Syllabus Fall 2014

CT 101 Digital Storytelling
3 crs., 2 hrs. lab, 2 hrs. lecture. Hybrid
Mon 10AM-12PM (Ryan Seslow)
Mon 12PM-2PM (Michael Branson Smith)
2 hours online

Ryan Seslow
Twitter: @ryanseslow
Email: ryan [at] ryanseslow [dot] com
Office Hours: by appointment

Michael Branson Smith
Twitter: @mbransons
TumblrFlickr, Youtube, Soundcloud
Email: michaelbransonsmith [at] gmail [dot] com
Office Hours: M 10AM-12PM, or by appointment
Phone: 718-262-2853

Course Description

An exploration in the use of digital tools to develop a wide variety of digital narratives. Students will be required to design and build an online identity and narrate their process throughout the semester. They will place themselves within a larger narrative of networked conversation on the internet at large. This may be offered as an online or hybrid course.

Course Objectives

  • Develop a deeper sense of why we create and value stories and how nascent communication technologies are affecting ideas of narrative.
  • Develop an online identity that you will use to narrate your process as a creative practitioner and network with a community of peers to support your growth.
  • Explore a variety of digital technologies for the explicit purpose of employing them to create various narrative forms.

Course Materials

  • The internet: There is no textbook for this class, however individual readings will be assigned and will all be available online. Being successful in this class is very much dependent on a reliable, fast internet connection.
  • A computer: This class takes place in the 4M03 Computer Lab, open six days a week through out the semester. iMacs in the lab contain Adobe Creative Suite (Photoshop, Illustrator, Premiere, Audition, etc.) as well as many other applications such as GIMPAudacity, and iMovie. You are encouraged to find a regular time each week to visit the lab to do work for the class. As a hybrid course, you are expected to have access to computer outside of class, if you have a laptop bring it to the lab to participate in class activities and assignments. Free software such as GIMP and Audacity should be installed on your computer.
  • A smartphone: Not a requirement, but having access to tools to shoot photos and video is a must. Apps on phones can be used for image manipulation and even editing audio/video. As well many of the social media spaces we will be inhabiting have native apps.
  • A Web Hosting account: We will be using a web hosting company created to support students and faculty in a course like ours and beyond. Your course fee of $30 will pay for the cost of hosting, including the registration of a domain name. You will receive a coupon code at some point in the semester allowing you to register and claim your hosting account as well as a domain name.
  • WordPress: Open-source website authoring software that you will use to create a website with your domain name. You will learn to customize your site’s appearance by picking a template theme and make a number of personal modifications. You also learn to add functionality to your site using plugins.
  • Various Social Media Tools: You are expected to sign-up for and use a variety of accounts for this course: FlickrYoutubeSoundcloudTwitter, and Gravatar.
  • Class Web Site: The locus of the course’s online activity will be this site, You will become an author to the blog of this site, posting your assignments. After week three you will post your work to your own site, but your posts will feed to this site as well. Posts at that point will exist on both the course site and your personal site. Commenting on posts should primarily occur on the course site.

Course Activities

You will be engaging work in this class through six primary activities:

  • Blogging: Almost all the work you complete will be submitted through your blog and into the course blog. The qualities of good blogging are described here.
  • Digital Storytelling Projects: You will be creating many, many different pieces of media throughout the semester. Inspiration for these projects will principally come from the ds106 assignment repository and the daily create.
  • Commenting/Critiquing: Engaging in online conversation with your peers about the work they and you are completing throughout the semester.
  • Weekly Reflection: Each week there will be a prompt for you to consider responding to. Typically there will be a reading involved as well.
  • Event Organizer: This is one of the more unique opportunities in this course where you create an activity and get others to participate.
  • Personal Website: Your site can be customized in enumerable ways and your effort is considered as to creating a space to support an online identity.


CT 101 uses a point based system to evaluate your final grade in the course. Points can be earned in each of the different coursework activities. You do not have to complete every activity, in fact you will have significant choice over which activities you complete and the pace at which you complete them. You will be able to craft a plan of your activities based on your desired goals for the course. Bear in mind that just by completing the activity does not mean you will receive all the points for that activity!

Below is the maximum value for each activity:

Course Activity Max Point Value Number Possible Total Points
Blogging 5-10 55 posts 550 pts.
Digital Story Projects 10 max 2 per week 300 pts.
Commenting 150 full semester participation 150 pts.
Critique Post 20 max 5 total in semester 100 pts.
Weekly Reflection 10 max 1-2 per week 150 pts.
Event Organizer 10-40 max 5 total in semester 200 pts.
Personal Website 150 two reviews – mid/final for 75 pts. 150 pts.
Bonus/Attendance 5 max 50 points 50 pts.
total possible 1650 pts.

Grading Scheme
810 and above = A 623-647 = C
769-809 = A- 591-622 = C-
729-768 = B+ 567-590 = D+
704-728 = B 542-566 = D
672-704 = B- 510-541 = D-
648-671 = C+ 509 and below = F

Course Activity Descriptions

Learning good blogging practices is an essential component to this course. For that reason each blog post has it’s own value separate from the digital story project, critique, weekly reflection, and/or event you’re organizing that is described in the post. Essentially you should treat a post in one of two ways: simply reporting out or a deeper reflection. It is up to you the level of reflection you contain in a post, but the attributes of a good post are as follows:

Reporting Post – this post type is used as a simple reporting-out blog post of an assignment completed. Posts are graded using the following criteria:

  • A thoughtful title.
  • An embedded media artifact relevant to the assignment (image, video, audio).
  • A clear statement of the post’s purpose.
  • At least one contextual link related to the post’s purpose.
  • A clear statement of reflection.
  • Good use of categories and tags.
  • Appropriate grammar and syntax.

Reflective Post – this post type is used to reflect more deeply and give additional context to the assignment you’ve completed. This type of post is required for critique posts and weekly reflections. Posts are graded using the following criteria:

  • A thoughtful title.
  • At least two embedded media artifacts relevant to the assignment (image, video, audio).
  • A clear statement of the post’s purpose.
  • At least two contextual links related to the post’s purpose. One of these links must be to a piece of research related to the completed assignment.
  • A description of the piece of related research and how it influenced/impacted your completed assignment.
  • A reflection on your process detailing how you completed the assignment.
  • A final reflection on the assignment.
  • Good use of categories and tags.
  • Appropriate grammar and syntax.

Digital Storytelling Projects
You will be completing a wide array of projects across a broad variety of media throughout the semester. You will need to complete at least one project across each media as well as at least one daily create post (encompassing three daily creates). We will be moving across different medias across the weeks, so you may time your projects types to those timeframes. Also there may be specific assignments we’ll ask you to complete as possible digital storytelling projects.

  • DS106 Assignment Repository – This is a crowd-sourced set of digital storytelling assignments which is categorized by a variety of media types including: visual, design, audio, video, mashup, writing, fanfic, and animated gifs. Since the repository is community built, anyone can submit an assignment, there is a vast array of quality and difficulty in assignments. Each category sorts by most recent by default, but it’s useful to sort by views and example to get a sense of interestingness of the assignments in a category.After you create the artifact for the assignment (GIF, JPG, Youtube Video, Soundcloud audio, etc.) you must embed it in a blog post on your website. You are encouraged to also submit this blog post directly to the assignment examples so that others might see it and respond to it.
  • DS106 The Daily CreateThis site offers daily a creative prompt for you to consider and describes a social media site – youtube, flickr, or soundcloud to submit the completed prompt. You will need to properly ‘tag’ your submission to the social media site used. These are generally relatively simple prompts, meant to be done in a short period of time. You should think of them as brief creative workouts.After you complete three daily creates, you must embed all three in a blog post on your website. You should link back to each of the daily create prompt pages.
  • Other Options – There are many unique opportunities to create something inspired by what you discover on the world wide web. There are other ‘digital storytelling’ communities, both formal and informal. There are often calls-to-create contests under various for photos, videos, designs, etc. If you find something participate in it and submit a blog post that embeds the artifact and describes the project.We will be introducing a few of our favorite opportunities throughout the semester, such as GIF Fight!, GIF the Portrait, and Photoshop Battles. And if others pop up on our radar, we’ll be sure to point them out – especially trending memes!


Throughout the semester, provide at least two comments per week of constructive feedback on your peer’s blog posts. You must include a positive piece and negative piece of feedback. For project posts, constructive feedback could consider the piece’s craftmanship, compelling nature and/or reflecting on process by the post’s author. If someone else has already commented on the post, then you should provide additional insight to the project’s critique. And finally it is possible to construct a thoughtful question as part of your feedback. The original poster can reply thoughtfully to a question and this will count a piece of feedback for the original poster.

You cannot receive any points unless you have provided at least two comments per week for the enter semester.

Critique Blog Post

Compare and contrast two different student’s digital storytelling projects in a blog post. Re-embed their pieces in your post and provide both positive and negative constructive criticism for both projects on both craftsmanship and their compelling nature.

Weekly Reflection

Each week there will be a prompt that will ask you to reflect on how you feel you are currently doing in the course and/or respond to a reading for the week. You will need to create a blog post and respond to the prompt. You can’t respond to the prompt after the due date for the prompt has past. Typically prompts will be posted on Monday before the face-to-face meeting of the class, and do by the end of the next day. Responses to these prompts will often frame our weekly online video presentation.

Event Organizer

Consider sponsoring a call for others to create work by creating and submitting an assignment to the ds106 assignment repository, or hosting a Photoshop Battle, play a spontaneous game of Emoji Movie or inspire a GIF Fight! You can even create your own even with your own rules and see if you can get people to play along.

In a blog post, describe the digital storytelling event you are trying to promote. Often a tutorial with an example is useful. In fact tutorials can in effect be seen as an event call as well, because if it’s well crafted and used by others then you’ve hosted a successful digital storytelling event.

In a second blog post report out the success and/or lack there of of the event.

Personal Website

Throughout the semester you will be working on your website through blogging as well as crafting it as a space to support a framework for your digital identity. You be evaluated at two points in the semester each accounting for half of the total points of this assignment. There are a number of criteria to consider in evaluating the site as you work on it:

  • a thoughtful domain name was chosen and framed in a site description (this could be in the about page),
  • a thoughtful site title is clearly presented,
  • an about me page exists (there are many ways to do this),
  • a theme was chosen and customized reflecting you and the direction of your blog,
  • plug-ins to add functionality have been activated, possibly adding hooks to various social media, creating galleries, etc.
  • Blog posts are appropriately categorized and tagged.
  • all default pages, posts, comments, site description have been removed.

Bonus Points

  1. On several unannounced days, attendance will be taken at 10:05 AM (Ryan’s class) or 12:05 PM (Michael’s class). Those present will receive 5 bonus points.

  2. Additional bonus point options will be offered at the discretion of the instructor.


Students are expected to treat the instructor and fellow students with the appropriate degree of respect, both in class (if applicable) and in online discussions. Communication, either in person or through electronic media, that is deemed abusive, threatening, or harassing in nature will not be tolerated.

Academic Integrity

York College’s Academic Integrity Policy & Procedures, developed to conform to the CUNY policy on Academic Integrity.

INC Grades

The following overview of the INC grade is condensed from York’s grading policy website

The student must be passing the course, and have work remaining to complete the course requirements. The student must request an INC grade. The instructor must approve whether the student has a valid reason for not completing course requirements and has reasonable expectation that the student can in fact successfully complete the requirements of the course within the allotted time.

Policy on Accommodations for Disable Students

CUNY York College is committed to providing access to programs and services for qualified students with disabilities. If you are a student with a disability and require accommodations to participate and complete requirements for this class, contact the STAR Program (Specialized Testing & Academic Resources), services for students with disabilities (Academic Core Building (AC), Room 1GO2, 718-262-2191/3732) for verification of eligibility and determination of specific accommodations.

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