Developing a lab for working with digital media

I am involved in a wonderful project to develop a Film and Media Lab at Bard Early College (BHSEC Queens). I was very sure about what I would be doing in this class: writing a grant for a lab.

But as the discussions progressed for the project more issues seemed to come up. If it is a Film and Media Lab then is it going to be just a place to make or study film? And then how is Media Studies involved with Film Studies? As we were contemplating this question we realized that the acronym would be FML!  Do we want it to be FML when we are teaching HS age students? Perhaps not.

Maybe then we can have it as a Film and New Media Lab… maybe that would fix the bridge between media and film. But still it was becoming hard to envision this as a space for film screenings and film production work or a place to teach kids python or other forms of digital literacy.

Maybe we should just keep it Digital Media Lab or Digital Media Arts Lab?

These are the small funny little discussions my colleague Suzanne Schulz and I are finding ourselves in as we develop this digi-lab.

Fortunately, we have a supportive administration. And we were able to articulate ourselves well enough to win a grant for new equipment.  We were given a grant for a cart of laptops, with some film editing software (which ones we are not sure yet).  Some boxes that we thought were tech for recordings turned out to be a lectern.  So we have a little more waiting and seeing before we have a full inventory.

The next step is agreeing up on a room where we can test-run this mobile digital media lab. We have a very long semester that lasts until June, so perhaps we may start well after the semester ends here at GC.

Space has been an issue all on its own. In our small space, BHSECQ is two floors in the LaGuardia Community College building, we have the choice of either a small windowless room that fits only 18 students, or a windowless room that fits 25 students but is L-shaped. Then there is a room that stores old chairs and broken office furniture. Perhaps we can clear it out and create a video editing room and a training room? But then this is also the room with a vent that connects straight into the cafeteria…

My project is to raise more funding and fully define, along with my colleague and friend, Suzanne Schulz, at BHSEC Queens a mission statement for the… well, what seems to be best described as a making space, so perhaps we will keep it as a The Digital Media Arts Lab. We hope to train students and faculty in audio and visual communication, or we are training students and faculty in increasing their digital literacy (still debating which sounds better as a mission statement or grant request line). We will definitely be creating a space for experimentation and play.

What is interesting is that with students at this age level, we need to go through a special office for permission to post video/media works that students put together that show their face. (This makes sense and it is a simple process, but something I had never thought of before!)

I was thinking that I could also use this class to develop a workshop for faculty around complicating the notion of the canon. Our students are protesting the predominantly Greek and Italian material in First Year Seminar. But I will revisit this once again in another week. We are still working on a mission statement and the goal is to complete it by April 9th.

We have some amazing students who are working with us. They will be sharing their video and digital media projects to a proposed website that will showcase their work.

I will make an official list of what we got and what we still need. I believe we received about $25000 because the laptops are equipped to edit video. Thank you for offering this space for me to think through some of the planning of this space. We have an amazing tech specialist at BHSECQ Adam Rhodes and a young filmmaker Sara Aboobaker to help develop this ______Lab!


Hybrid/Online Learning II

I approached this week’s readings keeping last week’s readings in mind because this week’s class is Hybrid/Online Learning, Connectivism, and the University II, while also considering the prompts from the syllabus and the larger context of the Digital Pedagogy Unit we’re currently studying. At times while reading, reviewing last week’s readings and “task-switching” to print important pages and/or look up terms in the readings, it felt like juggling with all the balls in the air at the same time. But the good news is that by this morning, the readings’ content and their context started to gel.

I’d like to focus on Chapters 4-5 and Appendix in Digital Technology as Affordance and Barrier in Higher Ed (Smale and Regalado, 2017) and leave the remaining readings for class. I’m really intrigued by the very vast quantitative study that Smale and Regalado undertook, the extreme detail they went into with each participant and constituency, and their findings from a such labor-intensive research project for both participants and researchers.

Chapter 4 “College Students, Technology and Time” treats the concepts of  time and space in tech. I must admit, as I stare at 4 major projects on my  desk and desktop with deadlines all close to each other within the coming weeks, reading about time and time management in academic work with the task of being this week’s motivator was pushing my buttons. Still, the concept of time + space in tech is larger than my own personal situation. For example, we all experience that “digital devices teleport work into spaces and times once reserved for personal life” (Wajcman 2015, 137 in Smale and Regalado 2017, 60) and while this can be great it is also be really tricky to manage.

So I pose this opening question: how do you manage tech in spaces and times once reserved for personal life?

I myself have maintained “sacred times + spaces” such as meals with family, mornings, bedtime, and DRIVING, during which no tech is allowed. This has been a tech battle with my teen since her high school teachers use Remind apps, Google classroom, etc. and often post important info very early in the morning on the day of classes or late at night the night before classes. I get aggravated by this because I feel it erodes all the years of my parenting/modeling “no tech” at such times.

Start the day with a sun salutation not a Facebook update, please!!!

Chapter 4 also speaks to the need for students to be “adaptable” due to the vicissitudes of tech (slow wifi, smartphone charging, power outages due to weather, etc.) As a freelancer (which we’re not supposed to say anymore, I believe the correct term is now “flex time worker”) and adjunct professor, in my “lived experience”, adaptability is essential.

Do you find your students to be rigid, adaptible/flexible or just simply not skilled enough yet with tech? What are some of the affordances and barriers you encounter as teachers and in your students?

I’ve thought about this often in the context of “the trope of the digital native” (Smale and Regalado, 80). I, too, agree Smale and Regalado, who are in agreement with “Bennett and Maton (2010) who suggest we must move beyond the ‘digital natives’ debate as it currently stands” (Smale and Regalado, 75) or as Ryan Cordell articulates in “How Not to Teach the Digital Humanities” (a reading from Core 1) “digital native does not equal mastery”. (Debates in Digital Humanities 2016, 464)

In Chapter 5 “Recommendations for Technology in Higher Education” the researchers “found that fixed tech’s greatest restriction on students’ academic task-scapes is that it requires them to create academic space for themselves in locations that may be occupied by multiple other people engaged in a variety of activities… Mobile tech can allow students to transcend place… affording them the opportunity to reduce the distractions of others” (Smale and Regalado, 74) to which I’d add, provided their own distractions (notifications, updates, Snapchat selfie taking etc.) are turned off or silenced while they’re working academically, in order to amplify/maximize/dedicate time. I heard a study cited–I can’t remember the name or group which conducted it at the moment–which reported that it is estimated that women in college spend 10 hours PER DAY futzing on smartphones–why the study singled out women I don’t know–but still, this is staggering!)

To the point of time usage and economy, the students revealed a finding that the “most useful” tech was for “managing time or time-saving”. But while “technology can certainly be harnassed to provide support for student time management” (Smale & Regalado 81) I find the use of remind apps to be another tricky thing to manage in and of themselves. They’re great when the remind is programmed or the event info is input by students themselves, but if it’s part of a larger automation I think it takes away from learning the very valuable and essential time-management skills, that are also a BIG part of learning and researching.

In summary, Chapters 4, 5 and Appendix bring to light the “lived experience” of tech, or as Laurie Hurson said during a TLC workshop that I attended (which Jing and Kyueun also attended) on Teaching With the Commons when WordPress hit a bump during a demo, “this is when tech gets real”.

I’ve found that the use of tech is always about “the time created with one digital technology evaporate[ing] due to the barriers of another” (Smale & Regalado 64) and that we must CHOOSE WISELY as educators and students ourselves.

Chapters 4, 5 and Appendix also bring up the concept of BOUNDARIES in TIME/SPACE/PLACE and made me examine the following questions in regard to academic work, which: -Where do I want to work? -What time/s can I work? -WHEN do I work best? WHEN does my sched allow me to work? (often the ideal/optimal/desired times do not correspond to deadlines.)

Perhaps we could create a check list of FUNCTIONS of TECH in HIGHER ED:



-Exchanging: academics, relevant anecdotes in both academic content and academic tech

-Streamlining! Less is more

What would you add this this list?

Finally, how do you think these chapters speak to the syllabus prompts:

“What are the biases of the technologies we’re using, and how can we interrogate those biases from within the environment they have created?”

It’s clear from reading Smale and Regalado’s comprehensive research that tech access + digital literacy are matters of social justice. I really liked the professor in an allied health department at City Tech who said, “as faculty we teach content, but I like to think that we, more-so, facilitate learning through technology”. (Smale & Regalado 80)

Indeed, I find this to be the mandate we face as educators.

In closing, please find photos of my own personal remind system, the very high tech Post-It Note attached to my smartphone and clothing. The most important thing about tech, low or high, is that it must work for you.

Works for me!

Quantifying Students

Hi everyone, thanks for a great discussion in class last night. On my way home I was reminded of this recent research that’s garnering lots of discussion from critical educational technology folks on Twitter, posted here by Chris Gilliard (we’ll be reading some of his work in a few weeks):

Gilliard’s whole Twitter thread is worth a read, and here’s the original announcement of this research from the University of Arizona: Researcher Looks at ‘Digital Traces’ to Help Students

What are the implications of quantifying students in these ways?

Measuring Student Work

My provocation builds off one of the many questions from last week’s class–how can we teach “off the template” in a way that still teaches technique? In other words, how can we teach our students to engage critically with the course material without employing convenient but stale “templates”? In teaching writing, for example, are we bound to teaching the five-paragraph essay or paragraph structure, in order to understand the function of claims, evidence, and analysis in written work? Isn’t that template the easiest way?

After this week’s readings, it seems to me that the problem goes deeper than this question of method. It goes to the very assumptions of the course itself, which is tied to specific learning objectives. These learning objectives assume that “learning” occurs when the student can demonstrate her skills for “critical thinking” and “analysis”. For example, I’m including the learning objectives from the English 220 course I teach at Hunter college.

  1. Write thesis-driven analytical essays on all three genres (Poetry, fiction, drama) that incorporate evidence from the literary texts and demonstrates close reading skills.
  2. Write an analytical research paper of at least 6-8 pages that demonstrates close reading skills and the appropriate use of evidence from literary texts; the ability to create a clear thesis statement; and the ability to incorporate and engage scholarly critical sources as part of a well-organized, thesis-driven argument.
  3. Discuss fiction, poetry, and Shakespearean drama verbally through the use of close reading skills and, where appropriate, basic literary terminology.
  4. Demonstrate some familiarity with literary criticism in class discussion or writing, or both.
  5. Demonstrate the ability to compare and/or contrast literary works.

All of these objectives boil down to some basic requirements: demonstrating “close reading skills”, the “appropriate use of evidence”, argumentation, “familiarity with literary criticism” and ‘basic literary terminology”, in the form of “thesis-driven analytical essays” and class discussion. Reading over these requirements, it seems to me that the course is not so much encouraging students to think critically as it is teaching them to mimic a process that has been time-tested in teaching literary analysis. If the student can demonstrate familiarity with literary terms, criticism, and close reading skills, and the proper use of evidence and argumentation, all within thesis-driven essays, then she will have passed the course. But none of these requirements address the student’s personal response to the text, what she brings to the table, and her grappling with the text.

The problem, it seems to me, is that we are measuring students on performance, on the final product, rather than on process. Amelia Abreau writes about the difficulty of quantifying moments of struggle and emotional toil, which often occurs in caregiving. She begins her article by saying that, currently, there is no way to quantify caregiving (such as the work of caring for a young, dependant child), and suggests that we ought to imagine data gathering in ways that empower caregivers and other low-wage laborers, rather than aim for “near-perfect, near-universal metrics”. Abreau questions: “Rather than seeking to perfect measures and standards of that work through statistical working-over, can we envision workers taking their own data to management to improve working conditions?” Abreau’s article encourages us to apply quantification in new ways, in order to measure what has previously been overlooked or has been unmeasurable.

My provocation, then, takes this example from caregiving into the classroom: How can we assess students on their moments of difficulty and struggle, rather than on the final product? What specific ideas do you have for “measuring” student’s challenges with the course material?

And, to take this in another direction—how can we employ the “connectivist” nature of learning with digital tools (a topic touched on by many of our readings) in order to enhance the way that we measure moments of difficulty and struggle? I’m thinking specifically of the opportunities opened up by collaboration and group work across networks. The Femtechnet Manifesto, for example, asserts that “Collaboration is a feminist technology”. How can we make the struggle that students undergo when grappling with new concepts more visible by assigning collaborative work?

Motivation: 3/12 Connectivism: A Learning Theory for the Digital Age

“Connectivism: A Learning Theory for the Digital Age” December 12, 2004 George Siemens

As an educational technologist, I was at first skeptical since this was published in 2004. Sometimes reading articles, research, or theories about technology or our approaches to it, I am skeptical that it could be a bit outdated in 2018. However, I believe that Siemens brings up fundamental concepts concerning our approach to technology and the theoretical frameworks that shape our thinking that is relevant in educational environments. I even think he shares some prophetic truths our students and teachers are facing today. In fact, I think I found my new favorite learning theory!

I spend a lot of my time thinking about the best approaches Schools of Education should take in teaching educational technology for pre-service educators because of my unique positioning as a high school English teacher and Adjunct Professor. In NYCDOE schools, I feel like the conversations Siemens wants us to have are happening within clusters of very passionate educators who understand the way that technology can transform classroom learning. However, this seems to be happening in the K-12 environment since it is absent, or not refined, in the Higher Education sphere.

Ultimately, no matter what the learning environment, there are fundamental similarities about the way that we learn that we must consider when thinking about pedagogy. Siemens writes that “Technology is altering (rewiring) our brains. The tools we use define and shape our thinking.” As a millennial who grew up without smartphones, went to school without interactive whiteboards, and is a teacher where technology is everywhere, I also consider the way that technology has re-wired our approaches to teaching environments.

Another part of the text that struck me is when he writes that “Informal learning is a significant aspect of our learning experience. Formal education no longer comprises the majority of our learning. Learning now occurs in a variety of ways – through communities of practice, personal networks, and through completion of work-related tasks.” This made me question, well, what is formal education anymore?

I enjoyed the concept of Connectivism as a theory since I think it encompasses, or perhaps even perfectly summarizes, my approach to education: “Connectivism is the integration of principles explored by chaos, network, and complexity and self-organization theories. Learning is a process that occurs within nebulous environments of shifting core elements – not entirely under the control of the individual.” To me, this translates to that learning is continuous and not limited to the classroom and that we can use technology to empower us as educators and learners. Technology can bring learning alive and — in its own way — is nebulous too.


Provocateur questions:
Siemens closes his essay writing that “The field of education has been slow to recognize both the impact of new learning tools and the environmental changes in what it means to learn.”

1. I am curious as to what ways people think they have seen this statement as True or Not True according to their own experiences in education (K-12 or Higher Ed).
2. When Siemens references nebulous, he says that “learning occurs within nebulous environments.” When looking up nebulous, one of the definitions describes “in the form of a cloud or hazy.” I think it’s ironic (and potentially prophetic) that we now collaborate and operate a significant portion of our technological lives in “the cloud.” How has cloud-based learning (like Dropbox, drive, iCloud) enhanced the meaning of connectivism since 2004?
3. The other day, the company Mursion was brought to my attention by a technologist colleague. They are a VR/AR company that simulates real-life experiences to refine essential skills for practitioners. How can the idea of connectivism play a role in learning with new and innovative technologies that are now emerging like these?

Collaborative Assignment Design Assignment

ITP Core 2, Spring 2018: Collaborative Assignment Design Assignment

You will collaboratively craft, with at least one student from another discipline, the scaffold for a final project in an undergraduate course that engages with one or more of the core ideas explored to this point in your ITP experience. (Your work on this assignment can link to your own final project for our class, or your own field, or a class you actually teach, but none of that is required).

We’ll discuss the details for this assignment in class on March 5th, and the assignment plan is due on March 24th, when you and your partner will post to the course blog the scaffold of a final project with at least three discrete, connected tasks, intended for an undergraduate course. All groups will read all assignments, and we will discuss in the first hour of class on March 26th.  

The post should have the following elements:

  • A brief statement of the context of the course (discipline, level, institution type, instructional mode, is it real or imagined)
  • A statement about the place of the assignment within the larger learning goals of the course; why is it the final?
  • A draft of the assignment, addressed to your students
  • A statement of the technologies used in the assignment, and why
  • The criteria you’d use to evaluate the assignment

Midterm Assignment

Your midterm assignment will be to create a project proposal that has two scope variations: one full, and one reduced version.

Your proposal should follow this structure:

  1. An introductory descriptive paragraph, which should include a problem statement, and say *what* your tool/thing will do.
  2. A set of personas and/or user stories.
  3. A use case scenario (where would someone find your tool/thing and how would they use it). Keep it short.
  4. How you will make the full fledged version. This is your “ideal world” version that fulfills all of your visions and fantasies (what tools you will use, how you will get them, how confident you are that all the moving parts will work together, etc).
  5. Your assessment of how much time the full-fledged version will take, and how much of the skills you currently know and what you would have to learn.
  6. How you will make the stripped-down version. The stripped down version is the minimally viable product. It is the most *bare bones* version to prove that what you are trying to get at is viable. (what tools you will use, how you will get them, how confident you are that all the moving parts will work together, etc)
  7. Your assessment of how much time the stripped-down version will take, and how much of the skills you currently know and what you would have to learn.

You are welcome (but not required) to repeat the last two steps with scope variations in-between the full fledged and bare bones version.

In previous years, this assignment asked you to propose two projects. If you are, indeed, trying to choose between two projects and fleshing them both out would be useful for you, you can fulfill the midterm assignment by offering what’s above for each idea, minus the stripped-down version.

The proposals will be submitted using Social Paper on April 5th prior to class. You will be asked to review and leave substantive comments on at least two classmates’ proposals before class meets on April 9th.

Class that week will be dedicated to workshopping the proposals. The format we will follow will be that each participant will choose one of their two proposals to present orally. You will have 5 minutes to present, and we will have 5 minutes for feedback. Think of this as a pitch. You will want to lay out the project abstract, present very short versions of your personas, give one use case scenario, and then talk about how you would build it, and how long you think it would take.

Motivation: March 5th Readings by Kahdeidra

Hey! This is cool! As some of you may know, I am a former special education  teacher and coordinator of after-school programs. Thus, I have experienced a lot of trial, error, heartache, surprises, and major wins in discovering how to engage learners with diverse interests, skill sets, and goals (PROBLEM).

I have separated this provocation into three prompts, and you can feel free to respond to whichever one speaks to you the most, or try your hand at a combination of the three (CHOICE).

  1. Bean’s chapters on integrating writing and critical thinking in the classroom makes several interesting arguments about the value of writing. Bean’s central argument is that writing is both a process and a product. When the connections between writing and critical thinking are explored, the value of writing as a process can be gleaned. Once writing is imagined as packaging, he argues, devoid of thinking and creating, it loses value among learners (Bean 16). He gives examples of how different European cultures have words to express the concept of writing as a process (ie. ‘brouillon’ < French which means to scramble, to place in disarray). English does not have an equivalent concept. Another example that I can think of that the English word ‘essay’ is derived from the French essayer (to try, attempt) and essai ( a trial). Currently, we retain the meaning of essay as an attempt or endeavor in formal use, but the most common usage is for a structured composition. The dual meanings of ‘essay’ as both a verb and a noun illustrates Beans’ argument of writing as a process and a product. Why and how did we come to emphasize the product over the process in the United States? Is this related to a larger discourse on experimentation and conformity in schools? What do you think?

2. In Chapter 3, Bean addresses cultural assumptions about the centrality of writing in academia, and argument writing being the preferred “academic discourse” over other modalities in particular. Was it satisfying to you? How is his rationale in conversation with UDL principles? Do you agree with his characterization of “three cognitively immature essay structures” as “organizational problems”? Be honest. Does it vary by context, or are these structures universally flawed?

3. The three principles of Universal Design for Learning–multiple representation of content, multiple opportunities for expression and action on new content, and multiple opportunities to engage in learning–have been the most useful for me as an educator. It provides a cognitive basis for addressing diverse learners by presenting difference as the norm, not as a deficit that minoritizes learners. Because cultural and neurodiversity are facts of life, curricula must attend to this diversity. My colleague Luis Oleander, who created the UDL for Teachers website (, and I  have collaborated on topic briefs to explain how UDL can be used to support linguistically diverse students. Using the videos on his website, and the video on the SPS Faculty Community site, consider the following questions:

  • How does UDL align with the Composing practices of expert academic writers (Bean 30-31)?
  • How does UDL align with Bean’s conclusion on integrating professional and personal writing? Do you agree with these categorical distinctions in writing? Have you encountered and used expressive writing in your own academic courses? Explain.
  • Review the poster descriptions on “Do’s and Dont’s on Designing for Accessibility.” Is it possible to use the  UDL framework to consolidate the advice given? Why or why not? Are there any commonalities among the suggestions?