How to be an Open Participant in ds106

So you have heard about this little open course on digital storytelling called ds106, but how do you go about being a part of it? Come on in…

cc licensed ( BY NC ND ) flickr photo shared by Conor Keller |

If you need more information about ds106, we have the requisite about page as well as a history of ds106 through the ages.

First of all, in ds106, there are multiple levels of participation- but most importantly, it is designed so you can pick and choose the when and where. We expect NO APOLOGIES for not being able to participate when other parts of life intrude. There is no concept in ds106 of “dropping out” c.f. Groom, Jim (2010-present), “ds106 is #4life”.

There are two approaches for being part of ds106, we will call “Fast and Easy” and “The Blogging Way”.

The Fast and Easy Plan

To be “Fast and Easy” You can submit any work you do for the ds106 Assignments (described below) by completing a web form linked form each one. You can do Daily Creates as well just by posting your work to Flickr, YouTube, SoundCloud, etc and tagging as instructed.

We also invite you to comment and provide feedback to the ds106ers who are blogging and to tune in and participate with us on twitter.

You might choose this for casually checking out ds106 or using our resources in a workshop or a single class. Of course, at anytime, you can choose to pick up “The Blogging Way”.

The Blogging Way

If you plan to do more than occasional work, we suggest setting up a blog, or designate part of an exiting blog as a place you will document the work you do. Our site is set up to aggregate automatically everything you post to the main flow of ds106

As an Open Participant, you can use any blogging platform that publishes an RSS Feed including self hosted WordPress, hosted WordPress, Blogger, TypePad, Tumblr, posterous, etc.

If you set up a new blog, please first write first welcome post. If you use an existing blog, use a tag or a category to mark your ds106 related content. Write a first entry there as a welcome.

Once you are set up with a blog, register it on the ds106 web site so we can add it to our aggregation machine.

The Basics You Should Line Up for any Open Participant

These are all services you will use to participate in ds106, we recommend them all. They are free as in free. If you already have accounts, just use them, and consider yourself at the head of the class.

  • Set up Gravatar. Pick a square photo or icon you prefer to use to represent yourself online and register it at with the email address you regularly use for online activity. This service is used in many places, including the ds106 web site, to associate the icon when you use that email address.
  • Get a twitter account (if you do not have one) Register at – this is the main channel we use for community in ds106, there are no discussion boards or web forums; if you want to “tweet” something to the broadest audience, include #ds106 in the message. Set up your twitter reading to monitor the #ds106 channel.
  • Get a flickr account (if you do not have one) Flickr is place we share photos for the Daily Create and photo/graphic assignments; an account is also needed to comment on other people’s photos. You will comment on other people photos, right? If your account is brand new, you should upload at least 5 photos, flickr seems to need this to believe you are a real person.
  • Get a Gmail Account (if you do not already have a gmail account) It’s not really for the Gmail, it is so you can upload videos to Youtube for Daily Creates, video assignments, and participate in Google Hangouts (out platform for live events). If you are one of the 4 people on the world without one, set up one now
  • Get a Soundcloud Account (if you do not have one) Soundcloud is a nifty service we use for sharing sounds for Daily Creates and audio assignments

We do not specify what software you use for your ds106 work, use what you have already for creating/editing photos, graphics, audio, and video. We maintain a list of tools, including open source and web based ones, that other participants have used for ds106 work.

Suggestions of What to Do as an Open Participant

  • Follow a current class. Here is where you follow along the work of a current class. Most typically, there are several different for credit classes going on at any one time, either at the University of Mary Washington or elsewhere. All current work will be displayed prominently at the top of the posts on the home page, and the work of different “sections” of ds106 being taught are grouped by tags and displayed on the right side of this page. You may want to try the same assignments they are doing or comment on student work
  • Build Your Own Path Coming Soon! We hope to someday make a new way to build a custom syllabus through ds106 content for your own use. Until then, if you want a course path, follow one of the syllabi from previous courses ay UMW.
  • Do The Daily Create The Daily Create was set up to provide a smaller challenge to create something and share it back to the site. There is no requirement to do it every day but we believe in the value of regular acts of creativity. You do not need a blog to do the Daily Create, just accounts on services like flickr, YouTube, or Soundcloud.
  • Pick and Choose Assignments The core of ds106 is our open assignment bank, where we have categories of creative work you can do, grouped by media type (Visual Assignments, Audio Assignments, etc). Just jump in and take them on as challenges. Try a random one If you post your work you your blog, our syndication system can pull in your work as examples simply by following the tags on each assignment, or you can a single example directly via a URL. It is worth it just looking at the examples that other people have done for each assignment.

    Creating the assignments is great, but what really makes it storytelling is how you write it up on your blog (if you are on the blogging plan) — you may want to review some of the things we ask our UMW students to include in their assignment writeups.

    Some of our recommended and most popular ones assignments include:

    See more featured assignments.

  • Join in the Twitter Conversations The pulse of ds106 happens through our communication in twitter, and you can find people there sharing the work they create or other related resources. Find it via the #ds106 tag
  • Share What inspires you. Our showcase of the best of ds106, in[SPIRE] is a place to make more visible the best work you find in ds106. It was created by former ds106 students as a place to nominate the work of others.
  • Listen or Broadcast on ds106 Radio ds106 radio is a web based radio station that has regular live audio feeds or ongoing shows broadcast 24/7. Find out how to tune in or broadcast yourself, it is an open place.

Is That It? I Thought This was a Course

ds106 is many things, a course and a community. It is ongoing all the time.

As an open participant you choose to do what you do where you can, by sharing your work, and most importantly commenting on the work of others. More than just the cliché sense, ds106 is a place that is made better from the ideas and contributions of the people who come inside that door.

We do not give out badges or certifications, the creations you do, the connections you make with other, and just the experience of challenging yourself to tell stories is its own reward.

Some people even think it is a cult.


  1. Julie Giuliani

    May 15, 2012

    Exactly five days before I start your ds106 class as an open participant. Calling myself a digital immigrant, I am in search of creative expression and innovation. While I’m an academic in the world of distance learning, I find most of my thoughts filled with procedural musings instead of fresh thought. My first task before the weekend is to set up a website and blog. I want to participate fully. (My URL information will be forwarded to you soon.)

    Haven’t been to camp in a very long, long time. Got my energy and basics ready!
    Julie G.

  2. cogdog

    May 24, 2012

    Camp awaits with open arms, Julie, lets freshen up those procedural musings with some art!

  3. Kristina Hollis

    July 11, 2012

    I have registered for this site and tried logging in but when it took me to the WordPress login screen my password and username would not work, even after I double checked and I had been using correct log in details. Do you know what could be wrong? Please help as I really want to engage with this site.


  4. Mellowpelly

    August 26, 2012

    So pumped…I feel like I am joining a cult. Already in the cult of Scanlon. I am ready for another :D

  5. Abigail Wellman

    October 5, 2012

    I’m trying to put an animated giff on my blogspot account. I created the animated gif ok. It works in photoshop
    but I’m not sure how to post it so its moving. I have it hosted on tinypic. Can anybody give me some pointers?

    • cogdog

      October 5, 2012

      It can be done! Here was my quick test

      What you want to do in blogger is use the image tool, and the option to Upload from URL- you should use the “Layout URL” tinypic provides, this is thre direct link to the image.

      Or you could bypass tinypic completely, and just upload the gif as a file to your blogger site.

  6. Shaun McMillan

    August 14, 2013

    Hello, I begin my second year of teaching Graphic Design at Hargrave High School next week and I am very happy to have come across DS106. I will definately have my students do some of these assignments as soon as they get up to speed on using the production tools (mostly photoshop). There are two issues/question though that I would appreciate some guidance on.

    Q1: High schools, or at least mine, block social networks. They did unblock my hosted wordpress page but they block most blogs, twitter, facebook, and G+. I would still like for my students to be a part of the community and communicate but will they be able to participate much if they are limited to posting and commenting on my hosted site (except of course from their data plan mobile devices or from home)?

    Q2: Open could be a poisonous word in a high school atmosphere. They much prefer the walled gardens of creativity stifling administration approved LMS’. What kind of warning or parent letter opt in or paper work should I have students/parents sign to both A) introduce the idea of students participating in an open community and B) cover my lower exterior?

  7. cogdog

    August 14, 2013

    Glad to see your bringing your students in, Shaun. Its not essential for your students to be in the social media swirl; more importantly is framing some assignments for them, and using your blog to showcase their work. You could do things like review other people’s work, and maybe respond via your blog or a social media account you manage… but doing the assignments and working on design skills is more key.

    We have had other K12 teachers use ds106 assignments before and I hope we can get them to share some insights your questions. For (2) I think you are covering alot of issues by the way you are setting this up- students are not putting their identities on the work, and for parents, the open part means they can check in what their kids and other people are doing. What you are aiming to do is to provide them an online experience in a way that you are mentoring instead of the school trying to shelter, the students.

    • cogdog

      August 15, 2013

      Thanks for that tip Marc, I will pull that into as well.

  8. Easterfarm65

    June 27, 2014

    This is nowhere near being a course. Just another social website with a lot of blah blah on twitter, blogs and God knows where. The video about the library is good though. But overall disappointing

    • cogdog

      June 27, 2014

      Sorry, we cannot please the entire internet at once.

  9. Rusty Petersen

    August 19, 2016

    Hello everyone,
    I’m new here, can’t wait to get started getting creative. Thanks to everyone who made this class possible!

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