Professor Kate LyonsKate Lyons joined Hostos in 2006 and has since held many roles, including instructor in the library, assistant professor, and associate professor. Currently the Head of Reference and Library Technology, she’s interested in how organizations adopt technology and is working with Professor Linda Miles on a research project to evaluate and develop games to teach media literacy. Professor Lyons holds a Master of Science in Nonprofit Management from NYU, a Master of Science in Library and Information Science from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and a Bachelor of Arts in English from Grinnell College. In November of 2020, she joined Hostos’ Middle States Commission on Higher Education, for which she will serve as a writer, full-time for the next two semesters and part-time in Spring 2022.

A mother of two daughters—eleven and six years old—Lyons enjoys biking, exploring nearby parks and playing tennis with her children. She also runs 10K and 15K races, and her favorite place to run in New York City is the Bronx’s own Van Cortlandt Park

Learn more about Kate Lyons in this edition of “10 Questions With.”

When and how did your professional journey lead you to Hostos?
My first full-time job was as a web developer for a start-up company that created mail clients for mobile devices, and then my second job was as a librarian at NYPL. When I saw a job description for a librarian who’d work with library technology, it seemed like a great match, combining my previous positions. Little did I know that I’d find the college to be such a great match in other ways, too. I’ve met such wonderful people here—students, faculty and staff, and found so many great opportunities to grow professionally.

Much of your work at Hostos focuses on teaching with games. What inspired your interest in gamifying education?
I was reading about game collections in libraries and came across articles by James Paul Gee and Marc Prensky about how games (and video games) teach important skills and can be used in education. I thought their works were compelling, and so I read more.

You collaborated with Professor Karin Lundberg to create and write about a Grammar Adventure Game as an alternative to a more traditional ESL grammar assignment. How did the concept for the game come about?
Each semester the EdTech Leadership Council (ETLC) organizes an Innovation Celebration, where faculty and staff showcase new ideas for teaching with technology. It’s an informal venue that emphasizes discussion and collaboration. Prof. Juno Morrow presented about how she used Twine in her classes, and Prof. Lundberg and I were inspired. We left the celebration brainstorming, and a few months later had developed a game for one of Prof. Lundberg’s classes.

What does the game entail?
Twine is an application for developing interactive fiction, like Choose-Your-Own-Adventure books. Prof. Lundberg and I wrote an adventure about a student who goes to the MET art museum with their aunt. The aunt demands perfect grammar from the student, and the student has to figure out how to respond to her with the best grammar. At the end, there’s a twist, and the players (Prof. Lundberg’s students) have to write the end of the story.

What game(s) do you enjoy playing yourself ?
I like word games, especially Scrabble and Boggle, but I like those best as board games, not digital. My other favorite board game is Othello. My favorite video games are Sims games, like SimCity and The Sims.

Given your experience assessing and restructuring online learning initiatives at Hostos, what would you say is one of the biggest advancements or advantages that you’ve observed when it comes to online learning?
I think that web conferencing technology has come a long way. Synchronous learning is getting better and better, and we’re lucky at Hostos that our IT department does a great job supporting our networking and hardware needs, so that we can take advantage of applications like Zoom and BB Collaborate. Phone technology has also improved so much. A decade ago, I never would have imagined that we’d have Blackboard Collaborate or Zoom-type meetings and classes on tiny phones.

What is your advice to those who are engaging with online learning for the first time this year—either as an educator or student?
I’d say to reach out for social connections. Just because we’re physically distant doesn’t mean we’re not just a call or email away from each other. Our librarians offer live chat (accessible from the library’s website), and HALC, the Writing Center and ARC staff all offer virtual help as well. IT and EdTech are all just a call/email away, and provide really superb help with trouble-shooting technology and using best-practices in developing online courses. All the support we had before— career services, financial aid— everyone is still available.

What have you learned about yourself through your work at Hostos? Community is really important to me. My coworkers, the students I see each day coming into the library to ask questions and study— everyone has a story to tell and ideas to share. What I’ve learned at Hostos is that listening to other people helps me understand myself.

What is the biggest lesson you learned in 2020?
In 2020 I learned to take my temperature every day. That was a little tongue-in-cheek, but metaphorically, there’s also a lot of truth in that. In 2020 I’ve learned to start each morning really checking in with myself. How am I feeling? I wonder: “Today is probably going to be hard, but can I do even one thing today to make it a little better?”

What professional projects do you have in the works?
I’ve got two that I’m really excited about. First, I’ll be working with the Middle States Steering Committee on writing our self-study. I’m really looking forward to the task. Hostos has so many great stories to tell, our growth has been so strategic and sustainable, and I’m really excited about working with the team dedicated to this project. My other project is with Prof. Lundberg. We’re working with a faculty member at the University of Malmo in Sweden on a COIL (Collaborative Online International Learning) project. Students from each professor’s class will work together on group projects about their respective cities.