… is what lies ahead.
Perhaps this is crass, but I have to say it: holy crap.
When I signed up for ds106 last semester, I think I was expecting a fun, creative class that would help me earn all my required credits towards graduation without pushing me over the limit of English courses I could take. I was curious about all the hype and figured if I had the chance, I might as well jump in and see what everybody was talking about. I never could have predicted what I was getting myself into.
I wasn’t expecting mad Sunday Scrambles, late nights, Team RadTASTIC, zombies, the best group project in the history of the world, coding, YouTube videos, awkward filming at train stations, creating my own assignments, rampant nerdery, redefining how I learn, two weeks spent fangirling over favorite novels, and a growing passion for a field I didn’t even know existed until I took this class. Ds106 hasn’t just been a great course, it’s helped me to realize what I might want to do with my life, influenced where I’m going to apply to grad school, inspired an independent research project for next semester, and will hopefully lead me into a career that I would have bet money against me being interested in last August.
There are not a whole lot of classes this awesome floating around, and I feel so unbelievably lucky to have been part of this one.
To finish up my wonderful, hectic, brain-melting, world-expanding couple of months in ds106, I crafted a multimedia portfolio centered around one of my favorite series, The Riddle-Master Trilogy by Patricia A. McKillip. In some ways I wish I had chosen a different topic, because I feel like I could have told a far more cohesive story had I been working with a less rigid concept. Instead, I ended up with something like a multimedia book blurb, or a text-based book trailer, which is pretty interesting if you think about it, but also doesn’t quite live up to the expectations I set for myself.
At the same time, I adore these novels. Each time I read them they become more vibrant, more vital to me, and I seem to unlock more and more of the story’s depth. Getting the chance to delve into a story that’s so dear to me, to express my personal vision of this world and the characters who inhabit it, was a joy. Granted, it was just as much a vexation at times, probably because the story is important to me—if I didn’t care about it as much, I might have been a little less neurotic about some of the details. : )
One of the most unexpectedly rewarding aspects of this final project was crafting so many of my own assignments. You can see some of the assignments I created over the course of the semester in the Assignments and Tutorials blog category. As the semester progressed, I found myself more and more invested in the idea of online education and edtech. I started to see how much potential digital media has to transform the way we interact with education and learning, and being able to make up my own assignments for ds106 was a wonderful baby step towards maybe, possibly, hopefully, doing the same thing on a grander scale in the future.
In that sense, I think the assignments I created are probably my best work, but I also have a handful of other assignments that I’m proud of. You’ll notice right away that almost all of the assignments I consider my best are in the visual/design categories. I could try to root through my blog posts and try to find stuff from other categories that I think are sort of as good, maybe, but if I’m gonna have a “This is my best stuff” category, I want it to really be devoted to what I think is my best stuff. Perhaps the reason that so much of my best work is visual is that I’m a visual learner, a visual thinker, and a visual artist (to a limited degree). I consume and critique a LOT of static visual images, so it stands to reason that I feel most successful when I can succeed in a field that I’m so invested in. Plus, I mean, did you see that Star-Bearer icon banner thing? That is cool. That is REALLY cool.
One of the not-visual bits on my hit list is actually my weekly summary from storytelling week, which was kind of a response to my early post about storytelling. I still feel like what I wrote there rings true, especially after spending an entire semester crafting stories (with varying degrees of success) in so many different ways. What I have realized, though, is that effective storytelling relies not only on having a compelling story to tell, and not just in understanding that a story can be told almost anywhere, but in recognizing what works and doesn’t for whatever medium you’re working in. If you can look at each different medium and see its unique potential to be used as a storytelling tool, you’re pretty much golden. Deciding to color inside the lines, trying to transfer a way of experiencing a story from one medium to an entirely different one without considering how the story could be changed or enhanced—that’s crazy limiting. Being able to think beyond those boxes is one of the most valuable lessons I’ve learned in this class.
Last on the list, but certainly not the last thing I’ll be doing with ds106 and absolutely not least, is my advice for future students:
I suppose this is the part where I talk about how I feel now that ds106 is “over.” That’s the thing, though—it’s not. First of all, I’m never not going to be a storyteller. I walk around all day with characters vying for my attention rattling around in my head. On top of that, you are never getting rid of me. I have so many ideas about other stuff I want to do within the framework of this class, creative directions I could take that branch off from things I’ve done here, and even some ideas about where it could go in the future. Through ds106 I’ve finally begun putting together the pieces of what I’m passionate about, what I’m good at, and what I could make into a life beyond this class, beyond college, even—so I think it’s pretty safe to say that I am ds106 4LIFE. : )