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: In Conversation: An Eng 1101 OER Reader (Part 2 of 3)

Logo for In Conversation OER ReaderIn continuation of our focus on OERs, this week we’re spotlighting In Conversation: An OER Reader, a joint project of Professors Sarah Parulo and Johannah Rodgers. As mentioned last week, 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.

Similar to Professor Voza’s Biology II (1201) OER – spotlighted last week – In Conversation is well organized with content divided into three sections, and begins with clear “instructions” for how the site may be used and by whom. As Professor Parulo writes in her introduction:

“This reader is designed to lead you through the major elements that comprise any ENG 1101 course, but it is not meant to be taught starting from page one and straight through to the end. Rather, it is designed to allow you to pick and choose the readings and assignments that you think will work best in your classroom. “

These instructions reveal another important and useful aspect of OERs: flexibility.

When creating an OER, the hope is that it will be used by others; that other faculty at your university or beyond may use some or all of it in their classes, or use parts of it in their course development, and that students may refer to the resources you’ve assembled, at least to supplement their course work and understanding. So in contrast to the famous phrase by Aristotle, “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts”, the parts of an OER are as important if not more important than the whole. This has consequences for how you design and organize the content of your OER.

With this in mind, you want to curate the information and resources housed on your OER in a way that allows users maximum flexibility with respect to choosing what pieces they use. Professors Parulo and Rodgers have achieved this by dividing content into three core topics, and then breaking that content down further into subsections that focus on a particular aspect of the larger section. For example, “Introduction to College Writing” is further broken down into three parts: understanding rhetoric, introduction to writing as a process, and elements of a college essay. Each subsection is broken down further into more specific topics that have a downloadable, student-facing PDF.

In Conversation also includes readings, reading questions and assignments for each major section. These aspects of the OER are also accessible from the main menu bar under the same headings (Readings & Questions, Sample Essay Assignments). This seems to reinforce the idea of flexibility; faculty visitors of the site for example can decide that they just want to look at the readings and questions or sample essay assignments, without venturing into the parts of the OER they are not interested in.

In this way, the flexibility built into the platform is with the visitor in mind – that the visitor can ‘flex’ the OERs content to best meet their needs.

The value of flexibility gets at a larger ambition of OERs. OERs are curated repositories of information meant to open up previously closed spaces of the academy (i.e. curriculum and assignment development, the classroom, the learning process) and to foster community, collaboration and sharing across these formerly siloed spaces. By making your OER flexible, you are broadening the scope of people who may find your OER useful, and thus expanding the bounds of the resulting community of learners and teachers.

In the Spotlight: An OER for Biology II 1201, (Part 1 of 3)

header image and main menu of Biology II OER

This week we’re spotlighting an open educational resource (OER) created by Professor Tatiana Voza for Biology II (1201) using a project site on the OpenLab. You can learn more about OERs and OERs at City Tech below, but in general, OERs are online educational resources that are open, easily accessible, and freely available to the public. This description is both meaningful – given its contrast with dominant practices in the academy – and ambiguous. This spotlight on Professor Voza’s site is the beginning of a 3-part series spotlighting Open Educational Resources on the OpenLab. This series aims to introduce you to the variety of OERs available on the OpenLab – some of which may be of use to City Tech students – and to show you to how some faculty at City Tech are implementing OERs on the OpenLab. Each part will focus on a particular quality of the OER, why it matters, and how the spotlighted site achieves it.

Part 1 focuses on clarity and organization.

When you first visit to Professor Voza’s Biology II OER, you are greeted with a welcoming, easily navigable introduction tailored to the role of the visitor (are you a student or a faculty?). Each section helps the visitor get oriented to the site by breaking down how each user-type may use the site: Are you a professor preparing your class? Are you a student trying to use this site to study for an exam?

The clear, instructional and organized nature of the page is mimicked throughout the site. This is a very useful strategy when building an OER. In your class, when things are unclear, students can clarify instructions and tasks with professors in class and/or via follow-up communication. However, with OERs, the aim is for other faculty and students beyond your class to adopt and adapt your materials for their own purposes. In this scenario, the lack of familiarity and proximity between user and creator combined with a lack of understanding about how to use and navigate the site could discourage visitors from using the OER altogether.

Relatedly, being clear that your site is an OER and that to a greater or lesser degree the material can be used and remixed by others, is equally important. On this OER site, a reminder in the form a description of the Creative Commons license is visible in the sidebar on every page.

Another feature of Professor Voza’s OER that assists in presenting the content in a clear and easily digestible way is the use of the Table of Contents Plus plugin. Upon activating this plugin, introductory Table of Contents (TOC) boxes automatically appear on all pages across the site that include 3 or more ‘Headings’ (see image). Including a TOC, especially on pages with a lot of content assists users in quickly understanding what a page contains and navigating to content of interest. The Table of Contents Plug plugin is easy to use, great for organization on any site, and can easily be activated on your own sites by going to Dashboard > Plugins.

A screenshot of the Page editor indicating where users can create headings.

Not sure how to make a heading? When in the editor of a page or post, click the arrow next to ‘Paragraph’ for a dropdown menu that allows you to change text from ‘Paragraph’ to a sub-level heading.


What are Open Educational Resources?

Open Educational Resources, or OERs, are just what they sound like – educational resources that are open, easily accessible, and freely available to the public. In the context of higher education at CUNY, OERs are discussed in relation to alleviating textbook costs for students.  This is significant given that these costs too often play a role in the direction of studies a student may pursue, and/or may prevent a student from completing their studies all together. In addition to making higher education more affordable, OERs create transparency around course curriculum, allowing faculty to easily share the details, content, and organization of their courses. In this way, OERs promote culture of sharing, remixing and collaboration.

OERs at City Tech

Since 2015, City Tech’s OER Fellowship program has supported 25 faculty create and curate Open Educational Resources for a course of theirs on the OpenLab. Fellows are full-time faculty members representing a diversity of departments including Construction Management and Civil Engineering Technology, Biological Sciences, Social Sciences, African American Studies, Computer Science Technology and Dental Hygiene – to name a few. A full list of fellows and their OERs can be found on the OER Fellowship site hosted on the OpenLab. OERs on the OpenLab, however, are not limited to this list; other faculty have taken it upon themselves to develop OERs for City Tech’s community.

Further reading to learn more about OERs:

In the Spotlight: Ink Club

Logo for Ink ClubThis week we’re spotlighting the Ink Club, an expanding group of student-illustrators and -artists who are growing community around their love of the craft of storytelling. Accepting students of all levels and experience, the Ink Club offers support and opportunities to collaborate for students who want to develop and hone their craft. Specifically they hold weekly meetings, offer portfolio-building and professional development opportunities (including a visit with the full-service animation company Titmouse, evidenced by image below), and house a curated a set of resources on their site.

Recently, the group has been working on an anthology zine, a book of illustrations and short comics arranged around the theme of ‘Zodiac’. Copies of the zine will be printed for contributing members and sold at future events to raise funds for and share the work of the group. Relatedly, the group tabled this past weekend at the MoCCA Fest (Manhattan’s largest independent comics, cartoon and animation festival), where they showcased their anthology and the members sold pieces of their artwork.

Interested? Drop by or get in touch. The group “typically meet[s] every Thursday, at 12:45-2:15pm, in room Namm 1122.” Or, if you have questions, contact them (citytechinkclub [at] gmail [dot] com).

Just a fan? View their gallery, subscribe to their site (click ‘Join Now’ under the avatar or profile image on their OpenLab profile and/or follow them on social media (Instagram, Facebook).

In the Spotlight: Winter Python Workshop 2018

An example of python code in a basic text editor.This week we’re spotlighting the Winter Python Workshop 2018 project site. Created by mathematics professor Johann Thiel, this project site was developed to support a four-day workshop that covered the basics of python and explored some applications of the popular programming language in mathematics, biology, statistics and more.

Though the workshop is long over now, this site is a GREAT resource for any OpenLab members* learning python or interested in learning python. The site contains a list of resources and software on its homepage, as well as pages containing links to basic and more advanced applications of the language. Given this latter point, this site would be useful to beginner or intermediate python users, and could help a beginner practice their skills with the goal of becoming an intermediate user.

If you would prefer a more immersive, intensive and supported introduction to the programming language, keep an eye out for future winter python workshops. Though Professor Thiel was unsure if the workshop would run again, it has run the last two winters (see the 2017 workshop site) so it seems possible that there will be an opportunity to participate in Winter 2019. If this sounds like something of interest to you, get in touch with Professor Thiel.

*NOTE: This site is only available to OpenLab members so be sure you are signed in to the OpenLab before you attempt to access their course site.

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: 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: #TheGuide

#TheGuide site header 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: Fuse Lab

Fuse Lab LogoThis 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: Student Mary Lewis’ ePortfolio

Headshot of Mary Lewis

“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.