These are my class notes and announcements related to the section of ds106, the most innovative open course ever, I am currently teaching at University of Mary Washington! For the course materials, get yerself over to ds106
ds106: Digital Storytelling Class Related Stuff
This internet can be so recursive on itself. Nada Dabbagh, Professor & Director Division of Learning Technologies at George Mason University (she is the person who invited me to teach a DS106 class for GMU starting now) emailed about an ironic event in one of her classes. She has an assignment where her students are asked to compare a constructivist learning environment and compare it to an objectivist learning environment. Without her prompting, one of the student groups had found and selected on their own, DS106 as the former.
I asked if they would share their project and was curious how they discovered DS106; she got this response:
I’m fine with sharing it with anyone who is interested.
I came across it largely by dumb luck. I had been trying to research MOOC’s as a possible option and came across the idea of a Connectivist MOOC. Then I came across a reference to ds106 as a constructivist MOOC on pinterest of all things (http://www.pinterest.com/pin/444026844482264651/), which led me right to their site.
Apparently Brenda Boyd, Director of Professional Development & Consulting for Quality Matters Program maintains a pinterest MOOC. And look where DS106 sits, right next to our pal, St Sebastian of the Thruns (not a suggestion that DS106 emerged from his head)
You can listen to the student’s project as a screencast at http://www.screencast.com/t/u4IzpiWe. I was impressed with how well they were able to encapsulate the characteristics of DS106 just from what they found on the web site.
And now form the irony department. Apparently the objectivist course the students looked at, something called Skillport, would not allow the students to use screen captures of their site in the screencast.
There’s open and then there’s _________________________
If you have been looking for a DS106 experience to join, your boat comes in March 18. That is when an online course I have been invited to teach in DS106 style starts. EDIT 572: Digital Audio/Video Design and Applications is part of a graduate certificate Instructional Design and Technology (IDT) Program at George Mason University.
Last summer Nada Dabbagh asked me if I could teach this course with a storytelling approach, even bringing the ds106 mode to it. “Are you sure?” I asked.
This class will be 7 weeks long, and is two credits, so I have been paring back a bit of what I typically do in the UMW courses (see the general syllabus).
What’s different for this course is that the students are all working employees of a major consulting firm, working on the IDT program at GMU. They have been described to me as “road warriors” meaning people who continually travel to client sites, and that their typical work week was intense Monday through Thursday, leaving the rest of the week for their studies. The folk at GMU were fine if I did not use the Blackboard LMS and require students blog in a WordPress.com site. But they were wary of asking them to create many more accounts.
The idea behind the title “DS106 Goes to Work” is asking how do/can the methods and techniques of digital storytelling be put to use outside of academia, e.g. in a work environment? This was approached so successfully last fall by Rochelle Lockridge in bringing the open DS106 inside the corporate intranet of 3M, and the paper I will co-present with her and Mariana Funes at OER14.
I see this GMU course as being somewhere between the “behind the firewall” design that Rochelle did, and the wild west open space of typical ds106.
The big question for me is not really knowing what to expect from attitudes and experiences of these students. I will have to find out and adjust as I go (same story every time I teach). That was the reason for making the video above, and to outline some information about the experience I will be emailing to students this week (the intro post for the students is baking in the blog oven)— a different flavor of the “scare email” Jim, Martha, and I have used at UMW.
So here is what is happening, I have two sections at GMU who will get the same course content (I believe one is a new cohort in the program, the others have been in it for a year). In the first week, they will be asked to set up wordpress.com blogs, and email me their sites, which i will add to ds106. There will be a page to see the posts in section 1 and another for posts from section 2, plus a way to see ones from all GMU students combined (the beauty of tagging feeds in Feed WordPress).
It will help them understand the power of an open class if the ds106 community can chip in some comments as these students start lighting up the course in 2 weeks. This is crucial- as a big important chunk I am leaving out is using twitter/Google+ with these students. It was a hard decision, but I have to limit the number of things I ask them to focus on. I did open up their Blackboard sections with just a discussion forum for Q&A, if they want a place to ask, but the amount of social interaction might be slim. I am trying to make that all take place within their blog conversations, and things I will reiterate in course videos.
But it an open course too, so if you want to follow along, tune into the weekly assignments (it even has an RSS feed for you old school readers). If you already have a blog connected to ds106, use it; otherwise sign up a blog and associate it with the open online participants.
If you are new to ds106, see our suggestions for getting started.
Maybe a shorter course commitment and not as full nuclear blast intensity as the usual DS106 might be your speed?
This is a new approach, full of unknowns and potential Bengal tiger traps.
There are some things I could use help with. For a project< i want them to identify something they come across that is some sort of instructions, explanations, that could benefit from redesigning with a more “storied” approach. I need help finding some things as examples, dull manuals or worksheets? The thing is because of the proprietary nature of their work, and for creative exercise, I want them to choose something out of their normal scope.
My original idea was to play with the genres of how companies are portrayed in movies, which seem to be mainly comical/farce or dark/evil (that was the reason for the clips used in the video above) — and probably not the only real narratives out there. Open participants are welcome to use that as a possible frame for assignments (and yes, the clips I found were largely white guys in ties, how true is that?)
Of course, in open DS106 people mostly choose to whatever they want.
That too is be design.
I hope you will join us.
And that’s the last time I put on a suit for this class!
It’s such a burden to remain fashionable, especially in web technologies which rise and fade faster than the latest in sweater swim wear…
In assembling future lessons for the Headless ds106 course, I’m on the section for storytelling, and find myself hand editing a list of web resources, the “Bag of Links” approach which has not changed much since 1994. The colors went all faded high chromatic, I heard the crooning of The Mamas and Poppas, and became nostalgic for the dreams of social bookmarking, crowd sourcing dynamic link sharing.
I am so retro in that regard that I still use delicious. Go ahead an laugh, even with the Yahoo purchase and discarding, the frequent blinking of lights with the new owners, I still tag and bag my links there, a collection that goes back to 2006.
In my ideal world, it should not matter where you tag… so I had this fuzzy idea of building something that would provide a strategy for sharing links that did not depend on who’s service you used.
But here’s the thing, what I want for ds106 is a faceted tag search; tag anything ds106, and include a second tag for a particular topic, so we could have resource subcollections for:
- animatedgif (just for the heck of it and cause #WeLoveGIFs)
That is one of the things I love about delicious, you can construct these just by knowing how their URLs work, e.g. everything I have tagged ds106 and audio (http://delicious.com/cogdog/ds106+audio) or everything everybody has tagged the same (http://delicious.com/tag/ds106+audio) — the rss feeds are also easily constructed.
I’ve done a little digging, and found so far that pinboard and diigo both can do compound tags:
Scoopit does not seem to provide compound tags.
See and that is the thing about link sharing in Google+, Facebook, and twitter- you cant get the stuff out (there might be a way with twitter). The links go into the chute and never return.
But I am going even more retro:
That’s right, Yahoo Pipes. Nobody uses that, right?
@cogdog They still exist?
— Fredrik Graver (@fgraver) August 27, 2013
Go ahead and snicker, but I think Yahoo Pipes is one of the more brilliant web building tools out there, because of its maker-like interface of dropping in modules, the way you can test output, and it does things that you cannot really do easily otherwise. It lends itself to learning logic, string manipulation, even some regex, and more.
For years I thought the only reason Yahoo kept it going was because they forgot about it. But I have a hunch that it has some critical internal use.
To try it out, I build one this morning to provide a way to mix these tag feeds together into one. You can enter a general topic tag (like ds106) and a subtopic one, plus list a strong to remove items that have something like “ds106.us” in the links… as a resource for ds106, we don’t need bookmarks to ds106, right?
The first half of the pipe builds the feed for each service, based on the two input tags, using the StrongBuilder to create parts of the URLs, URLBuilder to assemble them, and FetchFeed to…
It uses Union to put those feeds together, a Filter to block out the items that link to ds106.us, Unique to remove duplicates based on link url or title, then sort what is left by publication date with newest first.. and voila! One feed
This is of course dynamic as people tag new stuff we get new stuff. But stuff does roll off the bottom eventually.
But here is my idea- build a series of these for topics in ds106, and use the RSS feed to pull into the site via FeedWordpress. I would create a custom post type, so they don’t litter the blog flow of ds106 activity. And we could than build a series of category pages that would organize these, and they could be searchable.
There is still litter among those. We could add the WP-Ratings and let visitors up vote content, or build something where we could move lesser valuable ones to draft. There are a few ways to do this.
I guess the question is, regardless of my gauche use of old tagging tools and rusty pipes, is this approach sensible? It does hinge on people tagging (and remembering the tags). Are there other services with adding?
Or just tell me to take my knit poncho and go play volleyball with Ted and Bob.
In about 10 hours the first week of Headless ds106 launches- the first week’s assignment will be published at one minute past midnight (PST) and will appear at http://ds106.us/category/the-site/fall-2013-headless/.
We already have 38 blogs in the mix- check out all the posts from participants. If you are new to ds106, your task this week is to set up your ds106 blog space, register it with the ds106 site, and once you post something, your blog will appear on the right side list. This week is not taxing- a few videos to respond to about art, doing a few daily creates, and getting into the habit of writing up a weekly reflection. And being part of our online spaces in twitter and/or Google+
If you have been around the ds106 bend before, what you can do to help is welcome people, offer advice, and model good ds106 blog writing behavior. Or document your creative process. Or share your favorite work from the past. Or do Cat Breading. Whatever.
Of course, as an open course, everything on the week’s list is optional. No grades, no lecture videos, no apologies.
And for those who are new to ds106, it is going to look chaotic at first. And later. This is not a course of rigid syllabi details, we are not going to offer explicit instructions on how to do your creative work. The idea is not to learn directly from an instructor, but to learn alongside others figuring it out as well.
So you know what is coming (you can get a general idea from the syllabus, yes there is one of those), this week and next are for having people get their blogs un shape, explore how to customize them, do a bit of small media creations, explore the ideas of personal digital space. IN week three, we move into an introduction to digital storytelling, and in week 4 we enter the creative long stretch of the course, starting with appreciating (by listening) to audio storytelling.
Although we call it “bootcamp” the first two weeks are pretty light- this gives everyone a chance to learn their way around, to get in the social media mix, and providing some flexibility for those who jump in during this stretch.
As far as the chicken? Do you know the story of Mike?
“Miracle” Mike the Headless Chicken (April 1945 – March 1947) was owned by farmer Lloyd Olsen of Fruita, Colorado. On September 10, 1945 Lloyd was sent out to the yard by his wife to get dinner.
Lloyd swung the axe down on Mike and chopped the chicken’s head off. But much to his surprise, the chicken did not die. Mike was still able to balance on a perch and walk clumsily. He even attempted to preen and crow, though he could do neither. Olsen decided to continue to care permanently for Mike, feeding him a mixture of milk and water with an eyedropper.
Once he got used to new and unusual center of mass, Mike could easily get himself to the highest perches without falling. His crowing, though, was less impressive and consisted of a gurgling sound made in his throat, leaving him unable to crow at dawn. Mike also spent his time preening and attempting to peck for food with his neck.
If THAT is not a metaphor for open learning, for dealing with your hand, for going against the grain. I don’t know what is.
About 2 weeks before the semester of a ds106 course I teach for UMW students, I send out something I lifted and borrowed from Jim Groom, what we affectionately call the “Scare Email”. Of course we do not want fearful students, but it was our way of letting them know up front how intense the class was– and because it was in such high demand at UMW, we wanted the best potential students for the start.
So here is a modified and maybe softened version for the people who have signed up for the Headless Class which starts Monday. I can see 31 blogs already connected to the hub (for those people who set up a blog but have not posted, we wont detect your blog til you write something there! At least a good old fashioned “Hello World” will do it).
For fun, I am sprinkling in some examples of previous responses to the ds106 Propaganda Poster assignment– because they are awesome. You will have a chance to do this in Week 5.
But this gives you maybe a sense of what you can do in this [headless] class.
Now, on to the letter…
Dear Future Digital Storytellers,
Welcome to ds106: Digital Storytelling. You are now a “DS106er” (and this is “#4life”). As you will discover this is like no other course you have ever taken. You will come to hate and love this class at the same time. This will be the class you never forget. I promise.
I am writing now with important information to guide your expectations, so you can hit the ground running on August 26th. There is a lot here, so be sure to take time to read this carefully. You’ve already started, so keep going….
First of all, you should know that this class is entirely online; you are not required to be anywhere in person. More than that, we don’t take attendance, give quizzes, or even grades. More than then THERE ARE NO TEACHERS TO ANSWER YOUR QUESTIONS But we do have a crew of people who have participated before who are volunteering to be helpers.
If you were told this class is easy, you heard wrong. If you heard taking a fully online class would save you time, you heard wrong. If you heard you would be given exact instructions for everything… ditto. Because this is as open a course as possible, it may have you focus from 0-168 hours per week- how much you do depends on your own motivation, not us dangling some badge. letter, or grades for incentive.
You have to do a lot of work independently. You cannot hide in the back row of the class BECAUSE THERE ARE NO ROWS You also will have to get good at asking for help (and it is nice to give it back). In fact, you will find very little instruction in this course, we are not going to give you cookie cutter lessons or step by step how tos.
This may be a bit too loosey goosey for you. If you want the kind of structure of weekly video lectures and quizzes, there are other places to go for that.
What you will get each week is a series of challenges to try and often relevant media to review related to the topic. We have more than 3 years of material from previous courses we will toss intio the pile. What you do? You decide.
This email may sound like we are trying to talk you out of this class. We might be, actually it does not matter how many sign up– all that matters is what you put into the experience. This community goes to great lengths to help students who show initiative and interest in being creative online. But if you just want to know “what you need to do for an ‘A’” this class is not for you.
If you have doubts about the demands of class, please know there is a waiting list of more than 25 students who are eager to take your spot.
The course is ENTIRELY online. That means that you can “take” it from wherever you happen to have an internet connection. But it also means that it’s absolutely required that you have a reliable, regular broadband connection to the internet. If you don’t have this, you will not be able to succeed in the course.
This course requires you to make intensive use of your own computer. You need to have access to a computer that you can rely on and, upon occasion, install (free, open-source) software on. You will need something you can take digital photos with, be it a digital camera or a mobile phone.
There is no required text for this class; we like to say the internet is your textbook.
You should also know that the course will require you to create and maintain a public digital presence. Where you do that is up to you, we offer suggestions of a number of free hosted services, but as you will learn in week 2 and ongoing, we have a strong belief in the importance and power of creating a digital presence that you manage, not Google, not Facebook, not Tumblr… you. For open participants, we do not make a requirement to do this, and it might be something you consider doing at the end of your ds106 experience. If you are ready to consider this now, check out the new Reclaim Hosting project offered by your friends at the University of Mary Washington.
You will be
expected encouraged (or teased) to engage with this space regularly and to publish your coursework publicly to the DS106 community in its online spaces. If you have any concerns about this kind of public engagement as part of your coursework in DS106, you should seriously reconsider whether this is the right course for you.
DS106 has been taught at UMW for several years as an open, online course for anyone else on the internet to participate it. Yu will be joined throughout the semester by other participants in DS106 from around the world. Like you, these individuals are not taking the class for a grade or credit; they simply want to take part in this experience. Consider them true friends.
Your primary participation in the class will be by means of the web site that you’ll set up for your ds106 work. This site will be your personal hub for the course. You’ll use it to publish all of your work, share your ideas, and ask for help. You’ll also be regularly reading and commenting upon the work, ideas, and requests for help from your classmates. And these people will be commenting on your site, too. Through this channel of publication and communication, a community will grow over the course of the semester.
In addition, all of your work will be re-published (or “syndicated”) onto our course blog at http://ds106.us/tag/headless13/. This will become a course hub — it will be the place you go to find out the week’s assignments, read any announcements, and catch up on the work that your classmates are completing.
The other key area of participation is being active in sharing and giving feedback on Twitter and other social media spaces.
What You Need to Think About Now
Before August 26th, we have a few things we need to ask you to do to prepare—consider this a passport into the class.
Explore the class site http://ds106.us/, and review advice from our students who took this as an online class this past semester http://storify.com/cogdog/ds106-advice – and see what they have identified as their best work in Spring of 2013. This may be the most important thing you can do now to understand how to succeed in ds106. See also last semester’s syllabus for a rough idea of the timeline.
If you are on Twitter already, this is a good start, but if you have never been, don’t worry. It is the quickest way to get information about the class, the assignments, and to request for help.
There are no lectures or required meeting times for this class. Here is how it works. On Mondays at 12:01am PT, someone will publish a detailed overview of the work for the following week or two week span. You should make sure you look at this early in the week (ahem, like on MONDAY). Throughout the week you will be creating media and writing up your work on your blogs.
During the week, the volunteers who are helping may run Google Hangouts, live audio broadcasts, or other events to bring people together, but you are pretty much on your own to figure out where to put your energy.
If this sounds like a bit much– believe it. If you are willing to approach this class with an open and creative mind, I know you will have a lot of fun in DS106 and will get a ton out of the experience.
Your ds106 teacher,
Over the next few days, I hope to put the weekly announcements in the scheduled post queue, with the plan they will be released every Monday at 12:01am PST. It will include the names/handles of people who have volunteered (and that door is always open, see the signup doc). Also on that doc is space for people if they are interested in helping do things like managing the Daily Creates, editing items in the assignment bank, scheduling the radio station etc, stuff that might take some basic WordPress experience. I’ll give anyone who signs up an demo session.
I really don’t want to have to manage much.
One thing that will happen is people will have ideas, edits, suggestions for each week. For now, I am going to suggest you use the comment field at the bottom of every weekly announcement to share those with us.
Who knows what will happen? That’s the exciting part.
Be there. Ne headless.
Step right up on August 26, the launch date for the Headless Open Digital Storytelling course from your freaks and friends at ds106. The idea is to create an experience for people who are interested in participating in a digital storytelling open course that has:
- no video lectures.
- no superstar professors… in fact there is no proferssor, no teacher.
- no sprawling discussion forums.
- no grades, badges, or certificates.
What we are going to do is to publish every Monday a suggested set of activities and creative assignments that you are free to do as you see fit or interested. These are republications of previous materials from ds106 courses taught at the University of Mary Washington since 2011, but this time around, there are no registered students, just the open folks.
You will set up and learn how to manage your own digital space- it can be a Domain of Your Own (Reclaim one now!) or a hosted blog from any of a handful of free services. You don;t have to do this now, it is the task for the first 2 weeks of ds106 bootcamp to get your site set up and customized.
But if you do want to jump in early, register your site at http://ds106.us/signup. A group of folks is getting warmed up with IamTalkyTina’s August GIF Challenge, and we are going to coordinate some more of these during the course with the folks from GIFfight (Stop cringing, Sandy Brown Jensen, the class will not be all GIFs)
A group of volunteers has signed up (and its still wide open) to be a “helper” for a week– not a teacher, but just present and public sharing, recognizing the work that is going on that week. They may choose to run a Google Hangout, a twitter chat, a live radio show, or just blog and tweet alot.
Want to help out? Lots of ways:
- Be active and share in the #ds106 Twitter stream and/or the new Google+ Community
- Do some Daily Creates– better yet, put some new challenges into the hopper
- Help us cull some of the less stellar assignments from the bank- contact me to let me know of one that is a duplicate or not worthy. Or make some new ones
- Would you like to help add to /manage the ds106 Handbook? We can always user new tutorials.
What we hope happens from people who have done ds106 before is that you convince, persuade, arm twist your colleagues, friends, enemies, students into joining this brigade with you. Let’s expand our base of ds106 newbies. Bring a group along.
As a related issue, we heard today from high school visual arts teacher Shaun McMillan:
Hello, I begin my second year of teaching Graphic Design at Hargrave High School next week and I am very happy to have come across DS106. I will definitely have my students do some of these assignments as soon as they get up to speed on using the production tools (mostly photoshop). There are two issues/question though that I would appreciate some guidance on.
Q1: High schools, or at least mine, block social networks. They did unblock my hosted wordpress page drawalot.com but they block most blogs, twitter, facebook, and G+. I would still like for my students to be a part of the community and communicate but will they be able to participate much if they are limited to posting and commenting on my hosted site (except of course from their data plan mobile devices or from home)?
Q2: Open could be a poisonous word in a high school atmosphere. They much prefer the walled gardens of creativity stifling administration approved LMS’. What kind of warning or parent letter opt in or paper work should I have students/parents sign to both A) introduce the idea of students participating in an open community and B) cover my lower exterior?
Got ideas? leave Shaun a comment
This is a good chance to emphasize that there is no “right” or “must” way to do ds106. It is perfectly fine for Shaun’s students not to be all in the twitter mix– more important is getting them into a mode of creating and writing about their work on the shared blog he is going to use.
So if you come along on your own or with a group, you are free to modify or customize the experience as you see interesting or useful– we are not here to tell you how to do ds106. We will offer some suggestions for what to do to improve your digital creation and expression tools, but you can bend.fold, spindle,etc the experience to be a better fit for yourself or maybe students. There is no One ds106 Way.
The experience is what you craft, not us. It can be colorful
But do not look for us to tell you what to do. Except start doing it August 26.
You may never stop. Ask Shannon, who took ds106 as a student at UMW who is back doing this on her own. Or Rochelle, a 3M Professional, who has been lit on fire with her ds106 creative work. We have a Talking Doll who will encourage you.
This video should explain all of it
But if you have looked at ds106, heard about it at a conference or from a colleague, and hesitated to put time into it, now is the time. There is no obligation, no shame. Just be there.
Be headless. Starting August 26- look for first announcements at http://ds106.us/category/the-site/fall-2013-headless/
We may regret the visuals, but the dog is out of the bag…
I’v just written up a bit of information about the Fall 2013 Headless ds106 — essentially, we will be publishing a regular scheduled series of tasks based on the syllabi on the past 7 ds106 courses taught at UMW. Anyone interested follows along for portions they care to.
No apologies for “dropping out”. That is decapitated.
But I am not teaching it. Jim Groom is not teaching it. No one is charge, though I have a call out for volunteers to assist. You are not signing up to teach but to assist, help, cajole, stir the pot, in whatever way you see fit.
This way, Jim and I get to do ds106, not teach it.
It is really in response to challenges we know for open participants, three is not structure or map through ds106. So if you seek that, you can do it along side others. The Syllabus has the time schedule for topics, starting August 26. If you want an idea what each week entails, see the Spring 2013 Weekly Announcements.
What I am really hoping happens is that people bring along new people, a friend, colleague, students, colleagues, a group of teachers seeking PD, that is your real task now- find a way to bring new folks in.
I suggest reading Jim Groom’s post with his perspective on this idea (although I cannot even say “Acephalous”).
Let’s face it, ds106 has never been massive in terms of participants, and there is a reason for that. You can’t have a sense of community within a massive, automated machine. You need to have a sense of affection for those you are creating alongside, and that’s a fact that is overlooked (or suppressed) when we jump from the idea of massive participants to massive data collection to number-drive generalizations about experience. Along those lines learning is processed and denatured into an abstraction that can be more readily salable. It’s all bullshit, the important thing is the learning within a community of people that provide you with a series of contexts for the experience (no matter how disparate), nothing else matters one lick to those who are not trying to commodify the whole enterprise.
But remember- no one is in charge, not NOBODY… NO ONE. or EVERYONE.
This is an exciting experiment in what the ds106 community can do.
But do not take me wrong- I am not in any way saying that this kind of course can happen automated, cranked out of a Silicon Valley Sausage Grinder, without teachers. That is cow poop. This is the result and product of the blood, sweat, and GIFs of those who have led classes and those who have participated in ds106.
Let’s roll this one big time.
Go headless in ds106. Which is not to be confused with losing your head…
During a presentation last month for the TCC World Online Conference a participant noted in the chat with some irony, that despite the unconventional form and function of ds106 I pointed them to a traditional (long) syllabus for my 2013 class.
I said that it was a university course at UMW, so it needed a syllabus.
Somewhat later (like yesterday while sitting on a beach) it struck me that it’s another case of Korzybski’s line of the map not being the territory – the syllabus is not the class, the experience, but some representation of it.
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.
And it ties back to what Leslie Madsen-Brooks recently summarized eloquently in using UMW as a case example of innovation on higher education. That’s right, look beyond the Ivies and the Silicon Valley darlings, and you land at a tiny, public liberal arts college in Virginia. Jim Groom writes it all in the title- the Innovation isn’t Technical, It’s Narrative.
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.
So here’s a bit of over the shoulder analysis of my most recent syllabus for Spring 2013.
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.
Week 3: What is Storytelling?
We finally get into the topic here.
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.
I want them to start using their cameras (or mobile phones) for going beyond snapshots, so provide them a collection of techniques to try.
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.
They also get in here the specifications for the mid term group audio project- and they have to start their process in these weeks of visual and design.
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.
Actually Brooke said it best:
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?
I had them watch videos like Everything is e Remix and Remix Manifesto- I was lucky that Andy Baio’s New Prohibition one came out that week, which may be the most insightful piece to see on the topic.
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.
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.
I was highly impressed with their output this time, I assemble all the stories in a storify. I also ask them to use categories on their blog to organize what they think of their best work, and lastly the “pay it forward” assignment of recording a message or media that represents their advice to future ds106ers.
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!