In the Spotlight: OER for Africana Folklore (Part 3 of 3)

Header image for Africana Folklore class.As the final post of our 3-part series on OERs, this week we’re spotlighting Professor Javiela Evangelista’s OER for Africana Folklore: Afr1130. As mentioned the last two weeks, the general description of OERs seems straightforward – open and freely accessible educational resources. However in practice OERs are more ambiguous. This series aims to highlight some key features of OERs by spotlighting a few OERs being built by City Tech Faculty.

While the last two weeks have focused on clarity and organization (Part 1), and flexibility (Part 2), what Professor Evangelista’s site highlights is that multimedia materials are often an important part of OERs.

In general, teaching and learning with multimedia has been shown to increase comprehension and retention (i.e. Aloraini, 2012). In Africana Folklore, Professor Evangelista pairs a video, or a few, with a set of readings each week. These are not only intended to supplement, but are an important part of the course material. They fill in gaps in understanding and bring new information to the fore, while also reinforcing other material assigned that week.

The consistent use of videos in her course is more pronounced in the context of the class field trip to Democracy Now!, and its related assignment. Democracy Now! is an independent media outlet that highlights social justice stories and news that are too often overlooked or misreported by mainstream media outlets. In the related assignment, Professor Evangelista asks students to compare independent and mainstream media outlets and to think about how and why they represent similar issues differently, and to what end.

This field trip and assignment draw a contemporary parallel to the ways in which Africana Folklore “highlights the survival of African descendant people (and their stories) by way of oral, material and customary traditions”. To what extent are independent media outlets deploying similar strategies toward similar goals?

Moreover, the field trip and assignment conveys lessons of media literacy without saying as much. This seems like an important opportunity for critical reflection on the use of videos as course material, as well as how students may use videos to supplement their independent learning at home. This drives home an important lesson inherent in multimedia pedagogy – for use in your OERs or otherwise – and of this time period in history: that it’s not just about the incorporation of multimedia text into our teaching and learning, but also the critical and responsible approach with which we do so.

For more on multimedia pedagogy from the OpenLab, check out our Spring 2017 Event on the topic (includes external readings), and read the recap, which includes additional examples of multimedia pedagogy on the OpenLab and around CUNY.

This concludes our 3-part series of OERs.

  • Did you miss our first two weeks? Learn more about how organization and clarity (Part 1), and flexibility (Part 2) factor in when building an OER. Part 1 also includes and overview of OERs in general and at City Tech.
  • To browse more OERs on the OpenLab, or learn more to create your own, check out City Tech’s OER Fellowship project site. This site includes external readings, information about the fellowship, and a link to each OER made through this fellowship.

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: 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: 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!

In the Spotlight: Accessibility on the OpenLab

Image Source: Bruno Cordioli

This week we’re spotlighting a post that lays out what you can do to improve accessibility on your OpenLab sites composed by the OpenLab’s Senior Instructional Technologist, Bree Zuckerman. Specifically, Bree’s post explains how to make sure documents, images, video, animation and links are accessible to all visitors, and how to present your content in a way that is legible to those with a range of disabilities. Bonus: These changes also generally improve the usability of your site for all users!

It is possible that you won’t have to change too much — for example, many users already use headings, or insert links into descriptive phrases (like the hyperlinked text, “a post”, above) rather than vague ones like “‘click here’.”

In addition, the OpenLab has activated a network-wide plugin, WP Accessibility Plugin, that builds features into the design of the OpenLab which support accessible-practices when creating on the OpenLab.

Just as it is important to be mindful of accessibility when planning and constructing physical infrastructure such as buildings and sidewalks, it is critical that we are mindful of accessible design when creating on the OpenLab and in other digital spaces. Making our sites on the OpenLab accessible means that people with disabilities can, ideally, better perceive, understand, navigate, and interact with the various features of our sites. This may include navigating through a page or a menu, reading a PDF, or “viewing” an image or video. There are some specific ways OpenLab members can address issues of accessibility and ensure that all visitors to their sites are able to access the sites’ material equally.

In implementing these practices on your current and future OpenLab sites, you’re also ensuring that the OpenLab stays true to its foundational goal of creating and sustaining an open digital space where all City Tech students, faculty, staff, and alumni can work together, experiment, and innovate, ultimately enriching the intellectual and social life of our college community.

Related Upcoming Events & Workshops

In supporting OpenLab members in the thinking-and-doing of accessibility, the Community Team will host an Open Pedagogy Event focused on this topic, and a related hands-on workshop.

Open Pedagogy Event (THIS WEEK): Accessibility on the OpenLab
Thursday 2/22 5:30pm – 7:00pm in the Faculty Commons (N227) RSVP
This event continues the conversation about how designing the college experience with accessibility in mind benefits our communities. We’ll engage each other about how standards and accommodations vary across the disciplines. Our discussion will focus on universal design and how it can be incorporated into our pedagogy, mentorship, and administrative work on campus and beyond.

Workshop: Accessibility-a-thon!
Thursday 3/8 1:30pm – 3:30pm, Room TBA
RSVP (Coming Soon)
This workshop offers OpenLab users an opportunity to get in-person support with improving the accessibility and usability of their sites. The OpenLab Community Team invites members of City Tech to drop-in anytime and stay as long as you’d like (up to 2 hours).

In addition to these events, OpenLab members are always welcome to bring questions of accessible/universal design to our office hours or to contact us at openlab@citytech.cuny.edu.

A word map highlighting the different aspects of universal design.

Image Source: Giulia Forsythe

In the Spotlight: MTEC 2210 – Game Design & Interactive Media

Header image of course siteThis week we’re spotlighting Professor Boisvert’s Game Design & Interactive Media course (MTEC 2210) in the Emerging Media Technology department. The course offers students a “cross-disciplinary foundation for the design of games and interactive multi-media technology” and may be of interest to artists, engineers, scientists, technologists and more! In terms of digging in, assignments and experiences lead students through the process of deconstructing and reconstructing various websites – thinking through the aims of an organization and the intended audience and design of the website. Students share their reflections on the blog, seemingly as a way of sharing their analysis with the class at large, as well as practicing public writing and reflection.

Professor Boisvert also uses the blog to post weekly reading questions. As the stated question below suggests, these questions ask students to think creatively and collectively about the readings. Judging by the responses, students not only engage one another in discussion about the readings, but given that many students seem to filter their responses through their own experiences, also build rapport and familiarity with other students. In this way, the reading response questions also function to grow community in the classroom and among students, enriching their participation in the class and their education at City Tech more broadly.

example of reading response question

These assignments and class activities ultimately prepares students to begin thinking through the design of a game. This also takes place on the blog, which is now – in theory – a familiar and friendly place to share and get feedback from peers and Professor Boisvert. As the end of the semester nears, check back to see how student-generated games like Space Pirates or League of Rappers evolve!

In the Spotlight: English Composition 1 (Eng 1101 LC22/CD322)

The header image on the course site.This week we’re spotlighting Professor Sarah Schmerler’s English 1101: English Composition 1 class. This course is one half of a learning community, wherein she shares the same students with math professor Grazyna Niezgoda. The objective of the learning community, and common theme between the two courses, is to help students learn how to solve complicated problems by breaking a problem down into smaller, simpler steps. Likewise, Professor Schmerler’s syllabus suggests the class objectives are also further broken down into smaller goals such as using writing as a process of discovery and practice of critical thinking, building skills around drafting, revising and research, and fostering a personal writing style and process. This style of breaking a whole down into manageable parts is also a theme in the way Professor Schmerler has designed her course site. Wondering what materials you’ll need for this course? See the ‘Materials/Supplies’ item in her main menu. Similar questions can be asked about assignments, course policies, paper formatting and more. This results in quick and easy navigation of the course site both for her students and other visitors.

In addition to using the course site to organize course-related materials, Professor Schmerler also holds class discussions on informal topics generated by her students. So far, there is a discussion of the sometimes difficult task of figuring out what to wear each day, and a critical discussion of the pros and cons of Pineapple Pizza. These activities help students practice writing in an informal and low-stakes way, and likely supports them in translating their thoughts, opinions and perspectives into writing that is legible to others; in other words, facilitating the process of fostering a personal writing style.

The last aspect of Professor Schmerler’s course site that I’ll highlight is the use of the course blogroll to share resources with students (i.e. on semicolons, on active vs passive voice, on possessives). These resources are no doubt of use to the students in her course, but also may be of use to other students on the OpenLab and at City Tech more broadly. Thus, housing her course on the OpenLab rather than on a closed or private platform increases the potential impact of her course and its materials.

View the resources, join the discussion and learn more about Professor Schmerler’s course by visiting her course site today!

In the Spotlight: OER Fellowship

City Tech OER Fellowship Logo

This week we’re spotlighting the OER Fellowship project site on the OpenLab. Beginning in 2015, City Tech’s OER Fellowship supports full-time faculty in creating open educational resources (OERs) – or educational websites comprised of open-source and publically available materials that will consolidate and/or replace their course texts. While an important draw of OERs is the cut in textbook costs to students, during our Open Pedagogy event on this topic last year, Professors and 2016 OER Fellows Sue Brandt and Ari Maller also discussed the greater degree of flexibility in and customizability of content that OERs provide. Relatedly, Professor Brandt discussed the ability to keep course content up-to-date even if only by adding current examples, while Professor Maller enjoyed the ease of assigning texts of various mediums (i.e. videos, images).  

Information about the Fellowship, including participant requirements & guidelines and links to the OERs generated by past fellows, can be found on City Tech’s Ursula C. Sherwin Library website. This information and more – including the Seminar Syllabus, additional resources, and a forum that simultaneously documents the work of past cohorts and identifies some important conversations and considerations related to OERs – is available on the OpenLab site.

Further questions about the fellowship? Contact OER Librarian, Professor Cailean Cooney at ccooney@citytech.cuny.edu.

Further questions about OERs and their possibilities? Read the recap from our Open Pedagogy Event on OERs from last Fall (2016), the recap from our recent Open Pedagogy Event on Copyright and Attribution in Open Digital Pedagogy, and/or join us for our next Open Pedagogy event on Annotating Text on the OpenLab Thursday October 26th at 5:30pm in the Faculty Commons (N227). This is a follow-up to a well-received Spring event, “Annotating Texts in Open Digital Pedagogy”, and related to Librarian Monica Berger’s post, ‘Hypothes.is for OERs’ on the OER Fellowship OL site.

In the Spotlight: Open Pedagogy on the OpenLab

Open Pedagogy on the OpenLab Logo

In conjunction with our first Open Pedagogy Event of the semester, this week we’re spotlighting 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. This site is a good place to find ideas for digital pedagogy assignments, access information on best practices and tips for open digital pedagogy, and engage other faculty about how teaching on the OpenLab changes their curriculum and classroom environments and relations.

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 (9/28) we’re hosting our first Open Pedagogy event of the semester, Best Practices for Copyright and Attribution. The event will be held in the Faculty Commons (N227) from 5:30-7:00pm. 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 integrate these best practices into your use of the OpenLab (RSVP here!). Part-time faculty are eligible to receive a stipend for participation in the event and/or workshop.

In conclusion, we encourage to join the site, and follow along and participate in the conversation!