Syllabus, Summer 2011

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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 theoretical interaction with a series of ideas from a wide-range of disciplines.

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Digital Storytelling Syllabus

Course: Computer Science 106: Digital Storytelling

Instructor(s): Jim Groom and others

Location: The Internet

Term: Summer 2011

Email, Office Hours, and Location


Office: The Internet (probably easiest reached on twitter @jimgroom---though I can also be found in duPont 310 on UMW's campus)

Office Hours: Regularly

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 interrogate the term digital storytelling within the cultural context of our moment. This means each of you will be experimenting with our 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 an intensive five week semester. Given this, you will be expected to openly frame this process and interact with one another throughout that course as well as engage and interact with the world beyond as a necessary part of such a development.

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 ever increasingly defining the the way we communicate with one another.

Course Objectives

  • To develop skills in using technology as a tool for networking, sharing, narrating, and creative self-expression
  • To frame a digital identity wherein you you become both a practitioner in and interrogator of various new modes of networking
  • To critically examine the digital landscape of communication technologies as emergent narrative forms and genres

Course Materials

  • The internet: There is no textbook for this class, however individual readings will be assigned and will all be available online. Being successful in this class is very much dependent on a reliable, fast internet connection.
  • A computer: This class does not take place in a computer lab (if it is in a classroom at all). If this class meets in a physical classroom, I STRONGLY recommend bringing a laptop computer with you to class to participate in class activities and assignments.
  • A Web Hosting account: You will be expected to purchase a subscription to a commercial Web hosting service with a LAMP/cPanel Web environment. One option will be presented to you in class, but you may choose any hosting service you like, as long as it meets the basic LAMP/cPanel requirements.

Department of Computer Science Grading Scale

If applicable, here is the 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%

Grading Breakdown

Participation (25% of Grade)

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) . I expect active and engaged participation, which for the purposes of this class means responding thoughtfully and critically to your classmates work. This will be accomplished in several ways, but most of all through commentary of the work of your peers in their blogs.

Course Blogging (25% of Grade)

Everyone will be expected to regularly contribute their reflections on the course work and the projects to their personal blog. The course blog must host all of your digital storytelling assignments (see below).

Digital Storytelling Assignments (40% of Grade)

Throughout the semester, I will assign a number of digital storytelling projects using a variety of tools, techniques, and technologies. You are expected to complete all of these assignments in a timely fashion and share them on your blog. Your grade on these will reflect both your success at completing these assignments as well as any commentary (on your blog) about difficulties you encountered. In other words, if you have difficulty with an assignment I will always expect you to attempt it, but you can use your blog to share with me (and your classmates) insight into what you found challenging and how you negotiated the requirements. Generally speaking, as long as I see a commitment to completing an assignment creatively, you can expect to do well on it. If you don’t complete an assignment, you will receive a zero. If you complete an assignment, but you have failed to meet the requirements (and have not explained to me why you did not meet them), you can expect to receive partial credit.

You are expected to review the course site regularly and to complete all assignments on-time. Late assignments will receive half-credit.

Final Exam (10%)

Do at least a five minute video reflecting on your experience in ds106: The Summer of Oblivion.


Once during this intensive semester you will meet with me to discuss your progress in the class during the third week. You will have an opportunity to schedule these appointments with me, and they should take no longer than 10-15 minutes. This conferences provides a valuable opportunity for you to receive feedback from me about your work. Scheduling and having a conference with me is required if you are taking this course for credit.


You will be expected to attend class (if applicable) on a regular basis, enough said. If, for some reason, you need to miss class I expect that you will contact me prior to class to let me know as much. In the event your attendance begin to represent a problem with your participation I will contact you directly.


I encourage you to use Twitter for this class. If you already have an account, you may use it. Otherwise, creating an account is easy! Simply tweet class-relevant content with the hashtag #ds106. These tweets will be harvested and displayed on the course website. In addition, Twitter can and should be integrated with your class blog. For example, when you complete a new entry, post a link on your twitter account.

Contacting Me

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

  • First, consider whether you really need to e-mail me. 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 I know who you are, what section you're in, and the exact assignment about which you have a question.
  • Please send a followup. If my explanation helped, or if the technical suggestion worked, please send a note. This way, I know whether or not to make the same suggestion to someone else when they come to me with a similar problem.

Twitter is also a very useful medium for quick questions (@jimgroom), and I am happy to correspond there as well---though in shorter bursts.


Students are expected to treat the instructor and fellow students with the appropriate degree of respect, both in class (if applicable) and in online discussions. 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 Constitution. A violation of the Honor Code is a very serious matter.

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. A more detailed Course Calendar ( is available as well, but it is subject to change based on the progress of the course.

  • Week One: Intro, A Domain of Ones Own, Visual/Design
  • Week Two: Design/Audio
  • Week Three: Audio/Web 2.0 and Storytelling (Conferences)
  • Week Four: Video
  • Week Five: Mashup/Fan Fiction

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