## This Week in OpenLab! May 7th Edition

(image by KRO-Media via Creative Commons)

By the time we next write, Mother’s Day will have passed, and thinking about it reminded us this morning of J.M. Coezee’s banquet speech, when he won the Nobel Prize for Literature.  He pictured running home with his Nobel Prize tucked under his arm to tell his mother, “Mommy, Mommy, I won a prize!”  To which he imagined his mother saying, “That’s wonderful, my dear. Now eat your carrots before they get cold.

Happy Mother’s Day…

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One Last Thing About The Launch

Maybe you’re sick of hearing about the launch, maybe you’re not, so we’ll give you the option of checking out this nice little press release from CUNY.  But we know you love pictures of your fabulous community team (+ Jim Groome), so here you go…

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Featured Assignment:  Web Evaluation 3c

This week we’re featuring an interesting project undertaken by Peter Catapano’s “History of the United States to 1877,” where students are asked to do a bit of research on a particular subject (Shay’s Rebellion, Indentured Servitude, etc), and think critically about the website that’s giving the information.  He even has a rubric to help students think about a site’s contents, currency and credibility.   As we all–students and faculty–deal with more and more internet research, it’s critical to all of our departments that these sorts of projects are undertaken with younger students:  we are none of us born, it turns out, with an innate understanding of what makes a site reliable or unreliable.  It’s a critical project for all disciplines, a kind of literacy that all of us always need to be keeping sharp…

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Tutorial Update:  LaTeX

A few weeks back we created a tutorial to use the WordPress LaTeX plug-in, which allows users to use a set of commands to turn this:

\sqrt{x^2+1}

Into this:

$latex \sqrt{x^2+1}$

Our tutorial is designed for faculty and students who already know LaTeX.  But if you’re interested, Jonas Reitz’ has developed an exercise to help students learn how to use it here.

But what if you don’t know the commands that make the equation magically appear?  What if you don’t have time to make learning the LaTeX a part of your course?  What if you use a equation creator?  We think we have a solution, and you can read more about it here.

## LaTeX update: What if I can’t write LaTex?

A few weeks back we created a tutorial to use the WordPress LaTeX plug-in, which allows users to use a set of commands to turn this:

\sqrt{x^2+1}

Into this:

$latex \sqrt{x^2+1}$

Our tutorial was designed for faculty and students who already know LaTeX.  But also, Jonas Reitz has developed an exercise to help students learn how to use it here.

But what if you don’t know the commands that make the equation magically appear?  Or if your students have usually used a LaTeX equation editor?  And what if you don’t have time to make learning the LaTeX a part of your course?  We think we have a solution.

When your students create a LaTeX equation using an equation editor, they click the superscript button, or the square root button, or the pi button, or whatever.  When they do so the equation appears below the dialogue box in pretty LaTeX form.  But also the commands appear in the meantime inside the dialogue box, as here:

Once the equation appears below the box in the way they would like, they simply need to copy the commands from the dialogue box into our website page.

BUT:  they need to add the markers (tokens) which help the wordpress page recognize that this is a LaTeX equation.  Those tokens are a dollar sign, the word latex, and another dollar sign.   So surround the commands copied from the equation editor with those tokens, like this:

and our plug-in will re-translate those commands into the LaTex equation, so they see $\sqrt{x^2+1}$  on our page.
A bit of a convoluted solution, but if I can do it, with my zero mathematical knowledge, it should work for most.  That said, any better solution would be more than welcome.  Please  email us with questions of comments at anytime time.

## This Week In Openlab! May 1st Edition

(Photo courtesy of Fort Lewis College Center of SouthWest Studies via creative commons)

It’s May!

Somehow, inexplicably, it’s May:  that time of the school year about which we have such complicated feelings–the term is almost over, but in front of summer break stands tests, papers, exams, grading, final projects, and work work work!  As Professor Jonas Reitz said to one of the community team members at the MetroTech Au Bon Pain, ‘It’s that time when everything happens!’  We couldn’t help but agree, and so this week we’re going to distract ourselves with gardening, and wine, and Babe Ruth.

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Featured Site:  The Hospitality Garden

This week we wanted to bring your attention to the site run by the Hospitality Garden. The hospitality garden is a small plot of organic vegetables and flowers that is maintained by students and faculty from NYCity College of Technology (City Tech).  It’s located on Flatbush Ave & Willoughby Street, in the Dekalb Market and it was created in order to “provide students with an opportunity to experience the fun, work, and beauty that comes with growing plants that can be used by culinary and pastry students in the Hospitality department at City Tech.”  Go by and visit the garden anytime, but also be sure to check out the site, which features more information, a task schedule for the students, and a wonderful digital image gallery.

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Featured Assignment:  Retail Wine Shop Assignment

(image by damarisr1)

Sticking with the Hospitality Management Department, where everything seems to be much more fun than one is supposed to have in college, this week we feature an assignment for Karen Goodlad’s Wine and Beverage Management course.  Here, students were asked to visit a retail wine shop and give their thoughts.   But more than that:  some students really committed to this project–painting a truly impressive picture, a long narrative, and solid writing.  We love to see how this sort of project which, like the OpenLab, is committed to relating students to the world and the world to students, can engender real and unmistakable enthusiasm.  Great work, all around.  And, of course, now  we’re all thirsty.

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Newly Digitized Images of New York

For those of you who are working in New York City oriented courses, either as faculty members or students, or if you’re just interested in the city in which we all live, you might want to check out the nearly one million images of New York and its municipal operations that have just been made public for the first time on the internet.  As The Daily Mail points out, the photo database is “culled from the Municipal Archives collection of more than 2.2 million images going back to the mid-1800s, the 870,000 photographs feature all manner of city oversight — from stately ports and bridges to grisly gangland killings.”  Surely something to interest everyone, and great for student and faculty projects and courses.

You can read more about it here (including see the aforementioned grizzly gangster images).  And you can browse the database here.

## This Week In Openlab! April 26th Edition

Openlab Launch:  An Unqualified Success!

Last week was the OpenLab launch.  It was a beautiful event, really.  Many members of our community were there, and many new faces came too.  And there were balloons!

First came our wonderful opening speakers—all members of our CityTech community–including our own Maura Smale:

After that, keynote speaker Jim Groom gave an engaging, accessible, and above all enthusiastic talk that combined, in no particular order, references to the 2pac Shakur ‘hologram’ at Cochella a few weeks ago, My Little Pony, Emo versus Punk, the future of 3-D printing and their effect on lost legos, vulgarity and systems of measurement, college writing and, above all, open, community-based digital platforms like our own OpenLab.

In fact, Jim says everything we could say (and includes his presentations slides) much more eloquently on his own blog, which you should follow and can check out here.

Among all of his provocative comments, the one that sticks with me the most was something like “don’t think of it as an academic project, think of it as a community project.”  A nice reminder that the OpenLab isn’t just a place for our classes, but a place to engage with our friends, our community, and the wider world.  Much much thanks again to Jim Groom for coming, and to everyone who was there.

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Tutorial:  Image resizing

(Image by Inkaroad via Creative Commons)

A few weeks back we posted an image resizing tutorial here on the OpenLab.  While that was a simple solution, it came with an interesting problem:  each time an image is resized, it creates a copy of that image in the files for the site, which means that while we were hoping to avoid hitting the size limits for courses and clubs and projects, resizing actually brings one closer to it.  We’re looking into alternative solutions, but for the time being it’s surely a good idea to resize images before posting them to your site, and to do so using a third party application like Photoshop, Gimp, or one of the many simpler and easier online freeware applications like PicMonkey.  We’ve posted some information on how to do that in an addendum to our original tutorial.  You can find that here.

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And finally:  keep an eye out here for opportunities for a coming announcement for students to work with us on the OpenLab; there are workshops on Wednesday and Thursday of this week; you can find out more about that here; have a wonderful week; and contact us with any questions!

## Image Resizing

The simplest way to resize an image is to use an online service like PicMonkey.com.  We don’t endorse any particular online service here at the OpenLab, and there are many online resizing free services.  But this one is solid in that it has the things most people need when resizing (a bit of color changing, a size change option, a crop feature, and a way to reduce file size).  If you don’t like PicMonkey, go ahead and search online for “free image resizing” and you’ll find more options than you can handle.  And here’s an article that looks at a few similar editors.

Most of these are pretty simple.  Just two things to keep in mind:

1) most of the time, roughly 600 pixels wide is the most you need for an image on one of our sites.

2) when it comes to file size, you don’t need a large file for most online work.  Save a large image somewhere else, and post images that are less than 60KB.  To do this with PicMonkey, move the ‘quality’ slider when you go to save the image.

Here’s an example.  The image below was originally 1440 X 1080 pixels–way larger than we need.  What we end up with is a thumbnail that’s 600 pixels wide which you can click on to see the full-size image.  It’s pretty rare that we need that second size, but it’s on the site now, and taking up an enormous amount of space.

(image by j_bary on Flickr  via Creative Commons)

So if we resize the image (I used PicMonkey here) to 600 px wide, and then lower the quality to 50KB, we end up with this:

It’s not quite as nice, but it’s going to save you a lot of space on your site, and if you don’t need the larger image, it’s a great idea to do it in advance.  Of course, if you do need the larger sizes, you should by all means post them.  The key is to think through what you need your images for, so that you can use the extra space when you need to.  Images that come straight out of your camera or phone, for example are almost always much larger than you probably need.

Of course, PicMonkey is, as we said, very simple.  Much more can be done using Photoshop or Gimp.  Here are two short tutorials on doing these simple tasks with these two much more robust applications:

Here’s a tutorial on resizing using photoshop:

And here’s a tutoria on resizing using gimp:

## Using Screen Options

As I remembered just this morning as I accidentally deleted a post, WordPress has a convenient way to recover revisions and older drafts of a page or post.  In newer versions of WordPress, however, that feature is hidden in the default setting.  To access it (and several other screen options), click the ‘Screen Options’ button in the upper right of the dashboard.

When that opens, you’ll see a set of options, one of which is ‘Revisions.’  Click that, and beneath your main post or page box you’ll see a list of various drafts appear.  Clicking on any of them will allow you to view, compare, or restore that draft.

Very simple, but a bit tucked away, so easy to miss!  As always, contact us with any questions.

## This Week In Open Lab!: April 16th Edition

Hawaiian green sea turtle by Dr. Donald B. MacGowan

Welcome Back!

First off, we hope everyone had a wonderful, relaxing, sun-drenched break, and is all refreshed for the home stretch of the term.  Just a few things today…

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The OpenLab Launch!

Don’t forget about the OpenLab Launch, which will be this Thursday, April 19th. We’re terribly excited to have as our guest Jim Groom, a pioneer in instructional technology, with a “specific focus on curricula, pedagogical and technologically enhanced projects.”  That means–in less acedmic-speak–he’s a leader in creating and using digital academic platforms like the OpenLab.  And he’s a great speaker!   And there will be snacks!

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Featured Assignment:  My Infinity

In Jonas Reitz’ always interesting calculus course, his students are working on a project called ‘My Infinity.”  Here’s how Jonas describes the project:

We are embarking on a part of the course that deals with infinity — that is, with sequences (infinite lists of numbers) and series (infinite sums of numbers).  We are studying this idea in a rigorous mathematical way, but it is a concept that is important in many non-mathematical areas – religion, philosophy, art, and many more.  Almost every child, from shortly after they learn to count, has some idea of infinity.

To do this Jonas’ students are creating pages with personal descriptions, narratives and images that represent non-mathematical notions of infinity.  Check out Anthony Valdez’ here.  And yes, I think we all agree we would be better human beings if Jonas had been our Calculus teacher.

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Featured Tutorial:  Using Screen Options

As I remembered just this morning as I accidentally deleted a post, WordPress has a convenient way to recover revisions and older drafts of a page or post.  In newer versions of WordPress, however, that feature is hidden in the default setting.  To access it (and several other screen options), click the ‘Screen Options’ button in the upper right of the dashboard.

When that opens, you’ll see a set of options, one of which is ‘Revisions.’  Click that, and beneath your main post or page box you’ll see a list of various drafts appear.  Clicking on any of them will allow you to view, compare, or restore that draft.

Very simple, but a bit tucked away, so easy to miss!

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Featured Event:  “Blogging Inside and Outside the CUNY Classroom”

In CUNY Digital Humanities news, the Grad Center will be hosting a free event called “Blogging Inside and Outside the CUNY Classroom” on Tuesday, April 17th at 6 in room 5489.  Our friends Kevin Ferguson (Director, Writing at Queens, Queens College), Luke Waltzer(Assistant Director for Educational Technology, Bernard L. Schwartz Communication Institute, Baruch College) and Mikhail Gershovich (Director, Bernard L. Schwartz Communication Institute; Coordinator, Writing Across the Curriculum, Baruch College) will all be speaking and leading discussion.

These CUNY faculty members will discuss the blogs they use in their classrooms and the campus-wide blogging initiatives they have helped to design: Blogs@Baruch and QC Voices.  They’ll conclude the session with a brief discussion of other digital tools you may want to explore inside (or outside) your classroom. Please come with your ideas and questions about the use of blogs and other digital media on your own CUNY campus.
Rsvps requested by Monday, 4/16: gc.comphet@gmail.com. Refreshments will be provided.
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That’s all for this week.  Don’t forget the launch!

## This Week in OpenLab! April 2nd Edition

(Image by Nikchick via Creative Commons)

As the term starts its inevitable wind-down, just a few reminders this week, and a best wishes for the upcoming break!

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OpenLab Launch Update

As mentioned before, the official coming out party for the OpenLab will take place on the 19th of April.  We’re terribly excited to have as our guest Jim Groom, a pioneer in instructional technology, with a “specific focus on curricula, pedagogical and technologically enhanced projects.”  That means–in less acedmic-speak–he’s a leader in creating and using digital academic platforms like the OpenLab.  And he’s a great speaker!   And there will be snacks!

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Featured Assignment

Earlier in March, Sandra Chang offered her students an interesting discussion topic concerning an issue that’s dear to us all–the question of copywright and ownership of online materials.   You can read the whole post here, but of particular interest is an article on photography and tumblr, which deals with how easy it is to share images on the internet.

Tumblr’s “reblog” function, which allows a user’s followers to repost a particular entry to their own Tumblr page, offers photographers a certain level of feedback on their images because they can track who likes their work and where it is shared. Reblogging makes Tumblr an “interesting social gauge of what the public is interested in,” says Weinberg.

Reblogging can also make photographers a bit queasy, however, because once an image is reblogged they essentially lose control of how and where their work is displayed. A particular entry can easily bounce around from Tumblr to Tumblr as users reblog it. Sacha Lecca, a Rolling Stone photo editor who maintains his own Tumblr, recently posted photographs he took on the set of amusic video shoot for The Strokes. The images were picked up by Tumblr blogs set up by Strokes fans, and from there his post “blew up,” he says, and was widely reblogged.

With Tumblr, he says, he is “embracing what has changed about photography. . . . The trade-off [of relinquishing control] is that it allows people who wouldn’t normally see my work to see it, and that’s all that’s really important to me. It may not be necessarily how I want my work to be seen, but at least they’re seeing it and appreciating it for some reason.” One of Pfluger’s images has more than 2,000 reblogs and comments.

These are critical questions for artists in the digital age, but their also critical for student and faculty users of the OpenLab, especially when we post our work, presentations, powerpoints, etc, in a public setting.  And don’t forget to check out Dr. Chang’s student comments!

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This Week’s Tutorial:  Google Maps Plug-in

View larger map

Our Google Maps plug-in allows users to embed google maps into posts and pages.   If you’ve used wordpress in other settings before (wordpress.com, for example), you’ll want to look through this tutorial because the embedding process might be a little different than you’re used to.  A little different, but very simple.  You can learn more and see the tutorial here.  And as always, contact us with any questions!