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ds106: Some advice from an outsider*

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Dear future ds106er

So you’re not from around there huh? You live half-way around the world, in a different time and a different place. You follow the twitter stream of a guy called @jimgroom. By chance you find out about some digital storytelling course called ds106. The course is ran outta the University of Mary Washington (UMW) in Virginia, USA. Apparently they’re now offering this ds106 course to anyone. It’s like, massive, open and online. You’ve heard people call this kinda course a MOOC. Sounds exciting huh?

You’re curious about  participating in the course, but you’re not so sure. You feel like a bit of an outsider*.  You don’t even know what the 106 in ds106 means. You figure it doesn’t matter. The ds106 course tempts you with a proposal of making art (dammit) and thinking about how to use technology to tell stories. It sounds like fun. You decide to give it a go.

Like any course, ds106 has it’s fair share of assignments to be completed throughout the course. Unlike other courses, in ds106 you get the chance to create and submit your own assignments for others to complete. You know, ordinary type assignments that require you to apply your visual, design, audio, web, writing, video, mashup and fanfic skills. Don’t worry, the assignments are fun and have practical outcomes.  Outcomes like a new technical skill and an artifact or piece of work as a result of your labour that can demonstrated or discussed with others. The assignments also contain an innate underlying principle of the ds106 course. Learn by doing and actively participating. Oh yeah, ds106 even has an awesome web radio and web tv station for you to use as a platform for your personal broadcasts! Just be sure to follow PROTOCOL.

I guess what I’m trying to say is, a course like ds106 is just like anything else. You get out what you put in. If you’re willing to participate, contribute and share a little of yourself with others, you’re probably going to gain the most. What you gain will be a practical and technical skill, but also something  you can’t quite put your finger on. It could be analytical thought, a new way of thinking about what you create, a new outlook or new perspective on the way you interact with others (wherever they may be in the world). It’s a valuable skill that you can take away with you and apply to other aspects of your life.

As an outsider, could there be times where you’ll be confused by provincial dialect, time zones, cultural or geographical references? Yeah sure, but it’s nothing that an inquisitive mind and a quick search on Google or Wikipedia can’t fix. Don’t let that stop you from participating in the course!

So, here’s my advice. From one outsider* to another. Take part in the ds106 course at all costs. Take part with an open mind. Be prepared to work hard, have fun, make friends, find out about the world and share some of your own world with others.

Thanks for listening.

Rowan Peter

*Note from the author. The use of the term outsider is a light-hearted way of referring to someone who is not a student of UMW, or affiliated with UMW or any other online social network. An outsider could be someone who is a foreign national that found out about ds106 by chance or circumstance. The term outsider is not used to suggest an in-group exclusive behavioural mentality or someone who is actively seeking to separate themselves from normal inclusive behaviour or practice. The term outsider does not refer to the exceptional novel by S.E. Hinton or film by Francis Ford Coppola called The Outsiders. An outsider could be you.

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