The Mac Lab

Feedback Loops (Week 20)

by on Feb.09, 2010, under Blog

spiral_02_smMay it [the Declaration of Independence] be to the world, what I believe it will be (to some parts sooner, to others later, but finally to all), the signal of arousing men to burst the chains under which monkish ignorance and superstition had persuaded them to bind themselves, and to assume the blessings and security of self-government.
Thomas Jefferson / Last known writing

My goal is to declare independence from the tyranny of 20th century educational models by teaching students to be self-motivated and self-reliant. Each year in the Mac Lab, we move ever-closer to that ideal, but as Jefferson has also written: The qualifications for self-government in society are not innate. They are the result of habit and long training.

Ol’ Tom has a point; instilling that habit takes long training. If not for the willingness of some students to embrace this dream, our educational experiment might have died on the vine. Instead, every year the success stories have grown more brilliant and more numerous.

This year, however, students are grabbing the reigns to explore new and varied creative frontiers in unprecedented numbers. Our new Wall of Fame™ is filling so rapidly that older student work on other walls will soon have to make way. This Website has played its part in the process but something new and unexpected has begun to fundamentally alter the culture of our classroom: the rise of the student blog.

Over 20 current and former students have begun blogging in the past month (see links in right sidebar). While many include thoughtful posts and intriguing projects, three blogs in particular stand apart. Fadi George, Philip Behnam, and CRDESIGNLAB (Chris Canel and Kyle Rodenbo) have set the standard. Each is active, rich in content, and has a unique perspective. The one common denominator is the interactive dialog. Active commenting drives additional content. These three blogs have benefited from feedback loops (Chris and Kyle).

Aside: In adding those links to Christian Lim‘s blog and Photoshop.com pages this morning, I realized he qualifies as well. How I missed that when writing yesterday is beyond me, Apologies.

I’m certainly not suggesting that these are the only three (four) successful student blogs, I’m just making a point about feedback loops. When I see that in the first 39 days of 2010 the Mac Lab Blog has had 43,040 page views from 1,007 cities in 97 countries and 46 states (plus DC), well, that gives me reason to believe that what we’re doing has value beyond the classroom. Likewise for all of the student blogs to varying degrees; each and every one of them have value. As the authors realize that, they’ll write with more passion. The more passion they have, the more meaningful the content. The more meaningful the content, the move profound the feedback.

The feedback doesn’t have to come from reader’s comments or page views. Consider the following:

It is impossible to undertake any kind of research without being perpetually made aware that the truth is plying us with suggestions, the past prodding us with hints, and if no benefits result from such assistance, it is not the fault of our heavenly helpers but of our all too human obtuseness.
Cyril Connolly / Previous Convictions

Wassily Kandinsky weighs in on the same topic:

Just as an explorer penetrates into new and unknown lands, one makes discoveries in the everyday life, and the erstwhile mute surroundings begin to speak a language which becomes increasingly clear.

Biologist Lyall Watson, when considering this same mysterious feedback loop, wrote:

The best attempt to lay this ghost in the machinery of things, is perhaps the collaboration in 1952 of a Nobel Prize-winning physicist and a great psychologist. Wolfgang Pauli and Carl Gustav Jung attributed coincidence to an acausal connecting principle which operates independently of the known laws of classical physics… And when such exceptions operate independently of time and space, linking events in strange and unexpected ways, meaningful coincidences take place. They called this Synchronicity.

It’s not just art. Immerse yourself in any meaningful research, any meaningful endeavor, and a feedback loop will begin. What to do? Well, as I wrote back about the time you were busy being born:

Experience has taught me that written affirmation of insights, inspirations, and interactions is rewarded. The more diligent the acknowledgment, the more profound the response.

Why not begin your adventure as a self-motivated, self-reliant, self-governing individual with a purpose? Join the Dance of Life. In helping yourself, you’ll discover that you begin to help others as well. That’s a feedback loop we can all wrap our hearts around.

I’d like to relate some of the amazing interactions (with these folks) that I’ve experienced recently but I’ve given you enough to consider… for now. While pondering that, today’s assignment is to incorporate the Elements of Art into your being and into your artwork, just as you did the 5 Stages of the Creative Process. Remember, Wikipedia is where the search begins, NOT where it ends. Research the Elements of Art and gather meaningful information. We’ll tackle the Principles of Design next week. I’ll begin quizzing you tomorrow. This should be a snap as I’ve asked you to incorporate the Elements and Principles into your artwork several times earlier in the year and I’m sure none of you simply ignored the assignment, right?

0210: Those of you read Mac Lab Twitter updates in the right column (see: Inspiration and Information) already know that I was considering purchasing this to get Veenix TypeBook Creator. The license for all the other apps showed up over the weekend but Veenix only arrived yesterday. Why is that important? Watch this video.

Elements of Art: I’ll simplify it for you. Focus on this page and learn the basics.

0211: John Smaulding and Matt Goodrich are the latest team to join the student blogging revolution Check out PanthaGraphic to see the fruits of their collaborative efforts.

New Fonts: Check the Shared Folder for this pdf (it’s called skofont.pdf). I made these fonts while this was going on. Here’s proof that there are uses for some of the fonts. Aside: Some things are best left forgotten. The fonts are loaded on all computers. Warning: Limited character sets. Use only the characters shown in the PDF.

There used to be a full post every day. (Girls will like that one.) Aren’t you glad I’ve simplified the task with weekly posts?

Musical International Update: You guys won’t get this but when I saw Dominica listed as our 138th international visitor, The Singing Nun popped into my head and this song, even though I haven’t heard it in over 40 years, is playing over and over in my mind.

Reminder: Focus on this page and learn the basics.

0212: What are you going to do with all the cool new fonts? If you’re not a typophile, are you experimenting? Why oh why isn’t anyone trying the Blob Brush this year? (Tutorials here.)

Tomorrow: First Mac Lab Saturday School™ of the second semester. As always, I’ll arrive around 6:15.

Next Week: New Photoshop tutorials and resources (lots of custom brushes and shapes). Lots of my old Photoshop tuts here, here, here, and even here. Sure, there’s no narration (sound) on the tuts in the last link but there’s some cool tips and tricks there. Heck, there are even tricks you can use in the old System 9 tuts near the bottom of that page.

New Portfolio Option: Austin W showed me Wix and it’s very cool. If you don’t like Prezi or find Photoshop.com lacking, give Wix a try!

This Just In: The 5 Stages of the Creative Process (Stevin H) You have to hear it to believe it.

:, ,

19 Comments for this entry

1 Trackback or Pingback for this entry

Learn it all.