Here’s my ReCaptcha Illustrated assignment for ds106.
The project gave me another chance to play around with Gimp and, as students and I discussed in class today, I discovered for myself that one of the tangible benefits of struggling with some of these programs is that, once you do, you know them all the better the next time. Which is to say that though I didn’t exactly whiz through this creation, my time on task was much reduced having already played with Gimp for a previous assignment. And though it’s still not perfect, I am relatively happy with the outcome. I’m especially cognizant of the little boost to my confidence my success here has provided me with. More visual mashups: bring ’em on!
I went to Alan Levine’s assignment page and pulled the virtual slot machine lever a couple of times till I came up with a ReCaptcha that captivated my imagination. Here are the others that were vying for first place:
But when I landed on “an ithingr,” images of my dongle (whose name affords my students no end of amusement) and “finger” sprang to mind, and I knew that I’d hit the jackpot.
I did a quick Google Images search on iFinger (I am a firm believer that not only are there no longer original ideas, but also that, however whacky you might find a concept to be, there’s usually a pretty good chance that if you Google it, you’ll find something out there that at least comes close). My hunches were right. Up popped this image from a 2007 Wired magazine post about the “X-finger” for amputees:
Another quick search of the Apple Store unearthed a workable background from the iPad 2 site, whose tagline,”now with iOS 5 and iCloud, it just got harder to put down” couldn’t have been more fiendishly apt.
As I write this, I’m reminded again of our conversation in ENG 307 earlier today: about how, through the all of the low stakes play with apps that ds106 assignments require of us, we are actually learning the apps and, as I have written before, learning about learning, too.
We’re learning lessons such as how, when students are asked to create something meaningful that they will share with a supportive and like-minded community that truly values their contributions, motivation is high to acquire skills in order to produce high quality products. Students have reported spending “24 hours” on assignments; warned me that they will “blame [me] when they fail all of their other classes :)”; that they are “obsessed with [their] blog[s]”; and that they went outside for the first time all year and spent the “entire day” taking photos for our visual assignments. Sure, they’re devoting tons of time to creating what Jim Groom and Alan Levine celebrate as “ds106 awesome,” but I never asked them to. That my students — preservice teachers, mind you — are this motivated to spend time on schoolwork because they are enjoying it, are really seeing what “authentic” assignments, audience, and learning are all about, and are learning technology tools in the meanwhile (tools that they will eventually be able to apply to their own discipline-specific curriculum planning) are all invaluable lessons for these teachers-to-be. I couldn’t be happier with the way our collaboration with ds106 is working out.
Today we spent time in class on independent work, partially because I wanted the opportunity to float around and help students who might still be struggling. Much to my surprise (and delight), students displayed an amazing level independence that had been completely missing just a couple of weeks ago. We joked that they didn’t need me any more, that I should just “leave them alone to play with their computers.” Instead of panicked cries from all corners of the room about problems as tiny as where to find the directions (the classroom tenor at the beginning of the semester), students were brandishing a new savvy about finding solutions to their own problems: asking their classmates for help, Googling their questions to see if there was help already out there, and knowing that they could ask the community, as well as me, their teacher, if they couldn’t help themselves. They have become that much more competent and self-directed in only four weeks!
We reflected upon students’ amazing dispositional turnaround (an explicit objective of my course, btw) and agreed that the ds106 trial by fire of setting up our own blogs and the relentless requirement to constantly engage in lots of low-stakes, “make art, dammit” assignments were to blame :). Without our actually recognizing what was happening (because we’re having too much fun), the weekly work of ds106 — the daily creates, the quantity and variety of new media assignments students are regularly engaged in, and students’ regular reflection upon their processes — has helped us build competence in and confidence about our abilities as learners (of new media).
I reminded students of the old “hide the peas in the macaroni” trick that teachers often take from parents. Digital storytelling and its component tasks can be a delicious distraction from the “what’s good for you” part of school. I’ve been saying this for years (and most of these students heard it all last semester as we discussed thematic unit planning in ELA). But now we’re not even one-third of the way through the semester and students are really “getting it” in ways I could only dream about last year. I can hardly wait to see what the rest of the semester brings.
Hurray for ds106!