The Mac Lab

Tag: challenge

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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To Boldly Go (Week 34)

by on May.24, 2010, under Blog

diana_sofya_smAll inquirers had the naïveté and some had the boldness of amateurs.
Daniel J. Boorstin / The Discoverers

If I were to call you an amateur, would you be offended? In our society, being labeled an amateur isn’t a typically considered to be a compliment. Think about it. We don’t usually say: She’s an amateur. The phrase is usually tinged with shades of contempt: She’s only an amateur or She’s just an amateur. I was so conditioned to this association that Mr. Boorstin’s words caught me completely off-guard when I first read them twenty-some years ago on page 636 of that amazing book. As an amateur (and a naïve one at that) investigating the nature of what seems to be, I took those words to heart.

Diana and Sofya, I say you’re both amateurs! Diana, you checked out a camera and along with your sister, Sofya, managed to capture this image. I say you were just lucky. You were lucky to be together. You were lucky that Sofya found the dandelion. You were lucky the background so complimented the Sofya’s complexion. (And I mean that literally. Think Color Theory.) You were lucky to capture the moment in focus with the macro lens. Lucky, lucky, lucky.

And I’m lucky to have the both of you as students.

When it comes to digital arts and all the new frontiers we’re discovering in the Mac Lab, we’re all amateurs! Myself included. And it’s lucky for you that I’m naïve enough to believe you’re all able to produce professional quality projects… if you’re willing to read, listen, and try and try and try.

You see, when we both do our job, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. You really do produce professional quality projects.

Look around the room. Look at these posters. Look in the Galleries. No question about it, Mac Lab students are some of the best high school artists in the world! Are you one of those not yet featured? There’s still time. Use this week to create and perfect your own masterpiece.

Cue the theme music and boldly go where no Mac Lab artist has gone before.

••••• ••••• ••••• ••••• •••••

Lest you think me hurtful in calling Diana lucky, a guy named Louis Pasteur got lucky too. When challenged, he simply said: Chance favors the prepared mind.

So true.

0525: Since we’re on a Star Trek theme, I figure it’s time to lay this one on the table. You see, I had this idea… Is it good? Bad? Stupid? Fantastic? Only one way to know for sure and that’s to act on it. (In all honesty, I suspect it will be a monumentally great way to drive home the concept of the Rule of Thirds for students next year.)

In the credit where credit is due category, it was Diana I again who motivated me to act with this wonderful example. That example, btw, will lead to another teachable moment in tomorrow’s update.

Stay tuned. 😛

Congrats: Michael W won a copy of Photoshop CS5 for his submission to Week 1 of 5 Weeks of 5. It’s not too late to try your hand at the competition!

0526: Please watch this video (starring another of Diana’s creations) prior to getting on with today’s project.

0527: I’ve been researching how we’ll create our iBook for the final. The process is pretty straight forward but you’ll have to follow instructions. Think you can do that? Sure you can! 3 then Me will be in hyperdrive. We’ll begin next Tuesday. (Tutorials coming.)

Good News: Our iBook will be a landmark creation.

Bad News: Our iBook will resemble a 20th century relic.

Why would I say such a thing?! Well, it’s kinda hard to ignore what happened yesterday…

NOTE: Do NOT go to to see more videos.

The magazine is freakin’ awesome. The future of publishing has arrived… Only it’s not in time to save our initial offering from looking like it was made with two sticks and a rock. On the bright side, we will be going where no high school class has gone before. Our final exam will be presented on the iPad. And it will be sooooo easy to produce! You have nothing to fear. (Except, perhaps, a lack of content… If that’s the case, you better get creating!)

When, you ask, will we be able to follow in Wired’s footsteps? Read:

And this reality is sooner than you think. During summer 2010, watch for new publishing technology on Adobe Labs that helps publishers to transform InDesign CS5 layouts into compelling applications like the WIRED Reader. (via)

Looks like just one more way the Mac Lab is going to rock next year!

••••• ••••• ••••• ••••• •••••

Warning: Heading in early to register CS5 on all computers in the Mac Lab. Because I’ve been up since 1:40, I’m going to guess that it’s probably a really good idea to stay on task today.

Sleep-deprived teacher + misbehaving students = Danger, Will Robinson! 😉

0528: Mac Lab photographers, there’s an Old School Photo Challenge up on Kelby’s site. Since you’ve all grown up in the digital age, I’m not sure if you’ll get it but it is for a good cause. If your folks like photography, show them the link and dare them to try it. If they want to donate to the orphanage, here’s where that happens.

CS5 Central: Learned any new skills lately?

International Update: The United Republic of Tanzania is country number 152 to visit the Mac Lab since April of last year. We also recently passed 100,000 visits from 5,000 cities around the world. Here’s a look. Note: It says 153 countries but one of them is called not set.

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More than a Feeling (Week 33)

by on May.17, 2010, under Blog

840_stars_smAlmost anybody can learn to think or believe or know, but not a single human being can be taught to feel… the moment you feel, you’re nobody-but-yourself.

To be nobody-but-yourself — in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else — means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight; and never stop fighting.
E.E. Cummings / A Poet’s Advice to Students

When we first started discussing the 840 idea (based on District 9), I could feel it was right. When admin balked at the dark nature of the original film, I wanted to point out what this poster was based on. But I didn’t. It didn’t feel right. 😉

Hey, I’ve been up front about trusting my feelings. I’ve got more to write about this (especially about the 840 team coming through in crunch time) but the District Art Show submission deadline is today and I’ve got a whole bunch of mounting to do right now so the rest will have to wait until tomorrow. Head to CS5 Central and learn some new skills today.

International Update: Someone from the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan visited, making it the 151st country to visit the blog since April of ’09.

0519: Polish your work. Take it the last 10%! Now where have I heard that before? (Required reading.) Do you understand? If you won’t take my word, try this.

840 Update: The poster is getting closer to being a keeper. Here’s the latest version.

District Art Show: All weekend at Parkway Plaza. Awards Ceremony at 5:30 on Friday. Come cheer on your classmates and their entries: Zack Tatar, Diana I, Christian Lim and Philip Behnam, Julia H, Christopher Canel (02), and Paul B (02). Many other worthy pieces could have easily been entered if we weren’t limited to eight submissions.

0520: James Wirig delivered for Vocal Music in record time and I began printing this poster a few minutes ago (one for the wall and one for James). Then the unthinkable happened. Well, to be honest it’s not actually unthinkable because I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately. Anyway, when the printer began making its I’m all finished with this print sounds way too soon, I knew something was wrong. The flashing light by the display said it all: Out of Paper.

Coincidentally, a similar message is flashing on our class budget: Out of Money. Heading upstairs to find a solution.

It pays to have fans in high places! Admin is working on the purchase. Also, if you haven’t been keeping up with the Jobs Page, the district has commissioned Mac Lab artists to design the publicity for yet another major project (iParent).

Yet Another Job: Hillsdale/Valhalla joint Pops Concert. Details on Jobs Page.

District Art Show Winners: Congratulations to all of our entrants! Christian Lim and Philip Behnam 3rd Place Experimental Photography, Julia H 2nd Place Advanced Commercial Digital Illustration, Christopher Canel 1st Place Experimental Photography, and Paul B (02) 1st Place and Honorable Mention Beginning Commercial Digital Illustration.

Amazing Internet Connection: Here’s what just arrived in the email:

Browsing on the internet, looking for suitable pictures or paintings of snakes, I stumbled upon the picture of the slithering snake on your website. I am a Dutch PhD student at the Radboud University Nijmegen in the Netherlands, about to have my dissertation printed by a printing company, and as you may have guessed, a would like to use this picture on the cover of the book. The thesis is a commentary on a poem by the Greek poet Nicander of Colophon, and as the poem deals with snakes, this picture would be most suitable.

Would you be so kind to let me know where you found this picture or do you know which artist made the piece? If I could get permission this would be great. Of course a copy of the book would be sent to the artist as a token of my gratitude.

I put out the word to Chelsea (the artist) via Facebook. (And almost immediately connected.)

0521: The District Art Show opens today at 4:00 in Parkway Plaza. It’s in the center of the mall. You can’t miss it. The awards ceremony is at 5:30. Come see the show and cheer your classmates.

Reminder: Mac Lab Saturday School™ is tomorrow. As always, I’ll arrive by 6:15. Show up early to claim “your” computer.

Hot Off the Press: Paint the World with Light is now on sale. I’ve ordered a copy if you want to see what it looks like before you buy. (I’ll let you know when it arrives.) Here’s a preview if you’re curious.

The Blog’s Reach: We’re approaching a few milestones but in just the last 30 days we’ve had almost 40,000 page views from visitors living in 104 countries and 47 states (plus the District of Columbia). In California alone, we’ve had hits from folks in 92 cities. (Someone from Point Reyes Station spent 35 minutes wandering around.) In the United Kingdom, 34 cities. (Someone from Beaconsfield hit 23 pages.) There’s no doubt that others are interested in your artistry.

Who knows? Maybe your work, like Chelsea B’s, will end up on the cover of a scholarly publication too. Her artwork was sent to the publisher in the Netherlands this morning.

Simply amazing.

0522: Speaking of amazing, at the conclusion of last night’s District Art Show Awards Ceremony, the Superintendent surprised everyone when he announced an unexpected final award. After praising all the entrants he singled out one work for the Superintendent’s Choice. Not only did he love Christopher Canel’s 1st Place work, he purchased a copy for the district offices and an additional copy for himself, which he wants Christopher to sign. His appreciation for the work was genuine and heartfelt. Quite the honor, Christopher. Congrats!

I’m equally proud of all of you who showed up to accept your awards and to support your classmates. You’re a classy crew! It was a wonderful night for Mac Lab artists.

Oh, and I’m not sure what else was on the Supe’s purchase list but he did ask me about Paul’s 1st Place piece. As he wrote Paul’s name down, I think I heard him say something about it heading to the district offices as well.

If you haven’t seen the show, it runs through Sunday at Parkway Plaza. There’s some terrific work from other schools as well. Definitely worth the trip.

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Rites of Spring (Week 29)

by on Apr.19, 2010, under Blog

nikki_g_01_smEnergy is contagious / Enthusiasm spreads
Tides respond to lunar gravitation
Everything turns in synchronous relation
Respond / Vibrate / Feed back / Resonate
Rush / Chain Lightning

Every fall my wife hacks our roses back to what seems to me like pitifully thorny sticks. I look at them and wonder how they’ll ever grow. And for a while, while winter rolls on, they don’t seem like they will. But every spring the pitiful sticks sprout and branch and bud and bloom. It’s amazing to witness.

Every fall the Mac Lab fills with students. Some of them, like our roses, seem to pass the winter months in dormancy. I look at them and wonder how they’ll ever grow. Like my wife, I tend my metaphoric garden with faith that the miracle of spring will come to pass. Unlike my wife, my garden has never reached full bloom. I replenish the soil and try to provide the nutrients I think it needs but my thumb has never been as green as hers.

This may surprise some of you, but for me, the hardest part of tending this metaphorical garden is standing back and letting it have the the time to grow. I look at some of the pitifully thorny sticks among the early blossoms and know that each will bloom in its own time, just maybe not in here. Sunshine and water (and maybe some Miracle Grow) are all I can provide at this point.

I’ve been an educational gardener for eight years now. My thumb may not be as as green as my wife’s yet, but every year yields more beautiful results (Nikki G) than the one before it. This year more so than ever before (and we still have two months to go).

It’s going to be amazing to watch!

0420: Oops! Turns out my wife prunes the roses in February so my analogy isn’t quite as analogous as I’d hoped. I still like it though, with Earth Day later this week. What I don’t like is the fact that over half of you behaved like pitifully thorny sticks in neglecting to check out the links.

Fact: Yesterday we had visitors from 32 countries and 19 states. Three people in Turkey averaged more pages per visit (4.33) than some of you. Pitiful!

Please hold up your end of the deal.

0421: SIMPLIFY! How many times have you heard me say that? And how many graphic elements should you employ in your logo design? (Think: Less is more.) I ask this because I read a very interesting article yesterday. You see? The correct answer is ONE!

Assignment: Examine your own logo designs today. How many graphic elements do you employ? If the answer is >1, you need to… everyone, say it with me: SIMPLIFY!

ZBrush and Cinema 4D Users: Riptide Pro for round trip workflow. (We have licensing! Will install tomorrow.) More info coming soon.

International Update: Someone from the city of Maseru in the Kingdom of Lesotho spent 38 minutes cruising our blog yesterday. (How cool is that?! If only all of my students were as engaged as that individual.) That visit makes 146 countries and counting.

0422: Will be installing Riptide Pro this morning. We may hit a snag or two on implementation so be patient. The goal is to move C4D files into ZBrush and ZBR files into Cinema 4D. That should open a whole world of creative possibilities. Once we have a successful workflow, it will be posted here. (If it’s not there, I’m still working on it. Asking when won’t speed up the process.)

Our iBook and the iBookstore: InDesign CS5 will make our job soooo much easier! Terry White has an excellent post about the process and he points to a possible publishing solution. This is getting better and better. All that’s left is the question of how to embed video.

International Update: The Republic of Zimbabwe became the 147th country to visit our blog yesterday.

Flaming Clue: Use Firefox instead of Safari to save Flame Files (thank Rebecca and Breanna for that tip). UPDATE: Read this. If you want to include any of these in your portfolio, you must document the rationale behind your color choices as they relate to Color Theory.

Oh yeah, Happy Earth Day!

It’s up to us to save the world for tomorrow: it’s up to you and me.
Jane Goodall


0423: Short and sweet. Interesting development on the iPad front. More on this next week. The Jobs Page is in need of applicants. Galleries waiting to be filled too.

International Update: A visitor from the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia raised the international count to 148.

Reminder: No Mac Lab Saturday School™ tomorrow. May 1 is the next one.

2nd Period Goodness: Samantha D and Sara M delivered rousing solos in an unexpected Mac Lab Valhalla Idol preview performance. Are there more contestants in other periods?

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Final Stretch (Week 27)

by on Apr.05, 2010, under Blog

philip_b_got_plans_03_smKnow this and know it well: time is never wasted. Wherever we go, whatever we do, everything is an aspect of education. Even when we don’t immediately grasp the lesson.
Robert Silverberg / Lord Valentine’s Castle

Finals begin in 11 weeks (0617). How will you spend what time we have left? What will your lesson be? Are you one who considers the blog a waste of time? (Read the second paragraph, if nothing else.) Are you one of my academic doppelgangers? (Third paragraph) What will the future hold for man or woman you’re to become? Though miracles do sometimes happen, it’s probably not a good idea to expect one to save you too.

If you haven’t already, please read the Spring Break post before beginning to work today.

Reminder: Make some plans for your own future (Philip B).

0406: The statistics don’t lie. Not everyone followed the links (above) yesterday. Rather than declaring another Groundhog Day and repeating the process, as we have several times in the past, I’m going to let you decide how to proceed. Call it an experiment in self-government. Like I wrote a few minutes ago, I just want you guys to be responsible and reliable.

Final Exam Requirement: We’re going to publish a book. That’s right, a book. And you’re going to write it. Well, at least part of it. More details will be coming soon but if you want to blame someone for this new requirement, blame Terry White.* He’s the one who gave me the idea. Smack in the middle of this review (Command-F and search for: epub) is the heading: Making your own iBooks. He’s even got a link to a how-to video (you don’t have to watch it) that sealed the deal. We can and we will do this. Your art and written reflections of your Mac Lab experience will fill the pages. You’ll each have your own chapter. Heck, we may just use the iPad and projector to present the book during finals.

WARNING: That last sentence has the distinct feel of inevitability. 😛

*Did anyone notice his motto? If you don’t have time to do it right, when will you have time to do it over? I love it!

Speaking of loving it, the video team now has its own blog. Mac Lab Media is yet another way that Mac Lab students are poised to rewrite education history.

Note: Zack Tatar’s latest post includes light painting with his cousin (who just happens to work at a pretty cool company). Our own Light Painting Gallery has been updated as well. Where’s your latest masterpiece?

0407: You’re in luck. Since I was busy all morning writing a very cool company on behalf of the iPad App Development Team, it’s a work day. If you need ideas, there are new projects on the Jobs Page and Inspiration always beckons. Oh, and did I mention Grand Central Linkage? While you’re working, keep your own chapter of the first Mac Lab iBook in mind. Think: 5 Stages. Where are you in the process? How will you set yourself apart?

Another Idea: Are some of your old projects in need of polishing? Do you remember that this is not only allowed, it is expected! I want to see your best work in the iBook. (Thanks to Philip for this reminder.)

0408: Christopher and Kyle got together 7th period and succeeded in the proof of concept for our iBook project. So long as you follow some very simple directions (coming soon), this will be a gorgeous way to present your work! The iPad will be available for viewing the initial iBook example today (after I introduce it at the start of each period). I’m going to suggest a few changes and we’ll have a more focused example by next Monday. (No pressure, guys.) 😉

The CS5 Master Collection: It’s bought, paid for, signed, sealed, and almost delivered. The official unveiling is Monday at 8:00. I’ll be streaming the presentation in the lab. (Hopefully Adobe will be able to support the bandwidth demands.) I wish I could tell you more but I agreed to honor the NDA. Adobe hasn’t announced shipping dates so I don’t know when we’ll get our copy. All I know for sure is that it has freakin’ unbelievable features! (No lie. Some of what I’ve seen borders on science fiction.)

Cameras: Several of you have yet to return cameras from last weekend. Bring them back tomorrow morning or lose the right to check out cameras for the next month. And to whomever has the missing multicolored flashlight: Please return it tomorrow. Thanks.

0409: What a great way to start the day! I hope some of you are feeling the same enthusiasm for the iBook final. I’ll have something new to show you on Monday. As will some other folks. Streaming begins at 8:00. We have the coolest tools in the universe! Well, almost.

Reminder: Mac Lab Saturday School™ tomorrow. As always, I’ll arrive around 6:15.

Light Painters: The Moon won’t rise until (about) 4:00 this weekend so the nights will be dark. Take advantage!

Need Ideas? I’ll be expanding the Jobs Page again this morning. Improve your self portrait, your logo (including the much-neglected 3D version), your illustrations (including this style), and all the rest. 3D students especially need to step up! What about this style of 3D render? Too easy and way too cool! Always, always, always refer to Inspiration to feed your creative self.

New Release: The Video Team has a few finishing touches left but here’s the first video in their Stop Bullying Campaign. Reminder: We’re still looking for Stop Bullying posters. More info on the Jobs Page.

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Learn it all.