The Mac Lab

Archive for October, 2010

Teamwork (Week 8)

by on Oct.25, 2010, under Blog

macbeth_smSynergy is the only word in our language that means behavior of whole systems unpredicted by the separately observed behaviors of any of the system’s separate parts or any subassembly of the system’s parts.
R. Buckminster Fuller

My daughter and I went to see Legend of the Guardians yesterday. I confess I wasn’t that interested in seeing a movie about owls until discovering it was directed by Zack Snyder (300, Watchmen). Noël loved it. The movie was more a meh for me, but one with breathtakingly beautiful animation.

Anyway, amongst the commercials and assorted clips that played before the movie started, one featured a football player scoring a touchdown. When the action began rewinding, I leaned over as said, Watch, this is going to be a message about teamwork. Noël shot a quizzical look my way then watched the play unfold again. How did you know? she asked. It really was a clever bit and I’d like to see it again but in answer to her question I said, Because nobody scores a touchdown all by himself. Football’s a team sport. Besides, the message is really about life. We all work together to make things happen.

That was a perfect segue into the movie because it followed the motley assortment of misfits saves the day formula that we’ve all seen so many times. No character is capable of doing it alone. It’s only as a team that they succeed.

That’s the essence of heroic synergy.

When Mrs Giard, Theatre teacher extraordinaire, asked if we could design a poster for their upcoming production of Macbeth, I said sure. When she said the theme was goth-anime, I laughed and told her I had just the team of artists for the job. When the Friday deadline loomed last week and a key member of the team was home sick, the others stepped in. It was a perfect example of heroic synergy. My motley assortment of misfits saved the day and together, Alicia, Julia, Tiffany, Mandy, and Chelsea delivered this winning design just in time to just beat the deadline.

Bucky, as R. Buckminster Fuller liked to be called, used words in a very precise manner. In his own way he called on all of us to become misfits:

The invisible tensive straws that can save us
are those of individual human integrities —
in daring to steer the individual’s course only by truth,
strange as the realized truth may often seem —
wherever and whenever the truths are evidenced to the individual —
wherever they may lead, unfamiliar as the way may be.

The world is in desperate need of everyday heroes. And misfit is a title more of us should aspire to. Together, we may yet find our own heroic synergy to save this day.

1026: Since a few of you are finishing the second self-portrait, it’s time to tackle the Elements and Principles and Color Theory. Alt. links: E & P (begin reading where it says The Principles of Design) and CT. Bookmark those pages! (I’ll be checking.) I’ll provide more detailed information soon. For now, research and think about how you can prove you understand the concepts. Hint: I want you to show me. Use any programs, tools, ways, means, strategies you can think of. The more creative your proof, the better! Try to utilize your ZIM! (Remember?) And, YES! You may work in teams to produce a group solution to the assignment.

Speaking of Teamwork: The Video Team is hard at work producing Telling Our Story for the school. First video: Valhalla is…

International Update: Country/territory number 166 is New Caledonia. That name took me back to one of the sitcoms the family used to watch on one of the two channels we got on our black and white TV (with terrible reception).

1027: Continuing our theme of considering new ways to view old problems, I’ll be showing a video you might want to watch closely in order to grasp it’s full brilliance. (I’ll post a link to it tomorrow.) For today, consider how you might prove you understand the Elements and Principles and Color Theory. Alt. links: E & P (begin reading where it says The Principles of Design) and CT. Here are a few of your own ideas from our conversation last week:

  • Short Story
  • Poetry
  • Song
  • Music Video
  • Music Production (Reda Z)
  • Short Film
  • Commercial
  • Animation
  • 3D Animation
  • Typography
  • Kinetic Typography
  • Font Design (Fadi G)
  • Drawings
  • Photography
  • Stop Motion Photography
  • Stop Motion Computer Animation
  • Light Painting
  • F L O A T (Kyle W)
  • Posters
  • Book Covers
  • CD/DVD Covers
  • Business Cards
  • Logos
  • Icons
  • Website Design (Ian C)
  • Wallpaper
  • T-Shirt Designs
  • Interactive Game
  • Programming/App Development (Oday Y)
  • Character Design
  • Comic Book

If you can think of other ways to expand our options, add your ideas in the comments and I’ll update this list (and credit you). While you’re pondering, remember what E. E. Cummings wrote:

Always the beautiful answer who asks a more beautiful question.

Yesterday’s Video: Microsoft Redesigns the 2005 iPod Package.

1028: Please spend a few minutes examining the list of optional ways you might prove you understand the Elements and Principles (01 | 02) and Color Theory (01 | 02). I’ve added a few new options to the list and will show you two example of stop motion computer animation today: F is for Fail (some tweening but no filters) and Graphic Design: The Forgotten Web Standard (animated screenshots). Both, of course blocked at school.

Yesterday’s Video: The End of Publishing.

1029: As promised yesterday in class, here are the final designs for Mike Kus’ presentation (Forgotten Standard). Push your own imagination today. Look at the Elements and Principles (01 | 02) and Color Theory (01 | 02) and consider how you’ll show what you know. Check the list (above) for ideas (and don’t forget our Inspiration pages).

Yesterday’s Videos: F is for Fail | Graphic Design: The Forgotten Web Standard

Tomorrow: Sorry, no Mac Lab Saturday School™ until next weekend (Nov 6).

Have a safe and sane Halloween. 😀

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A Work in Progress (Week 7)

by on Oct.18, 2010, under Blog

victoria_m_01_smTo raise new questions, new possibilities,
to regard old questions from a new angle,
requires creative imagination
and marks real advances in science.
Albert Einstein

Question: How might I connect with more of my students? Ah, the eternal quest for educators. Let’s start right here: Watch this video. That’s right, for once I’m telling you to watch the video before reading the entire post.

Okay, Is everyone with me now? Imagine this: You’re a football coach. For years your teams have been successful running the football. Your playbook is filled with cleverly designed running plays but this year you’ve got a quarterback who can throw like a pro and players who can run like the wind and catch anything that comes their way. Should you stick to your playbook or redesign your offense around your talent?

I’m willing to continue reworking my playbook to take advantage of my players (YOU). But where to start? How do I take advantage of what you have to offer?

After hours of pondering and pounding the keyboard on Saturday, I finally arrived at a more developed question: How might I reconfigure and restructure expectations and assignments in my classroom to provide a wider array of sustained opportunities for students to tap into their own Zone of Intrinsic Motivation (ZIM) without compromising the integrity of the curriculum?

Immediately thereafter a fully formed idea sprang to mind. (Think: 4th Stage of the 5 Stages of the Creative Process.) Inspired by Bud Caddell’s brilliant Venn diagram, my own version (below, used with Bud’s kind permission) will be my guiding light until it proves to throw false shadows.

Here’s the idea broken into three parts:

1. What students do well
2. What students want to do
3. What we (teachers) want students to do

The Intersection of 1 and 2: In the first draft, “acknowledge” seemed patronizing: Yeah, yeah. That’s nice. The second draft (below) calls on us (teachers) to find a way to include what students enjoy doing and what they do well, even if it doesn’t seem obvious how we might accomplish this. Extending our curriculum to leverage the students’ strengths and desires would make for a more engaging classroom, yes? That feels right but, as with all of these, I’m not sure of the verb. In fact, I just used all three intersection verbs in the ZIM! for that explanation. Are they virtually interchangeable? Does it matter? Should they be more distinct?

The Intersection of 1 and 3 & 2 and 3: The second draft calls on teachers to leverage and extend what students do well and what they enjoy doing. Hey, you say, That sounds just like what you said about the intersection of 1 and 2. Yes, it does. Peer to peer mentoring, modifying curriculum to tap into individual strengths, taking advantage of student interests. Yeah. Sure. you say, But how?

Let’s talk about this today.zim_02_555


Speaking of What Students Do Well: Isn’t Victoria M’s work in progress amazing? Just like most of you, she’d never touched Illustrator or the Pen Tool before. I may feature another rookie (Mark L) next week. No pressure, Mark. 😉

1019: Since we spent most of yesterday discussing how we might grow your ZIM, I’ll let you work today. Keep your other classes in mind when producing projects down the road and always remember to think creatively.

1020: Please give any family members visiting today a full tour of the blog. Show them the expectations, policies, rubric, tutorials, etc. Then share what you’ve been doing these first 6+ weeks. If no one from home could make it, work on your projects.

1021: From 8:00 to 9:00 I’m participating in an Adobe online event. Second period students, please just work on your projects. Note: I’ve got the laptop hidden from your view because this is top secret. When I’m permitted to share the info with you, I will, but I will tell you that this is VERY exciting stuff that we’ll have our hands on soon.

How soon? Patience, Grasshopper. 😉

1022: Sir Ken Robinson returns. (Blocked at school.) You may watch or work, but it’s worth watching for more than one reason, as you’ll discover. SKR’s site. (Yes, video blocked there too.)

6 Hours of Fun: The 3rd Mac Lab Saturday School™ is tomorrow from 6:15 to 12:00.

Network Essentials: Watch this video.

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Motivation, Engagement, and Improvisation (Week 6)

by on Oct.11, 2010, under Blog

chris_f_tigger_smIt means that everything is changing far faster and far more profoundly than most people really get, I think. And there are both great opportunities and great challenges and some risks in all of this. And our education systems were never designed to meet these challenges. And my argument today is that we can’t really just improve [education systems] we have to radically transform them.

…[A teacher’s] job is to create the conditions under which people will grow. And those conditions include understanding the nature of talent and motivation. The need to feed people’s spirits and their energies. And instead of that we’ve got this very competitive system of mass education. And it’s failing.
Sir Ken Robinson

A couple of alumni who thrived in the creative chaos of the Mac Lab showed up Saturday to visit. After catching up, the conversation turned to those students who don’t. The alums seemed to think it was the students’ fault: Some kids just don’t get it.

Y’know, I agree to a point; some kids certainly don’t get it. But why don’t they get it? Sure seems like I’ve gotta take some of the blame too.

In my Masters program, we’re studying Howard Gardner‘s Theory of Multiple Intelligences. An incomplete concept map demonstrates that students in the Mac Lab have lots of opportunities to tap into MI’s. So, the question is: Why aren’t ALL students plugged in, motivated, and engaged? While pondering things I don’t like about the program of study I signed up for, it occurred to me that if I wanted alternatives to some mind-numbingly boring assignments, some of my students probably do too.

How can I expect others to bend if I’m unwilling to? We’ll talk about this in class today.

Progress Report this Friday: I’d sure like to give all of you A’s but, as usual, some of you have chosen to receive a lower grade. See the clipboard and the rubric on the Student Page to determine your own grade. (It’s not too late to make up time!)

Sir Ken Robinson: For those of you who didn’t click the link the first time around, please watch his video. (Don’t watch the related videos today. We’ll save those for another day.) I’ll be locking the computers about fifteen minutes into class because I want to share a bit about MI’s and hear your thoughts on the education system. Do you think it’s really broken?

Featured Image: Doesn’t this seem to speak to the nature of multiple intelligences? The artist, a remarkably well read, well-spoken, and gifted soul was both one of my most and least inspired students. Now that he’s free of high school and the teacher who became his least-favorite, I hope he’s managed to recapture the creative magic in his life.

1012: Was that awesome yesterday, or what? I’m looking forward to how some of you will be satisfying the class requirements with your newfound choice of creative expression. If you’re not quite sure of how it will all play out, don’t worry. Other students will show the way in the days and weeks to come.

On the Big Screen: I’ll be locking computers each period to show Sir Ken’s Are Schools Killing Creativity? TED talk. If you’ve already seen it, you’re in luck; you get to see it again! If you’re in multiple periods, you get to see it multiple times. Repetition is an integral part of the 5 Stages of the Creative Process. Embrace it.

After the Sir Ken Show: You’re required to add a comment to this post. What do you think of: Sir Ken’s thoughts? Multiple Intelligences? The new freedom of creative expression in the Mac Lab? Pick one, two, or all of those questions and respond. Do you like? loath? agree? disagree? have something else to add? Please tell us WHY you like, loath, agree, disagree, etc. Unless your parents have given written permission, use your first name and last initial only. Mine would be Mike S. No cute nicknames or pseudonyms! Leave the Website field blank for now (unless you’re a veteran with your own Mac Lab site).

Avatar Envy: Don’t like the default avatar? Neither do I. You’re free to add a custom avatar. It must be your own artwork or photograph. If you successfully create a new avatar (today or tomorrow), add 30 minutes of bonus time to the clipboard.

Meanwhile, off to your to do list.

1013: I can’t begin to tell you how impressed I am with some of your comments. Most of you seemed to enjoy and agree with Sir Ken (as do I). The thought of modifying our current curriculum delivery system does tend to tax our imagination though. (As some of you expressed.) How might we (teachers) change things to make school more meaningful and relevant to you? How might we better motivate and engage your mind and imagination?

I’m looking for answers and trying new strategies but I’ll tell you that nothing will work unless you meet your teachers half way. If we show a willingness to modify our curriculum to reach you, you must be willing to accept your role in the process. Plus, little of this will happen outside of the Mac Lab without a little proactive work on your part. You have to help your teachers see the light. And I’m no exception. If you have ideas on how to improve our class, I want to hear ’em!

On the Big Screen: I’ll be showing you this 3 minute video (blocked at school) as we explore alternate methods of satisfying school assignments. If you want school to become more relevant and fun, you have to help your teachers find new ways to prove you’re mastering the material.

International Update: Yesterday a visitor from Aruba stopped by (the 165th country to find our corner of the Web). We also passed 600,000 page views in the last year and a half. Hard to believe. Also hard to believe: The True Size of Africa.

Reminder: If you didn’t get a chance to comment or add an avatar yesterday, please do so today. For those of you who claimed (or will claim) the 30 minute bonus from yesterday, would you please circle the 30 on the clipboard? That will help me discover who is and isn’t paying attention and I’ll add a little extra time to your total as thanks.

1014: The 30 minute bonus offer is over. Those who circled the time will receive an additional 30 minutes as a bonus. My sincere thanks goes out to those of you paying attention. Note: The clipboard had been rigged so that you can’t sneak in the 30 today or tomorrow. You should have paid attention. You’ll get another chance soon.

On the Big Screen: Can science and chemistry be fun? Like everything else, it depends on your point of view. I’ll be showing a two minute video (blocked at school) that proves it can be. How might you make learning fun? Here’s one about psychiatry. (Yes, blocked again.)

Progress Report Tomorrow: To those of you who didn’t claim the original 10 minute bonus, here’s another chance. I want EVERYONE to log 10 extra minutes today on the clipboard. Circle the 10 so I know you read this. Those who don’t follow this simple instruction will owe an additional 60 minutes. I will also express my displeasure on the Progress Report. To those who comply: I wish I had more students just like you. Thanks!

1015: Read ALL of today’s update before clicking any links.

The Blog: What part of you’re required to read the blog is so hard to understand? First we had the +10 -30 debacle (0924) and this week we had a +10 +30 -60 adventure. (No, you may NOT record the +10 or +30 today. That door has closed. Students that added the circled 30 yesterday obviously didn’t read yesterday’s post.) Students who have chosen to ignore the blog will get no higher than a C on the Progress Report. It doesn’t matter how much extra time you have. The reading is required. If you’re an athlete, don’t ask me to change your grade. The C does NOT make you ineligible.

Presenter? We’re supposed to be having a presentation from FIDM today but the presenter hasn’t contacted me so I’m thinking it won’t happen. We’ll play it by ear. Keep reading…

On the Big Screen: Ross Ching took a chance and used every trick he could think of to make this video (blocked at school). Death Cab for Cutie liked it so much they made it the official video for the song. Ross Ching took a chance and built a successful business around it. Taking the road less traveled and going the extra mile can lead one to undiscovered territories.

What have you discovered lately?

Required: Log an extra 20 minutes on the clipboard and circle it. Please, write legibly. Those failing to follow this instruction will owe 60 minutes. Yes, circling the 20 is required. Also add the grade you believe you deserve to the SG column. The rubric and what’s written above should leave no doubt. Sure wish I could give straight A’s. Maybe next progress report.

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Sense of Adventure (Week 5)

by on Oct.04, 2010, under Blog

vl2_smWe are all functioning at a small fraction of our capacity to live fully in its total meaning of loving, caring, creating, and adventuring. Consequently, the actualization of our potential can become the most exciting adventure of our lifetime.
— Herbert Otto

I’ll keep it short. Watch this video then watch this video then grab a map and begin your Adventure. Before school, at break, at lunch, or after school: Adventure. No work today or you’re off task. (And will you believe that some students will complain about that? There’s just no pleasing everyone.)

Have fun!

Hint: To score more points and protect your loot, drop it off in the brick building. There are at least two shortcuts to get straight there from the caves.

1005: We have the CAHSEE today and tomorrow, the Ringling presentation 5th and 6th periods on Thursday, and a sub on Friday. All of the new things I want to introduce you to as a class will have to wait until next week. Let’s focus on the to do list the rest of this week. Don’t skip the Toolbar videos. You’ll need some of those skills for the self portrait and all the rest for projects to come. Wax on. Wax off. Right?

Note: 3D students will find many useful vector tricks in the Toolbar videos. Illustrator plays nice with Cinema 4D. Patience, Grasshopper, your 3D journey will begin soon.

Kudos: Three cheers for the Video Team’s rockin’ halftime show at last Friday’s victorious homecoming game. Some of their footage was aired on Channel 8 at 11:20 that night — with on-air credits to Wheaton, Behnam, and Canel. (Christopher and Philip got to sit in the anchor’s seats after the broadcast.) This week’s featured image is actually a bumper for Orange Nation TV. Danny Owens created it last year in After Effects (logo design by ex-principal Larry Martinsen). The opening to the halftime show was a team project from last year. Danny did the animation in After Effects, Shaun Cunningham did illustration in Flash (he thinks Flash is the only program Adobe makes), and James Wirig created the audio in Soundbooth. Want to explore these cool programs? Keep working hard and you’ll earn creative freedom.

Reminder: If you want to sit in on Ringling’s presentation Thursday, ask your 5th or 6th period teacher TODAY if you haven’t already. Have them call me if they have questions. My number is 35446.

Adventure: Congrats to Mandy W (Veteran: 117) and Andrew G (Rookie: 100) for winning the single period competition for the day. [shame]4th and 7th period veterans lost to the rookies.[/shame] Warning: That was a one-day-only event. If you want to play at home, here’s an online version. Do NOT play in class or you will receive a personalized invitation to 2 of 18.

2 of 18: It’s not too early to make your plans to attend the best party of the week. Yes, Mac Lab Saturday School™ offers Six Hours of Fun™ once again this weekend. Twenty-five attendees made our first event a smash hit. Don’t waste your time sleeping. Greet the sun’s majestic rise with your smiling, eager self. Start the weekend with a creative bang rather than drooling on your pillow.

1006: Watch this video. Focus on mastering the fundamentals, take care your to do list, and you’ll join The Creative Community sooner that you expect.

1007: Once upon a time there was a reluctant, disruptive student in the Mac Lab. This student told his teacher that he wasn’t interested in anything but writing and recording music. Much to the student’s surprise and delight, his teacher agreed to let him do just that with one condition: The student must compose songs about the lessons and projects in the classroom. The student agreed and immediately began working on the 5 Stages of the Creative Process. Days and weeks flowed by. Then the day finally arrived and he delivered his first song to the teacher.

The teacher rejoiced, praised the student, and bid him to create the next song. He gave the student an array of topics from which to choose and the student promised to set out on a new creative journey. Alas, the end of that first song was prophetic. The student instead chose to retreat back to the land of the flatliners, becoming completely unmotivated once again, unresponsive to all forms of creative resuscitation.

Moral: Do not fear failure. One hit wonders often give up because they think it impossible to recapture the magic of the creative moment.

The sad irony lies in the fact that the song describes the very steps necessary to recapture the magic of the creative moment.

And now back to our irregularly scheduled reprogramming.

1008: School began 30 days ago. Happy one-month anniversary. I can honestly say that I’ve never had such a great group of students working so diligently. As a thank you, I’ll have something fun for you on Monday.

30 Day Worldwide Update: Would you believe that we’ve had visitors from over 1,300 cities in 111 countries and all 50 states plus Washington DC in those first 30 days? Those visitors accounted for 108,228 page views. As a comparison, in the first 30 days that Google Analytics tracked the Blog, the stats were: 460 cities in 68 countries and 44 states (plus DC). Page views were 31,672. Either way, those are amazing stats for a high school site. Can’t wait to show off your new creations to our growing worldwide audience.

Tomorrow’s the Day: Don’t miss our second Mac Lab Saturday School™ (MLSS™) tomorrow from 6:15 to 12:00. Progress reports go out next week so take advantage of the opportunity to cement your A in the class by boosting your minutes and getting ahead on your projects.

What Happens in MLSS™ Stays in MLSS™ (and goes on the Blog): Shaun’s not-ready-for-prime-time animation.

1009: Here’s a crash course in using the network to reach your files. That was easy, right? Welcome to the second MLSS™ of the 2010/11 school year. Get inspired and have fun.

Self Portrait Technique: Very cool tut. Check the eye detail.

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