In the Spotlight: Literary Arts Festival

This year’s Literary Arts Festival–the 40th annual installation of this City Tech institution–will no doubt be different than the previous 39, but certainly exciting and enriching as always.

We’re spotlighting both the festival itself–now virtual via Zoom–and the revamped call for student submissions. The organizers of the Literary Arts Festival emphasize that “Your Voice Matters. Your Story Matters. You Matter and We Care.” Instead of a writing competition, the call asks students to share stories with the City Tech community. The focus is on “quarantine, hardship, loss, resilience, social activism, remote education, mental health, essential workers, health care workers, caregivers” and can include “personal essay, poem, song, photography, illustration, video/animation, dance, spoken word performance”–so any format of creative work. Submit your work by March 17th.

Details on the call for submissions are available on the Literary Arts Festival’s OpenLab site.

Then check out–and share!–this awesome poster for the event, designed by Or Szyflingier in COMD! It has information for you to save the date for the event: on Tuesday, April 13, at 5:00pm, the City Tech community will gather for a Literary Arts Festival featuring spoken word artist Staceyann Chin and City Tech students from among those submitting their work for the call for submissions.

Before the festival, get to know Staceyann Chin’s spoken-word work. Here are some samples of her work from the Poetry Foundation, and some videos and further reading.

Thanks to the Student Government Association President Ngozi Okonkwo and the SGA Team for hosting, and for their work with English Department faculty, led by Dr. Caroline Hellman, in organizing and supporting this year’s festival.

Early March News

... plan
“… plan” by wallsdontlie via Flickr

With Spring 2021 well underway–dare we say approaching midsemester!–the OpenLab team has some helpful information to share:

  1. Learn more about the support the OpenLab provides, both synchronous and asynchronous. The Spring 2021 support schedule includes open hours, one-on-one appointments, helpful OpenLab screencasts, and as always, email. Your group can also request a workshop.
  1. Everyone can share their ideas about the semester with the community on Open Pedagogy on the OpenLab. Anyone can comment–but also consider joining the project so you get updates whenever there are new posts about teaching and learning in the open!
  1. You can learn more about the latest OpenLab News, including the most recent updates to the OpenLab. For example, if you’re using the block editor to write posts and pages, you’ll be glad to know that the tool bar is now much easier to use! 
  1. PLAN Week is underway! You can learn more about the opportunities for students on the PLAN Week page of the City Tech Guide on the OpenLab.

The OpenLab, City Tech’s open digital platform for teaching, learning, and collaboration, offers virtual open hours, online support, and technical and pedagogical guidance throughout the year.

The OpenLab team also offers a selection of Help materials for Distance Education, plus Courses, Projects, Clubs, and Portfolios

Contact us with questions: openlab@citytech.cuny.edu!

The OpenLab Team

This Month on the OpenLab: February 2021 Release

On February 18, 2021 we released version 1.7.49 of the OpenLab. It was a very small release, which included one new plugin and a few small bug fixes. 

The new plugin is called Block Navigation, and adds a sidebar panel to the Block editor that shows an outline of all the blocks on the page or post. It provides an easy way to view the order and reorganize blocks.

We added a missing “required” label for the “account type” dropdown on the sign up page. We also eliminated the “Brute Force Protection” section in the Jetpack plugin’s settings because it was causing an error. 

As always, please contact us with any questions!

In the Spotlight: PLAN Week

PLAN Week is upon us at City Tech!

This week, from March 1 to March 5, students can come together for daily events to help them plan different aspects of their future (and present) at City Tech and beyond. Learn about each day’s events and register for as many as you can fit in your schedule. The week includes get-togethers on the following topics:

  • PLAN your Education
  • PLAN your Registration
  • PLAN for Remote Learning
  • PLAN your College Finances
  • PLAN for Success

There are also sessions to meet with peer mentors, and get support from counseling services, among other topics.

The event’s organizers describe the goals of the sessions: “to guide students to seek academic advisement, be directed to degree maps, offered workshops and success seminars, as well as virtual get-together sessions to develop an academic and professional identity through experiences beyond the classroom.”

These get-togethers will give students a chance to hear from faculty, staff, and students about these important topics, and to meet other students.

It’s no surprise that guiding students is a primary goal of PLAN Week–it’s part of The Guide, a site on the OpenLab that houses information for students about a wide variety of topics important for success in courses and at college. Want to know more about City Tech’s Guide? You can visit the project on the OpenLab and also read an earlier In the Spotlight about City Tech Guide’s offerings.

In the Spotlight: OpenLab Support

Up The Irons
“Up the Irons” by Florin C via Flickr

The OpenLab Team is here for you, but where exactly is here?

Synchronous support

Open Hours

Throughout the semester, the OpenLab Team hosts weekly open hours for students, faculty, and staff to get acquainted with the OpenLab, ask questions, explore new tools, and learn more about what’s possible when working in an open digital environment. These are open for multiple people to participate in at the same time.

One-on-one Appointments

If anyone wants any or all of the above but without other participants present, there are also one-on-one appointments available. Both these and the Open Hours are now conducted via Zoom.

Workshops by Request

The team is also available for workshops by request for a group (department, course coordination group, club, research group, etc) to learn together about any aspect of the OpenLab specifically or about open digital teaching and learning practices more broadly. All of the links provided here take you to the Support section on The Open Road, which is a site that the OpenLab Team uses to broadcast news, updates, and spotlights.

Asynchronous Support

Help

If there’s a question you have, we’ve probably thought about it, written about it, and made screenshots about it. Visit the Help as a starting point for OpenLab support to find answers to your questions (and to questions you didn’t even know you had).

Email

Use the contact form on the Help page, or email the OpenLab Team directly (OpenLab@CityTech.cuny.edu) to ask questions, report a problem, request a new feature, etc. If you’re having a problem with your account (signing up, logging in, etc), it’s best to email from your City Tech email account.

Screencasts

The OpenLab Team has been busy making screencasts to provide asychronous support in new ways. You can find a link to the screencasts in the Support section of The Open Road. That link will take you to a YouTube channel with all of the OpenLab screencasts.

Modules

There’s a lot of help in Help. For a more focused experience getting ready for teaching and learning on the OpenLab, visit these modules:

  • Faculty members can learn more about getting course sites ready throughout the semester, using the Teaching with the OpenLab module as a guide.
  • Students can get ready to use the OpenLab throughout the semester using the helpful OpenLab for Students module.

Open Pedagogy on the OpenLab

Open Pedagogy on the OpenLab is another site the OpenLab Team runs. It provides resources, support, and community space for anyone exploring teaching with open digital pedagogy. Until we can meet again in person, the OpenLab team will continue to use this site to pose questions and solicit community conversation in lieu of the popular Open Pedagogy events. Anyone can comment, even if they’re not part of the City Tech community–but if you’re an OpenLab member also consider joining the project so you get updates whenever there are new posts about teaching and learning in the open.

Comforting Content for COVID Coping

Finally, if what you need is something comforting, cute, or just generally different from what you’ve been looking at all day on your screen, visit Comforting Content for COVID Coping. Feel free to add or suggest if you have and idea for comfort or cuteness to offer!


Looking for additional support? Have an idea for additional ways the OpenLab Team can provide support? Feel free to reach out via email to OpenLab@CityTech.cuny.edu.

New Screencast: Editing Menus on Your Site

In our latest screencast, Digital Pedagogy Fellow Olivia will show you how to edit your site’s menu to add (or delete, or re-order) pages, posts, and categories.

For a written version of these same instructions with screenshots, you can also visit our Help documentation here.

 

Welcome back!

Welcome back for Spring 2021! The OpenLab Team has some helpful information to share:

  •  The  Spring 2021 schedule  for OpenLab support is now available. Students, faculty, and staff can sign up for open hours and one-on-one appointments to ask specific questions or ask to learn more about topics such as getting started, using the OpenLab for courses, or how to use a tool  or pedagogical approach. Or any group can request  a workshop. Open hours and one-on-one appointments start today, 1/29, with additional options this Sunday and next Friday.
  •  Faculty members, have any questions about getting your course site ready for the semester? See helpful tips posted here: Teaching with the OpenLab.
  •  Students, want to help students get ready to use the OpenLab this semester? See the helpful OpenLab for Students module.  
  •  Get inspired by what City Tech has done on the OpenLab by looking through our past In the Spotlight posts. This week’s spotlight is shining on them!

The OpenLab, City Tech’s open digital platform for teaching, learning, and collaboration, offers virtual open hours, online support, and technical guidance throughout the year.

The OpenLab team also offers a selection of Help materials for Distance Education, plus Courses, Projects, Clubs, and Portfolios

Contact us with questions: openlab@citytech.cuny.edu!

The OpenLab Team

Artist credit: Adam J. Koon

In the Spotlight: Finding Inspiration on the OpenLab

Welcome to spring semester! Getting started on the OpenLab, even if you’ve used it before, can sometimes be overwhelming- there are so many different options for what you can do! On this edition of the Spotlight, we’re spotlighting one way to get inspiration and learn cool things you can do on the OpenLab without feeling overwhelmed. What is it? The Spotlight itself!

What is the Spotlight?

Every Monday, we feature a different site, project, or activity that someone is doing on the OpenLab that we’ve specially selected for you to check out. For example, last semester, we Spotlighted:

The OpenLab Tutorial for Students page (recommended for students and anyone interested in building online tutorials)
The Student Technology Survey (recommended for all faculty teaching online)
The Fifth Annual Science Fiction Symposium (recommended for anyone who might want to host an event using the OpenLab)
The Experiential Art and Design Club (recommended for students running student organizations)

However, we also suggest checking out Spotlighted sites that don’t directly relate to what you want to do on the OpenLab. For example, in her spotlight of the Connect Days template, Claire explains some design choices the creators made that help make the site work so well as an admissions tool, such as an easy-to-digest home page, profiles to help prospective students get a sense for who is in each academic department, and multimedia tours.

How Else Can You Use the Spotlight?

Whether you’re faculty, staff, or a student, you can also check out our Spotlight archive to look for other sites on the OpenLab specifically tailored to your interests.

Students:
Our Student Archive contains featured course sites so that you can preview classes you might want to take in the future, tips for professional development and presenting yourself online, learning resources, and sites created by other students.

Faculty and Staff:
Our Faculty and Staff Archive is arranged to make it easy to find inspiration for online pedagogy and class sites across disciplines, tips for how to guide students in making e-portfolios for your classes, community opportunities at City Tech, and tips for publicizing and coordinating your scholarship!

What Else is on the Open Road?

Aside from the Spotlight, this OpenLab site also contains OpenLab News, so you can learn about new features and our upcoming events, information on how to attend our OpenLab Open Hours, and screencasts for audiovisual guidance on the nuts and bolts of editing your OpenLab site.

You can always see our Spotlighted content for the week on the home page of the OpenLab, or you can join our project profile to get updates sent directly to your email. We hope you’ll come back each week to see all of the cool stuff your colleagues and classmates are doing on the OpenLab!

This Month on the OpenLab: January 2021 Release

Three dogs bounding through the snow.
IMGP0908” by Vladimir is licensed under CC-BY-NC 2.0.
[Post author’s note: If I were to title this image, I’d call it “bounding, with hope, into 2021.”]

On January 21, 2021 we released version 1.7.48 of the OpenLab. It included a few new features and updates to all existing themes and plugins, including BuddyPress, the main plugin that together with WordPress, powers the OpenLab. We are postponing a WordPress update until the summer 2021 release because of some significant changes that could impact many of the themes and plugins on the OpenLab. We’re also holding off on updating the Gutenberg plugin that powers the WordPress block editor because it introduces block editing for widgets, which is a significant change to the interface and we wanted to provide additional time to introduce this change to OpenLab members.

New Features and Functionality

  1. We made a change to the default settings in the block editor, so that the block settings toolbar now appears in the “top toolbar” location rather than hovering at the top of the active block, where it can sometimes obscure what’s in the block.
Block editor with the block settings toolbar in the top toolbar location.

You can always change this by toggling the “top toolbar” location setting off or in the Block Editor Options menu. Click the icon with 3 vertical dots to access this menu.

Top toolbar location setting in the Block Editor Options menu.

2. We made a number of changes to the sign up page to help make the process easier for new members. We moved account type (student, faculty, staff, alumni) before email address, so that once you choose account type and then begin to type in your email address, there is an auto-complete suggestion that appears.

3. We made some improvements to the School and Office filters on the Projects directory page so that “All Schools” and “All Offices” are now selectable in the filters.

4. We also finished most of the work on a plugin we’re developing called OpenLab Private Comments, which is based on WP Grade Comments, but is designed for use with Portfolios. When activated by a site admin (e.g.  students as admins of their portfolio sites) it allows commenters (e.g. professors) to leave private comments as feedback on their portfolios. We’re planning to release this in February.

Bug Fixes

We fixed one bug. The modal window that appears when you click the Add to Portfolio button to add the contents of a post, comment, or page you’ve authored to your portfolio site from another site was not mobile friendly. We’ve fixed this so it can be used on mobile devices.  

As always, please contact us with any questions!

January Workshops

A close-up photograph of thin red-brown branches speckled with snow
Snow balls by blmiers2

Hi City Tech community!

We’re offering support throughout January for folks teaching and learning through the winter session, or even for folks who want to jump-start the spring semester!

Instead of synchronous workshops, which we have offered in-person in past semesters, we’re providing other options for support: screencasts, open hours, and 1-on-1 sessions.

We’re developing a growing playlist of short screencasts that focus on some of the most common support questions we receive; we recommend our Intro to Block Editor video for folks working with the new WordPress editor. Check out these screencast videos HERE!

We’ll be offering Open Hours and 1-on-1 sessions for staff, students, and faculty several times this month. 

Support Schedule – January 2021

Thursday Jan. 7, 2021: 3-5pm
Friday Jan. 15, 2021: 10am-12pm
Thursday Jan. 21, 2021: 3-5pm
Friday Jan. 29, 2021: 10am-12pm
Sunday Jan. 31, 2021: 3-5pm

To see the full schedule and to sign up for open hours and 1-on-1 sessions, visit The Open Road.

We’re also available 7 days a week for asynchronous support via email at openlab@citytech.cuny.edu