Why take #DS106?

6635587829_c89c7936bbI’ve decided to embark on the roadtrip called DS106.  This week as I’ve pondered my discussion, I joined the twitter conversation about this iteration of the course.  To get my feet wet, I tweeted:

@sgreenla: Wondering whether I have the creative chops for #ds106.  Guess that’s part of why I’ve put off taking it.

This casual tweet set off a series of responses (slightly edited):

Christina Hendricks@clhendricksbc  Me too, so need practice.

Alan Levine@cogdog 

@clhendricksbc @sgreenla This intrigues me- the barrier for entry to #ds106 could not be lower. No requirements, no fixed schedule, no grade

Christina Hendricks ‏@clhendricksbc

@cogdog Agreed! But there are so many creative ppl doing amazing things; I feel a bit intimidated. That’s probably stupid, though @sgreenla

Alan Levine ‏@cogdog

@clhendricksbc @sgreenla It makes me wonder about how we mature to beings that self-talk ourselves out of trying (I’m guilty of it myself)

Alan Levine ‏@cogdog

@clhendricksbc @sgreenla It’s not stupid, its human. Only compare yourself to yourself. It’s like taking up running at Olympian pace.

Christina Hendricks ‏@clhendricksbc

@cogdog @sgreenla Yeah, the social comparison thing is hard, esp. re: creative stuff. Decided to ditch it and just have fun. Seems like such a great group of ppl doing ds106 that I want to talk to/connect with too. Bonus!


So this got me thinking.   It’s the social pressure that’s the barrier.  As Christina says, this doesn’t feel like an entry level course where learners are expected to know little about the subject coming in.  There are so many creative people doing amazing things.  I barely know what some of the things are (e.g. animated gifs) much less know how to create them.  What if I embarrass myself?  What if I can’t live up to the standard set by the rest of the class?

I’ve thought about “taking” DS106 for a longtime.  I’m not sure that’s the right verb, though.  My sense is you can’t “take” DS106 in the same way that I’ve taken the three MOOCs I’ve attempted.  Rather, DS106 seems to demand a level of engagement or commitment that goes far beyond what a normal class requires.  It feels like a cult, almost.  This is not a bad thing—I’d love to be able to create course environments in my classes that would make students feel like this.  But it is a hurdle for bringing new people in.

The thing is, my “ought to take DS106 desire” wasn’t enough to make me take the plunge.  There are a lot of things that professionally I “ought” to do, but I don’t have the time or emotional energy to do them all.  In fact, things I put in that category are generally things I don’t do.

So what’s different this time?   I have a real reason for taking DS106.  Last year, I taught my first fully online course.  It was a great experience and, at the same time, it was a humbling experience.  I failed my students in some important ways.  The course was not the best learning experience it could be.  Teaching online is a different animal than teaching face-to-face, and though I thought I understood that, in retrospect deep down I still thought I could hit it out of the park the first time.  I couldn’t.   I’ve spent six months, since the end of that course thinking about how to improve it, thinking about what I did wrong the last time.  I am anxious do to it again.


I’ve gotten a lot of help along the way.   Wendy Drexler (@wendydrexler) made an extraordinary effort to meet with me to give me just the right kind of pep talk.  She had been following my blog posts about my online course, and decided correctly that I needed an intervention. Her effort involved an hour long drive, a car breakdown, which made the trip *much* longer, all to help someone she’d never met in person before.

I also participated in Dan Ariely’s A Beginner’s Guide to Irrational Behavior MOOC.  I haven’t completed it yet, but I did achieve my goal which was to get a richer sense of online learning, something I can use to improve my own course.

In short, I want to take DS106 because I think it will help me make my online course a better learning experience.  So I’m not taking DS106 because it’s a “requirement” in some sense (“I ought to take this for professional reasons.”)  Rather, I’m taking it because I want to, because I see a genuine need this course can help to address.  Perhaps that’s the difference between a novice view of learning and a professional, mature view.

Maybe the best help came from Christina Hendricks (@clhendricksbc) who showed me that I’m not alone in my inexperience and anxieties.  So Christina, if you’re willing to do this with me, I’m willing to do it with you.

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5 Responses to Why take #DS106?

  1. Kudos Steve, and having a buddy like Christina is a great idea- its a startegy I see used in the Mozilla Teach the Web MOOC where their assignments ask you to work with another participant and/or remix the work. More connections, like all neural networks, make for a better system.

    But I am really curious about how these pre-perceptions happen, because while some people may have some more skills coming in, the gap is not as far as you think. The thing I am curious about is how people talk themselves out of stepping into the unknown territory, I posed it Wednesday at a talk about why people dont share as freely as we might hope- and its the same thing. People prejudge and downrate their own selves from the get go- see the Barriers graphic

    There is something we evolve where we are less readily able to try something we’ve not done before, where we say before we try that we are unable. These negative prophecies are easily fulfilled.

    The only person you need to compare yourself is yourself. So right now you may think “I can create ds106 stuff” – spend a few weeks trying, and ask that question again. I’ve told myself the same thing about drawing, but I have tried Daily Creates and find, I can draw (a little).

    The key of ds106 is that it asks you to try things you are not good at or have never down. What learning is there in just doing stuff you know how to?

    Now here is your first lesson. Those tweets you put in your post? WordPress can autoembed them and make them fully functional if you just paste in the URL of a tweet on a blank line in your editor e.g.


    and see what happens. Learn more about embedding media in WordPress

    Just make art, stop comparing.

  2. Robert Rycroft says:

    That’s a great blog post. You really captured the sense of trepidation our students must feel. Loved the photo.

  3. sgreenla says:


    Thanks for the thought-provoking post. First, your big question: I guess I don’t really understand why my hesitation is, just that DS106 is for the cool kids, and deep down I feel like I’m just playing one. This is very much “imposter syndrome”. Also, I know I’m not the worst at this–I’m generally pretty good at letting it all hangout, e.g. pedablogy, but DS106 is for the really cool kids! That’s my only excuse, I guess. There was a great link on this morning’s “Brain Pickings”: Fail Safe: Debbie Millman’s Advice on Courage and the Creative Life. http://bit.ly/11EjFtx.

    Thanks also for the heads-up on the embedding media page. When I first tried to imbed the tweet, it didn’t work. I went to the WP site and found the problem was that I embedded a live link. When I killed the link, it showed fine on my website.

  4. Alan Levine says:

    See, now you are a cool kid.

    Yes all of the auto embed stuff needs to be plain text; unfortunately some themes auto link urls.

    But note how you solved the problem on your own, not relying on an instructor. That’s how we want ds106ers to roll

  5. Steve, thanks so much for your honest, heartfelt post. Your original tweet really hit home for me, which is why I RT’d it and said I agree. And I agree with what you say in your post and in reply to Alan.

    I am not sure what it is about ds106 that makes me more intimidated than taking, e.g., ETMOOC, which I wasn’t intimidated about at all. I think it is because people have done amazing things in it (and I joined ETMOOC in its first iteration so there was no history to look back on) and I wonder if I can do similar or not. It’s partly because it’s a course focused on “creating” things, and I’ve never thought of myself as terribly creative.

    But Alan’s right about not worrying about social comparison and just seeing how far you come *yourself*–being able to look back by the end and say that you’ve improved, which I’m sure we will!

    And I bet we will find supportive people in the community, who are willing to help with the technical or other struggles we have. I’d be good money on that.

    One of my main reasons for doing ds106 right now is precisely because I tell myself I’m not a creative person, and I think that’s utter crap. I need to prove to myself otherwise.

    Happy to join you, Steve, and I think we’re going to have fun!


    P.S. My blog used to be called “PhilosoPedaBlogy,” and when I first named it I searched the web to see if it had already been taken. I found your blog by doing so, and started reading it many years ago. When I RT’d your original tweet and began talking with you, I didn’t realize that Pedablogy was YOUR blog. So cool and serendipitous! I changed my blog name b/c it was too hard for people to remember (too long and complicated!), but I still like yours a lot.

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