What’s in a Week One?

Sunday was the deadline for students in this fall’s section of ds106 at UMW to complete their work for the first 7 days of class. This semester, the first two weeks of class have been constructed as a “ds106 Boot Camp.” Alan and I decided that before students really delved into the hard work of digital storytelling, they needed to get some fundamental skills under their belt. In the past, we’ve tried to interweave these skills into the start up of the storytelling assignments, and students were often still struggling with how to embed media, create links, or properly use tags in the sixth or seventh week of class.

Boot Camp is meant to hone those critical ds106 skills before the really hard work starts. So, last week their primary objective was to get their domains registered, their web space configured, and WordPress installed. In addition, they had to dabble with the Daily Create and set up accounts on a bunch of social media sites that we’ll be using this semester. By Sunday at midnight, all of this work had to be completed, and each student needed to write a summary post of everything they’d done.

In the past, the first 2-4 weeks of ds106 was consumed with just getting students’ domains registered and sites up and running — while also dealing with the first storytelling assignments.

I’m happy to say that by Sunday, every student in my section (and I believe all of Alan’s students as well) had registered domains and installed WordPress successfully. In addition, most of them had created their ds106 accounts and linked them to their new blogs so that their posts were pulling seamlessly into the main ds106 site.

I cannot tell you how radical this is. We owe the success to three things, in my mind: 1) I think the Boot Camp approach is proving successful. Students are really focusing on these fundamentals and getting it done. 2) The reworking of sign-ups on the ds106 site has proven to be great. Almost every new account automatically gets a feed and institutional tag assigned to it. Occasionally, we have to troubleshoot a problem account, but those issues are few and far between. 3) The launch of the Domains of One’s Own pilot at UMW which is delivering free domains and Web space to our students means that we can manage them through this process WAY more easily than in the past. And DTLT’s Tim Owens is the man is has made that happen all along the way.

Here’s a screenshot of the Google spreadsheet that I’ve been using to track my students progress through the first week of Boot Camp obstacles. As you can see, only 1 student is really lagging behind. Other than that, there are only a few missing pieces. (Names/domains/twitter handles have been blurred to avoid embarrassing anyone :-) )

Again, this is so RADICAL.