Category Archives: Fall 2014

AccessED Update

After a bit of a lull for the past week as we were sending emails and planning the next stage of our project, I am pleased to say that we are back in action.  We are particularly excited for this Friday, when we will be meeting Samantha Earp, Executive Director or HarvardX, to talk about their policies regarding accessibility in their online education platform.  I’m particularly interested in seeing how the policies of HarvardX, a private entity in the sphere of online education, differs from the policies and approach set by the Disability Services Office, which is part of Harvard University itself.

More on the outcome of our meeting in our next post!



DPSI’s Mid-Semester Review

On Wednesday, October 22, members of the Digital Problem-Solving Initiative (DPSI) community gathered to hear from members of the seven DPSI teams. DPSI teams feature a diverse group of learners (students, faculty, fellows, and staff) working on projects addressing problems and opportunities across the university. DPSI participants have had the novel opportunity to enhance and cultivate competency in various digital literacies as teams engage with research, design, and policy relating to the digital world.

Each team had 3 minutes to present its progress and 9 minutes of feedback from the DPSI community audience.

AccessEd: Accessibility in Online Education
Mentors: Chris Bavitz and Kira Hessekiel (Berkman Center for Internet and Society, Cyberlaw Clinic)

Members of AccessEd present their work

AccessEd has been considering ways to make online education more accessible to people with disabilities. They have been meeting with individuals and offices across Harvard (HarvardX, Accessible Education Office) to figure out how to incentivize professors developing Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) to consider and apply accessibility practices upfront. The group is still grappling with the question of whether or not a Harvard centric or broad focus on MOOCs would be the best area for their efforts.

AccessEd’s Blog Page

Big Data
Mentor: Jim Waldo (Chief Technical Officer, Harvard University )

Professor Waldo and team members present their Big Data team updates.
Professor Waldo and team members present their Big Data team updates.

Big Data has developed a year-long timeline with the goal of figuring out  ways to prevent the de-identification of data from compromising the data set integrity. The team has gained help from Professor Joseph Blitzstein of the Statistics Department to delve into why de-identifying data may alter results. They would ultimately like to figure out how to preserve privacy while maintaining the validity of data interpretation.

Big Data’s Blog Page

eyeData: Data Visualization and Exploratory Tools Applied to Real-World Research Data
Mentor: Mercé Crosas  and Vito D’Orazio (Institute for Quantitative Social Science)

A member of the eyeData team discusses how they've built a website repository for data visualizations.
A member of the eyeData team discusses how they’ve built a website repository for data visualizations.

eyeData’s team includes several coders who have been able to create visualizations of IQSS-Dataverse data. They’ve started developing a website using Django and Jenkins, incorporating visualizations made using d3 of data processed using Panda. The team sought insight from social scientists and engineers in the audience regarding how to best build a website that would feature the types of visualizations social scientists would use.

eyeData’s Blog Page

Farmer’s Market: Building A Self-Sustaining Harvard Farmer’s Market
Mentor: Margiana Peterson-Rockney (Food Literacy Project)

A Farmer's Market team members discusses the group's progress and challenges.
A Farmer’s Market team members discusses the group’s progress and challenges.

A representative from the Farmer’s Market group discussed challenges her group has been facing. The definition of sustainability varied according to different team members: some thought it meant financial sustainability while others thought it meant sustainability of the local food ecosystem. This, along with technical challenges, has been one of the hurdles the group has been trying to tackle in the past few weeks. The group opened up to feedback from the audience regarding their definitions of sustainability.

Farmer’s Market Blog Page

Safe Campus: Dealing With Sexual Assault on Campus
Mentors: Diane Rosenfeld and Anisha Gopi (Harvard Law School)

Members of the Sexual Assault team present a schematic for their app, Bonobo.
Members of the Sexual Assault team present a schematic for their app, Bonobo.

Members of the Sexual Assault team talked about their ideas for an app called Bonobo. The app, modeled off of Bonobo behavior, involves an emergency network of contacts that would enable individuals to broadcast messages to their contacts in a time of vulnerability. The group will be meeting with various groups across Harvard’s campus already tackling the issue of sexual assault to see the type of technology that would best support their goals.

Safe Campus’ Blog Page

#DocShop: Interactive Documentary Workshop
Mentors: Matthew Battles, Cris Magliozi, and Jessica Yurkofsky (metaLAB)

#DocShop team members talk about the nebulous definitions for interactive documentary filmmaking.
#DocShop team members talk about the nebulous definitions for interactive documentary filmmaking.

#DocShop team members talked about their year-long trajectory for uncovering a definition for interactive documentary film making and figuring out how to shift from audiences and spectators to actors. They are also combatting issues like authorship in interactive documentary. The group’s goal involves actually creating an interactive documentary experience, to better define this new form of storytelling.

#DocShop’s Blog Page

OA2014: Open Access
Mentors: Peter Suber and Colin Lukens (Office of Scholarly Communication)

A representative from OA2014 talks about ways to  get Harvard professors to share scholarly work.
A representative from OA2014 talks about ways to get Harvard professors to share scholarly work.

OA2014 has been working to figure out what the best nudge would be to get faculty to deposit their published materials. With several academics in the audience, feedback considered what method would be best to get professors within Harvard to hand over published work. The Berkman Center’s new open access policy could set a precedent for OA2014 to work off of, sending a message to the entire Harvard community.

OA2014’s Blog Page

Keep up to date with DPSI team progress on the blog, and be sure to look out for an invitation to the team Final Presentations!

Check out slides from each group’s presentation here: Mid-Review Slide Deck

AccessED 2nd update: Decentralization and Incentives

Hello from the AccessED team! A quick review: We are a group of Harvard students from across the university working on making online education more accessible to students with disabilities. I’m Michelle Sohn, a 3rd year Harvard Law Student, and I am writing this week’s update!

What we worked on:

This week, we met with Harvard’s Office of Disability Services. At our meeting, we got a robust overview of how the Office works on web accessibility  with different Harvard schools and libraries. They shared with us a number of exciting and innovative projects they are working on, including Sensus Access (a file conversion service) and the Assistive Technology Lending Library and Lab.

What went well:

The meeting went very well! It was informative and inspiring to hear from people who think about accessibility to education everyday. While we came prepared with questions, the conversation evolved organically.

What was challenging:

Three challenges:

1. Standards: As Curren mentioned in our last post, the standards for accessibility, especially the legal ones are unclear. A series of interesting cases have resulted in federal courts in different circuits differently deciding whether websites can be considered “public accommodations” under the Americans with Disabilities Act. If so, then the website must ensure an appropriate degree of accessibility so persons with disabilities can have full and equal enjoyment. I have written up a quick legal primer on the ADA and litigation over web accessibility under the ADA and would be happy to share upon request.

2. Cost: At our meeting with University Disability Services, we learned that a lot of the technology used to increase web accessibility is pretty expensive. For example, captioning services for videos is very costly.

3. DecentralizationHarvard’s online education ecosystem seems to be highly decentralized. On one hand, this is great, because it means approaches to online education can be organic and experimental. On the other hand, this makes creating consensus,  incentivizing, and even raising awareness around accessibility with faculty who are from a diverse array of schools difficult.

What’s up next

We need to brainstorm some more and come up with our project proposal!

Stay tuned and stay classy!


DPSI 2014 Kick-Off Event

On Thursday, September 11  the DPSI community gathered to kick-off the semester!


Team members, mentors, Berkman staff, and friends heard from Harvard Law School Dean Martha Minow, Harvard Law School Professor Urs Gasser, Harvard Business School Professor Thomas Eisenmann, and HarvardX Research Fellow/Berkman affiliate Justin Reich.



Guests arrived at the Harvard Graduate School of Education where they sat by project teams for the kick-off event.

Harvard Law School Professor Urs Gasser provided welcoming remarks. He explored Berkman’s history of connecting technology and education through initiatives like the Youth and Media Lab, CopyrightX, and and now the Digital Problem-SolvingInitiative.



Harvard Law School Dean Martha Minow regarded DPSI as a hybrid mode of learning, operating like an innovation lab.


Harvard Business School Professor Thomas Eisenmann offered advice about how to pursue new ventures and incubate ideas.


HarvardX Research Fellow and Berkman Affiliate Justin Reich offered takeaways from his DPSI team that participated in the 2013-2014 DPSI pilot.


Participants then met in teams to mingle, develop team names, discuss the upcoming semester, and of course, to enjoy snacks.







Stay tuned for more updates on DPSI team progress and events! And while you’re at it, like our page on Facebook!