Introducing the Block Editor

Multicolored blocks lit up in a dark space.
Tetris Blocks” by ShyCityNXR is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0.

In December 2018 with the release of WordPress 5.0, the Block editor (also known as Gutenberg) became the new default post editor, replacing the editor that has been around since the beginning, now called the “Classic” editor.

The Block editor is much more powerful than just a text editor, making it easier to build page layouts and integrate text with visual page elements, without any coding needed.

It has been installed on the OpenLab for the past year, but the Classic editor has been the default, until now. After the OpenLab summer release on August 4, the Block editor will become the default for all new sites, but the Classic editor will still be available for use on any site, or on individual posts and pages. Existing sites currently using the Classic editor will not be switched to the Block editor, unless you choose to change editors.

We encourage everyone to start using the Block editor, and explore all that you can do with Blocks! However, we have instructions for how to switch to the Classic editor if you would prefer to keep using it.

The Classic editor will be officially supported by WordPress through the end of 2021, and while it will likely continue to work for some time after that, it will become more obsolete over time. 

We have a number of pages in OpenLab Help, including:

There are also many helpful tutorials and introductions online. Here are a few good ones:

And as always, feel free to contact us with any questions or concerns, or stop by our virtual office hours!

In the Spotlight: Virtual Office Hours, Summer 2020

A deer peeking out over a field of yellow flowers.
Deer in a Canola Field by Jim Choate on Flickr.

Greetings City Tech Community!

We wanted to extend our congratulations to all of you on completing an especially trying spring semester. A special shout-out to the class of 2020!

We know many of you will be spending a chunk of your summer developing online academic resources. Some of you will be preparing your fall courses, which may well need to be fully online; some of you will be developing online student orientation materials; others will be continuing the transition to virtual student club life. The OpenLab is a great community-run platform from which to expand your web presence. But we realize that you may need support in setting up your OpenLab site. The OpenLab team is here to help!

We have scheduled virtual office hours for the rest of the summer (see full schedule below).  These offer the opportunity to meet with a member of the OpenLab Community Team. All office hours are held via Google Hangouts and are open to faculty, staff, and students. 

Support in office hours is first-come, first-served. If possible, please reach out to the OpenLab team in advance to let us know what questions you have so we can be prepared.

Click here to sign up for virtual office hours.

Click here to join us in our Google Hangout during the office hours listed below.

Click here for instructions for joining via Google Hangouts.

6/26 Friday 2:00 PM-3:00 PM

7/1  Wednesday 2:00 PM-3:00 PM

7/9 Thursday 12:00 PM-1:00PM

7/17 Friday 2:00 PM-3:00 PM

7/22 Wednesday 2:00 PM-3:00 PM

7/30  Thursday 12:00 PM-1:00 PM

8/7  Friday 2:00 PM-3:00PM 

8/12 Wednesday 2:00 PM-3:00 PM

8/20 Thursday  12:00 PM-1:00 PM

 

In Solidarity with BLM: A Note from the OpenLab Team

Black Lives Matter in lights at a protest
Black Lives Matter” by Ella via Flickr

City Tech’s OpenLab team expresses our solidarity with activists and organizers working incredibly hard to affirm and protect Black lives in the wave of protests surrounding the murders of George Floyd, Tony McDade, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and countless other Black people targeted by white supremacist violence.

We believe that Black lives matter, and that existing structures of oppression maintain racial hierarchies that marginalize Black and brown people. These systems impact the daily lives of CUNY students as well as faculty and staff of color; the complicity of our institutions must be acknowledged and changed. We hope the OpenLab can be a place for open discussion, shared resources, and community building.

We’ll share here some resources we find helpful, and hope you will, too. One place to get started is Black Lives Matter.

This Month on the OpenLab: June 2020 Release

strawberries
Strawberries” by Richard Hemmer is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0.

On June 2, 2020 we released version 1.7.43 of the OpenLab. It included new features and a few minor updates to plugins and themes.

New Features and Changes

We made one small and three large changes to cloning functionality on the OpenLab, as well as one bug fix.

  1. We expanded cloning to include clubs, in addition to courses and projects.
  2. We expanded shared cloning so that faculty, students, staff, and alumni can clone projects and clubs that have shared cloning enabled. Only faculty can clone courses. All courses, projects, and clubs cloned via shared cloning will display credit to the original author(s).
  3. All pages, posts, and menus that were published on sites being cloning will be published on the newly-cloned site. This is a change from previous functionality, where everything was in draft form. Site admins can review published pages and posts and move anything to draft as necessary.
  4. Previously, forms created with the Gravity Forms plugin weren’t cloned to a new site. Now all data from Gravity Forms (except any connections made to a personal Dropbox account) will be cloned to the new site.
  5. We fixed an issue that prevented folders in the files section of a group profile from being cloned. Now, if folders are being used to organize files, the folders will be cloned to the new site.

We made a number of improvements to the Education Pro theme:

  1. We made the main navigation “sticky” so that it remains visible at the top of the page, as you scroll down.
  2. We streamlined the available menus so it’s more intuitive to create menus and understand where they will appear on the site.
  3. The widget area at the bottom of the theme is now activated, so you can add widgets to both the sidebar, and the bottom (or footer) of the site. We also removed the OpenLab footer when this theme is activated in order to reduce the cluttered appearance of two footers.
  4. Previously, if you uploaded your own custom header image, there was an automatic transparent color overlay added to the image. We’ve removed this overlay so that the image will appear with the original colors. This means you’ll need to be careful that it doesn’t make the site title—which appears over the header image—unreadable.
  5. We enabled the featured image functionality, so you can upload a featured image for different pages and posts.

We made two improvements to the OpenLab Attribution plugin:

  1. The plugin is now network activated plugin so it’s automatically active on all sites.
  2. For block editor users, it’s now more visible in the block editor, so the button to add an attribution is on the top level of the block toolbar.

We made a few small fixes to the OpenLab Gradebook plugin:

  1. There was a bug causing letter grades with a ‘+’ or ‘-‘ to appear with only the letter grade visible in Firefox, and with the +/- slightly cut off in Chrome. This was just for the instructor view; students could see all grades with + or -.
  2. The rows in gradebooks with more than 5 students were becoming progressively more misaligned farther down the page.
  3. We added a deletion warning when deleting an assignment to double check before it’s actually removed. This will help prevent the accidental deletion of assignments from a gradebook.

New Plugins

  1. DCO Comment Attachment: This plugin allows commenters to attach files, such as images, or even PDFs, Word docs, and others, to their comments. There’s also automatic embedding for YouTube and Vimeo videos, as well as Twitter and Facebook posts. For security reasons, this functionality is only available to logged in members of the OpenLab.
  2. Wonder Gallery: This plugin allows you to create playlists and other galleries that include videos embedded from YouTube, Vimeo, and other hosts, as well as images, and posts from your site.
  3. NextGEN Gallery: This photo gallery plugin provides many different options for creating beautiful and responsive photo galleries.
  4. Category Tag Pages: This plugin allows you to add categories and tags to pages. Note that the categories and tags won’t appear on individual pages, as they do for posts, but the pages with categories or tags will appear in category and tag archives.

Accessibility Fixes

We made a few small accessibility fixes to improve color contrast ratios in the following themes:

  1. Hemmingway
  2. Lingonberry

As always, please contact us with any questions!

In the Spotlight: OpenLab Help and Distance Learning

A photograph of a pink and yellow flower in bloom.
Photo credit: Uplifting! by Andrea_44

Hi City Tech faculty, students, and staff!  As all of us continue to adjust to telecommuting and working from home, we want to take a moment to highlight the different ways the OpenLab can support your transition to distance education.

New Help Documentation

This semester, the OpenLab added new help documentation titled Distance Education.  It includes resources for:

 TEACHING ON THE OPENLAB

 FINDING EXAMPLE COURSES

ORGANIZING STUDENT POSTS

DESIGNING ASSIGNMENTS AND GRADING

…and much more. Please check out this help(ful) documentation on the OpenLab. It offers step-by-step guides for much of what you might need to do at the different points of the semester.

Spring 2020 Virtual Office Hours

As CUNY transitioned to distance learning for the Spring 2020 semester, the OpenLab shifted our events and support online. All workshops for the remainder of the semester have been converted to virtual office hours. We have them scheduled through mid-May: please see our calendar here and sign up for an office hour here.

Email

We are available to support you via email: openlab@citytech.cuny.edu.

Join Our In-House Sites

We encourage you to become members of our in-house sites (you can do so by visiting the profiles of each site). These sites will keep you up-to-date with all things ‘OpenLab’ and offer opportunities for deeper investment with City Tech’s community.

  • Learn more about the OpenLab, including workshops, events, community, and support opportunities on The Open Road. (Profile)
  • Share and discuss resources about open digital pedagogy with other City Tech and CUNY-wide staff and faculty on Open Pedagogy on the OpenLab. (Profile)

We hope you’ll take advantage of these different resources! Wishing you all good health and a smooth end-of-semester!

Transition to Virtual Office Hours

If you’re reading this, you must have the OpenLab on your mind, too. Whether you’re completely new to it, an expert, or somewhere in between, the OpenLab team is working to support you. We’ve revamped our support schedule for the rest of the semester to support distance learning. Here are the highlights:

  • We’ve converted all in-person support to virtual office hours.
  • Please be patient with us, and we will certainly be with you–we’re still figuring out how these remote office hours will work, what we need to be mindful about, what the best practices are. Our trial run will be today, 1:00-3:00pm. You can meet us here.
  • We’re offering more office hours: each week has at least two sessions of office hours, two hours each.
  • We’ve shifted the workshop times to office hours: that way, we can address the specific questions you have rather than focusing on the content of our workshops.
  • We’re asking that if you’re interested in participating in office hours, please let us know by sharing  your contact info etc and in a sentence or so what you’re hoping to work on. It can help us be prepared and make the most of our time together.
  • Here are instructions for joining office hours remotely.
  • As always, we will continue to offer email support–if you can easily ask your question this way, we encourage it. It’s the same as for your teaching: asynchronous (not working at the same time) is going to be more feasible than synchronous (working at the same time) support. Email us at OpenLab@citytech.cuny.edu or use our contact form.
  • Our extensive Help section might have the answer you’re looking for!

As you think about what work you want help with, we want to encourage you to be realistic about what you can reasonably do this semester. Use tools that will make those goals possible, and that you’re comfortable with. During office hours, we might show you how to use the OpenLab to do something, but we might encourage you to use other tools you have available to you that you already know how to use (eg email).

We hope to see you on the OpenLab again soon!

The Transition to Distance Learning: Getting Started on the OpenLab

Welcome to the OpenLab!

As we shift to distance learning, the OpenLab is here for you, and the OpenLab team can support you through this semester. Below are three steps to help you get started on the OpenLab.

Step 1: Join!

Step 2: Get help and support with using the OpenLab

Step 3: Create!

  • Follow instructions to create a Course to support your teaching this semester.
  • Remember that even though courses are shifting to online, you do not need to recreate your physical class in virtual space, nor do you need to be an expert online instructor. This archive of exemplary courses might inspire you, but remember that this is a good time to keep things simple and manageable!
  • Help students join your Course by sending them the URL for the course profile–it starts https://openlab.citytech.cuny.edu/groups…. Students can then click Join Now! or Request Membership (depending on the privacy setting you chose when setting up your Course).

Now that you’ve joined the OpenLab community, you can join some of the collaborative communities that support your use of the OpenLab, such as the Open Road, where you can find updates, highlights, and announcements from the OpenLab, the Open Pedagogy project, where City Tech faculty and staff trade digital teaching resources, and L4, where instructors share sample digital assignments. You can also look for other Courses and Projects in your department to see examples and find resources.

In the Spotlight: Brooklyn Waterfront Research Center

The banner image from the Brooklyn Waterfront Center site. It says the letters "B", "W", "R" and "C" in large letters.

This week, we spotlight the Brooklyn Waterfront Research Center, which is an “incubator for new waterfront-related research” and “a venue to bring students into the knowledge-creation process.” You’ll notice that the project has an OpenLab profile but that the site itself was built on our CUNY-wide, sister platform, the CUNY Academic Commons. As a reminder, if you have a site on the CUNY Academic Commons or–for that matter–any other platform, you too can create a profile and presence for this work on the OpenLab by setting up your site as an External Site.

We also wanted to spotlight the Brooklyn Waterfront Research Center site because they have a $2000 summer fellowship open to support full-time City Tech faculty wishing to conduct research on the Brooklyn Waterfront. Applications are now open, and applicants can be from any academic discipline. Interested? See below for more details and learn more about the Research Center here.

Download (PDF, 71KB)

In the Spotlight: Open Pedagogy on the OpenLab

This week, as we prepare for our first Open Pedagogy Event of the semester, we’d like to draw your attention once again to our in-house site, Open Pedagogy on the OpenLab. This site operates as a forum where OpenLab community members can ask questions and stimulate discussion related to teaching and learning on the OpenLab and in open digital environments more generally. The site is replete with curated resources you can draw on in your teaching, from examples of digital pedagogy assignments to provocative readings on the value of multimedia pedagogy and public writing to information on best practices and tips for open digital pedagogy.  The site’s blogroll is a great place for online discussion on building a curriculum that integrates the OpenLab; each month, our Pedagogy Profiles blog series highlights a different City Tech faculty member who is using the OpenLab in creative ways. 

In conjunction with this site, our OpenLab team hosts Open Pedagogy Events, organized around particular themes and concerns related to teaching in open digital environments and more specifically with teaching on the OpenLab. This Thursday (2/27) we’re hosting our first Open Pedagogy event of the semester, Access in Service. The event will be held in the Faculty Commons (N227) from 4:30-6:00pm. Refreshments will be served (thanks to the Faculty Commons for its generous support of this event!). Visit the event posting for more information and to RSVP! We hope to see you there! We will also consider the theme of “access” throughout this semester, focusing on how faculty and staff can leverage technology to increase our students’ access to learning and other academic opportunities  at CUNY. Part-time faculty are eligible to receive a stipend for participation in the event.

As always, we encourage you to join the site, follow along and participate in the conversation!

This Month on the OpenLab: February 2020 Release

Groundhog with light behind it
Groundhog Day” by Alice Popkorn is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0.

On February 18, we released version 1.7.40 of the OpenLab.  It included one small interface change, a few plugin updates, and some bug fixes.

We removed the phone number field from student and alumni profiles.  Since members didn’t always realize it was public information, we decided that it was best to just remove the option altogether.

There were a few plugin updates that won’t cause any noticeable differences for OpenLab members, but included either minor updates or security-related updates.

We also fixed a number of bugs in this release:

  1. After a change related to the January release, the toolbar at top of the block editor was no longer sticking to the top of the page while scrolling.
  2. When Group admins had email notifications set to ‘No Email’, admins (but not members) were still getting email notifications about file uploads.
  3. There was a bug affecting a small number of groups where  group members were not able to change their email notification settings.
  4. Another bug affecting a small number of groups was preventing admins from choosing OpenLab members to invite to the group because when typing in a person’s name, the dropdown was failing to appear.
  5. When viewing another user’s profile, and then navigating to any group directory (My Courses, My Projects, My Clubs) on their profile, the group description excerpts were missing.

As always, please contact us with any questions!