Summer Greetings from the OpenLab

Photo Credit: Ricardo Resende

Greetings from the OpenLab and congratulations to all on the closing of another successful academic year! And a most-important special shout-out to the graduating class of 2019!

While our weekly “Spotlight” blog series will go on hiatus for the season, we wanted to remind you of the sites we featured this past year and encourage you to check them out if you haven’t already done so.

Spring 2019 Spotlight Posts

We also launched a retrospective series, looking back at the OpenLab’s evolution over the past (quasi) decade…

…and improved our practices and incorporated some new functionalities and features:

In addition to reviewing these posts from this past spring, you can find a full curated list of all sites that have been spotlighted in our  Spotlight Archive. This archive offers visitors 3 curated lists to help them sort through the posts:

  1. For everyone (By type of site – course, project, club, portfolio)
  2. For faculty/staff
  3. For students

As always, we also encourage you to check out our in-house sites:

The OpenLab Community Team will continue to offer email support over the summer – please contact us with questions or concerns.

We will also soon announce our fall programming. August workshops for Faculty/Staff have been posted – RSVP & mark your calendars! We will be in touch as we get more events and workshops on our calendar.

Wishing you all a very happy summer!

The OpenLab Community Team

In the Spotlight: Gothic Literature and Visual Culture (ENGL 3407-D613)

A few weeks ago, we spotlighted Prof. Blain’s Writing in the Workplace course site. This site offered great ideas for how to organize student writing assignments. This week, we spotlight another well-organized, creative and visually compelling writing-intensive course: Prof. Westengard’s Gothic Literature and Visual Culture (ENGL 3407-D613). Here are some highlights from the site:

Prof. Westengard makes great, common-sense use of the widget space on the right sidebar of her course site. She posts there the information students will most need throughout the semester. This includes a text widget that gives her contact information, office hours and mailbox location. She also uses the “Categories” widget to provide links to the different blogging assignments students have throughout the semester. This makes crucial information less easy to miss!

Second, Prof Westengard’s landing page (the site’s home page) exclusively features timely announcements. This is a great strategy for communicating with your students!

Note that these announcements aren’t set up as a category archive, which would look similar to the set up the site has now, except that announcements would also populate the site’s blogroll by default.  Prof. Westengard has chosen instead to use a static page for her announcements and to edit it regularly with new content. The advantage of this strategy is that her announcements don’t end up mixed in with the courses’ blogroll, which is reserved instead for student blogging. In this way, neither student blogging exercises nor instructor announcements get buried or lost.

Finally, the site does make use of category archives to organize the different blogging assignments. These are given intuitive names “Blog 1,” “Blog 2,” etc. They are also organized neatly in a dropdown menu. Remember that, by activating the “Require Category” plugin, you can ensure that all members of your site choose a category before publishing their post. The plugin prompts the user to select a category and won’t allow them to publish without doing so. Using “Require Category” is a good way of keeping your site and its blogging exercises organized!

In sum, this is a rich and well-organized course site to return to as you begin thinking of setting up your own site for the fall. Want to learn more? Check out the site here.

In the Spotlight: The Open Road and Summer Programming

On the Open Road you can find:

Summer Programming
Note that we have a full slate of workshops and open, drop-in hours lined up for late August to help you get set up on the OpenLab for the fall. Learn more about these workshops below and mark your calendars now!

Download (PDF, 95KB)

We hope these resources will help you continue using the OpenLab to support your teaching, learning and community building here at City Tech!

Wishing you all a happy end of semester!

In the Spotlight: Entertainment Technology’s Culmination Project

As mentioned in previous posts, our theme for Open Pedagogy this semester has been Portfolio curation–  the process of selecting, organizing and updating the work featured on one’s Portfolio/ ePortfolio. This week, as we return from Spring Break and inch toward the close of the semester (what? how?), we spotlight the Entertainment Technology’s Culmination Project OpenLab site. This department-wide site is a repository of curated student ePortfolio work, used to help all Emerging Media and Entertainment Technology majors complete, coordinate and archive their final projects.

The site might be of interest to other departments with culmination projects, as well as faculty teaching courses in which students build their e-Portfolios. Here are few resources to check out on the site:

First, Professor Grayson Earle kindly filmed and uploaded a video tutorial that walks students through ePortfolio creation. This is a great example of supporting multi-modal student learning.

It is also always a good idea to provide students with multiple examples of previous student work to use as a model. But featuring too many links and uploading too many documents makes the reader more likely to miss an example that is useful to them. The project site avoids this pitfall by collating samples of several student posters into one single, downloadable Powerpoint. Note that is format allows students to download and print all of the examples of student posters featured on the OpenLab site.

Similarly, links to PDF versions of project instructions and agreements are all featured on the site, under a top-level menu page that collates all project “Documents.”

Finally, the project site uses the Portfolio Widget to showcase student and faculty work . The Portfolio Widget displays links to the portfolios of all faculty and students that are members of the site (provided they have set up their Portfolio/ ePortfolio, of course). This allows site visitors to easily click a number of links to look at student ePortfolios from previous semesters and draw inspiration for their own work.

Interested in having your students incorporate their final course projects into their ePortfolios? Check out the site for inspiration.

In the Spotlight: Kevelyn Vargas’s ePortfolio

 

A few weeks ago, we spotlighted an ePortfolio that blended humor, self-reflection and professionalism. This week, we spotlight another student site that does much of the same, but with its own flair for design and digital art. Kevelyn Vargas’ ePortfolio is a great example of how to use an OpenLab site to convey both personality and academic  work.

Kevelyn’s site is clean and well-organized, each detail clearly thought through. Her landing page- the Home page– is set to her blog, which she regularly updates with musings on her career plans and coursework. Then, from the top navigation menu, Kevelyn also features an About Me page, an essential component of any ePortfolio.  This page is beautifully and sparsely designed, offering a brief biography, plenty of blank space to the let the reader digest, and a black-and-white photograph (a self-portrait!) to match the overall site design and tone.  

The next two menu tabs allow the reader to navigate to some of Kevelyn’s sample coursework. She takes advantage of the OpenLab’s affordances to showcase multimedia work, from videos she has uploaded to logos she has designed to photographs she has taken. She is building a digital presence on the OpenLab and using more than just the usual blogging tools. She is communicating who she is in multiple ways.

Finally, Kevelyn’s ePortfolio is full of personal touches that suggest her talents as a designer. She tells her readers in the About Me page that she has long made “rose-filled illustrations.” The “rose” imagery sparks reader intrigue. It is carried out throughout the site. Her header images (the image featured at the top of the page in your OpenLab sites) are rotating and are all original illustrations. Most include roses. This gives the ePortfolio coherence, but also a distinctive aesthetic. Clearly, Kevelyn is interested in how to and present and re-present archetypal symbols of beauty- sometimes the roses are rendered mysterious, sometimes they are made  gorgeous, sometimes they are playful (as stand-ins for pepperoni on a pizza slice, for example), and sometimes they are made Gothic and dark.

In OpenLab workshops and events this semester, we have been focusing on curation- the process of selecting, organizing, and taking care of the work featured on your Portfolios/ ePortfolios. Curation really is an art- one that Kevelyn is quite proficient in! Check out the site for yourself and think through you might curate your work in your own ePortfolio!

In the Spotlight: City Tech Super HERO

This week we’re spotlighting the City Tech Super HERO’s OpenLab site. Who is our super hero? Well, she was “born in 1980 as Healthkit Educational Robot (HERO).” As the site goes on to note:

“For the next 15 years she helped countless number of students in colleges and universities across the country learn about Computer and Robotics Technology. Then she went into hibernation. Fast forward to 2017… City Tech Women Engineers Club members have taken the initiative to revive HERO, give her a new life and new features, with the help of modern computer hardware and software technology. Her capabilities will be enhanced with the implementation of Assistive Technology to enable her to help people with disabilities.”

Recently, three City Tech students from the CET department won an IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers) Region 1 Student Research Conference award for this very cool project. Congratulations all! 

The site is worth checking out, both to learn more about City Tech’s Super HERO and to see how OpenLab project sites can help you feature your work and research.  There are a few things about site design to note here:

First, the site makes use of custom header images to showcase the robot. This kind of image catches the reader’s attention: it invites exploration, piques curiosity, and, in its design, parallels well the tech-oriented site content.

Second, the top-level menu is also kept sparse and clear. Separate top-level pages are used for each of the project components: including hardware, software, sensors, devices and applications. This layout is intuitive and makes content easy to find.

Finally, it is worth noting that, as an engineering endeavor, the City Tech Super HERO nicely embodies the “open” and “accessible” spirit of the OpenLab. Not only is the work on the robot being driven by a desire to enhance the HERO’s capacities with Assistive Technology, the engineers reviving the robot have used their site to share their Python code for software testing. They are also building from existing documentation (see e.g. regarding devices), which they link out to every step of the way. The project is public-facing and collaborative and delightful to explore!

Curious about the City Tech Super HERO? Ready to be awed by its powers? Click here to visit the site!

In the Spotlight: Open Pedagogy on the OpenLab

Brooklyn, NY– DUMBO by Alh1

This week, as we prepare for our second 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 (4/4) we’re hosting our first Open Pedagogy event of the semester, Curating a Faculty or Staff Portfolio. The event will be held in the Faculty Commons (N227) from 4:30-6:00pm. Refreshments will be served (thanks to the Provost’s Office for its generous support of this event!). Visit the event posting for more information and to RSVP! We hope to see you there! We also have a follow-up workshop that will look more closely at how to curate  your teaching portfolio (RSVP here!). Part-time faculty are eligible to receive a stipend for participation in the event and/or workshop.

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

In the Spotlight: Anthony Sewell’s ePortfolio

This week, we spotlight a student site that brings humor, self-reflection and a flair for design to the online world of ePortfolios! Anthony Sewell’s ePortfolio  is full of great examples of how you can use the OpenLab to present yourself professionally online, but also let your personality shine through. Here are some highlights:

Anthony’s Portfolio Description on his portfolio profile page takes the time to address the reader directly, thanking them for visiting the site. But it does much, much more, and without being too wordy, still offers a compelling introduction of Anthony’s professional and academic background, as well as an overview of the content of his ePortfolio, which “share[s] with you my work on multiple media platforms.”

Anthony’s sense of humor permeates the site. You see it from the beginning, when reading the tagline for Anthony’s ePortfolio, which notes that he is “1 of 7,374,743,165 [humans] and counting.” But it’s also evident in his blog posts reflecting on his internship, and in the memes and pictures he posts.

This humor conveys Anthony’s personality, without ever overshadowing the professional tone and nature of his ePortfolio, which, from the main navigation menu, cleanly organizes pages with curated Academic Samples of coursework, a bio that includes a video presentation of himself at work, and sample sketches done in his free time. 

A sample sketch Anthony made on the subway.

These are all possible components of a robust ePortfolio. Ultimately, you decide what to showcase and what you believe best reflects your talent and career/ academic achievements. This ePortfolio does a nice job of presenting a wide variety of multimedia content and showcasing skills in graphic design, video editing, and writing.

Ready to start building your own ePortfolio? Check out Anthony’s site for inspiration!

In the Spotlight: Writing in the Workplace (ENG 2570)

This week, we’re spotlighting Professor Blain’s ENG 2570 Writing in the Workplace course, “an advanced composition course emphasizing writing used in business and industry.” The course introduces students to the principles of workplace ethnography, and scaffolds assignments so that students gain a range of technical and analytical writing skills directly applicable to many industries. Visiting this course site might of interest to students thinking about taking the course, as well as faculty/ staff whose courses/ projects are writing-intensive

Public Writing

Professor Blain’s course is public. For students, this means that key assignments involve public writing. Students are asked to post a range of written work, from reflective posts, to workplace memos, to collaborative reports on workplace outcomes. This kind of public writing is a great way to raise the stakes of coursework by widening the potential audience. Students are not just writing for a grade or for their instructor, but for the other students in the course who will read their posts, as well as for anyone in the broader City Tech community who might pop into the site. While this can be intimidating at first, Professor Blain uses many of tools and tricks of Open Digital Pedagogy to ease students into the task. First, using the PDF Embedder Premium plugin, she embeds PDFs spelling out clear guidelines for assignments into her site (see for example here). Students can download, print, or view the assignments guidelines directly from the course site. Second, she scaffolds assignments: the first post students write is a short paragraph in which they reflect on writing and can air their doubts, as well as practice including an image in their posts. Later work, like this virtual workplace ethnography, is more involved. About that virtual workplace ethnography—we particularly like that, to practice writing workplace memos, students first write about a workplace featured in a popular TV show or movie. This playfully grounds the assignment in a (more or less) shared popular culture, allowing students to relate to each other’s work when they read each other’s posts.

Organizing Menus

Organizing a site for a course that is this writing-intensive can be a challenge. The default OpenLab course template features only one “Blog” page where ALL posts are collated and rendered in reverse chronological order. When students post every week, this can get messy. It usually makes more sense, as Professor Blain has done, to separate out student written work by category and course unit. This can be done through “category archives”. Category archives collate all POSTS (not pages) which have been given a specific category (announcements, assignment #1, assignment #2, and final assignment for example) and displays them in reverse chronological order on the screen. This means that the most recent posts (ex. announcements made today) are at the top, while older posts (ex. announcements made last week) are pushed further down the feed. As Professor Blain has done, category archives can be inserted into the main menu so they are easily accessible to visitors of the course site. The “require category” plugin, which requires authors to select a category before publishing their post, is a great way to ensure that students use the categories the instructor has created and post their work to the correct place.

Organizing Site Content

This course site is a good example of a clean, straightforward site design that allows visitors to the site, including students, to easily find the information they’re looking for. Professor Blain achieves this first by keeping her main navigation menu brief: each menu item represents one of three course units. However, because of the many writing assignments required for a class like hers, she uses second-level drop down menus as well to list each of the category archives contained within a course unit. Drop down menus have some drawbacks, including that they are difficult to use on mobile phones—which are the devices most students use for OpenLab coursework. To provide an easy-to-navigate alternative, Professor Blain uses the “Navigation Menu” widget. This widget displays and links out to all category archives and pages as a vertical list in the course’s sidebar. This gives the user an overview of the content of the site and makes it easy to navigate to different parts of the site thereafter.

Check out the site and think through how you might a organize a writing-intensive course!

In the Spotlight: Mammoth.docx Converter

This week, we spotlight a new plugin that we believe will make your life easier: the Mammoth .docx converter!  This plugin allows you to more easily transfer content from Microsoft Word without losing formatting.

As a general rule, it is good practice to save copies of your pages, posts, (and homework assignments!) off the OpenLab, perhaps in Google docs, Microsoft Word, or some other text editor. It also best practice to paste content directly into pages and posts, rather than uploading bulky PDFs and Word Documents onto a site. However, the actual process of copying and pasting content into the WordPress post editor sometimes results in a frustrating loss of formatting. Headers, tables, bold, italics and lists have been known to vanish.

The new Mammoth.docx converter presents a solution! Content created in Microsoft Word can now be uploaded to the OpenLab through the plugin, and will automatically be converted into HTML and pasted into your post editor for you to publish online.

Using the plugin is easy. After you’ve activated it, you will see an option to use the Mammoth.docx converter at the bottom of the page in your post  editor. Click “choose file” to upload a Word document.

Once the upload is complete, you will see the content of the document appear in your post editor.

That’s it!  Keep in mind that the more formatting you include in your original Word document (e.g. headings, paragraph styles, links, lists, and text boxes), the better the formatting will translate in your posts and pages. This means minimal- if any- editing once you’ve uploaded your content. We hope this plugin will be useful to you and encourage you to try it with Word documents that have quite a bit of formatting, for example syllabi.