Week 1 Reflections


cc licensed ( BY SA ) flickr photo shared by Alan Levine

I use the word reflection often in teaching ds106- it has shades of meaning, and less of looking at your own outward appearances but re-processing the work you are doing in learning and practicing digital storytelling. Sure Malcolm Gladwell suggests if we do something for 10,000 hours we might be as good as the Beatles. Maybe. Repetition is boring, but repeated practice is beneficial. I believe you can amplify the effect if you addd to it the practice of reviewing what you are doing, and doing it in proximity to others. Hence the use of public, open blogs in ds106.

I was about to email my GMU students a few general observations on what I saw for the first week, but this may be useful to others. And I can send a shorter email if a link replaces paragraphs of text.

Off to the Races

When we teach this as a 15 week course, the first 2 weeks are lovingly called “Bootcamp” as it is meant to get students up to speed with using their blogs, creating accounts, and starting to write in a way that is new for them. More or less the same is happening here.

Most importantly, you cannot do well in this class by doing all the work the night before. When that happens, you are doing things just because they are required, and its the rush to avoid “losing points”. This work is designed to be done in stages, and the best strategy is to scan the assignments when first published Sunday nights, at least to gauge what is going to take more time. Last week and this week are viewing videos, listen to audio, a few web pages to read, and writing about them in your blog. IN weeks 3-7 there is more a focus on making media, and that will take even more planning.

It’s Your Blog and You Will Dance if You Want To

The best part of this first week is seeing how you all personalize the wordpress blogs. A few names and URLs made me smile at a playful sense of creativity. For many of you the interface, and options are bewildering. The most important one is where you write- get to know the editing features.

The feature you all must be using a lot is the hyperlink editor. Highlight text, click the link, and paste in a URL. Make sure there is a link for movies, web sites, books, complicated terms that you use in writing. Link to the assignment you are doing. Link to something that is just tangentially related. But it’s not much of a web if it does not link anywhere.

Each blog post should stand on its own, as its own article, story, with beginning, middle, and end. When you refer to an assignment you are doing, you must explain, paraphrase, and/or link to it so a user knows what “the Vonnegut video” is or what you are talking about “story spines”. When you are done, ask yourself if you randomly came cross this on the web, would you understand its context? What it is in response to?

I am also going to be looking to see that you are using more media in your blog. Text is fine, but we are creating media rich stories. Think about using images as metaphors, through caution to the wind…


cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo shared by David Goehring

When you refer to a video, you can always link to it, but why not embed it directly into your blog page?

WordPress makes it easy, you just need the URL for a video from Youtube or vimeo- learn the ways media can be directly embedded into your blog and how you can use WordPress shortcodes.

And.. if you use someone else’s media, get in the habit of citing the source, by link or credit.

But mostly, I want you to start finding a way to write about your ideas and thinking that feels natural, and gives me (and the rest of the open internet) an idea to how you think– not just “here is my assignment” (yawn).

The Wonder of Widgets

All wordpress themes have portions called sidebars and footers that you can customize. Look under Appearance — Widgets for things you can add to the sidebar of your blog beyond the defaults they provide. Learn more about widgets

Browsers Browsers Browsers

A few people mentioned trouble viewing the Touchcast and Snowfall sites– I forgot to mention that these sites use modern web code that is mostly standard, but you can have challenges depending on which web browser you use. I have about 4 installed in my computer, because often when a site does not work in one browser, it may work in another.

Not without getting to religious, but you will run into the most limitations with Internet Explorer. Sorry. But I reccomend using Google Chrome and or Firefox.

The ds106 Community

As you have been sending me your wordpress blog urls, I am adding them to a subscription tool on the ds106 site, that allows us to list links and summaries to your blog posts in one place. So there is a page that shows the latest posts from Section 1, another for section 2, and a third that combines them together.

This gets useful when I ask you (his week) to start commenting on each other blogs. Plus, if you are looking for ideas to do an assignment, seek inspiration from a classmate. In addition, as an open course, there are helpful interested people from all over the world that might read your blog posts too and offer (free!) suggestions and feedbacks. Some of your blogs already have comments from outside the course.

That may seem weird at first.

Especially when one of the most helpful souls appears on line as a talking doll. This is one case where a ds106er is experimenting with themselves as a character, as a story.

Your Final Weekly Checklists

The summary of your week’s work is what I will base your grades on. Now let’s be serious, you are all adults and should not be worrying much about points and such. Let’s not make this a task just for the points. Wjat I am looking for is a short summary, and a link back to, your own blog post that is one of the required items for each week’s work (detailed as the last block of the weekly assignment post. IN fact, I would like to see how you would grade your own performance for the week, you know better than me.

I am also looking for a few sentences or more as a reflection on what you learned, struggle with, discovered in the week. The list of links to assignment is the part of your weekly story spine of “this happened, then this happened, then…” but I also want to see the “so what did the character learn about themself” too.

In a few weeks, the WordPress part should seem less complex, and maybe more natural. Some students say it works for them better to compose in Word first. That’s fine. You can write notes and parts of posts in your blog, and keep them as unpublished drafts (that’s how I work). The point is with everything in this class is to try different solutions til one feels right for you.

Now get out there, and listen to and watch some stories!

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