This Month on the OpenLab: 1.7.13

Brooklyn Bridge

We released version 1.7.13 of the OpenLab on September 18, which included a few new features and a few bug fixes.

We made CSV files one of the allowable file types that users can upload to their sites. We also added four new plugins. Cite allows users to easily add a box at the bottom of any post or page with citation information that readers can easily copy and paste. Gravity Forms Media Library allows users to automatically import files uploaded via Gravity Forms to the Media Library on their site. Simple Pull Quote allows users to easily insert pull quotes into posts and pages. Simple Drop Cap allows users to change the first letter of a word into a drop cap.

We fixed a bug in the Tiny MCE Comment Field plugin, which was generating an error message when users commented on a site with the plugin activated. We also fixed a bug in the Hypothes.is plugin that prevented users from annotating pdfs in their browser without an additional Chrome extension.

As always, please contact us with any questions

(Image: Jon K. Bernhardsen)

In the Spotlight: #TheGuide

Greetings OpenLab Community! We are now in the 4th week of the semester, with many of you settled into the routines of your fall semesters, and some of you may be wondering, what else?! This week we’re spotlighting #TheGuide as one response to that question. #TheGuide is one-of-a-kind, created by City Tech community members for City Tech community members (and more specifically, students of Professor Karen Goodlad and Professor Laura Westengard) and “includes tips and advice about City Tech’s campus and the surrounding community, including the Brooklyn Waterfront”.

Hungry for a lunch? #TheGuide has information on both the Namm Cafeteria AND  over 40 restaurants – both sitting and take-out – within walking distance of campus. Relatedly, there is a ‘Made in Brooklyn’ section identifying where you can buy locally -sourced and -made jams, cookies, mustards, salsas, wines and more — made with love by your Brooklyn-borough neighbors.

Want to learn more about downtown Brooklyn? The site also houses information for two walking tours – Art in Downtown Brooklyn and Architectural Gems in Downtown Brooklyn. You can also learn more about where to go and what to see by the Brooklyn Waterfront by reading through student’s own walking tours of the area.

Still finding your way around City Tech? (Me too!) #TheGuide also contains information on each of the buildings that comprise City tech, as well as the low-down on where the ‘secret’ on-campus cafe is (in the bookstore!), what to do during your 2-4 hour middle-of-the-day break between classes, where to seek support to improve your writing skills, where to get a quick, cheap bite while avoiding long cafeteria lines and MORE!

As you settle into your schedules, we encourage you to refer to #TheGuide for advice on what to do and see, and where to access support and services around City Tech and downtown Brooklyn more generally. Now get to exploring!

In the Spotlight: Story-telling in Interactive Fiction, FYLC

This week we’re shining the spotlight on Story-telling in Interactive Fiction, a first year learning community (FYLC) organized by Professor Jackie Blain who teaches English, and Professor Candido Cabo and Professor Ashwin Satyanarayana who teach Computer Science courses. The three courses in this community will support students in creating an interactive fiction game over the course of the semester.

Storytelling is one critical and tricky aspect of an interactive fiction game, and is the main focus in the English class of this FYLC. In interactive fiction games, storytelling is more complex than in a novel because the ‘interactive’ component of ‘interactive fiction’ means those ‘reading’ the story get to participate and make certain decisions about how the characters’ stories unfold. Thus the storyteller – here, the students – needs to create multiple scenarios and options that allow readers to forge their own path. This process can seem intimidating, particularly if one is an inexperienced storyteller. Seeming to anticipate this, Professor Blain has scaffolded the writing assignments so that students begin developing their storytelling skills by telling the stories they know best – those about themselves!

Storytelling is not the only challenging aspect of this FYLC. Students will also need to develop the technical skills that will be needed to actually create the game. In the computer science courses students will discuss programming and games, Game Design Documents and learn how to use Python, a programming language, to create a video game based on the story developed in their English course.

We encourage you to check some of the stories students are now sharing through various assignments, such as the About College project where students will reflect on their first weeks at CityTech, and to check back at the end of the semester to see what kinds of games students have come up with, and if possible, play a few of them!

In the Spotlight: Fuse Lab

This week we’re spotlighting the Fuse Lab, a NSF-funded “collaborative education project for tomorrow’s technology in architecture, engineering and construction” (AEC). This project is all about remixing things: students and faculty with established industry professionals through their advisory board, industry partners, collaborators and organizational partners; classes and skills in mathematics with computation and fabrication with sustainability and building performance (and more!); and teaching with learning, as the project seems to have created as many resources as they are relying on. This ‘remixing’ is useful if not necessary for keeping up with ‘the ever-diversifying technological needs of the AEC industry.” Moreover, this ‘remixing’ makes the site a unique repository or archive, bringing together information and people at and beyond City Tech in interesting and exciting ways!

Want to learn more about the Fuse Lab and the skills it promotes? You can access tutorials from the main menu bar! In addition, the site links out to other OpenLab sites for courses connected with the Fuse Lab project (such as Introduction to Computation and Fabrication). These course sites contain their own content and resources related to the course’s content, meaning that for visitors of Fuse Lab’s site, these course sites act as additional repositories of information and resources. Lastly, see what kinds of things Fuse Lab has uploaded to their social media accounts to – for example, the Vimeo site seems to have a number of additional informational videos that may act as ‘how-to’s’ for those of you interested.

In the Spotlight: Welcome back!

Greetings City Tech community, and for those of you on break during the summer months, welcome back! We missed you over the summer! As you get back into the swing of things, make sure to join the Open Road and check out what we have planned for you all this semester. As you may know, the Open Road is our one-stop-shop for everything ‘OpenLab’. Here you can find out when/where our workshop for students and workshops for faculty* are (see Calendar also), when our office hours are, and any additional news and updates we have for you. For example, our latest news post informs you of all the updates we’ve made to the OpenLab over the summer.

Also, check out ‘People’s Choice’, a new-ish feature on the Open Road where OpenLab members can recommend sites to be featured on ‘In the Spotlight’. Recommend a site today!

We also encourage you to check out our student blogging team, The Buzz!

As always, the OpenLab Community Team is here for you. Contact us online or at OpenLab@citytech.cuny.edu. We look forward to hearing from you!

*This semester we have two new workshops for faculty – one focusing on copyright and attribution, and another focusing on annotation, both of which are tied to our Open Pedagogy events happening this semester. Join Open Pedagogy on the OpenLab for more on these events.

This Month on the OpenLab: 1.7.12

We released version 1.7.12 of the OpenLab on August 9. The bulk of the release included updates to WordPress and BuddyPress, the software that powers the OpenLab. These updates will largely be invisible, but there will be a few updates our members may notice.

The release included two new plugins. Admin Commenters Count should be very helpful for faculty who use the OpenLab for student work. It adds the number of comments for each member of the site to the Comments page as well as the Users page on the Dashboard. The other plugin is a survey add-on for Gravity Forms, which provides more powerful options for creating Gravity Forms surveys, such as the ability to add Likert Scale and other types of questions.

We also added a paragraph to the first step of course creation with information about the OpenLab’s Creative Commons license, which is part of an ongoing effort to clarify this for users, as well as create an ongoing conversation around fair use and citation. This is also the subject of an upcoming Open Pedagogy event on September 28.

We made a few changes to the new member sign up page, which should improve the user experience. We moved the first and last name questions to the first section, and we made it more clear that phone numbers are optional, and if included will appear on members’ public profiles. We also changed the appearance of error messages so they are more consistent with those on the rest of the site.

We added links to the three sites run by the OpenLab team to the About page—Open Pedagogy, The Open Road, and The Buzz—to make them easier to find. They’re coming soon to the homepage as well!

Finally, a small but important detail for those who use OpenLab messages: we added the ability to delete messages from members’ profile inbox.

As always, please contact us with any questions!

In the Spotlight: Student Mary Lewis’ ePortfolio

“Anything is possible in life. With motivation and self discipline.”

This week we’re spotlighting the ePortfolio of Mary Lewis, a City Tech student pursuing a degree in dental hygiene. Mary’s ePortfolio tells an integrated story about her academic progress and achievements, her professional development and goals, and her personal history. On her ‘About Me’ page, Mary documents her journey from Freetown, Sierra Leone, to Guinea, to Germany, and describes how her experiences led her to pursue a career as a dental hygienist. Under ‘Skills’, Mary has included a detailed list of skills learned through past professional and academic experiences – such as digital panoramic radiographs and extraoral and intraoral examination – as well as two case studies, all detailing the types of roles and tasks she has mastered and can fulfil or build upon through future employment opportunities. Along these same lines, Mary has included details about her timeline to certification and uploaded a copy of her resume. All in all, Mary’s ePortfolio serves as a great starting point for learning more about her, her skills and education, and her potential. In this way, not only does this site serve as an archive for Mary, it also serves as a great, public-facing resource where others, including potential employers, can learn about Mary, as a person and a future employee.

This Month on the OpenLab: 1.7.11

We released version 1.7.11 of the OpenLab on May 16.

This was a very small release, which did nonetheless include two plugins. The PDF Embedder plugin will allow OpenLab members to embed pdfs on their sites without using a third party service and to embed PDFs on private sites. Both capabilities differ from our current document embedder, Google Docs Embedder. The Download Monitor plugin will allow users to manage downloadable files on their site, including tracking downloads.

As always, please contact us with any questions!

This Month on the OpenLab: 1.7.10

Image Source: Seyed Mostafa Zamani

We released version 1.7.10 of the OpenLab on April 17.

This release included a few improvements that will be noticeable to OpenLab members. We have added a new feature to Project and Club Profiles, which is the ability to add a contact person (or persons) for the Project or Club. This can be found in the Settings on a Project or Club’s Profile page, or during the creation process for new groups.

In addition, we added an email notification letting admins of a public Course, Project, or Club site know when someone joins your group.

We also added the OpenLab’s Creative Commons license in the site footer. Any content that an OpenLab member creates or posts on the OpenLab is automatically protected under the terms and conditions of a Creative Commons Attribution NonCommercial Share-Alike 3.0 license. However, any OpenLab member is free to choose other copyright conditions for any content that they create or post on the OpenLab by specifying the particulars on their own site.

Finally, we added the plugin Folders to the OpenLab. We think it may be useful for anyone who wishes to be able to categorize and organize posts, pages, and/or media library files on their site.

As always, please contact us with any questions!

In the Spotlight: Recent Nucleus Issue ‘Spotlights’ OpenLab

This week we’re spotlighting the recent issue of the Nucleus (Winter, 2017), our Faculty Commons Quarterly. This season’s issue features pieces from faculty about the creative ways they’ve used the OpenLab in the context of their courses and/or research. Specifically, faculty discuss engaging students through creative and interactive assignments that incorporate multiple forms of media and dialogue, how the open and archival aspects of the OpenLab enable past students to share tips and strategies with newer students despite never meeting in person, how course sites can act as nodes in larger networks of resources that may benefit students academically, professionally, or otherwise, how to carry out collaborative student-faculty research projects, and how other innovative learning resources such as OERs and WeBWorks enrich students learning AND can help keep educational costs down for students. We hope you enjoy!

A hearty thank you to the Faculty Commons for their enthusiasm and support with this issue and always.