In which LLU gets on the ds106 carnival cruise

Our friends Jim Groom and Martha Burtis are creating DS106…an online course for teaching exploring digital storytelling over at UMW. The course has not even started, and already several dozen people have accessed the assignments and have started playing around. Perfect timing, I’d say, for all of us who are somewhat burnt out from our day jobs in Academia and are looking for some good ole playtime with our online friends. Or are trying to avoid grading. Or both.

This isn’t yer normal online course, so those of you expecting a University of Phoenix, Elluminate, or Blackbored will be disappointed. But if the word webinar sickens you as much as it does me, then you might enjoy romping about in this virtual sandbox with the rest of us.

Yep, this is gonna be a MOOC. A what? A Massive Open Online Course. A really lovely description of a MOOC can be found in this video (created and narrated by Dave Cormier)

But this one will be different. As Alan Levine writes :

“What should unfold will be unlike many of the other MOOC efforts in that it is not hinged on the weekly drum beat drive of the syllabus and synchronous lecture like sessions in Elluminate. There wont be discussion forums (likely). it will be blog based, and very much individually driven. It will be what ever you want it to be- you will be able to follow the structure Jim and Martha are doing at UMW as a “regular” class, or you can cherry pick the bits you want to do…..It’s all about a continuous pulse of creativity.”

Or to quote Jim Groom: “I’m 37 years old and a Ph.D. dropout, why would I ever want to take another god damned course?” ‘Zactly.

So why are we joining in? I will speak for myself for the moment…other LLU authors will chime in later 🙂

I am interested in thinking about what a MOOC for a language conversation class might look like. (I need to move beyond the immediate panic of it being scary and overwhelming and think about what benefits the learners might get from it).

I have taken the basic digital storytelling course at the Center for Digital Storytelling , and though it was a moving experience, I found the process extremely formulaic and templated, and not one I could easily incorporate into my teaching. I am interested in finding more fluid ways for students to pull together stories with images, video, text, and then having them narrate them in the target language. I totally love Five Card Flickr and the stories it elicits from my students each time we play. I am ready for more.

Plus, heh, if I can learn and have fun…I’m so totally there.

So here is my first assignment: Make an animated gif.

How I did it:

1) Find a video on You Tube that you would like to play with. (Or provide you own) I chose Maru the cat from YouTube.

2) Find one of the many tools out there available for “liberating” You Tube videos onto your harddrive.

3) Once liberated, and since I have a mac, I made screenshots of 5 different frames using command+ option + 4

4) I then uploaded those screenshots into Gif Ninja and there we go…

How could this be useful in the language classroom? Well, a student could follow up with a brief narration of the cat jumping, or why the cat was jumping. Repeated actions in the past (hellllloooo imperfect tense in Spanish)..etc.

More to follow…. but in the meantime, c’mon in and join in. It’ll be fun.

JANUARY 1, 2011 UPDATE: After writing this post, I realized, pshaw, we were not following the directions of the course (shocking I know).  Step number 2 of the ds106 syllabus states that each student needs  to create his or her own domain name and post his or her work there. Snnnap.

So, Ryan and I have done just that.  We will be completing our ds106 assignments here and here.  Any connections or intersections we discover that will be useful in the world of language learning or educational technology  (not that Maru the Cat is not oh so applicable to both of those worlds, mind you) will be posted on this site.

Barbara is a Lecturer in Hispanic Studies at a small liberal arts college in Maine. Rumor has it this was also her alma mater. She used to work for a small liberal arts college in the cornfields of Ohio for almost 20 years as a teacher and language center director. Prior to these adventures in higher ed she taught high school Spanish and loved it. She wishes she had more time in her life to play with her dogs, write, read, swim, do yoga things and making stuff out of clay. To see her online portfolio please click here!


  1. Jim Groom · December 16, 2010 Reply

    What?! A cat and no bird? Or is the cat eating the LLU parrot? Awesomeness abounds!

  2. Barbara · December 16, 2010 Reply

    Duly noted, bava.

    I just saw what Ryan came up with as his answer to this assignment and (oh not that we are a competitive bunch here on LLU, oh heck no…cough) I feel I need to revise my gif.

    And think about birds. More to follow.

    Thanks for making my finals period, as my first semester Spanish students might try to say in a language other than their own, much more betterer

  3. Tiffany · December 22, 2010 Reply

    I just signed up for DS106 too and I am also interested in how these methodologies can be applied to language learning. I look forward to exploring that with you and the other DS106-ers over the next few weeks! Now I’m off to try my hand at animating gifs from movies- very daunting given the caliber of work I’ve already seen on the ds106 site!

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