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Open Pedagogy at Brooklyn College

Learn more about the Open Pedagogy at Brooklyn College

For the past several years, Brooklyn College has been working on developing open pedagogy with ArcGIS StoryMaps, to which CUNY subscribes, making the resource zero-cost to students, if not open-source, like the StoryMaps from Knight Labs. The technology benefits from having a customizable format, with a number of templates that give users a choice regarding how their information will appear depending on the goal of the presentation. The upshot is its ability to combine interactive maps with images and videos of various New York locales, accompanied by text. The classes that have signed on to this venture include Language Loss: Culture, Politics, and Self (final assignment: ‘map a language used here in New York to assess its vitality and current use’), and Sociology of Hip Hop, which expects its students to ‘demonstrate knowledge of hip-hop history and its evolution’ and ‘discuss the relationship between the social, economic, and political as they exist in hip hop and our society at large,’ in part by making a map. The presentations these projects have generated ask probing questions (‘What makes NYC the most influential borough in hip-hop?’, ‘How do Queens artists represent Queens?’) while making full use of the tool’s dynamic, attractive interface.

Deutch (2020) has the following to say about the pedagogical use of these assignments:

It’s been very exciting to see how OER has helped to move many courses toward an open pedagogy... We have been encouraging faculty to consider students as not only consumers of knowledge but also producers of it. This has certainly facilitated students’ engagement with the world outside the classroom. And giving a public voice to our very diverse study body. Recently, as there has been more discussion about faculty and students contributing to public scholarship, I see how open pedagogy and public scholarship seem to be converging pedagogical approaches.

While the public scholarship of Brooklyn College students has been associated with ArcGIS StoryMaps, the team has also worked on enabling access to other digital tools appropriate for the easy creation of open pedagogy projects. The Digital Toolbox, one of the few existing libguides of its kind and specifically aimed at the teacher and student rather than the programmer, has committed itself to ‘present tools which are openly available,’ i.e. not necessarily fully open but helpful in creating a scholarship.

As Deutch (2020) writes: ‘In this challenging online environment, open pedagogy/public scholarship projects are excellent alternatives to traditional test assessments.’ Thus, an art history class features the following assignment: ‘In place of a final exam, you are expected to record a 15-minute podcast discussing your initial reactions [original emphasis] to Black Panther (5 minutes); how the course discussions and readings have enhanced and/or complicated [original emphasis] your understanding of a specific character from the film (10 minutes).’ And, in the aforementioned class on New York languages, a quarter of the grade comes from mapping a local linguistic tradition. These approaches stand out for valuing the qualities of a non-textual presentation that of necessity remain intangible—creativity and affect, in addition to content.

Another enterprise in the spirit of community building (and so-called rapid-fire archiving) during the pandemic year has been the Brooklyn College instance of the COVID-19 archive, A Journal of The Plague Year (JOTPY), which contains personal accounts of the impact of COVID-19 as well as previously published content such as journal and newspaper articles. Students are encouraged to contribute with their personal accounts in any number of media forms and reach out to others in the larger archive, both domestically and internationally.