We know people love ds106. I love ds106. I know you do. My students this semester are doing some of the best work (especially in terms of representing their work online) I’ve seen since I started teaching this course in January.

The UMW Domain of One’s Own greatly streamlined the startup process, Martha and I have made syllabus adjustments (introductory Bootcamp, re-arranging the introduction of audio earlier) that seem to have worked, and having redone the materials now three times, it feels very solid going into my next round (I am teaching it online again for Spring 2013).

My focus has been on our sections here at UMW, but we have a good amount of activity as well with Michael Branson Smith’s York College/CUNY section plus Ryan Rish’s class and Darren Crovitz’s class at Kennesaw State University.

Yet I cannot help but notice the fall off among our open online participants. Where have they gone?

modified from cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo by ShuttrKing|KT: http://flickr.com/photos/xtrah/4853491803/

From the bits I scan, I can see Emily Strong has been one of the most active in doing assignments, and a few more in the mix, like Abigal Wellman, Sandy Brown Jenson makes stories all the time, John Johnson regularly riffs in, Leigh is doing bits of both phonar and ds106, Ben Rimes jumps in with assignments and nudges me about Daily Create stuff, Scottlo is audio casting his life in Saudi Arabia heck even Tom Woodward eeks out a GIF or a remix now and then… okay as I dig I see a steady current. This is good. Maybe more than I thought.

But it’s nothing like that first year and many of the people who were most active are doing other things.

Now if regular CogDogBlog barking snarling fashion, I might be calling out people, asking “what is ”?. Shaming. But that is in no way my intent. And if anyone apologizes I might come over to your house and chew up your shoes or lift my leg on your couch.

If I were not teaching ds106, I would guess my amount of ds106 activity would be low. Once you have gone through the intoxicating round, its naturally to move on, to return on occasion. Like that weird uncle. Maybe not.

But we’ve not seen too many people new join in. And I could guess from here til Tuesday:

  • People are participating in peripheral ways, like doing Daily Creates or ds106 radio. This is good, Unlike any other MOOC, c or x, in ds106, you do not “fall behind” if you miss a few elluminated lectures or don;t do the weekly homework. The door to entry/exit is completely in your hands, and coming and going happens without penalty.
  • Maybe its the lack of Jim Groom who is onto amazing work with his hard boiled class. Jim would be the last to claim his presence makes ds106, but he is a draw. Heck its why I came to it.
  • It’s messy. If you have heard of ds1206, when you get to the site, it’s not even clear how or what to do. You are hit with a firehose. I’ve tried to organize an intro for open participants but I bet its not clear what to do. I have plans to work on this. More than that, after all the teaching that has been done, we have a rather extensive set of resources, recorded videos, various approaches to the assignments. My goal is organize them into a buffet type syllabus so that an open participant could pick and choose a path through the ds106 content.

I may have to repeat myself, this is no slap against all the people who freely played, shared, contributed in ds106 before. With the intensity of the load of following and mentoring 25 students, each blogging several times a week, it gets tobe a challenge to give attention to other work in the community. And while the class will go on regardless, ds106 is better for having the larger cloud of activity, so I am invested in finding ways to make it easier for people to craft their own ds106 experience, and get hooked on the kool-aid.

Hopefully it does not go down like this…

I could not resist doing a voiceover for the classic bit of Ben Stein improv — wait a minute, this is a ds106 assignment, redub the audio

Take a classic movie (or heck any movie you like), and rescript the audio of a key scene. You will want to re-write the lines to change the meaning or intent of the scene, delete the original audio, and record your own (this can be done many ways, voiceover in iMovie, recording the audio and editing the track in any other movie editor).

I already had this clip, so I imported it into iMovie, and muted the original audio. To get my own dub, I played the video on low volume (so I could try and track the rhythm) and recorded my own voice over in Audacity, reading the content of the ds106 Open Participant web page.

And woah, I totally forgot, when editing an audio track in iMovie, you have some effects available, so for the main track, I dropped mine a pitch

and for the closing credits, I took the “Anyone Anyone” audio (detached the sound from the video of the original), and used the echo audio effect.

I like that, I go on a ramble about ds106 and I end up doing an assignment.

I still dig it. You?

If this kind of stuff has value, please support me by tossing a one time PayPal kibble or monthly on Patreon
Become a patron at Patreon!
Profile Picture for CogDog The Blog
An early 90s builder of web stuff 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) Tooting as @cogdog@cosocial.ca


  1. You are too funny, Sergeant!
    I track DS 106 and use assignments regularly in a series of DST workshops I lead, so some of the uses and abuses of the DS 106 website may be sortuv invisible. But hey! I don’t want to stop you from kicking some righteous butt! Thank heavens I’ve been posting my own brand of weirdness on a regular basis because my husband reserves exclusive butt kicking rights!

  2. Thing about ds106 is that it’s everywhere for me now, it is the way I want approach everything, and I have been remembering this semester just how much it demands of you. I wanted to re-imagine dHardboiled with more ds106, I had some in the beginning, but the time it takes to build what happened in ds106 in Spring of 2011 amazing. I find the class is infinitely richer because of the last two years, and will change every time it is taught to another group fo students.

    And therein lies the rub, how to we make it relevant for more students? I think part of that might be rethinking ds106 as a K12/College transition online course to prepare high schoolers and more for the digital literacy of a moment in time. Many K12 schools might do this already, but the ds106 piece of this si providing an online course for students (which is required for all VA K12ers now).Working with Tom Woodward at Henrico would be a layup in this regard. A new community to push ds106 even further into a space where it can thrive and change based on a whole new generation of students. How fun would that be? I saw this as an awesome possibility this Summer, and when Martha tied this to high schools and the required online class it seemed like a no brainer for UMW and ds106.

    I think ds106 is kinda pure in that way, it can take the cyclical run of attention and popularity but still provide a pretty cool framework that other students can come to know an authentic, meaningful community experience online as a course, that hopefully become more like a community. It’s the freedom of not being a MOOC, the Massive is not what defines its relevance. In fact, opened12 looked so cool from afar because of how many awesome people have emerged as a result of this community, and having it morph to a whole new demographic would be very cool.

    1. The Assignment Bank and the Daily create are the online backbone of DS 106. I will be bringing whole sections to DS 106 by spring (right now, only workshops of four or five), and I don’t imagine I will ever have that youthful population Jim describes. Currently, I pretty much skirt around all the kid stuff personally (gamification, giffification, fan fixification), and focus on assignments that have story a little more inherent. But the depth of the site is what allows me to pick and choose. So, your demographic might change, but what will show online I imagine can only get richer and needn’t or maybe just won’t, be obviously skewed to that generation. Anyway, you guys have been”following your bliss,” and that has been working out fine to great for all concerned.

      1. Good stuff Sandy, and eager to hear how you might bring a group in for Spring 2013. I hope the open syllabus idea might take off once I get time to roll it together.

        I am not convinced of the “kids” versus “??? not kids?” look at the output of Daily Create Norm or the story of Margaret Herrick who shared her experience:

        ds106 has given this me the conviction that I, at 72, can make videos, that tell my story beautifully, thoughtfully, and truthfully. The community aspect gives me the security that, no how busy I am with other things, I can always “drop into” ds106 and continue to learn more.


        1. My point, exactly! You don’t hear Margaret saying, “I can make gifs n games n do fan fic.” She says ” make videos, tell my story beautifully, thoughtfully, and truthfully.” I’m down with that completely, as you know. And I know all you middle aged guys love that geeky kid stuff–lol! I don’t want it to go away; I’m jest sayin’ that Margaret at 72, and Sandy at 62 want to “make videos, tell my story beautifully, thoughtfully, and truthfully.” I want to learn everything I can that promotes that goal, at least, for myself! But I don’t want it to go away because I love having it all there. What if I were to wake up one fine day and suddenly want to know the glory that is gif? What if I have a student fired up with passion for some darn fan fic character or other? I’m tellin’ ya–DS 106 is for ALL our lives!

    2. That’s so true Jm, the diffusion of #ds106ness into the methods- as you are doing, and Karen’s CPSC course where the students are doing radio.

      The k12 connection totally makes sense as a gateway to coming into higher education with amped up creativity skills (and a portfolio / domain already? heck yeah)

  3. Okay, I am going to step WAY out on a limb here and offer a little of my perspective (totally MY perspective, I’ll grant before I say more) on ds106. Let me start by saying that I LOVE watching you guys and what you have done with it. I learn TONS by lurking. I know some frown on lurking as a way of being and learning on the web and that it is less than making and sharing. Maybe so…that is for another conversation. I love the sense of community you all share. I wish I was part of it sometimes….and the only way to get there is to hop in. I have not. I tried to say some of why I have not back in Jan. ’11: http://odnett.wordpress.com/2011/01/ I have the same issues now.

    Then I test drove my own domain…I wrote some about that last spring up until my last post. I won’t link. You can see my take on the experience if you want to click over there.I am not in love with my own domain. I am still waiting for the love part to happen.

    Even those thoughts are not entirely relevant to what I want to say here….relative to your query about why participation might have dropped off. Here goes: For the folks I know around here who are interested in creating digital stories…they focus first on the narrative…then look for the right tools to create/capture those narratives in digital forms. Honestly, I don’t see that much narrative in ds106. (I hear you guys yelling at me already)…..Sure, there are WAY cool tools. There are awesome tips and tricks. I know, the whole premise of what one picture is worth and all….and I am sure that I must have missed where the story narrative is captured in the ds106 creative process precisely because I have not participated fully…and I have only watched through the fence. But, there it is….the part I would like to see you guys focus more on is….the writing if you will…more writing….more narrative in service to the tips, tricks, tools, animated gifs, etc….(Or should it be that the tips and tools are selected in service to the writing?)

    Okay…going back to lurk some more….and consider whether I should roll over an play dead….or hop into the fray next semester….
    Respectfully…..deeply respectfully….

    1. Cindy,

      I know about and respect all the hats you wear! Actually, there is nothing about doing ds106 that demands a domain- we see it valuable for people and especially our students, but the core of ds106 is the creativity, and open participant can use any platform that can generate RSS and tags.

      I wonder what it would take for people to see their ds106 as a glass more partly filled then partly empty. There should be no apologies, no sorries, and no expectation that you bite off the whole enchilada.

      I understand your interest in the narrative. It is something I work at individually all the time (the 3000 comments I write each semester, often asks for students to be writing the context, the back story. The narrative is what you create in that blog space, and I dont let them get away with “here’s my assignment”

      That said, ds106 is not a fixed entity. There is nothing that prevents people from creating their own narratives or from parsing out parts and weaving it as they see fit, as Sandy describes above.

      If you look at ds106 and expect it to provide a certain experience off the shelf, then you might be disappointed- its what you remix, mashup, re-write. I’d eagerly welcome a group that wanted to focus on narrative and writing and media creation.

      I’m hanging around, c;mon back some time, and we can chat like we did sitting around your dining room table last year.


      1. Of course. The blogs. I should not overlook that part for sure. (And your modeling of what I think is the most important in that exercise…YOUR 3000 comments…that is – your ‘presencing’ with your students…the RELATIONAL nature of what transpires between teacher and learner when the teacher cares enough to extend themselves – in your case through commenting). Not that the process of reflecting and writing is not powerful….but that YOU, their teacher care enough to coax that out and the comment on it. THERE is the power. That mutuality is what makes students WANT to try, and do more, and learn….

        Anyway, I’m rambling….I guess I am bothered some by the imposition of blogging as the (main) vehicle for capturing the narrative. Some stories aren’t ‘bloggable’ (is that a word)? I think that is why I love Cowbird so much. It is a place for narrative.

        You said: “I’d eagerly welcome a group that wanted to focus on narrative and writing and media creation.” And I would love to give that a whirl. I have to think some and talk some around here. Maybe such an experiment is exactly the way for me (us) to try ds106.

        Oh, and you are always welcome at our table! 😉

        1. Thanks Cindy! I probably lack a concrete scope of what narrative is. I’d like to think we are teaching people to look at new modes of narrative- like the injection of a character into an amazon product, like the recasting of a CNN news report to tell a new story…

          I do not see any constraints of the blog. It’s a box to write, insert media, and link. I love cowbird, but as a process there is nothing I do there that I cannot do in a blog publishing space- wrap photos and or audio with text.

          Pleas stay in touch with your ideas!

        2. Cindy, I totally get what you are saying. I think the focus on tools over narrative is partly what I was getting at with my “geeky kid stuff” comment. I like assignments where I can tell a story, and I don’t always understand how fanfic, gifs, and tinkering with movies promotes that.

          However, as I said above, I know those skills engage, shall we say, “the geeky kid within” many people (sure would like to know the gender and age ratios on that one–seems to me mostly like a guy thing, but got no data), and I honor ALL pathways to creativity.

          On my “Mind on Fire” digital storytelling website, I have experimented with dozens of different ways to tell a digital story because I am interested in the boundaries of the three minute or under video form.

          If I feel I need a new skill or a fresh idea, I dig into the Assignment Bank, but there really is a dearth of assignments that ask the artist to tell a narrative story of some kind. Now that I am aware of that through this conversation, maybe I can find time over Christmas break to write some for the Bank.

          If some movement or other gets up along this line, Alan, you know you have my attention.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *