The ds106 snowflake

I love this ds106 data visualization put together by Martin Hawksey at JISC. This video is a representation of the community activity that occurred in ds106 – the unMOOC MOOC developed by Alan Levine, Jim Groom and the rest of the Division of Teaching and Learning Technology at U Mary Washington (whose innovative work I have gushed over before).

With each white circle representing a blog post, and circles clustered around individual blogs, you can quickly see just how much activity occured during ds106, and how much this beautiful visualization represents a model of learning that reflects the qualities of the internet itself – distributed, networked, nodal, autonomous yet connected. It’s no accident that this visualization looks like the internet itself.  As Alan points out, ds106 was specifically designed this way.

The very essence of ds106 is that it is made of the same stuff that the web is made of, a distributed, open, decentralized connected network managed by participants in the space it inhabits. You will hear people talk about their organizations or projects being on the web. but there is more than a shade of difference of ds106 being of the web.

In an environment that has proven its resilience, growth, and capability, should we not emulate the very ideals of the internet in the learning experiences we create? For the most part, while being on the web, the majority of MOOCs are operating via a structure that is not built by nor cared for by its learners. The truly open, syndicated model of ds106 works because it acts like the web itself.


See, this is why I can't do ds106

#ds106. I am sure that is going to be a trending hashtag in the new year as Jim Groom’s MOOC  (Massive Open, Online Course) on Digital Storytelling gets underway in January. And looking at the participants who have signed on so far (or are contributing without actually jumping into the course), it is going to be a heck of a fun ride.

So many people in my network are participating (including one of our Art instructors) that I am feeling quite bummed about not being able to take part. But this winter/spring will see me finishing my Masters thesis, and, after the time I spent putting this together last night, DS 106 would just be too compelling a reason to not transcribe that 90 minute interview.

Here is the gist of a potential DS 106 assignment (suggested, I believe, by Tom Woodward)

Make an animated gif from your favorite/least favorite movie capturing the essence of a key scene. Make sure the movement is minimal but essential.

So, here is my contribution.

From Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange. This captures the moment where Alex, sitting with his droogs in the Korova Milk Bar, hears a woman singing opera. As that sly smile creeps across his face, we are fooled into thinking that he has nothing but scorn and derision for the older group of well dressed people sitting in the bar, and that he is about to call his droogs and go all malarky on their asses. But, what becomes clear a few moments after this, is that smile is not a smile of wicked delight at the thought of going ultra-violent, but a smile that revels his love of music. It is this moment that reveals both a weakness and a humanity that is ultimately both sympathetic and repulsive.  And, if you know the movie, that love of music becomes a key plot device later on when his behaviour gets modified.

I did this using the frame capture feature of the VLC player, and then created the animated gif in Adobe Fireworks.

This is the reason why I can’t do DS 106. As I beavered away on this in the basement last night, 20 more invitations to participate in my thesis research didn’t get sent out. Too…much…temptation.

What I find really interesting about this (besides the subject and the delivery method) is how Jim has taken the Instructional Design of the courses out into the open. Jim is certainly at the helm here, but he has asked his network for ideas. What kinds of assignments should this course include? How does one go about designing a MOOC?

He is crowdsourcing instructional design.

@jimgroom another #ds106 idea, 3 degrees of wikipedia competition see who can come up with most obscure wikiP “triple” (from @sleslie)

I’d like to see someone write a story/poem with a “googlewhack” in each line #ds106 (from @twoodwar)

5 Card Flickr #ds106 Story: Life is Like a Barrel of Pandas Add to pool tag ds106 in flickr Play (from @cogdog)

Maybe a good idea to use in #ds106 “Tim Burton’s new project: Storytelling with Twitter fans” (from @jtcf)

It’s a conversation that not only are his network of educators contributing to, but also potential students for the course.  This course is being designed, at least in part, by the crowds, led by a trusted network of educators that Jim has invested the time and energy in to developing relationships with.

It is a testament to the benefits of educators being open and engaged in social spaces, and taking a long term approach to developing relationships. If Jim had just started blogging or had just started using Twitter a month ago, this type of collaboration would not be possible. The network effect would not be there.

For me, a learner trying to understand the process of designing engaging learning experiences in a technology mediated environment, this type of transparency of process is invaluable, as it is to Jim, who builds on the successes and challenges of those who came before him. Standing on the shoulders.

Rock on, my droogs. I’ll be lurking along the sides and look forward to seeing what you all come up with.