Out there are on the Web, the seeds of ds106 discontent are being sown. We’re just marking the half-way point in the semester and my students, many of whom are juniors and seniors who are deep into their major program studies, are weary and wondering:
“the idea of us making our own radio show is a cool one but I have a problem with this assignment. . .We were given a week to come up with our first 5 minute segment which seemed reasonable. . we will have 2 weeks to make 25 more minutes of show, . . we have to do this whole assignment the week before spring break (crazy final week for most of us, not much time to work with a group); during spring break (Most people won’t even be near campus to work). . . and finally the last week to get probably the largest portion of this show done.” – Patrick
Now to the amazing-yet-still-a-pain-in-the-ass-time-suck that is DS106. We have to produce a 30 minute radio show to be uploaded to DS106radio, 5 minutes of which are due tomorrow. – Ashley
“Hey I completely agree with you. This week is just a bad week overall because of all the assignments, projects and tests before spring break. I have had no time at all this week to do anything else but other projects.” – Marcey commenting on Patrick.
“So far I’m having a lot of fun doing this project, it’s just the fact that we’re supposed to get so much done in such little time and the fact that we want it to come out as nice as possible makes this task a lot harder.” – Elizabeth commenting on Patrick
“I feel the EXACT same way! By the end of next week I have to accomplish: 9 chapters of business law, plus homework questions, and studying for a test on Monday; two labs for Computer Science, two programming assignments, 5 chapters of reading, and a test on Wednesday. . . and I still have ds106 weighing over my head. . .I have so much stuff to focus on for my major (Computer Science) and yeah, this course is labeled CPSC, but it’s because it’s digital, and related to artsy-type stuff, which is why it fulfills the gened requirement… oh wait, can I repeat that? GENED! I’m not majoring in this stuff, it’s a 100 level course. . .” – Kaylee commenting on Ashley.
In fairness, if you read the posts I linked to and the full comment streams you’ll see that a few students (as well as some DS106 open web players) chimed in with advice and encouragement. In addition, I’ve heard the stories my students produced for the 5-minute segment, and, frankly, they did a fantastic job getting the ball rolling.
I actually love that Patrick and Ashley wrote these posts, and I encouraged all my students to read them and join the conversation. I’m open to criticism (though, you’ll note, I didn’t change the assignment:-) ). And I *kind of* get their complaints about the timeframe, but I think that’s mainly because of spring break falling in the middle.
The thing that stung a bit about the criticisms is the apparent assumption in some cases that because this class is a) a gened; b) “not in my major”; or c) a 100-level class, it’s unreasonable for me, as the instructor, to expect that it would rank at the top of my students’ priority lists. Sigh. I feel so unloved and unwanted. Poor little DS106 isn’t cool enough to hang with the 300- and 400-level classes.
Hey!! Wait a minute! DISLIKE! UNFRIEND! UNFOLLOW!
This line of argumentation simply will not do.
Really, it makes me think that I’m not doing a very good job of helping my students think through what this class is really about. Sure it’s about telling stories and learning how to use some new technologies, but it is also (and more importantly?) about:
learning how to (use technology) to convey meaning and matter,
defining for ourselves what means and what matters,
connecting and collaborating with each other, and in doing so, questioning assumptions that the “best” connections happen in meat space
questioning our assumptions about what technology does (to us, to our stories, to our culture) and, by corollary, questioning our assumptions about what we do to with/to technology
questioning our assumptions about what stories are
developing habitual creativity
developing habitual questioning.
To me, these are all aspirations (btw, I think we should stop talking about “Course objectives” and start talking about “course aspirations”) that have the potential to transform us from within, and then impact every other thinking, knowing, learning, studying, and teaching experience in our lives.
At the same time, this week I read this post by Melanie McBride about teaching the practice of remix within the confines of traditional educational systems which is sort of making me re-think (or think more deeply about) teaching. If you haven’t read it, go read it now. In the comment thread, McBride says something that really resonated with me as I thought about my students’ engagement with my class:
I think where a lot of teachers may go wrong with remix . . . is to focus on editing skills because it’s a convenient direction if you can’t really deal with the political issues that inform this media. Returning to Pogo, his love of Disney and children’s films as the materials and texts he wishes to work with are not arbitrary – but in choosing copyrighted materials he also took on a bigger battle. This was not simply about his editing, music or storytelling skills but also (and this is the key thing) his selected materials.
I wonder if my students are thinking about this in terms of the work they’re doing in DS106. That this class isn’t just about mastering a technology or telling a great story. It’s also about making choices. Everything we make, every story tell, embodies our choices. The meaning is in the mix.
I’m going to ask my students to read McBride’s essay in the coming weeks. I want to hear their thoughts on this. And, of course, I’m still trying to flesh out my own.