I’m so confused. What the heck is DS106?

First, you’re not alone. Understanding what DS106 is can be really confusing. 🙂

In order to understand, it probably helps to share a brief history. About two years ago, Jim Groom (Director of Teaching and Learning Technologies at the University of Mary Washington) began teaching a course in the computer science department at UMW. CPSC 106 is a course in digital storytelling, and for the first two semester’s that Jim taught it, it was solely a face-to-face course. Students worked through a number of digital storytelling genres, and they also had to learn how to build their own “personal cyberinfrastructure” (a phrase coined by former UMW English professor and Associate VP for Teaching and Learning Technologies, Gardner Campbell). The personal cyberinfrastructure involved students obtaining a domain name and space on a Web host and then learning how to install and configure open-source Web applications as a means of creating and developing their own digital identity.

After teaching the course twice, Jim decided to open it up. In the fall of 2010, he invited his professional network (primarily folks following his blog and Twitter account) to join the course. At that point, the course began to be referred to as “DS106.” In spring 2011, the first open, online version of DS106 was launched. It included three separate credit-seeking classes of students at UMW (who were enrolled in CPSC 106) as well as hundreds of other participants on the open Web who wanted to learn more about digital storytelling.

DS106 Ancillaries

Over that first semester, a strong community was forged, with open, online participants interacting regularly with UMW students. They offered advice, completed the same assignments, and provided useful critiques. A few other things happened as well!

Grant Potter, from the University of Northern British Columbia, built and hosted an online radio station for DS106. Know as ds106radio, this is a space where anyone can host a radio show or use Web-based broadcast audio to share presentations, conference sessions, or classes.

The folks at UMW built a DS106 Assignment Repository, and invited anyone to submit a digital storytelling assignment idea. Since it’s inception, over 400 assignment ideas have been submitted, many by UMW students. These assignments are now regularly used as activities in the course when it is taught — and anyone can use them for a course they are teaching that involves the use of new media.

Tim Owens built a DS106 TV station. Like ds106radio, it is a space where DS106 community members can use broadcast video to host video-based shows.

In spring of 2012, Tim also built a new site, The Daily Create. This space provides a creative prompt everyday which people can complete as a way of developing a regular, creative habit. The prompts are designed to take no more than 10-15 minutes to complete.

Summer of Oblivion

During the summer of 2011, Jim taught a version of the class that explored digital storytelling in a whole new way. A range of characters took over the course, and a narrative emerged within the course that pushed it in a whole new direction. Actually, Summer of Oblivion is sort of hard to explain. . .you may just want to Google it and see what you find.

DS106 Beyond UMW

Based on the success of the DS106 community, a number of other schools have begun to use the DS106 framework, pedagogical approach, and assignments to teach their own classes. These courses aren’t necessarily the same as CPSC 106 at UMW, but they make use of the DS106 community that emerged from that course to enact their own kind of classroom experience.

What Next?

It’s impossible to predict where DS106 will go next? UMW continues to offer CPSC 106 fairly regularly, and the folks in DTLT continue to teach it. But they’ve learned that every course experience needs to be allowed to be it’s own thing. In summer 2012, Alan Levine and Martha Burtis are teaching an online version of the course that will take place at a virtual summer camp: Camp Magic MacGuffin. It will include both UMW students and open, online participants. And, as is always the case, anything could happen!