Syllabus or Bust?!


If you want to get an idea of what you are getting into with western 106, see some of things people have said about their ds106 experience. If you are looking for something official-like for a course, this is as close as you get.

Digital Storytelling Syllabus

Course: DS106 Digital Storytelling: The Western Version

Instructor: The Man With No Course. There is no one in charge of this class, no leaders.

Location: The Internet

Term: January – May 2016

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 this course, 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.

The Western106 experience 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. You will explore and interrogate the meaning and interpretation of the Western genre.

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.

Course Materials

  • 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.
  • Web Hosting Account: You will be expected to manage your own digital space in any hosted or self-hosted platform– any blog that can produce an RSS feed will work, but it will also need to support tagging for your assignment work to be properly associated. If you already have a blog, we strongly suggest that you create a new one, or a second installation on a subdomain for your ds106 work. Suggested platforms include:

If you are looking to take on your own hosting, we most highly reccommend http://reclaimhosting.com/

  • Class Web Site: The locus of the course’s online activity will be http://106tricks.net and http://ds106.us. 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
    • DS106 Assignment Repository: A 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 can also be create 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.

Overall Course Process

What was previously scheduled as weekly assignments are organized now as a series of Units . Each unit will outline the work for a topic and may include videos and readings as assigned. What you do for that unit is completely up to you.

By the end of the unit, we suggest you post a reflection to your blog about your work for that topic.

To recap, here’s how you should expect for each unit:

  • Go to the course page and review the unit you plan to work on. Begin working or planning for your assignments.
  • Complete all of the work for the unit.
  • 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 the work of others and comment on their sites.
  • Use Twitter, Google+ and your blog to share your successes, questions, etc.


This again is up to you, but it’s what makes out community strong.

For the purpose of this entirely open online version of DS106, presence and participation are actively and thoughtfully engaging with your classmates and the course materials via the various online spaces used for the class and include:

  • Narrating your course experience. Throughout the course, you are encouraged 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, Google+, 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.

Western 106 Blog Riding Camp

The first two units of class consist of Western 106 Blog Riding Camp. During this time, you will be given a list of tasks that you should 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 suggest every participant to complete between 2-4 Daily Create assignments each week.

Throughout the course, 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 encouraged to complete all of these assignments and share them on your blog, and in your unit summaries.

Again three components are suggested for your assignment work – 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. It’s much better than merely providing 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, techniques used to create it, as well as hyperlinked attribution to any source media you did not create yourself.

Also, keep in mind each assignment in the ds106 assignment repository has two tags. You are should use both tags from each assignment so that your work appears on the assignment it is in response to.

Unit Summary Posts

In Each unit you are encouraged to submit a summary post by the weeks end. These posts should include links to or embedded media from all the work you have done for the unit: storytelling assignments, daily creates, reflections etc. In addition, you might use this post to reflect upon your activity:

  • How well do you feel you completed the requirements of the unit’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?

Mid-Term and Final Projects

Radio Show

By the mid-term point of the courses, you should try to work on a group radio show project. You should plan on 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. It is up to you to put put out a request for groups to the ds106 community spaces. If you are unable to organize a group, then try and produce a radio show of a smaller duration.

Final Story Challenge

This will be a digital story that you will complete at the end of the course. You should be prepared to create a larger digital narrative out of media created by others throughout the semester in ds106.

Late Policy

You are in charge of your own deadlines! Feeling guilty for missing work is silly. You can make and break deadlines.


No grades are assigned nor are ant certificates or badges handed out. Why are you doing this? If you want grades or badges, make ’em yourself.


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 #wester106. 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 Blog Riding Camp).


Since August 2013, we have a new active ds106 community in Google+ which you should spend time reviewing and participating


Be nice.

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 provides an overview to the topics and assignments for each unit of ds106 for people participating as open students. No one is looking over your shoulders so do as much or as little of this that motivates you. Of course, we expect that you will soon be shouting “#4LIFE” like the rest of us. It is up to you to decide an appropriate time frame for each unit, it could be a week, a month, a lunar year…

Because we will have other people riding along with us (especially a for-credit section at UMW), you will benefit the most from doing the work on schedule with others

Unit 1 (Blog Riding Camp)

January 11, 2016

The first unit is out “Blog Riding Camp” aimed at getting you in shape for ds106; setup of your blogs and creation other social media accounts. Complete Introductions via blog, twitter. What is your experience with Westerns? What is your idea of storytelling? Start with Daily Creates

  • Unit 1 Announcement : tba

Unit 2 (Blog Riding cont’d)

January 18, 2016

This unit you go deeper into customizing your blog with themes/templates, plugins/widgets, and other key settings. As part of Blog Riding 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. We’ll send you on a riding task to make animated GIFs.

  • Unit 2 Announcement : TBA

Unit 3 Introduction to Storytelling and Character

January 25, 2016

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 unit we will explore it in the framing of what you will be doing for the rest of ds106. You will hone in on your own understanding of what the Digital part adds, and try your hand at a few creative exercises. Create your own Western character to use in future projects

  • Unit 3 Announcement : TBA

Unit 4 Photography and Visual Storytelling

February 1, 2016

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 unit we go a bit deeper and give you the opportunity to practice telling stories and expressing ideas in primarily visual form.

  • Unit 4 Announcement : TBA

Unit 5: Audio Storytelling

February 8, 2016
This unit in ds106 we’re going to be diving into our next storytelling genre: audio. Working with audio can be a bit daunting and unfamiliar, so we’ll be easing you into it this unit. We’ll ask you to do some listening exercises as well as begin to create your own, and have you tune into our Western106 Radio show.

  • Unit 5 Announcement : TBA

Unit 6: Elements of Design

February 15, 2016

In this unit we’re diving into design. Learn abut the Vignelli Canon. You’ll spend some time noticing about the way the world around you is designed, as well as creating some of your own graphic designs. This is when you might want to start forming groups for doing the mid term radio show project.

  • Unit 6 Announcement : TBA
  • Group Audio Project Information: TBA

Unit 7 Advanced Audio (radio show)

3 weeks starting February 22, 2016

This unit is longer than previous ones, and are all about going deeper with audio techniques and radio. The majority of your work during this time should be working on your group radio show.

  • Unit 7 Announcement : TBA

Unit 8: Reading Movies

March 7, 2016

At the start of this week we will broadcast the premiere of your audio show projects live in DS106 radio.

This unit we enter also what most students find the most challenging yet rewarding portion of ds106. 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 cineman form and do some pre-planning for your first video editing.

  • Unit 8 Announcement : TBA

Unit 9: Movie Time

March 14, 2016

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.

  • Unit 10 Announcement : TBA

Unit 10: Remix and Mashup

March 21, 2016

For this two week unit, 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.

  • Unit 10 Announcement : TBA

Unit 12: Final Project and Wrap Up

2-3 weeks starting March 28, 2016

Putting all your skills together into a final web based transmedia story.

  • Final Project Specifications: TBA
  • ‘Unit 10 Announcement: TBA

Are You Ready?

This kid is eager, are you? Let's Go.

This kid is eager, are you? Let’s Go.

Then move on to the next part of western 106

The Western 106 Way