Computer Science 106: Digital Storytelling (Affectionately known as ds106)
Instructors: Jim Groom and Paul Bond
Location: The Internet
Term: Fall 2014
Email, Office Hours, and Location
Twitters: @jimgroom;@phb256
Office: ITCC 410 or the Internet
Office Hours: 4-6 Tues/Thursday or by appointment

Please Note: the course syllabus is subject to change depending on the way in which the class unfolds. This class is not premised upon coverage, but rather focused on creative application and interaction with a series of ideas and a wide-range of media. This 15 week session is completely online. Success in this class hinges on managing time, proactively seeking assistance when needed, and committing regular effort several days a week on the work. Review advice from previous students.

Course Materials

The Wire: The course will be using David Simon’s HBO series The Wire as a springboard for our discussions and creative activities. DVDs are on reserve in the library, or can be obtained through Netflix, Amazon and other retail outlets. Streaming video is available through Amazon and iTunes. Public libraries are another potential source for the videos.

Internet: There is no textbook for this class, however individual readings/videos will be assigned and will all be available online. Success in this class is very much dependent on a reliable, fast internet connection.

Computer: Do we need to even list this? Make sure you have a computer you can access whenever needed, not a borrowed one. It will need to be the best one you can have available. It should include a built in or attached camera for live video sessions, and you should have a pair of headphones or ear buds.

Web Accounts/Software: You will need to set up accounts on various social media sites we will be using for class. For the most part, no specific software is required; you will need to use what you have or choose from web-based/free/trial versions of software to create media.

Web Hosting Account: You will be expected to manage a web hosting account with a LAMP/cPanel Web environment; this will be provided for free to all registered UMW students via

Class Web Site: The locus of the course’s online activity will be You should always use this URL to enter the course; it is where you will find information about assignments and activities all semester. Over the course of the term, we will also make use of two other important ds106 sites:

  • ds106 Handbook: Resources and tutorials for blogging and media creation
  • ds106 Assignment Repository: This collection of digital storytelling assignments has been developed over the course of the last few years. We will frequently be drawing upon this collection for course assignments. You will also be creating assignments as part of your coursework.
  • The Daily Create: These daily creative assignments ask you to spend no more than 10-15 minutes experimenting with either photography, video, audio, or text based on a pre-defined assignment.

Department of Computer Science Grading Scale
A 92-100% | A- 89- 91% | B+ 87-88% | B 82-86%| B- 79-81% | C+ 77-78% | C 72-76% | C- 69-71% | D+ 67-69% | D 60-66% | F 0-59%

Course Activities & Expectations

Overall Course Process
The work for every week will be posted Mondays to the ds106 ( web site and will appear as the first post in the list of content there. It will also be listed under the Syllabus menu at the top of the site. Each weekly post will outline the work for the week and will include videos and readings as assigned.

We cannot re-iterate enough how important it is to start your work in the beginning of the week. If you follow the advice of recent students, you will hear again and again how this is not a course in which you can do the work at the last minute.

By Sunday at midnight, you are required to have completed the week’s work and to write a summary post of all your activity for that week.

To recap, here’s how you should expect each week to unfold:


  • Go to the course site and review the weekly assignment announcement at the top of the home page. Begin working or planning for your assignments.

Tuesday – Sunday:

  • Complete all of the work for the week.
  • Use your blog to post each storytelling assignment as you complete it.
  • Use your blog to post any reflections that have been assigned.
  • Complete the assigned Daily Creates and make sure they are showing up on the Daily Create site
  • Contribute to discussion of an episode of The Wire.
  • Follow your classmates’ work and comment on it.
  • Use Twitter and your blog to share your successes, questions, etc.

Sunday by Midnight:

  • Post your Weekly Summary on your blog. This post must provides links to all of the work that you completed during the week (including Daily Creates), and should offer your reflection on the week’s activities. (See below for more information about weekly summary posts.)

This class will in many ways be anchored around your ongoing, regular participation through the various technologies you will be experimenting with. If you are not present, you will compromise the success of the class (as well as YOUR success in it). We expect active and engaged participation.

For the purpose of this entirely online version of DS106, presence and participation are determined by the degree to which you are actively and thoughtfully engaging with your classmates and the course materials via the various online spaces used for the class. Participation will be evaluated based upon the following kinds of activities:

  • Narrating your course experience. Throughout the semester, you are required to use your blog to regularly provide updates about your course activities. These posts should be substantive, thorough, and reflective.
  • Commenting upon your classmates’ work. You are expected to respond thoughtfully and critically to the work that others in the class are creating. This will be accomplished in several ways, primarily through regular, thoughtful blog comments and feedback on Twitter.
  • Engagement with social media. The online nature of this course requires us all to work especially hard to build a learning community. In large part, we expect this community to emerge out of various spaces and tools that you will be asked to use. We will be looking for your regular presence in spaces like Twitter, Flickr, and YouTube. Complaining that you “don’t understand” the tool is not a suitable excuse. You will only begin to understand by using and engaging.
  • Participating in at least three live Wire 106 video discussions of an episodes over the course of the semester, and leading at least on of these discussions. The signup sheet for the episodes will be provided.

ds106 BootCamp
The first week of class will consist of ds106 “Bootcamp.” During this time, you will be given a list of tasks that you must complete in order to demonstrate that you understand the basic tasks and activities that will be required of you during the semester. During this time, you will begin the process of personalizing your own web publishing space.

The Daily Create
Regular, creative exercises are at the heart of ds106, and to this end over the course of the semester we will be expecting every student to complete between 2-4 Daily Create assignments each week (the number to complete each week will be provided by the Instructors at the start of the week). In order to get full credit for this assignment you will need to complete it the day the assignment was posted as well as tag it according to the directions given with the prompt. You will be expected to include the work you’ve done for your Daily Creates in your Weekly Summary posts.

Digital Storytelling Assignments
Throughout the semester, we will assign a number of digital storytelling projects using a variety of tools, techniques, and technologies. For the most part, these assignments will come from the ds106 Assignment Repository. You are expected to complete all of these assignments by the weekly deadline and share them on your site, and in your weekly summary. Your grade on these will reflect both your success at completing these assignments as well as a detailed commentary on your blog describing your process and any difficulties you encountered. In other words, you will be expected to not only complete an assignment, but also share with everyone how you did it. What’s more, if you have difficulty with an assignment we will always expect you to attempt it, but you can use your blog to share insight into what you found challenging and how you negotiated the requirements.

Again three components are required to earn credit on your assignment work – for the full details see the ds106 Handbook section on How to Write Up Assignments

  1. The work itself must be embedded as media to view directly in your posts. You will not get credit if you merely provide a LINK to an image, video, etc.
  2. A narration of the story behind it, what was the inspiration? What is the meaning to you? What are the elements of storytelling within it?
  3. A description of the process, tools, techniques used to create it, as well as hyperlinked attribution to any source media you did not create yourself.

Generally speaking, as long as we see a commitment to completing an assignment creatively and sharing your process thoroughly, you can expect to do well on it. If you don’t complete an assignment, or do not include all three elements above, you will receive a zero.

Also, keep in mind each assignment in the ds106 assignment repository has two tags. You are required to use both tags from each assignment correctly to receive credit. It is your responsibility to double check the spelling of the tags and ensure they are correct for each and every assignment you create.

You are expected to review the course site regularly and to complete all assignments on-time.
Creating (and Completing) Your Own Assignments

Over the course of the semester we would like each of you to come up with ideas for two new assignments. Each assignment you create must be for a different section of the course (i.e., visual, design, audio, video, and mashup/remix)–feel free to create more than, but that two is the minimum requirement. The assignments should be relatively short and creative. In addition, you must do the assignment you create and document your own process for completing it. You can submit the ones you create [here].

Remember, each assignment has to be tagged correctly to receive credit—and those tags will be created automatically immediately after you submit the assignment. Don’t forget to tag your example of the assignment you complete.

In addition, since you will gain experience at doing daily creates we ask that you [] submit at least two new TDC challenges for future students.

Creating Tutorials
In addition to creating at least two assignments, you will be required to create at least two tutorials for either assignments you create or pre-existing assignments in the repository. These tutorials can be blog posts with specific instructions or screenshots, screencasts walking an audience through the process, or some other approach to helping others complete the task. A way to consider how these are done would be to ask what sort of tutorial would have helped you best to do the assignment.

Like assignments, tutorials have tags that need to be added to the post on your blog in order for it to be associated with the proper assignment. You need to check the tutorial tag for the assignment you are writing the documentation for. You will need to correctly use the tutorial tags to get full credit.

Weekly Summary Posts
Every week, you will be required to submit a summary post by the weekly deadline (generally due on Sundays at midnight). These posts should include links to or embedded media from all the work you have done for the week: storytelling assignments, daily creates, reflections etc. In addition, you should use this post to reflect upon your activity of the week:

  • How well do you feel you completed the requirements of the week’s assignments?
  • What gave you trouble? What did you enjoy most? What did you learn?
  • What would you do differently? What questions to you have?
  • What are some of the larger issues surrounding your work? Cultural/Societal implications?

These weekly summaries are what we will use to find all of your weekly work as we determine your grade for that week. In addition, they are an opportunity for you tell us how you feel you are doing and what’s giving you trouble, overall, in the course. If you forget to include something in a weekly post, we may not realize you’ve completed it. If you fail to submit a weekly summary, you will get no grade for that week!

Mid-Term and Final Projects

Radio Show
By the mid-term point of the semester, each of you will be required to have worked on a group radio show project. You will be given several weeks to complete this project, as a group, and it will build upon work that you will do with digital audio in previous weeks. The radio shows will be broadcast on the ds106 web radio station.

Final Story Challenge
This will be a digital story that you will complete in the final weeks of the class. You will get more information about the requirements for this story later in this semester, but generally you should be prepared to create a larger digital narrative out of media created by others throughout the semester in ds106.

As this class is online, there will be no established session or class that you must attend every week. Rather, your attendance will be evaluated upon your activity and presence in the course’s online spaces: your blog, Twitter, comments on your classmates blogs, etc.

Late Policy
All weekly work must be posted to your web site and your weekly summary post URL must be posted by midnight Sunday of the week they are due. We realize life presents unexpected situations, but unless prior arrangements have been made with your instructor, no work will be accepted for credit after the weekly deadline. THIS IS NON-NEGOTIABLE.


We will be working with the HBO series The Wire throughout the course. The series is rated for mature audiences due to objectionable language and scenes of violence, drug abuse and sexual content. This may make some people uncomfortable. Consider yourselves forewarned.

Additionally, you and your classmates will be working with this material and riffing off of it. We want to maintain a positive class environment. If you find the work any of your classmates produce makes you uncomfortable, let us know ASAP and we will determine how to address the issue.  

Grading will be based on a point system:
Submitting 2 Assignments Ideas, 2 Tutorials, 2 Daily Creates: 10 points
Participation 10 points
Final Project: 10 points
Radio Show: 10 points

Weekly Work (encompasses storytelling assignments, daily creates, reflections, participation) 60 points (4 points/week x 15 weeks): Grades for weekly work will be determined by using your required weekly summary posts.

The potential points add up to 100. Point totals will be used to determine final grades based on the Department of Computer Science Grading Scale listed previously in this syllabus. Zero points will be given for any work that is not posted.

Class Schedule
The following schedule lays out the basic structure of the class and the units and topics we’ll cover over the semester. The course calendar will provide an overview to the topics and assignments for each week of ds106 at the University of Mary Washington.

Each student will have requirements to participate in the weekly live video starting in week 3

Week 1 Introduction/Setup 8/25
all work is due midnight August 31, 2014
The first week is dedicated to getting setup for ds106; install your WordPress site and create other social media accounts such as Twitter, Flickr, SoundCloud, YouTube, etc. Complete Introductions via posts, twitter, Flickr, video, audio, etc. Watch The Wire through episode 9, and watch the commentaries on each episode.
Open course resource: 

Week 2 Setup Continued and Intro to The Wire  9/1
all work is due midnight September 7, 2014
This week we will continue exploring the various publishing tools we are using for the course.  Additionally we will explore why we are using The Wire as the lens through which to teach this edition of ds106. Also, this will be the week you get introduced to the Daily Create. By this week you will be expected to be writing posts that embed media. You will also need to begin commenting on your classmates’ work and soliciting comments on your own. This week’s focus will be around the ideas of The Wire, media, and the place of popular culture in the classroom.
Open course resource:

Week 3 Introduction to Storytelling 9/8
all work is due midnight September 14, 2014
Storytelling… it’s part of the title of this course, and you likely have some idea what it means from the various media culture you’ve been exposed to. This week we will explore it in terms of what you will be doing for the next 13 weeks in ds106. You will hone in on your own understanding of what the Digital part adds, and try your hand at a few creative exercises.
Open course resource:

Week 4 Audio Intro (Listening) 9/15

all work is due midnight September 21, 2014
This week in ds106 we’re going to be diving into our first storytelling genre: audio. Working with audio can be a bit daunting and unfamiliar, so we’ll be easing you into it this week. We’ll ask you to do some listening exercises as well as begin to create your own.
Open course resource:

Week 5: Visual 9/22
all work is due midnight September 28, 2014
In doing your ds106 Daily Creates you’ve already been using photography and drawing skills, plus you’ve had some practice on doing visual stories for our introduction to storytelling. In this week we go a bit deeper and give you the opportunity to practice telling stories in primarily visual form.
Open course resource:

Week 6: Design 9/29
all work is due midnight October 5, 2014
We’ve wrapped up our week on visual storytelling and photography, and this week we’re diving into design. You’ll spend some time this week thinking about the way the world around you is designed, as well as creating some of your own design projects.
Open course resource:

Weeks 7 & 8: Advanced Audio (radio show) 10/6
all work is due midnight October 19, 2014
The next two weeks are all about audio and radio This time wraps around Fall Break (October 11-14). The majority of your work during this time should be working on your radio show which is due Saturday, October 18th by midnight.
Open course resource:

Week 9: Radio Shows Go Live and Getting Inspired 10/20
all work is due midnight October 26, 2014
All the work your groups have done the last two weeks pays off as your shows will be broadcast on ds106 radio. As the last part of our audio segment, your task this week will be to evaluate the show from another team and also self evaluate your own team’s show. In addition, we will spend a bit of time at the halfway mark looking back on what you and your classmates have created thus far and getting inspired.

Week 10: Reading Movies 10/27
all work is due midnight November 2, 2014
This week we enter what most students find the most challenging yet rewarding portion of ds106: video. Working with video presents challenges with file formats and using more complex software. But the end rewards are often the most rewarding. Before we jump into editing, we want to spend some time first looking critically at the video form and do some pre-planning for your first video editing.
Open course resource:

Weeks 11 & 12: Movie Time 11/3
all work is due midnight November 16, 2012
It’s time to make movies! Video is perhaps the most rich of storytelling forms, and we want you to focus explicitly now on video storytelling. The only assignments on your plate are to work on video assignments, and all of which are due in two weeks time.
Open course resource:

Week 13 & 14: Remix 11/17
all work is due midnight November 30, 2014
For the next two weeks, you’ll be exploring the ideas of remixes and mashups, the artistic recasting of existing media into new forms by creative combination and editing. This will build off of your previous work in all media forms. And we will even remix assignments.
Open course resource:

Week 15: Final Project and Wrap Up 12/1
all work is due 7:00pm December 7, 2014
Open course resource: