DML Blog

Wikis in the classroom

posted on 14 Feb 2012 20:54 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 a focus 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.


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Objects of Exchange Expanded Launch #focusgallery

posted on 08 Dec 2011 19:15 by BGC DML

One of the first projects that really energized and challenged the Digital Media Lab was Aaron Glass's focus gallery Objects of Exchange: Social and Material Transformation on the Late Nineteenth-Century Northwest Coast. With a background in film and an eagerness to experiment and explore in digital media, Aaron's project took advantage of a lot of technologies never used before at the BGC. In particular, his use of a wiki as a collaborative platform for the accumulation and organization of information on the objects for the exhibition was for a long time the example that we used to show students, faculty, and guests the potential that wikis had for working with visual and material culture.

The exhibition also had an interactive touch screen that showed a network of connectivity between keywords relevant to the exhibition and the objects on display. Touching the keywords or objects resituated the materials to show the dense complexity of the connections. One fascinating aspect of the evolution of this interactive cloud had been that it almost completely came out of students' use of the tagging feature of the wikis and the preexisting tag cloud module that represented an alternate taxonomy to understanding the connectedness of the materials in the exhibition. Aaron and I had a chance to write about the role of digital media in the exhibition process in the catalog, and that work helped set a foundation for much of the work that has been done in the DML in the following years.

Even though the exhibition has long since closed, Aaron continues to work on this collection objects and the material culture of the Northwest Coast. Recently the BGC has launched an expanded version of the exhibition's web site with more objects, additional research material by students, and audio visual material. It is a great expansion on what has proved to be a valuable endeavor for the BGC and is worth a look at.

- Kimon

Here is the official release:


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