This semester professor Mara Scanlon and I decided at the very last minute to experiment a bit with the multimedia projects she had assigned the students in her Contemporary Poetry and Asian American Literature courses.
Collaborative Multimedia Report on Poetic Movements
For this assignment, you will work in groups of about three, which will be established within the first weeks of class. Each group will be charged with becoming our resident experts on a certain contemporary poetic movement, using outside resources (poetry, websites, manifestos and essays by participants, histories of literature, criticism, appropriate cultural or sociopolitical background, perhaps bios of major figures, etc.). I strongly encourage you to focus less on the biographies of individual poets, except where the information is germane, and more on the poetry and aesthetic values of the group and the cultural/artistic contexts for their work.
Rather than being submitted in traditional paper format, the projects will be posted to the class blog. The purpose here is twofold: to make the information easily available to all classmates in the spirit of collaborative learning, and to make use of the blog’s multimedia capabilities. Though the reports will include substantial (about 1000 words) explanatory text, they must also use images, video, audio, links, or other methods to enrich and support the traditional scholarship. College-level, appropriate research is the heart of your project.
So that’s the assignment, but as Mara and I were talking about this assignment in the 12th hour it occurred to us that doing collaborative projects like this in the course blog is a pain in the ass. Having many authors on a blog page or post is really not that convenient. Being pushed by Brian Lamb’s post about the Wiki not being dead yet, suggested we try to run these projects in the UMW Wiki, which is a MediaWiki isntallation that is running alongside UMW Blogs, and thanks to the CUNY Academic Commons and Cast Iron Coding, all UMW Blogs users are immediately authenticated to edit the UMW Wiki—I love me some CUNY. Give that, we figured having students edit their multimedia projects in the UMW Wiki would be a cinch in terms of headache and overhead—and that generally proved true.
What’s more, creating a new article in the UMW Wiki is as easy as wrapping any word or phrase in double square brackets like so:
What’s more, the UBC plugin Wiki Append allows us to pull the various multimedia projects created in the UMW Wiki directly into a blog page or post. The bliki has been here for years, it just took me that long to get over my blog crush. So, in short, some of the coolest projects I’ve seen this semester on UMW Blogs have been utilizing MediaWiki as a collaborative tool and the blog as an attractive and coherent way to present it.
Check out the projects on the Black Mountain Poets or L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E Poetry which are awesome, and then look at their corresponding pages in the UMW Wiki: Black Mountain poets and L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E Poetry. This is a really powerful way to work in terms of collaboration for a few reasons: 1) organizing information for a project like this is easier in a wiki than a blog, 2) collaboration is much easier on a wiki, and 3) the history feature of MediaWiki gives Scanlon a solid idea of who did what when. What’s more, we can incorporate/embed all the same media in MediaWiki as we can in WordPress and thanks to Wiki Append it can pull into a blog page or post seamlessly. One of the drawbacks that Chris Lott pointed out—and he’s right—is that you can’t search the MediaWiki article from the blog search field. We need a way to deal with this, and I’m sure the crack crew at UBC is working on this (or some other force of open source nature), because they have been building out their Resource Management Framework for a while now, and I am convinced it’s the way forward with all these “loosely joined” publishing technologies in an institutional setting.
Anyway, loved getting re-acquianted with the wiki this semester, and this project became the basis of a few more we did across a number of classes, but I’ll save that for a later post.