On the list of question topics that anesthetize me, just below FERPA and Intellectual Property, is the query on a project, “Does it scale?”

Scales are fine for lizards. And weighing stuff.

Expanding things by scaling them is not the only model of growth. For Massive Open Online Courses, this year’s poster child the Stanford AI course, they grow the same way we enlarge an object in graphic editing software. We grab the corner and pull it outward. This method does certainly provide growth, expansion, and is not wrong in any way– but it is doing so by replication, by aiming to give each participant the same experience, the same lockstep pace.

But it was while driving down the mountain roads to Phoenix today, thinking about the forms of nature from rocks by the road to hills, to mountains, I got to thinking about the way ds106 is already growing by its incarnation a year ago. It might not be massive, but there are almost 400 blogs being pulled into the main site. But it is not growing by replicating; in fact, the growth is more organic, both in a fractal sense and a mutation sense.

At the University of Mary Washington, the growth is by running two sections, one Jim Groom is leading and one I am getting my first crack at. One might say that is scaling, from the 25 students Jim taught last year to the 60+ we have now.

But look at the other ways people, external to us, on their own, are mutating ds106:

  • Scott Lockman is tapping into the assignments for his Cyberspace and Society class in Japan
  • There are maybe two classes tapping in from the CUNY system.
  • Ben Rimes reports a similar use of ds106 assignments in 3rd and 4th grade classes that another teacher in Hernico County in Virginia has done (I’m getting lazy looking for these links).
  • Bryan Jackson is running a professional development cohort (at where?? Langley?) using ds106 to tie into their teaching strategies. I also saw where John Johnston had taken the ds106 assignment bank model for a professional development program.

There’s probably a few more examples out there, but they are not all the same- different courses, different education levels, and each one not taking the course as a single product, but reframing it for their own needs. These are not just carbon copies of ds106, but mutants, lovel mutants, and in some sense fractal, especially around the core of the assignment bank.

And I would not be surprised if we see some interesting ways for other educators to tap into the Daily Create.

This growth approach is in many ways, a parallel for the underlying, packet passing distributed structure of the internet we are all riding on. “Does it scale?” is irrelevant here, so I’d like to say, it does not have to scale- it is growing organically. Rather than taking the course as handed out by an entity, people are making it their own, meshing it with their own teaching needs, strategies.

And that is a beautiful thing, let’s make some art damnit, fractally

cc licensed ( BY NC SD ) flickr photo shared by Barabeke

I’m thinking this is not quite as well formulated as I’d like to express what I thought of while behind the wheel- there is nothing wrong about growth by scaling, but its not the only method.

And the fractal mutations have only just begun!

Featured Image: cc licensed ( BY NC ) flickr photo shared by Troup1

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Profile Picture for Alan Levine aka CogDog
An early 90s builder of the web and blogging Alan Levine barks at CogDogBlog.com on web storytelling (#ds106 #4life), photography, bending WordPress, and serendipity in the infinite internet river. He thinks it's weird to write about himself in the third person.


  1. After walking in our office while I happened to be singing an autotuned version of a tongue twister, an art professor got to learn about The Daily Create and she’s so excited she’s going to have her students participate.

    Oh boy, gotta bring that term up at the upcoming Sloan massive online assessment conversation!
    Let me add to your list that Ian Coronado at Lane CC feeds DS106 into his Intro to Multi Media course. Kevin Steeves feeds it into our Honors PLE course, and I will have a cohort of faculty flying with you in an Intro to DS Fall 2012.
    Phoenix? Last I heard you were back in one of those remote eastern towns on the other I’d of the M-I-crooked-letter River teaching DS 106.You’re a drivin’ fool, but the miles seem to agree with your brain.
    Giulia, are you catching these good thoughts on scaling??

  3. I agree. Many of the best things we do in life/education are not scaleable. Nor should they be. (I think things that are closely aligned with or hang out with money are often “scalable.”)

    A while back I gave a presentation to teachers and trainers about a digital training thing I had discovered. I made them up and they were the “57 Second Blackboard tip.” Good idea and like digital stuff they could be replicated like crazy. Here are the early ones: http://www.youtube.com/user/ToddConaway#grid/user/A07F5830D17302E8

    During the presentation I talked about the cool way we were reaching faculty with digital stuff. And it is good. You know, the internet thing and computers are amazing and stuff. But, at the end of the presentation I talked about something else. I talked about what really seemed to be working for me and the faculty. That was me, getting away from the computer and walking around the campus looking for teachers to talk to. Invariably in our conversations about family or current events, they would say, “You know, I was wondering if I could…” And there we would go. Off into the answering of questions and the generating of ideas and good things happened.

    So when I received the surveys from the session, one of the comments was, “Walking around the campus is useless because it is not scalable.”


    Well, I pretty much dislike the edu-buzzwords of the day and I know that wandering around the campus is useful because the instructors tell me so.

    Here is slides from presentation. Slide 35 is the “walk around campus” image…

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