Mighty Mac Lab
“The Place with More Ideas Than Memory to Store Them!”
Stepping off the stage after having just received an awesome life altering teaching award as the National Art Education Association’s ( NAEA’s) Secondary Art Teacher of the Year, James Clark came up to me and said,” You are the one.” I said, I am the one for what. He then proceeded to enroll me in the idea of starting the communication graphics program at G. W. Carver High School.That would make me the first electronic media teacher in an art department in the state of Texas and third in the nation. This all happened at the completion of my 25th amazing year of teaching art at all levels and AP Studio Art in my alma mata, John Foster Dulles High School. For thirteen previous years I had written grants to fund technology in the art department. It was wonderful that my students were so talented and did amazingly incredible traditional media. However I knew that unless they acquired the skills needed for a future career that was sure to be technological, then they would be illiterate in a new way.
Well,I took the position and I can remember as though it was yesterday, I was given computers, scanners, and printers all re-purposed machines to set up my lab. We added memory, installed software, and set up a studio for making art on the computer. It was an exciting time rich with possibilities.Then another wonderful thing happened, my colleagues ask me to also teach AP Studio Art, now in my 17 year of doing that, I was happy happy to oblige. You see I considered it the best of both worlds working with students to create art both on and off the computer. How cool is that? Here are some images of the second lab as we were moved to accommodate more efficient use of spaces.
At first we had real challenges as the older computers ran slow and would freeze. We used old digital cameras and scanners and hooked up our computers to a TV set and used it as a teaching station. It was a crude start, in addition, the students were not completely enrolled in the idea of doing this thing called digital art as they were extremely talented traditional artists. As is usually the case, an idea came to me that worked well as we began using the technology to show and archive the incredible art that these students had already done by putting together electronic portfolios of their amazing work.We used a combination of flat bed scanners and slide scanners to capture the images of their work. The students were required to add a title card and a credit card ( presented by) and then they were to add each piece of art along with informing us of media,title and size of each. A concluding remark was encouraged. The students finished the portfolios and some were ready just in time for the Texas UIL Visual Arts Scholastic Event (VASE) competition where students are interviewed by judges and are scored not only on the work but also their ability to talk about their work.
Imagine how the judges in Texas’ Visual Arts Scholastic Event ( VASE) felt when they saw a computer sitting among the pieces of art work that had advanced to the the finals at the judging. This was so new to the entire panel of judges that as the only electronic media instructor present, I was ask to sit at the computer quietly and to show each student presentation. Vu Pham, one of my students had 33 pieces of his incredible art in an electronic presentation along with information about each piece and an artist’s statements. It was incredible and we made history pioneering the first electronic media entries ever entered. The judges were silent and then when the scores came through 11 of my 11 students got the highest scores possible. Needless to say we were overjoyed. The sad part was at the state level, students were proud to see their work on display with ribbons and there was no way of showing the electronic portfolios so the students who created them were not able to feel the same pride as those other students with work on exhibit. It is a shame really as the other students would have been inspired of this I am certain. My artists were instead “silent champions” that were ahead of their time. My intention is to share successes so that you will be inspired to try some of the things shared with you here. So as promised here is Vu Pham’s art work.
Here is also his electronic archive of those thirty three pieces of traditional media work that the judges saw as their first electronic media portfolio entry ever in the state of Texas. Enjoy all three parts! Note: to get back, use the back button or arrow on your browser. Also please, forgive me I added audio and the files were too big to transfer so here are instead three slide shows. Remember
too these were done in 1996 with older digital cameras and scanner technologies. Vu’s Part 1 of 3: Vu Phams Part I Part 2 of 3: Vu Phams Part II and Vu’s Part 3 of 3: Vu Pham’s Part III You can see why the judges were pleased and awarded him the honor of being a State Finalist. Vu and my other students made history that day. Sure makes a teacher proud!
As the years passed, we upgraded equipment, ordered new machines and began to write grants to add more magic
to our Mac lab. My slogan for the lab was, ” Carver’s mighty Mac Lab, the place with more ideas than memory to
store them.” As we added new machines, the older ones became appliances that would do easy task like a scanning station or a digital camera loading station. One incentive for punctuality was that whoever got to class first got the newest machines so tardies became a thing of the past. I always believed and still do that once we put the technology in the hands of our youth, we simply need to get out of the way and wonderful things will happen. That is once the guidelines and “ground
rules” are established. Many teachers complained about mouse balls dissappearing or cords being cut. My lab was guarded by my students and myself as from the beginning I said if you steal or destroy something or allow someone else to do it…we are short one machine. The students took that to heart and felt pride in our collaboratively protecting our lab.
This dream come true lab was all the way across Houston however it had been my intention for over three decades to facilitate the process of learning art both on and off the computer. The grants that were written, the challenges that were faced, all led to the eventual manifestation of this incredible space which reinforces what I believe to be true. When you are willing to do whatever it takes, you too will experience the same kind of visionary opportunities.
This site is one of those visionary things. I read somewhere that each time a person dies a library is burned. I believe that each of us have endless resources and knowledge and I personally want to show and share the archives of my teaching life. Two decades in traditional media and now two decades in digital media and too much good stuff to toss.
Instead, during the development of this site, stories will be shared, resources posted for your use. Stop by and leave comments so I know you have visited.I will move you through the curriculum so that you can try some of the processes for yourself. No need to be feeling the technology “tremors” for not knowing how to do something. We all have to start somewhere so why not let your start be here and now. I want to show you the projects that we started with and the projects that we ended with. You will no doubt be amazed at what young people can do when allowed to move at their own pace.You will hopefully be inspired to try some of these out for yourself. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to ask. I am happy to have found Vu Pham’s portfolio so that I could show you the beginning projects of archiving the traditional media pieces that forever more can inspire others to do their own art making.
I loved creating and working alongside talented students in G. W. Carver’s Mighty Mighty Mac Lab. Thanks to all who were involved in making it possible. It was life altering in the best kind of way!