This Week in the OpenLab: April 30th Edition


(photo by Susan G. Lesch via Creative Commons License)


Workshop Reminder!

This week, join the OpenLab Community Team for the last student and faculty/staff OpenLab workshops of the semester!




Our last workshop of the term is called “TOOLS, TIPS, AND TRICKS:  Learn new skills for working with the OpenLab” and will be held on Thursday, 5/1, 2:00-3:00pm, in room G604.  Hope you can join us!




We hope that you have the time to join us for the final workshop of the semester, “Reorganizing Your OpenLab Site.”Now that you’ve worked on the OpenLab for a while, learn how to structure your site for improved interaction with your audience. This workshop will be held onThursday, 5/1, 3:30-5:00pm, in G604.

* Faculty/Staff workshops require registration. All part-time faculty are eligible to receive a stipend for workshop participation. Questions? Please contact us at


Featured Group:  Words Have Lives


This week we’re featuring a valuable group that’s a valuable resource for writers, the group Words Have Lives, which you can see here.  As its creators note, it’s “A composition and grammar source for students who want to write stronger papers. While topics here are produced in direct response to class discussions and interactions with students regarding specific writing concerns, they also are relevant to all students wishing to understand how to fix their own writing and gain a sense of how their writing questions are shared with others going through the same learning process.”

This Week in the OpenLab! April 8th Edition


Upcoming Event:  Literary Arts Festival 2014!

The annual City Tech Literary Arts Festival Approaches!

City Tech will host its 33rd Annual Literary Arts Festival on Thursday, April 10, 5:30 p.m., in Midway Auditorium, 240 Jay Street, Downtown Brooklyn. The poet Cornelius Eady will be this year’s guest speaker. The event is free and open to the public.

Eady is the author of seven volumes of poetry, including Kartunes (1980), Victims of the Latest Dance Craze (1985; Lamont Poetry Prize of the Academy of American Poets), BOOM, BOOM, BOOM: A Chapbook(1988), The Gathering of My Name (1992; Pulitzer Prize nominee), You Don’t Miss Your Water (1995), the autobiography of a jukebox (1997), Brutal Imagination(2001; National Book Award in Poetry finalist), andHardheaded Weather (2008).  He is the recipient of Guggenheim, Rockefeller, and NEA fellowships, as well as founder of Cave Canem Foundation, a nonprofit organization for black poets.

In addition to reading his work, Eady will perform with two members of his band “Rough Magic:” Concetta Abbate on violin and Charlie Rauh on guitar.

City Tech’s Literary Arts Festival is a long-standing tradition that celebrates student writing and features a special guest speaker, along with student readings and performances. For more information about the event, contact Professor Caroline Hellman at 718.260.4975 or Join the Festival OpenLab site at


Featured Course:  LIB 1201 – Research and Documentation for the Information Age 

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This week we’re featuring Ian Beilin’s Research and Documentation for the Information Age.  We’re particularly interested in how successfully Professor Beilin has gotten his students to be honest and reflective in their comments on their own research process.  “To be honest, I feel like my brain is about to pop,” one student writes–and then several students offer thoughts and advice, sympathizing and even drawing on their own lives to help!  It’s really wonderful to see:  Drawing students’ struggles with their own work into the course, making it a course subject, and watching them strategize potential solutions together is exactly what the OpenLab is about.


Featured Club:  Philosophy Club!

Someone very smart and interesting here at the City Tech OpenLab has started a Philosophy Club–we’re not going to say we know who, but we will say that he or she knows tons about philosophy, and you all should join the club!

This Week in The OpenLab: March 25th Edition


(image by by hnmAck via Creative Commons License)

This week we visited a classroom and a student asked, “what’s a blog?” reminding us that sometimes there are some basic concepts that we might need to cover.  And so this week’s This Week is dedicated to a few videos that might come in handy in either your class (as student, or teacher), or more generally on the web.  Enjoy!


What IS a Blog?


“In this video presented by Mobile Learning Institute, Alan tours his hometown of Marblehead, MA and comments on the historical global vision of his community. Alan challenges us to think about the emerging role of “student as contributor” and to globalize our curriculum by linking students with authentic audiences from around the world. (For more, read Alan’s article, Students as Contributors: The Digital Learning Farm, found at”


Featured Course:  Suzanne Miller’s “Advanced Career Writing”/Roger Herra’s R&H Engineering

cropped-circuit-board-technology-setsiri-silapasuwanchaiThis week we’re featuring Suzanne Miller’s EN 3771 course, “Advanced Career Writing,” which uses the OpenLab in a particularly innovative way.  Each student in the class creates an OpenLab site as the home of a fictional company for which they create mission statements, business plans, potential events, and a blog.  It’s a great way to exploit one of the things the OpenLab can do best: give students the chance to try out different approaches and assignments, all of which can be bound together thematically.  This “umbrella” project format leaves students feeling they didn’t just do one unrelated assignment after another, but built upon their work to create a significant final project they can be proud of.

A nice example is Roger Herra’s “H&R Engineering,” which you can see here, which has a nice mission statement, solid design work, and a great piece on DIY projects.

That’s all for this week.  As always, email us with any questions!

This Week in the OpenLab! March 18th Edition

6157134404_4680b3edf3(image by Jonny Goldstein via creative commons license)

After a bit of a delay, our student blogging team is back in action!  That led us to think that it is high time we highlight some student blogs from around the OpenLab.


Shawn Bremmell

Shawn is one of our OpenLab Student Community Team bloggers.  His newest post is called “Tuition Fees Are No More.”  Here’s an excerpt:

“Ever wish that you could attend college for free? Prepare to jump for joy, because you might be getting your wish! Well, that is if a proposed legislation, called Tuition Free-NY, is passed. The potential legislation, would offer students free tuition at New York’s public colleges. Sound appealing so far? Don’t get too excited just yet, for there is a catch. In exchange for free tuition, you must volunteer for 250 hours of community service, during your college years. And if that isn’t hard enough, you are not allowed to relocate outside of New York once you graduate, for at least 5 years.

“With Tuition Free-NY, college grads would get a chance to start out with lower student debt, which is at a all time high this year. Assemblyman James Skoufis, whose sponsoring the legislation, hopes that this will keep students in the state, and not have NYC lose it’s intellect and income..”

You can read more of Shawn’s post here!


Jenny Wang

Jenny is a student in Jennifer Sears’ Advanced Career Writing Class.  She recently wrote a blog post about her class trip to the AGIA gallery:

“The trip to the AIGA gallery was amazing. It was very inspiring to see so many beautiful creations. Each design had its own meaning and history by the designers which captured many attentions. Three designers and designs that were very inspiring to me while I was exploring the AIGA gallery were Milton Glaser, Mirko Llic and Christopher Brand.

“Milton Glaser’s design of the Crackpot Party and the Republican logo were very artistic. The democrats are represented by a tea pot yet, has a crack within it. The quote “we don’t hold water” states that the democrats will not take orders from other systems. The republican’s logo was very imaginative because of the shape of the design, it consist of the word “NO” which forms itself into the structure of an elephant. Both works contains the colors of the American flag and three stars representing America and its pride.”

You can read more of Jenny’s blog post here!


Maura Smale

We know we said we would feature student blogging, but we thought we’d also point you to our own Maura Smale’s blog, which you can find at the ACRLog.  Here’s an excerpt:

“It seems like every year one of my New Year’s resolutions is to read more. Read more? But I’m a librarian, I read all the time, right?

“Over the 7 years that I’ve been a librarian I’ve heard that misconception all too often upon meeting new people. “Oh, you’re a librarian? You must read all the time/love to read/spend your days reading!” Of course the context of that statement ultimately determines my response (and I am always polite, even when slightly exasperated), but in truth the answers are no, yes, no. Of course I love to read, as I always have, even before I was a librarian. But the amount of long-form, focused reading that I typically do during my workday is very, very small. Not that other forms of reading don’t matter — I can usually keep up with my work-related RSS feed and the newspaper, and like most office workers I read many many MANY emails each day. But sit down in my office with a book? Not often…”

You can read more of Maura’s writing here!

That’s it for this week!  As always, you can contact us anytime with any questions.

This Week in the OpenLab: March 10th Edition

Spring_is_Coming._(4349321352) (1)(image by Axel Kristinsson via creative commons license)

Welcome to this week’s This Week!  We’re going with the pretense that spring is on the way.  At least for a few days.  This week a tool, a course, and a plug-in.  Enjoy!


Featured Tool:  Blogging Grading Rubric

From the department of simple yet very very useful, we bring you Jill Belli’s blogging grading rubric, which is clear, concise, and gives students (and probably the professor) a sense of what is required and valued when blogging.  And as you know, students often aren’t sure exactly what is required in this somewhat unfamiliar, possibly less formal, still potentially thoughtful, short form.  And often professors new to the OpenLab aren’t all that sure either.  So do take some guidance from Jill, give her some credit, and say thanks and hi on the elevator.


Featured Course:  Vampires!


(image by Misiocytka via creative commons license)

There are courses that are of interest only to the people in the field, and there are courses that people all over are going to want to take a look at.  Laura Westengard’s Vampires class falls into that latter category, and we’re thrilled that it’s open and available to the public here on the OL.  With readings, assignments, and student reflection on the subject, it’s a fine growing repository of all things vampire.


Featured Plug-In:  WTI Like Post

wti_like_post_frontend_view1-300x117Very few of our plug-ins are simpler than WTI Like Post.  As it’s developers say, “WTI Like Post is a plugin for adding like (thumbs up) and unlike (thumbs down) functionality for wordpress posts/pages. On admin end along with configuration settings, it will show maximum of 10 most liked posts/pages. You can configure these settings to match with your requirements. It also has the option to reset the settings back to default if needed. It comes with a widget to display the most liked posts/pages which you can place in any widget area. It has live updation of like count on the widget if you like or unlike any post/page.”

Just activate the plug-in, and you’ll see the like appear at the bottom of your post.  By default, however, there’s a ‘dislike’ option which you might want to remove, particularly from student work.  The settings for this plug-in are found on the plug-in page of your site dashboard.

Hope you like it. And as always, contact us with any questions!

This Week in the OpenLab: March 4th Edition


New OpenLab Tour!

We’ve redone much of our help and support the the last few months (you can find a lot of that here).  More recently, we (well, really the inestimable Bree Zuckerman), redid our introduction to the OpenLab.  If you’re new to the OL, you should check it out–and if you’re already familiar, check it out anyway!  You just might find something you didn’t know!


Featured Site: Techne


This week we’re featuring Techne, the online version of the annual publication from the Architecture Department.  It features student work from around the department, and they accept student submissions!  Get your work out there!  Submit your work (images or text) by the 14th of March.  You can find out more about it here.


OpenLab Statistics to January 1st, 2014

As you might know, we keep records of the our growth here on the OpenLab, and we’d like to share our current statistics:

Number of users broken down by students, faculty, staff:

Students: 8706
Faculty: 473
Staff: 92

Number of courses, projects, clubs, portfolios:

Courses: 638
Projects: 1192
Clubs: 53
Portfolios: 1769

Pageviews (for past quarter):


Average visit duration (for past quarter):




This Week In The OpenLab: February 25th Edition


(Image by Darren Kirby via Creative Commons License)

 9,000 Members!

It might have been a minute since we last spoke, but the OpenLab has not stopped growing:  in the last few weeks we’ve officially passed 9,000 members!   There are now over 600 courses on the platform, and nearly 1,200 projects.  We are so happy to continue to see our community grow and grow!


Been To A Workshop? Come to Another!

Just as a reminder, the OpenLab team has been hosting workshops all through the month of February.  Now that our beginning workshops have passed, please join us for our more advanced faculty workshops, “Tools, Tips and Tricks” on March 12 (1-2:30) and April 3rd (3:30-5) in room G604.  Faculty/Staff workshops require registration. All part-time faculty are eligible to receive a stipend for workshop participation.

As we wrote, those are faculty-only workshops.  But students, we would love to have you at our workshops as well!  The remaining student workshops are:

W 3/12 3:00-4:00pm
Th 4/3 2:00-3:00pm
Th 5/1 2:00-3:00pm

These are in G604 as well.  And while we’d love for you to contact us to let us know you’re coming, registration is not required.


Featured Project:  CityTech Printmaking Club



We’re big fans of this new club, the City Tech Print Making Club!  While still under development, the site promises to bring us information about techniques for printmaking, resources for area print making studios, and more!  Join now to learn more about this great club, and click here to find out more about their fun day making valentines.

OpenLab Update: 1.4!


The OpenLab recently graduated to version 1.4!  Here’s an update on some of our new features. Let us know what you think, either in the comments or by contacting us directly.


Privacy Notification Changes

You’ll notice that we’ve made some changes to how privacy works.  Actually, privacy changes themselves are made in the exact same way, but we’ve made it much much clearer what those settings are, and what is accessible on sites you visit and/or administer.  Site and project project settings are now indicated in two ways.  First, you can see the setting in the right hand menu:

Screen Shot 2014-01-25 at 1.09.58 PM


You’ll see that the notices are split: when the privacy settings for the Profile of your project, club, or course differ from the Site, it’ll be clearly marked. Completely open or private projects, clubs, and courses, will also be clearly marked.

Privacy is also now noted on the profile just below the avatar and description:

Screen Shot 2014-01-25 at 12.53.54 PM

We hope these changes clarify the state of your project, club or course, for users and visitors.


Modifications to Portfolio Settings 

If you’ve used our portfolio system before, you’ve probably noticed that there were differences between the way those worked and our the way our courses, projects, and clubs worked.  In particular, there were differences in the privacy settings, and we’ve adjusted that:  now portfolios have the same grades of privacy as our other projects, including public, private, and hidden options.  In addition, we’ve streamlined the way to invite people to visit your portfolio:  instead of an access list, you can now invite members, or they can join or request membership just like in other projects, courses and clubs.


Changes to WordPress

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WordPress updated over the break to version 3.8 (we’re already on 3.8.1, but that’s a maintenance release).  The changes are mostly cosmetic–you’ll notice that the dashboard looks significantly more “modern” and that widgets are easier to implement (you no longer have to drag them, if you don’t want).  You can learn all about it here.


New Default Theme

We’ve replaced the default OpenLab theme, going from Twenty Ten to Twenty Eleven (Twenty Ten is still there, though, if it’s your favorite!)

As WordPress tells us:

“The 2011 theme for WordPress is sophisticated, lightweight, and adaptable. Make it yours with a custom menu, header image, and background — then go further with available theme options for light or dark color scheme, custom link colors, and three layout choices. Twenty Eleven comes equipped with a Showcase page template that transforms your front page into a showcase to show off your best content, widget support galore (sidebar, three footer areas, and a Showcase page widget area), and a custom “Ephemera” widget to display your Aside, Link, Quote, or Status posts. Included are styles for print and for the admin editor, support for featured images (as custom header images on posts and pages and as large images on featured “sticky” posts), and special styles for six different post formats.”

We hope you like it!  And as always, contact us with any questions.



Cloning Courses


(image by JD Hancock via creative commons license)

Our system makes it incredibly easy to “clone” a course, bringing all documents, posts and pages created by the site administrator, and most settings to a new and uniquely named site and profile.  You’ll find cloning is now integrated into the OpenLab’s course creation.  You can view step-by-step instructions for how to clone a course in our help section.

 Cloning a course is particularly useful for a few reasons:

  • for setting up multiple sections of the same course in a new semester. You can create the framework of your course, then clone it, changing the name of the url to create a new section of the course.
  • for creating a new course based on an old one.  When your course is over, you can clone it, creating a new course that doesn’t contain any old student work. This both saves you time and leaves the old coursework accessible to the students who took the course. Keeping student work accessible on the OpenLab is very important: they may need to build on that work in later courses or show it to a potential employer, so please don’t delete it. (If it’s vital that your new students aren’t able to see the old students’ work, you can simply change the privacy settings on the old course to make it available to members only.)  Find more on managing your courses here, or contact us if you have questions.
  • for sharing a course framework between teaching partners, or even entire departments. Some departments have expressed a desire to coordinate all sections of a course across the department.  That can also be done via course cloning: once the department has decided on a framework, it can be cloned for each new instructor, simply by changing the administrator of the course (you can find out more about there here).

If you want to copy only certain parts of a course site, however, or to copy material created by users other than yourself, you might want to use the import/export function on our sites.  You can learn more about that here.  Do note that the import/export function only copies course sites:  if most of your course material is on your profile page, you probably are better off using the clone feature.

Remember, for any cloning situation, we’re likely to have solutions. We’d love to discuss  options with you.  Email us anytime at

OpenLab Update: 1.3.2!

As part of our ongoing effort to move toward more regular updates, the OpenLab recently updated to version 1.3.2.  Here’s an update on some of our new features! Let us know what you think, either in the comments or by contacting us directly.


New Feature and Widget:  Eportfolio List

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We’ve added a feature that makes it possible to gather student eportfolios into a convenient list on your course profile page.  You can enable this under COURSE SETTNGS (as in the above screenshot).  Once enabled, it will gather each member’s eportfolio to populate a convenient list on the right side of your page, as here:


You can also create a similar list on the course site itself.  This does involve a separate step–you can now find a “Portfolio List” widget on the dashboard of your courses.  Here’s what it looks like:

Screen Shot 2013-11-12 at 11.03.43 AM

Drag that into your preferred widget area, and you’ll see your list!


New Feature:  Filters

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We’ve also added search functionality to some of our directories.  You’ll now see options (these were previously only used for courses)  for refining your search on our clubs, projects, and people directories.


New Plug-in:  TinyMCE Advanced


This plugin will let you add, remove and arrange the buttons that are shown on the Visual Editor toolbar. It includes 16 plugins for TinyMCE that are automatically enabled or disabled depending on what buttons are chosen.

Some of the features added by this plugin

  • Support for creating and editing tables.
  • More options when inserting lists.
  • Search and Replace in the editor.
  • Editing in-line css styles.
  • Advanced image dialog that offer a lot of options.
  • Adding and removing HTML tag attributes.

Included TinyMCE plugins: Advanced HR, Advanced Image, Advanced Link, Advanced List, Context Menu, Emotions (Smilies), Date and Time, IESpell, Layer, Nonbreaking, Print, Search and Replace, Style, Table, Visual Characters and XHTML Extras.

Once enabled, you can go to SETTINGS>TINYMCE Advanced to drag and drop new menu items onto your icon bar.  They’ll appear automatically the next time you make a new post!


New Plug-In:  Link Manager

As several users have noticed, the link manager was removed from WordPress dashboards with one of their recent updates.  Some users will still see it, under certain circumstances, but on new blogs you’ll have to activate the “link manager” plug-in to use the feature.  We’ve installed it with our recent update.