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.