Weekly Roundup (2/14): Academics and the Interwebs, sittin’ in a tree…

February 14th, 2011 by Valerie Futch 2 comments »

After perusing my Google-reader this week I noticed there were a handful of posts addressing academia and technology or, more specifically, having an academic identity online. The following links in this roundup follow that theme and range from simple how-tos to more philosophical questions about taking your scholarly presence online. And, in the spirit of the day, they document the ups and downs, loves and hates, of engaging online.

154 Blue Chrome Rain Social Media Iconsphoto © 2009 webtreats | more info (via: Wylio)

Defining your web presence: ProfHacker has a useful post about Creating Your Web Presence: A Primer for Academics. As someone who is currently on the market I’ve been receiving a lot of those little notifications from Academia.edu that someone Googled me and landed on my Academia profile. Do you have one set up? Are there other ways that you have built an academic web-presence? This post also suggests LinkedIn, discusses the benefits of Tweeting (or not), and highlights the usefulness of RSS feeds. It also dovetails nicely with NspireD2’s Three Easy Ways to Make Academic Websites post including a range of out-of-the-box options to more customizable platforms (such as WordPress, which I wholly endorse).

I appreciated this (yet another) ProfHacker post on Encouraging a Conference Backchannel on Twitter. After attending a few DH and IT heavy conferences over the past year (Digital University @ CUNY and both CUNY-IT days) I found the Twitter participation intriguing and, ultimately, helpful. At first I was put off by how many people seemed to be engaged with their devices during a presentation, but I also realized that they were often going deeper with a line of thought and at some points were even having Twitter exchanges with the panelists! But the real value became more apparent to me after I attended a conference this past month in Arizona. There was no social-networking component and, low and behold, I didn’t meet anyone. I stayed with my usual circle of colleagues (all folks I enjoy, of course) but didn’t really make connections with others sharing my research interests. This stood out in sharp contrast with the conferences that had a hashtag and a group of even 5-10 active Twitterers — I made some solid connections that have presented a number of opportunities to build relationships. If anything, Tweeting a conference helps shy types like me get a foothold in that ever important conference-networking door.

A guest blogger, Katrina Gulliver, on TenuredRadical debates the merits of identifying your blogging vs. operating under a pseudonym. The post raises important questions about performances of online identity(ies) and the ever-diminishing online privacy (i.e. ability to actually operate anonymously). Her post provides examples of scholars who have helped shape their fields through their online presence and considers how social networking has changed during her career and the specific value of social media for history. Dr. Gulliver also makes use of the about.me platform mentioned in the NSpireD2 link above to create a visually appealing “meta” page that compiles all of her online activities into one page.

Finally, when you’re putting your words in the public forum, whether online or in print, there’s a great post over on Cac.ophony that considers what happens when you lose control of your words, as seen recently with the hullabaloo around Frances Fox Piven.

What would you like to know about engaging with your students online? Don’t forget to take our poll (to the right!)

Documenting What We Do

February 13th, 2011 by Howard Wach No comments »

The BCC Office of Instructional Technology opened for business in 2007. We have lots of activities now—faculty development (online courses, ePortfolio integration,  departmental projects combining new technologies with curricular change, all kinds of workshops), new classroom and lab installations, a streaming media server, an expanding tutoring and technology support program, and initiatives of different kinds with both academic departments and our friends in IT. All of these are running more or less simultaneously now. Sometimes the bursts of activity—early in June for example, just after commencement, or at the beginning of each semester—get truly frantic.  And the overall expansion of activities and responsibilities is pretty mind-boggling. OIT plays multiple roles, not the least of which is as a kind of mediator or translator between the academic and IT sides of the college. That may in fact be our most valuable role. It’s not what I set out to talk about right now, though. That’s a topic for another day.

Documenting this work, archiving it somehow, has clear value. Not all activities are easily documented, of course, but we want to display those which are. And yet documenting ongoing work in this way is very difficult to do. We’ve got our office web site, and that’s fine as far as it goes. Those old-school static pages are funneled through the IT web development shop on our campus. We give them the material, the content gets approved, and up it goes—eventually. Changes or updates to content have to follow the same protocol. It’s cumbersome, and we’re locked into their formatting.

Even if we had more flexible access to the BCC web site, frequently updating and documenting what we do would be difficult. There’s just no time for it given the pace at which we work. The Commons has provided an alternative.  The possibility here is this:  a venue for quick and nimble updating of our work, and (unlike the purely static web page) the possibility of readers who choose to join our community commenting, discussing, tagging, and linking. One contributer, Giulia Guarnieri, has already started through the podcasting pages she is building. Valerie Futch, BCC’s Instructional Technology Fellow, continues to put quality time into maintaining this blog and its associated pages. Look for more documentation soon, like this summary of a grant-funded project pursued by BCC’s Art and Music Department. With luck, and with some strategic prodding and lobbying, there will be more to come..

Faculty and Students Podcasts

February 8th, 2011 by Giulia Guarnieri 1 comment »

Since 2009 several BCC faculty members participated in intensive summer podcasting training in which we offer both technical and pedagogical support. The following programs have been used during the training: Audacity, Windows Movie Maker, Jing and Camstudio. Please check the podcasts produced by both faculty and students. On the faculty and students podcast’s page you can also read about the pedagogical rationale for using podcasting in the classroom.


Weekly Roundup: Aaaaaaand we’re back! edition

February 7th, 2011 by Valerie Futch 3 comments »

Bibliographyphoto © 2006 Alexandre Duret-Lutz | more info (via: Wylio)

People. Whatever you do, do NOT ignore your google reader for 45 days. Ouch. But writing a dissertation is a good excuse, right? Things are back and running here at the TE(a)CH arm of BCC. So, without further ado, here is a roundup of some useful ed-techy things.

  • An interesting tool that allows you to make fake facebook walls. The obvious use would be for English or History teachers to have students create walls for literary/historical figures. Are there other creative uses? 
  • A promising looking website, Higher Education Teaching and Learning Portal, has grown out of a Linked-In group for higher education folks interested in using technology. You can also submit articles of your own experiences for bi-weekly publication. 
  • BiblioBouts online resource and citation game: A really cool way to have students collaboratively (and competitively) create bibliographies for projects and assess the quality of the information while building them. It works in phases, or “rounds” in which students complete various tasks of finding sources, ranking the sources found, and generating a bilbiography.
  • TeachPaperless provides ideas for how to give your students non-exams. And then provides an example of a final exam in human geography. The final makes use of visual data and a variety of websites. Some of the questions are more scavenger-hunt level while others make use of aggregating and comparing data and asking students to synthesize their responses.
  • Boomerang plug-in for Gmail. Make emails reappear in your inbox or set a delay for sending out responses/reminders. Between this and the priority inbox feature I’ll either be super-productive or lose half my emails…
  • At one of the sessions I attended at the CUNY IT conference, a professor talked about having their students create actual Wikipedia entries. This idea is gaining ground…at Wikipedia! They’ve announced an initiative to recruit college professors who are interested in having their students contribute work. Rather than banning Wikipedia from our classrooms (another discussion entirely), the idea of having our students contribute to a site and inherently learn the tools of evaluating information seems very promising.
  • Finally, what are you using now instead of delicious? Derek Buff chronicles how he’s switching to using Diigo with his students and is enjoying the more participatory aspects of the service.

CUNY IT Conference Day 2

December 16th, 2010 by Valerie Futch 2 comments »

Like Sarah Morgano, I was super happy to attend the CUNY IT Conference Day 2 on my home turf as well! The day was even more focused on pedagogy and it was distressing that there were many concurrent sessions that I wanted to attend but could not. But here’s the lowdown on the sessions I was lucky enough to catch. In a rush? Scroll down to my take-home points to get the nutshell version. 🙂

Authorial Implications of Collaborative Online Learning

Matthew Gold, Claire Fontaine, Daniel Reshef, Jean Darcy, Joan Dupre, Sara Ruth Jacobs

Daniel Reshef kicked off the panel by showcasing some tools for online collaboration. One of the tools was the simple Typewith.me which is similar to a google-document but extra awesome because it allows one to playback the entire creation of the document. This would provide immense opportunities for reflecting on both the process of writing and collaboration.
Walt Whitman - por Mathew Brady (algo entre 1855 e 1865)photo © 2009 Marcelo Noah | more info (via: Wylio)
Matt Gold and Claire Fontaine chronicled their work on the impressive Looking For Whitman project. Matt began by stating an obvious but often overlooked observation: in this day there’s no reason to limit our collaboration to the classroom or even institution; with online technology we can collaborate with students around the world. Exemplifying what he called “networked aggregated learning” the LFW project brought four very different institutions together around the life and locations of Walt Whitman. This emphasis of “learning in place” was particularly valued by Claire, who conducted research on the process and student reactions to the project. Though a challenge of the project was the different content that students were engaging with at different institutions, a strength of the project was the connection students felt to Whitman by focusing on their connections to the places he lived and worked. This connection to place was especially valuable to NYCCT students who were able to do archival research on Whitman’s life in NYC and were thus positioned as experts on this topic.

Jean Darcy and Joan Dupre presented on their work with ePortfolios and digital storytelling. Jean’s presentation certainly took a different turn from the normal technology presentations as she explained how she was influenced by John Dewey’s “Art and Experience.” This text is also one of my faves, so my ears perked up quite a bit. She outlined an 8 step “symphonic reflections” that warrants its own blog post (at least). Luckily, her slides are available on the AEBEEL site so you can get the full picture.

The session ended with a good discussion involving Steve Brier who pointed out that all of the projects have an underlying pedagogical goal of making students active learners and that we can’t be dazzled by the technology to the extent that we lose the underlying pedagogy. This speaks 100% to our aims at the TE(a)CH project so it was especially nice to hear. Jean concurred, noting that the underlying theory is to begin with the “authentic experience” of the students and to witness how the professional community uses technology to grow from that point.


Virginia Heffernan was great. Her keynote was particularly engaging in that it considered our cultural and psychological connections to technology, our fear or embracing of the future and nostalgia for the past. Proclaiming the death of analog she asked the audience to not mourn what has been lost but to actively engage what the future can hold. Seeing as how my partner is in publishing, I cringed a little when she said that “eReaders are qualitatively better than books” — but she did follow that up with comments about how vinyl sales where the highest in history this year and that we still have radio. So I was slightly comforted.

Building Communities on the CUNY Academic Commons

Stephen Brier, Charlie Edwards, Brian Foote, Matthew Gold, Boone Gorges, Carl Grindley, George Otte, Daniel Phelps and Michael Smith

Personally, it was great for me to put some faces to the names of folks I’ve been interacting with on the Commons for the past few weeks. The room was filled for this session, with many of the audience members already members of the Commons. Matt Gold began by outlining the main goal of the Commons, to build connections across CUNYs campuses and to make visible the fabric of the intellectual life of the university.

Michael Smith and Daniel Phelps showcased York’s page for their Communications Technology Program. The Commons provided a way for them to showcase student work in a way that the standard College’s website hindered. What I found particularly useful was how they were able to use the Commons WordPress platform as a content management system (CMS). This is something I have done personally but that we’re trying to do at BCC as well. So it was helpful to see how a program had made a very impressive site from the flexible platform of the Commons.

Charlie Edwards showed the Commons Digital Humanities Initiative presence, highlighting the different ways they have used the group, wiki and blog features to accomplish different aims. Integrating third-party applications like Twitter, the CUNY DHI page has gained recognition in the field as a “hotspot” for DH work.

Matt then introduced the two Commons Community Facilitators, Brian Foote and Sarah Morgano, by explaining that the Commons “actively rejects the service model of IT.” Rather, they feel members who are actively involved in using, building and troubleshooting the Commons will develop a stronger community. Brian provides weekly “meta-blogging” in a round-up highlighting blog posts across the Commons which are helpful for getting a sense of the work taking place on the site.

Boone picked up on the idea of openness by explaining the fundamental differences between open-source and close-sourced software. The Commons mirrors an open source relationship and has overlap of users, support and developers. Closed-source tends to divide users from support and development and place a paywall in between. He explained the symbiotic relationship of open-source relationships by showing how many of the Commons plug-ins have had success outside the Commons in the larger WordPress community.

Steve and George closed out the presentation by outlining some of the history of the Commons development. The ultimate goal, as explained by George Otte, is to have a “generative” environment but that “generativity does not happen without openness.”

Open It Up: The Prospect of a CUNY-wide Online Student Publishing Platform

Luke Waltzer, Mikhail Gershovich, Matthew Gold, Boone Gorges and Joe Ugoretz

Open Access (storefront)After a much needed break (a lot to process!) I attended this session that was much more of a brainstorming/working meeting to discuss what a blogging platform might look like across the entire University. Participants were broken up into the following groups based on their interest/expertise/whim: support, curriculum and pedagogy, and technical/development. Our discussion began with Joe Ugoretz  wanting to make open and public publishing of student work a live question. Referencing his recent blog post, we talked through some of the advantages and disadvantages of open publishing, and the need to keep this an open conversation among faculty and students rather than a fixed decision.

We also discussed logistical matters. For example, how would we “discover” student content across campus-wide platforms that might have thousands of users? Could there be a “marketplace” where instructors could find other instructors to collaborate with around similar topics?

Two words that came up often were moderating and curating. Both actions are relevant to large-scale student publishing platforms but have potentially different consequences. Moderating connotes limiting, controlling and protecting. Curating connotes displaying, showcasing, and organizing. Both would be relevant to a student-publishing endeavor. Moreover, who controls each of these would be of particular concern to faculty members, who may avoid a platform moderated by administrators who may not be familiar with the context of the course or campus.

The discussion generated many questions and issues to consider. As a follow-up, there were talks of moving the discussion of ALL the breakout groups to a forum on the Commons, perhaps to the Open Education at CUNY Commons group.

Take Home Points:

  • typewith.me provides online document collaboration with playback ability
  • collaboration doesn’t have to be limited to just the classroom or institution, think outside the four walls!
  • add Virginia Heffernan to your RSSReader
  • If you’re not on the Commons, join. If you are, think of how you could get more involved and encourage others. And if you need help, the community facilitators are there for you.

What a Wonderful World it Would Be: Open Textbooks at Bronx CC

December 16th, 2010 by Susan Amper 5 comments »

Think of it: students can lower their debt, enhance their chances for success, take more classes, and graduate sooner.

Teachers can have more engaged students, better passing rates, and more flexibility with the course materials.

Let’s throw in the bonus of helping to save the planet.

I am not describing the future. This is now.

How can we accomplish all this? It’s easy. We offer every student at CUNY free textbooks. At the CUNY IT Conference on December 3rd, I presented on the topic of open textbooks to a standing room only crowd with about a dozen people forced to stand in the hallway trying to catch some of what was said.

As we all know, the exorbitant cost of college textbooks is crippling CUNY’s mission to bring higher education to striving New York City students. Students at CUNY community colleges spend, on average, $1,000 per year on textbooks—an amount equal to 34% of their tuition. Faced with such costs, many students reduce their course loads, slowing their progress toward their degrees, and—too often—leading them to drop out. Some 50% of students enrolled in classes try to get by without purchasing the costly textbooks, here again lowering their chances for success. Community colleges, both here in New York and across the country, see the results in distressingly low completion rates.

We can expect no help from the profit-driven textbook industry. In seven years textbook prices rose 186%–double the rate of inflation.

But, we don’t need their help.

Here are just two examples of how we can work without a bookstore.

Introduction to Economic Analysis is being used at Harvard, NYU, Caltech, and I can’t tell you how many other colleges and universities. It was written by R. Preston McAfee, recently of Caltech, who has held four endowed chairs in economics. This book is available to students, online . . . FREE. (A printed copy will cost students $15.20)

Collaborative Statistics written Barbara Illowsky & Susan Dean, used at Emory, Virginia Tech, SUNY Purchase, and elsewhere is also online free.

Today there are thousands of these textbooks, in virtually every subject area, written by eminent scholars, professionally edited, widely reviewed, and available to students online at no cost. These Open Educational Resources (OER) offer a real, lasting solution to the textbook problem CUNY has recognized and grappled with.

Open Educational Resources offer not an acceptable substitute for traditional textbooks, but texts that are actually superior in important ways.

First, they are easy to use. Students can read the text in various formats. Highlight and make notes. Print a page they want, several pages–the entire book, if they wish. Convenient text features include vocabulary words that automatically link to their definitions, so students don’t have to thumb through a glossary in the back of the book. There are even adaptive features for students with disabilities.

Second, these textbooks open a new world of flexibility for teachers. Instructors can choose the best chapters from different texts—why not since they all are free? Until now teachers have often passed up valuable materials, because they couldn’t justify having students buy a whole book when they’re only going to use a small portion of it.

Teachers can also modify the contents of open texts. Change parts, add related materials from elsewhere. Revise text to emphasize particular points, make it more accessible or relevant to their students’ experiences.

We need to expand this effort here at CUNY. And then we need to move from generating support for the concept—which is easy—to the difficult work of implementation. Adopting new textbooks is a major undertaking. Researching the books themselves is very time-consuming: as I mentioned, there are thousands. The ability to combine and/or modify the books complicates the process further. If books are to be adopted department-wide, a committee must do the work together; consensus must be built.

Funding is needed to enable faculty to take on this work. Importantly, this funding, unlike annual funds to abate textbook costs, is temporary. Once free textbooks are adopted, they’re free—for one class of students after another. And once teachers discover what they can do with open resources, I cannot imagine their ever going back.

I am seeking funding from the NYC Council to whom I spoke as part of the CUNY contingent on 11/29, and also from CUNY to implement a pilot program at Bronx CC.

I close with the words of Thomas Jefferson, words I have read in three different publications in just the last week: “The field of knowledge is the common property of mankind.” That vision—which is the vision that inspirits the City University of New York—is today, as never before in history, a living reality. Today, NYC students, for whom textbooks costs have been a crushing burden, can start using world class textbooks—for FREE.

What a wonderful world it can be.

Podcasting at Bronx Community College

December 15th, 2010 by Giulia Guarnieri 4 comments »

I just finished putting together the pages that provide information about the podcasting program at BCC.  It’s still a work in progress and there is more material still to be added, but for now, I made it go live, so that the community can take a look of the kind of work we will be doing during the Spring Semester. There will be two distinct components to this project; one is to link the podcasting technical workshops lead by Albert Robinson to the newly created pedagogical podcasting workshops. The second project is in the development stage; but wouldn’t be nice if we implemented an actual podcasting faculty program?

https://teachwithpurposebronxcc.commons.gc.cuny.edu/initiatives/podcasting-program/ (Podcasting Page)

At this moment we are in the process of finalizing the schedule of our workshops that address the pedagogy of podcasting but we are certain that this is a great addition to the instructional side of technology. Once the schedule becomes official (very soon) I will be posting all these information.

I often thought about the adjective “instructional” and realized that generally much of the focus in faculty development for online teaching is on technology. I must also give credit to the work done by the OIT and the fact that pedagogy is always emphasized. Faculty are constantly reminded that technology is a tool which serves the learning outcomes and is to be used to strengthen the learning of that particular subject Don’t get me wrong, I understand why technology has the role it has, and so much must time is spent on teaching the technical aspect. The main objective of the new pedagogical workshops is to make this feature even more evident, visible, and strong. By offering these types of workshops faculty will be able to have open and face-to-face discussion about teaching in the online environment. We hope to create a community for dedicated teachers who will find in the physical and virtual space (this site !) a comfortable environment where these issues can be addressed.

After all, we are mostly a teaching college, and there needs to be more conversations on teaching and learning, and these workshops, I believe, will fill this gap. I truly hope all of you will participate and support our efforts.

Apart from the podcasting pedagogical workshops we will offer other workshops that address the academic side of the online environment. Topics will range from fostering interactivity, to the pedagogy of web 2.0 and screencast. If these sound interesting and you don’t want to miss out stay tuned!

Photo: Chart created by the University of Alberta, Canada

This image illustrates the relationship between content, technology and pedagogy.

Weekly Roundup: 12/13

December 13th, 2010 by Valerie Futch 1 comment »

Twitter typographic wallpaperphoto © 2009 Jennie | more info (via: Wylio)

The EdTech community has become rather twitterpated by @TomBarrett, who has developed a series of worldwide crowd-sourced google documents on a variety of uses of technology in the classroom. Each is essentially a series of slides made public where anyone can add their own use or see ideas from others. While many of the examples pertain more to elementary or secondary education, there are plenty of applications for higher ed and professional development as well. There’s one for pocket video cameras, one for iPads, Voicethread, Prezi and tons more. Thankfully he’s collecting them all in an “Interesting Ways” page on his blog. It is definitely worth checking out. To boot, he’s also been engaged in a Creative Commons license violation argument with an Australian software company who lifted the slides directly and removed all attribution. Thus, the advantages of worldwide collaboration and the pitfalls, all at once.

As we began sketching out our vision for the TE(A)CH site I perused a number of web-site design questionnaires to outline what we knew we wanted in the site as well as identify gaps in our thinking and issues we may encounter. Though much of the commercial stuff wasn’t relevant, I found the exercise helpful in that we thought about the user’s experience more than we might have otherwise. Smashing Magazine has assembled a list of Web Design Questionnaires, Project Sheets and Work Sheets that might prove useful as you plan your own website or work with faculty/students to design project sites.

Honorable Mentions:

Weekly Roundup: 12/6

December 6th, 2010 by Valerie Futch No comments »

What a busy week! Today’s flurries of snow follow a flurry of interesting activity on the educational technology front. Read on to see what caught my eye.

Free Technology for Teachers, which is an unbelievable wealth of constant ed tech information, has a post about free ebooks for teachers and parents. Two that you might find useful are 20 Webtools Applied to Teaching, which provides summaries and sample ideas for webtools such as Voicethread (which we love here at BCC). Microsoft has a free pdf guide for Developing Critical Thinking Through Web Research Skills. Of course it is Bing-centric but it is filled with resources for you to use to help your students evaluate information online.

It’s also time for ProfHacker’s monthly Teaching Carnival. These carnivals are basically a roundup of the top news of the month on “teaching in college and university classrooms.” There’s a ton of content in this one so I recommend sending the ones that intrigue you the most to Instapaper or bookmarking the page for those Sunday mornings when your neighbor swipes your Times, you know, if you still get paper delivery.

Oh, reflexivity. In every syllabus I make sure to include the requisite “Your paper must be in APA style, 12 point Times New Roman, double-spaced with 1 inch margins and page numbers in the header” blurb. But why is it requisite? A post by Evan Snider at ProfHacker sort of blew my mind a little when he argues “such draconian formatting requirements stifle students’ creativity and cut off any critical thinking about what should be a crucial part of any writing-intensive classroom, namely visual design.” I’m all about visual research methods when I’m wearing my researcher hat, so why have I kept the visual out assignments? Snider engages the skeptics and followers with a lengthy discussion about the how and why of document design and how to encourage your students to break the mold. There’s quite a healthy follow-up discussion in the comments as well.

And, finally, there’s an interesting article from Edudemic documenting How the Harvard Law Library is Embracing the 21st Century. They chronicle the changes the library is making to move into the digital era and how these changes in information management have influenced other areas of the university. The guiding principle behind the library’s organization is “to define it before it is decided for us” which is a sentiment that I think is often echoed throughout our own engagement with technology and our own institutions.

Honorable Mentions

The Commons Takes Off

December 5th, 2010 by Howard Wach 2 comments »

For some, the notion that the CUNY Academic Commons is “taking off” may be old hat. For others, the Commons is just now becoming part of  work routines. The fact that I’m blogging at all probably says as much as anything along these lines. But here’s the interesting part: I’m writing here on the BCC Te(a)ch with Purpose blog in order to link to the documents area of the Standards and Practices public group. I’ve  just uploaded six documents drawn from BCC’s Hybrid Initiative over there. So my relationship to the Commons is getting a tad more complicated. I think it’s an interesting species of “take-off,” if perhaps a little self-referential. If I’m a member of multiple groups (as I am), and I want to add resources to one of them (as I did), but those resources can easily fit into additional group areas (as they do), it seems sensible to start linking groups (which I’ve done, I think).

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