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Technology Day April 18, 2013 Sustainability and Technology: New Directions in Teaching and Learning

Janey Flanagan, E-Learning Center (with contributions from Jan Stahl, English, and Joshua Belknap, Developmental Skills)

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How can we promote sustainability through the use of technology? Faculty and staff shared their ideas about this at BMCC Technology Day. Sustainability and Technology: New Directions in Teaching and Learning, was the theme of the event, held on April 18, 2013.


Associate Dean of Academic Affairs, Michael Gillespie kicked off the event with a quote from EF Schumacher, “The primary purpose of technology, it would seem, is to lighten the burden of work man has to carry in order to stay alive and develop his potential.” Technology Day was in every sense about using sustainability to protect our environment, to keep us alive, while making our work easier through technology. Participants reflected on the many ways we can use technology to reach these ends.


Plenary Speech


CUNY has created the largest Solar Map in the world, according to Tria Case, Esq., University Director of Sustainability for the City University of New York. Tria Case delivered the plenary address: “Structuring Change.” Case stated, “Utilizing the data collected from the map and other sources, Sustainable CUNY is now building an intelligent operation center for solar, designed to inform policymakers and utility companies.”


Case emphasized CUNY uses 1 % of the city’s electrical load and our university has a major impact on New York City. CUNY has incorporated sustainability into the curriculum through CUNY Clean Tech Scholars, a privately funded program giving CUNY students in STEM disciplines the opportunity to work over 100 solar installers trained within CUNY.


Breakout Sessions


Breakout sessions included presentations by Elizabeth Berlinger (English), Rosalie Gleicher (Social Sciences and Human Services) and Janey Flanagan (E-Learning Center), Geoff Klock (English), Christina Lev (Registrar’s Office), Al Leibman (Developmental Skills), and Joshua Belknap (Developmental Skills). 


Prof. Berlinger (English) discussed using Skype video-chat sessions to link a major Chicago sports writer and blogger to students in her journalism class. Her goal is to connect her students interested in sports writing and blogging, but distance posed a problem.  She found Skype provides many options for real-time interaction that might not otherwise be possible.


What are the symptoms of at-risk students in online classes? Missing the first week’s discussion board posting is one symptom, according to Human Services Professor, Rosalie Gleicher, who presented on the rewards and challenges of teaching online classes. Prof. Gleicher identified other signs to identify at-risk students: missing two discussion board postings in a row at any time in the semester, late assignments, and bounced email. She suggested steps for intervention. According to Prof. Gleicher, calling the student, e-mailing, sending a letter via postal mail, and making a referral to the BMCC Counseling Center can help. Janey Flanagan, Director of E-Learning, presented via video factors leading to success such as personal self-efficacy, subject matter self-efficacy, time management, study skills, and academic success.


Prof. Gleicher pointed out that online classes benefit the environment by cutting down on paper and gasoline used for transportation.


Prof. Geoff Klock (English) demonstrated his 14-minute YouTube mash up of 4-second clips from 200 movies and TV shows that quote, discuss, or perform Hamlet.  He uses technology to show Shakespeare’s continued popularity and the various ways Hamlet has been performed.


Wikis are ideal web-based starting points to create and support sustainable information resources, according to Joshua Belknap, College Lab Technician, Developmental Skills, who presented on the wiki he created for the BMCC ESL Lab. The BMCC ESL Lab wiki is a repository of information. It has links to other writing and grammar web sites, departmental (e.g. schedule of classes) and institutional information (e.g. academic calendar), and links to different resources within the institution (e.g. the LRC).


Belknap talked about how wiki sites foster environmental sustainability in several ways: by providing access to the site and its resources around the clock, being paperless and creating less of a carbon footprint. Students can access the site from any internet-connected computer. Belknap showcased examples of interactive wikis and demonstrated how to create these useful websites using free software. The presentation is posted on the BMCC ESL Lab wiki at:


Prof. Al Leibman (Developmental Skills) demonstrated the platform he designed for a writing class with a Nutrition Education theme that he taught at John Jay College. “Cause in a Classroom” is a nonprofit learning management system designed to combine educational and humanitarian values in the traditional face-to-face classroom. His students volunteer in a soup kitchen and then write about it. His platform allows instructors to partner with local nonprofits whose mission aligns with their course content.


Christina Lev, CUNY First Project Manager, provided an overview of CUNY First, which includes features for students, faculty and staff.  She reminded faculty that a student support lab is available in room S-142, Chambers Street. Here students may receive help with CUNY First activation or registration.





Technology and ideas on display at the Richard Harris Terrace Promenade included Google+ Hangouts, a free web-based video conference platform, presented by Prof. Yan Chen (Computer Information Systems), and Blackboard Collaborate, an interactive virtual classroom environment, presented by Ruru Rusmin (E-Learning Center).

Prof. Colin Persaud (Computer Information Systems) demonstrated his Access program to be used for course scheduling. Prof. Chiaki Yanagisawa (Science) and Elisa Pigeron (Developmental Skills) showed how the Smart Pen can be used as a study tool and as a green technology.


Prof. Frank Crocco (English) and Joe Bisz (English) demonstrated College Quest. This web-based application combines the features of learning management systems, personal organizer apps, and social networks with the elements of game-based achievement systems and multiplayer online role-playing games.


Five Minutes of Fame


“Five Minutes of Fame” presentations were held for the second year. This gave faculty and staff a five minute opportunity to present technology they have recently employed successfully.


Prof. Cynthia Wiseman (Developmental Skills) spoke about using prior to participating at conferences and workshops to get an overview of the demographics of the participants. Teachers can use this survey tool before a semester begins to create a survey and gather information about students’ educational backgrounds, skill proficiency, and student expectations for the course. She urged faculty to use this tool, as it can be helpful during course planning.


Prof. Shoba Bandi-Rao (Developmental Skills) spoke about using mobile technology with ESL Learners in the two-year college. She stated, “Language is social. It requires speech. It requires practice.” Educational applications are available for learning English vocabulary, grammar, and idiomatic expressions. With mobile phone applications, students can maximize their study time by working on interactive exercises during their commute to school or between classes.


Sustainability Across the Curriculum


An afternoon session featured a panel, “Sustainability Across the Curriculum: Can Technology Help us Get There.” Panelists were Prof. Matthew Ally (Social Sciences), Prof. David Krauss (Science), and moderator, Prof. Cynthia Wiseman (Developmental Skills).


Wiseman asked the panelists, “What is sustainability, what is technology? How are the two related?”


Prof. Ally responded, “Sustainability is about meeting the needs of the present without damaging future generations. As of now we are not managing our environment in a sustainable way. This is a sociological and ecological concern; it’s not just about the environment. Think of habitability – having a world worth living in. The link between the sociological and ecological is affected by technology. Technology is one of the means at our disposal to bring about a habitable environment.”


Prof. Krauss added, “From a scientific perspective, I think of sustainability as creating a system that can continue indefinitely. Technology is anything we change to accomplish those aims.”


Prof. Wiseman asked the panelists, “What is the relation between social and ecological sustainability and a college wide sustainability curriculum?” According to Prof. Ally the relation has an obvious and a less obvious component. “The more obvious is about minimizing waste, using less material to keep things running,” stated Prof. Ally. He continued, “The less obvious is that students need to come away from BMCC with the sense that changes must be made. Change can’t happen without students.”


A special thanks to all of those who served on the Technology Day Planning Committee, especially co-chairs Mary Sepp (Developmental Skills) and Greg Farrell (Learning Resource Center). Other members of the planning committee include: Dean Michael Gillespie (Academic Affairs), Louis Chan (Public Affairs), Peter Dinh (Public Affairs), David Krauss (Science), John Gallagher (Media Center), Tom Lew (Instructional Technology Services), Vinton Melborne (Media Center), Lisa White (Media Center), Melinda Neus (E-Learning Center), Alex Pereira (E-Learning Center), Elisa Pigeron (Developmental Skills), Ruru Rusmin (E-Learning Center), Tom Volpe (Public Affairs), Debra Weiss (English), Janey Flanagan (E-Learning Center) and Cynthia Wiseman (Developmental Skills).