Student reflections

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Lily Tandel

This was the first time I have ever performed a Wiki exercise for a course project. Especially since the entire class was involved in the creation of this website. The website is not yet complete, but I have accessed the link and found it rather impressive to have myself, and others I know, contribute to the information that is shared on the Internet. Personally, I often visit the Wikipedia website. Therefore, to find my own work to be soon posted up on the site is rather humbling. I must admit that I often found myself confused as to what I needed to do, and with whom to get in contact with. Surely, for a class of 30 people (if not more), organizing the work and getting into contact with many peers to share the work is no easy task. Yet, I must say it is satisfying to to know that for once, in my University career, I have done research that will be made useful to the general public. I feel that I am actually making a contribution to the plight of First Nations people in Canada. Instead of doing difficult and time-consuming research, and creating a paper that will end up in my desk drawer, the Wiki project allows for all of my own efforts to be put on display for the Internet audience. More importantly, an essential topic such as the Indian Act is made public. Even more so, I have gained much more knowledge about this Law through the active participation between myself and my classmates.

Lirio Arcila Visbal

Putting collectively as a class the wiki project was really appealing and interesting. The fact that everybody participated in the process, made the activity very dynamic. It was not an isolated process, but a common effort from the entire class. Furthermore, making a wiki link with all the relevant information of a class syllabus is an activity that not many classes engage in. However, I think in terms of learning, it really motivates people to get involved, and work hard to come out with a satisfactory result.

The way the wiki was designed encourages participation and learning. The fact that the wiki project was going hand in hand with the weekly material made us all be on the same page. This means that we were following the material that other groups were analyzing for the wiki project. Additionally, since the class was divided into groups and each group was supposed to research and study a specific subject, it gave us the opportunity to analyze and understand in depth an issue that, in my case, was completely new (membership and governance). The activity has had an enduring impact on me because now, I seem to find relevant connections to that subject on daily basis.

Also because we did not choose our partners it gave us the opportunity to get to know someone different. In my case, my partner was Thomasina who is Mohawk. Hearing her perspective on what we were researching gave an important value to our final wiki. As a matter of fact, putting our research together was very interesting because during our group discussions we got the chance to examine the different approaches that we could take to draft our wiki text.

In addition, in some classes that require presentations, students are responsible for their presentations, but they do not have to be responsible for their classmate’s material, and even less to analyze it in deep. In contrast, the fact that each week we had to submit a deep reflection on every subject gave us the opportunity to understand the entire class material and draw our own conclusions.

Also, it prepares us for each class. Therefore, we were already familiar with the powerpoint presentation. This made our individual analysis about the different issues deeper and more concrete. This means that the way the class was set up gave us the opportunity to really understand the material.

Finally, the weekly reflections and the wiki project challenged me. It made me focus on improving my skills when it comes to communicating my ideas with strong arguments. It really incentivized me to improve my capacity of synthesis. An ability that I think is of extreme relevance when it comes to analyzing and understanding a subject. However, I have always struggled with this, and now because of the wiki reflections and the wiki project, I think I have improved my synthesis abilities. I believe that I improved in choosing the ideas that are relevant and also improved in the process of gathering the relevant information of a text.

Thomasina Iahontsi:io Phillips

With regards to the collective project, I found the experience motivating for a variety of reasons, including that it takes the course material beyond the classroom, which is rare among other university courses in my field. The project was also well-suited to the strengths of each students, since there are a variety of roles the students can play, including researchers and writers, editors or web-designers. I found the collective project to be a unique approach to making the course material relevant for each student, since each was responsible for a particular section and for the content we put online. Because the material is for public viewing, the student is encouraged to stay actively involved in the course, since they must write on an ongoing basis about the readings, and provide their personal thoughts on the material. This aspect was also unique to the course, in that we were forced/asked to somehow try to relate to the material.

In addition to those course components, there is also a strong element of learning to make the work engage with the public somehow. I really enjoyed this aspect since in other courses it is assumed that the work is for the professor only and the material is isolated, therefore not useful. Preparing web content was challenging, but rewarding. Also, as students, we are rarely encouraged to use internet content, especially wikipedia as a learning tool, in fact we’re mostly warned against using internet sources and plagiarism, which this course demonstrates is a narrow approach when we could be instead building useful content for others. To share the work we’ve done with the public makes the work we’re doing seem more useful, and so caused me to be more enthusiastic about and thoughtful of the work I was producing. This caused me to be careful to not editorialize too much.

The element of collaboration was also a positive aspect to this course. By allowing students to engage in class discussions, we were able to establish personal connections with other students, and get an idea of their perspectives, which was useful in understanding some of the issues in the material (especially when the material is about race-relations). At times, I was shocked to hear some opinions, amused by others, but ultimately encouraged that people are thinking and talking about indigenous issues. I like that I was forced in some way to consider the opinions of others that I would usually dismiss as outrageous or offensive and try to understand ‘why’ or ‘how’ my colleague could arrive at their conclusions on a particular issue. It helped me to assess and understand the cultural differences and similarities between us.

Yves-Albert Mutuyimana

This project is great because of two things, it’s informative and engaging, both very important elements in learning. The idea that each student contributes their ideas and what they have learned is what makes it special. The page will remain visible for times to come, hopefully a reference to those interested in the subject matter. My colleague and I had an interesting topic, Beyond the Indian Act, and from the start we decided on our approach, I was going to focus on the general aspect of the topic, as she would tackle the women issue among Aboriginal communities, and how they are making a remarkable progress. The topic is large, and there are so many things to talk about, I decided to focus on key proposals made by those who vocalize the need to reform or repeal the Indian act. However, even that seemed to be a vast part of the topic that I exceeded the amount of words allowed in my paper. I was fortunate to work with my colleague, Lily Tandel, because she is very knowledgeable on the issues of Aboriginal women, and their communities.

Another important part of this project is the weekly reflections we handed in every week. This showed what we understood, or how we felt about each topic of the week. It goes from the experts’ view point, to those who are reading the material and commenting their takeaway. It was an opportunity to express our view and expand on the readings with outside sources. Sometimes when you take a class, it can be useless if you don’t feel a connection to the readings or the assignments, but if you are involved and your contribution is valued, it becomes a much more interesting and memorable class. This project does exactly that, and we can all say with confidence, that we were a part of a class project that required our insight, vision, and personal talent. Higher learning is supposed to expand your accrued knowledge, and put it into practice. Such project as the Wiki page, demonstrates that students have a greater understanding and appreciation of the subject, and they can actually inform anyone with questions regarding the topic at hand. It was an awesome experience; I cannot wait to see how the whole project turns out. So far it looks amazing, and with every things else added, it will reflect a great effort, talent and the intellect of the teacher and the class.

Liza Myers

Overall I have found this experience to be beneficial and interesting. I have never taken part in the creation of a wiki before, nor have I taken part in an assignment that was structured in this manner. It was helpful to read the reflections of other students while writing your own topic, it helped with finding what themes stood out among others and therefore should definitely make their way into your wiki portion. It provided a way to meet other people in the class and collaborate on a mutual assignment. In my area of study (political science) team projects aren’t a popular route chosen by professors so it’s always nice to get experience in situations which are sure to show up in real life (post university). I enjoy reflective writing, which again isn’t something that many of my past professors have asked as they usually request we speak through other writers with more “auctoritas” than ourselves so we sound more credible. Of course having credible sources was required for this project as well, but there was also room to write on your own personal experience with the readings which I feel helps you to intake the information much better as it forces you to draw conclusions and emotions from the text.

Maria Zaplatina

At the beginning of the semester I thought the Wiki project was extremely confusing; I could not conceive the final product in my mind because I was not sure what exactly it was supposed to be and how it would work in terms of putting all the bits of the vast amount of information together. However, seeing the actual site last class was a pleasant surprise because I did not expect it to look like an actual Wikipedia page. I believe not knowing the process of creating a Web page interfered with my understanding of how all the material learnt in class would be summed up on a site; indeed, my team only completed a summary on one of the ten subjects related to the Indian Act. Now that I have seen the whole picture: the actual page, images, links to all of the topics we have covered in class, I believe it was a great collective work. In fact, not very good with computer sciences, I would never be able to complete such an assignment on my own, but having groups carrying out different parts of the final product: content, reporting, editing and web teams, has allowed for successful completion of an informative site. Indeed, the amount of material on the Indian Act is huge and it would not be easy for one person to compile it all in a concise manner given the semester’s timeframe. But the fact that the tasks were divided among teams so that each content group was able to fully concentrate on one subject for the summary; and that the editing team was able to adjust all the stylistic problems; and that the reporting team kept track of the progress while the Web team created the actual Wiki, was a good way of going about the collective project.

Despite the fact that I have not yet seen the final Wiki page due to the fact that simply not all subjects have been updated to the site yet, I know it would be a well done job, and it already gives me a great sense of satisfaction. Seeing how well it is coming along and being able to conceive the final product has made me feel good about creating such a site because it is incredibly important to raise awareness about the issues surrounding aboriginal communities, especially one of such magnitude as the Indian Act. It would be great to know that people are benefitting from the knowledge we acquired throughout this course and from the work we completed as a team. I think creating a Wiki in this class as a collective project was a great idea, and I am very glad it was successful.

Marco Raimondo

This has been the first time I’ve ever experienced creating a wiki and I sincerely enjoyed the experience. I was completely oblivious to what the Amerindians had truly experienced at the hands of the federal government and the fact that I had to read and reflect on each chapter allowed me to grasp a deeper understanding of the hardship’s that they had experienced. Often times when there is only a few tests over the course of a semester students will be forced to cram their lessons into a one week memorization segment in order to score well on the tests. Cramming and memorizing isn’t necessarily the most effective way to truly understand a topic, reading and reflecting is. By providing weekly reflections I felt as though I was forced to not only understand on the writer’s message but also expand on their ideas. Through extensive reading and writing it is undeniable that the Canadian government has not been very fair towards its Indigenous population and done very little to properly compensate them for their troubles. Creating a wiki also provides additional awareness towards a very important subject in Canadian history. The more people that will be informed about this issue will provide a higher chance of change. Although the wiki reflections did allow for a great learning experience weekly questions could be a great way to enhance the quality of the reflections.It was very difficult to not be vague or predictable in the reflections because our goal was simply to read and provide our thoughts. Should we have to express our thoughts on a specific topic it would facilitate the writer’s experience and most probably strengthen the writer’s abilities to create more concrete statement. Leaving the reflections open to discuss whatever the reader feels about the subject does provide for a series of possible answers which is fantastic in the sense that different conclusions provide for a better chance at solving some of the issues. I believe that if there are too many different, but still great opinions, will just lead towards vague conclusions. By building on one thought and having several opinions contribute towards a series of related thoughts will enable our wiki to be stronger and attractive to our readers. Another possible way to improve the wiki responses is to make them due every two weeks rather than every week and ask for five hundred words as opposed to two hundred and fifty twice. A five hundred word reflection provides for a more elaborate explanation of one’s thoughts. A two hundred and fifty word reflection is more of a brief overview of the subject. I thoroughly enjoyed the experience and felt it was a very innovative study approach. I will definitely leave this class with a better understanding of the historical events that have taken place in comparison to other history classes seeing that it was imperative that I deliver an opinion on each topic covered.