Reflective Summary for ILT5340 Digital Storytelling: Weeks 2 and 3

*I am currently working my way through my fourth semester of the Information and Learning Technologies master’s program at University of Colorado, Denver.  This is the second post within a series of reflections that I’ve been assigned to write for a course titled Digital Storytelling.

Weeks 2 and 3

  • How well do you feel you completed the requirements of the week’s assignments (inclusive of at least two TDCs, your DS106 Activity Bank Assignment, response to Lankshear and Knobel reading, critique of digital stories, various responses to CU Denver peers, and engagement with other online social networks)?

I think I did really, really well completing the assignments over these past two weeks!  Here are my two Daily Create assignments (that somehow both ended up having a Western theme): Western Reflection and Old West Speak Generator.  Here is my visual assignment from the DS106 Assignment Bank:  My Selfie with Albert Einstein.  Here are my two digital story critiques (both are wonderful but the first one is amazing):  Bear 71 and Josef.   Here is my first response to a digital storytelling resource:  National Film Board of Canada.  And here is the explanation of my theme and goals for this course:  focal theme and personal learning goals.  I also interacted with several other fellow students’ blogs and Twitter feeds, engaged with the DS106 community, and learned about bears in the Rockies.  Whew!  (Sometimes I am so proud of accomplishing all the work that I do in this program…and sometimes I just want to cry.)Selfie-with-Albert

  • What gave you trouble? What did you enjoy most? What did you learn?

I have to be honest, this was only week 3 of the semester but it was quite a struggle for me to get through it.  My husband ended up being gone for most of the week at his company’s sales kick off and trying to read Lankshear and Knoble at home alone with a two-year-old was pretty much impossible.  I think I read this sentence at least fifteen times:  “We define literacies as ‘socially recognized ways in which people generate, communicate, and negotiate meanings, as members of Discourses, though the medium of encoded texts'” (p. 33).  As much as I love to read, this was not a fun experience!  I did try to read at night after I’d put my daughter to bed, but all that did was make me want to go to bed too.  So…I need to come up with a new idea.  I think that “New Literacies” may have to become my “new lunch break”.

While my experience with the Lankshear and Knoble reading was less than stellar, my experiences with digital stories over these last two weeks were phenomenal.  I’m referring to Bear 71 and my second critique.  I’ve never experienced anything quite like the Bear 71 interactive documentary and it left me completely mesmerized.  I was in awe not only of the actual ‘story’ and it’s platform, which to be honest, is utterly amazing.  But I was also in awe of the written narration, the music, the development of the story, everything.  I hadn’t realized that anything like this even existed much less counted as a ‘digital story.’  After this critique, I worried that no other digital story could ever compare, but I’ve been able to see each story for what it is and the meanings they’re meant to convey.  I’m absolutely loving this aspect of the course!

  • What would you do differently? What questions to you have?

As I mentioned above, I am going to have to find a different method for getting through the Lankshear and Knoble readings.  I’ve never been good at reading academic works that don’t enthrall me, no matter their importance, and I haven’t been successful in reading that book at home.  I might need to read it in my free time at work when I am most awake with the least amount of distractions.

The questions I currently have, revolve around the aspect of utilizing a theme within our work for this course.  And to be completely honest, I think I only have these questions because I wish so badly that I didn’t feel constricted by the confines of having to work with a theme.  But I have read and reread and even reread the syllabus…multiple times.  The mentioning of the focal theme is not consistent throughout the syllabus and it’s borderline killing my need for uniformity and directness.  Here is what I have found:

“Developing a unique digital storytelling focal theme based upon professional and/or personal interest.  At least nine of the fifteen weekly assignments from the DS106 Assignment Bank will examine this theme (i.e. youth civic engagement, nursing, civil rights), with focal themes proposed and approved by Sunday, 1/31/16.”

–  Was there a process I was supposed to follow to get my theme approved?  Note – this section says the theme is to be applied to 9 assignments from the Assignment Bank.

“Your practice of response will include social media posts posts that:  Synthesize literature and learning theory by reading: a) Lankshear and Knobel’s New Literacies: Everyday Practices and Social Learning; and b) other scholarship about storytelling (digital storytelling or storytelling in general) related to interests and focal theme.”

NFB Features and ResourcesSo I am only supposed to be reading other scholarship that pertains to my theme?? This means that my ‘response’ to the National Film Board of Canada was incorrect? I’ve tried searching for digital story “scholarship” (is the word scholarship simply meant to mean “readings” and “videos”??) that pertains solely to my theme of self-reflection through food and I have found nothing.  I feel like I would be missing out on all the other “scholarship” out there if I am truly supposed to only read stuff that pertains to my theme.  There is so much out there!

“Final Portfolio:  An intentional selection of assignments, critiques and reading responses, peer commentary, social media contributions, and other artifacts will be curated and explained in relation to course themes.”

So now here, this makes me think that everything we’re critiquing and reading and even creating, is supposed to pertain to our theme.  Is this correct?  It doesn’t clearly state this anywhere else in the syllabus.  If this is the case, again, isn’t this quite limiting in regards to the work we could be reading, writing, and creating??  I am a better person for having interacted with and critiquing Bear 71 but not nearly as much after watching and critiquing Josef.  Bear 71 has nothing to do with my theme.

“To summarize — Each week you will post the following assignments:
-1 Daily Create assignment from ds106 TDC – posted on Twitter and your blog by Thursday each week
-1 Critique of one digital story focused on your focal theme and/or interests – posted on Twitter and your blog by Friday each week
-1 Digital Story from the ds106 Assignment Bank every other week – posted on Twitter and your blog by Friday of that week
-1 Reflection on the course readings – posted by Friday each week
-1 Reflection – either of your own learning or thoughtful responses to your peers’ work – posted by Sunday each week”

The focal theme is only mentioned once in the section above.  This is extremely inconsistent with the other verbiage in the rest of the syllabus.  As I show at the top of my response to this question, up there it only states that we need to apply our theme to assignments from the Assignment Bank, but here it only states that theme is to be used when critiquing other people’s digital stories.  Again…limiting.

“Course Schedule – Read: Scholarship related to interest or focal theme

The aspect of the theme is mentioned in weeks 1 and 2, but then only consistently throughout the rest of the schedule in relation to “scholarship”.  The inconsistency is wreaking havoc with my OCD-ness and I desperately need clarification.

With all this being said, I am happy to keep doing my work as I’m doing it, but I worry that I am doing it incorrectly.  I’m currently happily fumbling along, critiquing the stories that pique my interest (and occasionally work with my theme – in one way or other), reading “scholarship” that I learn from (whether it works with my theme or not), and creating digital stories that are fun and meaningful (again, whether they work with my theme or not).  I’m loving this course and everything I’m learning, but am I doing what is expected of me, in the way it is expected??

  • What are some of the larger issues surrounding your work, particularly as they relate to exploring your focal theme?

I am very much enjoying my work pertaining to the creation of my own digital stories.  But I am still struggling with the concept of critiquing other peoples’ work.  I don’t yet feel like an authority or like I’ve learned enough to truly judge and write about someone else’s work.  I’m getting through it though and I think I’m doing alright!  (I hope.)

I am also struggling with relating my focal theme to my work in general.  Most of the time, I wish there wasn’t a theme at all.  There is so much more out there and I feel so confined by having a theme I am supposed to work within.  It’s boxing me in and I actually really dislike having to find digital stories that stay within that box.  Bear 71 has absolutely nothing to do with my focal theme, but I liked it so much and I felt like it taught me a lot about digital storytelling so I ignored the fact that it wasn’t about my theme.  But there aren’t many more times I can do that since the syllabus seems to say that I am supposed to do 9 stories in relation to my theme…I think.  (Please see my response to the question above.)

  • On a 10-point scale, with 10 the highest possible grade, how many points do you believe have been earned based upon your weekly digital storytelling practices?

Based off of my weekly digital storytelling practices and everything I’ve learned, I’d give myself a ten!  This does not mean I am perfect or that I have no room for improvement, because I do.  It means that I’ve put forward everything I could over these last two weeks.  It means that what I’ve learned deserves the highest number possible.  And it means that I value what I’ve done to highest extent of the number scale allowed!  🙂