Category Archives: Uncategorized

Wikipedia “Success” and Smart Searching

Some thoughts and questions about Zittrain and Grimmelmann:

This may seem like a strange thing to say, considering the topic of this week’s readings, but I was struck–as I often have been this semester—by how much optimism there is in writing about technology. For all that Jonathan Zittrain’s The Future of the Internet and How to Stop It raises the alarm about the “perfect enforcement” and declines in “generativity,” it also devotes a lot of space to prescriptions and solutions. Given our experiences in this course, I was particularly interested in his ideas in chapter 6, “The Lessons of Wikipedia.” Zittrain is frank about the problems and failures of Wikipedia’s strange structure and operation but he pronounces it overall a “success story,” defining that success by “the survival-even growth-of a core of editors who subscribe to and enforce its ethos, amid an influx of users who know nothing of that ethos” (142). I see his point; Wikipedia is a widely used resource, people know about it and trust it, and it doesn’t often have serious (publicly known) lapses in accuracy. But having recently interacted with the site as an editor for the first time, I feel less inclined to accept Zittrain’s sanguine attitude. My own experience was pretty uneventful but the negative experiences that some of you had with other editors stuck with me. How does our experience as a class match up with Zittrain’s evaluation of Wikipedia?

I found Grimmelmann’s article interesting from a pedagogical perspective because one of the activities that I have integrated in my classes is using Google image searches to help students understand the physical worlds of the plays that we are reading. Students tend to be cavalier about search terms, which often produces results that are totally inappropriate to a play’s geographic or temporal setting. A favorite example of mine is the students who displayed a Greek Orthodox priest for the character of Teiresias, a prophet, in the ancient Greek tragedy Oedipus the King. It only took one question from me–“What is that person wearing around his neck that might suggest that this image is not appropriate for this play?”– for them to realize that they hadn’t been careful enough in their word choice. (The answer, if you can’t immediately call up a mental picture, is a cross. Not an accessory for anyone in 429 BC, the approximate date that the play was written, nor for someone who explicitly worships Apollo.) My students are not stupid, nor are they lazy. Instead it seems to me that they haven’t been taught to think critically about internet searching. I’ve tried to get them to be more critical by asking questions about their results and trying to guide them toward better search terms. Are there ways that any of you have found to engage your students with more thoughtful, critical uses of the internet?

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


Two Project Proposals, by Ian

Project 1: The Linguist’s Kitchen


Introductory linguistics courses are typically taught by using cooked data sets that present specific linguistic phenomena to investigate or illustrate a specific theory or hypothesis. In addition to selecting language data sets based on their illustrative value, instructors should consider utilizing data collected from populations that students interact with, including their own social groups. By analyzing these kinds of data, found close to home, students will not only be learning linguistic principles and how to apply theory to data but also scrutinizing their language-based perceptions of the language and its speakers. By performing linguistics analyses on samples of languages about which they may have certain feelings or opinions, students will be encouraged to view the language as an object and, through learning by analysis, will discover for themselves the systematic nature of the language and may perhaps come to understand that all natural human languages are products of complex cognitive processes and should not be used to stereotype individuals. Teaching linguistics in this way may engage students by studying material relevant to their lives outside of the classroom, phenomena that they experience first-hand. By having students analyze language collected from their home environments, rather than cooked data sets from a language they’ve never heard, we may grant a degree of power to students as authorities on the subject and creators of knowledge. This method may also benefit linguistic thought by developing analyses of potentially unique linguistic phenomena such as novel combinations of code switching, second-language (L2) phonology, heritage languages, and unique sociolinguistic practices that students may produce or discover, record, and analyze.

Some existing technologies could be used in combination to assist students in analyzing language they use or encounter in their homes and communities. If existing speech analysis and transcription tools are brought together in a very user-friendly way, it may assist students in objectifying and analyzing languages they interact with, which may make studying linguistics a more meaningful experience.


Don Powers – Don is taking an intro to linguistics course to fulfill one last liberal arts requirement. In four months he’ll be completing his degree in accounting. He is not incredibly interested in language and just wants to know what he needs to get an A. Don knows his way around an app and is quick at understanding how one works by experimenting with it.

Sarah Babel – Sarah is a sophomore who has recently declared a major in linguistics and is taking this course as a core requirement in her discipline. She is quite interested in the topics presented in the course and actively engages in class discussions with enthusiasm. For years, Sarah has been using her computer for email and checking out friends’ vacation pics on Facebook, but that’s about all she uses it for.

Ben Frazzled – Ben is a first-time adjunct lecturer fulfilling the two-section-per-semester teaching requirement attached to his funding package. Ben also needs to submit his first qualifying exam by the end of the semester in order to stay on pace for completing his doctorate in five years. Ben loves linguistics and has a passion for teaching but at this point in his life, completing his qualifying exam is his first priority. Ben makes use of various apps to network and do research and is adept at learning how to use new applications.

Gladys Solvent – Gladys is a tenured professor in the linguistics department. She has been researching and teaching for 30 years and has it down pat. Her syllabi, lessons, examples, and assignments have been carefully crafted over three decades into the perfect teaching packages. At this point in her career, Gladys needs to make few adjustments to her teaching practices each semester and teaches from the book, literally. Gladys does not make use of digital technology in her teaching but a recent growth in student disinterest is prompting her to find a new way to engage her students on the subject matter.

Use case scenario

Users of this app will most likely have discovered it through word of mouth, so will probably have some idea of what it’s used for and what it does. The value of this app is that it may assist the user in objectifying her/his language (or any language), which is necessary in conducting linguistic analyses. Instructors will likely use this app in an instructional context, perhaps utilizing its functions to demonstrate how language can be objectified and dissected, then having their students use it to analyze language samples from their home and community. A student will hopefully use this app for exploratory purposes, uploading language from her/his home or community and making use of the functionality to gain an objective perspective of the language.

Full-fledged version

The fully functioning version of this idea is quite complex and will have analysis tools, guides, and reference links for phonetic/phonological, syntactic, and morphological analyses as well as data storage and sharing capabilities. There are several existing analysis programs that can hopefully be incorporated into the Kitchen: Praat ( is a suite of freely downloadable phonetic analysis tools and Audacity ( is a freely downloadable audio recording and editing program. Analysis guides can be made by hand and references can be linked to. I don’t know if there is anything existing for syntactic and morphological analysis, but I have an idea of how a useful interface should look and function. All of this functioning will be (hopefully) housed on a WordPress site, at least to begin with.

As far as tools, I think I will have to “beg” the creators of existing analysis programs (e.g. Praat, Audacity, etc.) to incorporate them somehow into the Kitchen. I will need to use various WordPress plugins, HTML, and CSS to incorporate the tools I’d like the suite to have (whether they’re created from scratch, borrowed, or begged). At this point, I am not very confident that all of the moving parts proposed above will work together.

Time and skills required

To complete the full-fledged version, I will need to develop a reasonably good understanding of WordPress, HTML, and CSS. I will also need a fair amount of time to tinker with the app design and functionality. Realistically, this will probably take a year.

Stripped down version & time and skills

The stripped down version will include just the tools to conduct a syntactic and morphological analyses. As these will be built by hand, I can cut out the begging, borrowing, and compatibility issues in the full-fledged version, but this will still require a good amount of tinkering time. Including my learning of WordPress, HTML, and CSS, I could probably produce the syntactic and morphological analysis tools with guides and reference links (but probably not storage or sharing capabilities, sadly) with a summer and a semester.


Project 2: WordPress Research Management Theme


Managing a research project, especially one with a massive scope, multiple PIs, and several looming deadlines is not an easy task. RAs and PIs involved in a project are also balancing their individual obligations, which makes communicating ideas, coordinating efforts, and moving a project forward challenging. Communication is vital to moving the project and organization is the key to getting anything accomplished (and maintaining sanity). The complexity of conducting research (especially with human subjects) adds an additional layer of difficulty to the process: grant applications, IRB applications, the creation and testing of data elicitation instruments, recruiting participants, technical training, collecting, storing, analyzing data and record keeping must all be organized. Keeping everyone informed and coordinating efforts to complete tasks is not all that efficient even with email, cloud storage, and planning apps like Doodle. The problem is that vital pieces of information end up in a dozen different places and the manager ends up being the one source of knowledge for all project-related information. When new RAs join the project, there is a serious learning curve to figuring out where everything is. What would alleviate some of this pressure on the project manager and give all collaborators access to the information they need to function efficiently is a virtual space in which all aspects of the project can be organized and recorded. This goal of this project is to develop a WordPress theme for research management, which contains all of the tools needed for researchers to work efficiently as a team, and hopefully be useful enough to add to the WordPress theme repository.


Will Depleted – Will is a third-year grad student that got involved in a developing research project last year and has, by default, become the project manager. The grant application is due in three months, and the pilot testing phase has been delayed by a glitch in the stimulus presentation program. This project itself is a three-phase experimental procedure involving data collection via ERP. In addition to coordinating the development of grant application materials and IRB application with the four project PIs, Will is working in conjunction with the other three RAs to fix the stimulus presentation software, organize training for ERP procedures, recruit participants and plan for data analysis. Will knows his way around an app or two.

Harvey Warzmahtyprater – Harvey has enjoyed a long and prosperous career in linguistics research. He has managed a dozen large-scale research projects and knows how to get a job done. Harvey is open to using technology–he is an avid email user and likes the Internet–but prefers to have a hard copy and meetings in person. Harvey has developed a file organization and naming system as well as a document annotation method that suite his needs quite well, and he is reluctant to stray from his tried-and-true ways.

Alyssa Newbeigh – Alyssa is a first-year grad student that has recently joined the lab and is interested in getting involved with a research project. She has never participated in research and isn’t quite sure what it entails. Before joining a project, she’d like to know more about the research goals, methods, and the phenomena under investigation. Alyssa has a Gmail account and makes extensive use of Google Calendar, Drive, Dropbox, and has an active presence on various social media platforms.

Use case scenario

This theme will provide the basic structure and functionality needed to effectively manage research though users will need to customize it somewhat for their specific projects. The idea is that once created, a research project website using this theme will serve as the center of information and communication for all activities related to the project. A project manager user may act as the project website manager, customizing the site, updating and repairing as needed. RAs and PIs may use the site to find and interact with all project documents and each other. Experiment participants may use the site to communicate with researchers and, after the experiment, find out more information about the project.

Full-fledged version

The tools that will be used to develop this theme are WordPress, HTML, CSS, and various WordPress plugins (e.g., an interactive calendar, chat function, timeline, discussion board, password protection). The aim of this project is not to create anything new but, rather, just compile existing functionalities in a very user-friendly layout. The focus of this project is on creating a highly-effective design rather than complex functionality. I don’t see too many moving parts at this point, so I am fairly confident that the pieces will work together without too much special adaptation. I would like it to have document syncing capabilities, storage of previous document versions, and automatic backup to a hard drive somewhere, which may complicate development.

Time and skills required

I am not creating anything new. I am mostly just joining together a bunch of already-existing programs to create an easily-navigable interface. The vision I have for what it will look like is still not that clear, so this project will take a significant amount of tinkering and experimentation. For this reason, I see the full-fledged version taking at least the summer and probably part of the next semester.

Stripped down version

The stripped down version will include just one or a few pages that organize different aspects of the project and contain links to documents. There will be few or no moving parts in this version, though I will need to figure out where to find storage (free storage would be great, but buying may be required here).

Time and skills required

As the focus of this project is the interface and its usability, the minimally viable product will still require tinkering to get the arrangement right. This can be completed over a semester.

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.

Joshua’s project ideas

1. Improving the BMCC ESL Lab website: Revising, revamping, renovating, re-tooling, reorganizing, restoring, rebuilding, repairing, remaking, and/or otherwise improving the wiki page that I have created for the ESL Lab, which I oversee at BMCC, is still my plan. After speaking with Maura and Michael, it became apparent that a “less is more” approach will work with this project, particularly to begin with. Step # 1: moving the content that I want to keep on the site over to WordPress. There are several reasons for this, including

  • Expandable, Flexible: On WordPress, there is a huge community coming up with useful plugins and resources all the time. Our site functions more like a web page than a wiki, in that it’s not particularly collaborative (other than some of the faculty who contribute/write/edit); as I noted before, the site is meant to be a repository of information, links, materials and interactive exercises/activities for English language learners at BMCC rather than a student-created/collaborative wiki. WordPress seems to be the best platform to create new content for the site, and also introduce more interactive elements and/or games.
  • Content Ownership On many free web-hosted platforms (Wikispaces, Blogger, Tumblr, etc.), the terms of service are pretty clear. Without warning, these companies can remove your content, remove your site, and they actually can use your stuff however they want because they own it. With WordPress on my own server, I own everything I put on there.
  • Integration with other applications. WordPress seems to be the first choice of third party software and websites when it comes to creating easy to integrate website applications. If I want to program/create new content for the site, it will doubtless be easier to do on WordPress than on Wikifoundry, the site’s current host.

2. Making Interactive Content for a writing skills/grammar site, again comparable to– and hopefully an improvement upon– John Jay College’s E-Resource Center . The John Jay site is useful in many ways, but consists of mainly Flash animation slideshows, which make for a slow experience as the site unfolds at its own pace. I am interested in creating something perhaps both CUNY-specific and/or more general, providing interactive composition/grammar/reading comprehension activities helpful (hopefully) to any college student. As I posted earlier, I know that the John Jay site was grant funded, by the U.S. Department of Education (Title V) and the New York State Education Department (Perkins III). If I apply for grant money, faculty will be interested in collaborating. This project could be built from scratch, or incorporated into the WordPress site.

3. Writing/Grammar App: I would like to create an app, to assist students to improve their English writing/grammar skills, perhaps for ELLs (English Language Learners), perhaps for native writers/speakers of English. This could be a game-based app or not. There is an interesting app called Rhetoric and Composition Study, which could serve as a model… but I would want my app to cater to ELLs.

Christina’s Three Project Ideas

Supporting the Transition to College: Implementation of a Summer Workshop Series for Students with Autism
Students with autism often experience significant stress when transitioning from a supportive high school setting to the more independent college setting. While stress and anxiety have been identified as factors associated with the high student drop-out rate, no colleges have created evidence-based intervention programming to support students with autism during this transition. The proposed research will design, implement, and evaluate a summer training focused on classroom readiness, social skills, self-advocacy skills, and computer-mediated communication skills that is designed to support students with autism as they transition into college. Twenty students will be recruited to participate in this four-week workshop. A five-phase, quasi-experimental pre/post-test design employing focus groups, behavioral assessments, and standardized measures will be used to examine the program’s impact on classroom behaviors, computer-mediated communication skills, self-advocacy skills, anxiety, social support, loneliness, self-esteem, depression, and student adaptation to college life. This study will instruct future programming targeting students with autism as they meet the challenges of an increasingly complex online and offline college social environment.

Creation of a “Teaching Hub” for Graduate Student Instructors in Psychology

Doctoral students enrolled in the CUNY campuses often teach one or more undergraduate classes in the CUNY system. However, preparing to teach a new class for the first time can be a daunting task and there are few teaching of psychology websites with open-access availability for students. The Graduate Center was given the opportunity to host the Graduate Student Teaching Association (GSTA) for the next few years. This responsibility comes with an out-dated GSTA website, half-created social media accounts (Twitter, Facebook), and few in-person resources such as teaching activity guides and sample textbooks. The proposed project will take full advantage of the GSTA’s potential by transforming the nature of the online website or by creating a new website that houses teaching resources such as activities, textbook reviews, and syllabi. This website will be accessible through the CUNY system initially, but may later expand to open access of these resources.

There’s an App for That! Bringing the Experimental Psychology Lab to your Mobile Device
Similar to other introductory classes, undergraduate students enrolled in introductory psychology classes often struggle to fully understand many of the historical experiments used consistently in psychological research. In these introductory classes, students are expected to learn a multitude of researchers and theorists, in addition to memorizing the experiments the researchers conducted from within a framework of their research questions and chosen methodology. Class time is limited and students may be required to look up an experiment mentioned in class after formal class hours, or students may want to learn more about recent expansions/modifications made to the original experiment. The proposed project will design and pilot-test a mobile app that searches through YouTube videos for illustrations of appropriate psychology experiments. This app will be based on the number of “hits” received on the YouTube page illustrating a given experiment, since higher quality videos tends to receive more hits.

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…

one last thing

this semester I started using Blogs @ Baruch for my class.

Each student needs to write one post regarding the reading and must write two comments.

THey also write by hand in a notebook which I call the Reading Journal. It is very itneresting that although they could be writing the same things in both medias, they don’t. The written by hand pages don’t ‘dare’ to do out of the box… they write very squarish things.

On the other hand in the blog posts the students ‘dare’ to say they dislike the reading, or how they find it. I have also seen that they respond to each other, they help each other out like when we were reading poetry and one student complained how hard it was and how she didn’t understand anything, another student commented on how she could approach it in another way, what she could do to find it easier…

ok, that’s it. too much commenting.