Final Reflection: Check Out My Portfolio!

What I learned from Digital Storytelling at CU Denver

How I learned in the course:

Digital Storytelling at CU Denver taught me the power of storytelling and the power of educational “pull”. Storytelling has been a potent way for me to process my internal workings, relate to others, and safely communicate my ideas to a larger audience. Thinking about storytelling in conjunction with the “pull” model, really challenged me to develop and tell my story of grief. In doing so, I feel as if I have transformed from an ordinary person with nothing important to say on social media to someone with a truly unique viewpoint.

Part of the Digital Storytelling “pull” includes picking a theme that was important to me. I eventually landed on using grief as my focal point. As the course progressed, I found myself becoming more curious about the concept of grief and challenged myself to stretch beyond my own grief, on to how different people, cultures and stories deal with loss. I began to share this information with my grief group. Pushing myself to be more of a storyteller helped me learn more concepts, and made me more comfortable with storytelling in the digital age.

How I understand my social learning practices according to Lankshear and Knobel:

Prior to this course, I had very little awareness on how social learning practices worked. Social learning has the potential to offer constant feedback to the participants through peer review. This brings the learner into the discourse and slowly builds confidence. The learner is only limited by their ability to produce and put themselves out there for review.

How my experiences in this course might inform my future formal and informal learning:

Social learning required me to put myself out there. I began to offer feedback even if I didn’t feel completely confident and became increasingly active on Twitter. The emerging discourse was that of digital storytelling with an effortless online presence. I found great purpose in this discourse and must admit I am going to miss creating work almost daily. Moving forward in my graduate work, I think my experiences from this course will help me integrate my passions and interests whenever possible in my assigned coursework.

How I see myself as a connected learner, someone networked into other communities, and also linked with other people:

This course has given me the confidence to see myself as a valuable contributor to the learning and collaboration of DS106. I felt the DS106 and Digital Storytelling web exposed me to such a variety of writers, educators, and other enthusiasts that my learning connections were limitless. It really was a matter of asking for help then multiple community participants would come to my aid. I found it refreshing that my blog posts and tweets sparked conversations with new and interesting people.

My co-design of Digital Storytelling:

How this course was differed from prior, graduate courses:  

This was the first graduate course I took for my eLearning masters at CU Denver, so the bar has been set high. I must say I wonder how I will do with Canvas as my primary learning platform. I hope I can adapt from this malleable format to a more stationary learning experience.

How I contributed to the development of this course and my learning community:

The biggest contribution I made to the group lied within producing quality work in order to be reviewed and have a perspective for reviewing. I really tried to offer constructive criticism to my peers or pose ideas for expansion. Sharing these ideas has a snowball effect. Once I saw a really thoughtful comment then I wanted to find something to offer them when I commented on their work. It was a very effective feedback loop.

As far as the group demeanor goes, I brought a positive attitude through cheering on my classmates and recognizing their accomplishments. The group really started to gel about a month into the program. We even organized a meetup both in person and online to get to know each other a little better over a beer and a friendly game of ping pong.

How I directed both my own learning and also the shared experiences of peers/others:

Having such a rich topic of grief, I had many avenues to explore when it came to stories to critique and assignments to create. I was reluctant to choose such a heavy focal theme at the beginning of the class, but realize now, it was the perfect topic. I got to express myself and my story around grief and explore other’s experiences with loss (and other emotions for that matter). As a completely unexpected benefit of this course, which testifies to the power of storytelling, I found this course to be cathartic and found healing in telling my story.

In today’s culture, grief is not talked about openly. It makes others uncomfortable, so people shut it down. This course taught me that my voice in starting this greater conversation has more value than I knew and it might just help others who are struggling with loss as well.

How I would design the course differently:

The only thing I think would be beneficial, is if there was a way for this course and group of peers to continue on. I think it is important that this course acts as a launchpad for future eLearning courses. Is there was a way for #cudenver15 to continue existing even once the course is complete, much like the DS106 presence? This would allow us to cultivate a rich community of constructive feedback and support.

My understanding of the Digital Storytelling course pedagogy:

How I understand Remi’s course design and ongoing decision-making:  

Having completed the course and read New Literacies, I can see the method behind Remi’s madness. He followed the “pull” model well by creating very clear expectations of us in the syllabus, while mapping our work out meticulously. Through this I was able to find my creative process in the course and rely on my peers over Remi for help.

Dumping all of us into the pool at once also forces us to support each other and ask for help. We got to learn how helpful our peers could be and it actually became a pleasant experience to use Twitter for reaching out. Getting constant updates on everyone’s tweets as well as blogs, through Feedly made me feel like my dual monitor setup always oriented me.

A required focal theme was genius in that it truly pulled me through the course. Having a topic I’m passionate about really became more about learning than producing deliverables.

As an educator, my understanding of pedagogy has changed:  

The biggest realization I had around pedagogy, it that the time has come where the pure “push” model of learning is no longer relevant. In order to be an effective educator, one needs to embrace the “pull” model and challenge their teaching abilities. Times are demanding more streamlined learning.

How my understanding of “instructor” has changed:

In implementing the “pull” pedagogy, I see an effective instructor as someone that does all the leg work upfront. Making sure all the required work is mapped out clearly, an instructor then becomes more of a “facilitator” than an instructor once the course begins. As a facilitator, one keeps the conversations moving and offers periodic feedback to keep the learners on track. This hands-off approach is extremely beneficial in teaching learners how to rely on peers, the internet, and themselves to learn any given topic. This type of instructor allows learners to complete the course with confidence.

I would like to offer feedback to Remi as he will likely teach another version of this course in the future:

I saw opportunities for participation where the group didn’t necessarily all join in. I really liked the idea of “Where in the world is Remi Holden?” as you were traveling across the country. I wonder if there is a way to draw that out of students early on to help them unite as a group faster. Perhaps another option would be to create an ice breaker game to offer factoids about our peers early on. Remi, I have heard your Games course was amazing, so this would be a small feat for you to achieve.

Week 8 Reflection: It’s Alive!

This week has been very interesting in that I had less work to do, but somehow, it felt like more. Perhaps I am just tired and awe-struck by the whole CU Digital Storytelling experience. Perhaps I am simply working to get my carcass across the finish line.

Having extra time to create a great final assignment, really haunted me. I kept wondering, “Is it good enough?”

Eventually I settled on, “Yes!”

I tend to work on a more emotional level and my assignment evoked such a response (at least a couple of my guinea pigs said it made them feel something). I am also proud to say that I gave this class my absolute best, while still living my life, navigating time crunches, moments of overwhelm, and shear confusion. I believe that’s the best anyone can do.

It has been a wonderful ride and I would recommend it to anyone with a passion for education.

Here is my week’s work:

Weekly Assignment Feminine Grief Transformed
L&K Response New Literacies Chapter 8 Review: Quest to Collaborate on Complex World Challenges
L&K Peer Responses 1 New Literacies Review (Ch. 8) – Social Learning in Education
L&K Peer Responses 2 Reading Response: New Literacies Chapter 8 – Social Learning in Formal Education

New Literacies’ Chapter 8 Review: Quest to Collaborate on Complex World Challenges

With more and more complex problems sprouting up around the world, I have been wondering if, and how, schools have been preparing students to tackle the issues awaiting them. In my Digital Storytelling class I read about a New York public school called Quest to Learn (Q2L), that is the first of its kind. I feel Q2L truly prepares students to interact with and prepare for tomorrow’s complicated world. Lankshear and Knobel of New Literacies explain that Q2L has a truly unique educational model that teaches collaboration, critical thinking, technology, and empathy to name a few just a few skills for success.
Q2L 2

New York’s Q2L is tackling the issue of how to engage students where our current education model fails. This research-based educational model is a prototype for what schools might become in the future. Q2L’s creation is not a moment too soon either amidst increasingly complex world challenges. It only makes sense to permeate today’s youth with the Q2L mission statement; “To empower and engage all students by connecting rigorous learning through innovation to the increasing demands of the global society.”

This got me thinking about how education could help solve world problems. A google search on “Top 10 World Problems” produced the World Economic Forum at the top of the search list. Al Gore introduces this forum by saying, “We are at a critical fork in the road, a period of decision that will dictate the health and viability of our civilization for decades to come.” Essentially, he is saying it is time to face our problems head on and that they are not going away any time soon. The top problems of today include:

top 10 challenges
  1. Deepening income inequality
  2. Persistent jobless inequality
  3. Lack of leadership
  4. Rising geostrategic competition
  5. Weakening of representative democracy
  6. Rising pollution in the developing world
  7. Increasing occurrence of severe weather events
  8. Intensifying nationalism
  9. Increasing water stress
  10. Growing importance of health in the economy

None of these issues can be resolved in a vacuum. It will take social, economic, and political collaboration, which is the kind of cooperative foundation fostered in Q2L students. Additionally, students have the benefit of watching their educators, game designers, curriculum specialists, and parents collaborate and continuously learn alongside them.

One intriguing aspect of Q2L is the game component of missions and quests. These game/educational tools ultimately engage students in a completely new way. Katie Salen’s book Quest to Learn, Developing the School for Digital Kids showed an example of a quest that I feel aligns with one of the world’s top challenges, “Weakening of representative democracy”. Keep in mind these students began this form of learning in 6th grade, so such a complex challenge would be saved for a seasoned 12th grader. Here is an excerpt lesson plan from Quest to Learn:

Grade: 12

Trimester 1: Empowering Communities of Change Essential Questions

In what ways does the representation of a dynamic system affect our understanding and beliefs about the system?

Mission: Decision Making in a Democracy

Length: 6 weeks

Doman: Codeworlds (math/ELA)

Quest Overview:

The power to elect officials is the power to change the world, but the mathematics of voting extends far beyond the notion of majority rule. As a member of a new grassroots group with a mandate to educate young people about the inner workings of the election process, your mission is to use mathematical models and digital simulations to represent this complex process to theirs. You must first learn what assumptions they hold about how the election model works: The candidate with the most votes wins an election, for example. It is your job to develop a persuasive mathematical model to show that the whole story has as much to do with voting methods as with voting numbers. The Math Mission challenges you to grapple with complex questions that are a very real part of our political system, through both mathematical modeling and historical analysis of past elections. (121)

Such quality curriculum and educational experiences are exactly what the youth of 2015 needs. I look forward to a day when Q2L is no longer a prototype but is embraced by our larger school system. As an older generation, I know that I have contributed to the challenges of today’s world and I am not sure exactly where and how to help. The world our youth shall inherit will certainly not be their doing, but at least we can give them the tools and awareness to navigate colossal challenges.


Lankshear, C., & Knobel, M. (2011). New literacies. Berkshire, England ; New York: Open University Press.

Outlook on the Global Agenda 2015 – Reports – World Economic Forum. (n.d.). Retrieved from

Q2L Middle School – Q2L Middle School. (n.d.). Retrieved from

Salen, Katie. (2011). Quest to learn: Developing the school for digital kids. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Feminine Grief Transformed

For my final grief-focused assignment in Digital Storytelling class at CU Denver, I decided to create a video that moves from images of grief, to an inner transformation, and ending with joy. The DS106 assignment (videoassignment1719), Paying Homage to What you Care About, was the perfect platform to merge soulful music with healing imagery.

Overall, I am very happy with the finished project. Of course, I wish the sizing and focus of some of the pictures were better, but I need to remember, I am still learning iMovie. Regardless of the quality, I still tear up when I watch it, so I believe the video will elicit an emotional response from the viewer.

Here is how I created the video:

1. Gathered images from the internet and compiled them on There were three Pinterest pages to match the three phases of the video: grieving women, healing through Patricia Ariel’s artwork, and images of joy.

2. Inserted all the images into a new project in iMovie, then set all slides at 3 seconds. After that, I deleted unclear or less captivating images until there was about 6 minutes of video.

3. Inserted the music. Intially I wanted Peter Gabriel’s I Grieve, but it was really long and I really wanted a female vocalist. After searching the internet for good songs for grieving, I was reminded of one of my favorites, Hallelujah sung by Jeff Buckley. Upon further searching I noticed K.D. Lang sang this masterpiece, orignially written by Leonard Cohen. I knew I found my song, so I bought it on iTunes then dragged and dropped it into iMovie.

4. Watched the movies over and over again to make sure it flowed nicely, tweaking it here and there. I ended up swapping a few images for those that were just too fuzzy.

5. Uploaded it to my Youtube account, making sure to give credit to the singer/songwriter and direct viewers to the Pinterest pages for all other photo credits.

This was a really fun project and I’m glad I went for what I truly wanted to do. I find myself realizing, again, just how much work a simple video can be. This five minute video probably took me anywhere from 6-8 hours of work.

I hope you enjoy my interpretation of the grief journey.

Week 6 Reflection: Enchanted

I am glad to see all my Digital Storytelling work come together. It makes sense now, my portfolio will be a matter of selecting my choice stories on grief to create one grand learning experience. All the story critiques, literature responses, and DS106 daily creates and assignments have been worth the work.

For this last “regular’ week of class, I want to challenge myself to create my absolute best work. “What would be the best final assignment for my portfolio?” is the constant question running through my head. At this point, I am afraid to commit any one path, but I trust in my process.

It has been a joy to watch all my classmates grow alongside me. We feed off each other, which is what inspired this past week’s meetup polls. It’s shaping up to be the Ace Bar at 8pm MST on Tuesday 7/28/15. Aside from meeting new, like-minded folks, we could potentially form a great professional network for jobs, quick application tips, or whatever support is needed. I may be a little too far ahead of myself at this point, but I can certainly dream.

In regards to last week’s reflection from the hospital. Ben is well, back at home, and growing stronger every day.

Week 6 Work:

TDC 1 That Girl’s a Tramp
Story Critique 1 “Fantasy Coffins” Story Critique
Weekly Assignment Grieving Women Pinterest Board
L&K Response New Literacies’ Chapter 7: 80% “Pull” and 20% “Push”
Peer Story Critique 1 The Real Bears
Peer Story Critique 2 Uptown Funk/Jungle Love Remix – Digital Story Critique
L&K Peer Responses 1 Response to Lankshear and Knoble New Literacies: Chapter Seven
L&K Peer Responses 2 Reading Response: Lankshear and Knoble Chapter 7 – Social Learning
TDC 2 Moorhouse Inspired Movie Poster: Wizard of Oz

Moorhouse Inspired Movie Poster: Wizard of Oz

Watercolor on a lazy summer afternoon was the perfect stress relief for today’s DS106 Daily Create, tdc1288. The task was to create a movie poster inspired by illustrator Faye Moorhouse. I haven’t painted with watercolors in ages and was surprised to find such paint in my art stash. I love how watercolors take on a life of their own and imperfection is beauty.

The brilliance of Oz is what called to me on this assignment. There’s a ray of hope in the journey to Oz, that brings the four unlikely friends together. When they learn that Oz is an illusion, they can finally see their gifts reflected through each others’ eyes.

Grieving Women Pinterest Board

pinterest 2
Lately, I have been really interested in exploring women and loss as a new angle for my Digital Storytelling focal theme of grief. Pinterest is the perfect platform for gathering such images and tracking their sources for a larger creation such as a collage or video. I decided to remix the DS106 assignment from Create A Pinterest Board Of Your Dream Vacation to Create A Pinterest Board Of Your Larger Vision. My larger vision is a video showing a variety of grieving women set to music.

This week I racked my brain to gather all the images I could think of for both fictional and nonfictional famous females under duress. The New York Times article Who are the 2015 women of impact was also an excellent source for generating leads.

Originally, I planned to compile these images into a video for my next and final assignment. However, gathering only images of women feels a little limiting. I may have to expand my vision to include more cultures and images of men, women and children. Creating the pinterest board has allowed me to get a clearer picture of where I want my next assignment to go.

New Literacies’ Chapter 7 Review: 80% “Pull” and 20% “Push”

My experience of Digital Storytelling at CU Denver has been a combination of both “push” and “pull” as explored in this week’s New Literacies reading by Lankshear and Knobel. To further elaborate my viewpoint, I see “push” as NASA Headquarters providing a launching pad and wisdom, while “pull” is the rocket launching itself through a passionate purpose and the desire learn. Once in space, that passion further allows the rocket to steer its own educational journey.
While both “push” and “pull” are necessary, “pull” is where the magic happens.


Keeping the rocket metaphor in mind, I would say 20% of my learning has been “pull” and 80%, “pull”. The 20% “push” portion has included meeting assignment due dates, reading New Literacies, and identifying a focal theme. Initially, I wanted to include creating various social media accounts on WordPress, Twitter, Flickr, Vimeo, and Soundcloud in “push”, but I think those actually fall into “push/pull” since they were assigned from NASA Headquarters, but also acted as the collaborative platforms that fueled the rocket launch.

Lurking on Tweetdeck and visiting my peer’s blogs has been my main form of collaboration. Through these practices, I was absorbed into the Digital Storytelling community and supported by its “pull” as well as my own “pull”. To better understand “pull” Brown and Adler say:

“A ‘pull’ approach assumes ‘passion-based learning’ that is motivated by the student either wanting to become a member of a particular community of practice or just wanting to learn about, make, or perform something” (2008:30).

I realize now that the biggest “pull” of Digital Storytelling has been my focal theme, which is grief. My recent experience losing my mother has made me passionate about grief, how loss works, and catharsis. This focal theme has been the intrinsic motivation NASA Headquarters aimed to generate my education launch or “pull”. Grief has guided almost all my work and I believe “pull” has even helped heal me.

When I began this class, I had no idea how all the social media components of Digital Storytelling was going to come together. Hagel, Brown, and Davison sum up this experience perfectly, “Pull approaches respond to uncertainty and the need for sustainability by seeking to expand opportunities for creativity on the part of ‘local participants dealing with immediate needs” (2005:4).

Immediate needs account for 80% “pull” and include the completion of DS106 assignments, the daily creates, and loads of research. From my own desire to learn more about grief, I have spent a great deal of time sifting through compelling death and loss stories, ruminating over which assignments would make good lessons on making sense of loss, and learning how to use new programs to execute assignments. For example, I had an immediate need to complete a DS106 assignment within a weeks-time. The assignment was to create a video of 5-7 days-worth of self-portraits strung together. First I had to imagine how this creation would look as a finished product. Once I could envision the end result, I set out to take the selfies, upload the photos into iMovie, and figured out how to repeatedly show the pictures to music. The end result, “7 Days of Selfie Indulgence”, was a mere minute long, but took 3-4 hours of work.

Even though learning through “pull” is incredibly effective, I also needed a little “push” from Digital Storytelling to see my capabilities. I am reading a book I normally would not read and engaging in social platforms that are not my forte. Without this little “push” I might not have ever learned that I like to blog or tweet. These collaborative platforms helped me find people who were dealing with similar topics and engage with a community that I otherwise would have remained unaware of. I am inspired by the work my classmates produce and, over the course of Digital Storytelling, have come to enjoy the process of cultivating my blog.

The “push” and “pull” of Digital Storytelling has elicited true learning for me.

New Literacies: Everyday Practices and Social Learning Third Ed by Colin Lankshear and Michele Knobel. McGraw-Hill Education 2011.