“I found a village of humans from many parts of our planet. How strange is that? I found a small village that seemed caring. Not all of them to be sure. Some were more distant than others, some more polite, some more fearful. But I found them to be, in the rectangle before me on my desk in Swaffham, humans who shared some similar purpose. And I was part of it. The villagers would help me if I needed assistance. Not just the “professor” Jim Groom, but the students themselves offered assistance. Just like my town of Swaffham. There was caring and there was camaraderie. And chaos, but that is another story for someone else to tell.” Dr Oblivion who retired, played Suduku and lived peacefully in Swaffham before his mysterious death.

or is it?

I have been trying to find a cogent critique of the University of Mary Washington’s digital storytelling course – DS106 and I have not managed to find anything that addresses my need to evaluate this course for the Masters in Online and Distance Education I am doing at the Open University (OU) in the United Kingdom.

I have to admit a bias upfront – I love DS106 and I am putting my Masters on hold in order to join the next run DS106 charmingly (?) called ‘Headless 13’  I also believe in the ethos demonstrated by the yearly questions set by The Edge – particularly the 2008 one ‘ What have you changed you mind about recently and why?’ I set up this blog to challenge my own thinking beyond those things that seem to me to be self evident and obvious.

So, I set myself the task to look beyond the self evident truth that DS106 is the best thing to have happened to higher education generally and to open education specifically since 1373 when ‘the people of Florence petitioned the Signoria of Florence to provide public lectures of Dante’s work, resulting in a year’s course where a lecturer, paid 100 gold florins, spoke every day except holy days’ (Peter and Deimann, 2013).

One thing we can say about DS106 uncontroversially is that is nodal online learning, a hashtag classroom and that a syndication engine plus the web are the bare bones of any DS106 like course. Once we start to talk about the kind of nodes and links or the directionality of the links we get into a more difficult terrain. It is not my intention here to repeat analysis already available elsewhere. Instead, I want to offer an outsider’s view of DS106, I am utterly uninterested in wether DS106 is a cMOOC but not an xMOOC – although it may be. I daydream when reading arguments about whether it can be put in a box and whether this is desirable – although it may be. As an outsider coming in, I see that it succeeds at getting a level of participation and commitment many can only dream about. It is easy to join in without questioning its limits and boundaries. But then, I was not put on this earth to join anything unquestioningly and I have an assignment to complete damn it!