Whilst passing through various discussions, tweet streams, blog posts about education, I end up feeling like Michelle Flaherty because I am always reaching for my experience and examples from ds106 (I won’t embed the video 😉

While not much actively involved lately, since 2011, I have been an open participant, a face to face course instructor, and online instructor, a web site builder, a radio show broadcaster. More than , it’s #inlife or just #partoflife.

So in week 4 of Dave asks Can/should we get rid of the idea of ‘dave’? How do we teach rhizomatically?:

But what is the role of the facilitator/teacher/professor where we are using learning subjectives, where learning isn’t measured and where content is actually other people? What cultural concepts do we have that we can use as models? Do we need a new model?

It’s a powerful question; the rhizomatic concept is free form growth, no center, yet, to some degree, Dave, while not at the center, is somewhere with his fingers on a few buttons.

Yet, like that one time in , it’s been done here. In the Fall of 2013, there was no scheduled ds106 course planned at UMW, or elsewhere (more on the multitude of ds106es below). I had this idea, that because we had on the ds106 site the compendium of at least seven sections previously taught, what if they were set up as a series of posts published by calendar schedule every week? (wordpress scheduled posts).

Essentially, I asked, what if there was a ds106 without a teacher?

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.

Somehow, others in the community started calling it “Headless ds106” resulting into memes of graphic decapitation


Weekly assignments went out on scheduled, tweeted to . For those that like them, there was a syllabus. Participants signed up as usually and did their work in their own blogs. We had some 80 blogs signed up, maybe 1/3 were somewhat active, and yes, the activity tailed off into the last few weeks.

Still four groups managed to produce the mid course radio shows.

And then for the final projects, those remaining decided to ignore the final project specifications. As they can, should. Led by Rochelle Lockridge, the Headless did not want to do separate projects, they wanted to collaborate on a final production.

The GIFaChrome show was more than just a project, it wove together a spontaneous narrative about a mysterious technology.

How many final course projects get their own domain?

How many final course projects get their own domain?

If that’s not rhizomatic, than I am a monkey’s nephew.

The Headless DS106 has grown into the Open DS106, all of the course materials there for anyone to use, anytime.

vNot technically a course this is another experiment in offering a full ds106 experience to open participants based on previous syllabi taught at the University of Mary Washington (UMW). The first was August-December 2013 as a “Headless ds106?. This Open ds106 is a re-organization of that experience, but without references to date or time- this could be something individuals or groups could do at any time, at any pace.

How many people use it? No idea.

Somewhere in (I recall it was a comment on someone else’s post) Dave described ds106 as built around a course structure and teaching figurehead. That is how it is often scene, as the iteration that Jim Groom first created and has taught more than anyone since.

Let’s play this game. The original CCK MOOCs had three iterations, all led by the same crew (CCK08, CCK09, CCK11). Rhizomatic Learning is in its second cycle, both coordinated by Dave. They ran when the leaders set up a new round.

By my count from the full ds106 history I’ve tried to keep current, there have been 41 different iterations of DS106 offered since 2010, taught by 14 different instructors, associated with, but not all the same course at 10 different institutions. Plus three others not even part of an institution. The site has more than 49,000 syndicated posts by past participants, all of the ds106 content material stuff is created openly and remains open.

There is no single ds106. Nope.

What the one site offers is a place for teachers to sign up if they are “teaching a ds106 like course”. With one addition to a Gravity form, their course becomes an option for participants to use when signing up for ds106. The platform created for UMW to offer an open course, is extended, to anyone else who wants to teach a course related to digital media where students openly blog.

The ds106 site becomes a mega aggregator of participant blog posts, but because we associate blogs with “sections” or “courses” we can split out separate pages such as the Spring 2013 course taught at University of Michigan by Brian Short, an English Course in media studies taught in 2014 by Jennifer Travis at St John’s University.

Anyone using DS106, even if not for a listed course, has open access to use resources such as the Open Assignment Bank (where learners can create assignments for others, no that’s not very rhizomatic); the Daily create, an open web radio station.

But hey, these are still courses? Right? What do you call the group of open participants last summer who spun out their own space for the Burgeron Family? I am still not even sure what it is. There are people who’s only participation in ds106 is broadcasting or listening to ds106 radio.

John Johnston (in Scotland) and Mariana Funes (UK) have done weekly live DS106 Good Spell radio shows, with a goal of producing 106 “bullets” shows, where they talked about all kinds of issues around open learning, creativity.

There are others who just do occasional Daily Creates. Speaking of the Daily Create, today’s challenge is number 1218— that has been continuous since January 2012. An open participant, Mariana Funes, has been managing it for a year.

Active open participants, spanning multiple ds106 instances, have included characters such as a dead mountain man, a friendly talking doll, and a cow.

There has been a community supported kickstarter and a radio telethon.

So yes, you can look at one offering of ds106 and see it as rather course driven. Or you could step back, and notice that it’s quite an ecosystem.

There was this one time in ds106 camp when….

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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. So i just remembered i was one of the ppl who signed up but couldn’t stick with it coz i had no idea how to go about it. That’s a few months before rhizo14 so i don’t know what happened to me in between that made me suddenly able to deal with this connecting/rhizome stuff…hmmm..

  2. Nice post Alan. There is and has been so much going on within the DS106 ecosystem and you’ve done an admirable job attempting to corral it in one post.

    People who aren’t an active part of the ongoing community wrongly assume DS106 is a course based on whatever version they first participated in, or what they’ve heard about from others. They would do well to dig a bit deeper before making claims like “ds106 as built around a course structure and teaching figurehead.” http://flic.kr/p/qahkaV

  3. So i just remembered i was one of the ppl who signed up but couldn’t stick with it coz i had no idea how to go about it. That’s a few months before rhizo14 so i don’t know what happened to me in between that made me suddenly able to deal with this connecting/rhizome stuff…hmmm.. Maybe i was busy w my dissertation when that
    Ds106 was starting

    Re Dave i didn’t see his comment. I assume he knows the headlessness and openness of ds106 so dunno what he meant. Maybe just that it originated from a univ course? Same could ne said of cck08 right?

  4. I say all kinds of crazy things. Don’t remember saying what the dog is talking about here… but i must have. My continuum starts with edtechtalk… which is not really a course. Did anyone suggest that DS106 was or wasn’t rhizomatic? You seem to be saying it is, I think – which is cool with me.

    DS106 is tres cool. Is it always a course…? no idea. Can’t keep track of all the crazy stuff you guys do.

    1. Twas a comment somewhere recently about DS106 organized around people like Jim.

      No one flagged DS106 as unrhizomatic, I just wanted to point out it may even be more rhizomatic than people realize (like a scale of rhizomaticity means anything) and that a teacherless course had been run. Then again in hindsight, is a teacherless ds106 an extension of a correspondence course? Maybe in structure, but the things that went off course during that experience, in a networked space, says it is more (to me).

  5. Yeah… there’s an interesting conversation to be had around the ‘idea’ of something like DS106 being the teacher of a course. If we think of ‘teacher’ as helping structure the tone, the direction and the kinds of interaction in a course, you could say that the idea of rhizo14 taught the last 6 weeks last year that were headless. You figure the same could be said for DS106?

    1. Yes and no. Maybe headless is not a useful descriptor. In some instances the teachers role is rather clear and more traditional. But remember often he have these mixes of registered students, say at UMW, where the teachers role is more prominent and at the same time, open participants for whom the giving of grades, direction, and feedback from the teacher matters less– the nature of the role is contextual to the student.

      But there usually hast be at least a host, someone who sets the table, sends some invitations, greets the guests. And in some cases, as you seem to be doing, aim to get out of the way. The rolling out each week of #rhizo15 as more of a question than an answer is brilliant, and seems to step out more each iteration.

  6. What more can I say? I love DS106 ethos, in all of its permutations and even when I am not available to take part (lately, the Daily Create has fallen by my wayside), I still check out what’s going as best as I can. Your write-up here reminds us of what can happen when you try to move learning in a different direction entirely.
    Peace and keep on singing the Rhizo Blues,

  7. Except for the course I taught, I’ve never actually completed a semester of DS106. I write and edit for print, and that takes up a lot of my time. So much time, that I’m generally a terrible digital citizen, replying to tweets forty days late and usually reading but not commenting on blogs (feel free to blast me for this; I blast myself).

    While the course structure of DS106 made me feel safe enough to give the whole thing a go, it was individual people and individual posts and individual assignments that ended up changing the way I think about art and the Internet and education. DS106 made me more interested in the world because it was an ecosystem, something with multiple jumping off and falling away points. Even without a full semester, I was still affected by what I did and saw and read and made.

    My hope is that, as open learners drift partway through the semester, they’re taking the things that they learned at/through DS106 and they’re applying them to their lives and the world around them. I know that’s what I did.

    1. You shall never get blasted! The ds106 participation glass is always partly full and never dropped out empty.

      Say hello to Bagman. And FYI Ben Rimes is suggesting a ds106 convergence on Ann Arbor for October Wordcamp. You game?

      1. I’m super game. Anything I can do from my end? I’ll try and rustle us up some tickets to Wombat Prison Triangle (or whatever that band was called).

  8. Lovely. I think the success of DS106 is based on respect and trust. It is not a ‘course’ it is a presence on the web, and therefore there are no preconceive ideas of the facilitators or teachers on what it or you should be. I have a space to experiment and find ‘me’; I’m not set to do tasks by a certain time or have an expectation to be clever through social media. We have a daily task where it is totally acceptable, and often the norm, that people contribute what is NOT required.

    I think DS106 is a rare thing and I can find nothing that compares. I certainly have spent the last few years stuffing my head full of xMOOCs and cMOOCs and I am not in contact with a single person from them.

    Ecosystem and permutation are all great words. Let’s just leave it at that and not try and be academic and analyse it to death. #4life

  9. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again in the hope someone cool quotes me in a disruptive edtech presentation at a conference:

    You don’t complete ds106; ds106 completes you.

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