Hacking and magic

It’s been a fun week for me to be the local technology guru.  I’ve been helping with a couple of video projects using Jaycut, one in 8th grade and one in 12th. I’m also evaluating the success of what I’ve done so far this year and I’m planning tweaks for next year.   Like many schools, we use some free tools to get stuff done.  While we have Windows Movie Maker and some of the kids have their own computers to work on, those who use the school computers need an option.  So, we’re using Jaycut, and it’s working pretty well.  But we’re doing a lot of hacking things together.  We’ve used DoInk to create some very cool animations, then we screen record those, and imported them into Jaycut.  I’ve also helped students record Skype conversations, download YouTube videos (with Zamzar), and extract audio from their video.  I don’t even remember which one of those many things I was helping a student with when she said, “Wow, you’re magic.”  It happened again with my 7th graders today.  I told her how to do something, and her eyes got big when it worked.

Even though my real hacking skills–in code–are limited, I realized after helping these students over the past couple of weeks how much of a hacker I really am.  I have always tried to bend tools to my will and often cobbled together different tools or api’s or even code to make things work.  More than one student has asked me how I learned what I know.  I hacked my way there.  When something didn’t work, I found something else that did.  Once there were such things as search engines, I used them a lot.  In fact, I do that fairly often with students sitting right there, mostly to prove to them that I’m not magic.  I mostly look stuff up.  Yes, sometimes you need to know what you’re looking for, but most of the information is there if you dig far enough.

It’s still amazing to me how many people think technology is magic.  Yes, it’s sophisticated and yes, it often hides its inner workings, but it’s not magic.  And yes I know: Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.  But seriously, computers have been like this for what, 15 years?  The interfaces get slicker, but the concepts are still the same.  I guess I have my work cut out for me.


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4 Replies to “Hacking and magic”

  1. I agree Laura, a lot of the old tricks and strategies play just as well with the new toys. I’m glad to hear you are getting good use out of Jaycut- if you have some examples, I’d love to have links to projects on the new 50 Ways wiki (if you join, you can add links yourself)


    Been fun watching your activity this year at the new school.

  2. Maybe it’s the way you work around and through the technology that appears like magic. So maybe it should be Any sufficiently advanced and fluid navigation of multiple technologies on the part of a carbon-based life form (bag of mostly water) is indistinguishable from magic.

    Great post!

  3. Hey Doug, thanks for the comment! I think, too, I forget how fluid I am–30 years of navigating technology–from pong to wow–gets you a lot of experience, I guess.

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