Educational Technology Review #2 Subject: DS106


DS106 is a growing, open access organic-community of students, scholars and aspiring scholars based primarily at the University of Mary Washington (but extended to scholars around the world) who are successfully leveraging various digital technologies though a single primary web domain to submit and execute ideas for assignments of self expression (Digital Storytelling) in the digital world. Described with a single word, DS106 is a very successful MOOC (Massively Open Online Course) for people who are proponents of various types of digital content and forms of expressions. Users make videos, contribute blogs, do video mashups, create GIFS, MPEGs and most important offer criticism, suggestions and support to one another all throughout the creative process.


This course began at the University of Mary Washington in Spring of 2010 when Jim Groom “re-imagined the way the Computer Science Course in Digital Storytelling, CPSC 106, might be taught.” DS106 was  originally launched by Jennifer Pollock and the University of Mary Washington’s Computer Science department. Mr Groom’s current co-pilot in the DS106 digital ecosystems is Martha Burtis.

The DS106 tool is remarkable digital platform because it is open to anyone and everyone who has an interest in telling their story via the DS106 digital storytelling platform and who has a standard issue personal computer connected to the the internet. What is particularly interesting is that in 2013 the 3M Corporation, an American multinational organization with a large presence in the technology spaces authorized an experimental program with 3M employees as subjects that took a close look at how the DS106 paradigm could be applied and add value to the 3M business model and help drive innovation and profits.

The DS106 course’s history page reports the message that “This course will require you to both design and build an online identity (if you don’t have one already) and narrate your process throughout the fifteen week semester. Given this, you will be expected to openly frame this process and interact with one another throughout the course as well as engage and interact with the world beyond as a necessary part of such a development.” Watching the 10 minute video history gives a good sense for what DS106 can do, does do, and might do.

The DS106 MOOC, fits very closely with all 6 (six) tenets of the  the ISTE framework for students. ISTE’s 6 primary tenets are:

  1. Creativity and Innovation
  2. Communication and collaboration
  3. Research and information fluency
  4. Critical thinking, problem solving, decision making
  5. Digital citizenship
  6. Technology Operations and Concepts.


Creativity and Innovation are evident on the DS106 home page where novel applications of published content are regularly adopted and repurposed by contributors to DS106. The platform itself provides links which allow for the communication of ideas, thoughts and perspective to from and between all users of the platform in a collaborative fashion. Underpinning the ability to add meaningful content to the DS106 platform is a base level research and information fluency to do things like program the DS106 “radio” station or edit video mashup in a compelling and meaningful way. Critical thinking, problem solving and decision making are an integral component of completing the “assignments” that are posted for DS106 participants. DS106 students hail from countries all over the world including Japan, Korea, Australia and the United States. Standards such as CCSS, NGSS, do not appear to have direct application to the DS106 platform in the same way that ISTE does.


The DS106 MOOC also lines up nicely with the major requirements for a Triple E Framework analysis.  In the article entitled, “About the Triple E” Created by Dr. Liz Kolb, University of Michigan”  Generally the Triple E requires that effective use of educational technology will Enhance, Engage, and Extend learning in ways that ensure learning goals are “met or exceeded”. Dr. Kolb makes the point that, “It is important to look for “time on task” engagement. In addition, engagement should include social or co-use of the technology tool rather than isolated learning with a tool.” The faculty managing the DS106 MOOC have GOOGLE doc metrics and other significant troves of data that quantity the time on task dimension of students work in the DS106 environment. Over time, perhaps in the form of a longitudinal study they can use the data to to drive predictive analytics and start to quantify results and make evidence based assumptions about what outcomes will be based on the relationship between variables such as time on task and social and effective co-use of technology.


Having reviewed the wide variety of things that DS106 users are doing with education technology it seems that a streamlined, clean slate home page is would be useful in attracting new users to the DS106 MOOC. The website’s purpose and capability is not always and immediately apparent. The organic and free-form way in which the community supports and refreshes content on DS106 probably influences the design choices that are made for the site. Another area of concern is how robust the system for crediting the original creators of content that may appear on the DS106 may be. If the DS106 model move out of its academic environment and goes “mainstream” systems for attribution credit may become essential. Currently they appear only loosely structured.


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