ds106: Digital Storytelling Tagged Stuff

What flows below are the bits, ideas, experiments, projects, assignments, and assorted weird ideas all associated with my participation in ds106, the most innovative open course every, first launched in January 2011. I am currently teaching my own section online at University of Mary Washington!

Wired for Character

creative commons licensed ( BY-NC-SA ) flickr photo shared by Johnson Cameraface

What happens when ds106 takes on a theme and subject of the TV series The Wire? That unfolds next week when the class starts at UMW. Do you feel me? (that’s a line from the show, ok?)

Jim and Paul have been ripping through reviews of the first six episodes. I’m expect to float in and out, as one does as an open participant, and have watched the first two again.

There’s a bit of affinity since I am from Baltimore, though not the areas where the show takes place. My first interest in the show was piqued at the 2008 South by Southwest conference in a keynote session where Henry Jenkins and Steven L Johnson discussed the increasing complexity of TV narratives, comparing old school simple sitcoms that I grew up on with newer (then) shows such as Lost and The Wire.

What’s always interested me are the complexities and nuances of the characters in the show. I thought about this when I watched about 1.5 seasons of House of Cards — what struck me about that show was how none of the characters were likable, or you would root for… likely the message about Washington is that everyone is flawed. That seems to violate one of those rules of writing that people wnat a hero to identify with.

The Wire is more complex– and never as simple as cops as all Good Guys and the people they pursue as all Bad Guys. As a leader of the drug gang, Avon Barksdale also displays a strong sense of loyalty and commitment to family. His partner Stringer Bell wants to run the operation efficiently, like a business. But they also sell drugs and have people killed.

The cops show poor judgment, drink heavily, exceed their authority, ignore their family.

And, as Jim noted well, both of their organizations deal with issues of power, control, and bureaucratic hindrances.

I thought it might be interesting to go back to the first episode, and just take a gauge of how these characters are first presented to us, maybe what it reveals or not about what will play out.


We meet Jimmy McNulty in the opening scene, and if not for the show being about police, how do we know he is a cop? There is a bit of a suggestion right there; he does not follow rules, protocol, he’s arrogant, conceited, and it causes trouble with his coworkers. But he uses a street sense, here in the opening discussion about the crime victim named “Snot Booger” and a story McNulty unravels about the name (there is a funny bit in some commentary about how British actor Dominic West could not pronounce “Booger” they way the director wanted).

stringer bell
Our first image of the serious and influential Stringer Bell in court, at first glance, he might be a lawyer or a District Attorney? His power exerts in how the opening scene plays out, he is actually gaming the court process. When the case falls apart, and Bell’s man D’Angelo Barksdale is freed, Bell is taunted, even threatened by the angry prosecutor. How does Bel respond? “Have a nice day” and walks out.

Kima Greggs, typewriter/paperwork challenged, but here completely at home and in charge of a street bust. She’s more than savvy, she’s got an understanding of the street scene. Later in the show we see much more to the layers of who she is; but she might be among the most virtuous of the police.


Detectives Herc Hauk (with a strong Baltimore accent) and Ellis Carver are in this first action sequence that turns out to be no action. But that represents these two detectives, they would rather be “busting on the street” then paperwork; they often react from emotion rather then reason; they also end up providing some comic relief in their banter.

Cedric Daniels enters very proper in dress and clipboard, stepping right between the verbal sparring of the two detectives. He’s serious, principled, wants to do things to the letter. Later in the series his humanity, shows through more. But here, it’s all business, cop business.

Bunk Moreland, chomping the big cigar, and arguing with McNulty about why he picked up the phone for a call where they banter over a dead body. Bunk is just so charismatic, so not by the book, yet in a less challenging to the system way as McNulty. One of my favorite characters.

Sergeant Jay Landsman, almost a cussing and vile look alike for actor John Goodman, does not seem to really care at all about police work, just about flexing authority and serving the pecking order of the police department. He’s kind of like the naysayer and the greek chorus against the ideas and street sense of McNulty and Moreland

Major Rawls actually is the least complex- he hates McNulty and is part of the command and control focus of the Police Department. His presence enters before we seem him, when Daniels and Greggs are talking about a meeting with the “Deputy” that resulted from NcNulty blabbing information to a judge. He serves here as a force that keeps McNUlty a bad boy in the PD, with the famous two fingers “these are for you, McNulty”

While we saw him first in court, it’s in this car scene where we sense right away that D’Angelo Barksdale is not cut out for being a crew chief in the drug business. He’s soft, conflicted, and makes bad choices. He’s trapped into his role be being a nephew of the kingpin. Can you tell he is doomed? (oops)

Avon Barksdale, the leader of the West Side drug trade that McNulty et al face off against in season one of this series. His power is interesting in not being by physical size, but force of energy and language, and his “office” being in the top level of the strip club. When his nephew comes after getting out of jail, Avon’s response is “I don’t know shit about jail, I don’t plan on knowing shit about jail, you feel me?” — he is so smart and powerful, he expects to never see a jail. Hah.

Bodie Broadus, the chief of the drug crew at the “low rises”, working his perch by side ways mean stares from the perch of his orange couch. He shows no smile, joy. He knows his place, but knows it well. He plays prominent in the series.

We meet Bubbles in his creative mode, always coming up with a clever scheme or idea to survive on the street, but victim to his drug addiction. In this scene he is showing his partner how to make fake money look real by rubbing coffee in it. We want to root for this guy so bad…

Wallace shows the complexity of the younger drug crew; I cheat a little because we have seen him already, but I love this scene where he has just been called out for taking a fake $20 and when his colleagues mention something about “dead presidents” being on all money, he tries to correct them by informing them that Alexander Hamilton was not a president. He has intelligence he keeps closely guarded, and later we see how his conscious both frees him and… well I leave it. He’s a classic case of the character complexity we are introduced to.

I missed a few minor characters, and am not planning to continue. I find it interesting how much of these characters are set in place from the first time we meet them, though there is a lot more to reveal as the series unfolds.

But it’s this mixture of character flaw and virtue that underpin how the show brings a reality of both sides of the legal/criminal world. It’s just not as simple as those old cop shows.

Hello [The Wire] Baltimore

As usual in my house yesterday I had NPR Radio on in the background. The show Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me had a segment with Baltimore filmmaker John Waters as guest.

PETER SAGAL: In April 2011, we talked to a man who’s made some of our favorite movies – John Waters, who went to the city he made famous, Baltimore, Maryland, and we’re surprised to discover he didn’t actually grow up in Baltimore, Maryland.

JOHN WATERS: No, I grew up in suburbia, which I ran from as quickly as I could.


SAGAL: Yeah.

WATERS: I wanted to come downtown and be a beatnik.


SAGAL: What drew you to downtown Baltimore, to the city?

WATERS: Well, I first came downtown, and I saw beatniks, and I saw people that didn’t fit in. I saw outsiders that didn’t even fit in with their own minority. And that’s always been my people, really.


SAGAL: Right. People who are so outside, even the outsiders don’t know what to make of them.

WATERS: Yes. But as you know – if you spend even another 24 hours in Baltimore – everyone thinks they’re normal here, but they’re insane.

There you go. I got busy with something else, but the closing song caught my attention- it was the musical upbeat everything about life is wonderful theme song to Water’s movie Hairspray– “Hello Baltimore”

And there it was.

In the spirit of the pre-ds106 ds106 with a theme of The Wire, I thought that some sort of mashup between the trailer for Hairspray and scenes from The Wire were in order. I quite enjoyed the side by side juxtaposition I did earlier in the week, so approached this one the same way using iMovie.

Clips were downloaded form YouTube using the SaveFrom.net browser extension #BestDownloaderEver

The Hairspray trailer went to the main track. To match the opening credits, I downloaded the intro from the first episode of season 1 of The Wire, and dropped that into the overlay track (the default setting is cutaway, but you just switch the toggle to Side By Side). For clips from The Wire, I highlight the clip and use Mute Clip from the Modify menu to suppress its sound (I want to use just the sound from the Hairspray clip).

hello bmore timeline

With a little bit of jogging of the opening mark (which is so much easier to do in the Mavericks version of iMovie). I got a nice line up of the wiretap order from the Wire hitting at the same point as the shot of the Baltimore Sun headline in Hairspray

wire papers

It also took some experimenting with the Clipping dimension to make it so the credits from The Wire fit well on the left side of the side by side screen


The fun part is seeing where things line up where you did not expect to, like when Tracy’s alarm clock goes off in the Hairspray sound track, and The Wire’s opening screen fixes on a sheet of wiretap notes labeled “TIME”


The rest of The Wire’s track came from a brutal clip from season 3 : The Stanfield vs Barksdale War. Like this part where Tracy is leaving the front of her house side by side with a street war character sitting on a similar Baltimore stoop

baltimore stoops

I only jiggled this second clip enough for the closing part of Tracy singing lines up with some expressions of perhaps one of the most intense characters in The Wire, Snoop:

snoop tracy


I’m having a ton of fun playing with the side by side juxtapositions and these two very different depictions of the city of Baltimore n much different eras and cultures.

My Tiara Arrived in the Mail. I am Retired from DS106

creative commons licensed ( BY ) flickr photo shared by stevendepolo

You do know the irony of #ds106 #4life? Right?

With a four month fellowship at TRU starting in late October through March and no plans to teach ds106 for a while, I shall be dialing back my role in keeping the lights on inside the web site.

The other thing about ds206 is that it rests on not one person. As previously aired on this blog, Mariana Funes and Giulia Forsythe have agreed to keep the Daily Create fresh. That one is really hard for me to stop doing, and I probably will not stop.

As for everything else, I had a video chat with Jim Groom Friday, and he has all the info to take over the keys to the main site and it’s ancillary parts. But more than that, he’s returning to teach a regular semester version of ds106 starting in late August, and he has some great plans to wire it up in the fashion that NOBODY does. Plus after her Summer teaching debut, it looks like Jen Polack will also be teaching a UMW section.

DS106 it goes on.

And I am not done with by by any means, just shifting my involvement.

What are you doing just reading this? Go make art.

creative commons licensed ( BY-NC-SA ) flickr photo shared by Michael Branson Smith

Image Bending in Audacity



The frames of this gif (image data) were edited in audio editing software. It’s in the realm of glitch art as the effects created are largely unpredictable. It’s a matter of saving an image in an uncompressed format, importing into Audacity, applying an effect or two, and exporting back again.

I saw a link to it via a retweet by Hilary Mason

Brett Camper’s post on Data Bending With Audacity has a long list of examples. I was able to do it with both this post and a prior one by Antonio Roberts.

I started with a JPG of a photo rummaging around my desktop pictures, a photo of a cholla cactus I took maybe 10 years ago:


In Photoshop, I resized it to 800x600px and then exported it as a TIF image (as instructed) with these settings:

tiff options export

The pixel order (per channel RRGGBB) is the key thing… I am guessing.

In Audacity, you are going to actually import this TIFF via File -> Import -> Raw Data. I used these settings:


You then get an image file’s data inside an audio editor!

cholla audaicity

It’s not much to listen to:

From what I understand, you want to select everything after the first 5 seconds (which is supposedly the header data, meta data about the file), and then apply some effects. I did one effect at a time, exported, then did “undo” to try a different effect.

When you export the “audio”, make sure you use the same option for the import (I used “U-Law” and do not know what that is). Select “other uncompressed files” and hit the options button– set the headers to “RAW (headerless)” and the encoding options to “U-Law”:

export options

The file name will be something like cholla4260003b.raw but I changed the file extension to be “.tif” I could not open the files in Photoshop (errors on header information), but I could open them in Preview, and then save as JPG.

Here was some different variations I made in this quick foray

Using the Audacity Echo Effect, delay: 1 an delay factor 0.7

Using the Audacity Echo Effect, delay: 1 an delay factor 0.7

With Audacity high-pass filter effect

With Audacity high-pass filter effect

with Apple AU Matrix Reverb effect

with Apple AU Matrix Reverb effect

With wah-wah effect

With wah-wah effect

It’s pretty interesting to experiment with, I like the use of using software to edit a type of media it was not perhaps designed to work with. The fact you can import raw data says a lot about the approach to software by the folks that created Audacity.


James Dog: You Only Bark Twice

Dusting off some ds106 poster riffing. I guess there as some fun banter about remixing james bond posters with some dogs we know, Mariana was off and running with it… But she let me down by not making it an assignment.

So I had to step in with The Best Bond Is A Dog:

All thanks to a conversation on Twitter. An emergent DS106 assignment ‘Remix (in a dog appropriate manner) a Bond movie title and create a poster’.

Hence, Daphne Groom, in the classic “You Only Bark Twice”

(you ought to click to see 00Daphne in full size glory)

(you ought to click to see 00Daphne in full size glory)

I decided to give Daphne some more dog pride that she gets in this photo of Miles and Tessie with that poor dog in a tutu!

creative commons licensed ( BY-NC-SA ) flickr photo shared by snakepliskens

I liked the 1960s motif of the poster from You Only Live Twice, appropriate since it features Jim’s favorite Bond actor ;-) There is something parallel about Bond surrounded by the ladies in Bikinis and the way Daphne is surrounded on the photo.

The PhotoShoppery was the usually amount of clone brush, paste in place. I even managed to tint Tessie’s hands a bit to match the skin of the others. I tossed in a pic of Jim in his stunning suit from the TEDx in Puerto Rico just to cover up Sean Connery. That was first time I used the Edit Special-> Past Around to make something come in outside of a selection, that worked well.

Gill Sans Ultra Bold, squeezed and stretched a bit, did a good job of faking the poster text. Normally I go to the detail of editing the producer and director credits, but this is enough for one night’s poster re-editing.

You Only Bark Twice!

A Big Box Full of A Lot of Little GIFs

creative commons licensed ( BY-SA ) flickr photo shared by dvanzuijlekom

As a kid my Mom would ask me what present I wanted for the holidays or a birthday. “Present” being so singular, I thought I gamed the system by asking for a “big box full of a whole lot of little toys”.

She always delivered.

Over in another room of the Campbell household, Gardner is merrily making some of his first animated GIFs. I got thinking about a few that were sitting in my undone pile, or the half baked ideas pile.

Here is the unboxing.

First of all, my good friends and happy couple, Michael Gershovich and Jennie Morris, the night we sat out on the new roof tap bar of the Park South Hotel. As it happens, often I get multipl photos, which plays out as a 1-2 Photograph GIF


This is done in a way described elsewhere, using Photoshop to Load Files into Stack, letting it align obects, cropping, and setting some inter-frame timing.

Cute, aren’t they?

Next, on the day I left the UK last month, pulling into Heathrow on the express train, I noted a retro style animated video poster that looked as if it was itself a GIF- what were the Seven Minutes That Changed the World? I dont know (it looks football relevant), but the style is dead on 1960s movie horror poster


I had recorded the sign as a video on my iPhone, and used the 5SecondsAPP (a favorite of John Johnston) to make into a GIF. The nifty thing with this app is I could crop the image, and I could discard non-relevant frames.

Next are prototype Muppets. There was a discussion while I was visiting Giulia’s colleagues at Brock University about the very first appearances of Jim Henson’s works- they were 8 second commercials created in the late 1950s for Wilkins Coffee, with a close bit not really froggy Kermit named “Wilkins” and a grumpier triangle shaped dude named Wontkins. Perhaps as shorts these were the inspiration for Vine?

There is a collection on YouTube, and surprising how violent the plots tend to be

The clip I chose was at 3:16 when Wilkins calls his store for some instant coffee

Hello Grocery Store?

Send me some Wilkins Instant coffee!

(coffee squirts out of the phone)

Maaaaaan! How instant can you get!

That’s it.


And then finally, in thinking about thoughtvectors and the first week being on As We May Think I poked the YouTube machine seeing if there was any footage of Vannevar Bush. I found the same clip repeated, where a rather enthusiastic, hand gesturing Bush describes his fascination for the brain and a computer operating in a similar way. His hands looked like he was a keyboard player (the musical kind), so I slid in a synthesizer below, and his words animated in.


For this one, I downloaded an mp4 clip with SaveFromNet, imported into PhotoShop 6 as Layers (one every 10 seconds). I changed the size to leave from to slide in the keyboard image, and placed the text on the screen to appear sequentially (turning layers on and off).

No major connection here, no gif associative trail, just a pile of GIF detritus.

Ratings, Difficulty, DS106 Assignment Bank Theme

creative commons licensed ( BY ) flickr photo shared by – Slavin

More tinkering goes on with the ds106 Assignment Bank as a wordpress theme (watch it change as often as flickr at http://bank.ds106.us), thanks to the work being done by Karen and Brad on a new version for the Making Connected Learning MOOC.

Again fresh eyes and ideas are helping me see (sometimes) past the way we built it for ds106. One area we have danced around is the use of the WP-PostRatings Plugin. Typically this is used to allow people to register votes for blog posts, and has flexibility to have simple up/down voting, or 5 star and many more.

The way we have used it for DS106 has been a crowd sourced difficulty vote (1 star is easy, 5 is hard), so anyone visiting an assignment can click on a star value to register a vote. What Brad and Karen saw was a value in having this plugin used for a popularity rating, but allow for people creating a new “thing” to give it a one time fixed 1-5 difficulty rating that never changes.

I tried to explain that with the options for WP-PostRatings Plugin you could make it do either, but not both. They wanted both, and have somewhat forked the code to make it work (it’s not too much work, and if someone says it is worth doing, I can easily weave it into the site).

The plugin offers a lot of customization– you can choose the type of images used, and create any maximum scale, we use 1-5, but it could be 1-10, or 1-2:

ratings images

Once the scale is set, you can also edit the labels for each step on the scale and the point value:

ratings values

And you can define who gets to vote, just people with accounts on the site, or visitors, or both (the latter is what we use at ds106, it means any one who looks at an assignment can register a vote for difficulty).


So if you wanted to make something that only the original uploader (or someone with an admin account on the site) can set, use the registered users only option for Who Is Allowed To Rate?.

But what I did realize is that I had hard backed in the 1-5 point scale and a meaning for it into the form where you create a new “thing”. So in this process of thunking about the differences of ratings and difficulty settings, I modified the form so it uses the same levels and labels that are set in the PostRatings plugin options:

rating add assignment form

The other place you can add some customization is on the templates used to display the ratings summary

ratings templates

On the DS106 Assignment Bank we stripped the template down to just showing the stars (because of the layout design), but on the new demo site, we are using the full display capability. Here it helps to change the text a bit so it does not sound like votes of popularity, but public rating for difficulty, and also that it shoes if you have rated it before (it does this based on IP address, not perfect but what really is?)

ratings templates

And when you hover over a vote option (here I am on “3”), it shows the label below the stars

ratings hover

I still see a good reason to go with the approach Brad and Karen are doing, and I can be nudged easy to bake it into the code.

If you are trying to use this theme, you will see many updates happening on the github source site, and I will likely continue tinkering this month, and maybe well into 2024.

creative commons licensed ( BY-NC-ND ) flickr photo shared by nshepard

Vote? Rate? Difficulty? What are your thoughts?

On the Road With Mariana Funes Talking About DS106

creative commons licensed ( BY-SA ) flickr photo shared by cogdogblog

Before reading this, I suggest reviewing Mariana’s newly shared “The psychology of open: On wrestling your inner MOOC”.

It was written for a presentation she is doing June 3 at one of the more interestingly titled and themed conferences — The Higher Education Academy is running a conference called Heroes and monsters: extraordinary tales of learning and teaching in the arts and humanities. Her summary:

I have been invited to run a workshop on the psychology of open education ‘You cannot be half-open: On wrestling your inner MOOC’. I want to focus on the inner barriers academics wanting to operate in the open web encounter and how they can overcome them. This is what I am defining as the psychology of open education and I have decided that my next book will be about this. What follows are my notes for the conference session.

I have come to believe that the success of open education may rest on our ability to support new adopters in wrestling these inner monsters and find spaces to tell epic stories about inner battles with open sharing. Without this inner viewing, interest and learning about infotention and other digital literacies may be tactical but not sustainable.

Publishing a paper online was not required, but something Mariana saw as being on this path of openness. Ironically, she has said she wanted to share it with em as a draft. I told her just to publish it, there is no harm or secrecy breached but putting it out there (and the beauty is you can edit it any time), and likely not noticed (until she found that WordPress auto tweeted it).

Among other worthy parts of this paper, she shares her own path to openness. I have to say it is a path you always walk but never quite reach some milestone or destination.

Ironically, when I was visiting last month, on the drive back from the OER14 conference in New Castle, I recorded a bit of audio interview with Mariana about her early forays into DS106… I had forgotten about it til I saw her post today:

On the Road Talking About DS106

A few notes I had taken…

Somewhere on the M11 south towards/around London

Her first impression of ds106?
“The thing I saw first an animated GIF by Andrew Forgrave” she had been told about ds106 in Martin Weller’s course, Open Education H817. There was an assignment to “investigate an innovation in open education”

Among the important first things she read was Gardner Campbell’s EDUCAUSE Review article on Personal Cyber Infrastructure

“Did you believe Jim Groom was a real person?”

Laughter, no but the Dr Oblivion video was one of first ones she saw.

“The fact that this crazy american would put on a wig, shave his head, assume a character– wasn’t that out of the bounds of what was accepted in higher education?”

Yes it was very silly but making very serious point.

Blogging was requirement at the Open University. Mariana had never had been involved in social media, never thought she would be interested. But she did set up an academic wordpress blog (the one where her recent paper was posted).

She set up tumblr for ds106 as persona as “the ds106 shrink

Asked about her writing style– “In the past I would have just written linearly”

The first assignment she was an an animated GIF shown by Jim Groom in ETMOOC

Her own firsy gif was from the Black Mirror series; she says it was “a very bad one”. She got stuck with various things, and remembered a Michael Branson Smith post about how to make one from film, that was how she learned how to do them properly.

Who’s Anna cow?

We just have theories

Where is ds106 going, where will you go in the future?

Will depend on the new people who show up, also how much it will continue to be done at UMW and other places.

When will someone in the UK run a ds106 course? Whats wrong with Martin Weller?


I’ve seen Mariana’s openness happen, from the first time she used her own voice in an audio assignment, so showing up on video in a hangout, and finally, the big step, using a real photo rather than a cartoon avatar (whoops, I have not gone that far).

When the course is over…

Yeah, c’mon

When the course is over
When the course is over, yeah
When the course is over
Keep on the blogs
Keep on the blogs
Keep on the blogs, yeah

For the blog is your special friend
Keep on feeding as it intends
Blog is your only friend
Until the end
Until the end
Until the end

About the time last week I was in the UK, my most recent DS106 course ended. Thus DS Goes to Work, went to work, and overall I was very pleased with what the students were able to do. And more for the way they were able to write about their story ideas and process then the media products.

Again, this was an online course for George Mason University’s Instructional Design and Technology program. Students are all full time employees of a major consulting firm; many of them where taking one other courses. Quite a load on top of a job.

Besides the weekly assignment writeups, for no real reason beyond my own obsession, I made a fun (or I hoped would be) intro video that played on the “Goes to Work theme”, and included at least one relevant clip from a movie.

This was a chance to practice rapid video production, as I usually got the idea Sunday morning (often in the shower), did my filming while there was light (often me in multiple roles and wardrobes), and edited that evening.

OCD yes.

As compared to the more typical 14 week three credit undergraduate class, this one was seven weeks and two credits, so the weekly assignments had to be made leaner. The two week “bootcamp” and Introduction to Story telling were wrapped into the first week.

Rather than domaining on their owning, I had them create WordPress.com blogs, a new environment for just about all of them. Also a hard decision, I took twitter off the table as a required means of communication, something I think puts a chink in the community aspect. My approach was to make their blog commenting the place for interconnection.

They had a weekly requirement to provide constructive feedback to at least 3 other students (I started them in assigned groups of 4 blogs so they have least to skim through). What I asked in their weekly summaries of a recap of what they learned from the feedback received, as well as ideas they gained by looking at other people’s blogs. I’m really loose on how this is assessed; I do not want to be bean counting comments.

I saw some of the better commenting than I have seen before, maybe because this was the only avenue for students to be “together”? As one student noted

“Overall good ideas from the class and interesting ways folks are thinking this assignment through. I think that was part of what I liked is how different people took different angles with their story. That gave me some ideas on how I can make my story just a story about something that happened. It does not have to be something that is a step-by-step process.”

Also left on the road side was animated GIFs (sad, I know) and the mid term group audio project.

Everything was meant to build towards creating a final project in their last week. In previous years, I had students create a story woven form media created from various DS106 Assignments. To make it geared more towards the work they do (but stay outside of the proprietary stuff they might do at work), I let them know the final project would be (as described in the first week, deliberately vaguely defined) having to find something in the world around them that could be better explained or understood via a storytelling approach.

In week 1, I suggested looking at the difference in a “storified” and “non-storified” approach, with examples taken from a Touchcast video on Design and Storytelling. These are both technical products, take a different approach to the way the product is presented

To have students thinking about this, I made a weekly exercise for them to write a post on their site with a possible example they found that week; whether good or bad, by the time week 8 rolled along, they could have as many as 8 potential project subjects (rather than trying to come up with it that last week). This did work out well, thought later in the class I could sense they were wheel spinning, so in week 7 I suggested that they could revisit an earlier idea, and in week 7/8, they could review the ideas from others in class. See the final project specs for what was asked of them.

Among newer things I introduced this time around is using the concept of the Story Spine (thanks to Darren Kuropatwa) for students to outline the shape of a story, be it theirs or ones they reviewed. I saw it used by students in many of their assignments and their final projects

Another early exercise meant to help them understand how video works and the notion of a story in a small container, I asked them to analyze a TV commercial (found in YouTube) down to 5 second intervals. I introduced this with a video of Ridley Scott talking about the making of the 1984 Macintosh commercial and Jeffery Davis’s piece in The Story Code Behind Van Damme’s Viral Splits.

I got this idea truly from a post by one of Michael Branson-Smith’s students who analyzed a Nike commercial at this detail- this close watching makes for good practice in noticing details of camera angle, sound effects, and the movement of a story arc.

Some sample work here:

Week 3 (Visual Storytelling) and Week 4 (Design) followed from previous DS106 classes; there was practice in photo techniques, a five card flickr story, a photo safari, a design safari, and use of the Assignment Bank to choose additional assignments. Rather them sending into the big pool, I suggested each week a recommended set of 6-8 assignments, but they were free (and several did) to go in the bank to find one on their own.

I was told these students had access to the Adobe Creative Suite, so to bring myself up to date, I got the latest Photoshop via the new cloud subscription service. However, I found most students relied on pixlr or did their compositions in, of all things, Powerpoint. As I tell them there is no required tool, I certainly cannot ding them on that one (and it does let you create in layers).

I saw work that may have been visually and design-wise more simple than years past, but what mattered more was when I saw good ideas and process described. Some examples

Design Safari http://cew5x.wordpress.com/2014/04/12/design-safari-week-4/

The Swann (Street) Never Looked Better (Photo Safari)

“I must admit I always wondered about the grid lines on the iphone when you were taking a photo and why you would ever want to turn them on. Now after reading about all these photo techniques and especially the “Rule of Thirds” you get to know why. “

Fourth Times The Charm (Four Icon challenge) http://aprilshowersmayflower.wordpress.com/2014/04/13/fourth-times-the-charm/

“I used Flat Icon for all of my images and chose the Mask, Cat, Typewriter, and Present icons for the assignment. I downloaded these images for free, and inserted them into a PowerPoint slide for editing. I re-sized the images so that they were all the same height and width for symmetry, and aligned them so they fell on the same line. I spaced them out using the “distribute horizontally” tool so that they were evenly spread. I then put a border around them, added in elements of color (hint #3) by layering shapes behind the images, and grouped the images all together. I then selected the grouping and saved as an jpeg image for embedding into this post. I may have been a little too obvious in my design, but I was having way too much fun with colors and themes.”

Note- this one is new to me, thanks! http://www.flaticon.com/

A curse upon me – my selfie photobombed! (Historical Seflies) – this student made a lot of use of her own photos from international travel

I Love It When It Rains Quotes (Illustrating Odd Auto-completes)

5 card flickr stories

I covered audio in a week; to get them into SoundCloud and embedding one into their blog, I made a simple task to record a fake newscast. This gave some latitude they used well, a side benefit was it was the first time I heard their own voices. One comment I heard from at least three students was that they had accounts but had used it primarily for listening to music.

“I actually already had a SoundCloud account before this assignment, but have never uploaded anything to my account. I had created it a while ago to listen to some of my friend’s music, but never really felt like I had much to contribute to that world.”

Some examples of their intros

As usual, I required them to do the Sound Effect Story, it works so well to get them editing in Audacity and using layers (I started last year requiring students to include a screen shot of their editing so I could get a glimpse of how they were using tracks). Some examples

I also have them experience the creating of Foley sounds by doing a 30 second segment of Charlie Chaplin clip. This nearly always garners interesting responses, and highlights inventiveness in generating the sound sources. I had at least 3 students report getting assistance from their spouses/partners, e.g. Saturday in the Park with a Lion

“I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to incorporate all of these sound elements, so I walked through it a couple times in my head to see which made sense. I then gathered my sound creation elements and experimented with how the sounds interacted and practiced switching between them quickly.

My husband thought I was going crazy for a second, and walked over to see what was going on. I took that as an opportunity to get him involved as my Foley partner.”

I do have to comment the student who took on the Craigs List Beat Poetry audio assignment, with
All you can take Cactus–

The Chaplin Foley audio exercise becomes something I build on in the two week segment of video; they have to take that clip, edit in foley sounds from other students, and create a video story out of it. This has them get into video editing, basics of separating sound, using multiple audio tracks, and creating titles, credits, and cuts. I was imrpessed with the different kinds of stories they told for the Tramp inside the Lion Cage; just two exmaples

Darwin Award Honorable Mention

Chaplin Circus Fraternity Initiation

“This was my first video creation/editing experience! I learned a lot from this assignment and it was cool to see how easy it can be to add in things like a title and credits. The trickiest part for me was adding in the overlay audio, but I ended up using Audacity to create the “layered” audio that I needed. The story that I used was that the man in the video was a new employee looking to join the Circus’ fraternity and part if joining it, he needed to prove his “worth” by entering the lions cage. There really wasn’t any main reason as to why I chose this storyline, it’s just something I thought of and went with it.”

As usual, students using Windows Movie Maker end up rarely giving the software compliments.

The final projects showed again a lot of inventiveness, and a few even went a bit astray of the assignment intent. I really do not feel like the rules of the assignment are worth enforcing as a constraint; if a student produces something compelling and well explained as a digital story, I would rather reward creativity than punish for not following rules.

I am thinking here of what one student did as a story about a font named Calvin; I was looking more for a web page story with media elements of audio, visual, design, but she did demonstrate it all in her writeup. And I like the way she stayed true to the story elements.

A few other samples

The Silent Super Hero – Polly Public

“I’m glad that I got to work with Audacity several times prior as I finally felt comfortable with it and only had to look up how to lower my pitch. Movie Maker was also not as scary given that I had experience with it as well. All in all, save for perhaps the images, I would not have believed it if I told myself back in March I would make my own audio and video track and post them to a blog!!”

More details on the making of Polly Public http://cew5x.wordpress.com/2014/05/11/342/

One student used a bit of his own story, which I find a brave move, considering the reveal:

“Despite all of the late nights wrapping up work for this course, this final project made it all worth it. To be completely honest, this story isn’t really about Eric. It’s about me. Although I definitely embellished and exaggerated many aspects of the story, I was unquestionably addicted to video games when I was in college. Specifically, I was addicted to Halo. This addiction almost cost me everything. I was indeed staying up until all hours of the night playing Halo, and I definitely skipped the majority of my classes.”

A bit lighthearted personification of a berry of all things in being mixed into Sangria , is used to probe more the idea of multiculturalism

“I storified my sangria recipe to serve as a metaphor for how I see multiculturalism. I personified d the strawberry, the main staple ingredient in my recipe, to act as the central character in the story. I named it Strauss Behre. I humanized a strawberry by adding eyes and a nose using bits of a blueberry. I also personified a navel orange and a yellow mango by adding eyes, ears, and a mouth using grapes.”

More on the making of the Sangria Story http://chronicwnderlst.wordpress.com/2014/05/12/final-project-summary/

I will highlight one video assignment that pretty much blew my socks off, called “It’s Not You, It’s Me”

“The title of the story is “It’s not you, it’s me” named after the dreaded line that any guy or gal loathes to hear on the other end of a phone line or an awkward coffee table. A more recent encounter with this phrase inspired the video and the story is about a person who starts of his day like normal, assuming all is well and continuous until he checks his mail and receives “the line.” The world turns to grey and through body gestures, pauses, perspective, he comes to a realization that he shouldn’t worry and that there are others around to support him. He loosens the constraints of his work attire, representing the confines of emotion to which he has resigned himself and finds new friends in strangers in the park who support him on a slack line, a metaphor for balancing life and how we can’t do it alone.”

This was quite a production, with filming around various locations of Washington DC, attention to Ebert’s idea of left and right character placement, and use of black and white versus color. But in a comment, Amos says he was influenced by a 2012 DS106 video assignment, Coffee, Is My, by UMW student Rachel

That is, he was inspired.

As usual, teaching DS106 ends up as wonderful rewarding and completely draining. I lost 3 students to schedule demands (one pregnancy). Three more could not keep up and took incompletes. And 10 finished strong, all but one an A. I am an easy grader if they are in the mix, and writing up their work consistently.

Alas, I just got the word from central HQ

MOOCopoly: The Game

I typically tell people the ds106 Daily Create is something that should take less than 20 minutes per day, hence today I spent maybe 2.5 hours on mine.

It’s not a rule, it’s a choice.

Today’s one was special though. I am visiting David Kernohan and Vivien Rolfe in Bristol, and David’s son Ben is a fan of the daily create. He is also 6. I offered to publish one Ben made up; his idea was to ask people to create a board game (as usually, the editor takes some liberty, so it became “Design and draw your own board game about ds106″).

It’s best often to go with your first association, and mine went to Monopoly; and therfeore I present the Gartner Hyped Game of MOOCopoly

creative commons licensed ( BY-SA ) flickr photo shared by cogdogblog

My original idea was to mock up an image, but as I started the google diving, I came across a Monopoly template in Photoshop, found within a 2008 blog post by Brad Frost. Yep, a self hosted blog strikes again.

This is quite the template; every element of text on the board is editable; and he even provides fonts. He apologizes a bit for much about how much is left out, but it is cleanly organized into folders within the layers palette, and was super easy to modify.

I did not have much of a concept, beyond I know I wanted “Go to Jail” corner to be “Go to the LMS”. I ended up making the bottom of the board the Connectivist MOOCs, ds106, phonar, and the original Canadian 3.

The left side of the board represents the university ones gone Xstyle; the three Stanford MOOCs from 2011, and the first 3 from EdX. Rather then prices, I listed, what I could find (honestly 1 number was made up), the numbers of initial registrants. I have to commend MIT for having extremely detailed documents on MITx.

After Free Parking changed to Open Content (easy), I was stumped on the top of the board. I went for the MOOCs and projects that were beyond courses, P2PU, MOzilla’s Webmaker, and the DML Research Hub, plus MOOCMOOC, CLCMOOC, and ETMOOC (there was many more that could be added). The bottom of each has an URL.

I spun again for Waterworks, and it was David and Viv’s idea to give a little nod to the amazing Pat Lockley who does stunning MOOC work but rarely gets recognition or keynotes.

And the right side are the Big Players- FutureLearn, Udemy, Edx, and Coursera.

The railroads ended up as themes for the sides.

That was not enough. Ben said I needed Chance cards. There was a template PSD in the package I downloaded, but it lacked graphics. But I remembered the Monopoly Chance/Community Chest card generator, which worked perfectly. We created maybe 5 (two were Ben’s)






And finally, the Brad Frost template also had one to generate any property card (it uses layers to toggle on and off the design colors). This we have a domain deed card, letting you know that you get a lot of value for $12 a domain at Reclaim Hosting


This is clearly a case of getting carried away with a Daily Create. it is not what I recommend nor expect. But sometimes there is no stopping oneself.

There are four other game boards in the hopper; Ben has just gone to bed, and it would really make him smile to see a lot more in the morning. So go spend 20 minutes, or whatever you find suitable.

The full PSD file for MOOCopoloy is available (20 MB download) for remixing or printing to line bird cages.