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: Black Theatre (AFR 1321)

This week we’re spotlighting Professor Foster-McKelvia’s AFR 1321 Black Theatre course, an introduction to African American dramatic literature that “explores the complex ways in which the black experience is constructed and presented by playwrights”, and offers one entry point for understanding the African American experience more broadly. Exploring this course site would be of interest to faculty looking for examples of how to organize course sites, as well as for students who may be interested in taking this course in the future.

For students, the clean structure of the site is helpful in knowing what you can expect of the course, and what the expectations, requirements, and opportunities of the course are. For starters, read through the course overview and prerequisites, download a pdf of the syllabus, and review the response papers.

For faculty, the organization of the content on the site offers useful insights for thinking about how to use the OpenLab to support your coursework. Professor Foster-McKelvia strategically uses a mix of static pages and categorized posts to organize content in an easy-to-navigate way.

Static pages like the Course Overview and Prerequisites, Syllabus, Theatre Termonology and Student Resources are pages specifically created by Professor Foster-McKelvia and contain content that she wants to communicate to students that for the most part will not change over the course of the semester.

In contrast, Announcements, Assignments, and Response Papers rely on “category archives”. Category archives collate all POSTS (not pages) which have been given a specific category (announcements, assignments and response papers, for example) and renders 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 down further in the feed. As Professor Foster-McKelvia has done, category archives can be inserted into the main menu so they are easily accessible to visitors of the course site. Posts, whether categorized or not, are great for dynamic content, or content that changes or may be updated over the course of the semester. Furthermore, posts can be created and published by students so, like Professor Foster-McKelvia, they can be used to submit assignments, engage in course discussions or ask questions.

Curious about how you can use these techniques in creating your course site? Join us for our Open Hour next THURSDAY (12/6) and ask our Community Team members! Sign up here!

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.

In the Spotlight: Diana Reyes’ Portfolio

personal logo by Diana Reyes - white background, black lettering. This week we’re spotlighting Diana Reyes’ Portfolio. Diana is a student in the Communication Design department. She currently uses her portfolio to reflect on her first internship at Bookstr and to share a digital portfolio of her work.

When you navigate to Diana’s Portfolio site, the first thing you notice is Diana’s name, in the upper-left-hand-corner. The simple-yet-elegant design of her personal logo mirrors the design of the rest of the site, which is visually sleek, and easy to navigate.

On her homepage is a blogroll sharing critical reflections on her internship. Each post reflects on a different aspects of her work or opportunities she’s been introduced to through the internship. For example, her posts describe the open, collaborative workspace that differs from the cubicle setting many of us might expect, a new digital technology (Slack) that she’ll need to rely on to communicate with team members, and her experience collaborating with a colleague on a project. These reflections could be of interest or use to other students who are interning for the first time, or thinking about interning, maybe even at Bookstr. They also demonstrate a great deal of personal and professional growth on the part of Diana – something that future employers may be interested in, or that may help her when applying for jobs in the future.

In addition to reflections on her internship, Diana has included a digital portfolio showcasing her design work. Here, the modest design of the site overall focuses the visitors attention on the designs themselves, and makes them pop.

Overall, I think Diana’s Portfolio site is a good example of how others might approach beginning to built out their sites. For me, there were three key takeaways:

The first takeaway is that a simple and straightforward design works well. We want the attention to be on the work we are trying to share, whether its our designs or internship reflections or something else, and we want visitors to be able to find it easily. That you know how to use WordPress (one of the softwares underpinning the OpenLab) is a bonus, but not really the point.

A second takeaway is to start with where you are. Maybe you’re not ready to add a resume to your site. That’s ok. Share the work you’ve done in your classes that you’re proud of. Blog about opportunities related to a career path you’re interested in or about a passion or hobby of yours. These sites will and should evolve over time, as you have other experiences, and your interests – career or otherwise – evolve and become more specific.

A third takeaway, is that there may be some learning value in using a Portfolio site to reflect on your experiences. As mentioned, these short but insightful posts by Diana seem like they will really help in a few years, to remind her of her own professional and personal growth over time.


Students – want more insight and support getting started? Join the OpenLab Thursday December 6th from 1:00 – 2:00 pm in Room AG-21 for a workshop titled “Presenting Yourself Online”. This workshop focuses on building a professional online profile using the OpenLab.

Learn about other student or faculty workshops here.  

In the Spotlight: Peer Advisement

This week we’re spotlighting Peer Advisement, a project site on the OpenLab. The main focus of this group is to increase the retention of female students in engineering technology programs.

Despite their focus, the group proudly offers services and resources that may be of interest to all students at City Tech. For example, on the homepage of the site, the group shares various professional development opportunities – including an invitation to attend an HBO networking event where students will meet with employees from the Engineering, Digital Products, Information Services and Recruiting teams, SHPE NYC STEM Career Summit where students can meet representatives from Accenture, AKF, AT&T, Capital One, Dell, HBO, HueCore, Merck, Microsoft, P&G, Turner Construction, Vimeo, and the Graduate School Fair hosted by City Tech’s Honors Scholars Program. While many of these opportunities are geared towards students in engineering technology programs, they have broader appeal.

In fulfilling the main goal of their mission – to promote female student retention in engineering technology programs – the group has identified peer advisors in a number of departments (see below). These peer advisors are available to support fellow students with department-specific tutoring and/or help students navigate the college to find resources and support. Each participating department has their own group on the OpenLab that is linked from the main Peer Advisement site. By going to their group profile you can learn more about who the peer advisors are, when you can meet with them, and what services they can help you with.

Are you a student in one of the departments who has been looking for support? Navigate to and join their group and get involved!

Are you a student or faculty in a engineering department not represented here? Get in touch with the Peer Advisement group to see how you may become a peer advisor in your department!

Are you a student or faculty member in another program of study interested in replicating this or a similar peer-support model in your department? Reach out to the Peer Advisement group to learn more about how they got started!

In the Spotlight: Undergraduate Research

This week we’re spotlighting Undergraduate Research, a project site that houses resources for students who want to get involved in doing research while at City Tech and for faculty who want to support and mentor those students. For students, undergraduate research is an opportunity to work on campus between classes, learn more about a subject of interest, improve your resume, earn credit or a stipend, and work closely with a faculty member. Interested? There are a number of different opportunities and programs to peruse that might suit your interests and objectives. For faculty, this is an opportunity for you to pass on your knowledge and skills, engage in shared and mutual discovery with students, to support your professional discipline and apply for grants targeting undergraduate institutions.

The site also contains materials that may be of interest to students and faculty beyond those who specifically want to enter into a mentoring/menteeing research relationship. For example, the Library Research Techniques page – offering advice on how to search, locate and cite other research – could be useful for students and faculty in any class. Additionally, the Mentoring Handbook – including insight on benefits, phases, roles, strategies, tools and more related to mentoring or being a mentee – might be of interest to anyone looking for guidance and suggestions on entering into a mentor/mentee relationship.

Be sure to also check out their blog roll on the homepage – which includes additional resources – such as how you might preserve your work on CUNY Academic Works – and opportunities – like the BMI Conference, SUBMERGE’s marine science festival in Hudson River Park, and opportunities to participate in NSF-funded research like Warm-water Aquatic Ecology.

Check out the site today to learn more and get involved!

In the Spotlight: The Ambassador’s Club

This week we’re spotlighting The Ambassadors Club, a group that aims “to provide opportunities for student officers to learn and hone leadership skills, with an emphasis on event planning and event management”. The Club accomplishes this by helping to plan and staff events for the HMGT department and around the college, “with the intent of fostering and supporting a welcoming and professional environment”.  

On their site you can learn more about current and previous officers, as well as any upcoming events where you can learn more information about the club and upcoming opportunities where you may be able to represent the club and practice your hospitality management skills! Check out the site to see the list of volunteer opportunities for events in October!

Visit the club site today to join and be eligible to participate!