Ds106 is a free, online, open participant course on Digital Storytelling; anyone with an internet connection can join the class, for free. At its most basic, the goal of the course is to creatively tell story using a variety of digital mediums, to get others to discuss your work and create something of their own.
Some of the first assignments were to create a MacGuffin and animated gifs. They sparked twitter conversation at #ds106 and eventually had students both at York and open lighting up the ds106 feed with their assignments. Participants also joined another online community, dailyshoot, daily posting a photograph that had to be taken that day, according to a specific topic, and using specific hash-tags that put the picture on the website’s feed. Students can even create their own assignments and post them for others to do. This course is not taught traditionally, bearing another interesting aspect, an underlying story arch: Michael Smith (the instructor) stars as Dr. Oliver, an old scientist, embarking on a journey to the center of the internet, leaving us video posts as he learns to use the tools along the way.
CT 101 Intro to Video has long been the foundation of courses for the Communications Technology program: it is the longest running class in the program, the first major course of anyone in the program and a popular general elective at York College. The original course model was based on portrait style documentary production. Participants spent the semester learning the art of storytelling through a lens, creating a 3-5 minute piece on a particular aspect of a subject. You can see examples of their work here. This course mostly focused on preparing CT students concentrating in Digital Video (DV), getting them familiar with cameras, lighting setups, the interviewing and editing process.
The new curriculum for this course takes a more general approach, discussing storytelling on multiple digital formats. Students begin by setting up their own online space, and get used to using social tools like flickr, twitter and youtube as part of a general creative community. They then spend the semester creating works that tell and retell stories using digital design/remixing, photography, audio, video, etc. Arguably the best thing about this new model is its online presence. The CT program has been moving toward a more open design, starting with the advent of CT 399 Portfolio Design, which began the use of blogs as a medium to host classes, keep track of and to increase the audience for student work. Being part of the ds106 online community means more feedback and greater impact for student work.
The new CT 101 requires students to purchase a domain name, a commercial web hosting account that uses LAMP/cPanel and install WordPress; tutorials are provided. It is cheaper than the cost of books (less than $10 a month) and because it’s your personal account, you can do anything you wish with it! Ds106 advocates using publicly available tools, that can be accessed by anyone for free, so you don’t need photoshop or protools to make anything in the class; in fact, that would be cheating.
This is the first semester the new course has run, and also the first time it has run with two sections. Several interesting things have occurred this semester. During October, Michael Smith did a live ds106 radio broadcast from the Occupy Wall Street site in Zuccotti Park, which inspired him to make Fat Chance Monopoly cards supporting the movement. An open participant also put together a Storify and Audio archive of the broadcast. Shortly afterward, York and open students welcomed a class of students from Japan to ds106, changing the storyline of the class as it was forcibly overtaken. The course is not finished yet, so we look forward to seeing more of the work that will be produced and how the story will end.