Post by Sara Spink
I think it fortunate that in my time here as a student at the BGC, 13 of my 14 courses did use or are using class-specific wiki sites to varying degrees. At the most basic level, the platform provides a flexible and accessible resource for students to receive up-to-date information about the syllabus and class activities, and allows for a common access point for me and my colleagues to sign up for presentations or upload assigned readings that are then easily disseminated to everyone. But the wikis work best when they’re exploited to their full potential as a fluid entity that can be fully integrated into classroom activities and discussions.
With several of my classes it’s been really gratifying to be able to look back on the multilayered site we’ve built together over the course of the semester. Sometimes the site reflects the process of our independent research, enabling an ongoing dialogue over several months as we pursue our respective projects and pose questions about our direction or materials. This was certainly the case in the second iteration of Christmas Cards in America class (which developed into afocus gallery exhibition this past winter), as well as in The Social Lives of Things: The Anthropology of Art and Material Culture (which in part built on the previous semester’s Objects of Exchange course and focus gallery exhibition, and which culminated in an expansion of that research—this is reflected in the online version of the exhibition website; see also Kimon’s previous post).
It’s been most exciting for me when the wikis have enabled productive discussion that both drew from previous classes and contributed to those forthcoming, promoting the development of questions and ideas beyond specified class time. The use of forums and comments, and the implementation of continuously augmented pages of related imagery and media, all contributed to such an experience. Last semester, our Scenic Design course extended our interaction even further. That wiki boasts not only the enormously beneficial visual syllabus that Kimon has mentioned in previous posts, but also “digital portfolios” of each student’s work. We were challenged to integrate various types of media with our textual research, and to post and present that material online—I particularly enjoyed this encouragement to share and reflect on each other’s projects. Regardless of how they are used, the course wikis have a tremendous potential to stand as a rich testament to the interests and achievements of both students and faculty.