In the Spotlight: Privacy in Open Learning

Happy second week of school to all City Tech faculty, students, and staff! At the start of every semester, hundreds of members of the City Tech community join the OpenLab for the very first time. If that’s your case, welcome! We want to take the start of the semester to go over the ins-and-outs of privacy in open learning. After all, the OpenLab is a public-facing platform. While this public-ness is part of what makes the OpenLab a rich environment for teaching and learning, some of you may have concerns about what working in the open means for your privacy. Here are a few things you should know:

The OpenLab is open

The OpenLab is open by default. The site is indexable through search engines, and can be accessed by anyone inside and outside of the City Tech community.

Privacy while working in the open

The OpenLab is open, so can anyone can find your personal information by looking you up on the OpenLab?

The answer is a resounding no! This is because members of the OpenLab can identify themselves using a pseudonym for their user name or display name instead of their real name. Their avatar can represent them without including a real photo or identifying image. Plenty of OpenLab members, for example, use pictures of their cats, their guitars, their cars, abstract sketches of themselves, etc. Check out our detailed overview of the OpenLab’s privacy policy, and best practices for protecting your confidentiality here.

If you are an instructor teaching a course on the OpenLab, or a staff/ faculty member leading a club/ project on the OpenLab, it is essential for you to know that members–particularly students–cannot be required to use their proper name or likeness when creating an OpenLab account.

Participating in courses on the OpenLab

If you are an instructor teaching on the OpenLab, you might wonder how you can identify your students if they are using pseudonyms on the platform.

The answer is that site administrators can identify group members in the site dashboard by full name and email address (as shown below). Therefore, they do not need to rely on usernames to identify members. In other words, members should not be asked to change their username or display name for identification purposes. Remember though: people’s full names are only visible for site administrators in the dashboard. They are not visible anywhere else on the OpenLab.

A screenshot of a site administrator's view of the dashboard. When the site administrator clicks "Users" in the dashboard, they will see the site's users avatars, full names, and email addresses.

We hope this helps explain how your privacy is protected when you work in the open.  Again, please visit our Help documentation on privacy on the OpenLab for a fuller overview of your rights and best practices for protecting your confidentiality.  As always, feel free to comment on this post if you have questions! 

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: 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: The City Tech Literary Arts Festival

This week, we’re spotlighting the City Tech Literary Arts Festival’s OpenLab site. The Literary Arts Festival is “a yearly celebration of literary accomplishments among City Tech’s students, staff, faculty, and community.” The Festival features both a writing competition and a featured writer who is invited to speak.

This year’s invited speaker is José Olivarez, a son of Mexican immigrants whose debut book of poems, Citizen Illegal is a finalist for the 2019 PEN America Literary Award. You can learn more about José Olivarez and find a link out to his personal website by going to the Featured Writer page of this year’s Literary Arts Festival.

But, equally important, City Tech students can and should submit their own work! The deadline for submitting to the writing competing is March 15, 2019 at 11:59 pm.

The submission categories are: poetry fiction, literary criticism, drama, literary advocacy, and non-fiction. This year, submissions are being accepted directly on the OpenLab site. Want to submit your work? Click here to do so. And make sure to check out some winning entries from 2018 for inspiration!

 

Holiday Greetings from the OpenLab!

Image Source: geralt

Greetings from the OpenLab and congratulations to all on the closing of another successful semester!

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

Courses

Projects

Clubs

Portfolios

We also had a few special posts to make you aware of new developments:

In addition to reviewing these posts from this past semester, 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 winter session – please contact us with questions or concerns.

We are also beginning to post our spring programming.

January workshops for Faculty/Staff have been posted – view the schedule and RSVP on the Open Road! We will be in touch as we get more events and workshops on our calendar.

Wishing you all a very happy holiday season!

The OpenLab Community Team

In the Spotlight: Girls Who Code

This week we’re spotlighting the Girls Who Code club. Girls Who Code is a FREE after-school program for 6-12 grade girls and female college freshman. The aims of the club are to empower women by building technical skills, knowledge, and confidence, while also growing community among those with interest in tech. In supporting young women in this way, the club aims to counter stereotypes about who is and can be a programmer, and to help close the gender gap in tech. City Tech’s Girls Who Code club brings this initiative to the City Tech community – bringing together young females who want to explore coding in a fun, friendly, and community-based way. Through joining the club, members are supported in their learning of different coding platforms but also, though the community-building aspect, club leaders help members become confident in everything they do!

Curious to learn more? You can view the curriculum you would work through when you join Girls Who Code. As you’ll notice, the club meets members where they are – beginner, intermediate, and advanced – meaning your curiosity and interest in tech is enough to join this growing group!

Also, one of the faculty facilitators, Professor Ayesha Javed, has begun a “Blog of the Day” blog series that would be of interest to anyone with an interest in tech, and/or an interest in joining the club. Professor Javed covers various topics related to coding and programming, including “5 Reasons Why Learning Coding in Important”, “Why Choose Python as your Programming Language?”, “10 Famous Websites Built with Python” and “The Advantages of using Scratch as your language!”. Moreover, her posts include spotlights on women in tech, including Tarah Wheeler, Ada LoveLace (one of the first computer programmers in the mid 1800s!), and Bissan Al-Lazikani.

Curious still? On their website, you can find a list of their student and faculty leaders, and contact information. Reach out to learn more and get involved!

In the Spotlight: Clubs on the OpenLab

Black and white image of intersecting metal staircases.
Image Source: bogitw

There are many ways the OpenLab can support the diversity of work carried out by the City Tech Community. Hosting a club site on the OpenLab is one way. This year 13 new clubs joined the OpenLab and nearly half of those joined this semester – so this week let’s take a moment to consider how hosting your club site on the OpenLab can support your club’s activities and membership.

Through a workshop with the Club Council in Fall 2017, we learned that many clubs already have an established digital presence. Whether sharing information on Facebook or Twitter, or videos and pictures on Instagram, Club leaders at City Tech have experimented with using different digital platforms to reach out to members and promote the work of the club more broadly. GREAT! Depending on your goals for using these platforms, using mainstream social media accounts may perfectly meet the needs of your club. However, because there are important differences between social media platforms and the OpenLab, and because contrasts better highlight their unique and complementary features, the first three points for discussion compare the OpenLab with social media platforms.

City Tech’s Digital Community

When you publish content on a social media platform, the content is shared with the world, but generally speaking, those who follow your platform receive the content. To the extent that this content is then shared by your followers, it then reaches a broader but indeterminate audience. When you publish content on the OpenLab, it can also be shared with the world (if your privacy settings are set to “public”), but it is also shared with a determinate audience – the 27,000+ members of City Tech’s community who are also members of the OpenLab. When groups like clubs make new posts or comments on their sites, it shows up at the top of the “Clubs” section on the homepage and in the activity feed. We also may choose to “Spotlight” it in our weekly blog series. Each of these mechanisms gives your club greater exposure within the City Tech community – or within the community of people eligible to become members of your club and support, carry-out and grow the already amazing work you are doing.

Content Control

When you post on social media sites, your (club’s) content is copyrighted, but legal rights to use and repurpose your content are also extended to the platforms on which you are posting. This means that Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter can reuse and sub-license your content out, and profit off of it, without you being aware or compensated. When you share content on the OpenLab, you retain all rights to that content, and none of your content can be repurposed for someone else’s profit, and all content must be attributed to the original author. You  may also change the licensure on the content you post to meet your specific needs. More information here.

Static vs. Dynamic Content

When representing the work of your club on a digital platform, there is likely static and dynamic content you want to share. Static content is content that doesn’t change too often – maybe its updated each semester or each year. Static content might include the mission of your club, any recurring events you may host or participate in, when and where your meetings are held, who your club leaders are, resources that may be of interest to your members or future members, contact information and more. Dynamic content is content that is timely and current – maybe you have an upcoming event that you want to remind people about or opportunity that you are recruiting participation in. This is content that becomes outdated and no longer relevant to the work of the club.

Social media accounts are great for pushing out new and dynamic content, but often times there is limited space for housing static content, and groups link out to a stand-alone website that houses their static content. This is an approach you may want to consider, especially if your dynamic content is work your club has produced that you want to share with the world. The OpenLab has technical options for housing static and dynamic content. For static content, use pages and add them to your main- or side- menu. For dynamic content, create posts that will auto-populate your blogroll in reverse chronological order (the latest news at the top).

Ultimately which platform(s) your use, and how you may or may not integrate them (using a Facebook page and an OpenLab site, for example) depends on what content you want to share, and who your audience is. It may be that you use the static and dynamic content features of the OpenLab, AND a social media site – which would let you share certain content with the City Tech community specifically, and released more freely out into the world.

A One-Stop-Shop

Beyond housing public-facing static and dynamic content, the OpenLab allows for file sharing, collaborative drafting, discussion, and hosting a shared calendar on its group profile pages. These can be useful for a group’s internal organization, and is moreover useful because the site is easily accessible from this same digital space. This makes your club’s OpenLab account a one-stop-shop for all internal documents and public-facing content. Keeping things centralized and in one location makes it easier to find things, and can make onboarding new group members easier and efficient.

Recertify with Ease

Each year clubs at City Tech need to submit documentation to recertify their clubs, which allows them receive funding and more. As of Fall 2017, clubs are allowed to use their OpenLab sites in this process, making this process simple and easy!

Looking for Examples

If you want to see how other clubs have used the OpenLab to support their activities you can:

In the Spotlight: ACF Club

Student members of ACF ClubThis week we’re spotlighting the ACF – or American Culinary Federation – Student Club. To paraphrase their description, this club is dedicated to sharing professional knowledge and skills that further culinary education and experience among City Tech students. In addition, the club aims to promote the culinary arts through demonstrations, culinary competitions and developing industry connections. Further still, the Club gives back to the community by participating in community service events and holiday meal preparation for community-based organizations. In accomplishing this goal, the club uses the OpenLab to share info and updates about upcoming events, fundraising efforts, and how City Tech students can get involved.

Their site evidences these activities and opportunities in a well-organized and easily navigable way. Their Club Information page lets you know that they meet regularly on Thursdays during club hour to coordinate their upcoming activities, while their Opportunities page will inform you of any upcoming volunteer events. Their Past Events page gives you a sense of what events the group has worked in the past, while the Upcoming Events page tells you what is on the docket for this Fall. You can also learn more about the student leaders on their Officers page..

Want to learn more or get involved? Join them during club hour on Thursdays, or email them at their new gmail account, CityTechACF@gmail.com – join the current club members as they grow from students into tomorrow’s industry leaders!

In the Spotlight: Virtual Reality & Artificial Intelligence (VR & AI) Club

A comic-style woman with a VR headset on, who is looking amazed.

This week we’re spotlighting the new VR & AI Club site. According to their club profile, “[t]he Virtual Reality & Artificial Intelligence (VR & AI) Club at NYCCT seeks to explore the interdisciplinary practices and applications involving VR and AI, including mechatronics, robotics, computer vision, internet of things, and embedded systems, as well as the social, psychological and political implications of such.” Said another way, this club “aims to explore the world of virtual reality and artificial intelligence by playing, learning and making”.

In this vein, the club has listed out a number of ongoing projects club members can work to improve their skills. Though they have 6 projects listed, it looks like 5 are waiting for additional resources – whether funding, approval, ordered materials to arrive. These include offering students an opportunity to play with VR headsets, a social robot able to communicate and interact with humans, and VR game and app development. In the meantime, one project is “ACTIVE” – the Virtual Robotic Limb – a robotic limb used by patients in virtual rehab after a stroke.

The site also has a list of events around the City – some of which the group plans to attend together – and a list of resources that may be of interest to members (or future members!) of the club. Though you should follow their blog on the homepage to get the most up-to-date information about their meetings, their About Us page suggests they convene regularly in V-509 in the Voorhees Building during Club Hour on Thursdays from 12:45 pm to 2:15 pm.

Questions? Reach out to the club at nycct.vrai.club@gmail.com.

All-in-all this club seems like a great opportunity for students interested in learning more about VR & AI – offering both hands-on experience and community as supports in that endeavor.