The Mac Lab

Archive for January, 2012

Reach for the Stars (Week 19)

by on Jan.30, 2012, under Blog

The tools of the software platform will make it so simple to develop online learning products that students will be able to build products that help them teach other students. Parents will be able to assemble tools to tutor their children. And teachers will be able to create tools to help different types of learners in their classrooms. These instructional tools will look more like tutorial products than courseware. But rather than being “pushed” into classrooms through a centralized selection process, they will be pulled into use through self-diagnosis—by teachers, parents, and students. …This will allow parents, teachers, and students to offer these teaching tools to other parents, teachers, and students.
— Clayton M. Christensen / Disrupting Class

Mr. Christensen is speculating about the future of disruptive technology in education but doesn’t it sound a little bit like the Mac Lab right now? And just in case some of you are doubting our connection with parents, many of them write us as well. Some are Valhalla parents but others find us on their own. Here’s one example from a few years ago:

I have a graphic design background and have been trying to make headway and crack the Flash code for a long time. There just isn’t anything on the web that is as clear and easy to follow as your tutorials. I started working with them when they didn’t have any sound. They were a big help to me then and continue to be so to this day.

I’m not the only one in my family who appreciates what you do. My 13 year old son and I have been homeschooling for a couple of years now and when we just couldn’t take another minute of math, science or social studies, we’d sit side by side at our computers following your tutorials and improving our Flash skills.

Now that I’ve waded through most of the Flash tutorials, I’m looking forward to seeing what more I can learn about Photoshop!

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Semester One Finals (Week 18)

by on Jan.23, 2012, under Blog

Final: I want to hear how AMP is working out for you and I want to see (on your blog) what you’ve been doing with AMP and what you plan to do if AMP is extended. Easy, eh? Today you may volunteer. Tomorrow it’s first called, first served.

Remember: You cannot earn an A if you owe time and/or fail to update your blog with the required information and imagery.

Kudos: Thanks for the perfect image, Brianna P!

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0125: If you want to volunteer right away, don’t be shy. If/when there are no more volunteers, I’ll begin calling (random) names.

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Adventure By Design (Week 17)

by on Jan.17, 2012, under Blog

To capture what social scientists call the discretionary effort of students, people are giving more attention to the sources of motivation. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, a psychology professor at Claremont Graduate University and a leading proponent of positive psychology, is best known for writing about the flow. …Csikszentmihalyi described flow as as “being completely involved in an activity for its own sake. The ego falls away. Time flies. Every action, movement, and thought follows inevitably from the previous one, like playing jazz. Your whole being is involved, and you’re using your skills to the upmost.”
— Clayton M. Christensen / Disrupting Class

Have you ever experienced flow? When? How? Where? What were you doing and why does the experience stand out in your mind? Please respond with a comment (50 XP).

Flow, as the author writes, is another way of thinking about intrinsic motivation.

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I buy a lot of books from Amazon. Once upon a time, I bought treeBooks. You know, things made of paper. My shelves are filled with hundreds upon hundreds of books, most stacked two deep because that’s the only way they’ll all fit. About two years ago I switched to eBooks. Now my library sits in a computer, an iPad, a Kindle, and more recently, an iPod Touch. Now every book I’ll ever buy will fit in my pocket.

Sounds like fiction, doesn’t it?

Anyway, the reason I mentioned Amazon is that their software-based salesforce knows I’m a reader and it emails suggestions. Most, I ignore. But over the weekend one title caught my eye:
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2012: The End of the (Traditional Education) World (Week 16)

by on Jan.09, 2012, under Blog

The challenge of student motivation is pervasive and increasingly problematic barrier to improving students’ learning. As we mentioned earlier, motivating one’s customers is a problem every organization faces.
— Clayton M. Christensen / Disrupting Class

We know… we’re not destined to be passive and compliant. We’re designed to be active and engaged. And we know that the richest experiences in our lives aren’t when we’re clamoring for validation from others, but when we’re listening to our own voice—doing something that matters, doing it well, and doing it in the service of a cause larger than ourselves.
Daniel Pink / Drive

The problem, as I see it, is that to some degree we’ve all been programmed by those in authority—parents, teachers, and other powers that be—to become passive and compliant. Breaking free of this programming requires a bit of effort. But once you become active and engaged—listening, learning, and following your own inner drive—the magic begins to happen. That we’re doing it, as Pinks says, in the service of a cause larger than ourselves serves to catalyze and synergize the entire process.

I’m not sure you understand just how far our little classroom site reaches. I still remember getting this email from someone in Australia:

Look this site is absolutely amazing. I’m still not sure who runs it or why but I have been on it all day. The resource here is sweet. Never thought I would get the hang of flash in one hour. After that hour I just clicked around to see what else was there. So why are you doing this or is this for real students? I like the photo’s, where are all these people and who are they. Makes me feel like there is something big I’m missing out on. Looks like a big creative party. Well you said don’t forget to say thanks so here it is, cheers mate.

And this one from Africa: (continue reading…)

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AMP to ZIM: Autonomy, Mastery, and Purpose (Week 15)

by on Jan.03, 2012, under Blog

The first two legs of the Type I tripod, autonomy and mastery, are essential. But for proper balance, we need a third leg—purpose, which provides a context for its two mates. Autonomous people working toward mastery perform at very high levels. But those who do so in the service of some greater objective can achieve even more. The most deeply motivated people—not to mention those who are most productive and satisfied—hitch their desires to a cause larger than themselves.
Daniel Pink / Drive

Just before earning my credential via the Teacher Education Program at SDSU back in December of 2001, I interviewed for and landed a temporary teaching position at Valhalla. In January of 2002, armed with a shiny new teaching credential and a six month contract, the students and I began a grand experiment in the Mac Lab. Here’s a look back at one of the first success stories:

I’m a huge proponent of competition. No, not me versus you or us against them or even Macs vs. PCs. (Please, let’s leave the platform wars out of any discussion here.) It’s the inner competition (Michael W) — competing with oneself — that matters most. Doing one’s best. And then doing even better. Here’s an example…

A former student felt strongly about Macs so he made a Flash project to express his feelings. I challenged him several times, Is that the best you can do? He responded with this and this and this. That’s it? That’s the best you got? That’s pitiful! And the kids around him laughed, though not at him. He was a hero for taking the pro-PC stand against Skocko — for putting down Skocko’s beloved Macs. But he knew what I really meant. He felt the challenge. And he rose to meet it (press the play button).

Now we were getting somewhere. While the other kids just saw a cooler version of destroying a Mac, he and I discussed the robot and its movement. What he’d accomplished was actually quite impressive. It showed real promise and I encouraged him to take the animation further. He worked. We talked. He came up with this series of animations (resize the browser window to better fit the SWFs): one, two, three, and four. Only those who understand Flash can begin to appreciate just how far this student pushed himself. That’s a journey one doesn’t easily forget.
— from Competition Begets Progress (Jan 2009)

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Learn it all.