Creative Constraints

I get to teach a class in video editing, ART139. It’s called art video because it’s in the Art Department and that’s what my degree is in. That’s right, I majored in art and still found gainful employment, so there.

Teaching is hard – ask a teacher. The hardest part for me is not in the doing of the teaching, though, but in the judging and grading and deciding who wins and who wins less. I want them all to be stellar. In their own way, of course, they are. In the arena of educational achievement, however, fulfilling the assignments is the game. I generally allow a huge range of creative possibility within each project, ringed by a common theme, a limit on total duration, and other overall details such as adding credits, etc.

Despite the wide latitude, sometimes students go off on tangents that are wide of the mark. And even when the work is pretty good, if it veers outside the outcomes, it’s not going to pass. That’s that. Teachers with more experience may have hardened to this routine, but my skin is thin and callouses are still in the development stage. I use words carefully designed to project criticism with the softest blow. Some blow softer than others.

This was my response to a student who knew that their project was out of the assignment bounds, but felt they didn’t want to work within those limits.

-That’s the right attitude; live your artistic freedom.
The danger in not having constraints is that it often leads to artistic ‘ruts’, where one does only what comes easily.
Anytime you are working with the external world, i.e. other people, boundaries emerge. If you choose to engage that world in school, business, and so forth, the challenge is compromising to fulfill a shared goal. Growth happens within those constraints, sometimes painfully, but usually creatively.

“Life is about living with limitations and constraints of one type or another, but constraints are not necessarily bad, in fact, they are often helpful, even inspiring as they challenge us to think differently and more creatively about a particular problem.”

Kind regards,

I’m thinking a lot about this sticky area of assessment. What do you think about measuring creativity?


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September 24, 2018 · 8:53 am

New to Online Teaching?

Good news: if you don’t like to be in front of a people, this is the mode for you.

Bad news: it’s a (fill in your favorite word for ‘large amount’ here) of work to set up and monitor. Being organized is king. Make no mistake, online learning is about building a website. The best sites are massive, multimedia-rich interactive websites. You up for that?

Would you like some help?

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August 13, 2018 · 8:27 am

Prepping 1 – Taking Student’s Advice

~20 hours prepping over break.

The issue I now see from last semester’s reviews is that the (almost weekly) assignments became repetitive. These ‘skills’ assignments are focused on a few skills so that it’s a concentration: text, motion, speed effects, and less about making a cool video. Some people do that, but generally it’s a little rote and mechanical. I’m going to keep that part, AND add the creative. The creative part is the story, the meaning, the beauty, the intention behind it. That can be judged. You know what, you don’t have to get crazy wild about the artistic verve – though that might be nice(!), you’ve just got to make some sense. SO instead of single focused exercises, we’ll make each one a little work itself, and combine skills. FGS, that’s what video is. It’s NEVER one thing. There’s always everything: sound (or silence), composition, movement (perhaps), time is going by, necessarily, and something is happening on many levels. It’s going to mean making them more interesting and more scaffolded. Because dang it, what got repetitive is we didn’t do credits differently. More repeated elements have to be racheted up so the whole thing grows.


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December 31, 2017 · 10:22 am

It’s going to happen

Getting the email was a a sigh of relief: I can go on with my life now. This was the first wave of cancellations, and with no JTED students enrolled, mine was down for the count. I went to see for myself.
It wasn’t to be. Or was. My class made for spring.
Screen Shot 2017-12-16 at 10.31.33 AMWhat wasn’t to be is a semester without teaching, having more time for focusing on some other true passion. Was is meant to be? I wanted to teach so bad, if only one more class, a merciful second, third (well, actually the eighth) time to get it right? 2 JTEDs now, meaning it will run, even with only 7 in the adult section. Fifth semester in a row.
I feel nauseous. It will pass, and then the euphoria will burble up. And down. And I’m enthusiastic I’m disappointed I’m driven I’m exasperated. The art of teaching is a cruel master. I am given this chance to fulfill a deep desire to give my full attention on this course, knowing it will probably be the last, no matter how good. With all it’s foibles and failings, fall was the best class yet. I was sort of hoping to quit while I was ahead.

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December 16, 2017 · 10:30 am

The First Word

What I am now.
What I will be be, and what is not to be.
Ever a student of teaching

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December 16, 2017 · 9:46 am

Week number 2

How was the first class? So,
it went exceedingly well considering the considerable temperment of technology and the unseen gaps in the system. Even with the rush and confusion, the sense that this might actually be fun, interesting, fun, learning some cool skills, fun – they seem very excited, and that’s how I wanted it to start, One zoomer in Verde got connected and could see me, but I didn’t even put the camera on the student view and let them get the view I had of 18 student silhouettes in the room. This week will have that to add.

I am going to change the routine. Instead of a totally different second project, let’s stay on the hoverboarder and add COLORING, CROPPING, and COMPOSITING. Almost have to add the basic motion elements of scale & position. Just those three new elements will be way enough, along with a complete review of the basic edit job they got to do. Let’s apply new levels to the existing work, along with more complete editing. This is the way I’ve been seeing it go, what it needs to reinforce the learning. Complete the parts they may have missed, add another media element, too? How about their own music?

Let’s learn the elements: the frame, first of all, and some basic resolution. Can this be taught in stages? scaffolding up in small bits instead of all at once which is what I seem to lean toward? Let’s leave the ratio part for later.

Art talk will begin.The 5. The DBs: 1. Self-Portrait and 2. Art videos they find in the 50 best page (separate from their own choice in art shwntell). But no, I am watching them and they are so out there. They really are boring as hell mostly, and now we can skip ahead and see predictably where it’s going, we used to have to just sit there. No, I think the usual will actually work; it’s a good example of video art in a couple genres, and it’s ready to go yay!

The Art shwntells – 2, that’s going to eat up 30 min. Curve balls: one of the signups dropped, after I let the other one know he should delay his another week, then have to backtrack on that message. Complications. At least the comm ed’s have gotten access to the network.

What to say about production? watch those videos, who watched them? what did you learn? Get close ups [repeat].  Talk about the quiz topics: clip, scrubbing, IO, ctrl D, trim, .. what about ‘native size’? and the HD resolutions? Will it be too much?

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August 28, 2017 · 8:39 pm

Day One Again

The suspense is about to be obliterated by the reality. Let it be a moment of re-birth. I am readier than ever before, and still less ready than hoped for. More confident that I am the right person for this, anxiously unsure of exactly what is supposed to come out of my mouth tomorrow night.

I resolve to be a light of love. Spirit, let me be a light! Inspire! Lead! May a safe container for creative learning take shape, together. Let these high ideals fly into the universe, invisibly cradling us while we get down to this messy business of learning.

I should be arranging notes and tightening my outline. There’s a lot to do in the two hours we have together each week. Working in the Cloud, technical failure looms over every click like spring weather in Wisconsin. Four of the 18 will be Zooming with us via video conference. What could go wrong?

Instead I gather my thoughts in writing, here. When I was jamming with the Supersilliest Band for kids at libraries and music fests, I strained to be a good musician. Remembering the words, much less singing well and playing an instrument at the same time, was a stretch. Did the kids care? Yes. Not whether the words came out right, but they cared deeply about whether it felt right. If I was having fun, they were, and we had lots of fun. I think about this whenever I work with people, and remember this truth: it matters more how we feel than what we do.

Hey you, says my higher self, we’re pros, so we’ll do alright. Do the homework and be done with it. That leaves the rest to attitude. Relax. Realize these people are here by choice. And so are you. Don’t forget, you wanted more than anything to do this, to give your gifts. Delight in that generosity.


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August 21, 2017 · 8:43 pm