Let ‘Em Breathe Fire


Next Monday I’m really excited to start teaching with Ryan Seslow for the first time. I’ve been lucky to work with Ryan on a bunch of projects, recently my favorites being GIFFight and Animating Transit. We’re going to combine two sections of CT 101 Digital Storytelling, which is inspired and still heavily influenced by the #ds106 course at the University of Mary Washington.

I took a break from teaching this course for a year, anyone that has taught a version of ds106 would understand :). But the time away has been well spent. Last year I participated in a faculty study group centered around the reading of Maryellen Weimer’s Learner Centered Teaching. One of the key practices Weimer speaks about is the changing of the balance of power between the student and teacher. She understood that:

…the way I controlled students and their learning processes might be a detriment, or that the way I was teaching might benefit me more than them.

And when teacher control is the focus of learning:

In reality, the balance of power in the classroom favors students. They can render teaching pointless by not learning.

This last statement was a real kick in the stomach. Students can and will not learn out of spite. They are literally so offended by the way you are teaching, out of protest students give no effort.

Most faculty respond to a lack of effort by students as their lack of focus and ability – some students are just not college ready. But Weimer asks faculty to instead look in the mirror and she simply suggests they look at what they are not doing in response to the lack of learning happening in your classroom.

I’ve always appreciated the way ds106 has given students a certain level of control by allowing them to choose from a vast array of assignments in the ds106 assignment repository as well as contribute assignments as well. Last semester after a frustrating start teaching a sound production course, I decided to point the finger at myself and make a change. I asked for help from my students. We collaboratively came to an agreement of how we might together reach the learning objectives of the class. Including ideas I hadn’t imagined for a basic production class, like micro-internships with friends that make music, what a good idea!

So what I’m learning and more importantly I hope to improve upon is how to give my students more power over the classroom. And make sure I’m creating an environment that they feel comfortable doing so. Their desire, the fire to learn that’s inherent, is breathed.

Hopefully Ryan and I will find new ways to work with our students and discover surprising turns in an already free-form course. But this post is a nod to Jim’s #wire106 version of digital storytelling at UMW. Even with their focus on The Wire this semester I bet we’ll find some points of convergence. Maybe host a cage-match styled GIF Fight?

Oh and this fire breather is from the first episode of season one of The Wire and inspired by unnecessary explosions.



4 responses to “Let ‘Em Breathe Fire”

  1. Ryan Avatar

    Awesome! Can’t wait!

  2. Jim Groom Avatar

    I know with this GIF you blew a few UMW #wire106ers minds. Good to have you playing along. Pretty excited to see what two mad artists like you and Ryan will dream up. #4life.

    1. mbransons Avatar

      Super excited to work with Ryan on the class. Would be cool if we can cook up some interaction at some point!

      1. Ryan Avatar

        I’m im!!