used to exclude any categories from the home page, then sticky posts would not be “stuck” at the top of the homepage.

As always, please contact us with any questions!

In the Spotlight: Pedagogy Profiles

This week we’re spotlighting a new blog series on the OpenLab, Pedagogy Profiles. Pedagogy Profiles is an OpenLab blog series that highlights our educators here at City Tech. Each month we’ll feature different faculty members who will share the diverse and creative ways they are using the OpenLab to support their pedagogy.

Through a series of questions, educators are asked to reflect on their experiences using the OpenLab to support a range of pedagogy-related activities, from supporting a specific course to coordinating curriculum within a learning community. In their responses, educators discuss specific affordances of the OpenLab and the kind of course structure and culture they’ve been able to realize by integrating the OpenLab into their practice.

Through this series, we hope to give educators a chance to reflect on their pedagogy in a public arena, and to engage other educators in critical and transformative dialogue about teaching and learning. Our hope for Pedagogy Profiles is that it will further enrich the ongoing conversations around pedagogy already taking place at City Tech and across CUNY.

This series is hosted on one of our in-house sites, Open Pedagogy on the OpenLab. This site serves as forum where the City Tech community can ask questions, stimulate discussion, and share teaching materials, resources, and ideas related to teaching and learning on the OpenLab.

To view our latest featured profile, look in the blog or sidebar on our homepage. You can also review past posts by visiting our Archive.

Want to nominate a colleague or professor to be featured? Contact us today!

In the Spotlight: Ink Club

Logo for Ink ClubThis week we’re spotlighting the Ink Club, an expanding group of student-illustrators and -artists who are growing community around their love of the craft of storytelling. Accepting students of all levels and experience, the Ink Club offers support and opportunities to collaborate for students who want to develop and hone their craft. Specifically they hold weekly meetings, offer portfolio-building and professional development opportunities (including a visit with the full-service animation company Titmouse, evidenced by image below), and house a curated a set of resources on their site.

Recently, the group has been working on an anthology zine, a book of illustrations and short comics arranged around the theme of ‘Zodiac’. Copies of the zine will be printed for contributing members and sold at future events to raise funds for and share the work of the group. Relatedly, the group tabled this past weekend at the MoCCA Fest (Manhattan’s largest independent comics, cartoon and animation festival), where they showcased their anthology and the members sold pieces of their artwork.

Interested? Drop by or get in touch. The group “typically meet[s] every Thursday, at 12:45-2:15pm, in room Namm 1122.” Or, if you have questions, contact them (citytechinkclub [at] gmail [dot] com).

Just a fan? View their gallery, subscribe to their site (click ‘Join Now’ under the avatar or profile image on their OpenLab profile and/or follow them on social media (Instagram, Facebook).

In the Spotlight: The Buzz

Logo for the BuzzThis week we’re spotlighting The Buzz, our student community team. These City Tech students blog weekly about their experiences at City Tech and beyond. Through their stories, they share challenges and lessons-learned as they navigate the world, and the micro-worlds of peer fashion, life-family balance, the diverse world of tea, the converging past and present of the theater district, gentrifying neighborhoods and change, life after City Tech, approaching the future with intentionality, and finding support in difficult times. Learn more about the topics they tackle in the tag cloud on the homepage.

Group shot of our Student Community Team.

“Meet the Queens of The Buzz”. Left to Right: Robine, Cherishe, Genny, Sam, Pebbles, Sabrina, Brianna. Image & Quote by: Student Blogger Nefertiti ‘Neffi’ Francis

As you’ll read in their bios, each blogger brings their own experiences and unique flavor to their writing and the selection of stories they tell: Sabrina brings life and analysis to the City’s architecture, while Neffi offers advice and strategies for success, for example. The group has also tackled topics together by identifying a common writing theme for the week or month. In the past, the team took on the challenge of unpacking topics like what the practice of writing means to them. This week, the all-girl cast is celebrating Women’s History Month with posts honoring the important women and positions on feminism that they admire and aspire to embody.

Through their posts (so far!), these women have acknowledged the important work of a range of women spanning history – from Beyonce and Michelle Obama to Sojourner Truth and Coretta Scott King (coming soon!). What I have found to be particularly powerful are the connections and comparisons the writers make between culturally well-known women, like the Women of Wakanda and those listed above, and the less-well-known-but-ever-important women who have held their lives, families and communities together over generations, including their mothers, grandmothers, aunties, sisters and friends.  As in the preceding weeks, this week’s posts promise to pack a stimulating and intellectual punch – be sure to tune in!

Want to get alerts when they post? Receive email updates by joining their site as a member (click ‘Join Now’ under the avatar on their profile page) and/or follow them on Twitter (@CityTechOpenLab).

Want to become (or recommend a student to become) a blogger? The Buzz is hiring for next year! Be on the lookout for the hiring call – coming in a few weeks!

In the Spotlight: Opening Gateways

Opening gateways logo and imtro post about the projectThis week we’re spotlighting the Opening Gateways project site. Opening Gateways is a 5-year, $3.2 million grant funded1 project collaboration with BMCC that “supports student success in mathematics courses that serve as gateways to STEM disciplines”. As in other disciplines, gateway courses leading to STEM fields have critical implications for the college and life trajectories of students. As the team points out in their Project Abstract, “repeated failure [can] deflect students from their chosen major [or] delay or even end their journey to a degree”.

The Opening Gateways project takes a three-pronged approach to addressing this challenge:

  1. Open-source Digital Technologies: WebWork and the OpenLab are open-source platforms for teaching, learning and collaborating. WebWork replaces the ‘email professor with question’ button, and instead sends students to a platform where they can get help from not only the professor but other students – in their class and more. The OpenLab team is working on integrating WebWork into their WordPress-based and BuddyPress-based platform, and then will share the code broadly as open source and available. The OpenLab will also support the OERs and courses among City Tech faculty.
  2. Open Educational Resources: Participating faculty will or have assembled open educational resources on specific mathematical topics. These OERs are open, publically available and free, and serve as a good alternative to (sometimes prohibitively) costly textbooks. See those created in 2016/2017.
  3. Active Learning Pedagogies. A pedagogical intervention in the form of a faculty seminar where a cohort will be introduced to a variety of active learning techniques, and the technologies involved in supporting this project. Each seminar at City Tech has a corresponding site on the Openlab.

The project tracks their progress each year – see Year 1 and Year 2.

As noted earlier, this project aims to support student success in STEM gateway courses. The challenges to success in these gateway courses, are true of other degree paths.

Opening Gateways uses a multi-tiered approach that involves faculty training, technological development of a collaborative digital learning environment, and the creation of support resources for students to resolving these challenges.

How can you imagine better supporting student success in gateway course for your degree path?

Let’s Discuss!: Join us on this Thursday, March 22nd, from 5:30pm – 7:00pm in the Faculty Commons (N227) for an Open Pedagogy event titled, “Gateway Courses in Open Digital Pedagogy” that will continue this conversation. Light refreshments will be served, and part-time faculty will be eligible for a stipend (Event info and/or RSVP).

UPDATE: In anticipation of the impending snowstorm, we’re postponing this event. We’ll work on rescheduling and will let you know when this event is back on our calendar.

1Funded by the US Dept of Education’s Developing Hispanic-Serving Institutions program (Title V).

In the Spotlight: Winter Python Workshop 2018

An example of python code in a basic text editor.This week we’re spotlighting the Winter Python Workshop 2018 project site. Created by mathematics professor Johann Thiel, this project site was developed to support a four-day workshop that covered the basics of python and explored some applications of the popular programming language in mathematics, biology, statistics and more.

Though the workshop is long over now, this site is a GREAT resource for any OpenLab members* learning python or interested in learning python. The site contains a list of resources and software on its homepage, as well as pages containing links to basic and more advanced applications of the language. Given this latter point, this site would be useful to beginner or intermediate python users, and could help a beginner practice their skills with the goal of becoming an intermediate user.

If you would prefer a more immersive, intensive and supported introduction to the programming language, keep an eye out for future winter python workshops. Though Professor Thiel was unsure if the workshop would run again, it has run the last two winters (see the 2017 workshop site) so it seems possible that there will be an opportunity to participate in Winter 2019. If this sounds like something of interest to you, get in touch with Professor Thiel.

*NOTE: This site is only available to OpenLab members so be sure you are signed in to the OpenLab before you attempt to access their course site.

Workshop Opportunity: Accessibility-a-thon!

A word map highlighting the different aspects of universal design.

Image Source: Giulia Forsythe

Join us for an Accessibility-a-thon on Thursday March 8th from 1:30pm – 3:30pm in A441 (smaller library classroom).

This workshop will introduce participants to:

  • the ways our team has made the OpenLab more accessible overall
  • what you can do to improve accessibility and usability on your own course sites
  • resources and conversations happening on the OpenLab that can enrich your work around accessibility.

RSVP by completing the form below. As always, part-time faculty and staff will receive a stipend for attending. We look forward to seeing you there!

Accessibility-a-thon: Thursday March 8th, 1:30-3:30pm (A441-Library)

In the Spotlight: The Gowanus Project

Black and white photo of Gowanus Canal and some surrounding built environment.This week we’re spotlighting The Gowanus Project. This project explores the neighborhood and the history of its namesake, the Gowanus Canal, from four angles: arts and community, community and displacement, green infrastructure, and public space. Each section has curated images, an outline, an annotated bibliography and a podcast. Together, the visitor is taken on a multisensory adventure of the neighborhood that explores the past and present of the neighborhood, and the main contentions forming its future.

This project is the culmination of a semester-long inquiry into the Gowanus Canal led by Professors Nora Almeida and Amira Joelson for their LIB/Arch 2205 course. Over the course of the semester, students became ‘experts’ on the canal and its history through readings, podcasts, documentaries, and site visits. They digested their growing knowledge of the canal through written site reports summarizing their visits, and snapping photos and sketching out specific features of the surrounding built environment.

On a technical level, this project is an excellent example of how to transform coursework into a publically interesting and useful project. For those of us who use the OpenLab, at the end of the semester our course sites are often full of interesting insights from our students. However, the content remains organized for a classroom audience. In some cases, this works – allowing another outside visitor to review and maybe even take your course. Nora and Amira’s approach to using the OpenLab for this course offers an alternative. By reorganizing the content on your site, or creating a separate project site as Nora and Amira did in this case, you can configure students’ insights in a way that is more legible to an external audience.

This project also makes an important pedagogical pivot worth noting; using the OpenLab, it reworks traditional ‘learning’ relationships and re-situates students in the domain of public knowledge. In our classrooms, students are often situated as ‘the learners’ – those who take in information. This project, however, uses the OpenLab to also situate students as the knowers, and as the producers, curators, and sharers of knowledge. In many ways, this re-situating represents an important potentiality of open digital pedagogy and what can be achieved on the OpenLab, and we encourage you to consider if this is a value you can achieve in your courses as well.

In the Spotlight: CUNY and the UN: A Partnership

Multiple flags representing different countries flying at full mast.

Profile picture for the site.

This week we’re spotlight the CUNY and the UN: A Partnership project site. This site represents the year-long efforts of two City Tech faculty in mathematics – Professor Marianna Bonanome and Professor Samar ElHitti –  in forming “a partnership that can propel progress toward the global education goal (SDG4) between CUNY, the country’s largest public university and the UN”. More specifically, their aim was to “[build] an understanding within the CUNY student population of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, SDG$, and [seed] a movement of informed youth advocates in local, national and international education spaces.” Through conversations with the Paris GEM Report team at UNESCO, the CUNY Youth Ambassador (CYA) role was formed.

The yearly-appointed CYA plays a critical role in spreading awareness about the sustainable development goals and is invited to attend the UN Youth Assembly.

Interested in being the CYA next year or learning more about what the role entails?

On their project site, you can read about this year’s CYA, Farjana Shati, and her experiences at the UN Youth Assembly and as a CYA more generally.

Curious about how Professors Bonanome and ElHitti developed their relationship with the UN and proposed this project?

Read their story on the site and/or in their op-ed for PassBlue, “an independent, women-led digital publication offering in-depth journalism on the US-UN relationship and its effects on urgent global matters”.

For more questions about the project, visit their easily-navigable site today!