Final Reflection and Exhale… #relief

As part of my coursework in Professor Remi Holden’s INTE 5340 Learning with Digital Stories Summer 2015 course at the University of Colorado Denver, I have looked on my experience as a learner with (digital) storytelling given my participation throughout the semester.

This reflection is complementary of my final portfolio and builds on my seven prior weekly summary reflections addressing the following:

  • My co-design in this course: How this class was different than previous courses I have taken
  • How I learned in this course
  • My understanding of the pedagogy: Understanding Remi’s course design

My co-design in this course: How this class was different than previous courses I have taken

Upon starting this class, I did have a large amount of previous expectations. I think it important to mention my education background as it has shaped my perceptions and expectations.

This is the fourth college I have attended. I have a standard four year degree from Kent State and I attended Cleveland State as a post bachelorette school for a year and a half. Also, I went to the University of Phoenix for my Masters in Education (did not finish). I am very familiar with writing long papers and following a strict syllabus with tight deadlines. Going to so many colleges was never in my long term plan but I don’t think a person can have too much education (says the person swimming in student loan debt). Being a student sometimes feels like the only thing I know how to do. I love learning and elevating myself to want better.debt

When I was signing up for this class, I initially contacted spoke with the guidance counselor the Education office. I was advised to start taking this class (INTE 5340) that had a young, modern teacher. I am used to taking classes and regurgitating facts in very lengthy papers. I could not have predicted how intense this class would be for me. This class is significantly different than any another Master’s (and Bachelor’s) class that I have ever taken. The open ended malleable nature of the assignments provided me a venue to choose activities that appealing to me (and my focal theme).

In general I felt that I learned more from the online community (more than I could contribute). I didn’t feel as if I could help anyone initially because I was brand new to so many different things. For the first two weeks I remember writing down hashtags on a post it note just so I would remember them when posting my assignments. I didn’t want to submit something incorrectly. I now feel more like a connected learner. I finally reached that point where I feel comfortable using twitter or a blog to ask questions. I have continually posted comments on people’s blogs but they were not usually with advice. I enjoyed reading the advice others gave me. Two people in particular were responsible for inspiring a critique and a web assignment for me. (Emily May and La Dawna).

I am not sure how I will feel about taking traditional classes after taking this course. I have yet to apply to this Master’s program but I know that is something I am looking into. I plan on applying next semester.  Finishing this course, I finally feel I have gained the confidence with the applications and websites I used to actually be able to help someone else. It’s interesting how much can be learned through observation then trial and error.

How I learned in this course

nerdWhen signing up for this class (on the first day class began), I couldn’t believe how far behind I was. I barely use Facebook let alone all of the websites I was supposed to access. I literally spent the first few days barely completing assignments. I was TRYING to understand Twitter and how to “tweet” I admit googling what a hashtag meant. Please believe me when I tell you I’m a pretty “normal” person. I just really don’t use social media. I am not sure if it is due to fear, privacy, boredom, or maybe just I can’t understand the why’s behind it all. I never understood the selfie mentality or why people thought their lives were so important the world must know about them.

As I mentioned in my reflection last week, I don’t think there was anyone or anything that could have prepared me for this class. I was pushed to what really felt like was my breaking point. I contemplated dropping this course in the first week (and several times after that). At one point I was trying to explain this class to my manager. She of all people was very helpful with reassuring me I should stick with. After all I have never started a class and not completed it. This class in retrospect was probably exactly what I needed: a kick in the pants to push myself.

I don’t think I could even list the number of applications I learned how to use in this class.  I failed at using new websites sometimes and I succeeded at mastering a few. There is an indescribable about of satisfaction that I feel gaining knowledge. The relevance of learning how to use so many different applications carries over into my career. I know I would have never used even half of the websites I did, if I had not taken this course.  I can practically apply a few of the tricks I learned, to the documentation I compile at work.  I could not say that about classes I have taken previous to this one.

My understanding of the pedagogy: Understanding Remi’s course design

My idea of pedagogy is that it is an instructional method where a teacher holds the students accountable for their own learning path/process. An instructor provides a skeletal frame work comprised of a flexible structure that is meant to be filled with self-guided experimentation on the student’s part.  This model is radically different (to me) from the standardized “teaching” methods of the traditional classroom. Instead of facts and regurgitation of information, students are on a custom-made tour. Instead of reassurance and formal critiques, pedagogy forces a person to try, fail, try again and maybe succeed.drowning

The traditional classroom setting takes most of the pass/fail immediate gratification and other human emotions out and replacing them frustration, confusion and enthusiasm. This is not meant to be condescending or isolating, quite the contrary. The students are learning in groups so they can feed off of each other’s failures and successes. The teacher is more of an invisible guide on the tour giving occasional digital hi-fives and feedback. This forces the student to almost build their own sense of intrinsic motivation and happiness. This is the most progress form of education I have ever learned about or experienced. My mind sort of melts even thinking about the possibilities of structuring classes in this fashion. Is it possible to create a whole degree out of this? Wow. If you position this class correctly this could almost shape what you want your degree to be in. This is close to being a digital guidance counsler in some regards.

The thing I struggled with most was opening up to people I did not know. Going forward I now recognize that this is an area I need to improve. I have had a difficult time learning how to communicate with strangers online. I read everyone else posts and I didn’t understand how to jump in or fit in conversations sometimes.  Maybe if people had basic bio’s so I could gain a bit of knowledge at the very beginning of this class I would have felt I could approach them easier.  I am typically a very outgoing individual in real life, so why this class was such a challenge baffles me. Understanding the hashtags is something I still think is bizarre and difficult to define. I talked a lot to my little brother about this class this past weekend. He mostly laughed at me and my lack of knowledge. He is only 4 years younger than me but definitely could relate. Sometimes it feels good knowing you are not the only person who might not have a clue.

Future Thoughts:

If I had to make any recommendation for future classes it might be for more information on what the final portfolio should look like. I might just be saying this because I was a bit panicky about finishing such a large assignment in a timely fashion. It is difficult to reflect on a class that breezed by. I think I would just create little notes for each week about how I felt if I had known what my final portfolio was going to look like. Then again I guess I was able to pull most of my emotions from my past reflections (and boy was I a paniced mess!)

L&K provided in my opinion, a phenomenal look at social media at its finest. I wish I was able to read this book before I started this class. It did a great job of explaining all the how’s and why’s that I always wonder. When I finally got my book in the mail I had to speed read to catch up. I found the book to be a helpful guide at understanding this class. I can see this book being used in a variety of ways.

DS106 is has amazing potential. I wish there was more assignments. Looking back I think it would have been fun to create a few. Maybe that should be on the syllabus for next semester! With the emergence of new applications and websites that website will only get more robust as more classes engage using it.

In Conclusion:

I could not have more positive things to say about how this class turned out for me. I am also glad to see there is a survey so I am able to provide feedback. This model of teaching should be considered for other classes in this department. “Learning by failing” might be the theme but the struggle was worth it at the end. It is difficult to say if I will continue using every website/application I used, but I know I have gained a solid base that is only going to help me with future projects.

Relief is a wonderful emotion, highly underrated. In fact, I prefer it to elation or joy. Relief lets the air out of the Tire of Pain. – Adriana Trigiani

Final Portfolio: A look back at MY journey

Presentation skills How and why is it important for you to tell stories?

There are a number of reasons that stories are important.  Stories leave lasting impressions with people.  They create something that a person can relate to.  Rather than just listening to words and processing them, individuals are able to make connections to their everyday lives.  This happens because often a good story pulls on people’s emotions or past memories.  People interpret the context and according to Rohan Ayyar “…a compelling story with an emotional trigger alters our brain chemistry, making us more trusting, understanding of others, and open to ideas.”  How do you know you are telling a good story?  Presentation and knowing your audience is the first step in determining this.

As a new person to Twitter, Sound Cloud, Flickr, Kumu, Photo Splash, Audacity, the DS106 Community, as well as CU (just to name a few), sometimes just completing one assignment can feel like the most rewarding thing imaginable.  For me personally, telling my story has been a challenge of learning not only multiple websites and how to use them but on a deeper level it was learning how to break down my own walls.  I am not used to social media in any form and I would have to say even what looks like baby steps to other people was significant to me.  The emotions of terror, frustration, and hopelessness actually was mirrored in my journey over the last few months when I moved to Denver.

There have been several assignments that I have completed that have explored my personal them of “Exploring a New City”. The four most notable DS106 assignment bank entrees I completed are as follows:

  1. Moving to DenverI hope I found my pot of gold. The reason I chose this Visual Assignment was because it shows the progression of my journey.  I started out very hesitant at trying any complicated application.  For my first assignment I chose to emphasize a rainbow that I took a picture of the first time I visited Denver (before I moved here).  The very basic completion of this was my first step in opening up to this whole world of “digital story telling.”
  2. one second

What is this picture?. This is the Video Assignment I completed for week 3.  In this odd, perfectly timed video, I was on a bus going home from work.  There was a flash flood and I was able to capture the moments of panic and eventual laughter of a group of people experience true public transportation.

Snow White visits the mile high city3.   Snow White visits the Mile High City.  Week 5’s Mashup Assignment provided me a way to use different tools to create a remix of “Snow White meets Southpark.”  I used various websites for pictures and different fonts to complete this assignment.  I also learned how to edit pictures using Paint and snipping tools.  The results although unusual, was a great learning experience for me.

4. final 2 Need plans for the weekend?.  This was my week 7 Web Assignment.  This was the culmination of weeks worth of frustrations and anxiety finally melting away.  I have been slowly compiling a list of places I want to visit in Denver based on feedback from coworkers, friends, and strangers I meet around the city.  This was the first time I was able to condense all my thoughts in to one project.  I plan on actually using this map to explore this state.  I even created a tutorial for how to create this map using Google maps for the DS106 website.

Stories are a way to turn information into meaning.  A good story contains facts that drive the larger idea.

“Master storytellers want us drunk on emotion so we will lose track of rational considerations, relax our skepticism, and yield to their agenda” –George Bailey

There were four critiques I did that highlighted my theme of exploring a new city.  The first two critiques were done using Jason Ohler’s assessment traits and for the second two I used Lankshear and Knobel’s literacy dimensions found in chapter four.

  1. catching rain

Colorado is thirsty for change. Was the first critique were I challenged myself to find out about a local issue that is occurring in Denver.  This article talked about the battle in Colorado over a serious issue of “who owns the rain?” Ever since I completed this critique I have read the Denver news (on my phone) as I now realize the value in keeping up to date with local events, especially as a transplant into this state.

2. “Face-stalking” taking it too far.Face stalking  I chose to critique this article not necessarily because of my theme but rather because it had to do with social media.  After reading chapter 3 in  New Literacies: Everyday Practices and Social Learning, I was compelled to look deeper at the implications of Facebook.  What I found terrified me, but as an educated individual I try to remind myself to see the big picture.  If I accept the idea that someone could be watching me and I am able to move on from this, I have succeeded.

3.  comic conExamining a local comic con. I really enjoyed doing this critique, as it was more fun than actual work.  I watched countless video’s on YouTube from various points of view from people who attended the local comic con that was held in Denver earlier this year.  I was drawn in by the various costumes and accessories that people from all over Colorado.  I unfortunately missed this years event, but I look forward to attending in 2016.

4. Quote projectFrom Colorado? Watch this video!!.  I was immediately drawn to this video I found on Vimeo’s website.  This short clip was filmed in downtown Denver as well as Boulder.  The purpose behind this video was to highlight a global issue. I found it inspiring to see a group of people trying to tackle a huge issue by just getting the word out and educating “the world.”

“When you want to motivate, persuade, or be remembered, start with a story of human struggle and eventual triumph. It will capture people’s hearts – by first attracting their brains.” Paul J. Zak

Motivating and inspiring stories help pave the way for engagement.  By opening a person’s mind one can help stimulate the imagination.  Creating real world stories and examples will help draw this creative process.

Three chapters in  New Literacies: Everyday Practices and Social Learning by Lankshear and Knobel resonated with me when reviewing my focal theme.

  1. world-in-handsCreating your own world.  The second chapter is one that I gained the most clarification on, as I read the book and listened to the class screen casts.  Although when I posted this review of the chapter, I was not set on my focal theme, the mention of peoples D/discourses came into play.  I was puzzled (at first) of what this all meant.  As I went through this course it became more clear.  My own interpretations of the book, this class, and my focal theme began from the questions that arose after reading this chapter.

2.  DiscourseApproach blogging with caution.  This chapter in the book is when I went through my “suspicion” phase.  The deeper dive into the sharing of our different Discourses, had me questioning who could be looking at my blog. The nervous idea’s that arose in my mind were only amplified as I critiqued an article referencing how Facebook now can identify people’s faces in a fraction of a second.  Reflecting back on this review, I am happy to say I have overcome MOST of my fears of paranoia, which at first wasn’t easy.

blank slate3.  What is a blank slate anyway?.  Push and pull were the major emphasis in chapter 7.  What stood out to me was the idea of a blank slate.  I questioned what it meant to think about the needs of the audience viewing my blog.  Throughout this class I have attempted to understand how I was being judged by the teacher but not necessarily by my peers.  Looking back I wish I could have read this chapter sooner as it prompted me as a reader (or in my case a blogger) to think more of other people’s perceptions and not just my own.

“…Stories often teach important lessons about a given society’s culture, the land, and the ways in which members are expected to interact with each other and their environment. The passing on of these stories from generation to generation keeps the social order intact.” –Erin Hanson

Making connections to other individuals and sharing our own personal story is an important part of learning.  It is our own unique experiences that help create these stories.  By engaging with my peers, colleagues, friends and family I have over the course of 8 weeks increased my learning experience in this class.  Below are just a few of the examples of the interactions I have had.

I learned to think in broader terms.  There is not the best way to do something  


I received feedback from others who agreed with me even when what I was critiquing wasn’t necessarily well written.


Once and awhile I even had classmates that inspired me.  I ended up critiquing the article Emily May sent me in a comment on my blog.

Once and

Often the inspiration led to bigger things.  La Dawna Minnis made me think about creating something for younger people who would probably be traveling more.  It was this week that I decided to start a list of places to visit in Denver.  This is what led me to create my final Web Assignment.

Often the inspirat

There were times when others not in our class could relate to my feelings of frustration.  They even offered help.  Even this small amount of encouragement helped me realize I probably wasn’t the only one feeling hopeless.

there were timesthere were 2

there were 3

I got help when I needed it

things I things I l

I even made it into the digital DS106 newspaper!!  Guess I can’t put that on the fridge.



Overall this class has been an amazing experience.  Throughout all my mistakes frustrations and confusion I made it out alive and well.  The assignments pushed me to think outside the box, and I had a great time telling my story and reading others stories along the way.  I can’t wait to explore more of this city (now that I might have a bit of free time).  I don’t think I have ever felt so much relief after finishing a class. 🙂

Finding my moment of zen

Week seven was a struggle of time management for me.  This weekend is my birthday and I am currently in LA.  I am officially the farthest west I have ever been in the US!  So many firsts this past month.  I have been trying to keep up at work while I have had school on my brain.  Over the course of the the last two months I feel like I have been the ultimate time prioritizer.  I watch screen casts and read on the bus to and from work.  I write post it notes all day at work for idea’s for school projects and I ask people I work with and meet in Colorado about what their favorite things to do here are.  All this has led me to an increasingly calmer sense of being.

After such disappointment last week when working with a website that was not designed to do what I intended, I was determined to make something work from it this week.  I was more than excited to create a whole weekend of fun things to do in Colorado.  I took something I am already skilled at (organizing schedules) and used my focal theme to develop a large scale project.  What was especially fun for me was engaging with people at work (and a few I met in Denver) about what activities they thought were the most fun to do.  I received great feedback and more positive responses than I could have ever imagined.
Compiling a list of things to do really pushed me to think outside of the box on what I wanted to do.  I can’t believe how many things there are to do in this state in such a small area.  Cleveland has nothing to offer when compared to the wide range of activities I found.  As I have mentioned in an earlier post, I found the relevance of having a good tutorial of how to use a new website.  I have noticed that many of the DS106 activities do not have these.  It is something that I hope really blossoms over the next few years.
I think maybe it should be a requirement to take the time to commit to at least one tutorial for ds106 per class.  After all, we are all in the education field.  It is not only good experience but it is something students in the education field should have experience with.
This week I earned a 9/10.  I feel like I really do need a few days off to clear my mind before I dive into my portfolio next week.  As I am traveling all weekend I hope to relax for a minute before wrapping the course up.  It is difficult to not think about school all the time.  I was even on the plane flying out here typing ideas for organizing my portfolio.  I have serious problems!