Frequently Asked Questions

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!


How Can I Succeed at DS106?

UMW Students

If you’re a UMW student (seeking credit in CPSC 106 and currently enrolled in that course) then success probably means getting a good grade. Getting a good grade in DS106 means working hard and working consistently. You need to commit to spend a little time every day (and some days you may need to spend a lot of time) on completing assignments, commenting on your classmates’ work, and, generally, exploring the community of DS106.

DS106 is a course that is meant to foster and explore creative expression, so we expect you to be creative. BUT, that doesn’t mean we expect you to be perfect. We understand that creative work is HARD work. So, we’re just as interested in you telling us about the process you went through to complete an assignment as we are in you handing in a precious, perfect product. (We love great work, but we also love self-reflection and commitment). So, if you find yourself struggling to do the assignments, don’t despair. Write a blog post anyway. Share what you’ve done so far. Talk about the problems you’ve been having and how you’ve tried to address them. Ask for help.

One thing you don’t want to do in DS106 is wait until the last minute. Lots of people are here to help, but they may not be able to help you if you wait until the 11th hour. Start your work early, narrate your process as you go, ask for help when you need it. That’s a great formula for success.

And don’t forget to have fun!! DS106 is a lot of work, but it’s also a lot of FUN work. When you get to choose assignments, pick ones that appeal to you. When you get an assignment where you get to pick the focus, focus on something you care about!

Open, Online Students

For you guys, success is really all up to you. What do you want to get out of this experience? Is there a particular genre of storytelling you’re interested in exploring? Are you looking to connect with colleagues at other institutions who care about the same stuff as you? Are you just looking for a creative outlet to blow off a little steam? These are all fine goals for DS106. If you want to share them on your blog, that will help the whole community to support you.

We like to say to open, online students that DS106 means never having to say your sorry. We know you’re doing this on top of your job, other classes, and the rest of your life. You’re opting into this experience, which means you get to decide how much you put into and take away from it. We’re just happy to have you along for as much of the ride as you want to take.

In the end, you won’t have credit, but we hope you’ll still have learned something. 🙂 See more at the ds106 mothership…

If I’m an “Open” participant, do I need to get everything on the packing list?

Well, since you are here on your own volition and dime, you get to choose. You do need a blog space to post your ds106 work. While we require our UMW students to create their own domain and self-host a wordpress blog, as an open participant you have the option to:

  • Use your existing blog This si fine but we’d like a way to just syndicate in your ds106 content, so we woukld need to know what tag/category you might use within your blog.
  • Create a New Blog You can create a special ds106 space on almost any blog platform, self hosted wordpress,, Blogger, TypePad, tumblr, posterous – we just need

Essentially we just need a RSS feed from any space you can post your work- it will need to support tags (for your assignments to be properly recognized).

Beyond this the most important things are a twitter account, and for the Daily Creates and posting your media, accounts n flickr, youtube, and SoundCLoud.

The Minecraft account is not strictly required, but it is going to be a space we will be exploring and having some virtual meetings in. It is the only thing in ds106 that has a cost (~$20).

Should I write a blog post for each Daily Create I do?

The Daily Create was intended to be something that can be done quickly, and ideally, something that focuses more in composing an idea than editing. Therefor, the only requirement for Daily Creates is posting them in the distributed media sites (flickr, YouTube, and SoundCloud).

That said, if you are compelled to tell the world something more about your creation, or if you wish to gather comments on your site, by all means blog them.

For our in class students who have a specific requirements for doing Daily Creates, we suggest that rather than blogging individually, to do as a weekly wrap up summarizing all of their Daily Create activities for a week. In any blog post, you should embed the media, not just link to it.

How do we tag our blog posts so they show up in the aggregated list?

Great Question! There are actually a couple of ways to answer this.

First, and foremost, if you want your blog posts to show up on either the main DS106 site ( or the Magic MacGuffin site (, you need to register for DS106. Then we’ll make sure the blog URL you enter during registration is added to our syndication mechanism. (This is a manual process right now, so be patient. If your posts aren’t showing up in either location after a day or two, let one (or all) of us know on Twitter (@cogdog, @mburtis, @jimgroom).

Note: When you sign up on DS106, we’ll always add you to the main DS106 site. If you’re participating in the course during summer 2012, make sure you choose “Camp Magic MacGuffin” as your affiliation and we’ll make sure you also get added to the camp site, as well.

Second, if you like, you can tag or categorize your posts in your blog with something like “ds106” and we can try to just grab a feed for that tag/category. This is really easy in WordPress, but it’s also possible in some other blogging systems. Just let us know via Twitter what tag you’re using, and we’ll try and get the filtered feed!

Third, as we assign posts for people to create in order to complete assignments, we’ll usually provide a tag/category that we want you to use. This helps us to filter content based on the assignment that’s being completed. Please try to remember to use these when you’re completing your work!

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