All things seem possible in May

“The world’s favorite season is the spring.
All things seem possible in May.”
Edwin Way Teale

This time last spring, I was feeling guilty and conflicted about our plans to cut down two huge oaks in our backyard. We needed to bring them down in order to finally have enough sunlight for a vegetable garden. In our defense, we are surrounded by many, many huge oaks on our property, but I still felt awful about doing it.

Today, we finally found the time to plant the tomatoes, peppers, strawberries, squash, beans, cucumbers, carrots, broccoli, and herbs. I don’t have terribly high hopes that they will all be bumper crops, but being able to share with my children the spreading and covering of the seeds, the dropping of the smaller plants into the holes they helped me carve out was all that really mattered. To have my six-year-old write and place the plant markers was reward enough. And I’m looking forward to watching whatever grows through their eyes over the next several months.

At the same time, I spent the weekend tending another kind of garden, specifically the course site for a new section of DS106 that starts tomorrow. This time around will be different in a number of significant ways. First, I’m teaching the course over five weeks, with meetings four days a week for two hours. The schedule couldn’t be more different than the once-a week 3-hour meetings of the spring term. I’m realizing how much the experience of a course is determined by these rhythms. In the spring, I frequently bemoaned how difficult it was to sustain excitement and commitment when I only saw students once a week (and then for an exhausting 3-hour meeting). I’ve been looking forward to this more intense and accelerated time signature for the class. But, I have to say, as I’ve spent the last few weeks trying to figure out how to pace the class within this schedule, I realizing that it presents a whole other set of challenges. DS106 is a class that requires regular commitment to creative activity. This expectation already seems to challenge the typical class rhythm that many students expect. In addition, every day there may be a series of smallish but critical activities and steps the students must take (particularly when they are setting up their sites). I’m hoping that this constant, daily requirement of activity and attention to detail is one my students (and I!) can sustain.

Another huge difference between teaching the class last spring and this summer is that Jim won’t be teaching it simultaneously. He’s got another online section scheduled for the second summer term. I feel like I’m leaving the nest, and I hope I don’t nose-dive!

One of the major changes I made this time around was to leave UMW Blogs behind and instead host the course site on the ds106.us domain. I spent most of today setting up multisite on WordPress in that space and configuring my new site. In some ways it would have been a lot easier to just continue on in the site I built this spring. But I want my students to be as aware as possible of their place within the larger DS106 ecosystem, and I think my separate site this spring thwarted that a bit.

Finally, the huge difference this semester is that I’m not teaching the class for the first time. That’s got to count for something, right? ­čÖé

Tomorrow, I’ll be showing them the DS106 ropes and trying my best to prepare them for what this class is like. I’m assembling a series of links to various examples as a way to kickstart the class and their imaginations.

Bring on the DS106!