E-Tools for Thriving at TC-- and Beyond
Published in Inside - Volume XVII, No. 1
Like the city itself, the College can be challenging to navigate. Some new technologies developed in-house might ease your way, here and elsewhere
Whether you’re first-time student or a seasoned campus veteran, a suite of new online tools developed by EdLab, a creative services unit within the Gottesman Libraries, can improve your TC experience – from navigating the College’s sometimes Hogwarts-like interior to connecting with people who share your interests.
“There are so many resources here at TC, and we’re just trying to help people leverage them,” says Hui Soo Chae, EdLab Associate Director, who describes his team as a “skunkworks” for education technologies that can serve the College and potentially the world beyond. The group includes Megha Agarwala, Joann Agnitti, Pranav Garg, Brian Hughes, Yudan Li, Luke Malone, George Nantwi, Gonzalo Obelleiro, Ankit Ranka and Gary Natriello, Ruth L. Gottesman Professor in Education Research and Gottesman Libraries Director.
First and foremost, be sure to check out The TC Routefinder (maps.edlab.tc) the equivalent of Google Maps for 120th and Broadway. Developed in response to a request by TC’s President and Provost to create new tools to support new students, the Routefinder’s premise is simple: type in where you are and where you want to go, and presto, you get directions. But plans are in the works to add some cool bells and whistles. Soon, you may be able to roll your mouse over any location on the Routefinder map and find out what’s going on there on that day, or learn about its particular history.
Next up is Pundit (pundit.edlab.tc), a course search and recommendation tool that employs Amazon-like technology to cue you to offerings that will be particularly to your liking. You’re already signed up for the Anthropology of Technology? Then you might want to check out Grounded Cognition, Scratch Programming or any number of anthropology of education courses (course readings, times, dates and courses numbers all conveniently supplied). You took out Dewey’s Democracy and Education from the library? Here are a bunch of pre-service teaching courses you’ll want to know about. Of course, the more extensive your history at TC, the more the program has to work with – but your user profile builds with each selection you make.
OK, courses are great, but wouldn’t it be cool if there were an intelligent networking tool that could point you to people you’d enjoy meeting? It’s called EdNode (ednode.edlab.tc), and it works by asking you to create a personal profile and then mining that profile for keywords in order to suggest matches with other users on the system. You can also search the system using keywords and phrases and send messages to people of interest.
EdNode will become really powerful, Chae says, when TC alumni begin using the site. “There’s a page that allows people to identify themselves as potential mentors,” he says.
Ah, but what to talk about with all your new acquaintances? Check out Vialogues (vialogues.edlab.tc), a new tool that lets you upload videos from YouTube or your own computer and conduct threaded discussions with a class or any other group. Currently only a handful of TC courses are using Vialogues, but Chae expects use to increase as faculty discover that they can embed obligatory questions that guide students directly to specific time-stamped sections of a video, or pinpoint which sections generated the most interest. Meanwhile, Vialogues is being used by the PBS/POV program to support high school students in the production of documentaries.
And that’s just the new stuff from EdLab. Be sure to check out other tools developed by the group, including PocketKnowledge (pocketknowledge.tc.columbia.edu), the Teachers College social archiving system, and Presisible (pressible.org), a network of TC-created blogs.