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There’s no wealth like (digital) knowledge

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It was last spring, while talking to a friend, that I first heard of the Digital Storytelling class at UMW. He recommended it heavily, stressing how much fun he was having. That was all good, but really I just wanted an arts performance class so I could continue to inch closer to graduation. So I signed up for the summer session and sort of forget about the whole thing.

Come summer and I get an email from Martha Burtis. She was prefacing the class for us, and to me, the image she presented seemed daunting. I thought about dropping the class, but I mulled it over and decided to stick with it. I’m tremendously glad that I did.

I had come into the class without any real idea of what digital storytelling entailed. As the class progressed I realized that the term is sort of ambiguous yet also rich. It is open to a lot of interpretation, and I liberally take it to be any sort of narrative carried out through digital mediums. Under that umbrella are all kinds of complexities liable to explosively expand the way we express ourselves. With so much potentialities and options it’s exciting to consider what the future may hold for storytelling. My hope, though, is that the emphasis will be on how this can be interactive and fulfill that fundamental human urge for connection.

There are many things to take away from this class on digital storytelling, but what I enjoyed most about the course was a chance to be creative. That’s not something that comes along often, especially in college where classes prize the ability of miming scholarly arguments over original thought on the subject. But no less important than the creative side is the technical aspect of the class. I had sort of dismissed a lot of emergent media technologies as interesting but not for me. Had it not been for this class I probably would never had engaged with technology like I did.

Now that I’ve had experience with these mediums I’m thinking how I can carry onward with them, in particular with the audio aspects. That was the part of the class I had the most fun with.  The song I made for the radio show was really addictive to work on, and I probably would have kept tinkering with the track if I hadn’t had a deadline. Given more time I would have played with the rhythmic development more and try to integrate the different parts of the song into a more cohesive whole. I do plan to continue working with audio and programs like GarageBand and Audacity after the class. Is that something I’ll need for my career? Maybe, but probably not. However, it is fulfilling on a personal level, and in a way I think that’s more important than professional development.

DS106 can be just a requirement, something to check off the list as you progress to graduating, but to take the class that way is to throw away an amazing opportunity. If you approach the class willing to get involved in the class, engage with the issues brought up, take on the technical challenges, and above all, allow yourself to be creative, then you have a chance to really grow. The class can be frustrating at times, this is true, but nothing in the class is so daunting that it can’t be overcome. Stick with it and enjoy the ride. You’ll be happy with where it takes you.


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