By Dominic Corrywright, Oxford Brookes University
This is an invitation to visit and contribute to the new wiki developed for the Teaching and Learning section of the BASR website.
What’s a wiki? Neither a wookie nor a bear (see Four Lions, Chris Morris, 2010 – a prescient and a splendid resource for teaching courses on terrorism, fanaticism and representations of Islam and the West). That’s to say, it is not a usual web site, especially as are commonly designed for professional associations, where the model is for passive receivers. Wikis are collaborative, and promote active engagement. But they are not a sandbox for all players on the web –there is some editorial oversight, in their initial schemata, objectives and continuing editorial selection and deletion.
‘A wiki (wɪki/wik-ee) is a website which allows collaborative modification of its content and structure directly from the web browser’. A Wiki, according to Ward Cunningham, inventor of the first wiki software:
‘… promotes meaningful topic associations between different pages by making page link creation almost intuitively easy and showing whether an intended target page exists or not.
A wiki is not a carefully crafted site for casual visitors. Instead, it seeks to involve the visitor in an ongoing process of creation and collaboration that constantly changes the Web site landscape.’
The wiki has initially been designed with four distinct areas:
- Curricula and Benchmarks – UG and PG taught
- Pedagogy – Research and Practice
- Learning outside the Classroom, Fieldwork and Study Trips
- Resources and Useful Links
This invitation is for colleagues to add material, links or ideas for both innovative and legacy approaches and resources for teaching and learning in the study of religions. Indeed it is informative to see in such resources as this Wiki, how the new becomes legacy, becomes new again. An example of this process occurred in the selection of useful legacy resources for the Wiki from the now defunct, though erstwhile innovative, publication Discourse. This journal was established by Higher Education Academy subject centre, Philosophy and Religious Studies Learning and Teaching Support Network in 2001 under the networks’ name and became Discourse from 2003 until its closure (due to the end of government funding) in 2011. In the first edition a report on a workshop for teaching South Asian religions identifies a preliminary question ‘How serious a problem is the ‘world religions’ paradigm?’ (Jackie Suthren Hirst, Mary Searle-Chatterjee, Eleanor Nesbitt ‘Report on a Workshop on Teaching South Asian Religious Traditions, Centre for Applied South Asian Studies’ (PRS-LTSN Journal Vol 1, No. 1, Summer 2001, p. 77). The paradigm of world religions resonates loudly in current discussions about the terminology and curricula of religious studies. Thus the hermeneutics of religious studies has questioned concepts, terms and methods reflexively and repeatedly throughout its brief academic history.
I have filing cabinets and box files of teaching resources, seminar ingenuities, assessment tools, and curricula that are no longer current, or of much use (though some parts are multi-valent and segue neatly into new modules). Equally, I have a whole undergraduate course for distance learners on Moodle which is soon to be archived as the course has closed. ‘All that is solid melts into air’ and we are left grasping fading legacies while reaching for new forms to coalesce. Just as the intellectual capital of research is stored and accessed in hard and electronic reusable objects (vide: Alison Le Cornu and Angie Pears ‘Reusable Electronic Learning Objects for Theology and Religious Studies’ Vol. 6, No. 2, Spring 2007, pp. 143 – 158) so the resources of pedagogy in specific subject areas need locations for re-use and reconsideration. The Wiki can be a home for such resources, as they are deemed valid and of utility to the wider academic network.
New currencies of pedagogy equally have a place in the new Wiki. Globally, academic institutions have a growing interest in higher education pedagogy. In the UK context a new Teaching Excellence Framework will promote further research and evidence of academic engagement with pedagogical theory and practice (see consultation). The wiki will be both a resource and an outlet for Religious Studies colleagues.
Scholars are like magpies, scanning for bright objects with which they populate papers or add interesting/ amusing/ illustrative vignettes to classroom discourse. Wikis welcome such approaches to their content.