Summer Greetings from the OpenLab!

 

Street art found in NYC; NYC New York Brooklyn Street Art Urban Graffiti

Image Source: Nikon D3200

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

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

Spring 2018 Spotlight Posts

Fall 2017 Spotlight Posts

We also spotlighted two new initiatives of the OpenLab this year…

…and improved our practices and built out our documentation around ongoing initiatives:

In addition to reviewing these posts from this past year, you can find a full curated list of all sites that have been spotlighted in our *new* 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 summer – please contact us with questions or concerns.

We are also beginning to post our fall programming. August workshops for Faculty/Staff have been posted – RSVP & mark your calendars! We will be in touch as we get more events and workshops on our calendar.

Wishing you all a very happy summer!

The OpenLab Community Team

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: Typography Design III COMD 2427, Brooklyn Historical Society

name of project site on background of mosaic of student-created posters,This week we’re spotlighting the Typography Design III COMD 2427: Brooklyn Historical Society site. This project site showcases posters created and designed by City Tech students as part of an assignment in Professor John De Santis’ typography design class. The assignment aims to simulate a professional scenario where the student is the designer and the Brooklyn Historical Society is the client. Similar to what this may look like in the real world, students are asked to complete a creative brief, conduct research about their client and their client’s needs, to brainstorm multiple ideas for their design concept before choosing one to refine, to give and receive design critique with peers, and finally to finalize their poster based on feedback before giving a final presentation to the class outlining their final concept as related to their research and design choices. In addition to helping students develop their typography skills, this assignment aims to equip students with professional skills like client research conceptualization.

In addition to showcasing high quality student work, the Brooklyn Historical Society project site demonstrates a unique use of the OpenLab. The project site houses posters created by students across 6 sections of the same course, and is used in conjunction with private, individual course sites. This structure offers students a private space and closed community with which to develop their posters, while also creating a public-facing site to share completed work. In the same vein as the structure of the assignment, this use of the OpenLab also seems to simulate the professional environment design students may be walking into upon graduation.

To learn more about how Professor De Santis uses the OpenLab and his philosophy and intentions behind doing so, check out Pedagogy Profiles, a new blog series created by the OpenLab Community Team that aims to highlight and provoke discussion around the pedagogy of educators here at City Tech. Our first post features Professor De Santis!

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: 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: Story-telling in Interactive Fiction, FYLC

FYLC course site header for Story-telling in Interactive Fiction

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

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

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

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

In the Spotlight: Recent Nucleus Issue ‘Spotlights’ OpenLab

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

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