“There’s No Such Thing As Done”

This week’s classes were all about the AV.

For our first mini project, we played with a few different computer programs to create a short video. We learned some basics of Audacity, an audio recording and editing program, in order to mash up two songs and record/tweak our own voices. We worked with GIMP, a photo editing suite along the lines of Photoshop, to make a logo, a poster, and alter photos. Finally, we took our audio and video creations and mixed them up to make a movie! I used Windows Movie Maker rather than iMovie simply to avoid the headache of dealing with file incompatibilities between my lovely little PC and the classroom Macs.

What tonight taught me:

1. Plan ahead.  All of my personal music files were not in the format that Audacity uses, so I had to spend precious minutes converting the files to the right format. If I’d poked around Audacity a little more beforehand, I’d have known to convert the files in advance.

2. Sometimes serendipity wins the day. As I was mashing my songs together, I had a general sense of how long my video was going to be, but I hadn’t timed things down to the second or anything. Coincidentally, my movie switches to dark clouds *just* as the thunder crash happens in my song mash-up. I mean…um…I totally planned that.

3. There’s no such thing as done. In a maker space, anyway, according to our teacher. While in some respects, this is frustrating to the side of me that likes a neat and tidy ending to things, it’s kind of freeing. Keeping your project open ended means that you can come back to it later, change it, remix it, use part of it in something else, or destroy it. And all of those are okay–you learn from every new thing that you try, even if it doesn’t turn out as you might have planned.

On that note, I had planned to share my video, but I’d like to add a few more bits to it first. However, I will show you the fruits of my photo editing labor–Bring out the GIMP!

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This little beauty took merging two layers, doing a lot of cloning, erasing, and smudging work in the background, and creating the pirate “map” with a textured fill. It’s beginners’ work, but I’m pretty proud. Old Hooky here is shaking his fist at an escaping vessel off of Cannon Beach, Oregon. 80’s movie aficionados may recognize the haystack rocks in the background–maybe that escaping ship has some rich stuff on it?

I’ll post the finished product soon–just like Goonies, Makers never say die.

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Fantasy vs. Reality: When Your Project Seems Too Ambitious

I’ve been doing a lot of research to try to narrow down the ideas for my final project. Right now, I am kicking around building some sort of LED lamp (either to clip to my headboard or hang on the wall), or a cat tree. I could use both for the house, and one of my goals for the final project was to make something that was practical, or a gift. The gift will probably be shifted to one of our smaller projects, but that’s another discussion entirely. What I wanted to discuss, and what I’m sure some of my other classmates are experiencing, is that ground in between wanting to take on something incredibly cool that would teach you new skills, and taking on something you could realistically make in the time we have. I tend to be the type that has grand plans for projects and doesn’t always complete them. I think the key here is to keep the plan realistic, but push it to the limits of what I think can be accomplished.

For instance, even though it would be awesome to construct the ultimate cat palace, I’ve managed to keep my sketches to a 4′ tall structure with multiple platforms and scratching material. Right now I’m in the phase of pricing materials, and figuring out how to get my hands on the right construction tools. I consider myself pretty IKEA-level handy, but don’t have access to much beyond a hammer, screwdriver, and hand saw. However, this is where getting creative comes in, and that’s where things could get really fun.

Or, if I go with the lamp idea, I’ve been looking at what can be done with conductive textiles/thread, or strips of LED lights. I’ve even been looking a bit into Arduino to see if a programmable lighting system could be accomplished. This is where I began to get overwhelmed: could I even attempt something that unknown? Do I owe it to myself to try? Or is having a completed product more important than risking failure but learning a lot of new things?

I’m sure there are others out there who are trying to bridge the gap between fantastic ideas and that little voice that says: keep it simple, silly. I’d love to hear thoughts.

Gotta Focus on the Journey

So for me, school was a lot like this:

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My schools were not the most competitive or elite, but there was always an atmosphere of rewarding individual accomplishment. That good grade, that high test score, was what teachers wanted. This week’s readings made me wonder what school would have been like if more of my classes had taken a different approach. Some of the most challenging classroom experiences I’ve had have been while making something. I took art classes nearly every semester in high school, partly to develop an existing interest (I’ve drawn constantly ever since I was little), and partly to learn new techniques. Ceramics was probably the most difficult, because working in three dimensions was so different from drawing pictures on a flat piece of paper. While we were required to produce projects using certain techniques, it was the effort that was most important. I’d always done pretty well in a traditional classroom and with standardized tests, so a way of “grading” that was less quantitative was a tough switch at first. Some students had higher levels of proficiency, whether through experience with the medium or an aptitude with spatial thinking, and this led them to produce some pretty spectacular creations. I learned quickly not to compare my work to the more advanced students, because that just made me cranky. I had to learn to grade my work against my own past efforts, and try to keep improving. It seemed so much easier in English class, where I could just write a paper that satisfied certain parameters, and get that good grade. But which lessons were more important to learn? 

In college, I spent a lot of frustrating time in the costume shop, trying to get better at sewing and costume construction. I can’t count the times a project would have to be redone and I’d end up in angry tears because I just couldn’t get it! Even though I loved the subject matter, I think that I was so conditioned to the traditional classroom and the psychological rewards of good grades that it was hard to stomach when something didn’t come easily. Theater is full of the kind of collaborative learning that makers thrive on—it takes a group of people, each using different skills, to come together and put on a production. Every time you participate in a production, you learn from what you and others have done before, and change it to make it your own. I found it really interesting to read about the ways that online communities like MMORPGs and message boards encourage this same sort of group learning environment. I’m looking forward to the projects in this class, even if learning how to use the tools doesn’t make sense right away. Being focused on experimentation, tinkering, and engineering (using what I know and what I can learn from others), rather than meeting just the right criteria for that big final grade, will be a much more valuable experience. Bring it on, frustration–I’m ready for you.

The Great Maker Caper begins…

Thanks for visiting my blog! The posts to come in the next two months (and beyond, I hope) will be focused on learning more about the Maker movement and taking steps to become more of a Maker myself. How will I do this? Through my summer 2014 class in the MLIS program at St. Catherine University, Content Creation. We will be working on activities such as video and audio production, photo-editing, 3D printing, and vinyl cutting.

I was interested in this class because I like the idea of maker spaces, both in and out of the library. I admit that I don’t know much about the technology involved, but I am excited to learn new things. In the readings so far, I’ve been impressed by the emphasis on collaborative learning and teaching others what you know. Part of a library’s role in the community is encouraging exploration, creativity, and knowledge, either by providing access to information or providing space for community members to get together and explore. Including a maker space in a library is another way to do that.

All of the creative tools that we will be using together sound interesting, and I like that I haven’t used any of them very much. Sometimes just diving in and playing around with something is the best way to figure out how it works. Also, I’m sure that some of my classmates might have some experience with these things, and I know that librarians can’t help but share what they know. I’m looking forward to seeing what everyone comes up with for our Maker Faire at the end of the semester!

That’s about it for now. I’ll keep everyone posted on future developments.