Author Archives: Silvana Ramos

Silvana’s Two Project Ideas

Project 1: Interactive Course Website


Students are seldom asked to critique how textbooks are written.  Although they may have opinions about the inaccessibility of the texts they are asked to read, they are rarely asked to contribute in making those texts more accessible and student friendly.  In addition, some students understand better than others how to successfully retain the information presented to them.  However, students do not have the opportunity to learn from each other what works and what does not unless they ask each other.  And I’m assuming they do not. 

This project would consist of a website for which only the course’s students and the instructor (me) would have access.  The site will be hidden to non-members and will be password protected.  I will write the course information, broken down by topics, and searchable.  Each topic will also include links to relevant youtube videos to add to the accessibility of the information covered.  Students will have the opportunity to comment on a paragraph-by-paragraph basis.  The nature of their contributions will be the following:  They can suggest clearer ways of wording the content; they can describe what helps them remember the content (tricks, mnemonic devices, etc.); they can suggest additional helpful video clips; or anything else they think would be helpful.

Besides requiring students to engage with the material in more meaningful ways than just memorizing it, students will be aiding in the creation of something.  At the end of the semester, the website will be better and more complete than at the beginning.  This should, hopefully, give them a sense of having contributed to the world of knowledge – something I think students are not asked to do often enough.


Anna is from Jamaica.  She is 52 years old and afraid of technology.  She does not have an email account, nor does she know how to go about creating one.  She decided to go back to school now that her children are married and out of the house.  She is slightly uncomfortable being the oldest person in the class, but she takes comfort in the realization that there are others in the class who are also older students.  Although Anna is very proud of herself for going back to school, her biggest weakness is believing that everyone else knows things she does not. 

Chris is combative.  He is 22 years old and wants to do the least amount of work possible.  He thinks learning is for nerds and he sees his education as a means to an end.  He believes the world would be better if we were allowed to do what we wanted without having to follow the rules someone else made up.  He’s got a chip on his shoulder and frequently makes offensive and disruptive comments in class.

Aviva is an eager student.  She is 19 years old and identifies as a conscientious worker and learner.  Whenever a question is asked in class, she is the first to raise her hand.  She is never absent and prides herself on getting the highest grades possible.  When she earns a 97 on a test, she is upset about the 3 points she didn’t get. 

Use Case

Users will find the website only by being told about it and being invited to join.  They will receive very detailed written instructions on how to create an account that allows them to comment on the site’s content, and on how to leave those comments.  In addition, a computer lab will be used during one class meeting to give students the opportunity to try leaving comments, while being able to ask questions and raise concerns.

Scaled up version

The website will be created on WordPress and will include plugins for security and password protection.  Students will be able to create profiles through the use of BuddyPress.  Users will have the ability to leave comments on a paragraph-by-paragraph basis through the use of, or any other plugin that may be found between now and implementation that allows for annotation of content.  There will also be a blogging area, where students can share relevant information (e.g., upcoming meetings, study groups, etc.). 

Once the site is created and I am confident that the security is up to snuff, I imagine the longest amount of time will be devoted to the writing of the content.  The creation of the website, and its various plugins, will likely take several weeks.  The writing of the content, which will be written using various textbooks and websites, will take no less than 3 months.  Once the content is up, the process of allowing students to contribute to the site will take a full semester. 

I currently have a working knowledge of WordPress but am not nearly familiar enough with BuddyPress or to claim competency.  I will also need to familiarize myself with the necessary security plugins to ensure the site cannot be accessed by anyone who has not be invited. 

Time to completion: 5 months

Scaled down version

The website would still be created on WordPress and include plugins for security and password protection.  However, students would not create profiles or have the blogging capacity – they would only comment on the content.  The content would also be considerably scaled down.  Perhaps only certain topics could be covered on the site, as opposed to all of the class material.  This scaled down version could be a pilot of the scaled up version.  Perhaps it would only run for the first half of the semester and students could give feedback about whether they found it useful.

Time to completion:  3 months

Project 2:  Competitive Course Quiz Game


 For many students, learning has become rote and boring.  Injecting some fun and competition may be incentives to learning the material.  This project would be a either a phone or web-based app that allows students to play against each other.  Once they create an account, they can challenge another student or play against another student who has challenged them.  If beginning a challenge, they can choose the topic that the questions will cover.  Each question answered correctly earns points. Answering the question faster earns more points.  As students win more challenges, they move up in levels.  For example, a student could be Level 1 in “learning theories” and a Level 15 in “classical conditioning” based on how many challenges they won. 


Amy is 18 and not very engaged school.  She is going to college because that is what her family expects of her.   Amy is very competitive and does not like to lose no matter what the game is.  She is the youngest of 4 and has 3 older brothers.  Growing up in an Irish-American family was always fun and loud.  She got her competitive attitude from growing up with her 3 competitive brothers.

Anthony is absent a lot.  He often has to take care of his younger sister when the babysitter cancels.  Although he takes school seriously, he cannot devote as much time to it as he’d like.  He sometimes gets his reading done on the train.  Sometimes he does his homework on his phone.  He wishes material was easier to learn so that he wouldn’t feel like there was never enough time to do anything fun.

Carole is 21 and does not like to hurt anyone’s feelings.  She always preferred solitary games, such as crossword puzzles or Sudoku.  She finds little pleasure in winning because it means someone else has lost.  She is very conscientious and is always the first to hand work in when it is due.  

Scaled up version

The quiz app will be iphone, android, and windows compatible.  Users will create an account, along with a profile, and be able to sign in and play either on their phones or on a computer.  Users will also be able to contribute questions to be used in others’ games.  The app/site will keep track of users’ progress.  The site/app may be built using quizlet or some other quiz-making platform.  Because students will create profiles, it will only be made available to the students of the course so that they can play against each other only, and to ensure security. 

It will take about a month to try out different app/site building platforms that allow account users to play against each other.  Once the platform is found, it will take a few weeks to create the questions and test that the app/site is working smoothly.  If all goes well, the site should be up and running within two months and ready to be used in a course, either for studying purposes, or to gain extra points on the final grade (e.g., reaching level 20 = 3 points on overall grade). 

I have no working knowledge of any of the necessary platforms.  Getting a handle on which ones offer what I want, and then learning to use it is going to be the biggest hurdle.  Making up questions is going to be the easiest and quickest part.

Time to completion:  3 months

Scaled down version

Students will use quizlet, or some similar site, to play against each other.  The games will only be available on a computer, not on a mobile device.  Each student will need to create an account and I will monitor their progress. Because the site will not also be a phone app, this should cut down on the amount of time needed to get it up and running.  Students’ accounts will not have profiles attached to them, so the need for security will not be as high. 

Time to completion: 1.5 months


Wikipedia Wars

Hi all,

I was going to email Maura and Michael directly but then decided that my question might be useful to others.

I looked over the talk page of the person who reverted my wikipedia edit and am wondering how to proceed.  It appears he is in the habit of reverting others’ edits and doing so without much, or any, explanation.  My first instinct is to explain to him, with references, the reasons for my edits on his talk page.  But that kind of feels like he owns the page and I’m asking for his permission.  Thoughts?


Silvana’s Project Ideas

1.  Mobile App Game

I would like to create a mobile app game that would allow students to play against their classmates.  There is an existing app — QuizUp — that allows you to play against others by either using your email address or signing in through Facebook.   You are both shown the question and whoever answers it first correctly wins that round.  There are 5 rounds.  If you win the tournament, you go up a level.  I think I could perhaps have certain incentives for reaching certain levels. Maybe extra points on tests or something like that. 

Somethng to consider is whether students have smart phones or not.  I asked my Intro to Psy class whether they had smart phones and 2 out of 39 did not.  I would not want any student to not have access to the app, so I may have to consider making the game accessible in other ways besides a smart phone.

2.  Social Networking Site for Class

This idea is designed to move the realm of learning into students’ everyday life.  Social networking is something we usually do with our “friends.”  I’m thinking of Facebook, not Linkedin.  Having a site for the class, I hope, would help students integrate their student identities with their personal ones.  It would also help students see their professors as real people, as opposed to super nerds who do nothing but read and think about esoteric theories. Hopefully, humanizing professors would lead to students feeling less like learning is for other people.  I’m specifically thinking of underrepresented students at community colleges. 

3.  Interactive Course Site

This new idea has come out of hearing others’ ideas and thinking about the lack of technology in my classroom at the moment.  This would be a website for the course that presents the information that has also been presented in class.  The difference would be that for each topic, there would be links to relevant youtube videos.  In addition, students would be able to leave feedback about ways they remember certain terms.  The idea for students leaving “learning tips” for topics comes from students doing this in class.  For example, one student suggested that the O in occipital lobe looks like an eyeball (the occipital lobe processes visual information), while another student said occipital reminds her of optical.

Blackboard is not Gorges

I have to admit that even though I had repeatedly heard complaints about Blackboard, I did not know what these complaints were really about.  As an undergrad, Blackboard was easy enough to navigate and allowed me access to course documents, which I often misplaced in piles of other papers.  As an instructor, Blackboard lets me communicate with the entire class at once in the form of emails or announcements and lets me share documents pretty effortlessly.  Aside from the site being down on occasion (but not so frequently to be a real nuisance), I did not see what the problem with Blackboard was. What I didn’t realize was that Blackboard is an expensive piece of software that is being bankrolled by CUNY money that could be better spent on other technologies.

I’m currently teaching at Hostos Community College in the Bronx.  The classrooms do not have anything but a chalkboard in them (they don’t even have chalk!).  I would like to show students video clips but in order to do so,  I need to sign out a COW (Computer on Wheels).  The problem is that there are few COWs to go around.  Knowing that the money spent on expensive software, which could be replaced with free and cheap software, could be used on projectors and computers for each classroom is infuriating.  So, yeah, now I get the Blackboard hate.  What I don’t understand is why administrators would continue wasting this money.  Is it ignorance?  Is it just the safety of sticking with the known?

Gold & Otte

One of my possible project ideas is to use some form of social networking site in which students and I could share musings on course topics, as well as any other more informal posts.  Part of what appeals to me about it is the possible re-formation of hierarchical relations — professors are people too, and the more students see that, the higher the likelihood for honest interaction (???).  However, I have to admit that there is something about this blurring of boundaries that is quite scary.  In the Academic Commons, members are much closer to being colleagues — even when interactions are between professors and graduate students — than in a social network encompassing undergrads and their professor.  Perhaps tapping into the same collaborative spirit that helped the Commons thrive would neutralize the possible pitfalls of social networking with students.  What I mean is that maybe instead of it seeming “inappropriate,” it could be seen as a project that we are all creating as a cohesive group.  To be continued…

Getting Real

I’m guessing that we all didn’t get to where we are by NOT being obsessive about the details? Amiright???

Getting Real offers pragmatic suggestions to avoid wasting time on eventual dead ends — go forth and if and when you hit a dead end, turn around and keep going.  For many of us, however, not considering the details before jumping in may feel exactly like not doing the necessary prep work.  My question, thus, is this:*  How do we undo a lifetime of programming that taught us to plan ahead while considering every possible contingency?** I suspect the answer has something to do with more faith and less fear…

*In the spirit if Getting Real, I am keeping this post short and to the point.

**Although I am only posing this one question, I must share with you my paranoia that you will think I am half-assing this post.  Therefore, I will tell you that I considered writing about a friend’s childhood tea party preparations that never led to actual tea parties (I am happy to elaborate on this in class), second year IRB application writing that took more than a year, and paralyzing perfectionism that masquerades as procrastination.

Project ideas

Sorry to all of you for receiving two previous emails with this post (this being the third).  This one has one added idea, so there 🙂

Hi all,

Here are some ideas I have about possible projects.  I have no clue how feasible these projects actually are.

1.  I’ve been playing a game on my phone called QuizUp.  It has different categories with several topics in each (e.g., Arts –> architecture, musicals, paintings, etc.).  You can connect through Facebook and play against your friends or you can play against strangers.  As you win matches, you go up in levels.  I think something like this could be used in my Intro to Psychology course, or any course that is term-heavy.  Students could play against each other and maybe even gain points for making it past a certain level.

2.  Sorry for the lit review… I read a study in which professors created a Facebook page for the class.  Level of disclosure was manipulated (high, medium, and low).  The researchers were investigating whether amount of self-disclosure by professors had any effect on students’ motivation and students’ perception of the professor and class climate.  They found that, indeed, high self-disclosure led to greater motivation and greater positive perceptions of the professor and class climate.  Some students, however, felt that teacher use of Facebook was inappropriate.  :/

This study got me thinking about the possibility of creating a Facebook-style page for courses. Students and professors could post course-relevant articles, pictures, links, etc.  Not that sure about this idea, though. I must admit. I’m not sure there’s much new here, is what I mean.

3.  Kathleen Fitzpatrick’s book Planned Obsolescence got me thinking about how great it would be to receive feedback on projects as I was hammering them out.  It’s what I get to do in lab with my advisor and lab mates, but what if that process could be opened up to others within the field?  By the way, I ran this idea by two of my lab mates and they were in no uncertain terms against it.  Their fears of being “scooped” were too great to entertain the benefits of having extra eyes and brains on their unfinished work.  I tried to explain that there would be evidence of their ideas being theirs, in case someone tried to pass it off as their own, but they had stopped listening.  I envision this being a website that would facilitate the process of feedback.

This idea is the riskiest, and I imagine the one that would be the hardest to get off the ground. It’s also the one I believe in the most.

4.  I’ve also been thinking about the use of clickers in the classroom and wondering if there may not be a more accessible way of doing the same thing.  What if smartphones could be used to interact with the instructor’s lecture?  Kind of like how I can get my iphone to communicate with my appleTV.  This sounds complicated to me, but since we’re dreaming things up…

That’s it for now.