Blogging to you from the outskirts of Vegas…. Las Vegas New Mexico. A guy just got off the train there just for the enchiladas.
I cannot fully explain why I feel at home, reassured by these vast open spaces of rock and scrub brush and sky. I overhear the passengers from New Jersey and Florida and Virginia shake their heads at what looks like a wasteland to people accustomed to malls and golf courses.
It’s the light, especially now on the leading edge of sunset, the infinite sky, and mostly a sense if a land do old it does not give a f*** about humans.
Even the tiny hamlets full if rusting rebar, pickups on blocks, heaps on busted cinderblocks…. Appeals to me.
I awoke in Flagstaff ready to roll at 3:40 am. There was a text message that my train was going to be 2 hours late. Do I catch some more sleep? It also said trains can “make up time” (it did the opposite) so it was not worth it to me to risk a miss.
The Amtrak station had a handful of other sleepy schedule victims, we lie knowing we share the same fate. A chatty old lady with a polish accent was eager to talk to everyone. She was sweet. She said “I only went to five years of school but I learned five languages.”
Another retired couple from
Pittsburgh asked alot about how different the world was these days. When I mentioned I was from Baltimore, the man got a little stiff necked and said “you know what that means?”
I failed and he reminded me of the rivalry of the Steelers and the Ravyns. “Not my fight” said I. He was immensely under impressed by the Grand Canyon “After you see it and take a photo, there’s not much else.”
I just smile, not in agreement not in anything I could muster an opinion besides, “Good, we need less people like you clogging that space.”
We boarded and the train set out. The space, even in the coach cheap seats is huge! And they recline almost full. Sleeping will be no problem (I already napped teice
We paralleled I-40, a route I’ve gone many times, like January of 2013 when I drove to Virginia. We cruised past Winslow AZ, Gallup and Albuquerque NM. I’m reading meaningless novels, taking random photos, did a few mini ds106radio broadcasts, tinkered a bit with my workshop materials for Tuesday, and posted about 4 Cinemagrams. Totally productive.
I ate lunch in the dining car with a retired couple from Rochester. After trading train and travel stories there was not much more I could muster. I might skip the dinner and munch my crackers and cheese I brought.
We duck into Colorado tonight and Kansas, friends are messaging me about tornados in Kansas.
I’m totally stoked about this pace of travel, soaking it in.
Disclaimer: Yet another blog post without a destination in mind; this is in the vein of open ended wondering, probably ripe for shooting arrows at. Batteries not included, void where prohibited.
I’ve been dabbling, writing, teaching about digital storytelling for years, I still cannot tell you what it is, as a definition. For sometime, I’;ve had this niggling question that has been knocking to be written out. It is a question.
Is there a difference (or anything meaningful) in making a distinction between when storytelling is used as a strategy for some other goal as opposed to a goal in itself (just to tell a story)?
A few months ago I was at a conference, and sitting in a session on SEO. OI think it was because I did not move quick enough out of the previous session, and got trapped in the middle of a row.
A woman got up in front of the room; she was a good speaker, enthusiastic, and introduced her SEO company and explained what they do.
“We are just storytellers. Period.”
I got little queasy.
I mean c’mon, you get paid money to improve some company’s placement in search results. Yes, you tell a “story” of that company, but its for the express purpose of a business advantage.
Ugh, am I some kind of holier than thou storytelling snob?
clients define and give voice to what’s best and most distinctive about them–and use the power of who they really are to create compelling brands, develop inspired leaders and deeply engage their workforces.
I mean that actually sound compelling and something I’d want if I was some CEO.
And then it becomes a thing we do to tell stories with data (and people I really respect do a lot of powerful work here)– when I look at sites like this, they are dominated by the tools and the techniques, and I am not rarely seeing the story. Yes, it is finding ways to elicit meaning, direction, maybe interpretation out of data, but are these really stories? With a jpurney of a hero, an arc, the overcoming of obstacles?
I have seem amazing ways to represent complex data, amazing ways to elicit trends, patterns, but is there really a story that data tells, or is it we tell stories with data? Or ???
I am not criticizing, I am just asking, fumbling with the question.
I do this myself in my workshops, where I urge people to use storytelling techniques to create a message that is more approachable, interesting etc.
So dont get me wrong, I am fully in support of using storytelling as a means to an end, but for some reason it bristles me when it comes off as being something more spiritual or ethereal (scracth that,s top using fancy words you neoliberal so and so…)
What is the difference, if any, when the end goal is just to craft a story, when Story (capital) ia the goal? I honestly was tipped here a while ago from a conversation with Barbara Ganley, when she told me why she loved the community of Cowbird, because it was to her, a place of people outside the mainstream, who were solely aiming for creating stories for the sake of stories.
I’ve been thinking to a lot about the word “storytelling” and how I bring it to workshops and presentations I have done (and are doing like next week). The word itself to me suggests the performance part, the idea that someone really good at it (like Barbara) are really powerful at the telling part. And while I believe that everyone does and can tell stories, the connotation that comes up is that really passionate, engaging person in the spotlight with a microphone.
If the word really mattered, I’d rather be talking about Storymaking than storytelling, because that is the stuff I like do- creating, manipulating, I feel more comfortable saying I am a Maker of stories than a Teller of stories.
Like I said, this is just one those free form posts of little purpose than to try and capture some thoughts. To be honest the name, and even the intent dont really matter as much as the making. Stop spending so much time retweeting links and gushing over TED Talks, get your butt over to ds106 for the next 5 weeks of the Twilight Zone flavored class Jim Groom is leading, and make some story art.
But if you got some insight or more likely, some criticism, bring ‘em
I kind of forgot how funky, cool, and outgoing a town is Flagstaff. After settling in at the Monte Vista Hotel, downing some custom brewed coffee, i walked towards the sound fo drums, and found this group of young people dancing, chanting, and pounding drums.
I’m here for the tracks, and was treated to a steady round of maybe 10 different freight trains passing. I have to wait til 4:41 am for my Amtrak to come in
I’ve driven as far as I need to on this trip, 70 miles to Flagstaff.
My neighbor was going to drive me here, but he shopped by 2 hours before our planned departure and said he was a bit too nauseous to drive. I was able to ask another friend to drive, even though it was his birthday!
But I thought to check options for long term parking in Flagstaff and saw that you can park for free at Pulliam airport, so that’s where Red Dog sits now. This works well since I return in 3 weeks in the evening, and I can then drive right home and save the cost of a hotel.
I’m in the coffee bar at the Hotel Monte Vista, a fab place 2 blocks from the train station, and where Giulia and I had a ton of fun last July on our mini road trip.
I’ve only got 12 hours in town; my trsin for Chicago then Cleveland leaves at 4:41am Ouch. It’s 36 hours to Chicago! But then I get to hang out a few hours with @drgarcia
The Amtrak app has some nice features to reference your tickets and train status. They also have some sort of Passport thing with checkins and badges (or stamps in their parlance). I might get bored of that in a day.
Lets get this train a rolling! Stay tuned to ds106radio for traincasts.
Tomorrow I hit the road again, actually so Saturday I can hit the rails. This is the start of a 3 week trek to the East coast and back. Having done a lot of airline travel, and in 2011-2012 going back and forth by driving, I got this idea/hallucination that it would be fun to travel by train. That way, I go at a slower pace than flying, am not squeezed into a tiny spot, but am not responsible for driving. You know, I am just sitting there looking wistfully out the window, or reading intense novels, or getting caught up in all night poker games.
Standard stuff (that happens in movies).
The reasons for doing this are two events, a May 21 workshop at The College of Wooster (Ohio). For the past few years, Jon Breitenbucher has invited me in via Skype to do a 50+ Web 2.0 Ways to Tell a Story workshop for the Wooster Faculty Fellows program. I suggested to Jon that it might be better to do this in person! And he bought that one.
So my grand scheme was to do both trips together, and try the train as a means to get there. Ask me how this plan looks after the first 48+ hour leg. I am able to catch Amtrak out of Flagstaff (friends will drive me there and back). It’s not quite the friendly departure, since I leave 4:40am Saturday morning. I get to Chicago 36 hours later, and with a 6 hour layover, I hope to meet up with GNA Garcia for dinner. I then motor out in the evening to get to Cleveland on May 20.
I will have a few extra days to hang out in Wooster; on the May 25 I have another crazy early train out of Cleveland, a stop in Schenectady, and then on to Rutland, Vermont. I get a few days to visit and stay with Barbara Ganley in Middlebury (and hopefully a trip up the mountain to see Bryan Alexander). I then travel with Barbara into New York for the symposium at Baruch.
After the event, I’ll visit Mikhail Gershovich for a Memorial Day BBQ, and ten start the route back in June 2. I’ve planned a few days in Chicago so I can visit longer with GNA as well as to catch up with Steve Dembo (and maybe David Jakes if he is around). I aim back to Arizona on June 6, getting to Flagstaff on June 7.
I might have stretched it more, but I am scheduled to do a Grand Canyon Rim to Rim hike on June 13.
The fun part comes tomorrow morning as I try to get 3 weeks of clothes in my small bag
I am hoping the train is a relaxing mode to go, between seeing the country roll by, getting to read, listen to podcasts, etc, usual contemplate meaning of life stuff. As internet allows, I will see what kind of ds106 radio I can pump out.
My pal Todd Conaway invited me to be a speaker at his school, Yavapai College, in Prescott, where they are running a three day faculty institute (Todd claims when he started, this event ran fo 6 days, that is hard core!). Yavapai is a multi campus system that serves the county of the same name.
I faintly recall attending a regional conference at this campus in the mid 1990s when I was a young mullett headed kid at Maricopa, but I hardly recognized it. I was told they had a major buildout since then. It’s quite modern with a lot of well done architectural design touches, and reflects much fo the college’s focus on community and fitness.
Todd asked me to do a round of Amazing True Stories of Openness- the audience was really into it, but I think I may have had more fun then they did. This was a brand new version,with new stories collected, and a bit nore background as a set up on the original idea for the web envisioned by its creator, Tim Berners-Lee. The slides and resources are available
As always when I do this, I wonder about the balance of playing the videos- what good is a presentation where I just go up there and play videos? There are more than 50 now on http://stories.cogdogblog.com/
Kudos to the amazing Thatcher for covering the session in video
I also sved some room at the end to ask about the barriers to sharing- I used a copy of the shared whiteboard responses I got when I did this session in March for ETMOOC:
Barriers to Sharing (click for full size)
It really struck me how much these barriers all stem from self-doubt, a sense that their stuff is not worthy in their minds. Being humble is one thing, but this goes beyond modesty, this is pervasive from what I have seen in sessions elsewhere. Most everybody pre-judges their own work as somehow less interesting or value. I don;t know what to do with this, but I am really intrigued to talk more about this. It paralyzes open sharing into not happening.
I also organized for the first time a list of rather general suggestions:
Start Small. It need not be a lot of things shared, and it need not even be things you made. It can be ideas, teaching activities, gradin strategies.
Make it Useful It should be something that goes beyond what you do in class, something that adds value fo your students first. Quite a few of the newer examples are ones where teachers are recording extra content, tutorials (or in one case, reading the text for students who might not be able to afford it). This alone is helpful to your students, and that could be it locked inside an LMS. But it takes no more effort to make it available to the world, and help others at really no extra effort. This was Curtis’s story, where the videos he was recording for his Yavapai Spanish students helped a man in Australia learn Spanish on his own.
Be Yourself Put some personality into your stuff, come across as human. We have enough academic pomp and third person narratives. Let’s be human!
Find Your Comfort Level (and go Beyond) I feel rather strongly about this- there is no learning or growth without stretching, and this is a pretty low risk way to extend your skills or abilities. Don’t just do what you know how to do, nudge yourself up a notch.
Participate With Others It’s not just a matter of sharing out, and sitting back and waiting for the magic. The juice for the machine is when you participate in the space of other people, give feedback, connect through social media.
I did manage to broadcast most of this to #ds106radio, but dont have a recording. But Thatcher Bohrman was video recording.
And as I like to do, I asked for a volunteer to stand up and share a story on the spot. I appreciate David, a new adjunct faculty member, explaining why he chose to release his dissertation under an open license and becoming the newest story added:
And then the unexpected happened. Dean Stacey Hilton, who I have to really thank for sponsoring my visit, had read my bio, and was curious about what “pechaflickr was”… so I fired up a round, and Stacey along with Ian and ?? Suffi ?? all played it as good as I have ever seen, doing a moving talk about Donuts. It was so over the top, it glowed!
I had such an excellent day. There was a lively copyright/fair use session led by Thatcher and ?? Mike. At lunch retiring photography teacher Tom Gerczynsk was recognized by a Fellowship award. We might have overlapped because he taught at Phoenix College back in the 1990s. Hearing his down to earth teaching philosophy, seeing the video of s students out in the field learning their craft, and seeing how many of them came out to support him was moving. Plus Tom has incredible chops as a pro photographer, his images of commercial private jets are stunning.
You can blame the liberal media if you want, but let’s face it, it’s you! Students often are not good problems solvers because you (and I) set them up to fail with poor instructional design, especially when students are learning concepts for the first time. This session will look at research in Cognitive Load Theory and its arguments against constructivist instructional approaches such as Problem Based Learning, Discovery Learning, Inquiry Learning and other minimally guided instructional approaches, especially amongst novice learners. The session will also consider a few easy ways to improve students’ problem solving abilities through sound instructional design.
It was so refreshing to be among passionate teachers who are doing incredible work with students that never would see the light of The Chronicle of Higher Education or a TED Talk. These are relationships and experiences students will never get in a MOOC or some Walmart model of online education. The whole day did wonders to clean the foul stench of MOOC bullshit I’ve been reading lately.
So thanks Todd, Thatcher, Stacey, and everyone else I met and forgot their names for a fantastic day i Prescott. As always, I feel like I get more out of these events than maybe I can give (oops there is the self effacing reflex) (guilty).
Oh yes, and if they every ask you to play badminton… oh forget it.
When Jim Groom lights up #ds106 you can feel the energy waves transmorgify. I for one am darned excited because I now get to be a humble open participant in ds106, and the 5 week may summer session of the #ds106zone already has that giddy feeling as people are riding the momentum.
When jim had first described the idea of re-writing/producing classic twilight Zone episodes with a modern slant, one that jumped out me was the last one from Season 1, A World Of His Own. Writer Gregory West apparently is so good at character creation, he can actually conjure them up in real peace just be describing them into his microphone. His wife, Victoria, is not pleased to see the blonde vixen Gregory creates to talk to, and alas, we see he undoes his creation by removing the tape and tossing it on the fire.
That is some creative power.
What I always liked about this episode is the fun play in the closing comments- usually Rod Serling is off in his own space with the commentary, but here he interacts with the characters, and we see how powerful Gregory West really is:
A Serling of His Own?
To make this GIF, I grabbed the second part of the series from YouTube, used pwnYouTube to save as MP4, and trimmed (MPEG StreamClip) the closing bit where Serling gets his dose. I save as a .mov since thats what PhotoShop CS5 can import into layers (using every 10th frame). I then went through the frames to remove as many non essential ones as needed, played with the timing. It’s a longer sequence than I normally do, but black and white videos are good fog GIFfing because you can reduce the color palette- I got it down to just `6 colors, so although 36 frames, its just a shade over 1 Mb.
I thought of this episode as maybe a recasting for the idea of moden digital identities. We create them ourselves, and maybe some people get good enough that their constructed personas are mistaken for real people. I cannot seem to find the info, but there was some case in New Zealand in the late 1990s, where some librarian won an internet award, and her whole persona turned out to be conjured up by some IT dude.
The Internet needs a delete button, Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt said Monday.
Actions someone takes when young can haunt the person forever, Schmidt said, because the information will always be on the Internet. He used the example of a young person who committed a crime that could be expunged from his record when he’s an adult. But information about that crime could remain online, preventing the person from finding a job.
“In America, there’s a sense of fairness that’s culturally true for all of us,” Schmidt said. “The lack of a delete button on the Internet is a significant issue. There is a time when erasure is a right thing.”
Now if any entity has the ability to make content disappear, it is Google. They have numerous times made content “deleted” by removing it from the search results.
Introducing Googly West, who has a World of Its Own?
I know many people can nod with agreement about the sad case of created by Schmidt- but check this assumption at the door- “But information about that crime could remain online, preventing the person from finding a job.” This is not a technical issue but a policy one.
Now of course if said false news was out there about me, I might feel differently right?
It is a weak argument to suggest that one false fact about me on the internet would prevent me from getting a job. And this is the thing about the internet- we have to accept that for the value of everything gained from free and open information, that there can be wrong information out there, maybe dangerous.
And that is why being an advocate of openness means that I am not a mere victim of someone else’s erroneous information, if I am actively maintaining and publishing my own stream of positive content. That is the heart fo Reclaiming Our Identity- not “taking it back” but Asserting it Ourselves. So if you are leaving your online tracks to be cast by Facebook/Google/Twitter et al, well you are not asserting.
But who am I to think I know more about the internet than the Executive Chairman of Google? I make no claim. But his claim that “we need a delete button” throws a stake in the heart of the concept of the open web, because it says then that someone. some entity some company say located in southern California, controls what is on or not on the internet. It says that someone gets to make a judgement call.
From my 20+ years of being online, that is not how the ecosystem works.
And we do not want to live in that Twilight Zone? It’s not Gregory West tossing our tapes on the fire or Eric Schmidt pressing a Big Red Button- that is one us to be actively doing/managing/asserting in out online activity.
Woah, what started as a GIF ended up in a rant. I’m eager to play some more with the Zone, but GIFs are low hanging fruit, it will get more interesting when we see more design riffs and mashups/remixes happen.
I saw it myself- my own short term fix was to open a web browser where I was not logged into flickr.
If you want some details, scroll on other wise, get the new scripts (still on the burner is to enable the Chrome one to be updated, for now you have to delete it an re-install) (see what a lousy coder I am?).
The way these work is that your browser invokes them only on pages from flickr.com. It uses something known as XML Path Language (XPath) to find certainly elements in the web page structure. It figures out if the flickr page is even creative commons licensed by looking for a particular span element that flickr uses to wrap the little icons:
<span class="ccIcn ccIcnSmall">...</span>
or the exact code:
var iscc = document.evaluate("//span[@class='ccIcn ccIcnSmall']",
document, null, XPathResult.FIRST_ORDERED_NODE_TYPE,
It then does a few gymnastics to assemble the attribution code embedded in a textarea box.
Now the tricky part was finding where to insert that in the page when the script modifies the output. It needs to find a specific div and than append the HTML for the attribution after it.
What I had done on the last update was find two possible places- there was one div and class used when it is for someone else’s page, and a difference div and class when it is your own photo. It’s tricky, because when flickr decides to make a change to their output, it can break my script.
And this recent break is as simple as on your own photos, it seemed to have added an extraneous space in a class name- it should be:
but sometime in the last few days, someone slipped on their template add the class name had an extra space
They will likely fix this, so I retreated, and instead of trying to find the two different divs, I was able to hang the output after the div for the entire right side sidebar (I thought I had tried this before, but it seemed to work today).
If I was better I would code it as some sort of overlay or interface that slides in from the side. I really do not want to have to tweak the code each time flickr tweaks their templates for output.
I have to say, these fixes are easier to test and check in Firefox. I can locate the script inside my preference files, make changes, and they are reflected when the page is reloaded. Chrome is a bit more obtuse.
I am hard core dedicated to keeping the attribution tools afloat.
And as a bit of curious, I wonder if it is a bit of code humor or a typo/mispelling that the div id for the sidebar is named sidecar.
As elementary school student in the early 1970s, our schedules at Bedford Elementary (like schools everywhere likely) were periodically interrupted for full school assemblies. We’d line up our chairs in the gymnasium trying to see the activity on what then were giant TVs mounted on carts. We did this for all of the Apollo mission liftoffs, but it was the space returns that were really exciting- seeing that tiny capsule parachute down and splash in the rough seas, waiting for the hatch to open, the little heroes crawling out on rafts, and then being plucked by ladder into a helicopter.
The over-riding feeling then was one of unbridled optimism and excitement. We could send humans to the moon and back, we could do anything.
The space shuttle perhaps made space travel all a bit more mundane like just commercial airline travel (though seeing photos of the shuttle piggybacked on a transport plane was neat), and then we witnessed what happens when it went terribly wrong.
How sadly strange and unique does it seem to find a public figure who inspires, yet is humble, has fun, and lights that spirit of optimism. It does not happen in politics, our sports figures and pop culture celebrities ring more as ego focused money chasers. Why are there so few who humbly inspire by example?
If there is ever a place for people to emulate this approach, it is in the classroom- be it a room or online. Good teachers do this all the time, with no or little fanfare. When they act human (faults and all), humble, when they reach out and contact and respond to others. We need a bit more space oddity in many corners of society, not just NASA.
There’s a lot we can learn from Commander Hadfield- let me be in a long line of people to thank him for keeping the optimism light on.
Now let’s get our act together and go to Mars. And beyond.
In wrapping up a year’s experience teaching ds106 I was thinking of how the syllabus was like a mode of bread making, following someone else’s recipe, but changing up the ingredients and the process, iteratively, and getting one’s hands in the dough. And each time you bake, you tweak.
So down the post I am going to write up some of the things that went into the class map, how it evolved; there is stuff here that is not explicitly in the ds106 assignment bank that may (or not) be of value to someone else.
But there is something else.
I remain astounded that anyone with a fully functioning neocortex talking seriously about MOOCs being some model of saving educational costs when the word is each course rings up a tab of $250k (edx) or even more. What does an institution get for dropping a quarter of a million per course?
I can tell you what you do not get- an ongoing open sharing of the processes, of what worked, what did not work. Not a Udellian narrating of the process. It’s more like another loaf of pre-packaged Wonderbread off the racks.
I spent 6 months working at UMW thinking they had some magic in the water (did not taste any). But it’s a culture of open sharing, not the final products, but the makings thereof. It’s not a mindset of saying, “Look what we experts hand you like Greek gods”, it’s an ongoing narrative of trying, asking, failing, reflecting, of process, not just product.
And so, for your $250,000 course, do you get the story of how the sausage was made? Or just sausage?
When my Fall 2012 ds106 class rolled around, I realized it was ridiculous for me to proffer a definition of what “Digital Storytelling” is- a place where most courses start as their map. My map for it was- I don’t know what it is, but we will spend 16 weeks asking the question again and again. Learning should never be an end game of an answer, but the quest, right?
So for ds106, you have a history (at least all the bits I could find) of the class back to Spring 2010, it has its own digital story. You get 9 iterations of the class at UMW, both 16 week semester versions, and the summer “performance” types.
The syllabus I have been using is part of a lineage that goes back to the beginning, with changes incorporated along the way, and not just mine, but the ones of co-teaching along side Jim and Martha Burtis.
I will add that this course asks a lot of the students. We tell them up front, the scare email I learned from Jim. I encourage newly enrolled students to drop the course. We don’t want them in there without knowing the demands. And as usual, the end of class feedback is usually of the of “this is way too much work for a 100 level class”. It’s usually, but not always followed up by a “but I learned so much”.
I felt less bad about this for Spring 2013- Nearly all of my students were seniors, getting their last credits in. They are experienced students.
But there is something else that ought to be its own post– I firmly believe that learning should be hard. We need to push learners- not make it hurt or hard just for the sake of being hard, but I feel like a lot of education hinges on making it easy, not hard. What accomplishment is truly worth achieving if it is easy?
Also, note that my year of ds106 includes teaching it once as face to face, and 3 semesters (one a 10 week summer session) as a fully online class. In all cases, 90% of my students finished and passed (out of 25 students). There was no change in that in an online class.
A cornerstone of the students work is a weekly summary of their work as a blog post on their blog. It was Martha’s idea that we require them to enter that as a URL in Canvas to document their assignment work for the week. I still am in favor of this approach- I get a snapshot of their blog at the time of submission, I can review and give some grade, and students get a better measure of where they stand. I can comment there on things might not do on their blog, and it makes the final grading really straight forward.
The downside is I have a glut of work, since 90% of their blogging happens in the last 2 days of the week. I read easily over 1200 student blog posts this semester.
We do not do a tremendous amount of reading chapters or articles in the course. We have no textbook beyond this free one called “The Open Web”. There are weeks when their are required viewings of videos or audio content, but the gist of the course is making stuff, and writing in their own digital space about the process of making stuff.
The other thing I love about the class is that I am not teaching software. We do not require tools they should use. They can use whatever software they oen for image, audio, video editing; we provide a resource of open source and free web based media tools. They qiuckly learn to first try finding the answers to using tools themselves. There are more how to tutorials out there than I could create in a lifetime.
I should also note that my online class has no weekly lectures. All of the class is done by a weekly post of work to do. I offered each week an optional live session on Google Hangout, themed as “The ds106 Show” (students had a participating requirement to join me for at least one episode). I found these incredibly valuable to have conversations with the students and the open participants who joined me. The production of these was nil — my cost was I decided to do a series of silly promo videos for each week
I also set up optional open drop in labs for students, but participation falls off quickly as their schedules get busy.
The keys to me are frequent commenting on their blogs, and responding to their questions on twitter- that community space only makes sense if they see a quick value to it.
Weeks 1 & 2: Bootcamp
This is an idea that came from Martha and I teaching in parallel in Fall 2012. The first two weeks are focused on getting the students up to speed quickly in managing their install of WordPress, blogging, organizing things in categories, customizing with themes, plugins, widgets.
We wanted to get this out of the way, so in week 6 I was not having to remind them about using hyperlinks and embedding media. I start them early with an understanding what I want in their writing up assignments, that its more than just posting a piece of media.
They start right away doing Daily Creates. In the first week, I made sure there was a simple video one as we saw it powerful to be able to see each other and the place we did our work. I would link to it, but YouTube gas totally fubared their own tagging system, so finding videos by tag is seriously broken.
They are asked to look at advice from pervious students, something they will come full circle to do at the end of the class (another brilliant Martha Burtis idea)
Students love the Daily Create.. for weeks. I usually require 3-4 per week. They are not graded on what they do, but I give feedback. Their attitude towards it seems to plateau mid-semester. I can tell when they reach this point when it starts to look more perfunctory. Not all the students get to that point, but I keep tabs on it, and drop it as a required thing usually when we start doing video.
I had the most blog ready set of students in my last class, liekly because a good number of them had been writing on UMW Blogs for 4 years. That goes a long way to explain the “water” theory at UMW (it’s not in the water, it’s in the WordPress).
In the challenge part, their last bootcamp task is that we give them an assignment (make an animated GIF) and do not provide any instructions on how to do it (besides a few reference links). The goal here is not the media they create, but that they learn the “ds106 way” of not expecting the course to provide all the steps, but to find their own way.
In semesters past, we had them read a selection from Bryan Alexander’s excellent book but I got tired of seeing parroting of readings. They get some videos to watch that offer some insight (Kurt Vonnegot’s Shape of Stories always a hit).
I actually want them to blog their oen ideas on entering the course, of what storytelling conjures up, and what they think adding “digital” means. At the end of the semester I ask them to revisit this and reflect on what has changed, or not. They start ramping up their creating, with some story creating activities.
Week 4: Introduction to Audio
Martha and I moved audio earlier in the semester– they get a heavy dose in the middle when they do radio shoes .Nearly every student dreads audio, and we thought by starting them earlier gives them a longer run with it. We introduce the mid term group audio show project so they can start thinking about it and forming teams, so the work is segmented in the next weeks when we move into visual and design activities.
So we start like all of our media- an observation/listening activity. I have them listen to selected audio storytelling from This American Life, The Truth, and Radiolab, so they can start paying attention to the nuances they may not normally hear- use of music, cuts, overlaid tracks, sound effects (foley), ambient sounds. I use an edited down version of a Radiolab episode where I have marked these things to listen for as soundcloud comments
I ask them to listen to a few videos by the makers of these shows. And they get their first audio creation assignment, a five sound story. It’s just to get them doing simple audio editing.
Alsot every student dreads audio going in. It’s the Rodney Dangerfield of media, it just gets no respect. By the time we move past audio, most of them have a new appreciation for it. A few still hate it. But I emphasize that good audio on its own makes other projects (e.g. when they do video).
These are often the favorite portions of the semester. The assignments here are fun and very doable. They get experience image editing; I really encourage them to use an editor that allows creating in layers (as it becomes obvious that stuff done in Microsoft Paint just looks crappy). They dont need Photoshop, GIMP has all they need, even if the interface can make you cuss, and the online editor pixlr is pretty darn sophisticated.
Each week has a “Safari” type challenge, something Jim and I found worked well in our face to face class, was to give them a creative challenge to do in a limited time frame and using what was around them.
Both of these fall into a meta layer of ds106 I call “Seeing the World Differently” — students end up looking at their surroundings and noticing what they did not even see before.
And one that I love, and the timing works for it, is the Valentine Day’s challenge — because it was created for us by a former ds106 student. Sarah contacted Jim in Spring 2012, and challenged our classes to modify some cheesy sappy valentine’s day card with new captions. It’s not a huge technical task, but doe shave them probing a bit more with their visual editing.
For week 4, there is a “photo blitz”, essentially a scavenger hunt of things to capture photos of in a 20 minute time span (their first and last images need to be a clock).
Make an ordinary object look more interesting, almost supernatural.
Take a photo that makes use of converging lines.
Take a photo dominated by a single color
Take a photo of something at an unusual angle
Take a photo of two things that do not belong together.
Take a photo that represents the idea of “openness”
Take a photo that expresses a human emotion
Take a photo emphasizes mostly dark tones or mostly light ones.
Make a photo that is abstract, that would make someone ask, “Is that a photograph?”
Take a photo of an interesting shadow.
Take a photo that represents a metaphor for complexity.
Take a photo of someone else’s hand (or paw)
The outcome is predictable, as they write of looking at their rooms, class buildings, campus in a new way.
When we move into Week 6 and doing design assignments (the line between visual and design is always fuzzy), they are getting more experienced at picking things from the assignment bank, and writing them up.
As a variant on the photo blits, there is a design assignment to review some design concepts outlined in a shared doc, and to find examples of 3 or 4 of them as they go about their week. Again, it’s trying to see these design principles not in some book or video, but where they live. They add their example links to the google doc.
Weeks 7 & 8: Group Audio Projects
This segment amps up the stakes, because not only do they have to deal with a media they still may dread, there is the expected dysfunction of group projects, and it is a segment where the deadlines are moved from weekly to having 2 weeks span (and this time, it was 3 because spring break was in the middle).
The final audio shows are broadcast the week later on ds106 radio, an event I just love. Its fun because their work goes live, we challenge them to grow us an audience (I think we did top 30 listeners), but also because at least one team member has to join me live on the radio to talk about their shows.
It is both pain and joy to see the group dynamics pan out. We had some drama this time around, and a lot of ideal group activity too. They have to figure out how to work together. I did not see any groups this time where it all fell on one person. And the production value this time was really high.
It would be easier, if all they had to do was individual audio assignments, but the group dynamic is one of those things that are hard for them, yet the challenge is one of those growth ops.
They also had their own audio assignments to do. One of the required one was taking a 30 second segment of a Charlie Chaplin sequence, and recoding the foley sounds that might work with the action (this idea came from Scott Lockman in Spring 2012 when my in class students performed their foley live). For this time around, their segment to do was based on a formula of what month was their birthday; I wanted a mix of segments for a later assignment.
Week 9: Stories in and of the web
This is one of those “only in ds106″ ideas- that we have students explore how stories might be told within the construct of the web itself, within neither the comment space of sites, or of creatively re-writing web pages to tell a new story.
We’ve come a long way since the first few times of wrestling with the Firebug tool, Mozilla’s Hackasaurus is a gem of a tool, and students have a lot of fun seeing how they can recast a web page. Some of them get a better sense of how web content is assembled. Generally, most of them dont go as far as I would like with changing up a web page.
To add some juice to student commenting (I still struggle for a magic postion to have them learn to comment just for the sake of commenting), I came up with a new idea- they were to create a fake persona and have that character leave comments (or engage with other fakers) on each other’s blogs. That was a win.
Week 10: Reading Movies
Again, another level of noticing a media before starting to create it. I had a few required viewings on movie making, and yes, a reading of Ebert’s How to Read a MOvie (sadly he passed away the week before!).
I have an activity I came up with for Fall 2012 I am really happy with, the three part scene review. I provide a list of YouTube collections of famous movie scenes, and ask the students to view it 3 times and to record their thoughts:
Turn down the volume, and notice the camera work- cuts, angles, character placement.
Turn down the visual, and pay attention to just the audio- dialogue, foley, sound effects, ambient.
Watch it normally, and comment on how the first two work together.
Weeks 11 and 12: Movie Making
Video editing brings together much of the semester so far, so their only task for these two weeks is doing video assignments from the bank. This time, I required them to do opening titles, closing credits, and I was looking for their writeups to reference sources for all of their video.
I seemed to have to do less support for Windows Movie Maker (maybe because Andy Rush was my guest that week on the ds106 show).
Weeks 12 & 13: Remix and Mashup
The last content sections of the course, involved work that again continues movie editing in terms of putting together bits they have done all semester.
I have to say after discussion a few weeks ago (was it Giulia Forythe or Micheal Branson-Smith when we hung out in New York?) who noted that students were doing remix/mashup work all semester long, and it might be artificial to present it as something of its own at the end of the course.
So, remixing. Like I said before, this week really didn’t clear up what remixing really is. As I talked about in my video, is editing a photo I found on the internet remixing? I call it photoshopping.
I don’t even think there should be a name for either of those, to be honest. I’m taking a course on the Memory of the Civil War, and we’ve discussed a lot about how memory comes into being. Everything comes from somewhere. There are no original ideas. So why do we have to have a name for something we do naturally? Intrinsically, even? Is it because it has become part of the legal system that we need a name for it?
Students had already been getting YouTube copyright flags, and of course they got mad. “Don’t they know I am a student? I am not trying to make money. I am doing this under Fair use”
And thats the crux of Baio’s message- Fair Use is not a law. It offers no protection. All it provides is a way to argue a case if you want to spend a few hundred thousand dollars defending yourself in court.
I have to admit falling down on introducing creative commons and copyright like we typically did in earlier ds106 classes. I always found students did not really “get” creative commons just because I told them it was important. I had hoped to come back to it after they had a few rounds of creating with media, and they might reflect on the idea that they should have access to all media in their culture to create from. I cannot say I got to that message in the end.
Most of them just wanted to know how to post their video and not get flagged for copyright- to complete the assignment. We do want them to have this experience of being flagged so they can question the laws, because its going to be on them going out in the world and making these changes our generation has failed to do.
Week 15: Final Projects
In lieu of a final exam, I have students complete a final project- the specs are shared with them 2 weeks earlier so they can get started.
The first time I taught ds106, the projects were wide open as to what students could do, and so ended up their final products. Over the last few rounds, I had honed it. This time I asked them o start with a character to be the focus, the hero, it could ba real or fictional persona. Their story had to be told in multiple media created in response any of the ds106 assignments, but they had to put their character on an arc (Vonnegut’s story shape was a useful reminder). They had to assemble it all in a single blog post that combined their embedded media with narrative of their blog post.
They first had to write a post about their character choice, and that gave me room to suggest that the consider how to place their character in a different context or challenge than we know them. I asked them to surprise the audience, to play with reality.
Whew this post was a marathon, and still feels like it is scratching the surface of the experience. I’m super proud of my students, even the one who’s reflection considered the class busy work and recommended to future students “drop this course” ;-).
It’s not only the media they created but the extensive narration most of them did for their work- again, at UMW, that is what is in the water, the idea of narrating ourselves. There are pure chunks of golden bag substance on the way students articulated their experience.
Yeah, and if anyone makes it this far, let it be known how crappy my breadmaking analogy is– look at my bread!
CogDogBlog romped through 63 malcontent database thingies (who are preferring to read Edward Abbey) penning this in 2.153 seconds under a desert summer day's burn. HoPE Theme by Patrick plus my own minor tweaks.