Reclaim Open, as in Open Experience

Along with Martha Burtis and Alan Levine as co-conspirators, I just submitted ds106 as a contestant in the Reclaim Open Learning Innovation contest. I think there’s a lot that is compelling about ds106, particularly if the folks at the Digital Media and Learning Research Hub are looking for alternatives to the corporate juggernauts MOOCs. I’m not sure I did it justice, but let this post stand as a testament to the fact I tried. Below I have reproduced the questions along with my answers to them. Wish us luck, and all proceeds from this award will go towards procuring ds106 the original 1978 Kiss dolls.

*Q1 Name of Project: ds106: An Open, Online Digital Storytelling Course

Q2 The contest focuses mostly at the postsecondary level (though this doesn’t rule out those who work with people under 20). Please explain in 250 words or less how your project:

  • Aligns with connected learning principles.
  • Makes use of open-access and open-license technologies and business models.
  • Involves students as leaders and partners in innovative learning: learner-created courses, majors, and special projects.
  • Incorporates digital resources and practices in novel ways.
  • Presents an example to inspire others.
  • Places a special emphasis on people underserved in some way by traditional higher education.
  • Is a work-in-progress, adapting to the emergent practices of learners as they go.

ds106 was imagined as a way to make students sysadmins of their own education. The course/community encourages them take control of the the online spaces they inhabit, and the experience is designed to guide them through that process both technically and culturally. It’s not only important to understand web servers, subdomains, and databases, but it’s equally essential to interrogate third party services like Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, Youtube, etc., through which we narrate our digital selves on a daily basis. Much of what we do on the web is storytelling, and we need to have a deeper understanding of the platforms we are using to tell those stories.

ds106 not only asks students to take control of their digital work, but also asks them to use their spaces to contribute to the course at large. Each student sets up their own course blog with their own domain using their own web host. Once they do, it’s syndicated back into the course site at That site effectively becomes a distributed hub for the community registered students and open, online participants. Rather than an all encompassing system, ds106 provides a distributed, decentralized community of individuals, much like the web. For example the assignment repository ( features assignments from a range of media-inspired categories, i.e., visual, design, audio, visual, mashup, etc. that people who have been part of the class contributed. The students are charged with choosing a certain amount of assignments from each category over the course of the semester. What’s more, they’re also expected to contribute their own assignments to this repository, which allows them to contribute to the design and development of the course.

Please enter a 300-word description of project or a link to a 2-minute video that answers the following questions:

  • How does your project exemplify open learning?
  • How do you involve students as peer leaders and partners in open innovative learning?
  • How do you incorporate digital resources and practices?
  • Who is your audience?
  • What have you learned so far from this project?
  • What questions remain? What will you do next?

I opted for the talking head video on this one:

Q3 Please provide links to supporting materials, including blogs, websites, Tweets, photographs, and videos, in the text field below.

You can see the ds106 course site at You can also follow the ds106 hashtag at #ds106. What’s more, there are ds106 communities on Flickr, Vimeo, YouTube, Soundcloud, and a wide range of individual blogs. Like the best elements of the web, this course is a distributed network of creative people that have come together to form an engaged, supportive community.

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4 Responses to Reclaim Open, as in Open Experience

  1. Stefanie says:

    A nice idea. May it be successful!

  2. We deserve to be recognized in this way, for sure. And I mean “we,” because I think of it as a community of participants. Of course, you and the other co-conspirators started it all and make sure the sites run smoothly, which is super crucial! Thank you for making ds106 possible!

  3. Reverend says:


    It is a big “we.” Makes me think of Muhammed Ali and the shortest poem in the English language:

  4. Pingback: Reclaim Open Learning: ds106 is winning! | bavatuesdays

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