In the Spotlight: Opening Gateways

Opening gateways logo and imtro post about the projectThis week we’re spotlighting the Opening Gateways project site. Opening Gateways is a 5-year, $3.2 million grant funded1 project collaboration with BMCC that “supports student success in mathematics courses that serve as gateways to STEM disciplines”. As in other disciplines, gateway courses leading to STEM fields have critical implications for the college and life trajectories of students. As the team points out in their Project Abstract, “repeated failure [can] deflect students from their chosen major [or] delay or even end their journey to a degree”.

The Opening Gateways project takes a three-pronged approach to addressing this challenge:

  1. Open-source Digital Technologies: WebWork and the OpenLab are open-source platforms for teaching, learning and collaborating. WebWork replaces the ‘email professor with question’ button, and instead sends students to a platform where they can get help from not only the professor but other students – in their class and more. The OpenLab team is working on integrating WebWork into their WordPress-based and BuddyPress-based platform, and then will share the code broadly as open source and available. The OpenLab will also support the OERs and courses among City Tech faculty.
  2. Open Educational Resources: Participating faculty will or have assembled open educational resources on specific mathematical topics. These OERs are open, publically available and free, and serve as a good alternative to (sometimes prohibitively) costly textbooks. See those created in 2016/2017.
  3. Active Learning Pedagogies. A pedagogical intervention in the form of a faculty seminar where a cohort will be introduced to a variety of active learning techniques, and the technologies involved in supporting this project. Each seminar at City Tech has a corresponding site on the Openlab.

The project tracks their progress each year – see Year 1 and Year 2.

As noted earlier, this project aims to support student success in STEM gateway courses. The challenges to success in these gateway courses, are true of other degree paths.

Opening Gateways uses a multi-tiered approach that involves faculty training, technological development of a collaborative digital learning environment, and the creation of support resources for students to resolving these challenges.

How can you imagine better supporting student success in gateway course for your degree path?

Let’s Discuss!: Join us on this Thursday, March 22nd, from 5:30pm – 7:00pm in the Faculty Commons (N227) for an Open Pedagogy event titled, “Gateway Courses in Open Digital Pedagogy” that will continue this conversation. Light refreshments will be served, and part-time faculty will be eligible for a stipend (Event info and/or RSVP).

UPDATE: In anticipation of the impending snowstorm, we’re postponing this event. We’ll work on rescheduling and will let you know when this event is back on our calendar.

1Funded by the US Dept of Education’s Developing Hispanic-Serving Institutions program (Title V).

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.

Workshop Opportunity: Accessibility-a-thon!

A word map highlighting the different aspects of universal design.

Image Source: Giulia Forsythe

Join us for an Accessibility-a-thon on Thursday March 8th from 1:30pm – 3:30pm in A441 (smaller library classroom).

This workshop will introduce participants to:

  • the ways our team has made the OpenLab more accessible overall
  • what you can do to improve accessibility and usability on your own course sites
  • resources and conversations happening on the OpenLab that can enrich your work around accessibility.

RSVP by completing the form below. As always, part-time faculty and staff will receive a stipend for attending. We look forward to seeing you there!

In the Spotlight: The Gowanus Project

Black and white photo of Gowanus Canal and some surrounding built environment.This week we’re spotlighting The Gowanus Project. This project explores the neighborhood and the history of its namesake, the Gowanus Canal, from four angles: arts and community, community and displacement, green infrastructure, and public space. Each section has curated images, an outline, an annotated bibliography and a podcast. Together, the visitor is taken on a multisensory adventure of the neighborhood that explores the past and present of the neighborhood, and the main contentions forming its future.

This project is the culmination of a semester-long inquiry into the Gowanus Canal led by Professors Nora Almeida and Amira Joelson for their LIB/Arch 2205 course. Over the course of the semester, students became ‘experts’ on the canal and its history through readings, podcasts, documentaries, and site visits. They digested their growing knowledge of the canal through written site reports summarizing their visits, and snapping photos and sketching out specific features of the surrounding built environment.

On a technical level, this project is an excellent example of how to transform coursework into a publically interesting and useful project. For those of us who use the OpenLab, at the end of the semester our course sites are often full of interesting insights from our students. However, the content remains organized for a classroom audience. In some cases, this works – allowing another outside visitor to review and maybe even take your course. Nora and Amira’s approach to using the OpenLab for this course offers an alternative. By reorganizing the content on your site, or creating a separate project site as Nora and Amira did in this case, you can configure students’ insights in a way that is more legible to an external audience.

This project also makes an important pedagogical pivot worth noting; using the OpenLab, it reworks traditional ‘learning’ relationships and re-situates students in the domain of public knowledge. In our classrooms, students are often situated as ‘the learners’ – those who take in information. This project, however, uses the OpenLab to also situate students as the knowers, and as the producers, curators, and sharers of knowledge. In many ways, this re-situating represents an important potentiality of open digital pedagogy and what can be achieved on the OpenLab, and we encourage you to consider if this is a value you can achieve in your courses as well.

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!

The Month on the OpenLab: 1.7.18

Flower in Abstract Water

We released version 1.7.18 of the OpenLab on February 16, which included a some new features and a few small bug fixes. We added prominent links on the homepage to our three in-house sites—The Open Road, The Buzz, and Open Pedagogy on the OpenLab—so that it’s easier to stay up to date with all things OpenLab!

Also included in the release were some changes to the text in email notifications, making it more clear that members can’t reply by email to OpenLab messages from other members, discussion forum posts, or site comments. We made a few adjustments to the default settings of the WP Accessibility plugin. Most settings will not be visible for anyone not using a screen reader, but some members may notice that links don’t open in a new tab. This is a best practice for both accessibility and usability, but it can be changed in Dashboard > Settings > WP Accessibility.

As always, please contact us with any questions!

In the Spotlight: Accessibility on the OpenLab

Image Source: Bruno Cordioli

This week we’re spotlighting a post that lays out what you can do to improve accessibility on your OpenLab sites composed by the OpenLab’s Senior Instructional Technologist, Bree Zuckerman. Specifically, Bree’s post explains how to make sure documents, images, video, animation and links are accessible to all visitors, and how to present your content in a way that is legible to those with a range of disabilities. Bonus: These changes also generally improve the usability of your site for all users!

It is possible that you won’t have to change too much — for example, many users already use headings, or insert links into descriptive phrases (like the hyperlinked text, “a post”, above) rather than vague ones like “‘click here’.”

In addition, the OpenLab has activated a network-wide plugin, WP Accessibility Plugin, that builds features into the design of the OpenLab which support accessible-practices when creating on the OpenLab.

Just as it is important to be mindful of accessibility when planning and constructing physical infrastructure such as buildings and sidewalks, it is critical that we are mindful of accessible design when creating on the OpenLab and in other digital spaces. Making our sites on the OpenLab accessible means that people with disabilities can, ideally, better perceive, understand, navigate, and interact with the various features of our sites. This may include navigating through a page or a menu, reading a PDF, or “viewing” an image or video. There are some specific ways OpenLab members can address issues of accessibility and ensure that all visitors to their sites are able to access the sites’ material equally.

In implementing these practices on your current and future OpenLab sites, you’re also ensuring that the OpenLab stays true to its foundational goal of creating and sustaining an open digital space where all City Tech students, faculty, staff, and alumni can work together, experiment, and innovate, ultimately enriching the intellectual and social life of our college community.

Related Upcoming Events & Workshops

In supporting OpenLab members in the thinking-and-doing of accessibility, the Community Team will host an Open Pedagogy Event focused on this topic, and a related hands-on workshop.

Open Pedagogy Event (THIS WEEK): Accessibility on the OpenLab
Thursday 2/22 5:30pm – 7:00pm in the Faculty Commons (N227) RSVP
This event continues the conversation about how designing the college experience with accessibility in mind benefits our communities. We’ll engage each other about how standards and accommodations vary across the disciplines. Our discussion will focus on universal design and how it can be incorporated into our pedagogy, mentorship, and administrative work on campus and beyond.

Workshop: Accessibility-a-thon!
Thursday 3/8 1:30pm – 3:30pm, Room TBA
RSVP (Coming Soon)
This workshop offers OpenLab users an opportunity to get in-person support with improving the accessibility and usability of their sites. The OpenLab Community Team invites members of City Tech to drop-in anytime and stay as long as you’d like (up to 2 hours).

In addition to these events, OpenLab members are always welcome to bring questions of accessible/universal design to our office hours or to contact us at openlab@citytech.cuny.edu.

A word map highlighting the different aspects of universal design.

Image Source: Giulia Forsythe

In the Spotlight: Request a Workshop!

Tools on a blue wall in a workshop.

Image Source: pixabay.com

This week we’re spotlighting a renewed form of support – customized workshops for faculty, staff, or students in your departments, offices, and other stakeholder groups at City Tech. In contrast to the general offerings we’ve done in the past, these targeted workshops will be designed specifically for your group. In designing your workshop, the OpenLab Community Team will work directly with you to ensure your group’s needs are met. Please note that workshops are accepted on a rolling basis, so get your requests in early if you want to have the workshop this semester.

Request a workshop today by completing the form on this page. 

This Month on the OpenLab: 1.7.17

Aster d'automne...!!!

On January 22, we released version 1.7.17 of the OpenLab. It included updates for WordPress and BuddyPress, the software that powers the OpenLab, and all themes and plugins. The release also included a few bug fixes, and the introduction of three significant new features.

New Features

We’re very excited to introduce project cloning in this release, which was previously only available for courses.  Any project admin can now clone a project, which will an exact copy, keeping all content created or uploaded by the admin, while no content created by non-admins will be copied over. The project avatar, settings, and site settings will all remain the same, although admins can adjust anything as necessary.

Another major change to functionality is the loosening of the relationship between member roles on a Course, Project, or Club Profile and the Site. Previously, changing a member’s role on the Site Dashboard would always be overridden by the member role in the Profile settings. This is no longer the case. You can now change member roles by going to your Site Dashboard > Users, and change anyone’s role. This allows for usage of the wider range of roles available on the Site, such as Editor or Subscriber. Roles will only resync to match the Profile if that member is either promoted or demoted on the Profile, or if they leave the Course, Project, or Club.

As many of our members have probably noticed, we introduced HTML email. You can now read email notifications in a more attractive format. Please be aware, however, that as with previous plain text emails, you still can’t reply by email. So, as before, please log into the OpenLab to respond to messages, update Discussion Forum threads, and reply to Site comments.

We made a small change to the functionality of the “Email all members” feature, where admins can send a message to all members of a Course, Project, or Club. We improved this functionality so that instead of the sender appearing as “City Tech OpenLab,” it appears instead as the sender’s name.

New Themes and Plugins

We added two new themes – Twenty Seventeen and Gillian. These are both responsive (meaning they display well on mobile) and accessible. We also retired a number of themes that are not responsive or accessible, including Coraline, Filtered, Hero, Pilcrow, Sliding Door, Twenty Ten, Twenty Eleven, and Twenty Fourteen.  If you have any of these themes activated on an existing site, the theme will remain active.  However, they’ll no longer be listed in the themes available for activation on new sites.  Or, if you deactivate one of these themes on an existing site, you won’t be able to reactivate the theme.

We also added one new plugin, WP Accessibility. This plugin makes a number of improvements to the accessibility of all OpenLab sites. You can read more about it on our WP Accessibility page in Help, or on the WordPress.org WP Accessibility plugin page. On the OpenLab, the main function will be ensuring that everyone remembers to add alt text to images. It will also remove the target attribute from links, which makes them open in a new tab, and is not a good practice for both accessibility and usability. In addition, it will remove title attributes for images and tag clouds, which will improve accessibility for people using screen readers.

For more information about accessibility on the OpenLab, please read our Help posts on Making your Work Accessible and Summary of Accessibility on the OpenLab.

Bug Fixes

We fixed an issue with the WP Grade Comments plugin causing the show/hide link to disappear for private comments. This didn’t affect privacy — private comments have always only been visible to the site admin(s) and the student receiving the grade — but the show/hide (“spoiler”) link was missing. It now appears as it should.

There was a small bug which caused help documents to print out with some blank pages for Firefox users. This has now been fixed.

As always, please contact us with any questions!

Image Source: Denis Colette

In the Spotlight: Welcome back & OpenLab Support Opportunities

Happy New Year and welcome back! As you all are sinking back into your semesterly routines, we want to take a moment to highlight the different ways we’re here to support and engage you this semester.

Spring 2018 Office Hours

Meet with a member of the OpenLab Community Team for face-to- face support.

Tuesdays, 1:00 – 3:00 pm: 2/13, 3/13, 4/17, 5/1
Wednesdays, 10:00 – 12:00 pm: 2/7, 3/7, 3/28, 4/25
Fridays, 12:00 – 2:00 pm: 2/2, 3/2, 3/23, 4/20

Office hours are held in the conference room of the Faculty Commons, N227.

Support Documentation

We have help(ful) documentation on the OpenLab that offers step-by-step guides for everything from getting started, to thinking about specific plugins that build out the functionality of your sites and portfolios.

Email

We are available to support you via email: openlab@citytech.cuny.edu.

Join Our In-House Sites

We encourage you to become members of our in-house sites (you can do so by visiting the profiles of each site). These sites will keep you up-to-date with all things ‘OpenLab’ and offer opportunities for deeper investment with City Tech’s community.

  • Learn more about the OpenLab, including workshops, events, community, and support opportunities on The Open Road. (Profile)
  • Follow our student bloggers, who chronicle various aspects of their lives at City Tech and beyond, on The Buzz. (Profile)
  • Share and discuss resources about open digital pedagogy with other City Tech and CUNY-wide staff and faculty on Open Pedagogy on the OpenLab. (Profile)

Spring 2018 Open Pedagogy Events – Faculty and Staff

As in semesters past, we will have two Open Pedagogy events in Spring 2018. The dates are set for Thursday February 22 and Thursday March 22 – from 5:30pm to 7:00pm in the Faculty Commons (N227). Learn more here.

We hope to see you around soon! Wishing you all a happy semester!