NYC College of Technology, CUNY

Author: Jenna (Page 1 of 3)

Communication Design Theory OER

The City Tech Library supports faculty to replace textbooks with no-cost open/alternative course materials through a faculty development program called the Open Educational Resources (OER) Fellowship.

I participated in the OER Fellowship in Spring 2019 and developed a Communication Design Theory OER for use by faculty teaching Communication Design Theory COMD 3504.

Communication Design Theory OER image

Cumulative Self Evaluation

First Year Learning Community at The Cooper Hewitt

First Year Learning Community at The Cooper Hewitt

“Community Collaboration”


Course Improvements and Coordination:

Over the last five years, as more of my workload hours at City Tech have shifted from Teaching to Service, I have had the opportunity to focus on what is most essential in my work with students. I feel fortunate to have been able to devote my time and energy to the development and coordination of one course, Graphic Design Principles 1. This course, a first semester required course for all COMD majors, serves as a critical foundation for incoming freshman. As Course Coordinator, I have worked with part-time faculty to develop a framework that better connects the course content to its counterpart in the second semester, Graphic Design Principles 2, and to create unified learning outcomes, specifically with regard to a shared design vocabulary and design process.

Additionally, I developed a series of digital projects to help faculty integrate the use of digital tools. Several faculty members have been teaching the course for decades and had focused on the use of traditional, hand methods. This transition was a challenge for many, but all faculty have now incorporated several digital projects into their course sections. I supported faculty through this transition with workshops, individual tutorials, use of our OpenLab Course Coordination project, and by encouraging the incorporation of OpenLab student ePortfolios into the course learning outcomes.

Learning Communities:

In Fall 2013 I began collaborating with Professor Jody Rosen, English on our Learning Community, “Ways of Seeing: Adventures with Image & Text.” This Learning Community for COMD students taking COMD1100 & ENG1101 includes field trips, hands-on projects, and cross-sensory experiences to help students discover and express their creative vision and supports their first year learning experience.

As our Learning Community has evolved we have explored cooperative (small-group) learning, alternative assessments using peer critiques through blogging and commenting on our shared OpenLab Course Site, low-stakes writing assignments, field trips, shared assignments, and critical thinking activities.

Our 2015 semester-long, cross-disciplinary student project “A Humument,” which was based on artist, Tom Phillips’s altered text, culminated in an exhibition at the Ursula C. Schwerin Library and also a student research poster at the City Tech Student Research Poster Presentation. Both were well received and gave first semester students the unique opportunity to showcase their creative writing and visual design to the college community.

CUNY BA Mentorship:

As a CUNY BA mentor, I have worked with twelve students (six in the last five years) to guide them with the development of their own curricula, tailored to their career goals and interests. I am currently mentoring Shofiyaa Abdul Samad and Sara Solomon. Both students are working toward their CUNY BA degrees for anticipated graduation in 2018. Being a CUNY BA mentor is a volunteer position, but it has helped me to look at my teaching in a different light. My CUNY BA mentees are often self-driven, independent, mature students. By comparison, the freshmen I teach are at a very different point in their education, requiring academic and emotional support at a much more basic level. I find this diversity of experiences invigorating, and it has pushed me to grow as an educator to meet the needs of all my students. I love the contrast and enjoy the intellectually stimulating conversations I share with my CUNY BA students as we work together to navigate their curricular and professional paths.

Online Teaching Resource & Portfolio:

When I built the initial iteration of my online teaching resource during my first year at City Tech, the concept of open access to educational resources was not widely accepted among my colleagues. As a teaching resource, my site has provided a way to document and reflect on my activities over the years, but it has also been of benefit to other faculty who work on related courses and initiatives. My teaching materials have been open and available for all to use for over fifteen years. Faculty from City Tech and other colleges have used my site and its contents for their courses. On many occasions, I have had the opportunity to help new faculty avoid the “trial by fire” that I experienced in my first year of teaching by sharing my course content and giving them a structure to build upon. has grown and evolved, archiving over a decade of my teaching sites, housing my teaching portfolio, and more recently a blog, which I have used to document and share certain scholarly activities and observations. My teaching portfolio is used as an example for faculty on the City Tech Faculty Commons website and in professional development workshops. As an early adopter, I am pleased to now see a growing number of faculty build and share their course content and teaching experiences with the College community. Continue reading

A Brief History of Failure

The road to innovation is paved with failed designs.

Sterling Engine is being revived and tied to solar panels to power a small business or a rural village.

What follows is — depending on how you want to think about it — either a gallery of technologies we lost or an invitation to consider alternate futures. Some of what might have been is fantastical: a subway powered by air, an engine run off the heat of your palm. Some of what we lost, on the other hand, is more subtle, like a better way to bowl or type. As new standards emerge, variety fades, and a single technology becomes entrenched. (That’s why the inefficient Qwerty keyboard has proved so difficult to unseat.)

We can take heart, however, in the fact that good ideas never disappear forever; the Stirling engine didn’t pan out in the Industrial Revolution, for example, but it can keep the lights on for a small village. As you look through the images, then, please consider not only what might have been but what could still be again. — RYAN BRADLEY

A Brief History of Failure | New York Times Magazine

Drawing needs to be a curriculum essential

Drawing has creative, expressive and educational value; it remains fundamental to translating and analysing the world– Anita Taylor

“Drawing remains a central and pivotal activity to the work of many artists and designers – a touchstone and tool of creative exploration that informs visual discovery. It fundamentally enables the visualisation and development of perceptions and ideas. With a history as long and intensive as the history of our culture, the act of drawing remains a fundamental means to translate, document, record and analyse the worlds we inhabit. The role of drawing in education remains critical, and not just to the creative disciplines in art and design for which it is foundational.”

“As a primary visual language, essential for communication and expression, drawing is as important as the development of written and verbal skills. The need to understand the world through visual means would seem more acute than ever; images transcend the barriers of language, and enhance communications in an increasingly globalised world.”

“If we really want to move the STEM to STEAM agenda, drawing could be the connector at the heart of it all.”

From “Why drawing needs to be a curriculum essential” Anita Taylor, 29 May 2014 :


Science Wonder Art ven diagram

The Imaginary Foundation

“The neurobiologist Antonio Damasio has written about Descartes’ error that, to put it in shorthand, “I think therefore I am.” Damasio instead makes the compelling argument, empirically based in neurology, that feeling and emotions as expressed in art and music play a central role in high-level cognitive reasoning….. much of the focus in education these days from Singapore to Shanghai to American schools is on STEM — science, technology, engineering and math. As important as that is, it is short-sighted. We need to add the empathetic reasoning of the arts to the mix — STEAM. The values behind arts integration — collaboration, flexible thinking and disciplined imagination — lead to the capacity to innovate.” Behind The Cello, Yo-Yo Ma – adapted from a conversation with WorldPost 

Link Between Art, Perception, and the Self

Lithograph of the brain (via Wellcome Library)

Lithograph of the brain (via Wellcome Library)

“When you look at a painting and feel that somehow it was made just for a person like you, it might actually be true. New neuroscience research shows that deep feeling of personal resonance from some works of art is linked to your brain’s sense of self.” Neuroaesthetic Research Probes Link Between Art, Perception, and the Self by Allison Meier

“‘…certain artworks, albeit unfamiliar, may be so well-matched to an individual’s unique makeup that they obtain access to the neural substrates concerned with the self—access which other external stimuli normally do not get. This mediates a sense of being “moved,” or “touched from within.’ This account is consistent with the modern notion that individuals’ taste in art is linked with their sense of identity, and suggests that DMN activity may serve to signal “self-relevance” in a broader sense than has been thought so far.” Art reaches within: aesthetic experience, the self and the default mode network by Edward A. Vessel, G. Gabrielle Starr and Nava Rubin

Open Pedagogies on the OpenLab – Poster Session

11th Annual Poster Session of Faculty and Student Research, City Tech
“Open Pedagogies on the OpenLab” November 21, 2013

The Annual City Tech Poster Session exhibits the research of faculty and students. On behalf of the OpenLab we presented the OpenLab poster to students, faculty and staff.

Open Pedagogies on the OpenLab

  • Jody Rosen, English Department
  • Jenna Spevack, Department of Advertising Design and Graphic Arts
  • Charlie Edwards, Project Manager
  • Maura A. Smale, Libary

Since Fall 2011 City Tech’s OpenLab has grown into a vibrant community of over 8,000 students, faculty, and staff using the platform for teaching, learning, and collaboration. Many faculty members have created assignments that take full advantage of this open digital platform to increase student engagement. We will report on compelling pedagogies on the OpenLab from a variety of disciplines.

PDF Program – pg25

Self Reflection: The Glorification of Busy

“It is not enough to be industrious; so are the ants. What are you industrious about?”
– Henry D. Thoreau 1857

I’ve stayed at City Tech for the last 11 years, because I love teaching and I love the students and faculty I am honored to work with.  When I look back on those years and reflect on the amount of time I’ve spent doing administrative work, I am saddened that I couldn’t have spent more of that time working with students or working on my own scholarship. Like a few of my colleagues, I have started to keep track of the hours I spend doing administrative tasks.

I’ve been told that the College administration takes pride in the College’s low administrative overhead and that this allows the College to hire more full-time faculty. A good thing, but…

The full-time faculty at City Tech currently carry a 24 hour teaching workload (more than other Senior Colleges in the CUNY system).  The standards for scholarship that contribute to tenure and promotion have recently increased, but the time allocated for scholarship has not. Without sufficient administrative support those tasks land on the desks of an already over-burdened full-time faculty. This means less time we can devote to students and research.

The Self Refection that I am writing here is a part of a larger document the “Professional Activity Report and Self‐Evaluation”, which all faculty must compile each academic year. Working on this document has already taken up 10 hours of my time and I have yet to collect all the documentation required. It is due in three days. I certainly see the value in this document, but the unrelated Scholarship report that was due on Friday, the four faculty observations that I must complete in the next week, and numerous other administrative tasks that need to be completed for the Department or College push me to a point of feeling like I have a dangerous number of plates in the air.

At the end of most semesters the full time faculty you run into at City Tech looks as though they have just run a marathon. Response to the question “How are you?” is rarely joyful, it’s an exasperated “busy, too busy.” They are trying to juggle numerous committees and commitments for the department, the college and the university — time for students and research is increasingly pinched. Not only does this affect our ability to commit quality time to students and our own research, it also affects our families, health and emotional well-being.

Being busy is glorified, as a recent article in the Huffington Post  addressed. And in the NYT a few years ago. This blogger wrote about the subject and pointed a NYT article “The Island Where People Forget to Die,” which I had read a couple years ago. I seriously contemplated leaving NYC altogether after reading it.

Busy is not the same as productive and for most it is certainly not happy, healthy and at peace.

Many people say, “well, you’ve got the summer’s off” but the amount of “busy” that many of us must shoulder during the school year is not equaled in pay and often takes away from teaching – the very thing we came here to do.

How does this tie into a self-reflection on teaching, scholarship and service?

I’ve done a ton of amazing things this year at City Tech. I should list them and reflect on them, but I’m too tired.

I have high standards for myself and maybe I should accept the time that it takes is the time that it takes. As I get older and realize I’ve been running a marathon for 11 years, without real time for sufficient creative reflection or thought, I wonder if the way we busy is the way we distract ourselves – trying to out-busy death.

Next year I will aim for less.

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