UMW Spring 2013 Syllabus

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Please Note: the course syllabus is subject to change depending on the way in which the class unfolds. This class is not premised upon coverage, but rather focused on creative application and interaction with a series of ideas and a wide-range of media. This 15 week session is completely online. Success in this classe hinges on managing time, proactively seeking assistance when needed, and committing regular effort several days a week on the work. Review advice from previous students.

Digital Storytelling Syllabus

Course: Computer Science 106: Digital Storytelling

Instructor: Alan Levine

Location: The Internet

Term: Spring 2013

Email, Office Hours, and Location


Office: The Internet, probably easiest reached on Twitter (@cogdog).

Office Hours: As needed. Weekly office will be available via Google Hangouts; students will be required to sign up to attend at least 1 session as a co-host.

Course Description

The Wikipedia articles on Digital Storytelling defines it rather succinctly as "using digital tools so that ordinary people can tell their own real-life stories." It then goes on to elaborate as follows:

Digital Storytelling is an emerging term, one that arises from a grassroots movement that uses new digital tools to help ordinary people tell their own ‘true stories’ in a compelling and emotionally engaging form. These stories usually take the form of a relatively short story (less than 8 minutes) and can involve interactivity.

The term can also be a broader journalistic reference to the variety of emergent new forms of digital narratives (web-based stories, interactive stories, hypertexts, fan art/fiction, and narrative computer games).

As an emerging area of creative work, the definition of digital storytelling is still the subject of much debate.

There are a number of ideas and assumptions here that we will be interrogating over the course of this semester, namely the idea of "ordinary people," "true stories," and the debate around the meaning of this term. The above article is rather vague about the details surrounding this emerging genre of narrative, and it is our responsibility to examine the term digital storytelling within the cultural context of our moment. This means each of you will be experimenting with your own digital platform for storytelling, as well as placing yourself within a larger narrative of networked conversation on the internet at large.

This course will require you to both design and build an online identity and narrate your process throughout the ten week semester. Given this, you will be expected to openly frame this process and interact with one another throughout the course as well as engage and interact with the world beyond.

In many ways this course will be part storytelling workshop, part technology training and, most importantly, critical interrogation of the digital landscape all around us that is increasingly defining the the way we communicate with one another.

Course Objectives

  • Develop a deeper understanding of the concept of storytelling and the power of narrative;
  • Critically examine the digital landscape of communication technologies as emergent narrative forms and genres and increase appreciation of technology use in storytelling
  • Develop skill in using technology as a tool in communication of stories
  • Improve communication skills
  • Participate in an ongoing and meaningful conversation with your classmates about the ideas, theories, and technologies discussed in this class; and
  • Publish online your own exploration of digital storytelling techniques and approaches.

This course meets UMW's General Education requirement for Arts, Literature, and Performance: Process. As such, it also address the following general education objectives:

  • Students will be able to experiment with the creation of an idea, question, format or product by applying new, or different or divergent approaches to it.
  • Students will be able to use the creative process to understand one self and solve problems.

Course Materials

  • Internet: There is no textbook for this class, however individual readings/videos will be assigned and will all be available online. Success in this class is very much dependent on a reliable, fast internet connection.
  • Computer: Do we need to even list this? Make sure you have a computer you can access whenever needed, not a borrowed one. It will need to be the best one you can have available. It should include a built in or attached camera for live video sessions, and you should have a pair of headphones or ear buds.
  • Web Accounts/Software: You will need to set up accounts on various social media sites we will be using for class. For the most part, no specific software is required; you will need to use what you have or choose from web-based/free/trial versions of software to create media. See the Packing List
  • Web Hosting Account: You will be expected to manage a web hosting account with a LAMP/cPanel Web environment; this will be provided for free to all registered UMW students via
  • Class Web Site: The locus of the course's online activity will be [the DS106 site]. You should always use this URL to enter the course; it is where you will find information about assignments and activities all semester. Over the course of the term, we will also make use of two other important DS106 sites:
    • 'ds106 Handbook: Resources and tutorials for blogging and media creation
    • [DS106 Assignment Repository]: This collection of digital storytelling assignments has been developed over the course of the last few years. We will frequently be drawing upon this collection for course assignments. You will also be creating assignments as part of your coursework.
    • [The Daily Create]: These daily creative assignments ask you to spend no more than 10-15 minutes experimenting with either photography, video, audio, or text based on a pre-defined assignment.
  • Canvas Course Site: You will need to be familiar with Canvas for accessing the class schedule and entering URLs that link to your weekly blog post reflections.

Department of Computer Science Grading Scale

A 92-100% | A- 89- 91% | B+ 87-88% | B 82-86%| B- 79-81% | C+ 77-78% | C 72-76% | C- 69-71% | D+ 67-69% | D 60-66% | F 0-59%

Course Activities & Expectations

Overall Course Process

The work for every week will be posted Mondays to the ds106 web site and will appear as the first post in the list of content there. It will also be listed under the Syllabus menu at the top of the site. Each weekly post will outline the work for the week and will include videos and readings as assigned.

On Tuesday of each week, your instructor will host a live video show that reviews the work for the week and will include other helpful information. YOU SHOULD WATCH THESE VIDEOS IN THEIR ENTIRETY!! and during the semester you will have to join via Google hangout to help cohost the show.

We cannot re-iterate enough how important it is to start your work in the beginning of the week. If you follow the advice of recent students, you will hear again and again how this is not a course in which you can do the work at the last minute.

By Sunday at midnight, you are required to have completed the week's work and to write a summary post of all your activity for that week. A link to that post must be submitted to Canvas. (More information about weekly summary posts is provided below).

To recap, here's how you should expect each week to unfold:

  • Monday: Go to the course site and review the weekly assignment announcement at the top of the home page. Begin working or planning for your assignments.
  • Tuesday: Go to the course site tune into live or watch the archive of the weekly video from your instructor - you will have to plan to attend at least 2 of these during the semester. Continue to work on your assignments.
  • Wednesday - Sunday:
    • Complete all of the work for the week.
    • Use your blog to post each storytelling assignment as you complete it.
    • Use your blog to post any reflections that have been assigned.
    • Complete the assigned Daily Creates and make sure they are showing up on the Daily Create site
    • Follow your classmates' work and comment on it.
    • Use Twitter and your blog to share your successes, questions, etc.
  • Sunday by Midnight: Post your Weekly Summary on your blog and submit the URL for that post in Canvas. This post must provides links to all of the work that you completed during the week (including Daily Creates), and should offer your reflection on the week's activities. (See below for more information about weekly summary posts.)


This class will in many ways be anchored around your ongoing, regular participation through the various technologies you will be experimenting with. If you are not present, you will compromise the success of the class (as well as YOUR success in it). We expect active and engaged participation.

For the purpose of this entirely online version of DS106, presence and participation are determined by the degree to which you are actively and thoughtfully engaging with your classmates and the course materials via the various online spaces used for the class. Participation will be evaluated based upon the following kinds of activities:

  • Narrating your course experience. Throughout the semester, you are required to use your blog to regularly provide updates about your course activities. These posts should be substantive, thorough, and reflective.
  • Commenting upon your classmates' work. You are expected to respond thoughtfully and critically to the work that others in the class are creating. This will be accomplished in several ways, primarily through regular, thoughtful blog comments and feedback on Twitter.
  • Engagement with social media. The online nature of this course requires us all to work especially hard to build a learning community. In large part, we expect this community to emerge out of various spaces and tools that you will be asked to use. We will be looking for your regular presence in spaces like Twitter, Flickr, and YouTube. Complaining that you "don't understand" the tool is not a suitable excuse. You will only begin to understand by using and engaging.

ds106 BootCamp

The first two weeks of class will consist of ds106 "Bootcamp." During this time, you will be given a list of tasks that you must complete in order to demonstrate that you understand the basic tasks and activities that will be required of you during the semester. During this time, you will begin the process of personalizing your own web publishing space.

The Daily Create

Regular, creative exercises are at the heart of ds106, and to this end over the course of the semester we will be expecting every student to complete between 2-4 Daily Create assignments each week (the number to complete each week will be provided by the Instructors at the start of the week). In order to get full credit for this assignment you will need to complete it the day the assignment was posted as well as tag it according to the directions given with the prompt. You will be expected to include the work you've done for your Daily Creates in your Weekly Summary posts.

Digital Storytelling Assignments

Throughout the semester, we will assign a number of digital storytelling projects using a variety of tools, techniques, and technologies. For the most part, these assignments will come from the ds106 Assignment Repository. You are expected to complete all of these assignments by the weekly deadline and share them on your blog, and in your weekly summary. Your grade on these will reflect both your success at completing these assignments as well as a detailed commentary on your blog describing your process and any difficulties you encountered. In other words, you will be expected to not only complete an assignment, but also share with everyone how you did it. What's more, if you have difficulty with an assignment we will always expect you to attempt it, but you can use your blog to share insight into what you found challenging and how you negotiated the requirements.

Again three components are required to earn credit on your assignment work - for the full details see the ds106 Handbook section on How to Write Up Assignments

  • The work itself must be embedded as media to view directly in your blog post. You will not get credit if you merely provide a LINK to an image, video, etc.
  • A narration of the story behind it, what was the inspiration? What is the meaning to you? What are the elements of storytelling within it?
  • A description of the process, tools, techiques used to create it, as well as hyperlinked attribution to any source media you did not create yourself.

Generally speaking, as long as we see a commitment to completing an assignment creatively and sharing your process thoroughly, you can expect to do well on it. If you don’t complete an assignment, or do not include all three elements above, you will receive a zero.

Also, keep in mind each assignment in the ds106 assignment repository has two tags. You are required to use both tags from each assignment correctly to receive credit. It is your responsibility to double check the spelling of the tags and ensure they are correct for each and every assignment you create.

You are expected to review the course site regularly and to complete all assignments on-time.

Creating (and Completing) Your Own Assignments

Over the course of the semester we would like each of you to come up with ideas for two new assignments. Each assignment you create must be for a different section of the course (i.e., visual, design, audio, video, and mashup/remix)--feel free to create more than, but that two is the minimum requirement. The assignments should be relatively short and creative. In addition, you must do the assignment you create and document your own process for completing it. You can submit the ones you create [here].

Remember, each assignment has to be tagged correctly to receive credit---and those tags will be created automatically immediately after you submit the assignment. Don't forget to tag your example of the assignment you complete.

In addition, since you will gain experience at doing daily creates we ask that you [ submit at least two new TDC challenges for future students

Creating Tutorials

In addition to creating at least two assignments, you will be required to create at least two tutorials for either assignments you create or pre-existing assignments in the repository. These tutorials can be blog posts with specific instructions or screenshots, screencasts walking an audience through the process, or some other approach to helping others complete the task. A way to consider how these are done would be to ask what sort of tutorial would have helped you best to do the assignment.

Like assignments, tutorials have tags that need to be added to the post on your blog in order for it to be associated with the proper assignment. You need to check the tutorial tag for the assignment you are writing the documentation for. You will need to correctly use the tutorial tags to get full credit.

Weekly Summary Posts

Every week, you will be required to submit a summary post by the weekly deadline (generally due on Sundays at midnight). These posts should include links to or embedded media from all the work you have done for the week: storytelling assignments, daily creates, reflections etc. In addition, you should use this post to reflect upon your activity of the week:

  • How well do you feel you completed the requirements of the week's assignments?
  • What gave you trouble? What did you enjoy most? What did you learn?
  • What would you do differently? What questions to you have?
  • What are some of the larger issues surrounding your work? Cultural/Societal implications?

These weekly summaries are what we will use to find all of your weekly work as we determine your grade for that week. In addition, they are an opportunity for you tell us how you feel you are doing and what's giving you trouble, overall, in the course. If you forget to include something in a weekly post, we may not realize you've completed it. If you fail to submit a weekly summary, you will get no grade for that week!

VERY IMPORTANT: The only time you will be required to use Canvas for this course is to submit your Weekly Summary Posts. You must login to Canvas and submit the URL of the individual summary post (NOT your blog's overall URL) for that week's assignment.

Mid-Term and Final Projects

Radio Show

By the mid-term point of the semester, each of you will be required to have worked on a group radio show project. You will be given several weeks to complete this project, as a group, and it will build upon work that you will do with digital audio in previous weeks. The radio shows will be broadcast on the ds106 web radio station.

Final Story Challenge

This will be a digital story that you will complete in the final weeks of the class. You will get more information about the requirements for this story later in this semester, but generally you should be prepared to create a larger digital narrative out of media created by others throughout the semester in ds106.


As this class is online, there will be no established session or class that you must attend every week. Rather, your attendance will be evaluated upon your activity and presence in the course's online spaces: your blog, Twitter, comments on your classmates blogs, etc.

Late Policy

All weekly work must be posted to your web site and your weekly summary post URL must be posted to Canvas by midnight Sunday of the week they are due. We realize life presents unexpected situations, but unless prior arrangements have been made with your instructor, no work will be accepted for credit after the weekly deadline. THIS IS NON-NEGOTIABLE.

Emergency Situations

We recognize that, upon rare occasions, serious illnesses or family emergencies may interrupt a student's work. We are willing to make accommodations in these situations but ONLY if you inform us of the situation IMMEDIATELY. Do not disappear for a week because of extenuating circumstances, and then ask us for leniency. As soon as you are aware that there is a serious situation that will prevent you from doing your work, email your instructor.


  • Bootcamp: 5%
  • Submitting 2 Assignments Ideas, 2 Tutorials, 2 Daily Creates: 5%
  • Participation (social media and weekly shows) 5%
  • Final Project: 15%
  • Radio Show: 10%
  • Weekly Work (encompasses storytelling assignments, daily creates, reflections, participation) 60%: Grades for weekly work will be determined by using your required weekly summary posts.


We encourage you to regularly use Twitter for this class. If you already have an account, you may use it. Otherwise, creating an account is easy! When you post a tweet that is related to your activity in the class, make sure to include the hashtag #ds106. These tweets will be harvested and displayed on the course website. In addition, Twitter can and must be integrated with your class blog (you will get information about how to do this during Boot Camp).

Contacting Us

Your instructor can be contacted many ways, but e-mail and/or twitter is probably easiest Alan Levine or @cogdog. Our correspondence will be much more productive if you follow a few simple guidelines:

  • First, consider whether you really need to e-mail us. If you're experiencing a technical problem, make every effort to solve it first on your own (though a Google search, a call for help blog post, etc.). If you do need to ask for technical help, your message should indicate that you've already tried available means to solve the problem, including specific steps you've already taken.
  • Don't forget to identify yourself. If you have a question about an assignment, please make sure we know who you are, what section you're in, and the exact assignment about which you have a question.
  • Please send a followup. If our explanation helped, or if the technical suggestion worked, please send a note. This way, we know whether or not to make the same suggestion to someone else when they come to me with a similar problem.


Students are expected to treat the instructor and fellow students with the appropriate degree of respect in all interactions. Communication, either in person or through electronic media, that is deemed abusive, threatening, or harassing in nature will not be tolerated.

The Honor Code

Students are expected to conduct themselves in a manner consistent with the letter and spirit of the Honor Code. A violation of the Honor Code is a very serious matter.

Online Accessibility

The University of Mary Washington is committed to ensuring that all students have the same opportunities to successfully participate and learn in online courses as they do in traditional, face-to-face courses.

To this end, we will make every effort to make sure the media we create in this online courses should be developed and presented in ways that are universally accessible

  • Images should be optimized and include descriptive “alt” tags
  • Written transcripts of audio files and video files should be made available.
  • Whenever possible, alternative formats of materials should be made available to students who require them (e.g. optional print packet of extensive online reading materials, CD of audio clips)
  • Web sites and Web-based tools should adhere to accessibility “best practices”
  • Mechanisms should be available for including “alt” texts when images are uploaded or used.
  • Text should be legible and re-sizable
  • Use of color should add interest and indicate interface choices, but should not disadvantage those with color blindness.
  • When approached by a student with an unanticipated access concern, online faculty should make every attempt to address the concern by adjusting requirements, providing extensions, or making additional accommodations.

Disability Service Statement

The Office of Disability Services has been designated by the University as the primary office to guide, counsel, and assist students with disabilities. If you receive services through the Office of Disability Services and require accommodations for this class, make an appointment with me as soon as possible to discuss your needs. I will hold any information you share with me in strictest confidence unless you give me permission to do otherwise.

Class Schedule

The following schedule lays out the basic structure of the class and the units and topics we’ll cover over the semester.

The course calendar will provide an overview to the topics and assignments for each week of ds106 at the University of Mary Washington. Each week features a live internet show on Tuesdays as a review of the week's content and online open labs on Thursdays.

Each student will have requirements to participate in the weekly live video starting in week 3

Week 1 (Boot Camp)

all work is due midnight January 20, 2013

The first week of our "Boot Camp" for getting in shape for ds106; setup of your Wordpress blogs and creation other social media accounts. Complete Introductions via blog, twitter. Review of a range of media with exploration question of what kind of stories do they tell.

Week 2 (Boot Camp cont’d)

all work is due midnight January 27, 2032

This week we go deeper into customizing your blog with themes, plugins, and other key settings. Also, this will be the week you get introduced to the Daily Create. As part of Boot Camp activity this week, you will need to write blogs posts that embed media. You will also need to begin commenting on your classmates' blogs and soliciting comments on your own. This week's discussion and reflection will be around the ideas of sharing media and creative commons.

Week 3 Introduction to Storytelling

all work is due midnight February 3, 2013

Storytelling… it’s part of the title this course, and you likely have some idea what it means from your childhood or school years. This week we will explore it in the framing of what you will be doing for the next 13 weeks in ds106. You will hone in on your own understanding of what the Digital part adds, and try your hand at a few creative exercises.

Week 4 Audio Intro (Listening)

all work is due midnight February 10, 2013

This week in ds106 we’re going to be diving into our first storytelling genre: audio. Working with audio can be a bit daunting and unfamiliar, so we’ll be easing you into it this week. We’ll ask you to do some listening exercises as well as begin to create your own

Week 5: Visual

all work is due midnight February 17, 2013

In doing your ds106 Daily Creates you’ve already been using photography and drawing skills, plus you’ve had some practice on doing visual stories for our introduction to storytelling. In this week we go a bit deeper and give you the opportunity to practice telling stories in primarily visual form.

Week 6: Design

all work is due midnight February 24, 2013

We’ve wrapped up our week on visual storytelling and photography, and this week we’re diving into design. You’ll spend some time this week thinking about the way the world around you is designed, as well as creating some of your own design projects.

Weeks 7 & 8: Advanced Audio (radio show)

all work is due midnight March 17,, 2013

The next two weeks are all about audio and radio This time wraps around Fall Break (March 4-March 8). The majority of your work during this time should be working on your radio show which is due Friday, March 15th by midnight.


Week 9: Radio Shows Go Live and Telling Stories Within the Web

all work is due midnight March 24, 2013

All the work your groups have done the last two weeks pays off as your shows will be broadcast on ds106 radio (March 18, 2013 As the last part of our audio segment, your task this weel will be to evaluate the show from another team and also self evaluate your own team’s show. In addition, we move to a different kind of storytelling, one that uses the space of existing web sites as a place for you to assert your own stories into them.

Week 10: Reading Movies

all work is due midnight March 31, 2013 This week we enter what most students find the most challenging yet rewarding portion of ds106: video. Working with video presents challenges with file formats and using more complex software. But the end rewards are often the most rewarding. Before we jump into editing, we want to spend some time first looking critically at the video form and do some pre-planning for your first video editing.

Weeks 11 & 12: Movie Time

all work is due midnight April 14, 2012

It’s time to make movies! Video is perhaps the most rich of storytelling forms, and we want you to focus explicitly now on video storytelling. The only assignments on your plate are to work on video assignments, and all of which are due in two weeks time.

Week 13 & 14: Remix

all work is due midnight April 28, 2013 For the next two weeks, you’ll be exploring the ideas of remixes and mashups, the artistic recasting of existing media into new forms by creative combination and editing. This will build off of your previous work in all media forms. And we will even remix assignments.

Week 15: Final Project and Wrap Up

all work is due 7:00pm May 3, 2013

ds106 in[SPIRE]