When Dean Shareski asks a question, my ears perk up, cause the guy shares so much back (it is in his name after all), I have to oblige

The thing is, there is nothing too inherent in the ds106 assignments that are discipline specific, so I balked at first. But in looking over a few, its just a matter of interpretation. Actually, the notion of the assignment bank is powerful that could be modeled in any discipline- the key is that the people who do them also create them.

But there is nothing to keep you from just twisting these a bit.

So here are a few ideas and thoughts for you Dean…

Postcards from Magical Places
Design the front and back of a postcard that might be sent from the location of a movie or a work of fiction. Both sides of the cards must be created as graphics.

The fornt should use graphic design elements that provide a sense of place or use the classic motifs of old postcards (“Greetings from ______”)_, both pictures and text. The back of the post card should contain a stamp and postmark that fits with the theme of the movie, as well as an addressee and a message that fits the plot as well.

Rather than places from movies or books, the assignment could be from the places where science or math took place- e.g. a postcard Einstein might have sent from where he came up with his theory of relativity, or maybe it would be the postcard Newton sent from under the tree.

Cover of Autobigraphy
Design (using any programs you want) the cover of your autobiography. What pictures would you include? What would you title it? Make sure it really shows off who you are what you want your audience to see in you by the cover.

Rather then your own biography, develop the cover for someone in the field of math and science. Sure they might exist, by the gola here is to research the person, say Richard Feynman, and select grsphic elements and a title that capture the essence of their life.

Tell a Movie in Four Icons
The assignment is to reduce a movie, story, or event into its basic elements, then take those visuals and reduce them further to simple icons, four of them. Write your blog post up but do not give away the answer, let people guess! The challenge is to find the icons that suggest the story, but do not make it so easy.

Instead of a movie, explain something like a physics phenomenon or a geometry solution n four icons- not literal, but representational.

Origins of…
Make a super-hero origins strip about your online persona, or the persona of someone else. You might want to use Pixton (http://www.pixton.com) – you might want to use something else, or draw it freehand if you are super-talented. But capturing the mood and making the story “feel” right are key, you might want to track down some super-hero origin strips to get the idea.

Instead of online personas, use the comic form to tell the origins of say, fossils, or the fiboniacci sequence.

Animated Movie Poster
Pick a movie poster and animate it.

Minimalist Poster
Create a minimalistic travel poster for a location in film, TV series, etc. Look at these awesome examples using the various locations in the original Star Wars trilogy: http://screenrant.com/sr-pick-minimalist-star-wars-travel-posters-robf-44551/

Make minimal or animated posters that could depict things like carbon decay, crystallization, long division, limits as if they were movies.

DaVinci invents the Kitchen Sink
Tell a story by breaking it down into the common elements and themes and recreating it as a sketch. What would a laptop designed by Alexander Graham Bell look like?

This one might work out of the box- the work is in figuring out the Davinci style and recast it into another object or item.

Infographic Life
First, begin by spending a set period of time documenting things about your life. How much coffee are you drinking each day? How many miles do you walk/ride/drive to work/school/bars? You can use http://www.daytum.com to capture this data, or go old school with pen and paper. Now, take inspiration from infographics all over the web, including the Feltron Annual Report, and create something beautiful and interesting from all that data.

This one too would work as is.

Use The Voice
Don LaFontaine was legendary for hos deep voiceover intros to movie trailers (“In a world…”). Make a recording that uses his style that describes something ordinary or everyday. See the TV tropes listing for ideas or expressions or model it after one of the thousands of examples he left out there — see his video at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7QPMvj_xejg If you lack The Voice naturally, use your audi editor’s shift pitch tools to deepen it.

For this one, the movie announcer voice could use dot make promos of things like titrations or ant science experiments, or proofs to equations, or solutions to math problems… or….

One Question
Take one open ended question. Ask a bunch of people. Mix and compile. This could be video or audio onlyThis could be video or audio only

Run this as a way of seeing what people think about science and math. Ask “Do you know how nuclear fission works? Can you explain how to solve a quadratic equation” (oi my ability to make up examples are getting weak)

Speed Up Your Work Day
Take video of yourself doing what you typically do on an average work day, and then speed it up! Start with at least 30 minutes of footage at a minimum, so as to get a good amount of video to share. Challenge yourself to complete the assignment in one single shot, then speed it up to ridiculous speeds, and toss in some music that fits the mood.

Rather then a work day, it could be speed up of any process that takes place over a longer period of time.

Play by PLay
Take any real life video and give us a play by play commentary on what we see. It can be a sports event, funny video or videogame gameplay. Make it funny, make it real, make it anything you want to be. Lets hear what you have to say about the game!

DO a play by play announcement of say natural observation video of animals, a landslide, or maybe the graphing of a curve. Lots of potential.

Phake Tweets
Use the Twister tool from ClassTools (http://classtools.net/twister/) to generate a series of images representing the voices of past figures if they could express themselves in twitter. Notch it up, and recast a historical event with a new plot line, and notch it up again, but making it a back and forth between two figures (use @person!) – my example is not developed as a fanfic, but should give you an idea of what to do (okay, okay, I will do a real assignment, sigh).

What would Darwin, Pythagorus, Pascal, Avagadro have tweeted?

Featured Image: Shore Fishing flickr photo by MyFWCmedia shared under a Creative Commons (BY-ND) license

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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. And he is 100% into the Fediverse (or tells himself so)


  1. I love this. I’ve been wanting to start a project to work with faculty to incorporate these assignments into classes across disciplines.

    I think that a lot of them hesitate at the “digital storytelling” idea. It’s a phrase that invokes all sorts of expectations and pre-conceived ideas, and I love how the assignment repository points to all the different kinds of “digital stories” that we can imagine.

    If we could think of these more as “new media assignments” and then talk to faculty about how to tweak them for appropriate disciplines, that would be awesome. And, in fact, it offers opportunities to talk about how to bake digital/media literacy into existing courses:

    A Recipe

    -Replace one “traditional” assignment with a DS106 assignment (modify as needed)

    -Invite DTLT to come to your class to assist with introducing tools/concepts/technologies

    -Watch it “bake”


  2. The Play by Play assignment sounds a lot like what Hans Rosling does with his statistics already. I think it would be a good idea to push students to connect Math and Science with the real world stories they tell. You could make your classes play with the ideas in this blog post and forward the results to math/science faculty. That might get their interest.

  3. I have always wanted to do 911 calls from historical figures (Rasputin especially) and phone call to the Xth century. I don’t think either qualify for science/math but they’re more core content specific.

    It would be fun to mess with additional restrictions around surface area and minimalist posters. Maybe the areas of the colors need to mean something more or the colors proportionally represent aspects of the plot. The whole field of dataviz really opens itself up to the melding of narrative and math.

  4. I’m working on a math class that hopefully will go up online within the next 10 months (I wish it was earlier, I’m just locked in to other commitments). I plan to take pieces of ds106 into it.

    But the math issue is interesting. I think Alan & Martha’s take is right if you want to replace one assignment. But what if you wanted to bring the ds106 method in wholesale? How would that work?

    To that end, I’ve been talking with Jim and others what that would look like — how to build assignments that capture some ds106 energy but reinforce statistical skill more than storytelling. There’s a couple things I think are promising:

    1. Look at sketchnoting and methods of online explanation, and challenge a student or group of students to explain a key concept such as base rate neglect through it.

    2. The idea of truth-squadding crappy journalism through screencasts or YouTube or some other medium.

    I also like the ds206 idea — pairing students in a discipline up with a ds106 grad to make the above things, where the students in the math class bring the domain knowledge and power of explanation (and tell the ds206er to stop animating things because they are making the graphs useless) and the ds206er tells the math students to lighten up a bit or this thing will be snoozeville.

    1. I’ll add that I think there would be weekly restrictions to make it interesting. For instance, you might be asked to explain base rate beglect using only examples that incorporate Van Halen. Etc. The key would be though that unless we went the ds206 route, the amount of work into the presentation would have to be reduced since students are already struggling with the concepts.

    2. I love this idea Mike, and it is truly where we’d like to see ds106 go (I am looking at using the structure for a programming class) – assignment banks, a daily challenge, an aggregated community space, and he new wrinkle we are working on, a mechanism for generating remix assignments.

      We also hope we can generalize the ds106 wordpress structure so it could be more portable.

      Teh awesome goes for math too.

      1. Alan — I think part of the key you’ve hit on —

        a) it’s a series of challenges that are executed in public space.

        b) there is an assignment bank

        c) the assignments are loosely structured enough that they can drop into a weekly challenge framework.

        d) the public space element acts as both a motivation for people to up their game and as a library of sample work that allows them to better understand the target concept.

        e) the assignments are constructed so that students work is differentiated and personal — so that we don’t get bored looking at 1,000 carbon copy assignments, and so that energy can be maintained.

        f) there’s a drop-in quality. If you are up to skill in an area, as a peripheral participant, you can participate peripherally. The structure of the class is as loosely coupled as the material will allow.

        I think a lot of people look at the ds106 *assignments* and think, well, that can’t be ported. But it’s not the assignments that’s the genius (sorry Jim and Martha), it’s the somewhat loose structure combined with the coherence that the challenges give it. It’s difficult to work out exactly how that applies to a more scaffolded and sequenced area like stats (or programming!) but I think it can be done.

        Really excited to see your programming class. REALLY excited. This is definitely the next step.

  5. just posted into my Athabasca forums discussion possibilities for alternative assignments. Everyone always brings up math/science. These are stories about the world too! We can make them interesting and fun, just like any other story.

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