The Plan for Day One

Tomorrow evening is my first class meeting for my own section of Digital Storytelling. I’ve been anticipating this for months, and now that it’s here, I’m really excited. I thought I’d take a moment to map out my plan for the first day — as much for me to think through the agenda as anything else.

My class is only meeting once a week, from 6-9 on Thursday evenings. It was the best choice for my schedule, but I’m realizing that planning a once-a-week class presents some interesting challenges. And, of course, I’m a bit worried about being able to sustain the energy for three hours. My general approach, I think, will be to try and structure the class into clear segments so that students feel like there is some change to the pace of each class — a rhythm, so to speak, that will help us maintain some momentum for the entire duration.

As the semester progress, the natural rhythm will probably be to spend an hour or so first on readings & reflecting on the previous week’s work and then the second half of the class workshopping the next assignment. But for this first week, there’s quite a bit of housekeeping to do, and I’m not sure we’ll be ready to jump into to much hands-on work.

Here’s the basic plan

  • Intros/30 second stories. I sat in on Jim’s class on Tuesday and this was his kickoff activity. It was a great ice-breaker. Jim’s a natural at keeping the tone light and making the students feel comfortable. I’m hoping I can achieve the same atmosphere.
  • Syllabus Review. This is my opportunity to convey the way in which this class may challenge my students’ expectations a bit. I’ll be introducing the notion of a domain of their own as a way to frame a digital identity in which they’ll be investigating the ideas of the class and sharing their work. I’ll be going over the course objectives, but I’ll also be talking about my expectations for their own activity/participation in the class: public sharing of their work and ideas; meaningful online engagement with each others’ works; tackling assignments with as much creativity as they can muster; and sharing the challenges they face when assignments don’t go as they had planned. I want them to understand that I don’t expect perfection but I do expect to see commitment.
  • Introduction to the DigSto Collective. A portion of my students’ grade will be determined by their contributions to a collection of resources about digital storytelling. They’ll be asked to use Delicious to tag examples, tools, techniques, tutorials, readings, etc. I’ll be using the WP Post Ratings plugin to let them vote on each other’s contributions, and I’m hoping to use stuff that emerges in the collective each week to start off class. This is a pretty big experiment. In my experiences, group/organized bookmarking never really works. Of course, I have the advantage of being able to require them to do it, but it’ll be interesting to see what emerges.
  • Introduction to the Digital Storytelling Toolkit. This is a resource that I’ve just started to build and that I’m going to be working on throughout the semester (I’ll invite students to contribute to it, as well). It’s basically just a laundry list of some sites/software that students will likely need to investigate and/or use as part of the course. It’ll be a few weeks before we jump into most of these, but I want them to understand a bit about what’s coming.
  • Assignments for the Next Week. I’ll take about 10 minutes or so to go over next week’s assignments which include Gardner Campbell’s “A Personal Cyber Infrastructure” and “No Digital Facelifts.” (Gardner’s going to be joining a combined section of Jim’s and my classes next Thursday night for a discussion of these — how awesome is that?) In addition, they’re going to have to purchase their domain name and Web hosting account so that next week we can start setting up their sites.
  • What Exactly is Digital Storytelling? I’m planning for the last portion of the class to be this conversation. I’m probably just going to start with the Wikipedia definition and ask them to consider if they think it does a good job of defining what they think digital storytelling is.

    I guess I’m hoping to do two things. I’d like to get a better sense of their expectations for the class. After all, they signed up for a class called digital storytelling. What exactly did they think that was going to be about?  What kinds of stories did they think they’d be creating/examining? Have they ever created a digital story? What made it a digital story?

    But I’d also like to get them to push a bit against the Wikipedia definition. It’s pretty narrowly focused on the idea of auto-biographic narratives told through the use of personal writing, photographs, and video. I’ve seen some excellent examples of these kinds of stories (and we’ll be looking at some of them over the semester), but I want to push them to consider other examples. I’m assembling a few examples that I’ll be using for this part of the discussion.

    I think I’ll probably end by talking about the VW Gingerbread Bus project my husband and I did — I do want to delve further into this idea of how the mere presence of an audience can provoke story.

I was hoping there might be sometime to actually do some hands-on work, but I think that’s too much to expect for the first class. And I think I already have a pretty full plate.

Feedback is always welcome!

(In other news, I think teaching this course is finally making a real blogger out of me!)