I don’t think I fully appreciated the role of Apple and the vision of Steve Jobs until I analyzed the events that happened during the hour or so before I learned of his death. Yesterday, I was assisting the students working on Mass Comm Week with a video project promoting the event. They were working in a computer lab, around the corner from my office and the computer lab in which I teach. They were, of course, on an iMac using iMovie. During my afternoon class, while I was teaching, I was using the iMacs in my office and classroom to download footage from Ustream, so they could have b-roll from previous years of the event. I was running between the three rooms, downloading files, encoding, saving – all while I was assisting students in my afternoon class with their web projects. And the Mass Comm Week students were assembling these clips in their iMovie project. We thought we were done around 6pm. But the video was missing something. It needed a little intro music. I had another class to teach at 6:30pm and the students, who had been working on the project for two days, had to move on to other obligations. So, time was tight. In a few minutes, we devised a plan, selected a song from one of my friends (Brent Adair – check him out at http://www.brentadair.com/), downloaded it from iTunes, edited and exported it in Garageband selecting the sweet acoustic guitar intro, dragged it into iMovie in several places and edited the way it would play. We were able to race through it, and I think I even got to class with six minutes to spare. During that class, I used a powerful iMac, while I was teaching on it, to upload the video to YouTube, and we were done. This feat of creativity, collaboration and multi-tasking would not have been possible without the tools that came from the vision of Steve Jobs. We were able to move from “we can’t” or “we don’t have time” or “we don’t know how” to “we can do this” and “let’s make this happen.” I must add that the students volunteered to make this video. It was not a requirement imposed on them by me, it wasn’t a class assignment. It was something they thought would be cool to make and fun to work on.
Here is the result of their effort which they will be using during class visits to promote Mass Comm Week:
In my evening class, we had just covered the news of Tuesday’s Apple announcement and were moving on to the regular course topics, when a student raised his hand. He had breaking news. Students apparently glance at their smart phones, many of which are iPhones, during class. He said Steve Jobs had died. I think I knew what he was going to say before the words even got out of his mouth, but yet I was more shocked and stunned than I imagined I’d be. My head fell into my hands, but I had a whole classroom looking at me. Anyone who has taken a class from me knows my reverence for the man, so I know they were fixated on my reaction. I turned to the iMac at the front of the room and went straight to Twitter. We started reading the news and updates as they came in. I attempted a discussion. I failed. I had to call for a break so I could compose myself before continuing. We came back, looked at a few of the sites that were already posting tributes, and then continued with class. What else was there to do? I feel bad that I wasn’t more able to professionally grasp the teaching moment, but I am hearing today that other professors have been equally emotional in their discussion of the death of this icon and inspiration. We moved on, and the class learned new skills and created great things with the iMacs at their disposal. I guess that’s the best way to honor Steve, by being inspired by him.
Many people are referencing Steve’s commencement speech at Stanford in 2005, where he talked about death and loving what you do. I shared his conviction to the latter, writing a post called On Loving What You Do, back in 2009. There are many elements of Steve’s legacy, but if people can simply grasp this concept, much of the rest will follow.
I wrote a piece, only about 5 weeks ago, when Steve submitted his resignation as CEO, about how much he meant to me. I’m sad that he didn’t have more time. I’m amazed that he obviously stepped down at the point when his health was so bad that he had no choice. I marvel at the last presentation he did in June. We have no idea of his pain and suffering, because he didn’t share that with us. We barely have a clue about what a world without Steve Jobs will be like, but we’re about to learn.
I heard Steve Wozniak, the co-founder of Apple, talking on CNN last night. He said he felt unfocused, like there was a giant hole that will never be filled. I feel that way myself. My heart goes out to his family and personal friends. I hope that the public outpouring brings them solace, not additional, undue grief. There are few real heroes in this world. But when someone delights us with the tools that inspire confidence and creativity in ourselves, well, to me, that’s something. It’s been the driving force behind my life and career for more than a decade. I will miss Steve Jobs.