Posts Tagged ‘CUNY IT’

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CUNY IT Conference Day 2

December 16th, 2010

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.

Keynote

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

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.

CUNY IT Conference Day 1

December 4th, 2010

Friday marked my first time attending the CUNY IT conference, and it was definitely interesting. Having only attended academic or grad student conferences I was surprised by the size, the suits, and all the vendors. The sessions were filled with lots of useful information and even the occasional heckler (who knew?!). Below are notes from just the sessions I attended, hopefully others will post about other sessions since there were so many at the same time that looked great. Below is my summary of day 1, looking forward to day 2 at The Grad Center.

ePortfolios Across CUNY: Aggregating and Integrating Information

Barbara Walters, Joe Ugoretz, Sarah Morgano and our own Howard Wach presented an opening session on the experiences of ePortfolio use and development on their campuses. Barbara outlined a set of “Universal Concerns” that any school/program/instructor interested in implementing EPortfolios would have to consider. Joe and Howard gave a history of ePortfolio development at Macaulay Honors College and Bronx Community College, respectively. And Howard brought up the interesting point that ePortfolios are much more of a pedagogical concept than just a technology.

All of the presenters have worked hard on a public Commons wiki page for ePortfolios. As with all wikis, they depend on collective upkeep, so if you have resources to add as you’re browsing their thorough collection of links I’m sure they and others would appreciate it!

The big questions that came out of this session: Is there any one-size-fits-all model of ePortfolio that will work across the CUNY campuses? (I know, rhetorical, but still useful) What does the “E” add to the concept of a portfolio? How do you prepare faculty for using ePortfolios? And, of course, the always-present-even-if-not-spoken-aloud question of assessment: how can we use ePortfolios to assess both individual learning and programmatic development?

Resources: Commons ePortfolio wiki page, AAEEBL, Bronx’s ePortfolio resource page

Blogs, ePortfolio and Assessment in the Majors: Pedagogies and Rubrics in Three Programs

Michael Cripps, Xin Bai and Michael Smith gave a great presentation on their experiences with blogs and ePortfolios. My notes are a little lacking because I entered late (tremendously long lunch line) and had no outlet for my limping laptop (note to self: charge laptop fully before tech conferences, doh!).

I came in just in time to see Michael Cripps showing how his students have used blogs differently, including a really creative use of a fiction blog, in which a student blogs from the perspective of a young woman who has survived a zombiepocalypse and found a computer on which to chronicle her experience. What a great way to see how students can take a technology in a direction you might never have thought. Cripps also showed blogs that were for a specific project juxtaposed with the same student’s more general ePortfolio. I found this to be a great example of how blogs can provide a more “messy” (in a good way) writing workspace for the nuts and bolts development and discussion and the final products can be shared in a portfolio, which is even then still developing over the course of the students’ education. It’s like viewing a digital spiral or concentric circles of writing, learning, development and identity.

Xin Bai presented on using ePortfolios as a way for teaching education students to meet NCATE requirements. This is definitely a great use of ePortfolios that I’ve seen before. ePortfolios seem particularly useful for applied fields where students need to graduate with a display of core competencies. At BCC we’ve seen a lot of success with this in our Media Technology program. It also made me wish I was preparing an ePortfolio for my job market package instead of the generically presented b/w teaching and research statements. Surely a search committee would find an ePortfolio more interesting and I know it would reflect more of “me” than my little blue folders and linen paper.

The issue of students needing a visible display of their talents/competencies was a point also raised by Michael Smith in his presentation of the great student work happening at York. But one of the most poignant moments came when Smith reminded us that Blackboard gives students practically zero control over their own work at the end of the semester (unless they happen to export it all). As instructors we know that learning is developmental and cumulative, so why would we use a software that requires all evidence of the work that took place, especially the collaborative and process-based work to be closed after the finals are in? Of course there are distinct advantages of both platforms, but this is an important question to consider.

Finally, out of the comments and discussion came reference to the great work being done at Baruch when Luke Waltzer mentioned Tom Harbison’s very impressive collaborative Modern American History course blog.

Facts (and Myths) about Student Perceptions and Use of Technology

In a completely packed house (many of us sat on the floor), Queens college faculty members Michelle Fraboni, Eva Fernandez and Nancy Foasberg presented findings from a student technology survey. They opened by juxtaposing student sentiments toward technology use in the classroom with their self-reports of their own technology savviness in sometimes contradictory ways. For instance, some students who are tech savvy report not wanting much technology use in their classrooms. Others, who may be more skeptical about technology report wanting more online course offerings. The presentation was helpful in that it reminded us that students we perceive as digital “natives” or digital “immigrants” may have very different ideas of what they want out of the classroom and their learning experiences.

For me this brought up two questions. First, the obvious, how should this finding shape the choices we make in the classroom about the technology we use? Second, I think many of us assume that it is important to use technology in the classroom to improve our students’ “information technology literacy” — but if students are seeing their school and personal “tech” lives as distinct, should we reexamine our expectations on how the tech in the classroom makes its way into their daily tech lives?

Finally, part-way through I found myself wishing the presenters would compare the QC sample with the recent ECAR report, since I was thinking that QC students are of course quite different than other samples. They didn’t disappoint! They presented percentage comparisons between the two samples and the QC and ECAR samples were actually quite similar. Though questions were raised about recruitment methods and sample size, it was still interesting to see yet another common assumption brought up for questioning in light of contradictory data. I guess we don’t always know what we think we know about students and technology.

(The full presentation of slides are available here.)

Peer Mentoring: A Catalyst for Faculty Innovation

Rounding out a day of helpful sessions, TE(A)CH’s own Moronke Oshinmartin, Charles Alston, Albert Robinson, Laura Broughton, Giulia Guarnieri and Stephen Powers gave a great presentation about peer mentoring. What really stood out to me in their presentation was how mentoring can grow organically when the stage is set with a blended model that breaks down any sort of hierarchy and instead focuses on knowledge and enthusiasm. They documented how faculty members go through training and then become peer mentors themselves but they also showcased their innovative Instructional Technology Tutors (ITT) program that trains students to be technology assistants for faculty members and their student peers. Their model exemplifies the kind of collaborative development where all parties benefit from the process. But, of course, I might be a little biased. 🙂

Some great resources came out of their presentation including: Voicethread, Scribblar, Audacity, CamStudio, Windows Movie Maker. I couldn’t write them all down because I was busy snapping photos, so if I left some out please add them in the comments.

All in all it was a long but very useful day. It was also interesting to see the different worlds of CUNY IT converge in one space. As someone who tends to work on focused projects with a few faculty members I didn’t quite have an appreciation for the scale of technology at the institutional level, the administrative and security concerns, and the number of other folks who are considering the same questions from different perspectives. That was certainly helpful to see. My only disappointment was in not walking away with one of the many (and, frankly, pretty decent) raffle prizes. *sigh*

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