The Mac Lab

Archive for July, 2010

A Tale of Two Journeys

by on Jul.19, 2010, under Blog

philip_behnam_christian_lim_11Two Kinds of Schooling:
Type 1. You can take a class where you learn technique, facts and procedures.

Type 2. You can take a class where you learn to see, learn to lead and learn to solve interesting problems.
Seth Godin

I tweeted Seth’s take on two kinds of schooling last Wednesday just before we left to catch our early morning flight to Maui via SFO. Once we return I’ll have a few days to sort things out before climbing on another plane for a week at Adobe‘s headquarters.

To oversimplify: the first trip is pleasure and the second is business. And that oversimplification leads directly to a mental disconnect: accepting the alluring siren’s call of dualism.

You see, the tweet was as much for me as it was for you — a reminder that those two types of schooling (or travel) aren’t necessarily as mutually exclusive as they first might appear. Consider the Mac Lab. We definitely focus on technique, facts, and procedures, especially at the beginning of the year. When we begin to shift into second gear, Type 1 schooling is overtaken by Type 2 as our focus shifts. As for traveling to Hawaii and San Jose, the trips are both business and pleasure.

Seth’s posts usually get me thinking; this one more so than others. One paragraph in particular reminded me of the primary reason I chose to decline (and will continue to decline) the invitations to return to teaching at Cuyamaca College:

The sad thing is that we often conflate the two. We think we’re hiring someone to do the second type, a once in a lifetime teacher, someone who will change the outlook of stellar students. But then we give them rules and procedures and feedback that turn them into a type 1 teacher.

By no stretch of the imagination am I suggesting the folks at Cuyamaca considered me a once in a lifetime teacher but I was recruited due to the exceptional artwork the Mac Lab churns out year after year. In a very real sense, my students provided the opportunity; their work gave me credibility. Trouble was, Cuyamaca insisted upon rules and procedures that were, for me, far too rigid and confining. Though simple to implement, the preordained curricular path left no room for flexibility or experimentation; the entire semester was laid out in advance. The class was a breeze to teach, but…

Teaching at the next level sounded like a real challenge. I just never imagined that the biggest challenge would be coping with boredom. Give me six riotous, jam-packed, drama-drenched high school classes any day!

In the Mac Lab, we — the students and I — work together to craft the curriculum. Sure, there are requirements and rules, but there’s also unprecedented creative freedom for all of us, myself included. I believe we’re engaged in both types of Seth’s schooling (and maybe a little more) in the Mac Lab, and that’s the best of both worlds. Kind of like a working vacation or a fun-filled business trip. 😉

Clarification: I’m guessing my reasoning is only sound because I love my job. My advice to you? Don’t get caught believing in a black and white world. I wrote the following over 15 years ago. I’ve quoted it before (last post) and I’ll quote it again:

Perhaps to fill the vacuum, that nature does abhor
The story chose this vessel, to be its metaphor
Dueling with the either-or, in land of right or wrong
I, gray matters of the heart, cross common censor’s song
Rhythm technicolors in, the lines that drew this hint
Rock and roll with punches thrown, anger isn’t it

Our art may be digital but the world in which we live is analog.

Kudos: Thanks to Christian Lim and Philip Behnam for providing the oh-so-apropos image for this topic. Their multi-exposure photograph is a wonderful visual metaphor for what I set out to say.

International Update: Visitors from the Federation of Saint Kitts and Nevis and the Republic of Uganda made those two countries the 156th and 157th to visit our little high school blog.

0720: Yesterday, while we were snorkeling amidst the fish and coral and crush, two people were browsing the blog. (Well, there were more than two but these two deserve a nod.) The first is a teacher from Gompers Prep who just found the blog and likes the Type 1/Type 2 Mac Lab approach to education. We’ll be meeting up to talk shop once I return from Trip 2. The second? He or she is on the other side of the Earth and deserves his or her own mention…

International Update: Someone from the city of Ouagadougou in Burkina Faso stopped by. That’s 158 countries and counting. Amazing.

Creating Digital Magazines: Coming soon the the Mac Lab. More info.

0728: Settled in at The Fairmont (thanks Adobe) and am using my complimentary WiFi (thanks to a tip at check-in) to post this update while saving $14/day as a newly minted member of the President’s Club (like I’ll ever be able to afford to stay at this hotel). In about an hour I’m scheduled to meet John Nack downstairs. (If you don’t yet follow his blog, add it to your bookmarks. Almost always a worthwhile read.) The Adobe festivities begin tonight at 6:00 in the Grand Ballroom. Tomorrow morning I’m being interviewed — something about using that Internet-thingy for displaying student work. 😉

Speaking of student work, I owe the kids in the Mac Lab for this opportunity. If not for the fabulous work they produce year in and year out, no way Adobe would have ever noticed our little classroom.

International Update: No new countries to report but we have had visitors from 817 cities in 89 distant locales (plus 46 states and D.C.) in the past 30 days.

Dream Date: I’m hoping to hook up with this app!* The only problem is, if I’m successful, I won’t be able to tell you about it.

*Adobe Digital Content Builder (about 40 seconds in)

Speaking of NDA’s, I can’t post or even talk about this but Steven Moyer and most of the kids in the Mac Lab Summer Academy™ captured some absolutely stellar product shots you’ll be seeing soon. Great work, everyone!

0731: Slept 11 hours and am still euphorically exhausted. What a week! I’ll post details after I sort out what I can and cannot reveal. So much coming from Adobe soon. Really soon!

5 Weeks of 5: One thing I can tell you is that the folks at Adobe we gracious enough to grant the request to exchange the boxed CS5 Master Collection four of my students won for four student versions. (Winners’ page here.) Mac Lab winners: email me your platform preference (PC or Mac) and I’ll forward to Adobe. Your copy is tied to your email. You may NOT sell it or give it to anyone else. Got it? Oh, and I’m to collect the boxed version. When I asked if I should ship it back they suggested I use it as a prize for next year’s students. Looks like someone in the Mac Lab will be getting a very special Christmas present in December.

Have to take care of business now. The AEL designation comes with a few new responsibilities… and a whole bunch of perks! 😛

0803: Looks like learning English isn’t enough for Diana; now she’s learning programming too. Check her new blog for details. Welcome, Diana, to the ranks of Mac Lab Bloggers! I’m guessing that our programming team will be recruiting you for next year’s projects.

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Hope, and Other Small Annoyances

by on Jul.01, 2010, under Blog

hope_wars_smIt is a serious drawback to me in writing, and still more in explaining myself, that I do not so easily think in words as otherwise. It often happens that after being hard at work, and having arrived at results that are perfectly clear and satisfactory to myself, when I try to express them in language I feel that I must begin by putting myself upon quite another intellectual plane. I have to translate my thoughts into a language that does not run very evenly with them. I therefore waste a vast deal of time in seeking for appropriate words and phrases, and am conscious, when required to speak on a sudden, of being often very obscure through mere verbal maladroitness, and not through want of clearness of perception. This is one of the small annoyances of my life.
Francis Galton / Nature May 12, 1887

Amen, Francis. I may not have your intellectual capacity, but I share your small annoyance.

I’m a fan of diversity, especially diversity of opinion. But I’m not a fan of the current polarization caused by factions retreating behind seemingly impenetrable walls of dogma, hurling the party line at one another. From conservatives and liberals to Adobe and Apple, I’m sick of it! We live in a time when our problems desperately need solving. Anger, rhetoric, and finger pointing solve no problems.

Maybe it’s a sign of the times, but thoughtful opinions, contrary or not, are like a breath of fresh air. While Brett M was working on this poster, I asked, Einstein? He replied, Emperor Palpatine. The more I’ve thought about it, the more I’ve come to appreciate Brett’s editorial perspective. I may not agree with it but I appreciate the biting irony and striking artistry of the Shepard Fairey parody. Plus, I remember my own strong political feelings back in high school. Brett’s poster will find a place on the Wall of Fame™ in the fall.

A little more about harnessing these passions may be found here and here. Think about it.

And while you’re thinking, consider the following:

Perhaps to fill the vacuum, that nature does abhor
The story chose this vessel, to be its metaphor
Dueling with the either-or, in land of right or wrong
I, gray matters of the heart, cross common censor’s song
Rhythm technicolors in, the lines that drew this hint
Rock and roll with punches thrown, anger isn’t it

Mac Lab Summer Academy: The opportunities keep marching in. When Steven Moyer gives the word, I’ll share the details. Believe me, you want to be a part of this!

International Update: 155 countries and counting. Someone from Thimphu in the Kingdom of Bhutan spent a couple of minutes poking around yesterday.

IMPORTANT: Someone wake up Fadi. The district is asking about the iParent poster. Fadi’s got a great start on the illustration but he may need help with the layout of the text. James? Christian? Philip? Are you three reading this? You’re all great with text. Think about joining forces with Fadi. Here’s the latest info (the black shape is the district logo). It’s going to take some thought to successfully arrange all of that info. See the Jobs Page for more specifics.

0702: Kinda off-topic but last night we went to the Padres game. Fun even though they lost. (Good comeback but folded in the 10th.) Pretty good seats in section 118, hot dog, drink, and a Padres hat for $24 per person. Got ’em through something called Groupon. Coming up I’m taking my wife for a round of golf (with cart) and Sunday brunch for at Cottonwood for $60. Most day’s the Groupons are for things I’d never want but sometimes… Sign up (it’s free) and maybe you can talk your parents into doing something you wouldn’t ordinarily do without the discounted price.

Contact Steven: If you’re interested in the upcoming project with Steven (and you will want this on your résumé), he requests you contact him using his story_lab@yahoo.com eddress. (Gonna have to go through the pain of changing that soon, Steven.)

0703: If anyone else is planning on shooting fireworks (Christopher is) here’s Scott Kelby’s how-to instructions. Be sure to check the comments for some other angles you might want to try. As always: Experiment! Experiment! Experiment!

CSS3 + HTML5 Magic: Here’s a JPG. (Made me think of Fadi’s Illustrator work.) The artist didn’t use Illustrator, Photoshop, or any graphical application. He used nothing but CSS. Don’t believe it? Check out this page using the latest version of Safari or Chrome. (Right-Click and View Source to see how it’s built.) Read more about this from the always informative John Nack. Makes me think we need a CSS3 + HTML5 Team in the Mac Lab next year. Coding isn’t for everyone but oh the possibilities! Watch this. (Hang with it. It’s worth the wait.) Browse this. (And read.) Via. (Told you he was always informative.) If you’re interested in learning more about CSS3 + HTML5… Click.

0705: So, I’m digging through a pile of email and open one from Borders that has a 30% off coupon that I’ll use later today to buy a book for my daughter and I notice an ad for Lilith 2010 at the bottom. The copy is positioned too low (who proofs this stuff?!) but I love the negative space created by the mirrored graphic. I want a bigger copy of this for a lesson in the fall so I do what everyone else does and the Lilith site doesn’t have anything other than this header and the little iPhone app version so I do what everyone else does and find a link to a still too small graphic and for some reason I check her site and scroll down finding a link to this video that I add to our Storytelling Vimeo Channel.

I’m a stream of consciousness kinda guy, whether thinking or surfing (or sometimes writing), and this is how it works on a daily basis. If I’d have encountered this version of the logo I’d have shrugged and agreed with this guy and not wondered if Mac Lab students might take on storytelling (for the joy of it rather than for our clients) or been prodded to think about when I used to try to fly (my not-so-secret) and gone off on another long and meandering train of thought (in a few short seconds).

All because of a logo’s reflection and the beauty of its negative space. And that reminds me of…

Look the question in the mirror, ask in this other’s land
You have two and you see two, most say that means two hands
Some begin a’wondering, take two by two by four
Frame both reference and point, check primal too square lore
Take me for prime example, find in the three by fives
Quicksilver’s imposition, the One kept me alive

Ah, it’s going to be a good day. 😛

0710: Is this thing on? Good. Strange feeling to be disconnected from the blog for the week. We’re on the speedy new server now and (hopefully) all will be smooth sailing from this point forward. Lots of content to add but we’re running to a swim meet so it’ll have to wait.

0713: The blog is having technical difficulties. I’m unable to upload any of the videos* I’ve been recording. Nor any images. Very frustrating.

*The one exception will probably disappoint a few of you but hey, we’re all learning together. (I’d link you to another video there but it’s stuck in the laptop for now.)

While the guys at the district try to sort out these issues, the girls and I will be boarding a plane tomorrow for a little four-letter-island. No idea if we’ll be connected so I may not be in touch for a while. For now, I’m depending on all of you to help each other.

Make the most of the next week or so! Talk to you soon… maybe. 😛

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